The Jakarta Post
Presidential candidate Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo pledged on Thursday to open access to Papua and West Papua for foreign journalists and international organizations, if he was elected president.
'Why not? It's safe here in Papua. There's nothing to hide,' Jokowi said when asked whether or not he would allow access to the country's easternmost provinces for foreign reporters and campaigners.
For decades now, parts of Papua and West Papua - especially PT Freeport Indonesia's Grassberg mine - have been restricted to foreign journalists and international organizations.
As Jokowi arrived in Jayapura on his campaign trail, he went straight to the Prahara Sentani traditional market in Sentani, Jayapura regency, to greet local residents and market vendors.
Speaking before residents and reporters, he reiterated his commitment to develop Papua and West Papua, saying that the provinces 'are very important to Indonesia'.
'I have come back to Papua [...] to emphasize how important this province is to Indonesia. If I was only seeking votes, I could do that in Java. But this is not about votes; it's about giving attention to Papua,' he said.
Jokowi previously visited Jayapura in April while campaigning for the legislative election.
During his current visit, Jokowi introduced his priority programs for Papua, namely Indonesia Smart Card and Indonesia Health Card programs, inspired by the education and healthcare programs he developed when he became governor of Jakarta.
'All Papuans should be able to enjoy higher education,' he said.
Jokowi added that he also aimed to develop educational and economic infrastructure by developing traditional markets and building a rail-based transportation network to ease distribution.
Papua, despite the exploitation of its natural resources, still lags behind Java and Sumatra in terms of development.