Doubts linger over Jokowi’s call for Papuan development -
Ina Parlina, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Headlines | Sun, March 13 2016, 7:36 AM
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has stepped up efforts to develop Papua and is asking the military and the police to adopt a soft approach there. However, doubts still linger over whether the President can ensure central and local bureaucrats will implement his commitments to the easternmost region, which remains one of the poorest despite its abundant natural resources and is often marred by violent incidents.
Father John Jonga from Wamena, who once received a Yap Thiam Hien human rights award, said that although Jokowi had three times visited Papua, he did not really listen to Papuan voices as his administration and local authorities were still unable to follow up on the President’s calls.
“It needs extra serious efforts; the state has been absent too long from Papua,” John said on Saturday. “The government must also address social injustice there.”
Last month, Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut Panjaitan admitted that about 60 percent of Papuan leaders failed to implement the development agenda in Papua since they were often busy running their own errands elsewhere outside the region.
Jokowi has pledged to bring more inclusive development to Papua and has even considered a railway construction project to be started in Sorong, West Papua, sometime this year.
Since he took office, Jokowi has visited the easternmost region three times to ensure development projects, like airports and rice estates, were being properly implemented. Long before Jokowi took office, the central government had been accused of being solely interested in Papua’s rich natural resources, with little regard for its people.
Researcher Budi Hernawan said Jokowi should not only establish more effective dialogue with native communities, local administrations and civil society groups, but should also involve them in policy-making and implement better monitoring of development programs in Papua, which could also prevent budget misuse.
“Make them implement their tasks well,” Budi added. He later also questioned whether a railway project in West Papua would benefit local people since there are only about 800,000 residents in the area.
John revealed a plan to meet with officials at the presidential office on Monday to voice Papuan aspirations, including social economy development in Papua.
Presidential chief of staff Teten Masduki and National Development Planning Board (Bappenas) chief Sofyan Djalil recently signed a commitment to ensure that Jokowi’s priority development programs, including the Papuan development agenda, would be free from unnecessary intervention.
A number of Cabinet meetings have also been held to discuss Papuan issues – for instance, one in January during which Jokowi called on his officials to use a soft approach in handling the separatism issues in Papua and Aceh, including by opening up the possibility of granting amnesty.
But mutual trust and freedom of speech remain elusive in Papua since the authorities appear to be still using repressive approaches, with the latest incident being the police summoning John for questioning following a sermon he gave last month suggesting people in Wamena use a customary meeting center as a place to discuss social, economic and political matters. The police wanted to question him as a witness concerning alleged treason.
During his second visit to Papua in May last year, Jokowi opened up access for foreign journalists and international organizations to Papua and West Papua and granted clemency to five political prisoners detained in Jayapura. Jokowi has also called on security personnel to promote dialogue with the Papuan people in order to build mutual trust and said he wanted to see them changing the repressive security approach they have been using all this time into a development-and-welfare approach.
However, the government has also mulled over a plan to establish a new military command in Manokwari, the provincial capital of West Papua, a move many fear may lead to a more repressive security approach by the military, which could further fan separatist sentiment.
“We need a friendlier approach,” said Phil Erari from the Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI).
Numerous cases of violence have repeatedly occurred in Papua. Previous reports said at least 69 Papuans had been imprisoned for peaceful advocacy of independence as of October 2014. The police had also arrested two French journalists, Valentine Bourrat and Thomas Dandois, on charges of “working illegally” on Aug. 6, 2014. They were released on Oct. 24, after a Jayapura court sentenced them to two-and-a-half months in jail.
A recent study by the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) has also predicted that violence may still occur in Papua unless the government takes immediate steps to better coordinate its security forces in the region and to involve native communities in policy-making. _____________________________________