Fri, 09 May 2003

Faster devolution enhances peace in Papua

Endy M. Bayuni, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Trouble has been brewing in Papua, located at the other extreme of the Indonesian archipelago from Aceh where war with separatist rebels is imminent, but a U.S.-based organization believes that the government in Jakarta could reduce tension in Papua, and use it as a model for conflict prevention in other regions.

So what is the answer for easing tension in Papua, where, as in Aceh, there is an equally strong demand for independence?

By accelerating the full implementation of a 2000 law that gives Papua a special autonomy status with widespread authority as well as responsibility in managing its own affairs, according to the Council for Foreign Relations, a New York-based independent organization.

The council, in its report posted on its website ( on Wednesday, proposed that the international community, including Indonesia's main donor countries, take a greater interest in helping Jakarta resolve the challenges it faces in Papua.

It proposes a "Preventive Development Program" linking assistance for social and economic development programs with conflict prevention measures by Jakarta.

The report was prepared by the council's Center for Preventive Action. Chairing the center's Indonesian commission is Adm. (ret) Dennis C. Blair, who as former commander-in-chief of the Honolulu-based U.S. Pacific Command is familiar with Indonesia and its problems.

Papua, one of Indonesia's wealthiest provinces in terms of natural resources, is home to some of the country's most impoverished people. The 2001 UNDP Human Development Index ranked Papua as the second poorest province behind West Nusa Tenggara.

Papua is a former Dutch colony like the rest of Indonesia, but unlike the other territories, it only became part of the republic in 1969, under controversial circumstances, after a lengthy military campaign launched by Jakarta against the Netherlands.

Jakarta has, from the beginning, had to deal with a low-level insurgency movement launched by tiny bands of armed rebels. Along with the democratization process since the fall of the Soeharto regime in 1998, popular expressions for an independent Papuan state have been made in the open. The Papuan Presidium Council, gathering scholars, politicians and activists, was formed in 2001 with the agenda of pushing for Papuan's independence by peaceful means.

Gross injustices, rampant human rights violations, and economic inequality between Papuans and migrants, who now made up about 40 percent of the province's 2.3 million population, have fueled resentment, which in turn, fires up aspirations for an independent Papuan state.

These problems were highlighted by the report, which agreed that these could be redressed by the full implementation of the Special Autonomy Law.

"Unless the people of Papua are accorded greater self- governance and more benefit from the development of Papua's natural resources, continued conflict could cause a spiral of violence in Papua.

"It could also have a destabilizing effect elsewhere in Indonesia by encouraging ethnic, religious and separatist violence across the vast archipelago," the report said.

Council president Leslie H. Gelb is more forceful in his foreword to the report, saying that "achieving sustainable peace in Papua would build momentum to address other conflicts across Indonesia, and that Papua could serve as a model for conflict prevention more broadly."

The report said the implementation of the special autonomy law had been hindered by competing priorities in Jakarta, a heritage of mutual distrust, and due to lack of training and experience, inadequate capacity in Papua to handle greater responsibilities.

The report criticized President Megawati Soekarnoputri's decision in January to split Papua intro three provinces, noting that this had exacerbated tensions, and increased the prospects for conflicts.

It called on Jakarta to quickly help the establishment of the Papua's People Assembly (MRP), as required by the special autonomy law, and stressed that any reorganization of the province must have the consent of this assembly.

The council suggested that donor countries and agencies use the "carrot and stick" approach to encourage Jakarta to implement the reforms set out in the autonomy law.

"To use scarce development resources most wisely, the commission believes that development assistance can be sharpened by linking conflict prevention goals with socio-economic development programs, or `preventive development'.

"This would enable stakeholders to better coordinate and work more effectively with Indonesian government and Papuan officials."

The European Commission should propose and secure adoption of this preventive development program at the next meeting of the Consultative Group on Indonesia (CGI), noting the European Union's earlier conflict prevention mission in Indonesia, it said.

Given Japan's role as the largest aid donor to Indonesia, the report said Tokyo should host a donor conference to discuss this new approach to development.

The report was highly critical of the Indonesian Military (TNI) performance in maintaining security in Papua and urged the phasing out of the practices of using TNI forces to protect companies operating the province, a job that should be carried out by local security organizations.

The council underlined the U.S. policy of supporting Indonesia's efforts toward consolidating democratic reforms and enhancing national stability as necessary to protect America's economic interests in Indonesia.

It noted the US$25 billion in investments made by American companies to date, including the huge operation of Freeport McMoran Copper and Gold Inc. in Papua, and the $3.3 billion in American exports to Indonesia in 2001.