Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Papuan conundrum and urgency of dialogue

Morten Aulund

A major piece of the reformasi puzzle is still missing. So far it seems difficult to find. The fall of Soeharto presented the possibility to shift away from New Order tactics and policies.

Generally speaking, Indonesia has managed to transform itself. Several of the major pillars of democracy are now protected.

However, the conflict in Papua has not been solved and human rights abuses continue to occur at the hands of security forces. It remains a considerable stain on the government’s track record in the post-Soeharto era.

Peace was reached in Aceh after the most disastrous tsunami in modern history created a revived impetus for both parties to end an almost 30-year-old conflict. Rebuilding the province was imperative and long-standing grievances had to be solved.

Aceh and Papua are often compared to one another as they have both represented major secessionist challenges to the Indonesian Republic. However, their respective differences must not be forgotten and the recipe for peace in Aceh cannot be applied to Papua.

Papuans symbolically “handed” special autonomy (Otsus) back to the government in July 2010. It marked the ultimate failure of the 2001 Special Autonomy Law. It is essentially a comprehensive piece of legislation which would guarantee special autonomy for Papua, including the creation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a Human Rights Court.

However, the lack of Papuan ownership and illusions of implementation intertwined with continuous allegations of corruption of Otsus funds has left it dead in the water.

What is next? The Papuan legislative council, DPRP, spearheaded by Weynand Watori, has announced an evaluation of Otsus to be completed within the year, although its legal and political impact remain unclear as the DPRP remains politically isolated from the Papuan executive.

The Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) and key figures such as Father Neles Tebay have emphasized the need for dialogue. Moreover, LIPI’s Papuan Road Map (2010) outlines comprehensive strategies for a “new” Papua with emphasis on the pillars of recognition, dialogue, reconciliation and justice and a new paradigm for development. As we let the 10-year anniversary of Otsus float past in silence, it is time for change.

Furthermore, dialogue is the only route to peace, but its actual parameters remain vague as LIPI recommendations remain a piece of theory not utilized by the government.

So how will the government find the momentum to communicate with Papua? And can the very fragmented Papuan factions consolidate? If so, will they find the trust to approach Jakarta without shouting merdeka (independence)?

Nevertheless, this year has (almost) seen the birth of a new initiative, with the elegant name of UP4B (Special Unit for the Acceleration of Development in the Land of Papua). Headed by Lt. Gen. Bambang Darmono, former commanding officer in Aceh from 2002 to 2005, it is seen by many as the new hope for a change of heart in Jakarta.

Although skepticism has been expressed over Darmono’s human rights record, his ties to the military may prove pivotal.

Armed with comprehensive powers, a special budget and a large staff, it is seen as the most ambitious presidential initiative since the passing of Otsus, enjoying support from human rights NGOs, the National Commission on Human Rights and LIPI.

Yet the only thing we know for certain is that UP4B is a multi-headed creature with a strategy that emphasizes economic development above anything else as a gateway to dialogue and peace. How will this fare with Papuans? In essence, Papuans have emphasized the need for a historical rectification process and accountability of human rights violations since the 1960s.

To say the least, it is highly unclear if the new UP4B strategy can accommodate such demands. In effect, the unit’s strategy focuses on development and promises of improving welfare as ways to flirt with the Papuan people. Keep in mind, one of the great fallacies of Otsus was the lack of public participation from Papuan civil society in its creation. Beginning in the 1960s, decisions on Papua’s future have many of times been decided outside Papua.

As LIPI has argued, there are many preliminary actions needed for dialogue to take place. Jakarta must find the political willingness to compromise, but, maintaining the status quo is not as problematic for Jakarta as it is for Papua. In order for Papua to take Jakarta seriously, political prisoners must be released, the intelligence apparatus curtailed and all nonorganic troops must be withdrawn.

On the other hand, for Jakarta to believe Papua is willing to strengthen its relationship within the Indonesian state, Papua must consolidate its fragmented factions and avoid a repetition of the 1999 Team 100 “moment”, as it would undermine any attempt to forge a relationship built on mutual trust. For a future sustainable peace to be attainable, one can no longer avoid the difficult and sensitive issues of the past, as they remain pillars of Papuan identity today.

The acknowledgement of the truth about what happened to their relatives and friends who were victims of the violence of the New Order and recognition of the history of the Indonesian annexation of Papua remain cornerstones of Papuan grievances.

Moreover, Jakarta must understand that those factors do not necessarily mean revived cries of independence. They remain parameters for dialogue and reconciliation.

Despite political sensitivity, they are crucial ingredients to a sustainable dialogue and, ultimately, peace in Papua. Thus, UP4B must be impeccably certain about their strategy and its resonance with the people of Papua.

Finally, there is no time to waste as the 2014 presidential elections are approaching. A tall order stands before the President, but SBY has the opportunity to leave his mark upon Indonesian history with a new courageous and ambitious approach to Jakarta-Papua relations.

The writer, a graduate student at the Norwegian Center for Human Rights, is an intern at the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) in Jakarta. The opinions expressed are his own.