[Jakarta, 6 February 2024] The incoming president of Indonesia needs to learn from local initiatives in Papua if he wants to reduce the high level of deaths and displacement. After ten years, President Jokowi has left a pro-independence insurgency, the West Papua National Liberation Army (Tentara Pembebasan Nasional – Papua Barat, PNPB) that is better armed, resourced, and coordinated than it was when he took office. His successor needs to radically change course.
“Managing Conflict in Papua: Suggestions for a New President,” the latest report from the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), examines why various Papua initiatives attempted by post-Soeharto presidents have failed. These approaches can be characterized as “Get them to like us”, “Hit them without mercy”, “Divide and rule”, “Give them money”, “End their isolation” and very occasionally, “Talk to them”. But all have been marked by an effort to treat Papua as an undifferentiated whole and a lack of in-depth knowledge of local actors and dynamics. Instead, a new administration could learn from a “live and let live” approach of Lanny Jaya district, where violence steadily declined between 2018 and 2023, despite the strong presence of both guerillas and security forces.
The Lanny Jaya model was based on constant communication between local officials with both the TPNPB and local military and a determined effort to keep them out of each other’s way. It involved meeting the basic needs of the guerrillas and their families but also providing the security forces with enough information so that they could provide accurate reports back to Jakarta. The flood of troops into the area after the abduction of the New Zealand pilot in 2023 may have undermined this approach.
“It’s clear that top-down, Papua-wide initiatives that involve multiple actors from both government and the independence movement don’t work,” says Deka Anwar, IPAC researcher. “The Lanny Jaya model is not a long-term solution to the conflict, but at least it can buy time and build trust as the level of violence is reduced.”