Is Indonesia using Islamic Militants as a cover to deploy additional troops?

One more day before Christmas and the people all over West Papua and Papua are witnessing an uptick in Indonesian military presence, and that is because the Indonesian government are deploying 192, 000 troops – more than the number of US and NATO troops in Iraq and Afghanistan today – to West Papua and Papua. The government spin-newspapers claimed that the deployment is due to a growing number of threats the Islamic militants posed Christians throughout Papua and West Papua.

The Bananasfund Online – A Christian charity organization – quoted media Indonesian sources:

Indonesia – announced on 17 December the deployment of 192,000 security personnel to safeguard Christians, and other minorities, during the Christmas period – a heightened time of risk for Islamic extremist attacks. Authorities on the south-east Asian archipelago, where Christians make up at least 15% of the population, are posting police officers and navy personnel across the country, including the predominantly Christian provinces of Papua and West Papua, to secure celebrations held over Christmas and also on New Year’s Eve (the latter is often wrongly perceived in non-Western countries as a Christian festival).

It sounds good but if you read it to the bottom, the justification for this massive deployment appears weak. The article claims that the massive deployment is to protect Christians “and other minorities” on this Christmas holiday season. But the article failed to identify the threat that led to this massive deployment,  instead it used outdated data to try and justify this move; a classic diversion for government’s spin-artists.

The article pointed out that in the past, the Islamic militants’ targets were within Java and no attacks had been carried out against West Papuan Christians in the far fringes of West Papua, Papua and Merauke regencies in the past year(s). According to the article – most of the attacks on Christmas events going back as far as 2000, were carried out in locations within Java itself and far away from West Papua and Papua.

It was the deadliest atrocity since Christmas Eve 2000, when 19 people were killed and more than 100 injured in a wave of coordinated attacks on church services in Jakarta, Bekasi, Medan, Sukabumi, Mojokerto, Bandung, Batam Island and Lombok.

The Indonesian media claims that the Indonesian government also deployed 10,000 soldiers to Jakarta, but that doesn’t explain why the massive deployment of almost 200,000 to West Papua to a place where bombing from Islamic militants is rare. The report continues –

In November 2019, the Indonesian authorities announced they were cracking down on hard-line Islamist ideology by urging members of the public to report extremist content posted online by civil servants and taking action to replace school textbooks deemed to contain radical material.

Again, the justification is extremely weak, which leads us to believe that the Indonesian government is using this Christmas season as a cover to deploy a massive force to continue its crackdown on pro-separatist activists in the provinces of Papua and West Papua and to help destroy any attempt by peaceful protesters to take to the streets now  early next year. There are no other justifications or viable credible explanations for the deployment.

Earlier this year, the anti-racism uprising only attracted a minimal deployment in to the provinces. The largest single deployment at the time was about seven thousand armed soldiers. However, there are no current massive protests that warrant a deployment of this scale, nor is there credible threats from the Islamic militants in West Papua. Last week, the Indonesian police arrested eight militants from the JAD Militant group, but so far no JAD posted threats to annihilate the Christian population of the Papua and West Papua. This whole thing is highly suspect.

The real reason

This massive deployment seems to be a reaction to the alleged shoot out in Papua resulted in the death of two Indonesian soldiers. ABC reported the Indonesian soldiers were ambushed by separatists in Papua. Two casualties were reported but no words from the separatists. It is highly likely that the Indonesian massive deployment has nothing to do with the safety of Christians or other minorities, but everything to do with the hunting down of separatists.

All sides must refrain

Here at the center, we urge both sides to respect the people’s Christmas holidays, and that Indonesia must not use Islamic Militancy as a cover to further militarize West Papua and Papua. There are already police and soldiers in the region and to bring in about two hundred thousand soldiers beginning last week, is uncalled for and is likely to make matters worse.