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Papuan leaders have applauded President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s open-handed stance for dialogue over Papuan issues and urged him to put the statement into action.
Taha Al Hamid, the secretary-general of the Papuan Council Presidium (PDP) called for the establishment of a team to facilitate a dialogue between the central government and Papua administrations.
Neles Tebay, the chairman of the Papua Peace Network, pointed out the need to appoint figures with credibility acclaimed by international peers and integrity trusted by Papuan people.
“The team’s members should not necessarily be those from government institutions, bureaucracy or the Papuan Consultative Assembly (MRP). They must be figures with credibility and integrity,” Neles said in Jayapura on Saturday.
The team is expected to draw up the format, aims and mechanisms of the dialogue.
“The team will have to formulate what will be discussed in the dialogue. They must be proactive in efforts to represent aspiration from Papua and ensure Jakarta’s commitment,” Neles, who also serves as the rector of the Fajar Timur philosophy school in Abepura, said.
During his visit to the Indonesian Military Command Institute in Bandung on Friday, President Yudhoyono said he would welcome any initiative for a dialogue except those that intended to push for a referendum on independence.
“We can engage in dialogue to achieve progress on development, people’s welfare and justice. But there is no room for discussion about an [independence] referendum or the like,” he said in response to a question from a military cadet.
Neles said the president’s statement in Bandung augured well for dialogue on issues of development and social welfare.
“The President’s statement shows that a dialogue will be very likely. We have to appreciate the government’s open-handedness for any dialogue sought by Papuans,” he added.
Taha said that the government should show its political willingness to engage in dialogue.
“The mechanism of dialogue should be arranged, and only then should we talk about the discussion points in the dialogue,” he said.
In a bid to pursue accelerated development in the easternmost island, the government granted special autonomy status in 2001 to Papua, which later divided into the provinces of Papua and West Papua.
However, the effectiveness of special autonomy status has since been criticized as Papuans lag behind in many development areas and as deadly violence continues to haunt everyday citizens.
Neles and Taha agreed that the government should be seriousness in its inclination to participate in a dialogue, in order to restore trust in the government among Papuans.
Meanwhile, Indonesian human rights monitor Imparsial lamented the president’s statement on the referendum issue. “Shutting the door to a dialogue on a referendum is akin to shutting the door to peace in Papua,” Imparsial’s Poengky Indarti said.
She said stigmatizing opposition groups as “separatists” had allowed the military to justify their repressive measures.