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Jakarta Post

Editorial: Beyond Oxford

  • The Jakarta Post

    The Jakarta Post

  /   Wed, May 15, 2013   /  11:21 am

Support the President, scholars said, in a rare statement supporting President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. In an open letter to Australia'€™s Foreign Minister Bob Carr, the scholars from campuses across Australia urged their government '€œto publicly support President Yudhoyono'€™s willingness for a peace dialogue with Papuans as a way to find a peaceful solution'€ in the long term for Papua.

Their letter followed the April 30th shooting of civilians that left two dead and three others injured during preparations to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the transition of power from the UN Temporary Executive Administration to Indonesia on May 1, 1963.

The incident served to highlight the many cases in which civilians have been shot, the latest late Saturday when a drunk man was shot dead, reportedly in self defense, by a soldier. The man was one of several who had demanded money from a group of soldiers. It seems to have been an unfortunate occurrence but then it is increasingly difficult nowadays to differentiate between such incidents involving security personnel in Papua.

The above two incidents add to the 2013 list, with at least five other cases since February alone. Activists have said this was the most severe warning of the government'€™s lack of response to calls for real dialogue.

Jakarta'€™s reaction to the opening of a '€œFree Papua Movement'€ (OPM) office in the British city of Oxford on April 28 was predictably much stronger than any response to the daily conditions in the easternmost provinces, where citizens have said they do not feel safe. Violence is not limited to remote areas, Papuans in the cities have also said they fear for their children'€™s safety.

The vast province is not entirely dangerous. It has just become harder to predict where a single armed soldier or policeman might be driven to pull the trigger.

Rumor is rife and some say residents are prone to exaggeration, as is only to be expected in the absence of reliable sources of information. Echoing earlier demands the scholars called for the protection of local journalists and human rights workers in monitoring and reporting the human rights situation in Papua.

Improving daily conditions and strengthening efforts for dialogue should be the priority '€” as beyond Oxford the international Papuan lobby will continue its campaigns. These campaigns stepped up after Jakarta showed no intention of dialogue on mutually agreed terms, perhaps gaining confidence that supporting separatist aspirations is no longer an international fad.

But learning from Timor Leste and Aceh, Jakarta cannot continue to rely on security personnel or even loads of cash to keep a population quiet.

Local leaders share much of the blame for problems such as corruption. But Papuans also say they grow up with the impression that they are inferior to the other ethnicities now swarming their cities and who profit most from the resources and income opportunities.

Add the experience of being suspected of treason and testimony of torture, and this becomes similar to the resentment of the Acehnese and Timorese. Here then is fertile ground for rebellion, the only constraint being the reportedly still far from solid leadership of the freedom movement.

It is Jakarta, and not the international lobbyists, which is not providing enough incentive for Papuans to feel they belong to the nation.

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