Dialogue vital to solve Papua conflicts: Rights activists

The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Mon, 09/14/2009 9:48 AM | National

Human right activists are urging the government to initiate a dialogue with representatives of various groups in Papua to find a peaceful solution to violence and separatism in the resources-rich province.

“A dialogue between the central government and the people of Papua would be a peaceful and effective way to stop violence and bloodshed in Papua,” Neles Tebay of the Jayapura Archdiocese said on Saturday.

The calls came after repeated attacks targeting US-based gold mine operator PT Freeport Indonesia in Mimika regency. A group of gunmen opened fire on a company bus on Saturday morning, injuring two men. It was the latest incident since armed attacks on the mine claimed three lives in July.

“The shooting incidents near Freeport gold mine I think have been perpetrated by a group of people who do not know how to address their problems,” Neles said, adding that frustration would easily trigger people to acts of violence.

A group of Papuan leaders, led by West Papua legislative council speaker Jimmy Demianus Ijie, asked Vice President Jusuf Kalla to mediate a dialogue between Jakarta and Papua to solve long-standing problems facing Papuan people.

The Papuan figures deemed Kalla suited to the job, thanks to his key role in restoring peace in Maluku, Poso in Central Sulawesi and in Aceh.

Neles said such a dialogue had been sought ever since Papuan leaders concluded in a congress in 2000 the need for a meeting between central government officials and Papuan representatives to cope with wide-ranging problems facing the local people.

The government enacted a law on special autonomy for Papua in 2001, which many considered a breakthrough to silence demands for separation from Indonesia. Eight years on, however, the separatist movement is still active and poverty and illiteracy remain a cause

for concern, despite the impressive Rp 30 trillion in special autonomy funds that has poured into the province.

Neles said Papuan people insisted on a direct dialogue with the central government as they deemed the provincial government to represent Jakarta.

“The governor does what the central government tells him,” he said.

Neles suggested that the separatist group OPM be invited to the dialogue in order to reach a true peace, similar to what happened in Aceh in 2005.

National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) member Yosep Stanley Adi Prasetyo said the rights body agreed to a plan to hold a national dialogue on Papua and would like to facilitate it.

“Various Papuan society groups have asked the Komnas to facilitate a dialogue,” he said, adding the

commission had lobbied the vice presidential office to arrange the dialogue.

“But Jusuf Kalla will soon relinquish his post as the vice president and I heard the vice presidential office will be dissolved,” so he expressed pessimism on the prospects for dialogue.

Stanley said the Papuan leaders demanded a direct dialogue with the central government because they were disappointed with the regional administration.

“No one doubts the capability and experience of Papua Governor Barnabas Suebu. Yet, he has not initiated a legal reform as mandated by the Special Autonomy Law,” he said. (mrs)

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