Is There Any Genocide In Papua?

(Photo Credit : Instagram Hany Zuyyina)

From the current dynamics in Papua, one of the issues raised by the pro-Papuan independence group has been genocide or slow genocide allegedly committed by the Indonesian government, especially by its security forces. This perspective is supported by groups of academics abroad, especially through books and journals that had been written by them.

These people include Jim Elmslie, Camellia Webb-Gannon, Peter King, and John Wing from the University of Sydney Australia, also academics from Yale Law School, Elizabeth Brundige. They have made their conclusions into various books and journals from 2000 to 2013.

They concurred that there was an annihilation, or a genocide process carried out by the Indonesian government. “…. it finds in the available evidence a strong indication that the Indonesian government has committed genocide against the West Papuans,” said Elmslie.

Subsequently, their arguments have become a reference for the pro-Papuan independence people who are mostly living abroad or in their exile. However, these arguments do not seem to have been used or campaigned by the pro-independence groups living and fighting within Papua because this argument may arguably be seen irrelevant.

In the following, we can look further about why the Papuan genocide argument could be so.

Mapping the source of victims of violence

The book of Papua Insecurity (2015), written by Bobby Anderson, reveals that the biggest victims of security problems in Papua may not fall from vertical conflicts involving state security forces as always declared by pro-independence groups, especially those who are abroad. The biggest victims were community punishment or victims of vigilantism, tribal conflicts, and various other horizontal conflicts.

The 2009 (published in 2010) study about the causes of victims was also carried out by the Violent Conflict in Indonesia Study (ViCIS) collaborated with the World Bank and Bappenas (National Development and Planning Board). In this study, ViCIS analyzed the news files on violence in every province and district in Indonesia, including in Papua and West Papua.

The results of their research on cases of violence victims that occurred in Papua and West Papua during 2004–2008 recorded around 6,552 incidents of violence that resulted in around 596 people died, 6,148 injured, and about 1,023 property damaged.

The number of rape cases in the four years recorded around 942 people. An eye-opening part was that reports of vertical violence involving state officials and civil society, especially with casualties, were relatively low. To some extent, of course, this could confront the above academics’ arguments who accused the dominance of state violence.

As shown in the graph (cited from Anderson’s Papua Insecurity), ViCIS divided cases of violence in Papua into eight categories. They are violence due to vigilantism (popular justice), crime and response to these criminal acts, domestic violence, identity or inter-ethnic violence, political violence, violence due to resources or property, administrative violence (such as corruption and area expanding), and other violence.

Based on the categories above, victims of violence due to vigilantism is quite large, with the total percentage of 31%, crime 17%, domestic violence 13%, and ethnic and identity conflicts 10%. According to research, domestic violence was often caused by the influence of alcohol, which resulted in victims against women and children. For popular justice, this category includes violent responses to perceived moral infractions, such as sexual indiscretions, alcohol use, debt, or witchcraft.

Victims due to land disputes, industrial relations, labor relations, and administrative cases in relation to issues with corruption and regional registration were around 5%.

Victims of vertical conflicts involving the Papuan freedom fighter, renowned as OPM and state apparatus, were only around 6%, less than other categories, and it does not belong to the category issued by ViCIS. Either those from OPM, Indonesia Armed Forces, Police, or other civil society are included in that category. This number is even less than half the victims of domestic violence.

Violence Areas

In terms of regions, the occurrence of violence, which resulted in victims were also diverse. These regional distributions of conflicts also illustrate the contradiction brought the genocide defender of the issue as if violence occurred in all regions.

In fact, any victims of violence only occurred in 9 districts out of 32 districts. Moreover, we still have to divide in which categories the violence involves conflicts between the OPM and the national security apparatus.

Victims of violence in areas of conflict between the state and security forces were in the Puncak Jaya region, as shown in the diagram below. In contrast, the Jayawijaya region, which had been categorized as a separatist group base, has the least victim of violence.

This is certainly interesting because there were only a few victims of gun conflicts. From the diagram, in Mimika and Jayapura have the highest number of victims of violence among the nine districts.

From the data above, one would, of course, have to rethink again and again when they plan to join the ship, defending the claim of systematic genocide by the state against civilians. A person who has a good awareness can undoubtedly realize the weakness of the genocidal issues and arguments by looking at the data and reality in Papua.

The issue has been only raised by the pro-independence groups and their supporters living abroad. The goal may as well be that it could be able to attract international attention to the problem of Papua in Indonesia.

Conversely, the issue of genocide has relatively never been a real debate within Indonesia because, based on the fact, genocidal victims could not be found in a significant quantity.

Papua and its development indeed have various shortcomings, such as education and welfare, that need to be discussed by experts. Thus, critical analysis and formulation of recommendations that is based on much more hands-on, real-life evidence are required.

There is no need to deny that the government of Indonesia has not done its best in delivering its promise to develop Papua, as it is not dissimilar to what the government has done to other regions. Many have also complained and written and sent their critiques to the governments in Jakarta, Jayapura and Manokwari both subtly and openly.

It is just regrettable if the Papua problem is directed to another direction or issue such as the genocide.

Rudi Kurniawan

Enriching discourse and understanding. A protest to Indonesian govt that unsuccessfully serves the world fair info about West Papua.