This moment could be considered one of the bleakest times in Papuan history due to escalating conflict and violence in the region. There have been several causalities reported both civilians and military/police officers.
What attracted public attention is the locations of violence, which have tended to shift from isolated areas, normally in the highlands or mountainous areas to the capital of Papua, Jayapura.
In addition, these “mysterious shootings” have occurred in broad daylight and have hit their “targets” in public areas and near police and military offices.
There are a few lessons that we could learn from the aforementioned escalating conflict and violence in Papua. First, we can question whether President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s program of the Presidential Unit for the Acceleration of Development in Papua and West Papua (UP4B) is indeed the right “panacea” to solve the complex problems in Papua.
Also, is the program effectively implemented and enthusiastically welcomed by the Papuans? There have been numerous reports which show people’s skepticism about the program which may be rooted in the failure of Special Autonomy.
Second, escalating violence and conflict is also a sign that the government is overwhelmed by the complexity of the issues in Papua and an inability to restore order. Authorities are unable to catch and bring to trial the perpetrators of such violence.
This is certainly a sad story. Unable to solve the problem, the government tends to make unnecessary or defensive statements. For example, they claimed that the violence was caused by a separatist movement.
This statement was indeed premature and lacked evidence, especially when knowing that in the recent mysterious attacks the victim have been shot in vital organs. The gunmen are certainly trained |people.
There are just too many “invisible hands” meddling in Papua, especially when the case in Papua is about power politics and vested economic interests (Macleod and Martin, 2012).
Therefore, the government needs to update their data on the mapping of violence and conflict in this region. Various violent incidents in Papua could be committed by several “actors”. Therefore, the government should not easily scapegoat local Papuans as perpetrators of such attacks. The government must also have the courage to publish the conflict and violence mapping as clear evidence.
An article by Macleod and Martin ( 2012 ) clearly stated that there are segments of the population in Papua which are indeed opting for a nonviolent struggle. They argued that a nonviolent struggle, is definitely more desirable than an armed struggle, which causes less loss of life and greater participation of ordinary people.
Another repetitive and unreasonable statement by the government is that these perpetrators of conflict are difficult to capture because of the isolated and geographic conditions in Papua. This may be true in one sense, but as media reported, quoting from the statement by Neles Tebay, mysterious shootings and snipers are currently operating in the city of Jayapura. How hard could it be to locate these shooters in Jayapura, which is geographically a small city?
Third, with the rise of conflict and violence occurring lately, it is a clear sign of deepening distrust between the Papuans and the government. The government is seen as incapable or not serious about solving problems in Papua. The mysterious shootings and snipers only exacerbate the already heated situation there.
When distrust is deepening between the two parties, what is then the prospect of dialogue? Dialogue seems to be a more popular word, recently compared to any other catchword, when one talks about Papua.
The questions that follow in dialogue, which should be publicly understood, are who should be involved? What should be the content of dialogue? What is the time frame? What is the measurement of success or failure in a dialogue? What are the objectives, outcome and output indicators of a dialogue? What are the key activities in a dialogue and so forth?
Dialogue is only a means or even a tool to solve problems in Papua and not an end in itself. There are pre-conditions that need to be taken into consideration before dialogue could be implemented effectively. In other words, there are “prerequisites” for effective dialogue. We need to remember that “winning trust” is one of the main objectives of dialogue.
Supported by UNDEF, CSIS is currently conducting a project to promote Social Accountability in Papua. We have worked with various elements of civil society. In Australia we have also talked with several academicians to obtain their insights on the situation in Papua.
It is interesting that during our project activities, elements of civil society and Australian academicians frequently stressed the importance of meeting these pre-conditions before any other programs or even dialogue could be effectively implemented.
When these preconditions are met, there is hope that the government could win the long awaited trust from the Papuans.
In our discussion with elements of civil society and Australian academicians, the preconditions for Papua are clarification on the history of Papua’s integration, investigating human rights violations and bringing to trial the perpetrators, a fair trial for Papuans “convicted” for involvement in separatist actions, eliminating Papuan marginalization, and improving the welfare of Papuans.
Does the government have the political will to deal with these preconditions in a timely manner? Let’s say Papuan integration is final and not considered a topic which needs further discussion; there are still other preconditions which are seemingly manageable to be sorted out.
To conclude, we could say that the current instability and chaos in Papua is the price that the government must pay for neglecting or even underestimating the complexity of the problems in Papua. The government and other stakeholders need a breakthrough and not treating Papua just as business as usual to restore peace and order.
One possible solution is bringing onto the discussion table a third party negotiator, whether a prominent national or international figure who is trusted and respected by the Papuans.
The government should not be paranoid about bringing international parties, especially when it is clearly stated beforehand that a referendum in not an option and the history of integration is final. Another solution is again making more serious efforts to meet the preconditions for Papua mentioned earlier. These are indeed urgent tasks to help avoid further disruptions in Papua.
The writer is a researcher at the Department of Politics and International Relations, Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Jakarta.