Transparency and accountability are universally accepted as the cornerstones of good governance. With neither present in Papua, we can be sure that the natural riches of the region will never come to benefit local communities, but will rather bring about the so-called “resource curse” in the form of economic, cultural, social and political strife and ecological disaster.
The massive destruction caused by Freeport-McMoRan, the American mining conglomerate, can now be witnessed by anyone with an Internet connection thanks to Google Earth. The continuous stream of stories of torture and murder that leak out of the region is proof that people are unhappy and that the national government is acting less than honorably there.
What the central government claims about goings-on in Papua cannot be trusted because its claims can be disproved immediately. Since the act of free choice in 1969 (called “the act of no choice” by Papuans resisting Indonesia’s “occupation”), the western half of Guinea island has been covered by a “batik curtain.” Foreign independent journalists are banned from working there freely, as are international NGOs.
However, with the advance of information technologies and the fact that more and more Papuans are receiving modern education, the contemptuous treatment of indigenous people at the hands of the nation’s police and military is becoming more and more difficult to conceal. Gleaning information on Papua from the Internet it becomes obvious that there are powerful forces at play in Papua that are bent on reaching the point of no return — where either all Papuans must be exterminated, or a second and more honest “act of free choice” is conducted, for the world to witness the true aspirations of the people of Papua in terms of their relationship with the Indonesian state.
The powerful forces bent on forcing Papuans to separate from Indonesia are none other than the central government, especially its military and police force.
Since the brutal murder of Papuan leader Theys Eluay a little over 10 years ago, the world has seen how Indonesia has yet to reform its approach to the issue of Papuan independence. As we near Dec. 1 — the date that Papuans consider to be their independence day — the world is fearfully expecting to witness more state violence against Papuans peacefully expressing their aspirations. Indeed, in the past few months we have witnessed attacks on journalists and peaceful protestors, including the still unclear circumstances surrounding the latest fatal shooting of eight gold prospecting civilians in the Paniai district.
On the issue of the Freeport workers on strike demanding better pay, the world witnesses how the central government’s actions toward the Freeport strikers differs from the government of Peru’s reaction toward the same sort of strike at a Freeport mine there. While the government of Peru visibly takes the role of a mediator that holds the interests of its own people foremost, Indonesia appears to unashamedly play the role of Freeport’s guard dog, and without hesitating to release live ammunition on its own people.
The recent armed police and military raids of Papuan students’ dormitories in Java and Bali are an indication of what is likely to come on Dec. 1. The recent Papuan voices that have leaked out thanks to the Internet indicate that there are plans for at least a “Morning Star” flag rising in Papua on that date. Although the government has cracked down hard on similar events in the past, it is unthinkable to imagine that the people of Papua have been cowed into submission by these repressions. Just as Indonesian youth defied the Dutch colonialists in the early 20th century and continued to raise the “Red and White,” so will the youths of Papua. After all, most Papuan youth leaders were educated in Indonesia, so they fully understand that perseverance pays and aspirations for independence cannot be stifled by force. Yhe more Indonesia uses force to keep its hold on Papua, the stronger its independence movement will become.
Papuan activists can also see how Islamists in Indonesia can actively work to destroy the country not only with impunity, but also with the tacit support of the state and members of the government. The Islamist party, Hizbut Tahrir, for example, openly agitates for the fall of the republic to build a global Islamic caliphate in its place, but the authorities tend to aid and support it rather than take action to hinder its activities. Islamists in the country openly work for the resurrection of the age of the Islamic caliphs, or at least work toward their version of Shariah being enshrined as state law, but even though these activities are in blatant contempt of our constitution, the government has never done so much as lift a little finger in defense of the republic and its principles in the face of these orchestrated attacks.
Therefore it is natural that activists from Papua feel that they are being continuously discriminated against, for they receive the harshest treatment for the simple activity of raising a flag.
So who is it that is working hardest to compel Papua break away? Are the people of Papua to blame for objecting to having their sacred lands ripped apart by corporations making profits for shareholders far away? Are they to blame if they do not trust Indonesia’s capacity or intent to develop the country along the lines of the constitution?
If Indonesia wants to keep Papua as part of the family, it needs to clean up its act, especially in curbing Islamist treason and protecting minorities. It also needs to open up Papua to the world and come clean and apologize for the wrongs it has inflicted on the people there. As Dec. 1 approaches, we can expect that the national government will try to further alienate Papuans to a point where the only way forward will be through a sea of blood.
Bramantyo Prijosusilo is a writer, artist and broadcast journalist in East Java.