More and more armed Papuan rebels have surrendered and declared their allegiance to the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia over the past few months of 2020.
This good trend can be perceived as the fruit of hard and soft power approaches that the Indonesian authorities and law enforcement agencies have applied in Papua Province. The results of what XVII/Cenderawasih Regional Military Command Commander Major General Herman Asaribab called as a “smart power approach” when speaking at a seminar at the University of Indonesia (UI) on Nov 12, 2019, are obvious.
On July 22, 2020, for instance, five armed Papuan rebels of the Puron Wenda-led separatist group had declared their allegiance to the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia in Wame Village, Bruwa Subdistrict, Lanny Jaya District, Papua Province. They swore allegiance to Indonesia in the presence of the Indonesian task force personnel and community members of Balingga Sub-district, according to Spokesman of the Joint Regional Defense Command (Kogabwilhan) III Colonel Gusti Nyoman Suriastawa.
The five armed Papuan rebels, who quit the notorious separatist group, were identified as Vandem Wonda, Dekiron Tabuni, Ibetius Tabuni, Terkis Tabuni alias Yuborak Telenggan, and Delis alias Dua Tabuni. Vandem Wonda and Ibetius Tabuni had also been involved in gunfights with Indonesian soldiers, while Dekiron Tabuni had supplied logistics to rebels, and Terkis Tabuni and Delis had partaken in an attack on the Pirime police precinct, he pointed out.
While surrendering to the Indonesian army personnel, they handed over a walkie-talkie for communicating with the Puron Wenda-led separatist group members and two 12.7-calibre bullets that they had obtained from the gunfights, Suriastawa remarked. The deputy commander of the Mobile YPR 305/TKR Border Security Task Force handed over the Red and White flag to the five ex-members of the armed Papuan separatist group to mark their allegiance to Indonesia.
Simultaneously, they also signed a letter declaring their exit from the separatist group and loyalty to the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia, he noted. These ex-rebels surrendered to the Indonesian soldiers when the task force’s Bangau Company personnel were conducting their routine in Wame Village, Bruwa Sub-district. Accompanied by a local village head, they surrendered themselves.
They swore allegiance to Indonesia owing to their keenness to remain united with their family members in the village without fear of being chased by the army and police personnel owing to acts of crimes against security personnel and civilians. On Feb 22, 2020, a former supporter of an armed Papuan separatist group, only identified by his initials YK, had also surrendered and declared his allegiance to Indonesia.
This 54-year-old resident of Toray Village in Sota Subdistrict handed over his rifle and two 22-caliber bullets to the Indonesian military in Merauke District, Papua Province. The CIS-typed rifle was handed over by YK to the personnel of the Army Strategic Reserves Command’s (Kostrad’s) MR 411/PDW Infantry Battalion at the Toray Command Post.
“YK voluntarily handed over his rifle and two 22-caliber bullets to the chief of Toray Command Post 2nd Lt Wesly Baslius Tanaem at night on February 22,” Commander of the task force at the Kostrad’s MR 411/PDW Infantry Battalion Major Rizky Aditya said.
Before making his decision, YK told Private Andri E Ginting, an army personnel at the Toray Command Post that he was supposed to be his adopted son, and about a rifle that he had hidden in a forest near Toray Village, Aditya said. The rifle was given by his late brother, only identified by his initials A.P.G. (60), Y.K. was quoted by Aditya as saying. YK said his heart was touched by the friendly approach that the task force personnel applied to native Papuans.
As a result, YK felt encouraged to surrender the rifle and its bullets, Aditya said, adding that the weapon would soon be handed over to the 174/ATW Regional Military Command. The YK case was evidence that a friendly approach could have won the hearts and minds of the native Papuan community members, Deputy Spokesman of the XVII Cenderawasih Regional Military Command Lt. Col. Dax said.
The residents who have weapons illegally are also urged to surrender them to the law enforcement agencies to avoid legal sanction, he said. Major General Herman Asaribab has repeatedly reminded soldiers joining the task force of territorial duties in Papua and West Papua Provinces to respect native Papuans’ cultural norms and traditions and avoid wrongdoing. Asaribab orders his men to keep upholding the local communities’ cultural norms and traditions to win the hearts and minds of the people.
Combining the law enforcement against those committing crimes with the religious and cultural approaches in resolving security problems in Papua and West Papua has obviously resulted in more and more armed Papuan separatists to declare allegiance to Indonesia, the Motherland for all Indonesians.
However, a home work remains unfinished as the security situation in Papua remains vulnerable to the acts of deadly violence by notorious armed Papuan separatists. Indonesia does need highly dedicated, loyal, and reliable soldiers and government officials to safeguard Papua and West Papua, and to bring peace and prosperity to all Indonesians, particularly the natives of Papua living in the two provinces.