Inside Papua: The Police Force as Counterinsurgents in Post-Reformasi Indonesia
Syailendra, Emirza Adi
Following Indonesia's democratic transition in 1998, the nation's counterinsurgency strategy shifted from enemy-centric operations led by the military to population-centric operations led by police forces. This was an important move by the Indonesian government to signal that it intended to include democratic principles in its fight to maintain its sovereignty against the threat of insurgency. In West Papua, the Indonesian police have been empowered to lead the counterinsurgency operation against the Free Papuan Movement (OPM). Nonetheless, the Indonesian police's deficiencies in battling OPM requires that the police maintain a strong partnership with the Indonesian military. This study examines the complex interplay between the Indonesian military and police in post-Reformasi Indonesia with regard to their counterinsurgency approaches. The article explores the contemporary dynamics between the Indonesian military and police, both tension and cooperation, when conducting operations. It does so by examining a single case study of Indonesia's counterinsurgency operation in one of the high-risk regions in Indonesia—the Aman Matoa operation against the OPM in West Papua region—which emphasizes law enforcement and building support among local inhabitants. The essay provides a detailed description of the police–military's joint collaboration in responding to insurgents in West Papua region. (Despite the competition between military and police, the two have been able to work together in West Papua region, especially to extract information about insurgents and to sever the links between guerrillas and their support base.) Further, this study provides a description of the contemporary anatomy of the Free Papua Movement with its current strategy of both violent and nonviolent tactics, from the point of view of counterinsurgency agencies. This empirical study deploys qualitative analyses with data collected through interviews and discussions with relevant stakeholders in West Papua.
Volume & Issue:
Page range: 57-84
Cornell University Southeast Asia Program