West Papuan Futures – part one

Setyo Budi*

The future of West Papua will be determined by a number of factors, and key players in upcoming years. Jakarta-Papua dialogue has been chosen as a method by two conflicting groups: the Indonesian government and West Papuan Independent movement to solve the contentious issue that has plagued the region for nearly fifty years. Setyo Budi has written an analysis on a fragmentation that appears in both camps of the conflict over the issue. This is the first part of an article published in Arena Magazine, www.arena.org.au 

The Jakarta–Papua dialogue is a test of political will for the Indonesian government and the West Papuan leadership in their search for a long-lasting, peaceful resolution to the question of West Papua. Initiated by Dr Neles Tebay, the coordinator of Papua Peace Network in 2003 the dialogue is intended as an avenue for reconciling two conflicting interests: independence versus integration.

The dialogue process is based on a recommendation by the Indonesian Institute of Science—the Indonesian government’s think tank—and its ‘Papua Roadmap’ that was developed in 2007. It calls for a dialogue between Jakarta and key Papuan leaders, including the provincial government, traditional and ethnic leaders, religious groups, women’s organisations and NGOs. Indonesian politicians and top military officials consider the project ambitious. The dialogue is framed as a free and frank discussion, covering such issues as the 1969 Act of Free Choice and other sensitive political matters.

Reactions from both sides have been mixed. A US diplomatic cable recently released by WikiLeaks shows there was disagreement among Indonesian officials about the proposal. Dated 9 March 2009, it

A.S. Widodo

shows that the Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, A.S. Widodo, opposed the idea despite then Minister of Defence Sudarsono’s encouragement. Opposition also came from the Ministry of Home Affairs and ‘most of the Indonesian intelligence and security agencies’. The cable continued: ‘They rejected any attempt to review the Act of Free Choice or other sensitive issues [as] the dialogue could challenge the most fundamental value of Indonesian nationalists?the unity and territorial integrity of Indonesia. Hard-line nationalists will likely do all they can to stop it’.

Opposition to the dialogue continues. It was evidenced in presentations by top Indonesian officials at the conference ‘Make Papua a Land of Peace’, which was held as part of the preliminary process of the dialogue in July this year at the University of Cendrawasih, Aberpura. Djoko Sujanto, Indonesian Minister-Coordinator for Politics and Law, dismissed the conference theme, painting a rosy picture of a peaceful Papua. He did not recognise any human rights violations by the Indonesian military against West Papuan civilians.

As pointed out by Richard Chauvel, an academic and author of several books on West Papua, who attended the conference, ‘His speech fundamentally opposes the theme of conference’. Sujanto called on statistics to prove that West Papua is peaceful. But this statement begs a question about the number of troops deployed in West Papua, which far surpasses other parts of Indonesia. Impartial Jakarta-based Human Rights Monitor reports that to date there are thirty thousand security personnel in West Papua. Fourteen thousand are under Cendrawasih regional command, the rest under Jakarta command. If the national liberation army, the Free Papua Organisation (TRN/OPM), does not pose a threat to the region, might business interests account for such deployments?

In another leaked cable, dated 1 Oct 2007, Berty Fernandez, a Department of Foreign Affairs official seconded to the provincial government to handle border issues, said ‘the Indonesian Military (TNI) has far more troops in Papua than it is willing to admit to, chiefly to protect and facilitate TNI’s interests in illegal logging operations’. He added, ‘The governor had to move cautiously so as not to upset the TNI, which he said operates as a virtually autonomous governmental entity within the province’.


Part two will be published tomorrow.

*Setyo Budi is an Indonesian journalist who has reported on East Timor. He now lives in Chewton.

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