Papua problem is Indonesia’s internal affair – US Ambassador

Problems related to Papua are Indonesia’s internal affair. The United State has never considered the Papua problem in its cooperative defense relationships.

This was conveyed by US Ambassador to Indonesia Scott Marciel on Wednesday February 8 after introducing the United States-ASEAN Business Council (USABC) to Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro in Jakarta. Also present at the event was USABC president Alexander C. Feldman and US business representatives from companies such as Conoco Phillips, Freeport McMoran, Ford, Chewon, Caterpillar and Seagate.

“We support Jakarta-Papua dialogue efforts”, said Marciel. According to Marciel, the US government is aware that there are challenges in implementing development in Papua. Because of this therefore, the US supports the government’s efforts at dialogue.

Marciel emphasised that the US perception on the Papua problem is that it is an internal affair linked with development. This has not been a consideration in building defense cooperation.

“What we are talking about is military cooperation, meanwhile the problems in Papua are not about defense”, he said. By military cooperation he meant issues of disaster relief, maritime security and maintaining peace.

“If there are problems with human rights violations linked to the military, certainly that would be a consideration. But the discussions were not specifically related to Papua”, he said.

Defense Ministry Secretary General Erris Heryanto added that the Papua issue was not touched upon at all during the meeting between USABC and the Indonesian government. The meeting was confined to introducing the USABC.

Speaking separately during a meeting with Kompas daily’s chief editor Jakob Oetama in Jakarta on Wednesday, former National Resilience Institute (Lemhannas) governor Agum Gumelar also expressed concern that the problems in Papua remain unresolved. Violence is still taking place. Yet, with the correct approach, the problems in Papua, particularly the ongoing violence, can be brought under control.

Dialog, continued Gumelar, is one means to prevent conflict in Papua. “I was once assigned to Papua. As citizens the Papuans feel different to the majority of Indonesian citizens. But, like in the US and Malaysia, difference in skin colour and hair have never separated them as a nation”, he said.

Gumelar explained that armed violence in Papua cannot just be dealt with by the police. Armed violence should be handled jointly by the police and the Indonesian military.

Source: KOMPAS [Translated by James Balowski.]

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