Wednesday, September 24, 2014


2) Is the Scottish referendum  anything we can learn from?
3) Scotland: Indonesia is watching


The visit by the South African government and 17 unnamed South African companies to Indonesia last week has thrown into stark relief the ANC government's hypocrisy in its international relations with countries that are guilty of human rights abuses.
Indonesia ended its brutal military occupation of East Timor in 2002 but continues an equally merciless military occupation of West Papua.
Somehow this doesn't appear to have pricked the consciences of our government officials or the companies who went on a Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) business junket to Indonesia, even though South Africa, as a UN member state, has just adopted the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People flowing from the first ever United Nations World Conference on Indigenous Peoples this week. West Papuans are, after all, an indigenous people in the Pacific whose human rights are being violated by Indonesia.
The declaration adopted by the UN this week calls for "control by indigenous peoples over developments affecting them and their lands, territories and resources" and the "demilitarization of the lands and territories of indigenous peoples". It also says that indigenous peoples should have the right to self-determination through self-governance.
But indigenous rights appear to be trumped by commercial imperatives. According to the DTI, South Africa is Indonesia's largest trade partner in Africa. The department of international relations and co-operation has previously listed some of the companies doing business with Indonesia as DigiCore, Murray & Roberts, Skyriders, Fresh World, Explochem, Denel, and AEL.
West Papua was colonised by the Netherlands in 1898 and eventually handed over in 1962 to the United Nations. While preparing for their independence following 160 years of colonisation, Indonesia invaded West Papua and later cut a deal with the United Nations. This deal involved a sham election in which only 1026 handpicked West Papuans - out of a population of one million - were allowed to vote for or against continued colonisation by Indonesia. After receiving death threats, all voted for colonisation.
Since 1962, Indonesia has banned all forms of freedom of expression and association in West Papua, as it did in East Timor before it was liberated. Since 1962, Indonesia has killed almost half a million West Papuans and driven thousands into exile.
The ANC government is aware of this, as it was of the history of East Timor (now Timor-Leste), which was colonized first by Portugal, then invaded by Japan, before being occupied by Indonesia's military dictator at the time, Suharto, who carried out a genocide until he lost power in 1998.
The mass killings, tortures and other atrocities carried out by the Indonesian military in East Timor prior to its liberation in 2002 were overlooked first by Nelson Mandela during his presidency, and then by president Thabo Mbeki.
Indonesia supported the struggle against apartheid, cutting diplomatic and commercial relations with South Africa and refusing to allow South African ships to dock at its ports from 1963. And so in 1997 when then Indonesian dictator Suharto visited parliament, not only did Mandela literally roll out the red carpet for him, but the few dozen officials from Cosatu-affiliated unions who hurriedly cobbled together a protest outside were arrested before Suharto could see them.
Mandela was said to have a "special affection for Indonesia", visiting the country four times between 1990 and 2002. This is particularly heinous given that Suharto, who took power in a coup and held onto power for 31 years, was Indonesia's unelected dictator for three of those visits.
Mbeki then kept up the good relationship, paying homage during a visit to Indonesia in 2005 to the Indonesians who had been forced into slavery by South Africa's colonisers in the seventeenth century.
Mbeki also waxed lyrical about a partnership between the Pretoria zoo and Indonesia's Surabaya zoo while failing even once to mention Indonesia's brutal genocide in West Papua. Also under Mbeki's presidency, a "strategic partnership joint declaration" was signed between Indonesia and South Africa, apparently "elevating the long-standing relations between the two countries to a new level".
Given that South Africa's indigenous people suffered similar genocidal massacres for hundreds of years, one would expect the ANC to stand with the people of West Papua. Instead, the ANC government appears to have no relations at all with West Papua, only with Indonesia - the colonial power - and neighbouring Papua New Guinea.
President Jacob Zuma is clearly following in the footsteps of his predecessors, favouring strong trade and diplomatic ties with Indonesia over freedom for the indigenous Black citizens of West Papua.
Ironically, the digital age and the advent of social media have led to greater exposure of the Indonesian killings in West Papua because of a macabre "trophy" practice by Indonesian soldiers and intelligence agents. They photograph the dead bodies of West Papuan activists after killing them, in order to win praise from their military superiors. These digital photographs and videos are circulated widely and quite quickly end up being publicly available on social media.
The brutality of Indonesia's colonisation is also currently in the world news because seven weeks ago, two high profile French journalists were arrested in West Papua for the crime of political reporting while travelling on tourists' visas.
Indonesia has effectively barred foreign journalists from reporting on human rights abuses in West Papua, insisting on a special "journalist visa" which is granted only to those pursuing anthropological stories. All story proposals must be submitted to Indonesian intelligence in Jakarta before the visa is granted, making it impossible for a human rights story to pass muster.
The French journalists, Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat, now face a five-year prison term for violating their visas. Their West Papuan contacts have not been so lucky.
West Papuan liberation movement regional leader, Martinus Yohame of the West Papua National Committee, was assassinated a few days after meeting with Dandois and Bourrat. And another liberation movement leader, Areki Wanimbo, was arrested a day after granting the journalists an interview and remains in prison.
With trade that has steadily risen over the years and which now stands at over US$ 2 billion per year, it is clear that the ANC is placing the business of local South African capital before justice for the indigenous West Papuans.
Indonesia has a new president, Joko Widodo, and this should present an opportunity for the ANC government to press for freedom for West Papua. West Papuan activist and exile, Paula Makabory made the point in a recent seminar that West Papua has vast resources of nickel, copper, oil, gas and timber and so Indonesia is not likely to grant West Papua its freedom without huge international pressure being brought to bear.
The ANC failed to support the people of Timor-Leste, but it is not too late for them to help bring about freedom for the people of West Papua.
Majavu is a writer concentrating on the rights of workers, oppressed people, the environment, anti-militarism and what makes a better world. She is currently studying for a Masters Degree in New Zealand.
Read more articles by Anna Majavu.
2) Is the Scottish referendum  anything we can learn from?
Syahrul Hidayat, Exeter, UK | Opinion | Wed, September 24 2014, 9:17 AM

After a two-year-long campaign, people in Scotland have decided not to break away from the United Kingdom. While Alex Salmond, the first minister of Scotland’s government, and his supporters could not hide their disappointment with the fact that only 45 percent of the voters said “yes” to independence, it is surely a huge relief for the central government in Westminster.

More than that, many leaders in Western Europe, especially Spain, woke up on Friday morning with big smiles. The torpedo — that is what they called the referendum — was in fact not the cause of fatalities and catastrophes. At last, the problem of central and regional relations did not end up in separation, as was also the case with Quebec in Canada.

As a country with problems between the center and the regions, Indonesia can surely learn a lot from this democratic process.

Despite the differences in practicing democracy, it is clear that Indonesia is a country that has chosen to adopt a democratic process as a replacement for an authoritarian governance under the New Order.

The first lesson is there was a tendency that those who supported independence in the Scottish referendum lived in a relatively deprived condition, especially economically. Glasgow and Dundee are the best example of urban people who expected a new situation in an independent Scotland after experiencing less fortunate living conditions during the ongoing economic crisis.

Aspirations for independence loomed on the grounds that Scots could possibly maximize their money from oil and gas from the North Sea. It was also assumed that elderly and rural people were more in favor of independence.

For Indonesia, it is clear that the idea of separation in certain regions mainly stems from an unfair distribution of revenues from natural resources.

Therefore, to win their hearts and minds the central government could find no other way than to formulate fairer policies that allow local people to profit from the natural resources.

In the case of the UK, the implementation of the welfare state decades ago has clearly been enjoyed by the people, who were then consequently afraid of the uncertainty that may have followed separation from London. It might have included them losing their right to use Sterling and their European Union membership.

That’s why the ‘no’ campaigners led by Alistair Darling offered a road map to give more power to the local government in Edinburgh to formulate better policies for the people. They proposed the tag of “Better Together” to capture the feeling of many.

The message in this case is to entrust local people to develop their capacities to manage the money and formulate policies. Some in Indonesia may be skeptical with this idea, but in fact this is part of the process of developing trust in and guidance from the central government.

As in the UK, welfare state principles are implemented nationally to include tax systems to pay for services in education, health, pensions and benefits.

The local governments receive budgets for infrastructure and a room to collect revenues for local services. As long as the people receive and enjoy benefits from the UK government the idea of separation can be challenged in a peaceful manner.

Second, it is important to maintain a democratic process as a mean of asking the public for approval. Of course, it is absolutely clear that Salmond and other supporters of independence believed in the idea of Scotland being better off without having any relations with London.

In fact, more than 50 percent of the people did not buy the idea.

Therefore, it was not because the idea was not brilliant, but democracy is about what people say and feel.

Although democracy is criticized as inefficient and lacking in details and technical discussions when dealing with the public, it still guarantees that political elites are always in consultation with the public. That is the essence of democracy.

In a mature democracy such as the UK’s, democracy still saves the political arena from the monopoly of a tiny group of politicians, who suspiciously tend to get corrupted if they are given absolute access to power.

The lesson of democracy can be learned from the way politicians responded to the outcome of the referendum. Although believing wholeheartedly that the Scots would choose independence, Salmond was humble enough to say that democracy was to be admired, which means the people’s voices have to be accepted. At the same time, Prime Minister David Cameron expressed his admiration of the ‘yes’ campaign and acknowledged their voice by offering a deliverable devolution agenda and a time table for its implementation.

Can we see the same harmonious situation just a day after the long battle that preceded the 2014 presidential elections in July? As a big country that has survived different regimes, we should share the same attitude of always taking the public’s preferences into account in the political process.

Following such a process, in the form of an election and a public consultation, political elites should respect people’s choices because this is, again, the essence of democracy.

In other words, democracy is not only about winning or losing.

The writer is a lecturer at the school of political science, University of Indonesia. He is currently an honorary research fellow at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter, UK.
The day before Scotland voted in its independence referendum last week, West Papuan activist Benny Wenda addressed a Yes campaign crowd in Glasgow, saying that he hoped his people would one day get the same chance at self-determination.
'I hope the Indonesian government will allow my people to vote on their own future, like you here today,' he told the cheering crowd.
Wenda, who lives in exile in the UK, said he wanted to witness and take inspiration from Scotland's referendum. Of course, what he ended up witnessing was Scotland choosing to stay with the UK, with a 55-percent vote for No. The result will surely be taken as a blow to Wenda's 'Free West Papua' campaign, along with other independence movements around the world. However, it's not entirely discouraging for the cause of self-determination in West Papua and elsewhere.
The Jakarta Post noted in an editorial over the weekend that Scotland's peaceful referendum showed Indonesia that in a democracy, 'there are civilized ways of dealing with independence aspirations other than treating them as a security threat', such as respecting cultural differences, engaging in meaningful dialogue, and devolving certain powers to the regions to give them more direct control over their assets and development.
West Papuan aspirations for independence have been framed as a security threat since the territory was brought under Indonesian administration in 1963. A promised referendum on independence in 1969 turned into the widely criticised 'Act of Free Choice', which offered the vote to only 1026 selected local leaders, many of whom arereported to have been coerced into voting for Indonesian rule.
Since then, both armed and civil movements for West Papuan independence have been violently suppressed by Indonesian military and police. Despite being home to Indonesia's biggest gold and copper mine, the province still struggles with poor infrastructure and social support, as well as high rates of poverty. It has become a 'no-go zone'for foreign media wanting to report on political and human rights issues.
With a change in Indonesia's government this year, there is hope that the situation in West Papua will improve. Incoming president Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo has pledged to actively engage with West Papua and improve conditions there as a priority of his presidency. He has stopped short of promising discussions on independence for the province, telling local media that 'the most important thing is delivering prosperity to the people'.
Independence activists like Wenda may not agree that prosperity can quench the thirst for self-determination, a sentiment that Indonesians, as inheritors of a hard-fought battle against colonial rule, should be able to understand. However, as in Scotland, there are plenty of others who believe that Indonesia and West Papua are 'better together'. The Republic of Indonesia is founded on the 'Unity in Diversity' of 17,000 islands, 34 provinces and about 300 different ethnic groups. The 'civilized ways of dealing with independence aspirations' mentioned by the Jakarta Post apply equally to all provinces, regardless of whether they have intentions to separate from the state. Respect, dialogue and power-sharing will go a long way in keeping Indonesia intact.
One bargaining chip used by the Indonesian Government to keep dissenting regions from fracturing the unity of the state has been to grant various levels of autonomy. Since the end of the Suharto era, Indonesians have been able to directly elect their regional leaders, as part of a push for decentralisation of governance. However, a law now being discussed in the House of Representatives (DPR) threatens to put an end to that, by handing the authority from the people over to regional legislative councils (DPRDs), as in Suharto's time.
Departing president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has finally put his weight behind Jokowi's coalition to oppose the bill, which is being pushed by the 'Red-and-White' coalition of losing presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto. Yudhoyono's party has nonetheless put forward a 10-point amendment addressing the major failings of the direct election system, such as widespread vote-buying, inefficient campaign funding and the emergence of 'little kings' in the regions.
In a time when Indonesia is still consolidating its democracy, backtracking on decentralisation reforms would be an unwise move. As the case of Scotland shows, sticking together involves a negotiation of identity, dialogue and power. Despite its flaws, the mechanism of direct regional elections in Indonesia is a platform for that negotiation. With strong institutions, it can also become a self-correcting process, supporting democratic reform from the centre to the regions.
Wenda and other independence activists around the world must surely be disappointed by the outcome of Scotland's referendum. But if there is a lesson to be found for Indonesia and elsewhere, it is that state unity is a constant process of negotiation that finds its strength in shared freedom, not oppression.

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