Michael Gillard Special Investigation: Provoking Conflict by Supporting Separatist Propaganda

The “special investigation” BP in West Papua – Slow Motion Genocide, High Speed Profit, by Michael Gilllar is unreliable. The report discusses irrelevant matters insinuating ugly thing about Indonesia and neglects so many improvements in the last 20 years of Indonesia’s social and political reform.

In this article, I will discuss only one important matter that Gillard highlighted in his report.

The so called slow motion genocide is a term coined in 2013 by Jim Elmslie and Camellia Webb-Gannon, both Phd in their article A Slow Motion Genocide: Indonesian Rule in West Papua published in Griffith Journal of Law & Human Dignity. They argued that genocide is taking place in Indonesian-controlled West Papua only by a perception of a tight control against separatist movement. They said: “Explicit and implicit government policy has been consistently directed towards countering and eliminating Papuan attempts to create an independent state for their nation or enjoy political freedom on a par with other Indonesians. In this tightly controlled situation genocidal acts have been undertaken as government policy, effectively thwarting the Papuan nationalists in the era when information emerging from the province(s) could be tightly controlled”.

Jim and Camelia argument is clearly on the separatist side because they use the term political freedom to create an independent state. While from the perspective of UN principle of respect for the national sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of states, it is indeed the obligation of a state to protect its territory and guarantee the safety of its people from separatist violent threat. Indonesia is no exception, it  conducts its normal policy to prevent the Papuan secession.

Tight control is matter of perception on which side someone stand when saying tight control by local Papuan government or Indonesian security apparatus in general. If you are an ordinary Papuan who has nothing to do with separatism, you will feel safe and secure in doing your daily activities. However, if you are a member of separatist movement who frequently disturbs the peace development of Papua, you will perceive all regulations as tight control. Similarly, foreign observers, journalists, or even academic who sympathise to separatist Free West Papua Movement will share the feeling of separatists.

From the report, Michael Gillard showed his sympathy towards separatist Papuans and used the term slow motion genocide. This term has strong appeal to many people because of its attractiveness in manipulating the term genocide to labelled to the government of Indonesia. However, there is no evidence that genocide has happened in Papua and West Papua provinces. Yes, there were many victims of armed conflicts between Indonesia’s military and Free West Papua armed group. Yes, there were many unintended casualties among Papuan civilians because Free West Papua armed group often used villagers as their living shield. However, there is no genocide as  defined by Polish lawyer Raphäel Lemkin in 1944 in his book Axis Rule in Occupied Europe.

According to UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide article 2:

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Please focus on the sentence….. intent to destroy in whole or in part as national, ethnical, racial or religious group. The key word intent to destroy is very important because it will draw the different between genocidal and non-genocidal incidents.

Because Jim and Camelia could not find any evidence of genocide in West Papua, they illuminate a hypothesis of slow motion by depicting a comparative growth of  populations in West Papua, indigenous and non-indigenous Papuan. This outrageous hypothesis is not only deepening segregation view of the people who live in Papua and West Papua provinces, but also fuels hatred among people who live peacefully in Papua for many years.

We will see repetition of slow motion genocide propaganda in the future because those who use the term are separatists and their sympathisers who refuse to see the success story of Indonesia’s democracy that has potential to cement the unity of Indonesia. I hope that Indonesia’s democracy will become more mature, so there will be no human rights violation in handling Papua issue. However, in response to Free West Papua separatist armed group, a surgical military operation is still necessary by avoiding civilian casualties.


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