Saturday, June 16, 2012

‘Pre-conditions’ for Papua

This moment could be considered one of the bleakest times in Papuan history due to escalating conflict and violence in the region. There have been several causalities reported both civilians and military/police officers.

What attracted public attention is the locations of violence, which have tended to shift from isolated areas, normally in the highlands or mountainous areas to the capital of Papua, Jayapura.

In addition, these “mysterious shootings” have occurred in broad daylight and have hit their “targets” in public areas and near police and military offices.

There are a few lessons that we could learn from the aforementioned escalating conflict and violence in Papua. First, we can question whether President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s program of the Presidential Unit for the Acceleration of Development in Papua and West Papua (UP4B) is indeed the right “panacea” to solve the complex problems in Papua.

Also, is the program effectively implemented and enthusiastically welcomed by the Papuans? There have been numerous reports which show people’s skepticism about the program which may be rooted in the failure of Special Autonomy.

Second, escalating violence and conflict is also a sign that the government is overwhelmed by the complexity of the issues in Papua and an inability to restore order. Authorities are unable to catch and bring to trial the perpetrators of such violence.

This is certainly a sad story. Unable to solve the problem, the government tends to make unnecessary or defensive statements. For example, they claimed that the violence was caused by a separatist movement.

This statement was indeed premature and lacked evidence, especially when knowing that in the recent mysterious attacks the victim have been shot in vital organs. The gunmen are certainly trained |people.

There are just too many “invisible hands” meddling in Papua, especially when the case in Papua is about power politics and vested economic interests (Macleod and Martin, 2012).

Therefore, the government needs to update their data on the mapping of violence and conflict in this region. Various violent incidents in Papua could be committed by several “actors”. Therefore, the government should not easily scapegoat local Papuans as perpetrators of such attacks. The government must also have the courage to publish the conflict and violence mapping as clear evidence.

An article by Macleod and Martin (2012) clearly stated that there are segments of the population in Papua which are indeed opting for a nonviolent struggle. They argued that a nonviolent struggle, is definitely more desirable than an armed struggle, which causes less loss of life and greater participation of ordinary people.

Another repetitive and unreasonable statement by the government is that these perpetrators of conflict are difficult to capture because of the isolated and geographic conditions in Papua. This may be true in one sense, but as media reported, quoting from the statement by Neles Tebay, mysterious shootings and snipers are currently operating in the city of Jayapura. How hard could it be to locate these shooters in Jayapura, which is geographically a small city?

Third, with the rise of conflict and violence occurring lately, it is a clear sign of deepening distrust between the Papuans and the government. The government is seen as incapable or not serious about solving problems in Papua. The mysterious shootings and snipers only exacerbate the already heated situation there.

When distrust is deepening between the two parties, what is then the prospect of dialogue? Dialogue seems to be a more popular word, recently compared to any other catchword, when one talks about Papua.

The questions that follow in dialogue, which should be publicly understood, are who should be involved? What should be the content of dialogue? What is the time frame? What is the measurement of success or failure in a dialogue? What are the objectives, outcome and output indicators of a dialogue? What are the key activities in a dialogue and so forth?

Dialogue is only a means or even a tool to solve problems in Papua and not an end in itself. There are pre-conditions that need to be taken into consideration before dialogue could be implemented effectively. In other words, there are “prerequisites” for effective dialogue. We need to remember that “winning trust” is one of the main objectives of dialogue.

Supported by UNDEF, CSIS is currently conducting a project to promote Social Accountability in Papua. We have worked with various elements of civil society. In Australia we have also talked with several academicians to obtain their insights on the situation in Papua.

It is interesting that during our project activities, elements of civil society and Australian academicians frequently stressed the importance of meeting these pre-conditions before any other programs or even dialogue could be effectively implemented.

When these preconditions are met, there is hope that the government could win the long awaited trust from the Papuans.

In our discussion with elements of civil society and Australian academicians, the preconditions for Papua are clarification on the history of Papua’s integration, investigating human rights violations and bringing to trial the perpetrators, a fair trial for Papuans “convicted” for involvement in separatist actions, eliminating Papuan marginalization, and improving the welfare of Papuans.

Does the government have the political will to deal with these preconditions in a timely manner? Let’s say Papuan integration is final and not considered a topic which needs further discussion; there are still other preconditions which are seemingly manageable to be sorted out.

To conclude, we could say that the current instability and chaos in Papua is the price that the government must pay for neglecting or even underestimating the complexity of the problems in Papua. The government and other stakeholders need a breakthrough and not treating Papua just as business as usual to restore peace and order.

One possible solution is bringing onto the discussion table a third party negotiator, whether a prominent national or international figure who is trusted and respected by the Papuans.

The government should not be paranoid about bringing international parties, especially when it is clearly stated beforehand that a referendum in not an option and the history of integration is final. Another solution is again making more serious efforts to meet the preconditions for Papua mentioned earlier. These are indeed urgent tasks to help avoid further disruptions in Papua.

By Vidhyandika D Perkasa, Jakarta researcher at the Department of Politics and International Relations, Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Jakarta.

1 comment:

  1. Ignoring Papua
    The Jakarta Post | Thu, 06/14/2012 7:39 AM
    A- A A+

    In an effort to solve a problem, a leader has to avoid blowing an issue out of proportion or, in the extreme, playing it down as if everything is fine. Unfortunately President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is doing both.

    When he learned that one or two Cabinet ministers had placed their allegiance to him below loyalty to their parties, Yudhoyono did nothing, despite his prerogative of coalition unity. But when fatal shootings flared up in Papua, killing at least 16 civilians and security personnel in the past month alone, the President saw no urgency to settle the issue once and for all despite the fact that violence has been plaguing the naturally resource-rich province for decades.

    We are appalled by the President’s latest statement, which described the recent incidents in Papua as small-scale, merely taking into account the small number of fatalities that were far below the number of lives lost in violence in the Middle East. The President has sent the wrong message about his administration’s knowledge of what is really happening in Papua. More than that, the statement confirms that doubts over Jakarta’s commitment to addressing the prolonged injustice in Papua are not groundless.

    Now the public at home and around the world understand why there has been no comprehensive policy to deal with Papua, despite a number of initiatives, like the formation of the Unit for Acceleration of Development in Papua and West Papua (UP4B). The unit has so far done much to open communications between local Papuans, including rebel groups, and the central government, but Jakarta’s propensity to underestimate the core problem of Papua — which is injustice — undermines the hard work and achievements of the unit.

    The Papuan shooting spree comes against the backdrop of the international community’s discontent with Indonesia’s human rights record in Papua during the UN Human Rights Commission’s convention in Geneva a few weeks ago. It is therefore imperative for Indonesia, the government in particular, to regain the world’s trust through affirmative policies aimed at delivering justice for the Papuan people, including an end to impunity given to perpetrators of atrocities.

    Post-New Order Indonesia has resolved half of the Herculean job of keeping Papua as part of the Unitary Republic of Indonesia through special autonomy for the province in 2001, which allows Papua to enjoy and manage the lion’s share of its revenue from natural resources. But distribution of wealth has failed to materialize as most of the huge funds have been wasted — or embezzled by the local elites — as is evident in the fact that Papua and West Papua remain the most disadvantaged regions, mostly because of Jakarta’s poor supervision and — more importantly — ignorance.

    That Jakarta has let Papua squander its golden opportunities to develop and advance is not surprising given President Yudhoyono’s indifference to the Papuan people’s right to security.

    Reports of the imminent restructuring of Papua’s military command may exacerbate the already deteriorating security situation in the province. The chief post in each of the three military commands (Korem) is currently held by a colonel but will be given to a brigadier general. Only time will tell whether the restructuring will result in the deployment of more troops to Papua.

    Until Yudhoyono, who himself promised a new deal for Papua after taking office in 2004, agrees to hold talks with the Papuans and listen to their grievances, the chance of a comprehensive solution to the Papua conflict will remain slim.

    Indonesia succeeded in ending armed conflict and bringing peace back to Aceh in 2005 because there was a will. The same determination must prevail in winning Papua’s hearts and minds.