Friday, March 15, 2013

1) Independence for Papua a Futile Goal

1) Independence for Papua a Futile Goal

2) SBY Rejects Rumor of Brewing Coup d’Etat

1) Independence for Papua a Futile Goal

Posted: 03/15/2013 4:53 pm

The world's largest archipelago -- an enormous place of more than 17,500 islands -- is among the world's most fractious places. It's the many islands that make up Indonesia, currently the powerhouse of recession-proof Southeast Asia, where growing middle classes are spurring rapid economic growth that, unlike in the West, is not largely based on debt.
For more than three decades, the country was ruled by the dictator Suharto, who was deposed amid roiling economic calamity in 1998 that I witnessed firsthand as mobs bayed and tanks patrolled the streets of Jakarta. Among the first acts of his successor, his then-vice president B.J. Habibie, now a resident of Germany, performed was to permit East Timor, which Indonesia invaded in 1975, an independence referendum in which it voted overwhelmingly to break free. It is now officially known as the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, and also notable for being one of the world's smallest and poorest nations.
Successive Indonesian governments grappled with a bloody insurgency in the northernmost part of the country, Aceh, in the province of North Sumatra, a traditionally Muslim place where the Free Aceh Movement had for decades been trying to create their own state. The Asian tsunami of 2004 that flattened the province and killed at least 130,000 people there gave them their wish, at least partly. Aceh is now a special autonomous region of Indonesia, ruled by Islamic law and gaining headlines for such practices as enacting legislation to stone adulterers to death.
Elsewhere in the giant country of 204 million people, the Republic of South Maluku has been trying to establish itself as a separate entity since the 1950s, but has gained little traction. However, further to the East, on the island that Indonesia shares with Papua New Guinea, a more robust rebellion has been brewing ever since it was annexed in 1969 following a United Nations-observed vote known as the Act of Free Choice -- essentially a show of hands among a hand-picked group and before the military -- that has since been widely dismissed as a sham.
Jakarta maintains a strong military presence in this province of primitive tribes, many of whose menfolk wear nothing other than gourds, or penis sheaths, and it is largely off-limits to foreigners, particularly prying journalists, as had long been the case in warring Aceh. The military stands accused of abuses in Papua, some of which it has admitted to, as in the case of an incident in 2010 in which soldiers tortured Papuan villagers, video of which was uploaded to the internet, making it impossible for the military to refute. The breakaway Free Papua Movement's members are routinely jailed for treason, as is anyone who dares to raise the Morning Star flag.
The Indonesian government protects Papua for another reason: it is where the largest gold mine in the world is located, the Grasberg mine operated by the American firm Freeport-McRoRan, an annual billion-dollar generator of income for the state coffers. Despite the vast wealth produced by the mine, and also copper mining at Grasberg, Papuan villagers contend that they are largely impoverished and have scant infrastructure in the remote and jungle-covered region as the funds flow to Jakarta, that their natural resources are raped to feed the central government.
Recently a new figurehead in the Papua independence struggle has emerged, in the form of Benny Wenda, who was jailed and later managed to flee to Britain, where he lives in exile. In the past month, Wenda has been on a tour of Pacific nations, raising awareness about the plight of his people and calling for an independence vote.
Should those around the world who supported the East Timor cause now join with the Papuan struggle? The cause has been gaining attention, most especially from the American activist Noam Chomsky and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, a Nobel Peace Laureate.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a former military commander, is coming to the end of his time in office, with a presidential election scheduled the middle of next year; he is ineligible to run again because he is in his second and final term. But it is a safe bet that whomever gains power will not relinquish control over the very lucrative part of the country that is Papua, certainly not as easy as it let East Timor slip away.
Papua has a tiny population of just 2.1 million; East Timor has just 1.1 million. Aceh, by contrast, is home to almost 4.5 million - a sustainable figure to support the needs and workings of a small country. Do those in Papua who are seeking statehood really think they can go it alone? As with Aceh, it seems that dialogue with Jakarta in which the terms of special autonomy are worked out is the more workable solution, for all concerned.
2) SBY Rejects Rumor of Brewing Coup d’Etat
Primus Dorimulu | March 16, 2013
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Friday dismissed rumors that a coup d’etat would topple his government later this month, at the tail end of a week that saw at least eight military generals meet with the chief of state. 

The president had rounded up seven former generals of the Indonesian military (TNI) on Thursday, after an intelligence report suggested a coup might take place on March 25, a year before the 2014 legislative elections. 

Earlier in the week, the president invited Prabowo Subianto, founder of the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), to the State Palace to discuss “strategic issues.” 

Prabowo, who ran as vice president alongside Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) leader Megawati Sukarnoputri in her loss to Yudhoyono and Vice President Boediono in the 2009 election, is now viewed as the front-runner for the presidency in 2014. 

The president on Friday said an unconstitutional attempt to seize power would not win sympathy from the people. 

“We will not tolerate anything that is unconstitutional. I am certain our system works,” Yudhoyono said at a forum with chief editors of local media. 

He said he would like to have a peaceful transition when his term is over next year. He wanted to be the first Indonesian president to have a “formal handshake” with his successor, adding that all former presidents had taken over leadership of the country without a hand-over ceremony. 

“A formal ceremony will calm the people. It will create a new tradition that the ruling and the former president are not enemies holding a grudge against one other,” he said. 

The coup rumor comes at a time when Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party is suffering a leadership crisis. 

The party’s former chairman Anas Urbaningrum stepped down last month after the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) declared him a graft suspect in the Hambalang sports center case. 

In a speech earlier this month, Yudhoyono called on political elites and groups to stay within the bounds of democracy. He said any attempt to agitate from within the government would only burden the people. 

Wahyu Muryadi, who headed the forum on Friday, said its members supported a fair election for the sake of democracy and was against the idea of a coup. 

Wahyu, also the chief editor of Tempo magazine, said that by welcoming the next president, Yudhoyono would set a good example for future leaders. 

The army also expressed its support for Yudhoyono’s administration. 

The seven former generals — Luhut Panjaitan, Subagyo H.S., Fahrul Rozi, Agus Wijoyo, Johny Josephus, Sumardi and Suaidi Marasabessy — said they would support Yudhoyono through the end of his term in 2014. 

“[The coup] is just the inappropriate wishful thinking of a small group of people. We have heard the idea before and we strongly reject it. There is no good reason to justify the act,” Luhut said. 

He said Yudhoyono had done a good job in guiding the country’s economic growth and winning international recognition for Indonesia. 

“There are so many positive things this government has done for us, but there’s always room for improvement. That will be the next president’s task,” he said. 

Pramono Anung, deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, said a coup was unlikely. 

“Why would someone stage a coup right now? Yudhoyono’s term is going to end next year,” he said. 

“All party leaders and the people right now agree that no matter how bad or how good the current government is, a coup is not the answer.” 

Pramono said Yudhoyono’s meeting with Prabowo and the former generals did not mean the coup rumor was legitimate. 

“It’s just a usual meeting. They were just visiting. Or maybe there’s a political agenda behind it but there was no need to say something about a coup,” he said,

Dipo Alam, the cabinet secretary, denied that Yudhoyono was looking for protection by inviting the generals. 

“That’s just a regular visit. Everybody wants to see the president. Why would Yudhoyono need their protection? Let’s just think positively,” he said. 

The last undemocratic transition of power in Indonesia was in 1998, during the Suharto era. 

Students from across the nation staged protests demanding economic improvements and greater freedom of expression. 

While some protests did turn violent, Suharto ultimately stepped down after ruling the country for 32 years.

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