Researcher at the Marthinus Academy, Jakarta
Trust is the most crucial factor for a state dealing with regional dissatisfactions that turn to conflict. And the absence of this vital prerequisite for constructive engagement is clear to see when there have been no truly genuine and consistent efforts to build it.
Trust, or the lack thereof, is a significant challenge faced by the newly appointed coordinating political, legal and security affairs minister, Wiranto.
Since President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo selected the former New Order general Wiranto to replace another retired general, Luhut B. Pandjaitan, as chief security minister, one long overdue matter to be immediately addressed is the Papua problem.
Two prominent issues so far are the internationalization of the Papua issue across the South Pacific under the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG); and the unresolved human rights issues and serious underdevelopment in Papua.
Those two issues were addressed by Luhut during the past two years, but there are no obvious signs that results have been forthcoming. A key concern is that Wiranto will take the same stance as his predecessor.
The Papuan international campaign has been massive in the last decade, particularly in the South Pacific. Nonetheless, for years the government has not adopted any comprehensive strategy to deal with the issue. In contrast to the South China Sea dispute, internationalization of the Papua issue has attracted little public discussion.
During his short tenure as a coordinating minister, Luhut made certain efforts to deal with the internationalization of the Papua issue.
His last visit to Papua and trips to England and Australia clearly sent a message not only for the central government and Papuans, but also for the international community.
Yet such efforts have had little effect on Melanesian communities in the South Pacific, the main supporters of an independent “West Papua”.
To contain the international campaign for Papua in the South Pacific, Luhut traveled to Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Fiji, two proponents of Indonesia’s “internalization” of the Papuan issue.
Using economic diplomacy, specifically ad hoc economic assistance and bilateral agreements, the primary objective was to defuse the Papua issue in the Pacific — particularly thanks to the United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP), which was granted observer status in the MSG in 2015.
In exchange for Jakarta’s support, PNG and Fiji successfully contained ULMWP’s lobbying to attain full membership status at the MSG meeting last month in Honiara, Solomon Islands, and they will make a similar effort at the MSG Meeting next month in Port Villa, PNG. The whole objective of such efforts is to keep the Papua issue on the sidelines in the South Pacific region.
The other three members of MSG, namely the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and the Kanak National Socialist Liberation Front, are in favor of the West Papua campaign. Melanesian communities tend to sympathize with the struggle of Papuans.
Wiranto is unlikely to pursue a different path. As a former military commander who dealt with regional disputes in the early days of Reformasi, there is little chance for a breakthrough on the internationalization of the Papua issue.
The defensive diplomacy of the past, and its concomitant denials of the human rights violations that brought Papua to international attention, will seemingly remain the prominent approach.
Another prominent agenda item during Luhut’s short period was addressing human rights violations in Papua. Accordingly, he formed a special task group to discuss and find solutions to the issue.
This group comprises officials, human rights activists and Papuan figures. Three cases have been categorized as human rights violations and received much attention: the Wasior incident in 2001, the Wamena incident in 2003 and the Paniai shooting in 2014.
The inclusion of only these cases has drawn criticism from Papuans, since many past human rights cases have been overlooked.
Among the incidents that have been deliberately ignored by the government are the massacres in the 1970s, including a military operation in 1977-1978 that cost many indigenous lives, and a dozen shootings in various cities in Papua.
The Third Papuan’s People Congress in Jayapura in 2011 has also been off the government’s radar.
The three cases chosen by the task group have another shortcoming, which is the most important one: the lack of the perspective of the victims, particularly Papuans who have been treated unfairly by security forces.
There is not sufficient room for victims’ families to counter the arguments of the security apparatus, which has often labeled Papuans as separatists simply because they expressed their political and cultural rights in public.
This omission is amplified by the government’s resistance to holding a dialogue to discuss Papua’s issues more comprehensively, from historical to environmental problems.
Furthermore, Wiranto with his negative reputation on human rights, such as the incidents in East Timor in 1999, will hamper his ministerial performance and programs to deal with gross human rights violations in Papua.
Wiranto was closely related to the Biak Massacre in July 1998, which claimed over 100 Papuan lives, when he was the armed forces commander and defense minister. His reputation contrasts with the long-overdue spirit of reform needed to deal with human rights issues in Indonesia’s easternmost region.
The appointment of Wiranto is another sign of the Jokowi administration’s unwillingness to comprehensively address the sensitive problems in Papua, rather than its standard sole reliance on development programs.
The President’s unwillingness will be perceived as another half-hearted gesture by most Papuans and will exaggerate the problem of trust between Papuans and Jakarta.
The writer is a researcher at the Marthinus Academy, Jakarta.
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