Saturday, October 22, 2011

Indonesian Papua - Where inequality is ignored

The forceful dispersal on Wednesday of the concluding session of a three-day gathering of indigenous Papuans — self-proclaimed by the organizers as the third Papua People’s Congress — in the provincial capital of Jayapura was another display of Jakarta’s inability to identify and settle the prolonged problems of isolation and inequality in the resource-rich region.

The local security authorities’ failure to anticipate the unexpected conclusion of the gathering — the hoisting of the outlawed Bintang Kejora (Morning Star) flag and the proclamation of the West Papua state — also indicates that both the local and central governments failed to pay attention to details, including the growing pains felt by the native Papuans. Jayapura Police had allowed the congress to take place based on the organizers’ testimony that its agenda would only discuss basic rights of Papuans for the sake of improving their welfare.

By all means, it is legally unacceptable worldwide for a group of people or a community to establish a state within a sovereign state. And Indonesia has had an abundance of experiences dealing with such “separatism” since its independence was officiated in 1945.

Most of the separatist movements in the country — the PRRI/Permesta in the 1950s, the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) from the mid-1970s to 2005, the on-and-off Islamic State of Indonesia movement (NII), the guerilla war in former East Timor province, and the prolonged Free Papua Movement (OPM), the embryo of Wednesday’s declaration of the West Papua State — have all been handled with force.

Extensive military operations wiped out the rebels, but they only led the country to disgrace with the involvement of the international community overseeing the subsequent peace processes in East Timor and Aceh. The former East Timor province gained independence after a UN-sanctioned referendum in 1999, while in the Aceh separatism ended with a peace agreement signed in Helsinki in 2005.

Trillions of rupiah have been poured into Papua since 2002 as part of its special autonomy status, but that poverty remains rampant there shows something is going wrong.

Separatism in Indonesia, including Papua, is rooted in dissatisfaction with the central government’s unfair treatment and ignorance of local people’s problems and aspirations. Dialogue, rather than use of force, is needed to address the discontent. Editorial, Jakarta Post

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