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The issues of Papua are truly complex social issues in which multidimensional aspects are involved. Today’s critical situation in Papua is attributed to accumulative degenerative public policies that have been imposed on this richly endowed island for almost five decades. Acknowledging the root causes and implementing the right solutions are two daunting challenges for us if we want to truly save Papua.
Degenerative public policy is a by-product of degenerative politics. Both are two sides of the same coin. In essence, degenerative public policy is a poorly designed policy whose outcome in society is degenerating in nature.
According to Schneider and Ingram (1997), such policy is made in a condition characterized by unequal distribution of political power, social construction separating the deserving from the undeserving, and an institutional culture legitimizing strategic, manipulative and deceptive patterns of communication and uses of political power.
The policy in this sense is framed accordingly to favor certain groups of people, since target populations in a society have different political power, access, resources and capabilities to construct social reality and narratives on which a policy-making system is based.
In other words, degenerative public policy is a policy that pessimistically suggests that underprivileged citizens will be targeted with policies that actually do little to help them, creating a vicious circle of degenerative politics. Generative public policies are often found in developing countries where natural resources are abundant.
The Indonesian jurisdiction of the island of Papua, which consists of Papua and West Papua provinces, is one of Indonesia’s largest islands and one of the world’s richest reserves for copper, uranium, gold and silver.
But, Papua and West Papua provinces are still the two provinces whose Human Development Index (HDI) is among the lowest in Indonesia – at least when we look at the general pattern of socioeconomic quality of life there; where, according to the Central Statistics Agency’s (BPS) 2011 Trends of the Selected Socioeconomic Indicators of Indonesia, the two provinces combined contribute 2.1 percent of Indonesia’s gross regional domestic product (GRDP) for oil and gas, and 2.2 percent for the non-oil and gas sector.
Thus, it can be argued that the stepping down of Soeharto and the embracing of a new democratic era since 1998 has not solved degenerative politics in Papua. Until today, the Indonesian government is still struggling against serious insurgency movements that aim to separate Papua from Indonesia’s jurisdiction.
Papua is an obvious case where degenerative public policy is prevalent in a corrupt society exacerbated by weak law enforcement, weak democracy where transparency is hardly ever found, and conditions in which powerful parts of society disproportionately supersede other parties in many respects.
As a result, degenerative public policies have generated four different kinds of separated society. Degenerative politics have placed political elites, business communities and the central government as the powerful stakeholders (powerful and positively constructed); Papua’s local indigenous people, however, have become dependents (positively constructed as “good” people but relatively needy or helpless, who have little or no political power); Papua’s local insurgents are deemed deviants (possessing virtually no political power and are negatively constructed as undeserving, violent, mean, and so forth); and groups of reformers who aim to reform Papua economically, politically and socially are considered the contenders (powerful but negatively constructed). Powerful stakeholders often view this group with suspicion.
Consequently, the accumulation of degenerative public policies in Papua has at least generated four main problems: distrust and misperceptions among local Papuans toward the central government, discrimination and marginalization in society, the unexpected outcome of special autonomy and an effect of trauma upon local Papuans who live with continual ongoing conflicts.
Looking ahead, Indonesia obviously needs strong and strategic leadership that knows how to implement at least five main objectives through a strategically overarching model of engagement.
First, we need a strategic leader who can acknowledge the bias and weaknesses within the government, including those of previous governments.
Second, the President, as commander-in-chief and a strategic leader, needs to be open-minded and accommodative toward diverse perspectives held by various stakeholders.
Third, the President, along with other policy stakeholders, needs to approach and solve problems in Papua from an overarching perspective using historical and innovative approaches coupled with the courage to take risks.
Fourth, the endgame state of solving the issues in Papua must bring degenerative politics to the end.
Fifth, the government needs to formulate and exercise an overarching, entire-governmental campaign to deal both with the provinces’ root issue — degenerative politics — and current symptoms.
At an operational level, the government needs to engage in these five interconnected measures by using all available instruments of national power: the economy, information, the military, intelligence, diplomacy, financial acumen and law enforcement; as well-crafted soft and hard power will generate the smart power required to deal with the daunting challenges of Papua.
The first measure is psychological engagement in order to truly win the hearts and minds of the people in Papua. The second measure is law enforcement in order to deal with any abuse of power, including the allegation of mismanaged funding allocations from 2002–2010 as reported by the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK). The third measure is public diplomacy in order to win the support from domestic and international stakeholders. However, good public diplomacy must be accompanied by a set of real actions in order to gain credibility and trust.
The fourth measure is counter-insurgency (COIN) engagement in order to neutralize separatist movements. An insurgency is not simply random violence; it is rather directed and focused violence aimed at achieving a political objective. Therefore, in its very nature, COIN must be a combination of offensive, defensive and stability operations (civil security, civil control, essential services, governance and economic infrastructure development). In addition to that, the government also needs to trace and halt any financial support for Papua’s separatist movements.
COIN is an extremely complex form of warfare. At its core, COIN is a struggle for the population’s support, so the protection, welfare and support extended toward the Papuan people are vital for its success.
The fifth measure is the acceleration of economic development that is truly based on a well-designed platform of public policy so that the government can ensure that degenerative public policies are not implemented in the future; and development in its widest sense: economic, social and political takes place in Papua.
Having succeeded in this strategic and overarching engagement, the government will be well in advance of the separatist movements whose main components consist of mass bases, united fronts, political warfare, armed wings and international support.
And last but not least, Sir Liddell Hart, the prominent British strategist, once argued that while the horizon of strategy was bounded by a war, grand strategy looked beyond the war to the subsequent peace. The endgame state of any engagement in Papua must be strategic and overarching in order to create a lasting peace and sustainable development.
The critical success factor to achieve this goal is to think and act strategically: be honest with ourselves, understand our past mistakes, clearly acknowledge the real problems, address the underlying causes — not merely act as a fire extinguisher to treat the perennial symptoms — and dare to take risks and adopt innovative ways to solve the chronic problems. “Who thinks wins”, and a winning nation is a thinking one. Now it’s time for us to think clearly and act for Papua. If we fail to save Papua, Indonesia’s national security will be in peril.
The writer is a PhD Fulbright presidential scholar at the GMU School of Public Policy and was an international fellow from Indonesia at the US National Defense University, Washington, DC in 2007. He currently resides in Washington, DC. The opinions expressed are his own.