Australian Academics Warn Violence Might Break Out in Papua

Australian Academics Warn Violence Might Break Out in Papua
, 14 July 2010


A report published by an Australian university this month warns that massacres such as those alleged to have occurred in East Timor are likely to occur in Papua.

The report, prepared by the University of Sydney’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies highlighted that the majority of the Papuan people feel that the special autonomy in Papua had failed to bring prosperity to the province and paved the way to corruption.

The special autonomy status which was granted by the central government in 2001 was meant to suppress calls for independence after the fall of former president Suharto in 1998.

The autonomy gave larger economic independence and meant that a large portion of the royalties received from logging and mining industries were channeled back to the province.

”Money supposed to be allocated to health and education expenditure was swallowed up in public servants wages, in buildings and even in funding local military operations. Health and education services have declined in many areas,” the report says.

“Special Autonomy led to a fall in people’s living standards. It also failed to empower the Papuans politically.”

Jim Elmslie and Camellia Webb Gannon, the authors of the report, urge a peaceful dialog between Jakarta and the Papuan people.

The Papuan Parliament, or MRP, and leading Papuan intellectuals called for a referendum of independence on June 18.

A massive rally took place in the province capital, Jayapura, just a day later.

10,000 people are estimated to have participated in the demonstration during which members of the crowd symbolically handed back the special autonomy status to the central government.

The academics warn that unless a peaceful talk is staged soon there is likely to be an escalation in violence in the province.

“The real danger in Papua is that all of the events discussed in this report will lead to even larger-scale demonstrations that run the risk of increasingly violent military responses,” the authors wrote.

Elmslie and Gannon predicted that a repeat of the 1991 alleged massacre in Santa Cruz, East Timor, is likely to occur.