Papua, a Thorn in the Side of Indonesia

Opinion / Analysis

by Selpius Bobii in Abepura Prison

written 25 September 2013

“The Republic of Indonesia is quite capable of removing a thorn in the side of another nation but is not capable of removing the thorn in its own side” were the words of a certain Indonesian commenting on the State of Indonesia at this time.

For some time now Indonesia has been busily involving itself in finding solutions for problems of other nations, as if it had no domestic problems of its own.  Yet there are still many extremely serious problems within Indonesia that need the Indonesian Government’s urgent attention and Papua is one that’s most obvious.  For the last 50 years Papua has been a ‘thorn in the side’ of Indonesia . Indeed the Indonesian Government has tried to ‘fix’ the problem by applying a range of strategies and approaches, however all have been according to Indonesia’s agenda and so each has failed to remove the thorn. The reality is that as long as the thorn remains buried deep in Indonesia’s flesh that there will continue to be problems.

Indonesia has been using its charm in a number of both official and non-official forums held around the world, talking of its commitment to being involved in handling various issues of conflict currently being faced around the world. Problems such as that in Palestine, Egypt and the Moro Islamic tribal issue in the Philippines to name but a few. However the Indonesian Government is not ready to face up to addressing the situation in its own backyard when it is Indonesia that is under the spotlight by the international community.

Indonesia has continued until this time to accuse foreigners of meddling in the internal affairs of Indonesia, however Indonesia for some reason doesn’t seem to recognise that Indonesia itself has meanwhile continued to interfere in the affairs of another nations. The Indonesian Government has for instance had a hand in the affairs of Israel and Palestine with Indonesian having stepped forward to the front line to defend the acknowledgement of the world community regarding the independence of the Palestinians. Yet despite Indonesia giving attention to these various problems overseas it has not addressed the matter of that thorn in the side back home in Indonesia. Not only have the problems in Papua remain unaddressed, but in fact there has never even been any efforts made to find a solution to bring an end to the problems in Papua, such as through dignified unconditional dialogue between the nations of Indonesia and Papua.

Following the launch of the branch of the Free West Papun Campaign in Oxford in the United Kingdom (UK) for example, the Indonesian Government at both the legislative and executive level were infuriated. Even Indonesian civilians became involved with the upset and it was talked about at every level of society. The UK Government was criticised and even accused of meddling in the affairs of another nation. The Deputy Chairperson of the Indonesian Legislative Assembly (DPR) Priyo Budi Santoso  stated “ The Indonesian Government must officially convey its protest to the UK Foreign Affairs Minister with a copy to the Queen of England. There should be mutual respect.”(www.merdeka.com/peristiwa/dpr-inggris-terlalu-mencampuri-urusan-indonesia.html).

Then there was the most recent issue with the Freedom Flotilla from Australia entering Indonesia waters. An incident that attracted harsh and high level criticism from a number of parties within Indonesia. The Coordinating Minister for Politics, Law and Security was most concerned at the time of the Flotilla’s expected arrival and stated that the Indonesian Navy and Airforce were both on alert in anticipation of its arrival. Even the Indonesian President made a severe warning to other nations  at the time stating that other nations must not violate the sovereignty of Indonesia and in so doing create international friction (www.majalahselangkah.com). Through its Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa, Indonesia diplomatically sought the Australian Government’s assistance to interrupt the Flotilla’s journey. However as a democratic nation Australia could not interfere as no law had been broken and they were obliged to allow the allow freedom of expression and opinion and accordingly the convoy to continue. The Australian Government however through its Foreign Minister Bob Carr made quite clear that they would give no assistance to, and were in no way responsible for the Australian citizens on the Flotilla, if they entered Indonesian or PNG rterritory and were arrested by Indonesian or PNG armed forces and legally charged (www.republika.co.id/berita/internasional/). Tony Ervianto even made accusations that there was some foreign interests behind the Freedom Flotilla. (www.news.detik.com).

Internationally, Indonesia has always stressed that the problems in Papua are domestic business and not the business of foreign nations, however the circumstances are clearly proof that the Indonesian Government is not in fact capable of handling and bringing an end to that so called ‘domestic business’. In the Indonesian President’s state speech on 16 August 2011, he promised that the problems in Papua would be finalised through an approach of dignified dialogue. However until this time SBY’s promises have yet to be realised. Indeed fine words but words with no actions.

If Indonesia could bring a dignified end to the problems in Papua, then of course those in the international community who are concerned about Papua would not feel a need to interfere in the internal affairs of Indonesia. However as Indonesia is only capable of the talk and there is no realisation, whilst meanwhile human rights violations continue unceasingly, so that ‘thorn in the side’ of Indonesia will continue to  attract the international spotlight.

Until this time Indonesia has undertaken a range of strategies and means to stem the spread of support for Papuan independence aspirations, yet all their efforts have failed totally. One of those strategies was the implementation of Special Autonomy in Papua but that also failed to achieve Indonesia’s objective of repressing Papuans independence aspirations. Special Autonomy was not something born out of the desires of the Papuan community but rather something was based on Jakarta’s agenda with the hidden goal of repressing Papuan’s desire for independence.

Following the failure of Special Autonomy in Papua, Indonesia is now in the process of planning to pass certain Papuan Governance legislation. The fact that the draft of that legislation is but a copy of the Aceh Governance legislation has attracted concern from a number of circles. The Executive Director of the Organisation for Research, Investigation and the Development of Legal Assistance (LP3BH), Yan Christian Warinussy, commented that the draft was the work of a few people around President SBY acting recklessly and unconstitutionally in allowing the draft Papuan Governance legislation to slip through. That this draft legislation is but a copy and paste of Aceh’s legislation is indeed an embarrassment and poor reflection of the Presidency(www.majalahselangkah.com).

Indonesia has also tried the welfare (illusion) approach in its efforts to face up the movement of the Struggle of the Papuan nation. Then there has been the security approach, the legal and then the social-cultural approaches.  Not one of these approaches however will ever be successful in removing that ‘Papuan thorn’ in Indonesia’s flesh.  Indonesia must change its paradigm and undertake an approach based on wisdom to handle and bring an end to the Papuan problem.  As long as Indonesia has an attitude that the issue of Papua was finalised back in 1969 with the ‘Act of Free Choice’ and continues to defend its hold on Papua through a number of approaches that are but one of the same, so the problems of Papua will continue without cease, like a thorn that irritates Indonesia.

To avoid the Papuan issue attracting the constant spotlight of the international community, Indonesia should have taken real steps before now to deal with the problems in Papua, one of which should have been the mechanism of dignified dialogue between the nations of Indonesia and Papua.  As long as Indonesia continues NOT to take real steps to bring an end to the problems in Papua, the international community in turn will continue to keep the spotlight on Papua.

Or is Indonesia is actually waiting for the international community to intervene to sort out the Papuan problem? If Indonesia is not capable of sorting out the Papuan problem, then Indonesia should be honest about that before the international community including the UN. So that others can handle and bring an end to the problems. Indonesia has not only allowed the problems in Papua to continue too long already without any real steps or solutions to make’ Papua a land of peace’ but in fact  Indonesia has continuously taken actions intended to delay the time when the problems in Papua will be brought to an end.  Allowing the problems in Papua to continue will only lengthen the list of victims; And not only loss of human lives but also the loss of earthly things, time, and endless thoughts and feelings as a consequence of the oppression.

The international community including the USA, have again and again requested Indonesia to bring an end to the problems in Papua through means of dialogue between Jakarta and Papua. However until this time Indonesia has constantly  ignored pressure from the international community. Perhaps because Indonesia considers the matter of Papua was already finalised back in 1969. However this perception is so very wrong! If the problem of Papua had already been finalised why are there still constantly people in Papua losing their lives? Why is there relentless marginalisation and discrimination? And why are Papuans intentionally being increasingly made a minority on their ancestor’s land? All of which are amounting to an annihilation of the ethnic Papuan race.

These things have continued without ceasing from the origin of this political conflict commencing with the annexation of the nation of Papua into the Republic of Indonesia through a military and political invasion by Indonesia. It’s time that Indonesia left its longtime paradigm that closes the door on finding a solution and rather undertakes a democratic and dignified approach through dialogue and negotiations, to give rise to a dignified solution – as the first step towards bringing peace and prosperity to the land of Papua and its people.

 ‘Humans which value basic human rights are those who will protect and respect the rights of their fellow beings.’

Selpius Bobii is the General Chairperson of Front PEPERA West Papua & is a Papuan Freedom Political Detainee held in Abepura State Prison

 

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