Fri, 05 Sep 2003

Broken promises in Papua

The opinion section (page 7) of The Jakarta Post, on Aug. 28, carried an illustration by its cartoonist (TS) depicting the disappointment of the population of West Irian or Papua about empty promises made by government officials in Jakarta to bring justice and prosperity to the region. They decided to establish a third controversial province, which almost led to a tribal war, causing five people to be killed unnecessarily. When and how the issue will be resolved in the long term is something that everybody anxiously awaits.

But the cartoon has for me a special significance, coincidentally. Readers of the Post may still remember that about two years ago a comment appeared in the letters column on the formation of a watchdog for broken promises by leading politicians and government officials. One of them even congratulated the initiators of the movement, wishing them luck. His name was D. Chandramouli, himself a prolific letter writer.

Perhaps many at that time were still frowning at the objectives of such a moral organization calling itself the Barisan Penagih Janji or Watchdog For Broken Promises. Now that so many people are running for high government office in the next general elections such a watchdog may turn out to be a useful organization. The number of people getting disillusioned because of broken promises has indeed increased. The latest example has been the formation of new provinces within West Irian as a means of giving greater autonomy to the regional administrations. There were arguments for and against the formation of a new Central Irian province, which led to two people dying and many being wounded.

The central government in Jakarta has said that those against the formation and those in favor should settle their affairs through consultations and not resort to directly proclaiming the new province, without the approval of the central administration. But those in favor of proclaiming the new Central Irian province argued that they had waited for too long to get the promises implemented and that they did not want to listen any longer to broken promises. In a sense it was through a small bloody revolt that the central administration was reminded of its promise to broaden the autonomy.