Thursday, October 13, 2011

Would the Grass Truly Be Greener In a Papua That Governed Itself?

The Indonesian government has adopted a two-pronged strategy to maintain control of its Papuan provinces: intense military presence and intense public spending. Neither is working.

Since July 2011, violence and pro-referendum campaigning has surged in Papua. In August alone, two Indonesian soldiers were shot dead in separate incidents in Abepura and Puncak Jaya, and there were demonstrations in Jayapura and Mimika for a referendum on whether the Papuan provinces should remain with Indonesia. On Aug. 22, more than a hundred Tiaka villagers reportedly tried to vandalize an oil rig being guarded by the police, and two of these villagers were killed. And now comes news of deadly clashes in Freeport between the police and striking miners.

It is time to consider a radical alternative roadmap to peace.

Many Papuans who have experienced integration with Indonesia feel the grass could be greener in an independent Papua. But this may change if Papuans get a clearer vision of what an independent Papua might look like.

To show them, a special, self-policed, self-administered district could be set up in Papua, with no obligation to accept policies or government personnel from Indonesia. The special district should only be accessible via Indonesian territory, so Indonesia could still restrict any flow of arms to the district. The special district could allow foreign advisers, but these should not be in high number and should not be responsible for security or policy-making, for the district needs to show Papuans what life would be like under a Papuan-run government.

And what might come to pass under such a government? The Timorese experience offers some clues regarding switching from Indonesian to foreign work partners. If foreign advisers were permitted into the special Papuan district, Papuans would see that the income gap between Papuans and Indonesians is far smaller than the income gap between Papuans and foreigners. And the proportion of foreigners who behave arrogantly toward Papuans would be similar to the proportion of Indonesians who behave arrogantly.

If the foreigners included a United Nations personnel support unit, Papuans would see enough waste, inefficiency and bureaucracy to make them think twice about criticizing Indonesian governance. And of course, Indonesian-speaking Papuans would find that communicating with Indonesians is easier than communicating with foreigners. The international presence that I experienced while working with the UN in East Timor in 2001-02 had all these weaknesses.

Indonesia has, since the fall of Suharto, made great strides in democratization. If this democratization continues, top-down government decision-making and “justice for sale” may become things of the past, including in Papua. In contrast, an independent Papua would start with concepts of leadership by “a big man,” inherited from its Melanesian roots, combined with a history of minimal standards of accountability or participatory planning.

An independent Papua would likely start with a government that patronizes rather than serves, and there is no guarantee that it would improve quickly. Looking at its neighbors, East Timor has made only slow progress in its accountability and justice systems in the last 10 years. Street gangs are rampant and almost no major human rights violations or corruption cases have been successfully prosecuted. Similarly, some would argue that Papua New Guinea has actually gone backwards in governance since it gained independence in 1975. I have talked to several people who have been in both Indonesian Papua and PNG, and they all say the former has better security, cheaper transportation and equal or better government services.

This dual governance model should last seven or eight years before a referendum is held to choose one governance model. For some Papuans, 10 years may be a frustratingly long time to remain under Indonesian rule. But five years would be too short for them to view exactly how an independent government would perform. A little longer than five years could enable Papuans to see whether government systems and human resources improve, or conversely whether ethnic and individual tensions emerge. Seven or eight years would also buy Indonesia time to address two of its biggest governance problems — its weak legal system and its top-down planning. If these two aspects of governance improved, there would be more chance of Papuans voting on referendum day to remain integrated with Indonesia. Thus, seven or eight years would be the right amount of time before a referendum — sufficient time for Papuans to judge whether the special Papuan-run district offers a better model than the Indonesian model.

Lessons From East Timor

This slow road to a referendum would contrast with the East Timor experience. It would likely be a more peaceful lead-up, because there would be no Indonesian security forces within the special Papuan-run district and because any Papuans or Indonesian security forces who initiated violence would be condemned widely for breaking the peace accord. International peacekeepers could be stationed at border crossings into the special Papuan-run district to assist with security.

Another advantage of this slow road is that it would lead to a more informed and less emotional decision by ordinary Papuans on referendum day. While East Timor’s independence has benefited its better-connected and better-educated class, the jury is still out regarding whether independence has benefited the less-educated masses of East Timor. Papua’s less educated would be well advised to reflect on whether their economic situation and security would benefit from independence.

Besides the rushed nature of East Timor’s referendum, that referendum unfortunately offered only an all-or-nothing choice, destined to produce winners and losers. In East Timor, independence was granted with no stipulation that a small share of petroleum money go to East Timor’s impoverished neighboring islands, and the referendum offered no “third way” whereby a small area of East Timor could remain with Indonesia.

Consequently, those East Timorese who did wish to remain as part of Indonesia were forced to crowd into West Timor, where they have competed with local people for land and created the need for assistance programs that have drained government resources.

In contrast, a Papuan referendum could be less divisive. A condition could be attached so that if Papuan voters chose independence, a small percentage of the new government’s revenue for the next 10 years could be put in a trust fund for neighboring Indonesian provinces. This contribution would show good will, assist with resettlement and minimize any income disparities in GDP per capita along the border, thus reducing resentment against so-called referendum “winners.”

For Papuan districts located along the western edge of Papua, voting patterns could be recorded per district. Thus, even if Papua as a whole voted for independence, a vote of over 50 percent in any border district would mean the particular district remained with Indonesia. Finally, one of the options in the referendum could be to delay and have a second referendum in a further seven to eight years. A referendum doesn’t need to create extreme winners and losers in Papua. A range of referendum options allows a deeper understanding of what people really want.

Papua is bubbling with dissent. Indonesia can use intense military presence and intense public spending to try to keep a lid on the pot, and this will buy time for its government, and key Indonesian businesspeople, to rush to exploit Papua’s natural resources. But it will also damage Indonesia’s international reputation, its long-term prospects of retaining some or all of Papua and its prospects of close trading and political ties if Papua ever does become independent. The other option is for Indonesia and other negotiators to sit together and produce a referendum roadmap — one that allows Papuans multiple choices and which perhaps provides a less romantic view of what an independent Papua might look like.

By Dr. Warren Doull who worked with the UN Transitional Authority in East Timor in 2001-02.

No comments:

Post a Comment