Indonesia-PNG borders
Indonesian Military personnel stand in ceremony on their arrival on March 9, 2021 in a Navy base in Jayapura, Papua. As many as 1,350 personnel were deployed to secure Indonesia-PNG borders. Courtesy of TNI.

Military mystery: How many security personnel are there in West Papua?


West Papua No. 1 News Portal | Jubi

Jayapura, Jubi – Escalating tensions between the Indonesian Military (TNI) and the West Papua National Liberation Army, which have caused the deaths of civilians, have led many to question: how many security personnel are there in West Papua?


“We don’t know,” deputy speaker I of Papua Legislative Council (DPR Papua), Yunus Wonda, said recently to Jubi. “I think even (Papua Governor Lukas Enembe) won’t know,” he said.


He said DPR Papua never received any reports on nonorganic security personnel deployed to Papua Land or internationally known as West Papua.



Read also: 1,350 military personnel deployed to secure Indonesia-PNG borders


Jakarta’s decision


He said the decision was fully in the hands of the central government. The security personnel themselves had their line of command, which was different from the civil bureaucracy, he said.


“But we have told the central government to not deploy too many personnel. We have asked them to just utilize the existing (organic) security personnel here,” Wonda said.


He said Papua Land does not need too many nonorganic security personnel as if Papua Land was at war.


Wonda suggested the central government to trust the provincial police chief and military commander to handle the escalating tensions because they knew better.


“Aren’t you ashamed of what the international world thinks of? We face our own people as if we’re at war (with foreign troops). The nonorganic security personnel did not understand the local people characteristics,” he said.


In late February and early March, Intan Jaya residents reported that a disabled man and a teenager were shot to death, allegedly by the TNI. The TNI claimed the teenager was a member of the TPNPB.


Read also: Three Intan Jaya residents dead, allegedly in the hands of TNI personnel


Intan Jaya Legislative councilor, Oktovianus Wandikbo, said on March 7 that the teenager was a student. He said the look of mountain people in Intan Jaya were typical, so to eyes that were not discerning, they would look similar to TPNPB.


“This kid was a school kid. But we in the mountains wore similar apparel: we wore orchid necklaces dangling on our chest, we had dreadlocks, overlarged jacket, boots for mud, brought noken, and some ate areca nuts. Security personnel who just arrived here had to learn this and to know the habits of the local people. Don’t mistake civilians with TPNPB, it’s fatally wrong,” he said.


A scholar from the School of Social and Political Sciences at Universitas Cenderawasih, Elvira Rumkabu, said researchers in Papua Land had a hard time getting the accurate data on the number of nonorganic security personnel sent to Papua by Jakarta.


“We had asked our friends in Jakarta who focused on security personnel issues, but they could not get any data about it as well,” Rumkabu said in a recent seminar.


Several public figures in Papua have called on the central government to pull out nonorganic security personnel from Papua Land. One of them was the coordinator of Justice, Peace, and the Integrity of Creation of the Evangelist Church Synod in Papua Land, Pastor Leonora Balubun, who asked the central government to pull out the troops from Papua Land. “But they answered by sending more even though they knew that Papuans were afraid of the military personnel,” she said last month.


MRP councilor, Ciska Abugau, said in the same meeting that Papua Land’s organic security personnel should have been enough to handle security in the region.

‘We only follow orders’


The deputy head of Legal Department of Cenderawasih Military Command, Lt. Col. Abdul Azis, told the MRP’s meeting that the TNI had several types of military operations: battle operation, security operation, territorial operation, and border security operation.


He said the security policy in Papua Land was a “state political policy”, not TNI’s decision alone. He said what occurred in Papua at the moment were territorial and border security operations. He did not tell the meeting about the data of organic and nonorganic military personnel in Papua province, one of the two provinces in Papua Land.


“There won’t be any operation without the approval of the state,” he said on March 19.


The Regional Supervisory Inspector at Papua Police, Sr. Comr. Alfred Papare told the MRP meeting on March 2019 that the National Police deployed the Mobile Brigade (Brimob) in “restive areas” in Papua, because Brimob had the capacity to handle armed groups.


“That’s the headquarters’ strategy. Besides enforcing the law, we have 600 Brimob personnel,” he said.


Papare said Brimob were deployed in Mimika, Puncak, Nduga, and Intan Jaya Regencies.


“I am aware of the calls to pull out nonorganic personnel of Papua, but it’s not our decision to make but the leaders in the central (government). We only follow orders,” Papare said.


‘Revise special autonomy law’


The head of Social Affairs, Population, Women Empowerment, and Child Protection in Papua province, Ribka Haluk, said on March 19, 2021, during a coordinating meeting with Papuan People Council (MRP) that as long as the Special Autonomy Law was not revised, Papuans’ calls to the central government on security matter would fall on deaf ears.


She said there were several things that were in the central government jurisdiction according to the Special Autonomy Law. One of them was security matters. “If we want no more outside deployment of personnel in Papua, we first revise the special autonomy law,” she said.


Read also: Intan Jaya conflict (2): Civilians become victims of TNI-TPNPB war


On March 9, 2021, the Cenderawasih Military Command welcomed 1,350 soldiers at a Navy port in Jayapura, Papua. The TNI said the personnel were to secure Indonesia and Papua New Guinea borders and the troops replaced another 1,350 deployed in July 2020.


A popular video on TikTok showed the soldiers boarded off a war ship and the video sent uneasy feelings among many native Papuans who had been traumatized by violence allegedly done by security personnel.


In 2018, Amnesty International released a report about unlawful killings, revealing that from January 2010 to February 2018, there were at least 95 deaths, and “The perpetrators have been both police officers and soldiers, and none of them have been subject to criminal investigation by an independent institution, “ wrote Amnesty Indonesia’s director, Usman Hamid, in July 2018.


Reporter: Arjuna Pademme

Editor: Dewi Wulandari

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