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Jaleswari Pramodhawardani: Understading West Papua Issue by Data

Jaleswari Pramodhawardani, Deputy Five for Politic, Law, Defense, Security, and Human Rights of the Presidential Staff Office wrote the following article in Kompas. It is very important to look at the facts and data before we speak about Papua and West Papua province. Please continue to read the free translation of the article below.

Papuan issue had sparked again and become fierce discussions lately. Several webinars (web seminars) spread discussing this easternmost region of Indonesia. The discussion topic focused on two matters, the welfare and security in Papua. What makes the discussions fierce, of course, is the insertion of racial issues.

The death of George Floyd, an Afro-American citizen who was the victim of police brutality in Minneapolis, became a trigger as if Indonesia is similar to America. The problem of Papua is then compared with racism in America. We understand that racism is a global reality, something that is opposed by modern civilization. It does not only occur in the West, which reflects colonialism and the slave trade. It also must be admitted that racism with the related history can be found in other regions of the world.

A Sociologist, Richard Schaefer, sees race and ethnicity refers to social constructions related to groups that have long been formed and are bound by culture, origin, tradition, religion, and language. More specifically, Schaefer said that the word race refers more to the construction of the appearance-based difference. We understand that racism is a global reality, something that is opposed by modern civilization.

In essence, this racism is related to domination based on race, based on the thought that one or more racial groups are superior and uses it to justify immoral treatment for other racial groups. The story of Floyd then inspired the world. Many countries experienced emerging movements that follow #Blacklivesmatter which is already popular in the US. No exception in Indonesia with #Papuanlivesmatter.

Then, is it true that racism in Indonesia has become so systemic, manifested into organized racism? The accusation mainly refers to the series of riots that broke out in Manokwari, Sorong, Fakfak, Timika, Deiyai, Wamena, and Jayapura mid-August 2019 to the end of September 2019 which left us deeply in grief.

In this matter, we absolutely cannot be reckless about the conclusion. Racism is a very strong accusation for the problem of Papua. Racism can be recognized from the patterns of leadership, policies, laws, and regulations, as well as social programs and systems.

For example, systemic racism can occur from education, recruitment methods, or access. What happened in Papua presents the opposite fact. The state and the government are working hard to accelerate welfare development there. Then why is social segregation still happening, what is the root of the problem?

In general, there are two negative stigmas toward the central government. First, the central government does not develop the human in Papua and only focuses on infrastructure. Second, the central government consistently practices oppressive and violates human rights.

The Data Speaks

Seeing Papua today is certainly different from the beginning of the reform two decades ago. New variables emerge such as the local, national, international, and information technology constellations. The data about the security forces’ actions alone is certainly not enough without seeing the new network of armed separatist groups at home and abroad. The latest data from the Papua Task Force UGM shows that the most violent perpetrators are armed separatist groups.

The issue of human rights also widened from the dimension of civil political rights to economic, social, and cultural rights. Not to mention the issue of governance, both at the central and regional levels, from the provincial, district to village levels. All these elements must be considered so that we are not blurred in viewing Papua. We need accurate data, results of research institutions, and credible campus studies.

Regarding the first stigma, is it true that the President only built infrastructure and ignored human resources in Papua?

Many human development policies have been made by President Jokowi, such as education, health, local economic empowerment, infrastructure, digitalization. The one-price fuel policy in Papua, for example, is a manifestation of social justice for all Indonesian people.

Papua is even included in the national priority program. Presidential Decree No. 9 of 2017 about the Acceleration of Welfare Development in Papua and West Papua Provinces may be called President Jokowi’s landmark policy. With this instrument, the President leads the orchestration of development in Papua by involving dozens of ministries and institutions as well as regional governments. The main target is welfare development.

Then, do this series of policies have a positive impact on Papua? Let’s look at objective indicators. The Human Development Index (HDI) for example. For the 2014-2018 range, the province of West Papua rose from 61 to 64 points. Rates for the Province of Papua increased from 57 to 60 points. The growth of Jayapura, Sorong, and Mimika Regency is also above the national average.

Another indicator is the stunting rate. Between 2013 and 2018, from 40.1 percent fell to 32.9 percent for Papua Province. For West Papua, from 44.6 percent to 27.8 percent. That is just an example. The data from the Central Bureau of Statistics and other supporting data are of course openly tested and debated. It is important to present a healthy dialogue space in recognizing Papua more deeply today.

Then the second stigma is that the central government is often oppressive and violates human rights in Papua. This accusation is biased and there is certainly no policy that mandates the use of excessive force. Besides, the President emphasized that the management of the Papua problem must be based on welfare, culture, dialogue, and not merely a security approach.

If we see the selection of Indonesia as a member of the UN Human Rights Council for the period 2020-2022, the world must be recognized that biased accusation. Amid a bad campaign of human rights violations by several parties, supports for Indonesia even beat Japan and South Korea. Thus, the stigma of the government acting repressively and violating human rights in Papua is baseless.

What is wrong?

Two things need to be a point of reflection for all of us in interpreting the riots in Papua some time ago: the management of Papua in general, namely regional government control that has not been maximized, and the sense of ownership between development and the people of Papua.

First, the role of local government in this matter needs to be maximized, especially in Papua where decentralization is asymmetrical. In this context, the central government is no longer in the position of being the single controller of development and dynamics occurring in the regions.

On the contrary, local governments through their devices need to be rooted and reach vulnerable spots that need more attention. They need to play an active role in serving the public in areas with difficult terrain. As for maintaining social cohesion, they need to be present as coaches who embrace all elements of society, religion, and customs.

Regarding the sense of ownership of development by the people of Papua, it needs to be recognized that there is a perception of the kind of development which tends to be one-way. There is also criticism that the community feels less involved in the development process. Such sentiment must be noted as a reflection of the lack of correct and equal understanding of the Development Planning Consultation scheme in the community.

In the future, the Papuan development paradigm must lead to co-creation. This means that the development can create a sense of ownership by the people of Papua directly, especially in the youth as the next generation of leadership in Papua.

The government is currently revising Law No. 21 of 2001 regarding Special Autonomy. The revision moment of the law needs to be seen as an opportunity to change the paradigm of managing the Papua problem. The problem of Papua is the test case of our nationality. In addition to seeing by heart, it is necessary to consider Papua with the sight of data.

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This Blog has gone through many obstacles and attacks from violent Free West Papua separatist supporters and ultra nationalist Indonesian since 2007. However, it has remained throughout a time devouring thoughts of how to bring peace to Papua and West Papua provinces of Indonesia.

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