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Activists and rights campaigners have called on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to use his visit to Papua next month to initiate a dialogue with all members of the Papuan community to find a lasting solution to tension in the country’s easternmost province.
An activist with the Papuan Peace Network, Theo Hesegem, said the only way to end the violence in Papua was by holding a comprehensive dialogue with all stakeholders ranging from local businesspeople, local administrations, indigenous communities and members of rebel groups.
Theo added that it was high time for the government to embrace members of the Free Papua Movement (OPM) in a dialogue for peace.
“It is corruption that is destroying Papua, not the OPM, which has been condemned as a separatist organization. The central government has intentionally nurtured corrupt practices throughout the country, including in Papua, by not doing anything about it,” Theo said.
He said the OPM and other noted figures, including Theys Hiyo Eluay and Mako Tabuni, had struggled against corruption, which had caused injustice to the people of Papua.
Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) researcher Muridan Widjojo said the OPM had been used as a shield for the government’s incompetence in administering the province.
“The OPM has conveniently been used as a scapegoat for the government’s reluctance to uphold justice [in Papua]. This has only nurtured respect for the movement among Papuans, who view the OPM as a kind of messiah who will one day deliver them from injustice,” Muridan said.
Muridan also called on the government to work harder to end the cycle of violence in Papua or risk dealing with the growing popularity of the OPM.
“Papuans name their children after local rights heroes, such as Mako Tabuni or Theys Hiyo Eluay. It’s the way Papuans deal with all the discrimination and injustice they have suffered. Both of them died but their spirits live on,” Muridan said.
Theys was killed by members of the Army’s Special Forces (Kopassus) on Nov. 10, 2002. Mako, meanwhile, was killed in an ambush by police in June of this year.
Separately, Poengky Indarti of human rights watchdog Imparsial said that Yudhoyono, whose term is due to expire in 2014, was burdened with the task of overseeing the peace process in Papua.
“The President has publicly said that his government is open for dialogue to discuss development in Papua. I think this is the right time for him to do that because soon he will be preoccupied with the 2014 legislative and presidential elections involving his Democratic Party,” Poengky said over the weekend.
She said dialogue was now even more urgent, given the Indonesian government’s refusal to adopt recommendations to promote human rights in Papua, as suggested by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) at its quadrennial Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva, Switzerland in May.
The UNHRC asked Indonesia to adopt several recommendations on Papua, including to end the impunity enjoyed by members of the security forces who commit human rights violations in the province; to release all Papuans who have been detained for publicly expressing their aspirations; and to ensure free access for foreign journalists to Papua and West Papua.
The government is due to raise special autonomy funding for Papua to Rp 4.3 trillion (US$450.5 million) next year from this year’s Rp 3.10 trillion, and to Rp 1.8 trillion for West Papua from this year’s Rp 1.33 trillion.