By Dr. Tarcisius Kabutaulaka
West Papua will be the highest-profile issue at the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) leaders’ summit in Honiara, Solomon Islands, on 24–26 June 2015.
The leaders will decide on the United Liberation Movement for West Papua’s (ULMWP) application for membership of the MSG. This is an organization consisting of the four independent Melanesian countries – Papua New Guinea (PNG), Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji – and New Caledonia’s pro-independence organization, the Front de Libération Nationale Kanak et Socialiste (FLNKS).
If the MSG admits the ULMWP, it could boost the pro-independence movement’s push for self-determination and provide an international venue to highlight the Indonesian Government’s human rights violations in West Papua. But, it could also have negative impacts on the Melanesian countries’ relations with Indonesia. This will be particularly worrying for PNG and Fiji, which have growing economic, political and military partnerships with Jakarta. It could also setback Indonesia’s bid to position itself as an emerging Asia-Pacific power.
On the other hand, if the MSG leaders deny the ULMWP membership, it could widen the rift between MSG countries, redefine Melanesia, blur the cultural and political divisions between Oceania and Southeast Asia, and see a Melanesian sub-region dominated by Indonesia.
The MSG leaders are therefore faced with the difficult task of balancing, on one hand, their moral obligation to support Melanesians in West Papua, and on the other hand, respecting Indonesia’s sovereignty and maintaining their growing political and economic relations with this emerging Southeast Asian power.
This will be the second time West Papua’s pro-independence movements have made a bid for MSG membership. The first was in October 2013 when an application by the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation (WPNCL) was unsuccessful. Part of the reason then was concerns that WPNCL did not represent all the pro-independence groups in West Papua. Since then, the West Papuans have formed the ULMWP, which they claim is more representative.
The WPNCL’s application failure was also because of intense lobbying by Indonesia, which has an observer status on the MSG. In January 2014, Jakarta invited the MSG Foreign Ministers to visit Indonesia and “witness first-hand conditions in West Papua.” The mission was headed the Fiji’s Foreign Minister, but was boycotted by Vanuatu whose Foreign Minister Edward Natapei argued that the meeting, “was being hijacked by the government of Indonesia to work on another issue, which was to promote economic ties and development cooperation with the government of Indonesia” (Radio Australia, 16 January 2014 http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/international/radio/program/pacific-beat/vanuatu-defends-boycott-of-msg-mission/1248756). Indeed, the MSG Foreign Ministers were given only fleeting and restricted visits to Jakarta, Bali and West Papua.
This time, it seems there will again be a split in the MSG. Vanuatu and the FLNKS are likely to support West Papua’s bid for membership. Vanuatu has always been a firm supporter of West Papuan independence and the FLNKS is sympathetic, given its own struggles for independence from France. But the change of government in Port Vila last week and the election of Sato Kilman as Prime Minister casts doubts on how Vanuatu will vote. Kilman had earlier been sacked as Foreign Minister because “he misrepresented Vanuatu’s position over the West Papua issue” (Radio New Zealand International, 10 June 2015 http://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/275896/vanuatu-pm-lays-out-concerns-with-kilman).
Solomon Islands has not made a firm commitment. Instead, Foreign Minister Milner Tozaka states that the Solomon Islands Government will “go along with a united [MSG] stand” (SIBC News, 3 June 2015 http://www.sibconline.com.sb/solomons-decided-united-stand-on-west-papuas-m-s-g-bid/). It is unclear what this means. But it is indicative of the fact that Solomon Islands has never been decisive on the West Papua issue, choosing instead the shroud of vague diplomatic language. But, it also means that Solomon Islands could hold the balance in the MSG’s decision on West Papua’s application for membership.
Interestingly, Solomon Islands played a leading role in pushing for French Polynesia to be re-enlisted on the UN’s Decolonization List. During the UN General Assembly meeting in May 2013, the Solomon Islands’ Ambassador to the UN, Collin Beck, introduced the resolution, supported by Nauru, Tuvalu, Samoa, Vanuatu and East Timor. Beck told the UN General Assembly there was “wide international support” for putting French Polynesia back on the list and that, “the map of decolonizing remains an unfinished business of the United Nations” (Solomon Times Online, 21 May 2013 http://www.solomontimes.com/news/with-solomon-islands-support-french-polynesia-back-on-the-decolonization-list/7678). Yet, Solomon Islands is reluctant to support West Papua’s application for membership of the MSG.
Fiji and PNG will likely vote against ULMWP membership or attempt to water down West Papua’s participation in efforts to save their relations with Indonesia. They prefer “non-interference” in Indonesia’s sovereign affairs, citing West Papua as a domestic issue.
PNG shares a border with Indonesia/West Papua. And although it is directly affected by the conflicts in West Papua, PNG has always been reluctant to speak out against Indonesian occupation. In October 1986, PNG signed the “Treaty of Mutual Respect, Friendship, and Cooperation” with Indonesia, which frames the relationship between the two countries. In 1988, PNG’s then Foreign Minister, Akoka Doi, said that Port Moresby recognizes West Papua as “an integral part of Indonesia.” It was, in his words, a “mistake done by the colonial powers so let it stay as it is.”
But more recently, it seems opinions in the haus tambaran in Waigani have changed. In February, in a carefully crafted statement, PNG’s Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, expressed concern about Indonesia’s human rights abuses in West Papua. He stated that, “the time has come for us to speak about [the] oppression [of] our people. Pictures of brutality of our people appear daily on social media and yet we take no notice. We have the moral obligation to speak for those who are not allowed to talk. We must be the eyes for those who are blindfolded. Again, Papua New Guinea, as a regional leader, we must lead these discussions with our friends in a mature and engaging manner” (The Interpreter, 9 February 2015 http://www.lowyinterpreter.org/post/2015/02/09/PNG-Prime-Minister-speaks-up-on-West-Papua.aspx?COLLCC=1551706283&). This was, to date, his strongest statement on the issue, referring to the Melanesian West Papuans as “our family,” “our brothers and sisters,” and “our people.”
But in March, O’Neill told a gathering at the Lowy Institute in Sydney that he prefers that West Papua’s Provincial Governors rather than the ULMWP, represent West Papua at the MSG. In other words, he wants Indonesian government representatives to be the mouthpiece for West Papua at the MSG.
The Fiji Government has never been an advocate for West Papua. It joined the MSG in 1998 – a decade after the MSG (which was conceived in 1983) was formalized in March 1988 with the signing of the “Agreed Principles for Cooperation.” Fiji joined mainly because it saw the potential benefits from the MSG Trade Agreement that PNG, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu signed in 1993. Its first engagement with the MSG was at the Trade and Economic Officials’ Meeting in Honiara in April 1997. It could therefore be argued that Fiji’s membership of the MSG was driven largely by economic imperatives, rather than concerns for human rights and self-determination.
In contrast, Fiji has a longer history of flirting with Indonesia. The two countries established diplomatic relations in 1974, but became actively engaged in the late 1980s. Following Fiji’s first coup, and as a result of being marginalized by traditional allies, the Sitiveni Rabuka-led government turned to Jakarta. In November 1987, a eight-member Indonesian trade mission arrived in Suva and held talks with the then Foreign Minister, Filipe Bole, offering Fiji up to 25,000 tons of rice on credit and special financial facilities as a “goodwill gesture.” Along with that, the then Indonesian military boss, General Benny Murdani, expressed interests in forging military cooperation with Fiji.
The current Fiji Government continues the strong tie with Indonesia. In May 2011, Suva and Jakarta signed a Development Cooperation Agreement (DCA) that covers a wide range of sectors, including Agriculture, Fisheries and Marine Resources, Forestry, Trade & Investments, Education, Legal & Judicial Sector, Defense, Police, Tourism etc. In March 2015, the Fijian Foreign Affairs Minister, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, met his Indonesian counterpart, Retno Marsudi, in Nadi to discuss enhancing trade cooperation in fisheries, agriculture processing and in the marketing of their various products. While Indonesia is presently not Fiji’s largest trading partner, the value of trade between the two countries is significant.
It was Fiji Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, who pushed for Indonesia to become an observer on the MSG in 2011. Last month, he proposed that Indonesia be made an associate member of the MSG, adding that “Papua comes under the governance of Indonesia and if you want to do anything in Papua, the best thing to do is to bring in Indonesia, no matter what, if we bring in Papua separately, it doesn’t make sense” (Pacific Islands Report, 26 May 2015 http://pidp.eastwestcenter.org/pireport/2015/May/05-26-01.htm).
Bainimarama’s statement ignores the fraudulent processes that led to Indonesia’s annexation of West Papua, including the US-brokered New York Agreement of August 1962 that facilitated the Netherland’s handover of West Papua to Indonesia. It also ignores the questionable 1969 Act of Free Choice and the human rights abuses and atrocities that Indonesia committed in the past fifty years, including the killing of about 500,000 Melanesian West Papuans. Bainimarama chose to ignore all that in favor of trade.
Given its relationship with Indonesia, it is unlikely Fiji will support West Papua’s application for MSG membership. Instead, Bainimarama will use this MSG summit to seek endorsement for Fiji’s political agendas, including its attempts to expel Australia and New Zealand from the Pacific Islands Forum, making them participate only as donor partners.
As the MSG prepares to discuss West Papua’s application for membership, one might ask: Why should West Papua be given MSG membership? Will MSG membership help address West Papua’s issues? How can the MSG countries address the West Papua issue while maintaining cordial relationships with Indonesia? There is no space here to answer these questions. But, in seeking answers, three issues are pertinent.
First, it is important to note that sovereignty is not absolute. In the past two decades, we have seen an increase in international interventions in situations where human rights have been violated and atrocities committed. The reasons for and the nature of interventions vary, but there is definitely an international willingness to “infringe” on Westphalian notions of sovereignty in order to hold states accountable to universal principles. We have seen this from East Timor to Kosovo, from Sierra Leone to Sudan, and from Angola to Afghanistan. On the other hand, the case of Rwanda demonstrates the humanitarian costs when the international community stood by and did too little, too late.
As the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said in September 1999, “State sovereignty, in its most basic sense, is being redefined – not least by the forces of globalization and international cooperation. States are now widely understood to be instruments at the service of their peoples, and not vice versa. At the same time individual sovereignty – by which I mean the fundamental freedom of each individual, enshrined in the charter of the UN and subsequent international treaties – has been enhanced by a renewed and spreading consciousness of individual rights. When we read the charter today, we are more than ever conscious that its aim is to protect individual human beings, not to protect those who abuse them” (The Economist, 16 September 1999 http://www.economist.com/node/324795).
West Papua is not the same as East Timor, Sierre Leone, Sudan, Angola, Afghanistan, Kosovo, etc. But, the international community must hold the Indonesian state accountable for more than fifty years of human rights abuses and the murder of about 500,000 West Papuans – the equivalent of nearly the entire population of Solomon Islands. “Intervention” does not have to be by military force. It can be a “diplomatic intervention” that holds Indonesia accountable, reminding Jakarta that its sovereignty is not absolute.
The MSG could, and should, take on that responsibility, not only because of ethnic affinity with indigenous West Papuans, but because of universal human rights principles. It will not be easy, given Indonesia’s growing economic, political and military power in Southeast Asia and its alliances with the US, Australia and other Western powers. But it is a noble and worthwhile engagement. It is time to take decisive action by admitting West Papua to the MSG.
Second, there is a need to redress the fraudulent processes that led to Indonesia’s annexation of West Papua. This discussion should be taken to the United Nations. There have been suggestions for a legal approach – one that challenges the transfers of sovereignty from the Dutch to the Indonesian government. This approach is favored by the International Lawyers for West Papua and Vanuatu. In June 2010, the Vanuatu parliament unanimously passed a motion calling on the International Court of Justice (IJC) to investigate the legality of West Papua’s transfer from the Dutch to Indonesia.
But, as Australian academics, Jason MacLeod and Brian Martin have pointed out, there are risks with the legal strategy. These include the fact that it would require considerable money and resources; legal strategies usually favor the powerful; it could dampen wide spread civil society activism both within and outside of West Papua; and there is the risk that the case might never be heard because of technical legal issues. And, as MacLeod and Martin state, “A failure to win the case, even on technical grounds, could undermine the cause for self-determination by giving a legal stamp of approval to the Act of Free Choice.” They argue that, “The case of West Papua is essentially about power politics and vested economic interests. Therefore, winning the ‘court of public opinion’ (in other words, building a powerful social movement) and raising the political and economic costs of the Indonesian government’s continued occupation will be more decisive than a legal victory” (Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Sydney, Papua Paper No. 3, http://www.bmartin.cc/pubs/12papuapaper.pdf). West Papua’s membership in the MSG would add to Indonesia’s political costs.
Third, West Papua had historical associations with Oceania prior to the Indonesian takeover. In his book, “Asia in the Pacific Islands: Replacing the West,” the late Professor Ron Crocombe notes that, “Until Indonesia took over, West Papuans took part in the South Pacific Commission and its training courses and conferences, West Papua Churches participated in the Pacific church conferences, and West Papuans studied at the Central Medical School and the Pacific Theological College in Fiji, and at other PNG and regional institutions. When Indonesia took over West Papua in 1963, all West Papuan participation in regional activities was stopped.” This calls for Oceanian responsibility.
The MSG should seriously consider West Papua’s application for membership. The worse thing that could happen would be to admit Indonesia as an associate member. That would be an insult to West Papuans and on the original intent, impetus and spirit for establishing the MSG. It could also result in Indonesia’s domination of Melanesia.
As the Melanesia’s Big Men gather in Nahona Ara (Honiara), the cries and blood of West Papuans will hang heavy in the town’s humid air. There is a lot at stake. West Papua is an issue that could make or break Melanesia. (*)
Tarcisius Kabutaulaka is an associate professor at the Center for Pacific Islands Studies at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. He received his undergraduate and MA degrees from the University of the South Pacific, and a PhD in political science and international relations from the Australian National University. He is from Solomon Islands.
This article was published on pidp.eastwestcenter.org
Urgent international intervention in the Regency of Nduga, Papua Province, Indonesia : Open Letter
OPEN LETTER TO :
António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations.
Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand
James Marape, Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea
Shinzō Abe, Prime Minister of Japan
Ueli Maurer, President of the Swiss Confederation
Stefan Löfven, Prime Minister of Sweden
Antti Rinne, Prime Minister of Finland
URGENT INTERNATIONAL INTERVENTION IN THE REGENCY OF NDUGA IN THE INDONESIAN PROVINCE OF PAPUA
Indonesian security forces are killing civilians in Nduga, a remote regency (kabupaten) in the province of Papua.
The bodies of four women and a boy who disappeared on September 20, 2019, were found yesterday, the most recent victims of army violence in Nduga. They had been buried secretly to hide the crime committed by the army.
In early 2019, large numbers of additional Indonesian troops were sent to Nduga after an altercation involving the OPM, a Papuan group opposed to Indonesian sovereignty of Papua. By including the civilian population in this conflict, killing them indiscriminately with modern weapons, Indonesian security forces (army and police) not only are breaking international law but are making the conflict worse.
Papuan inhabitants of Nduga (2,168 sq klm) are a distinct ethnic group numbering about 100,000 people. The violence by the Indonesian army which escalated in 2019 has resulted in more than 40% of the population now being internally displaced persons. This means twelve administrative districts of Nduga have been emptied of their population, many schools left deserted, buildings and agricultural land vacant. This year, with 190 people in Nduga killed, Indonesian army policy is nothing less than ethnic cleansing and must be stopped immediately.
The Indonesian government in Jakarta is responsible for the actions of the Indonesian army but clearly the army is operating beyond all law, killing for no reason other than killing innocent people because they are the inhabitants of Nduga. Why the army wants to occupy this region, empty of its original inhabitants, has not been revealed.
Many thousands of people in Nduga have already fled because of the threat of being killed – but these four women and a young boy were ones who did not flee – and they were killed by the army. This is their home, this is where they live – it is the army which needs to leave, not the people who live here.
Indonesian President Jokowi is aware of problems caused by continuing army violence in Nduga. Together with the heads of many governmental departments, the governor of Papua, Lukas Enembe, publicly requested the excess army troops be withdrawn, but the request has had no effect. I myself met with his top minister, ex-army general Wiranto, in charge of co-ordinating political, legal and security affairs, and with ACM Hadi Tjahjanto, commander of the Indonesian Armed Forces. Despite repeated requests, nothing has changed.
Only one day after Jokowi himself announced that all foreign journalists would be given access to Papua, not just a few carefully-selected media representatives, the regional army commander himself in Papua contradicted the president. Beyond the control of Jakarta, the violent methods used by the army, whether described as crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing or worse, must be stopped immediately.
With Indonesian sovereignty of Papua, there is a ‘responsibility to protect’ the Nduga population from the extreme human rights violations occurring there. According to the R2P global political commitment adopted by the United Nations and endorsed by Indonesia, action is urgently needed to address Jakarta’s inaction, reluctance or incapability of providing a safe place for civilians, including Papuan women and children in Nduga. Because Jakarta cannot stop the killing, I am asking for international assistance to protect the lives of people in Nduga. These four woman and the boy killed by the army were part of my family, and I am asking for international protection for all Papuan people who still live in Nduga – those who have not already fled in fear.
If we cannot live in Nduga without fear of being killed by the army, where can we go? In the past, refugees have fled from Papua Province across the border to Papua New Guinea but starting a new life in PNG is not the answer to the problem. It is the Indonesian army which is the problem.
What is needed is International intervention to stop the killing in Papua, to remove those sections of the army currently involved in the killing of innocent people in Nduga. Of course, Jakarta will disagree, as shown by repeated requests for President Jokowi to intervene. The tragedy here is well past the stage where mere promises or blatant denial by Jakarta will stop the killing. It must stop now. International intervention is required to stop the killing.
Director at Papua Language Institute (PLI)
The origin of Indonesian racism towards Papuans and its implication to a Free West Papua Movement
By Yamin Kogoya
ESCALATING violence and attacks on Papuan students saw thousands of young people march on the streets and set fire to the Parliament building in West Papua on 19th August 2019. This was in response to Papuan students being attacked in their dormitory in Surabaya last week after they had alleged bent a flagpole during the Indonesian Independence Day celebrations (on 17 August).
Surabaya police chief, senior commissioner Sandi Nugroho, said the attack on the Papuan student dormitory was carried out by Indonesian nationalist community groups who were angered by the treatment of their national flag.
In an effort to restore calm, the Papua Governor, Lukas Enembe called on all Indonesian citizens to respect their national value of “unity in diversity” (Bhineka Tunggal Ika), and for the security forces to act professionally and in accordance with Indonesian laws and to not let activist groups take the law in their own hands. He reiterated that Papuans studying in Indonesian cities and towns must be treated with dignity and respect and is how Papuans treat Indonesians studying in West Papua.
The timing of last weeks’ attacks, retaliations and protests could not be more significant for both the Papuans and Indonesians. On 16th August 2019, the leaders of Pacific Island nations passed several resolutions regarding the Papuan genocide at the Pacific Island Forums, while 17th August 2019 was the 74th anniversary of Indonesia’s Independence Day.
PAPUANS HAVE ENDURED YEARS OF RACISM AND VIOLENCE
Papuans are no stranger to Indonesia’s cruel and violent racism and which they have endured since the 1960s. Papuans have died, been marginalized, and had their rights denied because of racism.
Filep Karma, a West Papuan political activist experienced firsthand racism by Indonesians during his university years, and in 2014 said: “As If We Are Half Animal: Indonesia’s Racism in Papua Land”.
Fifty-six years later, and these cruel racial slurs are alive and thriving as Papuans continue to be called monkeys, insinuating that they are primitive. This insult cuts deep in the hearts of Papuans.
Just last week, Indonesian Human Rights Lawyer, Veronica Koman posted videos on her Twitter feed of Indonesian demonstrators holding up picture monkeys and chanted “kick out, kick out the transmigrants, kick out transmigrants now”.
While the world’s media is focusing on the violence involved in the demonstrations, they are ignoring what is at the heart of the demonstrations, that being racism. It is not acceptable to call Papuans monkeys, effectively denying them their fundamental intrinsic value of being human. And while President Joko Widodo called on his brothers and sisters in Papua and West Papua to forgive and forget, the racial harassment and discriminations against Papuan students has been ongoing.
Governor Enembe said “Papuans students throughout Indonesia always get called Monkey and are not safe”. During an interview on Indonesian TV ONE, he condemned the way Papuan students are treated in other parts of Indonesia. “It has been 74 years since Indonesia gained its independence from the Dutch and this country still treats my people inhumanly. If the situation doesn’t improve, I will bring my Papuan students back home”.
Racism is a weapon deploy by the colonial power to break down the Papuan human spirit. This is the same weapon Indonesia is using that was used on them by the Europeans, and who killed millions of the first nation people around the world over 500 years.
IS IT A CASE OF MONKEY-SEE-MONKEY-DO FOR INDONESIA?
As the Jakarta Post reported “racism” is at the heart of the Surabaya -West Papua conflict, and highlighted Indonesia’s own experience of racism under the Dutch colonial rule.
It appears that after 74 years of independence from the Dutch, and despite Indonesia’s national ideology of “Pancasila” and “Bhineka Tunggal Ika” (Five constitutional Pillars and Unity in Diversity”, it is still suffering from the decades of racial abuse under Dutch rule.
Indonesian treatment of Papuans is like a revenge towards unexamined grievances they suffered. Papuans’ genocide at the hands of Indonesia in West Papua and unprecedented destruction of their ancestral homeland originated in the minds of racist Europeans. But they are projecting their anger onto the wrong people. They should direct their anger onto the Dutch and Western Governments.
The Dutch used guns and the Bible to tame the Indigenous Indonesian over 300 years. They broke their human spirit and imagination through racial discrimination. They were dehumanized and used as a lethal weapon against all other non-Dutch Europeans.
The Dutch implemented a class system whereby the Indonesians were third class citizens, well beneath the first-class Europeans, and the second-class Chinese and Arabs.
And so, the cycle continues, with Indonesia trying to dehumanize and break the Papuan spirit so they can rebuild them to identity with Indonesian colonial ideas.
Indonesia wants to love Papuans and accept them as part of Indonesia. However, they can’t because, just like their former European colonialists, Indonesia has wrong and distorted information about Papuans.
As articulated by sociologist Thomas Scheff in the Jakarta Post on Friday, May 31, 2013:
“there is no love between Papuans and Indonesians. It is infatuation. Genuine love requires detailed knowledge of the other”.
Another tragic learned behaviour from the Dutch is Indonesia taking the role of “definer”. Essentially, Indonesia sees itself as the tape measure that other people and cultures have to measure up to or ‘be defined’.
Papuans are subjected to racism everywhere they go, from university dormitories, the marketplace and on the streets. The Papuan values, feelings, emotions and psychology are under constant attack by the colonial racist system. This is the institutionalized racism to poison the soul of Papuans.
PAPUA HAS BEEN THE RACISM FOOTBALL THAT’S BEEN KICKED AROUND FOR YEARS
West Papua has been treated as a commodity for years, being passed around and sacrificed as world leaders saw fit. The USA, Australia, Dutch and Indonesia decided its fate during the negotiations in the 1960s. It was sacrificed for world peace on UN’s alter in 1963 and handed over to Indonesia in an attempt to halt the spread of communism in Indonesia (by way of providing an army). Remarkably, West Papuans was never considered nor were they invited to participate in this meeting
US president Kennedy referred to West Papuans as “The 700,000 living in the stone age…a few thousand square miles of cannibals land.” Papuans was used to secure the interest of Western governments and the Soviet Bloc. They had no value and rights. The result of these negotiations cost millions of Papuan lives.
Western policy makers were more concerned with teaching Papuans how to eat with knife and fork rather than their rights for political independence.
Unfortunately for Papuans, their relationship with Europeans has always been tainted by racism. The Western governments, Chinese, Indonesian and industrialised countries always assume that natural state of being Papuan is not desirable which is why they always attempt to dehumanise the Papuans.
According to Dr. Tarcisius kabutaulaka, associate professor at the Centre for Pacific Islands Studies at the Univeristy of Hawaii, European’s have always placed Melanesian people at the bottom of human hierarchy because of their darker skin colours and cultural traits that led to them being viewed as primitive. They bare the internal stigma of “Oceanic Negroes”. The crimes Melanesian committed to be boxed at the bottom of Europeans category was simply the fact. 
IS THIS THE PATH TO INDEPENDENCE
The intriguing aspect about this recent demonstration is how seriously Papuan students and young people are taking the issue of ‘racism’. They are using the ongoing racism to voice their deep aspiration for independence from Indonesia.
Recently, Indonesia has been focusing on building diplomatic relationships with the Pacific island countries but, how can a genuine relationship be built and sustained when one party approaches the other with a paternalistic colonial mental outlook? This was evident during the 2019 Pacific Exposition in Auckland whereby the Indonesian government did not disclose the real issues faced by Papuans. What Indonesia did display was misconstrued image of the Papuan.
If Indonesia continues to see Papuans through the lens of racism (monkey), why would they treat any other black race in the Oceania with love and respect. To build a sense of brotherhood among all men across all our cultural and religious prejudices, we need a new interconnectedness worldview, not racially fragmented one.
if President Jokowi was sincere about calling Papuans “brothers and sisters” then it is time for Indonesian to treat Papuans with dignity and respect, including the overwhelming desire by Papuans for “Independence”. Otherwise these words are meaningless.
Despite the Indonesian effort to truncate the growing support for an independent West Papua, the Pacific island leaders did pass a few resolutions in during last week PIF’s meeting in Tuvalu.
What do these resolutions really mean to Papuans? Whether it was a mere Orwellian exercise concocting the final communique -a pure fiasco or it is one of the steps that will enable the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) to enter UN General Assembly, one thing is clear that support for the West Papuans plight is growing.
This support from Pacific island communities will likely grow in the future if Indonesia continues to mistreat their fellow Papuans.
Calling Papuans a monkey can and will ignite the fire of resistance (as seen by thousands of Papuans protesting and setting fire to parliament house). The issue of racism is serious and failure to recognise this will end up costing Indonesia the very thing they are trying to hold on to.
As Evi Mariani warned Jakarta in her paper published yesterday by the Jakarta Post:
“Racism in the love story in Bumi Manusia is the prequel to Indonesia’s budding nationalism against the occupation of the Dutch before our independence in 1945. Surely, we would not want the racism befalling Papuans to pave the way for their struggle for independence from “Indonesian occupation” on their land”.
The outspoken Free West Papua advocate, the governor of PNG Oro Province, Gary Juffa has warned through his official Facebook page that:
“In case any of you have any misconception about your future fate at the hands of expanding Indonesian influence…here is a grim remainder…if they call our brothers and sisters monkeys…on their own land…that is exactly what they are calling us now”
The leaders of “Blue Pacific” cannot be naïve like a rabbit by inviting the wolves from Jakarta, Beijing and Canberra to discuss about what they are going to have for dinner. Dangerous and yet virtues rabbit is better than harmless and virtue less creature that lives only to be eaten by predators.
It is West Papua’s deepest hope that the Pacific Island leaders will not sacrifice West Papua by accepting a worldly materialistic offer by Jakarta, Beijing and Canberra. How remarkable it would be in this modern world for the racially abused and subjugated people are able to stand firm against the might and reject the gold in favour of their own souls. That would be the retelling of an old story written anew. (*)
Author is Australia-based anthropologist
Who actually benefits from the Trans Papua Highway?
Papua, Jubi – Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI) researcher Cahyo Pamungkas says that the Trans Papua Highway has yet to bring any benefits to the Papuan people.
“The benefits for indigenous people can’t be seen yet. So people ask who exactly is the road for? Because the there is still illegal logging in the central highlands, the highlands are being destroyed, it’s easier for outsiders to exploit natural resources”, said Pamungkas at a press conference on the conflict in Nduga regency at the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH) offices in Jakarta on Thursday July 18.
Pamungkas explained that instead of benefiting ordinary Papuans, the Trans Papua Highway threatens their economic wellbeing.
“Pig livestock from Toraja comes into Wamena. So the Wamena’s people’s pigs don’t sell. This threatens their economy. It is increasingly easy for outsiders to come to Wamena, so Wamena people see the road as a threat to their future”, explained Pamungkas.
Pamungkas said that the Trans Papua Highway project only connects regencies or cities and the benefits of this are not felt by the Papuan people. Meanwhile roads between villages and districts which are in fact what is actually needed are not being built.
“Yet roads like this (between villages and districts) are very important, for example simply to sell vegetables produced by farmers in markets”, said Pamungkas.
According to Pamungkas, the Trans Papua Highway actually facilitates the exploitation of natural resources which can be seen from large number of trees being felled and gold mining.
“Moreover when LIPI researched development on this road, we found many logging camps for logging in the direction of the Papua Lorentz National Park, which should a protected area”, explained Pamungkas.
Pamungkas is of the view that the government should immediately hold a dialogue with Papuan social leaders with the assistance of appropriate mediators.
“Because the most important thing at the moment is liberating the Papuan people from the memory of suffering which has built up over time. Particularly the acts of violence by security forces which has resulted in trauma for the residents of Nduga regency, Papua province”, he explained.
Local people’s rights
Expressing a similar view to Pamungkas, Amnesty International Indonesia researcher Aviva Nababan believes that the Trans Papua Highway does not provide any clear benefits. He also questions the government’s planning process for the road.
“Looking at it again from the process. Did the government design its function by thinking about the rights of the people the road impacts on? Did they really follow the principles of involving local communities? If not, this needs to be fixed. We think it shouldn’t be seen from the perspective of western Indonesia. There’s a road, lovely. There’s a road, great”, said Nababan at Jakarta LBH on Friday July 19.
Nababan warned that Indonesia has a commitment to fulfill the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) meaning that it must involve local communities in all development planning.
He also asked the government to respect the rights of indigenous Papuans. Because according to Amensty’s research, there have been alleged human rights (HAM) violations which have made Nduga residence traumatised and afraid of the security forces.
“When there are problems of HAM violations related to law enforcement in Papua, the tendency is that the cases are rarely investigated. Let alone followed up, or satisfactory accountability”, he explained. (*)
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