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Papuans worried about Indonesian real intentions as crisis deepens

Neles Tebay raises the question: Why should the Papuans be deliberately left with political uncertainty? (Photo sourced from another-green-world.blogspot.com.)

Pacific Scoop:
Analysis – By Neles Tebay in Jayapura.

Political Crisis In Papua As Papua is far from the Indonesia’s capital of Jakarta, the central government might not follow closely the political situation in Papua.

Or the government perhaps is not getting the full picture about the present political development in the Western half of the Island of New Guinea.

As any political change in Papua will demand a response from the central government, it is necessary for the government to be informed that a political crisis is now happening in Papua.

Sooner or later, the government will be forced to address this political crisis. Or else the government will be asked: Why should the Papuans be deliberately left with political uncertainty?

This political crisis began with the Papuan convention, which was held in Jayapura from June 9-10, 2010. During the convention, the Papuans evaluated the implementation of the 2001 on Special Autonomy Law for Papua province in the last nine years.

The evaluation indicated that instead of faithfully implementing the law, the government is more interested in creating additional new regencies and even provinces.

The government has not produced governmental regulations needed to implement the autonomy law.

Without feeling guilty, the government even continues to produce policies that clearly violate the autonomy law.

Nine years of the implementation of the law does not bring about a positive impact in the Papuans’ life.

The level of their prosperity is not improved. The safety of their existence as indigenous people is not guaranteed by the government.

Their survival is very vulnerable for they are neither protected or empowered by the government. Due to the lack of protection, the Papuans are now seriously worried about their existence today and future within the Republic of Indonesia.

As the central and local governments have never to fully prove its moral commitment and political will to put the law into practice, the Papuans do not believe the government will implement the law in the future. That’s why the Papuans decided to symbolically hand the law back to the government as manifested through a peaceful march on June 18, 2010.

Through this symbolic action, the Papuans clearly convey their message that special autonomy policy is no longer a better and realistic solution to the Papuan conflict. The action also reflected Papuans’ distrust in the Indonesian government.

The government finds itself in a dilemma. On the one hand, the government can keep insisting on the special autonomy policy as a better solution for the Papua conflict.

On the other hand, the government is challenged to address the question: If the autonomy policy is considered a better solution, then why is the government not implementing the autonomy law in a consistent manner? Why does the government keep producing policies that clearly violate the Papuan Autonomy Law instead? Why does the government feel neither guilty or regret on the violations it made against the law?

The Papuans’ symbolic action does not automatically cancel the autonomy law. The law, then, can still be applied in Papua. But this time, the law will be applied without Papuan people’s legitimacy. The government can no longer claim the Papuans’ acceptance and support for autonomy policy.

The symbolic action of handing back the law will cause difficulty for the government in its diplomatic efforts to convince the international community. The government cannot say that the autonomy law is fully implemented and has improved Papuans’ prosperity.

The central government might rely on the provincial government to cool down a political crisis in Papua.

However, the truth is that the provincial government is not trusted by the ordinary Papuans and the regents because it has never produced any special implementing regulations.

The absence of the implementing regulations hinders the regents from implementing the autonomy law in their respective regencies.

The central government perhaps thinks about the moderate Papuan scholars, who in the past drafted the autonomy law, to play a mediating role between the Papuans and the government in Jakarta.

But the local scholars can now do nothing because they lost their credibility before the ordinary Papuans. They cannot now courageously stand up and speak about the autonomy law with the Papuans.

They will not take the initiative and persuade the Papuans welcoming the autonomy policy as the realistic and best solution for the Papua conflict. It is all because the government, by not implementing fully the autonomy law for nine years, has undermined all their support for the law.

The central government can blame the local government for the crisis. But by so doing, the political crisis in Papua will remain unsettled, and the government will never regain Papuans’ trust.

The only way left is that the central government has to deal with the Papuans through two-way communication. Should the government be unable to talk to the Papuans, then a third neutral party can be asked to play a mediating role between Jakarta and Papua.

If the Political crisis in Papua remains unresolved, then the call for a referendum will be a stronger way to get more support from the Papuans.

Fr Neles Tebay is a lecturer at the Fajar Timur School of Philosophy and Theology in Abepura, Papua. The article was first published in The Jakarta Post.