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Nationalist and Separatist discourses in cyclical violence in Papua

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This article is an attempt to review the cyclical history of violence in Papua, Indonesia. I analyse the ways in which the Indonesian security forces employ nationalist discourse to justify conduct in Papua that includes obstructing justice and intimidating human rights advocates. The birth of the human rights movement in Papua in the mid 1990s in many ways has challenged this security approach. Human rights advocates not only expose excessive violent behaviour on the part of the military during 'secret' operations, but also question the high military troop levels and the conduct of the national police in Papua. The advent of Reformasi in 1998 revived all over the province the demands for secession that had been dormant during the 1980s and 1990s. This has served the army as a pretext to maintain its strong presence in Papua. My main argument is that both the pro-independence Papuans and the security forces have a vested interest in keeping the secession issue as the dominant discourse on Papua. From the early 1960s to 2003, the security forces have been able to argue that the state is under threat of separatism. In turn, the violence and impunity Papuans endure provides the basis for their ever-growing discourse of independence.


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