A Mediating Hand to Pull Papua Back From the Edge

A Mediating Hand to Pull Papua Back From the Edge
, 22 July 2010

 

The need for an international mediator in the case of Papuan autonomy has been frequently raised, most recently two weeks ago when thousands of Papuans rallied in Jayapura to demand a referendum to determine their own fate . A number of civil society organizations support the idea of outside engagement to bring the problems in Papua to a peaceful and sustainable end. The Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) has even suggested that Jakarta “put aside paranoia of foreign parties and no longer use nationalist sentiment as pretext.”

Just whether international mediation is likely or not in the Papuan cause depends on the government, Papuans and the international community.

Regarding the government, LIPI might be correct in assuming that some factions in Jakarta are fearful of international intervention.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with the view that the Papuan cause is a domestic affair. But after four decades without an effective solution, the claim that Papua’s integration into Indonesia is final, legal and irrevocable lacks credibility.

Conceiving of the problems in Papua as solely an insurgency threat by the Free Papua Movement (OPM) and giving the armed forces a free pass impedes a comprehensive solution and damages Papua and Indonesia as a whole.

Simply entrusting territorial sovereignty to paranoid factions within the government subsequently closes the door on foreign parties.

Any suspicion that these foreign parties are fueling a separatist movement is ill-founded. Such suspicions also suggest that the government has no confidence in what it has done in Papua.

An increasing number of leaders with a more globalized, cooperative and rational perspective about the problems in Papua can help others see the international community as a resource for conflict resolution.

Instead of solely deploying armed forces “as if Papua is a dark cave which is always closed and guarded by the government,” as a protest leader put it during the July 8 demonstration, these rational leaders know that they must go a step further to help Papuans fully understand the UN resolution that established the legality of Papuan integration in 1962.

Moreover, while these leaders agree that the government should uphold the 2001 Law on Special Autonomy by protecting Papuans’ rights and creating socioeconomic development programs for the region, they also realize that the presence of international third parties is crucial in publicizing the resolution and maintaining national integration.

From the Papuan side, the call for the UN or a neutral country to act as a mediator needs to answer the question: Just who is it calling for a third party?

Is it the Papuan People’s Assembly (MRP), the Papuan Presidium Council (DPP), the National Committee for West Papua (KNPB) or regional legislatures (DPRPs)?

A representative group will be one united with other Papuans, integrated within cohesive organizations and led by a strong and legitimate leadership.

The peace agreement in Aceh was greatly affected by a clear organizational structure and the leadership of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), which met with Indonesian negotiators and Crisis Management Initiative mediators to solve the conflict.

For Papuans to have their calls for international mediation fulfilled, organization is a pressing need.

From the perspective of the international community, difficulties run equally deep. The United Nations is frequently mentioned as a potential mediator for the Papua conflict.

The Netherlands, the United States, Australia and other countries from the South Pacific have also been mentioned as prospective mediators.

However, each party has shown reluctance to assume such a role. It is unlikely that we will see the UN wanting to take part in an activity that could be seen as revising what it institutionally approved four decades ago when it declared Papua an integral part of Indonesia.

Some political elements within the Netherlands may have sympathy for the plight of the Papuans, but the nation’s official policies would not risk damaging bilateral relations with Indonesia.

Having a good partnership in security issues, in particular the global war on terror, the United States and Australia have shown no interest in mediating the Papuan conflict to the point of conducting referendum.

The 2006 Lombok Treaty provides Australia limited space for proactive involvement.

Countries in the Pacific Islands continue to show deep concern for Papua.

Last month, Vanuatu’s Parliament unanimously passed a motion calling for the International Court of Justice to investigate the legality of West Papua becoming part of Indonesia.

Yet with regard to its solidarity with Melanesia, Vanuatu’s prospects for becoming a mediator for Papua are very slim.

The options for international NGOs are more open. The Crisis Management Initiative and the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue are only two of the organizations that worked hard to bring peace to Aceh.

The International Crisis Group is another possible alternative.

But a kind of consortium of various civil society associations including the Red Cross, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International could be taken into consideration.

The Australian West Papua Association and the West Papua Project do not favor Indonesia, but their support and understanding of problems in Papua would be a strong reason to get them involved.

But any mediator between the Indonesian government and indigenous Papuans will be determined first and foremost by the level of confidence the Jakarta government has in itself.

A successful mediation must also include a highly organized structure, an international third party with robust support from major global actors and extraordinary creativity from all.

Allowing current conditions in Papua to continue without significant improvement will lead to an enduring human catastrophe. International mediation will benefit Papuans, Indonesians and the world.

Mangadar Situmorang is a senior lecturer at Parahyangan Catholic University and a visiting fellow at Murdoch University .