Mon, 16 Jun 2003

There must be wiser ways to deal with Papua

Neles Tebay, Pontifical University of Urbaniana, Rome

An "integrated" operation is being conducted in Aceh, on the basis of the martial law decreed by President Megawati Soekarnoputri. It aims at eradicating the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) in the name of maintaining Indonesia's territorial integrity.

Will the "integrated operation", preceded by a status of martial law, be applied in Papua? There are five considerations leading to such fears.

First, as in Aceh, there is the Free Papua Movement (OPM), which has been fighting for an independent state, although members are poorly armed and organized.

Second, civilian society in Papua has been promoting Papua as a peace zone. It is even fully supported by the Papuan guerrilla leaders, such as Kelly Kwalik.

Knowing that a peace zone cannot be created without the support of Jakarta, including the Indonesian Military, the Papuans and the provincial legislative council have called upon the government in Jakarta to declare Papua a peace zone. To date, the government seems to be reluctant.

Third, at the second Papuan Congress in June 2000, the Papuans resolved to find a solution for Papua through peaceful dialog and negotiations with all related parties, including the government. Since then, they have been calling for a genuine and peaceful dialog, with the mediation of a third party, to solve the Papua case.

The Papuans believe that only through a genuine dialog can both parties reach a common understanding of the problems in Papua, the root causes of the problems, and jointly determine a credible and legitimate process of peaceful and democratic solution.

The local council has conveyed the Papuans' call for dialog to the central government.

The Papuan Presidium Council (PDP) has even submitted its version of the terms of reference of the dialog to the central government.

It seems that the Papuans' call for a genuine dialog is supported not only by foreign non-governmental organizations, but also by some foreign countries.

While supporting the territorial integrity of Indonesia and encouraging the government to address and resolve peacefully conflicts, such as those in Irian Jaya/Papua and Aceh, the European Union Council earlier underlined "that the only viable way to guarantee the territorial integrity of Indonesia is for the government to engage in a genuine dialog with the provinces in order to tackle the root causes of separatism".

However, the Jakarta government has not expressed its willingness to engage in dialog.

Fourth, the government considers special autonomy as the final solution for Papua. Therefore, the special autonomy law for Papua was passed in October 2001. The Papua government has accepted the special autonomy law, despite the opposition of Papuans.

The international community has supported the special autonomy law. Its full and effective implementation would be a win-win situation according to the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations (CFR, The Jakarta Post, May 20).

The European Union has even committed to provide some financial assistance to make the implementation of the law successful.

However, the special autonomy law has not been put into force. As The Economist magazine reported last month, "the government is undermining the special form of autonomy it granted to Papua". The law cannot be implemented in Papua as the central government has been delaying issuing the government regulation for the establishment of the Papuan People's Assembly (MRP).

Fifth, President Megawati has issued a presidential instruction on the acceleration of the division of Papua into three smaller provinces. One of the reasons for this was to weaken the separatist movement in Papua.

The instruction has not only brought about confusion and tension in Papua, but also leads to the question: Is the government really supporting the implementation of the special autonomy law for Papua?

Some parties in Indonesia have raised their objections to the presidential instruction. The CFR has suggested Jakarta postpone its plan to divide Papua into three provinces.

In response Jakarta has promised to synchronize the special autonomy law and the instruction on dividing the province so that both can be implemented at the same time in Papua -- though there has hardly been any explanation of the matter.

Judging the government's responses mentioned above in the light of the martial law being applied in Aceh, one could get a different message.

First, the OPM has supported peaceful dialog. But for the government the presence of the OPM could be justification to declare martial law in Papua.

Second, it seems easier to declare martial law than to declare Papua a peace zone, given the reluctance of the government so far to declare Papua a peace zone.

Third, the unwillingness of the central government to engage in a genuine dialog with the Papuans could be interpreted as an indication that Papua is the next target of martial law.

Fourth, the delay of the implementation of the special autonomy law could be taken as meaning that Jakarta has another solution for the Papua case, possibly an "integrated" operation such as in Aceh.

Fifth, the presidential instruction to divide Papua into three provinces undermines special autonomy for Papua and, consequently, the international community's support regarding this special autonomy.

Sixth, any move for the deployment of combat troops to Papua would be interpreted as preparation for martial law.

Thus the reluctance to declare Papua a peace zone, the unwillingness to engage in genuine dialog, the delay of the full and effective implementation of the special autonomy law and the division of the province, could be interpreted as meaning that Papua will be "the next Aceh". It is up to the central government to decide.