Give Jakarta’s Papua initiative a chance

Neles Tebay, Jakarta | Fri, 11/25/2011 10:39 AM

Calls for the Indonesian government to settle the long-standing conflict in Papua through dialogue with representatives of local people are no longer relevant.

The government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has publicly admitted the need to hold a dialogue with Papuans in order to seek better solutions and options to settle the issue.

The government has already taken the initiative to realize the much-awaited dialogue. Demonstrating his commitment to developing a prosperous and peaceful Papua, the President has taken two progressive initiatives. First, he has appointed Lt. Gen. (ret) Bambang Darmono as the head of the Special Unit for Acceleration of Development in Papua and West Papua (UP4B).

Looking from the Papuan perspective, Darmono’s appointment is very meaningful — not only for Papua but also for Jakarta. The central government and the local governments of Papua and West Papua now know and should recognize Darmono as the man who is fully in charge of development in the country’s easternmost territory.

Darmono is the one who will coordinate activities related to the acceleration of development in the two natural resource-rich provinces. He will also be playing a mediating role between central and local governments by conveying messages from Jakarta to Papua and vice versa.

Second, the President has appointed Farid Husein, an Indonesian negotiator in the Aceh peace process six years ago, as his special envoy in the dialogue with the Papuans.

The Papuans understand that Farid is assigned not to deal with issues related to development. Rather, he is representing the President in initiating talks with various groups, including leaders of the Free Papua Movement (OPM), a rebel separatist group.

The OPM is composed of a political and armed wing. Leaders of the political wing are scattered across Papua and West Papua provinces, as well as overseas such as in Australia, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, the US, the UK and the Netherlands. They are persistently campaigning for an independent state in West Papua.

Meanwhile, commanders of the armed wing live in the jungles of Papua. They adopt hit-and-run tactics in their resistance against the Indonesian government, which is represented by the police and military.

Therefore, as the President’s special envoy Farid should visit all the OPM’s leaders, both in Papua and overseas. He will then communicate to them Jakarta’s commitment to the dialogue and at the same time tap into their opinions of the dialogue. By so doing, both parties can develop a better understanding of each other and mutual trust, which are required if the dialogue is to proceed.

It is good to know that Farid has already started to visit some of the Papuan leaders (The Jakarta Post, Nov. 17).

Under President Yudhoyono, the government has opened up wider possibilities and demonstrated a commitment to talks that will settle the Papua issue through peaceful means.

All parties in Papua and Jakarta have to support this commitment.

To show their good will to find a peaceful solution to the conflict, Papuan leaders, both in Papua and abroad, as well as commanders of the OPM armed wing, should welcome the visit of Farid.

Genuine support should also come from other related parties, such as local and central governments, the police, the Indonesian Military (TNI), regional and provincial legislative councils in Papua and West Papua provinces, the House of Representatives, the Regional Representatives Council (DPD) and the Papua People’s Assembly (MRP) by creating a favorable atmosphere on the ground for the talks.

This government’s initiative also requires full support from the international community. The US and the UK have already manifested their respective support for the Indonesian initiative to settle the Papua conflict through dialogue with the Papuans.

It is also important to have similar support from all Melanesian states in the Melanesian Spearhead Group: Australia, New Zealand, Pacific Island Forum, the European Union and ASEAN countries. Their support can be manifested through a variety of ways and means.

For the sake of peace and prosperity in the territory, all parties can contribute to the settlement of the Papua issue by giving the government’s initiative a chance.

The writer is a lecturer at the Fajar Timur School of Philosophy and Theology in Abepura, Papua.

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