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Jakarta Post

Papua priority

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    The Jakarta Post

  /   Fri, October 21, 2016   /  07:15 am
Papua priority Breakthrough policy -- President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo (center) talks to journalists about the government's One Fuel Price policy during his visit to Yahukimo, Papua, on Tuesday. (Courtesy of the Presidential Office/Rusman)

The latest visit by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo raises both hope and worry. Can he win over the hearts and minds of people in Papua and West Papua? He certainly is trying — by improving traditional markets, inaugurating power facilities and eliminating the wide price gap of fuel compared to other areas in the country.

Jokowi’s new “one fuel, one price” policy, however controversial and difficult, should serve as an example of the President’s commitment and his clear leadership in demanding that his policy is supported.

Although state-run oil company Pertamina will have to cough up subsidies estimated at an annual Rp 800 billion (US$61.53 million) to end soaring fuel prices in Papua, what’s important, Jokowi insisted, was “[…] justice for all Indonesians”.

Papuans would certainly hope that this presidential wish and clear understanding of their sense of injustice applied beyond their neglected needs of fuel and infrastructure. Justice for all includes an end to what Papuans say is general stigma toward them as either being separatists, incompetent or both. This underlying attitude, they say, leads to discrimination and suspicion against Papuans voicing any sign of dissent, which leads to dangerous accusations of treason.

Therefore, like his new fuel policy, Jokowi needs the full support of his government, the military and police in ending that stigma, which has served to justify violence in the hunt for separatists and hurting innocents in the process, often fatally.

Society’s attitude that such violence is rightly targeted at suspected rebels has immensely contributed to continued impunity and repeated abuses. As a result, earlier arrests of protesters in Papua cities, Jakarta and Yogyakarta, for instance, have led to accusations that Indonesia is surely a free and democratic country – except for Papuans voicing their grievances.

The government must also ensure serious follow up in relation to the team tasked to resolve human rights abuses in Papua by the end of the year. The team was set up by Jokowi’s former security chief minister Luhut B. Pandjaitan.

Despite billions of rupiah poured into Papua, the President, who has just served two years, bears the legacy of past failures to address Papuans’ sense of discrimination and Jakarta’s obliviousness to human rights abuses against them, even with the Papua Special Autonomy Law. These factors have contributed to today’s louder international campaign against Jakarta regarding Papua.

Our diplomats’ splendidly articulated thrashings of criticism of our alleged continued neglect and abuse and/or discrimination of Papuans won’t work, as long as those grievances are not perceived to be seriously addressed by Papuans.

Australia’s statements that an independent Papua is not in its best interest has boosted our confidence on the world stage — but it doesn’t wash with Papuans who say they are not getting enough decent jobs compared to migrants, for instance, or still don’t feel safe amid security personnel hunting suspected rebels.

President Jokowi now can repeat, loudly and clearly, that he wants dialogue with all stakeholders, mainly his citizens from Papua.

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