Friday, September 30, 2016

1) MSG Leaders Summit postponed

2) Settlement of Papua issues deserves national priority
1) MSG Leaders Summit postponed
  • By Glenda Willie

The Melanesian Spearhead Group’s Leaders Summit scheduled to be hosted in Port Vila from October 3-4 2016 has been postponed to December.
The MSG Secretariat has verbally confirmed this to 96 Buzz FM news but gave no reasons for this postponement, advising it will issue a press release in due course to clarify the reasons for this postponement. This week, the Vanuatu West Papua Association hosted the Wanton Summit which brought together Free West Papua Civil Society Organisation support groups within Melanesia, including the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP). The Wanton Summit was planned months ago to be hosted in Port Vila in parallel with the MSG Leaders Summit, which unfortunately has been deferred to the end of 2016. Daily Post understands that one of the main issues to host the Wanton Summit is to convince the MSG Leaders on the admission of ULMWP as a full member of MSG. Members of the ULMWP and other Free West Papua Civil Society Organisation support groups will leave the country this weekend.


2) Settlement of Papua issues deserves national priority
Vidhyandika D. Perks
Jakarta | Fri, September 30 2016 | 08:51 am

In this dynamic, rapidly changing world, it is worth observing how the state (government) places the complexity of Papua an its domestic agenda. In reality, the issue of China and disputes in the South China Sea have seemed to dominate the state’s international affairs lately due to possible security threats. Even though Papua is, in fact, a domestic affair, it has seized international attention, and the government cannot neglect or belittle the matter.

In a multi-stakeholder discussion held by TIFA Foundation and The Institute for Social and Economic Research late last month, it was acknowledged that the Papua issue is becoming increasingly international. The issues that raised international concern focused on human rights violations, the spirit to free Papua from Indonesian “colonization” and the legitimacy of Papuan “integration” into Indonesia under the Free Choice Law in 1969. Therefore, an international solution is needed to these problems. 

The actors of the movement are the Papuan diaspora in exile, the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), who found support from the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), Pacific Island Forum (IPF), the International Parliament for West Papua (IPWP) and members of parliaments in Europe and Pacific countries. 

The situation today is critical because, compared to the past, when the internationalization of Papua was attempted by small NGOs through fragmented movements, the unity and solidity of those behind the current movements is growing stronger and support from members of parliaments in a number of countries has become more visible. 

The campaigners have succeeded in tabling Papuan issues in regional and even international forums. This will pose a serious challenge to our state diplomacy and will require a new strategy to counter the internationalization of the Papua problem rather than merely doing damage control.

With such rapid development, it is worth questioning if there has been any progress to solve the complex issues in Papua, especially under the administration of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo. Domestically, Papua is still facing entrenched separatism, poverty, corruption, tribal conflicts, human rights violations and the marginalization of local Papuans. Worse, many deem the special autonomy for Papua as a failure that has only given rise to ethnic politics, in which the native people dominate the bureaucracy at the expense of a merit system. Therefore, poor and weak governance typifies Papua.

It is ironic, as well, that the current government tends to reduce the Papua issue to merely an economic matter. Economic development in Papua is, in fact, still problematic, as evidenced by the whopping transfer of special autonomy funds to the province that does not significantly increase the people’s welfare. There is also a problem of capacity among local governments trying to execute policies to realize special autonomy.

From the multi-stakeholder discussion, it was concluded that Jokowi’s ambition to open Papua to investors might give hope for the economy to blossom. However, on the other hand, it might create new problems, such as the marginalization of local people as a result of an influx of migrants, as well as conflicts stemming from land-grabbing.

Another development challenge in Papua currently is the government’s decision to cut the infrastructure budget for road construction (The Jakarta Post, Sept. 8). According to the news report, “of the cuts within Bina Marga under the Public Works Ministry, 30 percent might be sourced from the total targeted development of a 4,325 km road project that connects the cities of Manokwari in West Papua province to Oksibil and Wamena in Papua”. 

The missing ingredient to promote development in Papua rests in acknowledgement of the political dimension of Papuan affairs, which ironically eludes the government. Without taking into account this political dimension, even a highly sophisticated economic development blueprint for Papua will not work. Many parties have suggested various kinds of dialogue format as a means to take on board the political aspects of Papuan affairs and solve other pressing issues, but none seems to interest the government. 

In a broader perspective, and viewed from a state-fragility concept, solving the complexity in Papua needs strong capacity and a willingness from both the central and local governments. Sadly, passionate memories in Papua show strong capacity from the central government but weak commitment. 

There were a series of events demonstrating Jakarta’s “interventions” to undermine development in general and the implementation of special autonomy in Papua. This, in fact, has created further distrust of Jakarta’s goodwill among Papuans. Restoring confidence is a big challenge these days. 

Meanwhile, on the local government’s part is a combination of weak capacity and strong willingness, with strong capacity and weak willingness. The provincial government may be committed to implementing the special autonomy but it lacks the capacity needed to carry out the big job. On the other hand, it has a strong capacity to combat corruption but weak willingness to do so. 

Solving the Papuan complexity indeed needs a breakthrough, such as a dialogue, rather than business as usual. Jakarta must have the courage to deal with sensitive issues instead of sweeping them under the rug. Ignoring such issues and further delaying the dialogue will only exacerbate the damage done by the internationalization of Papua. 

The writer heads the Department of Politics and International Relations, Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Jakarta.

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