Thursday, November 3, 2011

Comprehensive solution to Papua problems

Papuan problems have become even more complicated following the escalation in security disturbances in the eastern most province over the past two months.

The latest unrest started with a bloody clash between workers of giant gold and copper mining company PT Freeport Indonesia and security officers in Timika, the forced dispersal of the third Papuan People’s Congress in Jayapura that climaxed with the fatal shooting of Mulia police chief Adj. Comr. Dominggus Oktavianus Awes in Puncak Jaya regency. At least eight people were killed in the latest series of violent incidents.

It is worth noting that many Papuan people maintain that Papua’s integration into Indonesia through the Act of Free Choice (Pepera) in 1969 is not yet final, while the Indonesian government insists that it is.

These differing opinions influence nearly all aspects of life in Papua, in which demonstrations held in the province frequently end up questioning the legitimacy of the Pepera.

This conflict easily sparks unease in Papua. As the root of the problem is there, it is like a wound which does not heal, so that every time it is touched, even with a small poke, it will immediately become inflamed.

Outsiders may ask why young people in Papua appear aggressive in demanding history be rewritten even though they were not even born when the integration of Papua was justified by the Pepera.

The answer lies in the fact that many parents tell their children about the history they still consider problematic. Papuan people are obsessed with freedom to regulate themselves, without thinking about the consequences of the freedom itself.

They simply think that through freedom they will soon be able to improve their welfare to levels matching the status of levels in advanced countries.

Papuan people’s mistrust of Jakarta is still very high because as is mirrored by the experiences during the integration into Indonesia. Most Papuans perceive that many promises have not been delivered and many programs do not directly affect the lives of local people.

The needs of the Papuan people are actually simple — enough food, affordable education and guaranteed health services. The number of indigenous people is estimated at only 1 million. Compare this with the trillions of rupiah in special autonomy fund provided by the central government to the natural resources-rich province.

Calculations on paper suggest the money should have settled the root problems, at least in meeting the Papuans’ basic needs. The facts show otherwise.

The problem lies with central government policy. If Jakarta is serious, obstacles such as human resources and geographical challenges in Papua can be easily resolved. Why is it that after over 40 years since Papua’s integration into Indonesia the basic problems have still not been resolved? The central government has certainly collected data on existing obstacles and prepared remedies to address them. Yet still questions remain about poor implementation.

Commitment is key to building Papua. There are frequent arguments claiming that existing policies are in conflict with prevailing laws or regulations.

Remember, however, that all of them are man-made, and a new regulation can definitely be deliberated by adjusting to the latest conditions without necessarily contradicting laws and regulations.

An example of this is issuance of Law No. 21/2001 on Special Autonomy for the Province of Papua. The law has not been properly implemented due to the absence of special bylaws (Perdasus) needed to execute the law. Jakarta knows that the special bylaws are deliberated in Papua.

The question is that if Jakarta is aware of the limited human resources in Papua, why doesn’t it provide advocacy to speed up the deliberation of bylaws?

There has been discourse on evaluation of the special autonomy law, but it has never materialized. Such empty promises have greatly contributed to mounting mistrust of the central government among the Papuan people.

The central government once pledged to recognize a single Papuan People’s Assembly (MRP) — a cultural representative grouping of indigenous Papuan people responsible for protecting the rights of native Papuans — for Papua and West Papua. In its development the Ministry of Home Affairs approved the establishment of an MRP in West Papua on grounds that a government decree provides the chance to do so. The question is why such a decree was issued in the first place.

Since Jakarta is not serious, regional officials in Papua have followed suit. They think only about their own fortunes and benefits for their families and friends.

Deployment of security forces to Papua has worsened local people’s mistrust of the government, as the arrival of a huge number of police and military gave rise to acts of violence in the name of the Unitary State of Indonesia.

Political struggle for freedom in Papua, however, does not win grassroots support as most Papuans living in villages only care about how to make ends meet.

Much-vaunted dialogue between Papua and Jakarta does not guarantee a comprehensive solution to the problems facing the Papuan people. Security authorities, too, are reluctant to support dialogue as it may lead to demands for independence, as occurred when 100 representatives from Papua met with former president B.J. Habibie in 1999.

The solution lies primarily in the central government’s commitment to building Papua. The Papuans do not want promises, but proof.

They need decent housing, adequate supply of clean water, electricity, quality education and better health care.

The government does not necessarily talk in length about the acceleration of development in Papua. It is better to work quietly, but its results can be directly felt by the people.

If all the basic rights of the Papuan people are met, they will surely admit that the Indonesian government is committed to treating Papua as equally as other parts of the country. It is the absence of commitment that has made the Papuans feel alienated and marginalized.

Papua may need a separate institution under the President to manage physical and non-physical developments in the province. It is time for the Papuans to see proof of progress.

By Nethy Dharma Somba The Jakarta Post correspondent and Hyginus Hardoyo is a staff writer at the Post.

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