Saturday, June 22, 2013

Indonesia: the need for peaceful dialogue in West Papua

The Free Papua Movement (Organisasi Papua Merdeka or OPM) has opened an office in the city of Oxford in the United Kingdom

This has been met with mixed reactions. Within Indonesia two camps have emerged. One camp is calling on the Indonesian government to take decisive action toward the British government, even if it means freezing diplomatic relations. The other camp is calling for the right to freedom of expression. Looking at the issue closely, two trends are apparent. First, the Indonesian government has been unable to counter the second-track diplomacy undertaken by West Papuan tribal leader and international lobbyist Benny Wenda. Second, and more importantly, relations between the Indonesian central government and the Papuan people are deteriorating, risking the future of peaceful dialogue.

The recent opening of the OPM office in Oxford is consistent with what Wenda has been doing for more than decade since he left Papua for the United Kingdom in 2002. Most notably, in 2008 Wenda established the International Parliamentarians for West Papua (IPWP), a cross-party political group of politicians from around the world who support West Papuan self-determination. He also travelled to Melanesian countries in the South Pacific (Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea) to garner support. These efforts have internationalised the Papua issue and shone a spotlight on this eastern province of Indonesia. One of the objectives of Wenda’s diplomatic actions has been to pressure the Indonesian government to abandon its current security approach toward solving problems in Papua.

Wenda’s success highlights the weakness of the Indonesian government in exercising its diplomatic instruments. Indonesia seems unable to project an image of sovereignty over Papua. The Indonesian government has responded by strengthening its efforts to cooperate with the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) since this group of countries has spoken frequently about human rights conditions in Papua. But this growing Indonesian diplomatic effort in the region cannot prevent these countries from supporting the expressions of Papuans toward obtaining independence. The Papuan goal was fortified by the MSG giving Papua observer status in their leaders’ meeting on 20 June in New Caledonia. Meanwhile, human rights conditions in Papua have also become a main concern for international agencies, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, and famous figures, such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and MIT Professor Noam Chomsky, who have urged the Indonesian government to respect Papuan indigenous rights.
Wenda’s efforts to internationalise the Papua issue, such as through the opening of the OPM office in Oxford, and the weakness of the Indonesian government’s diplomacy impacts the future of peaceful dialogue.

Initially, the idea of peaceful dialogue was launched by the Papuan intellectual Neles Tebay in accordance with The Indonesian Institute of Sciences. This effort culminated in an initiative to use active dialogue to rectify ongoing historical, political, cultural and economic grievances in Papua. By holding workshops and public discussions throughout the province as well as lobbying the national government for support for the enterprise, this strategy pushes for a positive environment under which dialogue can take place through both top-down and bottom-up approaches. However, the challenges are still numerous, including the fragmentation of the large number of parties.

One of the biggest obstacles for consolidating a dialogue is bringing all the relevant parties together for discussion aimed at finding a mutually acceptable solution. Looking back at Papua’s history, there have been many initiatives, spearheaded by central and local government as well as non-governmental organisations, to arrange an active dialogue. But these efforts have faced similar obstacles related to political fragmentation among Papuans. Benny Wenda’s international actions aimed at achieving Papua’s independence jeopardise any potential role the OPM could play in fostering peaceful dialogue between the national government and the Papuan people.

The existence of the OPM’s office in Oxford also makes the road to peaceful dialogue more complex. On the one hand, Wenda will almost certainly refuse to participate in any dialogue conducted under the auspices of the provincial authority of Papua. On the other hand, the British government can do little to disband the activities of the OPM’s Oxford office due to its national laws that respect and guarantee its citizens’ rights—and Wenda is a British citizen. In this situation, ignoring the existence of the OPM office is impossible. All the British government can do is to make a public statement at a diplomatic level affirming its respect for the sovereignty of Indonesia over Papua. For the time being, Wenda and his group look set to continue to campaign internationally for the secession of Papua. But ultimately, constructive communication, including with those who have been exiled, is necessary for peaceful dialogue to forge any meaningful solutions.

In the meantime, until a long-term solution can be agreed, the consternation over the opening of the OPM’s Oxford office must not be used as an excuse to incite an escalation of conflict in Papua. This concern is especially grave considering the recent military shooting and killing of several Papuans on 1 May, which coincided with the peaceful commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the handover of Papua to the Indonesian government by the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority.

Hipolitus Yolisandry Ringgi Wangge is Visiting Scholar in the Equality Development and Globalization Studies Program at the Buffet Center for International and Comparative Studies, Northwestern University.
Agustinus Kambuaya is a faculty member in the department of politics at Cenderawasih University, Jayapura, Indonesia.

1 comment:

  1. Theft, Murder and Rape; West Papua's Plight and Bob Carr's Cruel Deceit

    June 23, 2013

    OpEdNews (Pennsylvania)
    By Andrew Johnson

    The Greens are still in shock from allegations by Bob Carr at the
    Senate estimates hearing on 5 June that people in Australia are
    playing a cruel deception on the people of West Papua. But what
    Senator Carr was slipping into the parliament was repetition of his
    claim that "Australia and the world recognise Indonesian sovereignty
    over West Papua".

    The irrefutable fact is that West Papua is not part of Indonesia
    because it is a trust territory, a colony which has been subjected to
    Chapter XII of the UN Charter, the Trusteeship System when the General
    Assembly including Australia made resolution 1752 (XVII) approving UN
    occupation and responsibility under article 76 of the Charter for West

    Bob Carr has been unable to answer the question when and how has the
    world recognised Indonesian sovereignty over West Papua. He has also
    claimed to be raising matters with Indonesia "in the context of
    accepting Indonesian sovereignty over the territories as a matter of
    international law", but again he has proved to be unable to identify
    any legal expert or argument of law to support his claims.

    Even while noting an event which Indonesia called "act of free
    choice", the UN members in General Assembly resolution 2504 (XXIV) did
    not give their own opinion about the Dutch and Indonesian claims let
    alone about sovereignty. What UN officials have explained in a summary
    of Administrative History is that the "current administrator is

    Proper use of the UN Trusteeship System involves two parts, take and
    then give. Chapter XII of the UN Charter allows the United Nations to
    occupy or seize a colony, in exchange Chapter XIII of the Charter
    creates a Trusteeship Council tasked with ensuring that the United
    Nations fulfills article 76 and article 1 of the Charter; thus human
    rights in the colony are normally protected because the Security
    Council members like Australia are members of the Trusteeship Council
    that monitors conditions in trust territories under articles 87 and 88
    of the Charter.

    In 1962 the Secretary General added the New York Agreement for West
    New Guinea (West Papua) to the agenda of the General Assembly, where
    Australia and 88 other nations approved UN occupation and choice of
    administrators in General Assembly resolution 1752 (XVII). But the
    Secretary General failed to add resolution 1752 (XVII) to the agenda
    of the Trusteeship Council. So for fifty years West Papua has been
    waiting for the Trusteeship Council to be "officially" told that West
    Papua has become subject to administration by Indonesia on behalf of
    the rest of the UN members.

    I suspect Bob Carr already knows that Indonesia is administrating the
    territory for the United Nations, that he may also know of any
    extra-judicial deaths and mining operations in West Papua. I don't
    think the Australian Greens are playing a cruel deception.

    The Australia news media and people could call on Canberra to add
    resolution 1752 (XVII) to the agenda of the Trusteeship Council,
    Australia as a member of the United Nations unlike West Papua has the
    right to add items to the agenda of the Trusteeship Council. It could
    be interesting if people in Australia were to debate the pros and cons
    of the issue of West Papua; the ecological, financial, security, even
    human rights implications fifty years of Indonesian administration has
    had for Australia and its Papuan neighbour.