Root of Conflict and Peace Agendas for Papua

A nice article from Jakarta Post

by Muridan S. Widjojo

The meeting between Vice President Jusuf Kalla, flanked by Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Widodo AS, Minister of Home Affairs Mohammad Ma’ruf and Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Gen. Endriartono Sutarto, and the official leaders of the province of Papua on Nov. 24, followed by the talks with the leaders of West Irian Jaya province the next day, resulted in a positive consensus.

The conflict over the election of local leaders in West Irian Jaya will be settled based on Law No. 21/2001 on special autonomy and Government Regulation No. 54/2004 on the Papuan People’s Assembly (MRP). This implies that the process of creating a legal umbrella for West Irian Jaya will start with a white paper drafted by the governor of Papua, which will then be studied by the Papuan provincial council and brought to the MRP for approval. Subsequently, it will be forwarded to the central government via the minister of home Affairs.

This process is expected to last a month. According to the consensus, the central government will issue a regulation in lieu of law to provide legal protection for West Irian Jaya. If Jakarta firmly adheres to the accord, the door will likely be open for a comprehensive resolution of the root causes of the Papuan conflict.
However, it is worth noting that the agreement was reached only after the provincial council and MRP had rejected the unilateral plan by the Ministry of Home Affairs to hold local elections in West Irian Jaya, and threatened to reject the government initiated special autonomy and demand a referendum. This threat reflected the pinnacle of disappointment and anger among Papuan people and provincial leaders at the government’s arbitrary policies and disregard for the Special Autonomy Law.

The success of Vice President Jusuf Kalla in breaking the political deadlock in Papua is in fact only superficial. The conflict over the elections in West Irian Jaya is just a small symptom of a much bigger problem.

Throughout 2005, the central government and provincial administration found themselves at loggerheads over a number of issues. The most significant consequence of this was a high level of Papuan dissatisfaction with the application of special autonomy, as manifested in the demonstration by 15,000 people organized by the Papuan Tribal Council in August.

Their reasons are obvious.

First, socioeconomic development in the region is making little significant progress. The public health service is seen as inadequate, and the HIV/AIDS question is not being properly handled. The education sector remains plagued by a lack of facilities and teachers. Widespread poverty amid Papua’s natural riches is still the order of the day.

Second, little progress has been made on the human rights and state violence questions. To mention but a few cases, the legal process in respect of grave rights violations in Wamena and Wasior has stalled in the Attorney General’s Office. A 2004 military operation in Puncak Jaya (2004) that resulted in serious rights abuses has not even been officially reported yet. Worse still, the first permanent Human Rights Tribunal (2005) has failed to punish rights violators in Abepura (2000). The victims in the case were taken aback by a defense attorney’s statement that the accused should be considered “heroes” and the injured parties “separatists”.

Third, the demand for “setting the historical record straight” in Papua and hopes for reconciliation have not been responded to wisely.

The Papuans’ demands for freedom are connected with the historical issue. This problem will hamper Papua-Jakarta reconciliation and the effort to build healthier political ties. The people of Papua will continue to question their political history in various local, national and international forums.

The Vice President, and even the President himself, have emphasized the need to settle the problems of West Irian Jaya and Papua by taking account of the aspirations of the Papuan people and provincial leaders. Whatever course of action is decided upon in resolving the West Irian Jaya issue, Jakarta must avoid unilateral action. The Papuan side, particularly state leaders in the provincial council and MRP, and the governor, should be fully involved.

The West Irian Jaya problem looks likely to be long drawn out and will not be settled within one month as targeted by Vice President Jusuf Kalla. Differing views will arise between the governor of Papua and the MRP, with the governor accepting the splitting of Papua into five provinces and the MRP tending to reject this. This is not to mention the possible introduction of another agenda by the Ministry of Home Affairs in Jakarta, which is apparently set on pushing through the local election plan.

If the West Irian Jaya issue can be properly resolved, the central government and Papuan leadership will be able to prepare three peace agendas to get to the root of the conflict in Papua.

First, Papua’s development can be accelerated based on a new special autonomy paradigm that prioritizes the empowerment of indigenous Papuans in the social economy, health and education sectors. Conflicts over natural resources should be resolved based on the principles of justice and benefit to local communities.

Spending on the Papuan bureaucracy should be reduced and priority given to community development spending. Parallel to this, corruption cases, such as that involving the Jayawijaya regent, should be brought to trial.

Second, human rights should be upheld while at the same time putting an end to the impunity enjoyed by the military and police. As a start, the Abepura case should be appeared. The files on the Wamena and Wasior cases should also be improved and delivered to the court for trial without delay. The entire legal process and control over prosecutors and judges should be tightened to prevent outside intervention on behalf of defendants.

Third, the question of “straightening out Papuan history”, the territorial integrity of the Unitary Republic of Indonesia and reconciliation should be addressed by opening a dialog between Jakarta and Papua. This should be aimed at reaching a compromise between the “nationalist” and “separatist” poles.

In this regard, all the important elements of Papuan society should be represented, covering the grassroots like the Papuan Tribal Council, the Presidium of Papuan Councils and Churches and official leaders in Papua. The President should appoint a committee made up of members knowledgeable about Papuan affairs and experienced in negotiating. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has promised that the Aceh peace deal will be a model for Papua.

In the context of the internationalization of Papua, the government should realize that the best diplomacy would be improved Jakarta-Papua relations based upon concrete action in line with the three agendas described above.

There are two principal views in international circles on Papua.

Some NGOs and Indonesian experts believe that Papua could become a second Timor Leste. Other NGOs and Indonesian specialists disagree with this view because, first, Papua has been recognized as part of Indonesia by the United Nations since 1969 and, second, there has been explicit confirmation by influential nations like the U.S., Australia, the Netherlands and Britain that Indonesia has sovereignty over Papua.

The second group tends to believe that special autonomy is more logical and realistic for Papua.

Nonetheless, all the optimism could dissipate if, first, rights violations are ignored and the security forces continue to enjoy impunity; second, Indonesian troops, perhaps also police personnel, go out of control and commit new rights infringements; and, third, a unilateral policy on Papua continues to be imposed by the Ministry of Home Affairs, thus increasing antipathy on the part of both informal and formal Papuan leaders.

All this would give more reason to the international community to question the 1969 decision on integration and encourage a referendum in Papua. If this were to happens, a Jakarta-Papua political stalemate would be inevitable. Political violence would increase and disintegration would become part of the agenda.

The writer is a researcher at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), Jakarta, and a PhD candidate in history at University of Leiden in the Netherlands.

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