Jakarta should ‘learn from the Aceh, Philippines experience’ and talk to West Papuan rebels, says researcher

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The captive NZ pilot Philip Mehrtens
The captive NZ pilot Philip Mehrtens (in brim hat) . . . held hostage by West Papuan rebels seeking independence since February but Indonesian government fails to heed past dialogue lessons. Image: TPNPB

By Singgih Wiryono in Jakarta

An Indonesian human rights researcher has cricitised his government’s failure to negotiate with West Papuan rebels, saying security officials should learn from the 2005 Aceh peace pact.

The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) research and mobilisation division head, Rozy Brilian, said the Indonesian government had always refused to hold a dialogue with Papuan pro-independence fighters.

He gave this message during a virtual public discussion titled “Failing to Address the Roots of the Conflict and the Window Dressing of a Development Illusion” last Friday — just two days before several Indonesian soldiers were believed to have been killed in a clash with West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) rebels in the Papuan highlands.

The Indonesia soldiers were searching for New Zealand hostage pilot Philip Mehrtens who has been held captive since early February.

“The government always refuses to hold a dialogue with armed groups that the government refers to as KKB [armed criminal groups] even though the push for dialogue has often been encouraged by different parties,” said Brilian.

Yet, according to Brilian, the model of dialogue with an armed group has successfully been pursued by the Indonesian government in the past.

Aceh peace talks
Brilian gave the example of the Aceh peace talks conducted during the era of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY).

“This dialogue then concluded in negotiations that produced a Memorandum of Understanding (Mou), or agreement, between the Indonesian government and GAM [Free Aceh Movement] in Helsinki,” said Brilian.

That pact brought peace after three decades of warfare.

According to Brilian, the current government should learn from earlier experiences of holding dialogue with armed groups.

In addition to this, said Brilian, Indonesia could also learn from the Philippines which succeeded in “taming” armed independence groups through dialogue.

“Learn from other experiences in the Southeast Asia region, dialogue between the government and pro-independence armed groups were once held by the Philippines government with the pro-independence Moro Islamic Liberation Front group,” he said.

Translated by James Balowski for IndoLeft News. The original title of the article was “Pemerintah Dinilai Selalu Menolak Usul Dialog Damai dengan KKB Papua”.

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