Indonesia 'must address Papua discontent'

Indonesia 'must address Papua discontent'

 3 August 2010



Protesters in Papua have been calling for independence for decades


Indonesia must address discontent in its easternmost province of Papua or face increased militancy from pro-independence groups, a report says.

The report by the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think tank, urged Indonesia to address Papuans' demands for meaningful autonomy.

Papua is Indonesia's most remote and least developed province.

A small group of rebels have waged a low-level battle for independence from Indonesia for decades.

In a separate development, Papua's best-known independence activist, Filep Karma, spoke of his treatment in detention by the Indonesian authorities.

Papua activist 'abused in prison'




In a rare interview obtained by the BBC via a local radio station, Mr Karma - who is serving a 15-year sentence - said he had suffered punching, kicking and mental torture.

A spokesman for Indonesia's Foreign Ministry, Teuko Faizasyah, told the BBC that allegations of prisoner abuse were always investigated and dealt with properly.

'Radical voices'
The International Crisis Group (ICG) said Indonesian leaders needed to address Papuans' concerns by expanding political autonomy and affirmative action policies, and tackling the influx of migrants from the rest of Indonesia.

"Unless these three issues are tackled head on in face-to-face meetings, the impasse is unlikely to be broken and increased radicalisation is likely," the report said.

The report details how Jakarta rejected a proposal from the Papuan People's Council requiring all candidates in district elections to be indigenous Papuans.

This move incensed the Papuans, who say an influx of migrants from other Indonesian islands is threatening to overrun the local population, the report said.

"As Papuans point out, if national law trumps local law every time, it raises the question of how much devolution the central government is really willing to countenance," the report said.

Papua was granted special autonomy status in 2001. The deal was an attempt to allay demands for independence.

But many Papuans believe that special autonomy is useless and that it has failed to raise their standard of living, says BBC Indonesia correspondent Karishma Vaswani.
Human rights groups say despite a large reserve of natural resources Papua remains one of the least developed parts of Indonesia.

In June representatives of the Papuan assembly held a ceremony symbolically handing back special autonomy to the Indonesian government.

Hundreds of people then joined a protest in the provincial capital, Jayapura, demanding independence.

Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuko Faizasyah said the government had made significant concessions to Papuans.

"We gave more autonomy, we gave the local people the room for them to govern their province. Certainly, we observe and we evaluate if there is a problem," he said.

But the ICG report warned that the longer Jakarta failed to discuss Papuan concerns over discrimination and unfulfilled promises, "the stronger the radical voices will become".

Indonesian Government Must Respond to Papua, NGO Report Says
, 3 August 2010


The government must shift its policy approach on Papua away from the welfare model and toward one focused on resolving the political turmoil there, a leading security NGO said on Tuesday.

In its report “Indonesia: The Deepening Impasse,” the International Crisis Group said the current paradigm adopted by the administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was thwarting efforts to develop the province.

“Any prospect of serious talks is hampered by an unwillingness of Jakarta to treat the problem as essentially a political rather than an economic one,” it said.

“To move forward, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono needs personally to take the lead in recognizing that autonomy means more than increased budgetary allocations or accelerated economic development.”

The ICG is the latest group to call for an immediate resolution to the unrest in Papua.

Last week Yudhoyono demanded an audit of Papua’s special autonomous status following mounting complaints that it had failed to make economic improvements after nine years.

“There have been so many letters sent to me, as if Jakarta were neglecting the issue, as if there were not enough funds,” Yudhoyono said after receiving reports from his ministers on recent developments

Yudhoyono said that of Indonesia’s 33 provinces, Papua received the most money from the state budget, followed by Aceh, another region with broad autonomy and a secessionist history.

Meanwhile, the ICG called for talks between Yudhoyono and Papuan leaders to discuss how political autonomy could be expanded, as well as to address the widely held grievances over discrimination, unfulfilled promises and past human rights injustices.

“The longer Jakarta refuses to discuss them, the stronger the radical voices will become,” the ICG report said.

The University of Sydney’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies recently published a study showing that most Papuans believed the special autonomous status granted in 2001 had failed to bring prosperity and had opened the door to corruption.

It also warned of potential bloodshed, similar to that in East Timor following the 1999 independence referendum there.

Last month thousands of Papuans held a peaceful march in the provincial capital, Jayapura, to demand a referendum of self-determination.

On Friday 50 members of the US Congress signed a petition sent to President Barack Obama, stating there were strong indications that “the Indonesian government has committed genocide against the Papuans.”

The members of Congress concluded their petition by encouraging Obama to meet with the so-called Team of 100 from Papua during his upcoming visit to Indonesia, and noted that Obama had the opportunity to bring lasting change to Indonesia.

The team is a group of Papuan tribal elders who in February 1999 met with then-President Habibie in Jakarta to call for secession from Indonesia.

That never happened, but in 2001, under the administration of President Abdurrahman Wahid,

Papua was granted special autonomous status with greater power to run its own economy, in a bid by Jakarta to quiet the calls for independence.