Papuan Conflict Will Get Worse Without Development Unit: ICG

Jakarta Globe by Elisabeth Oktofani, The government must quickly set up a long-awaited body to oversee political and economic development in the restive province of Papua if it is to stem a rising tide of violence there, analysts said on Monday.

Sidney Jones, a senior adviser for the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, said it was crucial that the Unit for the Acceleration of Development in Papua and West Papua (UP4B), first proposed in the middle of last year, finally be realized.

“It’s not a guarantee that the situation will get better, but it will certainly get worse without a new approach from the central government,” she said.

A report on the conflict in Papua, which was released by the ICG on Monday, argues that current efforts to create a peaceful resolution are ineffective.

The situation on the ground, it says, in particular in the highland district of Puncak Jaya, remains fraught with conflict.

The report said the current policy of pumping more money and security forces into the province was not a comprehensive conflict resolution strategy, suggesting instead that the establishment of the UP4B had the potential to be more helpful.

“Initially conceived as an agency to implement ‘quick win’ development projects, it seemed by early 2011 to be gaining a wider mandate that could also allow it to address more sensitive issues related to land, conflict and human rights,” ICG said.

However, the draft decree to set up the UP4B has been stalled at the Cabinet Secretariat since May and still not been submitted to the president to sign.

“Without the new unit, the chance of any positive change is much diminished, allowing developments in Puncak Jaya to stand as a symbol for activists inside and outside Indonesia of everything that is wrong with Papua,” the report said.

The ICG said another way to reduce tensions was to ensure that perpetrators of state violence were brought to justice, in a bid to build confidence in the state among the indigenous community.

It also argued that security forces and other officials should be briefed on the complexities of Papuan ethnic relations, and that the series of indicators produced at the Papua Peace Conference in early July should serve as guidelines for public policy at the national and local levels.

“At least the indicators provide some ideas on how to move forward,” said Jim Della-Giacoma, the ICG’s Southeast Asia program director. “The challenge now is to make tangible changes that Papuans themselves would regard as progress.”

The ICG attributed the spike in insurgency-related violence in Puncak Jaya to “a complex set of factors,” including “a sense of historical injustice, harsh actions by security forces and competition and factionalism, sometimes clan-based, among the fighters themselves.”

“Violence there helps fuel local political activism and an international solidarity movement, which in turn fuels antipathy in Jakarta to any steps toward conflict resolution that involve discussion of political grievances,” the report said.