In a July 26 media statement, the Institute for Papuan Advocacy and Human Rights (IPAHR) in Australia expressed its concern at threats by the Indonesian military (TNI) to use militia groups against "separatists" in West Papua.
The IPAHR's concern arises from reports that Colonel Burhanuddin Siagian, commander of the Jayapura sub-regional military command (Korem 172), spoke at a July 6 meeting at the military auditorium in the provincial capital that was attended by 500 people, including members of the Meriah Putih (Red and White) militia.
The next day, he was reported in the Jayapura's Cenderwasih Post as saying at a meeting of Dewan Adat Papua (Customary Council of West Papua): "What is absolutely certain is that anyone who tends towards separatism will be crushed by TNI [Indonesian military]... We are quite prepared to imprison anyone, or dismiss them from their posts, whenever such is in the interests of the NKRI [Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia]."
It has also been reported that he made similar statements at a July 18 meeting in Koya Barat, 35 kilometres from Jayapura. "The meeting was attended by a range of groups including local tribal leaders, community leaders, youth leaders and leaders of a Highland community and a traditional customary organisation", the IRAHR stated.
International and Indonesian human rights groups have called for the removal of Siagian from West Papua. He was indicted in absentia in East Timor in 2003 for crimes against humanity for his role in encouraging militia violence in 1999, but has never faced prosecution.
"These new reports signal that the Indonesian military and police appear to have started a program to actively promote and support militias across West Papua", IPAHR spokesperson Paula Makabory said. "What the Indonesian security forces commanders see as 'separatism' is West Papuan people trying to give expression to their basic human rights. Indonesia gives no space in West Papua for difference in political opinion and any expression of the right of self determination is severely repressed.
"This situation cries out for direct international intervention. There must be constant access for independent international observers in West Papua. Indonesia restricts access by international agencies and the foreign media to West Papua. The Indonesian government must be convinced to withdraw its repressive security forces from West Papua."