Thu, 02 Oct 2003

Judging govt solutions to Papuan separatism

Neles Tebay, Pontifical University, of Urbaniana, Rome

The central government has repeatedly emphasized the necessity of tackling the separatist movement in Papua through "proper ways". It is interesting to see how the government has been trying to tackle the newly recognized Papuan separatist movement, and how the international community has reacted.

The first solution was the offer of the status of special autonomy for Papua. The government then passed the Law No. 21/2001 on special autonomy for Papua province. The international community fully supported this solution by providing experts and financial aid to make the implementation of the passed autonomy law successful.

However, Jakarta has now considered that the implementation of the autonomy law is not the proper way to tackle Papuan separatism. Now it seems to assume that the autonomy law would only strengthen the separatist movement and even accelerate the creation of an independent state of West Papua.

So a second solution was taken to weaken the separatist movement in Papua. While the Papuans were expecting a government regulation for the establishment of the Papua People's Assembly (MRP), President Megawati Soekarnoputri issued Presidential Instruction No. 1/2003 on the establishment of the West and Central Irian Jaya Provinces.

The government move to divide Papua has been opposed by the international community, at least by the European Parliament.

Due to public pressure and clashes in Timika following the announcement of the presidential instruction, the government then decided to postpone the establishment of Central Irian Jaya while maintaining the creation of West Irian Jaya province.

Since the second solution did not work smoothly, the government decided on a third solution -- the combining of two conflicting laws, namely Law No. 45/1999 recognizing three provinces in the territory of Papua and Law No. 21/2001 recognizing only one province, which is Papua.

The autonomy law for Papua will now be revised to accommodate the establishment of the two new provinces as mandated by Law No. 45/1999 and endorsed by Presidential Instruction No. 1/2003.

The status and role of the MRP will also be emasculated.

The government is now looking at the possibility of offering special autonomy status not only to Papua province but also to the West and Central Irian Jaya provinces.

We do not know how the government will synchronize these conflicting laws. However, one can be sure that the combining of these laws will create more confusion, not only for the Papuans but also the government itself. It will have to be decided, for instance, whether the province will be called Papua as mentioned in the autonomy law or Irian Jaya as in Law No. 45/1999.

The government will be forced to determine whether branches of the National Commission on Human Rights, and also the Commission for Truth and Reconciliation, will be established only in Papua or in each of the three provinces.

In the harmonizing of the two conflicting laws, the government is also indirectly postponing indefinitely not only the creation of the new provinces, but also the implementation of Papua's autonomy law.

What will be the next attempt to weaken the separatist movement?

When the Papuans rejected the implementation of the controversial presidential instruction on the division of the province, the military announced that numerous foreigners were operating in Papua province in support of the separatist movement.

The government then banned foreigners from visiting Papua on a tourist visa, thereby further isolating Papua from the rest of the world. Yet people may then question why Papua is closed to foreigners, or what is being hidden from international eyes?

The government's attempted isolation of Papua becomes more suspicious given the decision to deploy 2,000 additional troops to the area. Four extra battalions will be dispatched immediately to boost the other three battalions already stationed in Papua.

Indonesian Military chief Gen. Ryamizard Ryacudu, as reported by the Papua Post, a local daily, on July 21, was already announcing in Biak that to eradicate the unarmed separatists in Papua, the military would deploy more intelligence personnel. The military would also redeploy the Army's Special Forces (Kopassus) to Papua in order to back the intelligence personnel.

The newspaper also reported that Maj. Gen. Sriyanto, the Special Forces commander, acknowledged that Kopassus members already had been redeployed to Papua, particularly in Jayapura, Timika and Wamena.

Will the military solution be taken by the government as the fourth solution for tackling Papuan separatism?

Looking at the government's efforts so far, several points can be highlighted. It is clear that Jakarta has no clear concept of how to root out the Papuan separatist movement. Further, the government lacks clear policies and credible processes for addressing the problems in Papua, including unresolved human rights violations, the controversial 1969 Act of Free Choice, racial discrimination and civilian control over the military in Papua.

Instead of listening to the aspirations of the Papuans, the government has been using the method of trial and error in handling the Papua case. The above-mentioned solutions, except the Papua autonomy law, have been decided by the government without consultation with the Papuans.

It seems that there is no possibility for the government to engage in a genuine dialog with the Papuans, in order to determine a proper way to tackle the separatist movement in Papua.

Nowadays, a reaction from the international community should be expected in response to whatever measure the government takes to address the Papua case.

All of these efforts from Jakarta which have failed to appease the people in Papua have partially contributed to international attention.

Finally, the government's incapability to handle the Papua case through peaceful means could even invite international humanitarian intervention for the sake of peace and progress, and to prevent more violence in Papua.