Over the last week, increasingly strong evidence from multiple sources have come to light that Islamic groups are mobilizing volunteers for what they are calling a ‘Jihad’ (holy war) against the ‘OPM’ in Wamena in the central highlands of the West Papua region.
One of the groups is the Front Jihad Islam (FJI).
A banner hung up on a recruitment post announced the “Open registration for Islamic paramilitary groups throughout Indonesia to send [qital] jihad to wamena Papua to defend Muslim brothers in Papua who were slaughtered by…infidels…and to maintain the integrity of the Unitary Republic of Indonesia from the OPM hordes…”
This has come about because of recent laws passed by the Indonesian Government that authorizes the use of civilian militia in the defense of state interests. The rational behind this controversial law is that the country cannot depend entirely on the Indonesian National Army (TNI) and the Indonesian National Police (POLRI) to defend the country in the far flung regions of the country.
On the 23rd of September, more than 30 people were killed in Wamena and Jayapura in independence protests by West Papuans. More than 5000 were displaced prompting the Indonesian Military to evacuate people to Jayapura.
The paramilitary groups make no secret of the fact that they are recruiting to ‘defend,’ there is no guarantee that there will be no escalation of violence.
The implications on the West Papuan people are frightening. In the last 36 hours, militia groups emboldened by the new laws have begun recruiting people for operations in Wamena. The possibility that all this could turn into a widespread, government supported ethnic cleansing in the guise of a religious war is now very real.
While Indonesian sovereignty should be respected, the aspirations of a people who feel oppressed and have suffered more than 50 years of brutality and racism must be heard.
The United Nations can right the wrongs of the 1969 Act of Free Choice by urging Indonesia to allow an independence referendum for the people of West Papua.
We must avoid an East Timor style break down of law and order where people were massacred by Indonesian backed civilian militia. We cannot allow that to happen in West Papua by civilian groups who now have a legal right to raise paramilitary forces.
Papua New Guinea is unprepared for an escalation of violence in West Papua which will trigger a flood of refugees into Vanimo, Weam, Green River, Tumolbil and all our border posts. We do not have the resources or the manpower to contain and manage any influx.
Our concerns must be voiced as per our 1986 Non-Aggression Pacts with Indonesia. We must use the avenues for dialogue to raise our concerns before we end up with a situation that will affect our internal security as well.