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For West Papua, Indonesia’s Entry Into MSG Stirs Up Concerns About Hidden Agenda
2015-07-13 15:41:59 来源:Jakarta Globe 作者: 【 】 浏览:134次 评论:0

By Andreyka Natalegawa on 05:22 pm Jul 01, 2015

Jakarta. The admission of Indonesia into the Melanesian Spearhead Group  last week has sparked concerns over the future of central government policy in the West Papua region, analysts say.

“My first reaction of the inclusion of Indonesia to the MSG is that Indonesia needs to clarify its motives. Is it trying to dilute the position of the MSG over Papua? Or is it about cooperation?” said Yuyun Wahyuningrum, a senior adviser on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and human rights with the Jakarta-based Human Rights Working Group.

Indonesia’s bid to join the MSG, an intergovernmental organization composed of representatives from Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, as well as the Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front of New Caledonia, has been interpreted as a preemptive move in halting discussion on West Papuan efforts for self-determination.

“The United Liberation Movement for West Papua [ULMWP] expects that the MSG could be a platform where discussion on human rights, sovereignty issues and development concerns in the Papuan provinces could be raised,” Yuyun said.

“But having Indonesia’s leverage in MSG may be a stumbling block in addressing Papuan issues on a regional platform,”  Yuyun said.

The ULMWP, which had also been seeking membership to the MSG, was ultimately granted observer status to the regional body.

Rafendi Djamin, representative of Indonesia to the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), believes that Indonesia’s admission into the MSG could lead to the greater involvement of Melanesian states in discussing issues relevant to human rights abuses in Papua.

“The MSG needs to work with Indonesia to establish a dialogue between Papua and Jakarta that works towards a better future in terms of protecting human rights and development,” Rafendi said.

Indonesia’s entrance into the MSG marks the culmination of months of heightened national interest in the Melanesian region.

In March, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi embarked on back-to-back visits to Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Fiji  ̶  three countries that had earlier threatened to recognize West Papua as an occupied member state of the MSG.

Moreover, President Joko Widodo visited MSG member state PNG in May, calling for closer ties with the country.

Human rights and development

According to Rafendi, issues of human rights abuses and slow economic development within Papua remain critical in addressing tensions in the region.

“The reports from last year have been very concerning, in that they’ve raised a lot of issues. The fact is that some fundamental principles and freedoms that are enjoyed in other parts of Indonesia are not enjoyed in Papua,” Rafendi said.

“People are being arrested for expressing for their opinions,” Rafendi added.

According to a 2015 report by Amnesty International, an estimated 60 political activists from the Papua region and Maluku province remain imprisoned by the national government.

Efforts to forge a solution between the central government and dissenting political factions in West Papua have been complicated by the slow progress of development and economic growth in the region.

“A lack of economic development triggers a lot of dissatisfaction among political groups in West Papua,” Rafendi said.

“You have a region with huge economic potential, but a lot of work needs to be done to make sure the benefits are felt all throughout the province.”

Tomi Soetjipto, communication analyst with the United Nations Development Program, notes Papua’s slow progress in development across multiple indicators.

“The Papua region is rich in natural resources, but in terms of human development, it is lagging behind other provinces in Indonesia,” Tomi said on Monday.

“Take a look at poverty figures in the Papua and West Papua provinces. They are the worst out of all of Indonesia’s 34 provinces.”

According to data from the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), the percentage of poor people in Papua and West Papua stands at 31.53 and 27.14 percent respectively, distinctly higher than the national average of 11.47 percent. 

Meanwhile, United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) findings claim that West Papua has the highest rate of HIV infection in the country, at 15 times Indonesia’s national average.

“When you have a population that has decent access to health, you’ll have a positive ripple effect,” said Tomi.

“But if you have a population that doesn’t have access to healthcare, you’ll see a negative ripple effect, with things like high mortality rates and child deaths becoming more common.”

Despite setbacks and slow progress, central government leaders must resolve to improve living standards in Papua, as a means of securing a more constructive relationship between local leaders and Jakarta.

“Desire for political self-determination is strong and is fueled by the sense among Papuans that they are treated badly,” said Michael Bachelard, former Indonesia correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

“Economic solutions would reduce some of that.”

Policy contradiction

If equitable change is to be brought to West Papua, central government officials must work towards consolidating their policies into a consistent plan of action, analysts say.

Michael Bachelard cites opposition from within the president’s camp as being an obstacle in shifting policy on Papua, saying: “Jokowi is genuine about opening up, but the hardliners in his own cabinet and in the military will try to stop him.”

“Jokowi will need to follow through and be firm if he wants his policy enacted properly,” Bachelard added, referring to the president by his popular nickname.

Recent months have been marked by a series of contradictory statements regarding central government policy in Papua, confusing efforts to ease tensions in the region.

On May 10, Joko issued a landmark statement inviting foreign correspondents to Papua, reversing years of press restrictions.

“Starting from today, foreign journalists are allowed and free to come to Papua, just as they can [visit] other regions,” Joko said at a press conference in the city of Merauke.

His statements regarding freedom of the press were almost immediately dismissed by Coordinating Minister for Political, Security and Legal Affairs Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno, who indicated that foreign reporters would still face considerable restrictions on their activities in the region.

“We’ll allow it, on the condition that they report on what they see, not go around looking for facts that aren’t true from armed groups,” said Tedjo.

Similarly, Joko’s drive to end the nation’s controversial transmigration policy in Papua has been met with opposition from within his cabinet, with Minister for Villages, Disadvantaged Regions and Transmigration Marwan Ja’far instead calling for an acceleration of the program.

Transmigration has long been a point of contention among indigenous populations in Papua, who allege that the program is designed to wipe out local groups.

According to 2010 estimates, the ratio of non-Papuans to Papuans was 52-48, with annual growth rates of the migrant population outstripping the growth of the indigenous Papuan population by nearly tenfold.

In order to contend with rising calls for independence and self-determination, Indonesia must work harder to establish an environment of transparency and accountability in the West Papua region, analysts say.

Human rights observer Yuyun Wahyuningrum notes that Indonesia’s admission into the MSG could foster open communication among involved parties, saying: “I hope MSG can be a forum where the state’s accountability is discussed openly.”

Bachelard concurred, citing a lack of transparency regarding violent conflicts in the region as a critical stumbling block for reconciliation.

“There is also still brutality, such as the incident at Enarotali, that Indonesia does not fully acknowledge,” said Bachelard, who has visited Papua in his capacity as a foreign correspondent twice in the last three years.

Last December, Indonesian police and armed forces were accused of opening fire on demonstrators in the city of Enarotali, killing six and wounding at least 17 others.

Subsequent probes into the incident invited criticism over doubts on the credibility and impartiality of the investigation.

Speaking on the possibility of renewed positive engagement between the central government and local West Papuan leaders, the AICHR’s Rafendi Djamin believes that “in general, with the new president, there is some hope.”

“But it’s not clear whether this hope will be translated into action that will improve the West Papuan human rights situation within the near future,” Rafendi concluded.

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