Honiara, Jubi – When considering the West Papuan application for MSG membership, Papua New Guinea should look closely at its own national interests.
These national interests are threatened by the explosive demographic changes and economic development currently underway across West Papua, but particularly along the 800 kilometer border with Indonesia.
PNG’s faces the very real risk of large numbers of West Papuan refugees destabilizing the entire western portion of the country, and the inevitable Indonesian military incursions that would follow.
The core of this threat is the fact that West Papua has suffered a demographic catastrophe since the Indonesian military takeover in 1962. Since 1971 the Papuan portion of the population has declined from 96% to less than 50% across the whole country.
In urban areas migrants make up the overwhelming majority, although in most rural areas Melanesians are still the majority. However as the migrant population continues to grow at 10.82%, while the Papuan population grows at only 1.84%, if current policies continue the Papuans will make up less than a third of the population by 2020 and thereafter be a dwindling minority.
Where this is relevant to PNG is that the two population groups: Christian Melanesian Papuans, and Muslim Asian Migrants, are fundamentally very different.
Furthermore research by Indonesian scholar, Cypri Dale, in the Keerom area between Jayapura and the PNG border near Vanimo, shows that the two groups live very different lives.
In this region in 2010, 60% of the population were migrants and 40% Papuans (using the above growth rates for the two groups would put the current population breakdown at 70:30 respectively in 2015). The two groups live in clearly defined areas with migrant regions containing almost all the sealed roads; electricity supply; running water; doctors and health facilities; schools, and government services, with the exception of military posts, most of which were in the Papuan areas. Economic and social development has been effectively ‘captured’ by the migrants.
Furthermore the two groups fear and mistrust each other: the migrants considering the Papuans backward and dangerous, while the Papuans are resentful of the migrants and terrified of the Indonesian military and police, who always side with migrants when conflicts arise.
Worse still, recent anecdotal reports have indicated that the police and soldiers are arming migrants. All this is creating a powder keg environment where even a small conflict can quickly escalate. The Papuans will lose these conflicts and the potential, or perhaps inevitability, of refugees is obvious. As are the consequences for PNG by having large numbers of refugees on its side of the border.
A key driver of this corrosive development is the loss of Papuan traditional land, both from the increasing number of migrant farmers establishing and expanding their operations, and by the establishment of large scale (over 20,000 hectare) oil palm plantations.
Massive oil palm plantations are planned or underway across West Papua, with the biggest single development in the Merauke region (on PNG’s southern border region). The Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate will comprise of as much as 5 million hectares, with the first 1.25 million hectares fast tracked two weeks ago by President Jokowi to be completed in three years. The local landowners have not been consulted at all.
One possible action to slow or halt these processes is the recognition of traditional lands rights. Mechanisms already exist on a national scale for these rights to be granted under Indonesian law, as shown by Australian land rights researcher, Clancy O’Donnell.
Specifically these laws are the Indonesian Forestry Law 1999 and the Village Law 2014. These laws would enable traditional land owners to determine how their land is used, thus empowering them to stop the establishment of oil palm plantations. All they need is the provincial legislature in Jayapura to pass enabling legislation for the national laws to be triggered.
Here’s the rub. Many Indonesians, starting with President Jokowi, believe that it is in the national interest of Indonesia to develop these regions with more plantations and more migrants to work on them. They don’t want the process impeded by Papuan land rights, so the enabling laws are not passed.
This illustrates that PNG and Indonesia have fundamentally different national interests over West Papua. For PNG this is crucial: the country has enough grave problems without having its north coastline (Vanimo to Wewak) burdened with large numbers of refugees.
Indonesia is mostly concerned about ensuring the sovereignty of the Papuan provinces and sees this best achieved by marginalizing the Papuans and developing the border – except that this creates the problems outlined above.
In the end this might prove to be a disastrous choice for Indonesia. It may well result in large scale intercommunal violence that damages Indonesia’s international image and actually promotes international support for the West Papuan independence movement.
How can these problems be tackled? One way is by giving the Papuan umbrella group, the United Liberation Movement for West Papua membership in the MSG.
This would put pressure on Indonesia to start dealing fairly with its Melanesian citizens by recognizing their land rights through the implementation of enabling legislation in the provincial assembly, as well as reigning in gross human rights abuses that have reached epidemic proportions in 2015 (largely in response to the ULMWP bid for the MSG).
This need not question Indonesia’s sovereignty over West Papua, but would be an expression of support for West Papuan self-determination, particularly on the ground in villages where most West Papuans live.
If the MSG gives membership to Indonesia this chance will have been lost. Indonesian officials, whatever their race, will be obliged to follow Jakarta’s orders. Even if the representatives are the Governors of the Indonesia’s Melanesian provinces, as has been suggested) their ability to talk openly will be severely curtailed: former Papua Governor, Jap Salossa, is widely believed to have been poisoned in 2005 (a common tactic in West Papua) when he criticized Jakarta, although he was buried without an autopsy; yet another murky death in a land where many thousands have died mysteriously, or simply disappeared.
ULMWP is the only organization that can talk openly about the problems that exist in West Papua. Clearly this organization’s aim is independence for West Papua. This is because it is almost a universal sentiment amongst West Papuans that only through independence will they be able to live in peace and freedom, with their basic land and human rights respected.
They are rapidly gaining support throughout the region and across the world, driven by social media broadcasting gruesome evidence of ongoing gross human rights violations. It is actually in Indonesia’s interests to engage in meaningful dialogue with the West Papuans under the auspices of the MSG, something they would be forced to do if ULMWP was admitted.
The geographic centre of the debate over West Papua would shift from Jakarta to Port Vila, where the MSG is headquartered. This would be a good thing too.
It would force Jakarta to develop a clear policy on West Papua rather than the fractured and contradictory profusion of policies that now exist: even when the President announces policies such as allowing the entry of journalists, or the end of transmigration, he is immediately over ruled by ministers and bureaucrats. When the President himself cannot explain government policy it is clearly in a shambles.
As with all conundrums opportunity lurks: common ground must be sought and creative win-win policies pursed. For PNG that clearly lies with including UMLWP in the MSG as a way of protecting its western regions from refugees fleeing the humanitarian disaster unfolding in West Papua.
For Indonesia it would force the country to come to terms with its Melanesian subjects, not through marginalization, dispossession and annihilation – which will actually increase international support for West Papuan independence while running the very real risks of mass violence and even genocide, but through dialogue and negotiation.
And for the West Papuans themselves, victims as they are of an arbitrary European imposed border, any improvement in their basic rights would be a real gain, although they are unlikely to give up their calls for independence any time soon.
Dr Jim Elmslie is Visiting Scholar at the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Sydney. His book, Irian Jaya Under the Gun: Indonesian Economic Development versus West Papuan Nationalism, was published by University of Hawaii Press in 2002.
As the Fiji Airways flight arrived in Honiara on Tuesday afternoon, there was more than the usual interest.
How many leaders of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) would walk down the stairway?
First off the flight, which transited through Port Vila, were Fiji Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and Victor Tutugoro of the Front de Liberation Nationale Kanak et Socialiste (FLNKS). The missing dignitary was Vanuatu Prime Minister Sato Kilman, who will not travel to this week’s MSG leaders’ summit.
Kilman recently won a no-confidence motion against former Prime Minister Joe Natuman, but unresolved legal disputes have disrupted Vanuatu’s participation in the sub-regional meeting. Vanuatu will be represented instead by Johnson Naviti, the Director General of the Office of Prime Minister in Vanuatu, who arrived with the Fijian and FLNKS leaders.
Tutugoro led a large delegation of representatives from the four parties that make up New Caledonia’s independence movement. As the outgoing MSG Chair, Tutugoro will hand over to this year’s host, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.
Another key arrival on Tuesday afternoon was the head of Indonesia’s delegation to the meeting, Vice Foreign Minister Dr. A.M Fachir. Indonesia obtained MSG observer status at the 2011 summit in Fiji, and the high level representation reflects Jakarta’s hope that MSG leaders this week will upgrade Indonesia’s status to associate member.
The remaining MSG leader, PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, is scheduled to arrive in Honiara on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Sogavare will host the official opening ceremony on Wednesday morning at the Solomon Islands national museum, before leaders hold a retreat on Thursday to discuss a wide-ranging agenda, including the application for MSG membership by the United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP), a coalition of West Papuan nationalist organisations that have long been seeking support from their Melanesian neighbours.
Jayapura, Jubi – One of the activists of the National Committee of West Papua (KNPB) in Yakuhimo region, Susan Bahabol, has been released by the authorities after being arrested early this month.
General Secretary of KNPB in Yakuhimo, Mark Suhuniap to Jubi that Bahabol was released by the police on June 16.
“Thanks for the prayer and support of the people of Papua because Yahukimo KNPB activists, Susan Bahabol has been released by the police because it is not proven wrong, “Suhun said to Jubi from Yakuhimo on last week.
Meanwhile, KNPB Spokesperson Bazoka Logo confirmed KNPB confirmed that Bahabol is free.
“Yes, Susan Bahabol has been released and she is proven innocent. Police arrested her arbitrarily but then freed her because police did not have strong evidence and no witnesses on the beating case,” he explained.
As written earlier by Jubi, police officers from the Police Yakuhimo, have arrested two activists of KNPB, Susan Bahabol and Aton Bahabol in front of the housing shop. “They were arrested by plainclothes police,” Marthen Suhuniap added. (Arnold Belau/ Tina)
5) Third Party Not Needed in Jakarta-Papua Dialogue
Wamena, Jubi –An advisor to the cabinet secretary, Jaleswari Pramodhawardani, said the Papua issue should be settled within Indonesia, without the involvement of a third party.
“The Papua issue occurs in Indonesia. I think those problems should be prioritized in Indonesia, must be settled between Papua and Indonesia because it’s started from there” Pramodhawardani said during a seminar and workshop held by the Papua Peace Network on last week in Wamena.
She said in particular circumstances a third party will be needed but Indonesia must resolve the Papua problem by itself.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Communion Churches of Jayawijaya, the Rev. Abraham Ungirwalu said the central government must be ready to be corrected on the question of Papua.
He also said dialogue is a solution to the Papua conflict. “Jakarta must have good faith. I agree with dialogue,” he said. (Ronny Hisage)
Officials in Jakarta can’t seem to stop making pronouncements promising vast new agricultural expansion along the eastern frontier of the Indonesian state. In May President Joko Widodo announced 1.2 million hectares of rice fields to be developed in three years in the Merauke area of West Papua. Now his agricultural minister, Amran Sulaiman, has apparently said that the government has set aside 500,000 hectares of land for sugar cane plantations to supply ten new sugar factories. Here’s a translation of how Metro TV News reported the story:
Metrotvnews, Jakarta: Agriculture minister Amran Sulaiman has set aside 500,000 hectares of land to build sugar factories. The allocated land is spread over three areas: Southeast Sulawesi, the Aru Islands and Merauke.
Amran claims that the land is to accommodate investors who want to invest in developing sugar factories within the country. Until now, Indonesia has always imported raw sugar to be used in industry or to be refined.
“We had a joint meeting to discuss investment. Firstly, to talk about investment in sugar factories which are planned in Southeast Sulawesi. There are three alternatives (for land)”, Amran said at the Investment Planning Board’s (BKPM) offices in Jalan Gatot Subroto 44, South Jakarta on Wednesday 17/6/2015.
The land would be up to 500,000 hectares, he continued, so the capacity of each factory would be 10,000 tonnes of sugar per day. With this amount of land and ten factories, there would be 50,000 hectares for each factory.
“They would also need to have sugar-cane plantations. Each factory would need 50000 hectares of land”, Amran explained.
Meanwhile, the head of the Investment Coordinating Board Frangky Sibarani said that 26 investors had expressed an interest in the sugar sector. The funds they had prepared was no small sum, as the investment required for one sugar factory could be as much as 5 trillion Rupiah.
“The total would be 26 investors, 11 interested in sugar refining and the other 15 would want integrated operations with plantations.”, Franky concluded.
As usual, the central government appears to have paid no attention to the voices of the people who inhabit the far-flung extremities of the archipelago it controls. However, they surely must be aware that in recent years indigenous movements have resisted sugar-cane plantations in two out of the three areas earmarked. In the Aru Islands in 2013-2014, all sections of society united in opposition to the Menara Group’s 500,000 plantation there, and were eventually successful. Meanwhile, in Merauke, of around 24 companies which have been awarded location permits for sugar cane plantations since 2010, only two have actually started working. Indigenous opposition is an important factor in this, particularly in the western part of Merauke where action by the local Malind people saw off the Astra and Mayora groups in 2013.
What’s more, in both those areas, all land is supposed to belong to indigenous communities, therefore it is not up to the agriculture minister to decide how it gets used.
“In assigning the Aru Islands as one of the areas for sugar development in Eastern Indonesia the Agriculture Minister is showing an arrogant and unilateral attitude, without concern for the desires of the indigenous people of Aru who have already strongly resisted this kind of plan before”. The indigenous people of Aru feel the government is lying to them with this declaration. This unilateral decision will ignite new tensions in the Aru islands “We will continue to put up resistance to this decision and the government should take responsibility for this”.
There is no further information available about the exact locations of the land, or in the case of Merauke, how this will fit with existing permits or the planned 1.2 million hectare rice estate. In the case of the Aru islands, the last thing we heard from central government was former Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hassan backing down from releasing state forest land for the last mega-sugar plan, as more light was being shed on the probable corruption involved. Then, he used the excuse that the land was actually not suitable for sugar-cane, but suddenly it appears to be once more. None of the news outlets which covered this story listed the names of the companies involved.