Friday, December 10, 2010

Dignified Dialogue Is Key To Solving the Papua Conflict

One of the main duties of the president and vice president of Indonesia is to maintain the integrity of the Unitary Republic of Indonesia. In confronting this task, it should be noted that internal threats usually have a bigger impact than external ones. And sometimes, the threats from outside the country become even more visible when the country itself allows conflict to grow within its own borders.

Papua is one of the regions that has represented a serious threat to the integrity of the Indonesian state ever since the region was integrated into the country in 1969 through a referendum.

Also, developments in Papua are always on the radar of foreign countries, which in turn pressure the Indonesian government to resolve the conflicts in the province peacefully.

One just needs to look at how the United States, Australia and several Asia-Pacific countries criticize the Indonesian government whenever a conflict — especially one related to human rights violations —grips Papua.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Vice President Boediono thus have a primary duty to resolve the conflict in Papua in a fair, peaceful and dignified manner, as was done in Aceh.

Papuan Special Autonomy Law

The 2001 law on special autonomy for Papua has been in force for the past nine years. However, the direct benefits of autonomy have not been felt by the majority of people in Papua.

Disappointed with the failed implementation of special autonomy, Papuans have organized long marches from Abepura to the office of the provincial legislative council in Jayapura on more than one occasion.

The protesters have demanded that the legislative council send the autonomy law back to Jakarta for review.

While the Special Autonomy Fund for the province has increased significantly, from Rp 2.4 trillion ($266 million) in 2004 to Rp 5.2 trillion in 2010, and the provincial budget has been set at Rp 5.8 trillion in 2011, this does not provide any guarantee that the conflict in Papua will come to an end.

In fact, some observers believe the law on special autonomy is itself the source of new problems in Papua, as the law has helped to create an increasingly corrupt government and bureaucracy.

Because of this, the special autonomy law cannot be regarded as the final solution to the conflict the region.

Visit by Yudhoyono

The visit by Yudhoyono and several of his ministers to Jayapura last month has not and certainly will not put an end to the conflict in the province.

After the president’s visit, a shooting occurred at Kampung Nafri, Jayapura, in which one civilian was killed and four others were left seriously wounded.

A few days after the shooting, a group of people, presumed to be members of the Free Papua Movement (OPM), raised the banned Morning Star flag, a symbol of the independence movement, in Puncak Jaya.

Then there was a demonstration by Papuans at the National Committee of West Papua (KNPB) and the Papua Customary Council (DAP). The demonstrators were essentially asking the Indonesian government to allow a dialogue on the festering issues in Papua.

There still remains a possibility of Papua actually detaching itself from Indonesia — a slight one, yes, but one that cannot be underestimated. The 1999 referendum that resulted in independence for East Timor should serve as a valuable lesson for the Indonesian government, especially for Yudhoyono, as head of state.

He must be prudent in dealing with the conflict in Papua. If not, this issue will affect the integrity of the Unitary Republic of Indonesia.


Upon his return from Papua after last month’s visit, the president and several ministers formed what is called the Accelerated Development Unit of Papua. The aim of this body is not much different from that of the 2007 presidential instruction on the acceleration of development in Papua.

But will the establishment of this institution help resolve the conflict in Papua? I am very pessimistic.

For example, the 2007 presidential instruction cannot be enforced because it overlaps with the 2001 law on special autonomy for Papua.

And these regulations clearly have not helped to resolve the conflict. For that, Yudhoyono must engage in a dialogue with the people of Papua.

The roots of the conflict in Papua should be dealt with first, before the government addresses other problems related to the implementation of the special autonomy law and the acceleration of development in the country’s easternmost region.

By Oktovianus Pogau member of the Papua Solidarity Society

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