Constructive communication for Papua

Constructive communication for Papua
The Jakarta Post, 30 September 2010
By: Neles Tebay, Abepura, Papua


The central government under the leadership of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is committed to continue establishing constructive dialogue with Papua.

This commitment was made public through President Yudhoyono’s state address on Aug. 16, 2010.

It seems that the central government has already recognized the necessity of having communication between the Jakarta-based central government and Papuans.

This government commitment for constructive communication for Papua needs to be supported not only by all parties in Jakarta and Papua, but also by the international community. For there has been no constructive communication between the indigenous Papuans and the central government.

The government and the Papuans are used to talk about each other. They sometimes even attack and
accuse each other through the media. However, they talk to each other. They never engage in peaceful discussion.

As a result they never understand each other. Each party demands understanding from the other party.

Sometimes they blame each other for misunderstanding. Prejudice and distrust makes relations between the two parties even worse.

We know that there is regular communication between the President and the governors of Papua and West Papua provinces.

There is also some level of communication between the coordinating political, legal and security affairs minister with the members of provincial legislative councils of the two provinces.

All these communications can be categorized as internal communications within the government. They should not be called communications between the government and indigenous Papuans.

For the government officials who meet with the central government do not represent indigenous Papuans, but their regional governments.

A constructive communication as meant by President Yudhoyono should happen not just among the representatives of the central and local governments but the representative of the central government and Papuans.

This communication is sorely needed today in order to build trust between the two parties.

But what is most needed is strong support from all parties to make sure this discourse happens during Yudhoyono second term. In order to begin the communication between Jakarta and Papua, President Yudhoyono needs to appoint a person who has the President’s full trust to represent the government in discussions with the Papuans.

The appointed person will be put in charge of maintaining and directing communication with the Papuans. The appointment will be helpful in that it will give the Papuans clarity on exactly who they are to communicate with.

Otherwise, anybody making their way from Jakarta to Jayapura or Manokwari could claim to be and introduce themselves as the government’s official representative appointed by the President.

Therefore the appointment of the government representative would not only be the first step toward the constructive communication with the Papuans but also an embodiment of the government’s commitment to opening communication.

It is clear that nothing will happen unless the President appoints somebody to take charge of communication with the Papuans. Someone who can take the initiative to open dialogue.

Without this appointment, Yudhoyono’s commitment to constructive discussions with Papua will be an empty promise. It will be the same as the promise Yudhoyono made in 2006, when he announced the government would settle the Papuan conflict through dialogue, a promise that to this day remains unfulfilled.

The international community will recognize the government commitment for communication with the Papuans only if President Yudhoyono appoints someone to be in charge of the communication.
Welcoming the government initiative for constructive communication, the Papuans should organize themselves and begin moving toward the selection of their representatives.

The central and regional government should not select persons among the indigenous Papuans as their representative for the communication. For the Papuans, customary council (Dewan Adat Papua/DAP) will select persons representing the indigenous Papuans.

The Customary council may select around three widely Papuans widely trusted by the indigenous community to be their legitimate representative.

The selection of the Papuans’ representative will help Jakarta know with whom the government’s representative can communicate with.

The selection of a representative will, in turn, help to discuss the framework of an agreement over the dialogue.

The team representing the Papuans and the government can discuss together on the goals, objectives, agenda, mechanism, facilitator, mediator, ground rules, and other necessary things for the constructive communication. They can jointly prepare the ground upon with as constructive communication can be built up.

They can then produce a framework agreement for the constructive communication between the government and the Papuans.

Once a framework of agreement is agreed by both parties, they can begin with the constructive communication.

The writer is lecturer at Fajar Timur School of Philosophy and Theology in Abepura, Papua.