President’s agenda steers clear of human rights issue

President’s agenda steers clear of human rights issue

, 22 November 2010

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono arrived in Papua on Sunday to meet with the local administration on regional revenue and to open a national university student body conference, steering clear of the thorny issue of human rights violations.

On Sunday evening, the President met officials from the Papua and West Papua administrations at the Papua governor’s office to discuss strengthening the local economy.

The President and administration officials also signed an integrity pact, reaffirming their loyalty to the country.

On Monday, Yudhoyono is scheduled to open the national meeting of Student Executive Bodies from universities across the nation. He will deliver a lecture at Cenderawasih University, where the national meeting will be hosted, his official website reported.

He is not scheduled to meet with locals during this visit.

Upon his arrival, Yudhoyono and several Cabinet ministers were greeted by hundreds of elementary school students who lined up at several points along the roads from Sentani airport to Jayapura, Antara news agency reported.

Officials had deployed 1,863 soldiers and police officers to provide security for the two-day visit.
On Saturday, local police arrested nine people, allegedly members of the West Papua Revolutionary Army (TRPB), for raising the Morning Star (Bintang Kejora) flag.

Human rights activists said the President’s agenda gave a wide berth to reported rights violations by the military and police, thus was a waste of time and state budget.

They demanded the President initiate dialogue with local communities during his visit to gain more insight into solving the protracted and extreme human rights problem in the province.

The most recently publicized case of human rights violation in Papua was a video uploaded onto YouTube showing soldiers torturing two Papuans.

Haris Azhar, from the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), said Yudhoyono’s visit would be futile if the President failed to talk to local communities, including victims of human rights violations, the Papua Customary Council, the Papua legislature and vulnerable groups such as women.

“The President can’t remain blind to issues of human rights violations in Papua,” he said.

“The central government rejected the opportunity to hold open discussions with local communities,” Haris told a press conference Sunday.

He said Papua’s special autonomy, in place since 2001, did not bring any benefits to locals despite the influx of funds and added that the President should address this as well.

Septer Manufandu of the Papua NGO Working Group agreed that the central government did not treat Papuans as Indonesian citizens. “We don’t want money. We just want the same rights as other citizens because we are part of this republic,” Septer said.

He added that locals in Papua had repeatedly sought dialogue with the President since 2008. The presidential office was frosty, he said. “A presidential aide told us that the President did not need to talk to us,” he told The Jakarta Post.

The chairman of the Papua branch of the Evangelic Church Assembly in Indonesia (Gidi), Lipiyus Biniluk, said he also hoped the President would discuss special autonomy with locals during his visit.

“Special autonomy needs clearer implementation. We are open for discussions with [Yudhoyono],” Lipiyus said, adding that native Papuans needed guarantees from the President.