Ex-Minster Slams Heavy-Handed Tactics in Papua

Ex-Minster Slams Heavy-Handed Tactics in Papua

Jakarta Globe, 21 Septebmer 2010


The government is being far too harsh in its handling of the low-level insurgency in Papua, a former minister says.

Security forces in the country’s easternmost province, particularly the Army’s Special Forces (Kopassus), have long been accused by human rights groups of gross rights violations when it comes to cracking down on suspected separatists.

Rizal Ramli, a former coordinating minister for the economy, said on Tuesday that this heavy-handed approach avoided addressing the real root of the problem.

“The government lacks a humane approach to the issue, while the Papuans want them to show more empathy,” he said at a seminar at Jakarta’s Indonesian Christian University (UKI).

“We shouldn’t resort to fierce action unless tackling an armed rebellion.”

The seminar was part of a series of events to mark the UN’s World Peace Day.

Rizal said the heart of the problem was the unfair exploitation of Papua’s natural resources, which largely left indigenous Papuans out of the loop.

“Papua has the biggest reserves of natural resources in the country, and those are what we’ll have to fall back on once the resources in Sumatra are exhausted,” he said.

Rizal also criticized the local administrations in Papua for failing to make good use of their regional budgets. Since 2006 Papua has received the biggest budget allocation of all 33 provinces nationwide.

“Only 30 percent of the budget has reached the people, while the rest is spent by bureaucrats and regional heads,” Rizal said.

Meanwhile, Agung Laksono, the coordinating minister for people’s welfare, said on Monday that the government would accelerate development in the province through welfare programs.

He added that the ministers under his watch also would evaluate the programs they implemented in response to a 2004 presidential decree on development in Papua.

“We’ll come up with solutions based on a welfare approach, especially in resolving basic problems in agriculture, education, health care and human resources,” Agung he said.

The minister added that the government planned to build integrated residential areas featuring all basic amenities in a bid to improve the standard of living among Papuans.

Agung also said that while its large budget had “brought many positive things” to Papua, the sheer size of the province meant that not everyone had benefited from them.

“Nonetheless, those initiatives received positive feedback, and we’ll continue them in order to boost development in Papua,” he said.

“That includes building infrastructure to connect remote places to the grid.

“This will mean working with other ministries, so it won’t be necessary to increase the budget.”

Agung added that he and the two other coordinating ministers — Hatta Rajasa, who oversees economic affairs, and Djoko Suyanto, who oversees political, legal and security affairs — would visit Papua at the end of September to inspect programs rolled out under the presidential decree.