Thursday, 17 October 2019

Misunderstanding Papua

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  • Papuan students staged a protest in front of Indonesia Army headquarters in Jakarta, August 22, 2019. Hundreds of Papuans staged a peaceful protest in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta on Thursday, August 22, 2019, demanding self-determination for West-Papua after the detention of Papuan students in East Java stoked accusations of racism. TEMPO/Subekti

    Papuan students staged a protest in front of Indonesia Army headquarters in Jakarta, August 22, 2019. Hundreds of Papuans staged a peaceful protest in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta on Thursday, August 22, 2019, demanding self-determination for West-Papua after the detention of Papuan students in East Java stoked accusations of racism. TEMPO/Subekti

    TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - President Joko Widodo needs to realize immediately his mistake in dealing with Papua. An approach based only on the economy and construction of infrastructure is not enough. The government should respect the dignity and worth of the Papuan people, and resolve human rights abuses cases there.

    The government has always relied on the security approach to quell disturbances. The increasingly tense situation in Papua in the last two weeks has strongly showed that these old methods are no longer effective. The situation in Wamena has not yet returned to normal despite the government deploying police officers and soldiers after the bloody incident on September 23.

    The government has guaranteed the safety of the people of Wamena. But non-Papuan in the area still do not feel safe. They are traumatized as well as worried about a reoccurrence of the violence. The attacks in Wamena killed 31 people – most of them are non-Papuan residence. They lost their homes and all their possessions.

    A total of 11,646 people, more than a fourth of Wamena’s population, have left. Some of them have decided to go back to their original hometowns. As of last week, 2,876 people had returned to various provinces in Indonesia. The exodus of so many people clearly shows the seriousness of the situation in Papua.

    Many provincial and regency governments have taken the initiative to bring home people originally from their regions. The violence that spread to many parts of Papua and West Papua was triggered by racial abuse of Papuan students in Surabaya in the middle of August. The police gave the impression of being slow to deal with this case, and the impact of it widened. The police have only just named suspects in the racial abuse case. The military personnel alleged to have been involved in the incident were only given administrative punishments.

    President Jokowi should immediately seek a comprehensive solution to bring peace. The government could establish a body like the Papua-West Papua Development Acceleration Unit from the era of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. However, it would have to be given a wider range of functions to deal with all the problems of Papua.

    The government could use, as a guide, the Papua roadmap produced by the Indonesian National Institute of Sciences (LIPI). According to research carried out by LIPI in 2009, there are four root causes of the conflict in Papua that need to be addressed: political history and status, marginalization of and discrimination against Papuans, the failure of development and last but not least, human rights abuses. Apart from economic development, the government seems to have ignored these recommendations.

    When it updated the results of its research two years ago, LIPI investigators warned of the rise of a significant Papuan youth movement. The government also failed to anticipate this development. Now, President Jokowi needs to be more serious in implementing LIPI recommendations, especially those relating to the resolution of human rights cases.

    The government must immediately open a dialog with the Papuan people. Those invited to participate must truly represent the various groups in Papuan society, including supporters of independence. Only through a serious effort by the government to understand the people of Papua and to heal old wounds, will peace be realized.

    Read the Complete Story in this Week's Edition of Tempo English Magazine