Video on Alleged Human Rights Abuse in Papua

Have you seen the video regarding the alleged torture by the Indonesian military towards indigenous Papuans? You should. Afterwards come back and read the rest of this post.

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Link: TNI Violence towards Papuans

Have you seen the video above regarding the alleged torture by the Indonesian military towards indigenous Papuans? You should. Afterwards come back and read the rest of this post.

Incorporated in the 1960s, the western half of the island of New Guinea was ‘transferred’ by the Dutch to Indonesia, and was then renamed to Irian Jaya. Question would arise whether the Papuans themselves agree to become a part of Indonesia in the first place, but this is of course a sensitive issue because discussing about it publicly would make you look like you’re part of a separatist movement.

But let’s think with a clear head for a while.

The government have been sending troops to Papua in order to “silence” any separatist movements, and also sending a lot of transmigrants from Java to Papua, which resulted a high population growth of Papua in the 2010 census, compared to other regions in Indonesia. This is of course misleading, because the population growth is not depicting the number of indigenous Papuans, which has become less in numbers compared to the increasing numbers of ‘outsiders’.

Without a doubt, Papua is rich with natural resources: forests which are now at stake for the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) scheme; tremendous amount of biodiversity; and mineral resources – one of them is the Grasberg gold mine operated by Freeport, the largest taxpayer to the government. But answer me if you know this: why is Papua underdeveloped? Why is it hard for Papuans to get a good education? Why does it lack infrastructure?

Does it make sense if there’s a separatist movement from the Papuans?

Of course, to give some credit, they were given a special autonomy status. But the special autonomy law has not yet been translated into implementing regulations by the government, nor the local government in Papua. In short, it’s not working.

The government should nail down to the root cause of the separatist movements: inequality and development. If they manage to deal with this, there would be no need for violence and torture to silence these voices who are, in principle, just seeking for a better life.

7 thoughts on “Video on Alleged Human Rights Abuse in Papua”

  1. “The government should nail down to the root cause of the separatist movements: inequality and development. ”

    I suspect that you have fallen under the spell of the Indonesian government’s official version of history. The root cause of separatism is that Papua, like Timor-Lest in 1975, was forcibly integrated into Indonesia. So long as Indonesians persist in deluding themselves about the root cause of Papuan separatism, so long as Indonesians fail to admit the fundamental cause, the problem of Papua will persist. History has not all been like your government has told you.

    1. Argument taken, Mauricio. Thanks for pointing that out.

      I grew up like most Indonesians consuming history books in the classroom that taught us the discourse of the “Republic of Indonesia”, how Soeharto, to others outside of Indonesia might be sees as an expansionist, is able to “keep Indonesia together”. Only when I graduated and able to research on the internet that some of this, is in fact, not true.

      I am not sure, however, that “letting go” of Papua is a viable idea. It’s a political suicide, and who knows if other regions in Indonesia will follow suit. If it’s for the state interest, I believe the discourse on the “unity of Indonesia” will still be taught in classrooms, and any dissent on the separation from the Indonesian state will not be tolerated.

  2. Though I agree about the viability of an independent Papuan state, I would simply like to remind you and other Indonesians that your country was forcibly integrated into the Netherlands, not unlike the manner that Papua was integrated into Indonesia. The right to self-determination of all peoples, including Papuans and all other peoples of the archipelago, is enshrined not only in the UN Charter, but also in Indonesia’s very own constitution. Papuan separatists are only holding you, Indonesia, to your own words.

    If separatism were fueled by, as NRG07 claims, by inequality and underdevelopment, why do we not see separatism in most all of Indonesia?

    1. I sometimes feel like Indonesia is more like the “United Colonies of Netherland-Indies”, but this beats the logic of why Papua and East Timor was forcibly integrated in the first place.

      I promised myself to finish reading Benedict Anderson’s “Imagined Communities”, because my puzzle all this time is to define the concept of being an “Indonesian”. My assumption is, if you truly feel that you are a part of Indonesia, your sense of nationality will prevent you from ‘drifting away’ from the country.

      I’m torn, because as much as I support the right for self-determination, honestly I’m still indoctrinated by the sense of nationalism that Papua should still be a part of Indonesia. This is an honest opinion, and yet I’m fully aware that this is a very selfish remark. However, I fear that most Indonesians would agree with me.

      On the point of separatism in other parts of Indonesia, would you think that the decentralization system helps?

  3. Based on living and working here in Indonesia for close to a decade, I cannot but agree with you that, regrettably, most Indonesians are still indoctrinated by the sense of nationalism that Papua should still be part of Indonesia. They are still tied to the concept of harga mati of kesatuan Indonesia, even if that means that real Indonesians of flesh and blood suffer and die because of it. Ergo Indonesians are trapped in a mental trap of their own creation. Until and unless you convince yourselves that the aspirations of some Papuans in the present are not unlike the aspirations of Indonesian nationalists in the 1930s and 1940s, the issue of secessionism in Papua and elsewhere will not go away. Indonesia let Timor-Leste go, and Indonesia is the much the better for it.

    There are two main theories of why people rebel against the state. One, the liberal theory, says that it is about non-existant or poor governance, that is, that people rebel because the state is not providing the basic necessities of security, justice, livelihoods, etc. that a state is obligated to provide. This is not the case of Papua.

    The other theory says that in the formation of a state, and a singular nationalism (as opposed to the plural nationalism of other countries) there will always be winners and losers, people who feel part of fold and those who feel outside of it, people for whom allegiance and loyalty to the state is natural, and those who do not see the state as a representation of their national aspirations. This is closer to the case of Papua.

    Decentralization, and the often-erroneous assumption that decentralization leads to improved governance, has litte to offer in the way of remediating the second type of rebellion against the state.

    1. I’m wondering if this is out of topic, but would the second type be a case against the US war in Iraq and Afghanistan? Hence the reason that there’s so many resistance (and suicide bombers) is due to the US persistence in bringing ‘democratic values’ in these areas…apart from the so-called ‘war on terror’. Here’s the link: http://www.utne.com/Politics/Suicide-Bombers-Terrorism-Motivation-Foreign-Occupation.aspx

      Yes, decentralization would be futile for the second type that you argued. But theoretically it would be better suited for the first, no?

      Sorry for asking you too many questions. I do enjoy the discussion/debate as I learn from it during the process. I really appreciate you responding to it, though 🙂

  4. Yes, the second case now has a large component of the second type, though very few would say that the departure of the UN from Iraq and Afghanistan would immediately make the places more peaceful and secure.

    Decentralization has been the mantra in Indonesia since 1999. A decade later it is safe to say that it has not been, as a whole, a success. In fact, Home Minister G. Fauzi declared earlier this month that only 12% of the 205 autonomous regions established between 1999 and 2009 can be considered “successful”, and the rest were “problematic”. None of this is unexpected. Rather than tackling the tough issues, Indonesia went about creating autonomous regions almost indiscriminately. The path not taken then, and still not taken now, is a thorough and comprehensive reform of the state towards a view of elimination the state bureaucracy’s Achilles Heels:
    i.) Corruption
    ii.) Low capacity to plan and implement effectively and transparently

    One view of decentralization is that in many instances it was done not with the intent of improving local governance, but rather as a way of coopting and containing potentially adversarial political groups and as a way of political patronage.

    The moral of the story is this: A pastry chef who wants to bake a delicious cake should invest time in improving his skills and kitchen equipment, rather than by disguising unpalatable kue by slicing the cake into ever smaller pieces.

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