Papua needs a negotiated affirmative policy

Papua needs a negotiated affirmative policy

The Jakarta Post, 20 December 2010
By: Neles Tebay


The year 2010 has been very special for Papuans. It is in this year that the central government has turned its attention to Papua.

The government’s attention was manifested by a historic joint visit of three coordinating ministers to Papua.

The government began to pay attention to Papua, above all, due to a symbolic protest on June 18 where demonstrators “handed back” Papua’s special autonomy status to Jakarta.

Through the action Papuans conveyed a message that the government’s policy of special autonomy was no longer the best or a realistic solution for the Papuan conflict.

The protestors contended the auto-nomy law failed to bring prosperity to indigenous Papuans in the 10 years since its enactment.

Many Papuans still live under the poverty line. They are among the poorest people in Indonesia, although the province is rich in natural resources.

For 10 years, Papuans have seen that the government has never demonstrated its political will or commitment to protect and empower indigenous Papuans through consistent implementation of the autonomy law.

Affirmative policies accommodated in the law went deliberately unimplemented by the central government in Jakarta.

As a result, Papuans are becoming a minority in their ancestral land due to the uncontrolled influx of migrants from other provinces.

While outnumbering Papuans, migrants also dominate the overall society. It has led to the marginalization of Papuans.

One can easily see throughout Papua’s towns that indigenous Papuans have been marginalized partly due to the government’s failure to protect them by implementation of the autonomy law. Lacking the necessary skills to compete with the migrants, Papuans have been easily marginalized economically, politically and socially.

Due to the government’s unwillingness to implement the law, Papuans have not been given protection today, nor do they have clarity about their fate and future within the Republic of Indonesia.

The government should know that the Papuans are deeply worried about their very existence.

The fundamental problem for the Papuans, then, is not about separatism, as is usually highlighted by the government and military.

Instead, the threat to Papuans’ survival as human beings in their ancestral lands constitutes a fundamental problem. The question should be addressed properly.

The protection and continuation of indigenous Papuan society should be the criteria used to examine any policy adopted by any institution for Papua.

The government should realize that military operations, as is clear from the past, will bring about more human rights violations and therefore put the survival of Papuans in danger.

The government has failed to implement the autonomy law and failed to protect indigenous Papuans. This failure has been one of the factors that threaten the survival of Papuans.

From 1963 until today, Papuans have never been considered agents of development and transformation in Papua. Instead, it has been the government that has decided what the Papuans must or must not do — without consultation.

The government has shown little respect for the human dignity of Papuans. The Papuans were not involved in the decision-making process. Development policies are determined by the government without participation of the indigenous Papuans.

It is for the sake of indigenous Papuans’ survival that the government should now change its oppressive and arrogant attitude.

The government should not issue licenses to timber or palm oil industries to exploit Papua’s forests, which have sustained the lives of indigenous Papuans. Instead, the government should revoke existing licenses.

Papua’s forests should be under protection of an international body to prevent them from being deforested as such attempts threaten not only the survival of the Papuans but also all of the people in the world.

The government should cancel its Merauke Integrated Food and Energy (MIFE) project, which has nothing to do with the survival of indigenous Papuans and will only speed up their marginalization.

Needless to say that the government should abandon its approach to security that for more than 40 years has brought about gross human rights violations against indigenous Papuans.

Instead the government should take a welfare approach. Consequently, the Papua Desk at the Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister’s Office should be transferred to the Coordinating Public Welfare Minister’s Office.

Without this transfer, no one will believe that the government has changed its approach to Papua.

As the third largest democracy in the world, Indonesia should stop developing policies for Papua without consulting indigenous Papuans.

Any affirmative policy for Papua should be determined by the government of Indonesia and indigenous Papuans. The Papuans should be invited to contribute to the decision-making process.

Any affirmative policy will be rejected by indigenous Papuans unless they are fully involved and actively participate in the process of decision making.

Papuans will accept any affirmative policy that is jointly decided by the government and Papuan representatives.

A constructive dialogue between the government of Indonesia and the Papuans, then, will be the most dignified means for both to jointly determine affirmative policies appropriate for Papua.

Dr. Neles Tebay is a lecturer at the Fajar Timur School of Philosophy and Theology in Abepura, Papua.