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Peace ( by Voice of Baptist Papua)

Home » , , , » Linawati Sidarto's picture Map Papua and Indonesia: a troubled union

Linawati Sidarto's picture Map Papua and Indonesia: a troubled union

Written By Voice Of Baptist Papua on May 19, 2011 | 3:25 AM

Half a century after the United Nations endorsed the inclusion of western New Guinea into Indonesia, the region continues to be plagued by human rights abuses and a fractured yet persistent, insurgency movement. 
Late last year, Indonesia’s Papua province became headline news when a gruesome video posted on YouTube showed Indonesian soldiers torturing two Papuans. The video sparked domestic and international public outrage, but was unfortunately not surprising to Papuan residents.
“Papuans have no trust in the Indonesian government. Military violence and impunity only shows that Papua is still in a stage of conflict,” says Muridan Widjojo, senior researcher at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences LIPI.
Act of free choice?
When the Dutch formally relinquished power to Indonesia in 1949, it had retained control over western New Guinea, but Jakarta continued attempts to exert its power. In 1962 the US brokered talks between Jakarta and The Hague, resulting in the handover of the region to the UN, with the understanding that a referendum should be held by the end of the decade.

However, in 1963 Jakarta took control over West Papua. In the same year, the Free Papua Movement OPM emerged, demanding independence. In 1969, with the presence of UN representatives, Indonesia carried out the so-called Act of Free Choice. Instead of regular voting, some 1,000 people – largely believed to be handpicked by Jakarta – represented the Papuan population of around 800,000 and overwhelmingly casted their voice for Indonesia. The region became the province of Irian Jaya.
Roadmap to peace?
The main obstacle towards peace in Papua, Widjojo says, is the stubbornness of the extreme groups on both sides. “On the one hand there are the conservatives in the Indonesian government, for whom unity is worth any cost. And then there are the pro-independence groups, who continue to provoke Jakarta towards repression.”
Widjojo is part of the LIPI team who authored a so-called peace roadmap in 2009, which he says enjoys the support of moderate parties from both sides. Some concrete suggestions that came out of the roadmap are expected to be signed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono some time this year.
In its 2010 report, the International Crisis Group (ICG) stressed the importance of the road map starting “from the premise that Papuan grievances over discrimination, interpretations of history and identity, injustice and marginalisation have to be addressed,” albeit in the context of increased autonomy and not independence.
“Papuans must feel that they’re included in decision making processes. Historically, they have not been consulted in important decisions regarding their fate,” says Jim Della-Giacoma, South East Asia Project Director of ICG.
Indonesia-wide problem
Della-Giacoma stressed that impunity is a problem throughout Indonesia, not just in Papua. Referring to the public outrage that perpetrators of the torture video, tried in a military court, only received sentences of between eight and ten months for disobeying orders, he says: “Another problem is that the law on torture is very weak in Indonesia, as there is no sound legal basis to try people for such crimes.”
He added that a few years ago a bill which could have smoothed the way for soldiers to be tried in civilian courts “was never passed by parliament.”
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