Papuan Leaders Say People Are United Against Indonesia; Break Off Talks With Central Government

Papuan Leaders Say People Are United Against Indonesia; Break Off Talks With Central Government
, 5 October 2010


Papuan leaders who have just returned from the United States where they argued that they were being unjustly treated by the Indonesian government held a news conference in Jakarta on Tuesday to say they were breaking off talks with the government until human rights and economic development issues were acknowledged. (AFP Photo)



As calls for independence in Papua and West Papua intensify, leaders in the restive provinces have rejected the possibility of talks with the Indonesian government until it acknowledges human rights abuses and ensures economic development.

“We don’t want to talk to Jakarta because Jakarta never wants to talk to us,” said Herman Awom of the Papuan People’s Council (MRP), a body set up under special autonomy legislation to protect Papuan cultural values.

“Jakarta does this because they don’t want to admit that Papuans are killed through military oppression and they don’t want to acknowledge that the special autonomy status ... has failed to empower the locals,” he said at a news conference in Jakarta on Tuesday.

Forkorus Yobiosembut, chief of the Papua Traditional Council (DAP), said Papuans wanted more access and supervision for the international community.

“We challenge Jakarta to allow international researchers to come to Papua and conduct an investigation into the conditions of the Papuan people,” he said.

“Jakarta is afraid because the researchers will certainly find that most Papuans are restless and resent the central government. If there is a referendum, I’m sure that more than 90 percent of Papuans would prefer independence over remaining a part of Indonesia.”

Papua was granted special autonomy in 2001 to suppress calls for independence and to give the provincial governments more power to manage their own financial affairs. Most observers as well as the Indonesian government acknowledge that this has not helped the provinces develop.

Salmon Jumame, chairman of the Forum for Democracy in Papua, said the government had been inconsistent in its attempts to implement special autonomy, leading to growing calls for independence.

“Special autonomy has only brought a massive influx of migrants coming to Papua. Papuans are now a minority in their own home and the most unable to compete economically with the migrants,” he said.

“Autonomy has only brought unemployment, poverty and ecological destruction to the native Papuans, because the government has failed to implement it properly with complete disregard for the principles of empowering Papuans.”

On September 22, the United States congress invited the Papuan leaders to testify about cases of human rights violations as well as the economic and social conditions of its people. Officials from the US secretary of state and secretary of defense, however, supported Indonesia’s autonomy program but urged Jakarta to resolve cases of human rights abuses.

In the latest violence to hit the restive region, two people were allegedly gunned down by police officers at an airport in Wamena, Papua, on Monday.

There have been conflicting reports as to circumstances surrounding the deaths, but the Papuan leaders said the men were shot for carrying hats that depicted a map of the province.

The men were said to be anticipating today’s return of the Papuan leaders from their trip to Washington and Jakarta. Thousands of people in Papua are expected to welcome the leaders home.

Forkorus said that various organizations had agreed to form a coalition to unify movements in Papua.

“We have agreed to call the people of Papua to conduct mass prayers and fasting throughout the provinces, which will be conducted simultaneously and regularly. This is no longer the prayers of a certain group but the prayers of the entire Papuan people,” Forkorus said.