Gus Dur’s Legacy Praised by Papuan Leaders

Bintang Papua, 4 January 2010

Secretary-General of the Presidium Dewan Papua (Papuan Presidium Council), Thaha M A, Hamid has spoken in praise of the contributions made by former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid, affectionately known as Gus Dur, (who died on 30 December) in helping to bridge the differences of opinion between various Papuan groups, as a way to help resolve the problems there.

‘Gur Dur was able to resolve the political disagreements between Papuans in 2000 by helping promote a dignified resolution, bringing to an end the anarchy in the relationship between the people and the security forces;’ said Thaha in Jayapura.

The Papuan people needed the advice and leadership of Gus Dur in resolving the political and social problems, both vertical and horizontal, that had emerged.’

He gave as an example Gus Dur’s decision to respond to the aspirations of the Papuan people in 2000 by granting permission for the holding of the Grand Consultation or Papuan Congress in that year.

‘The Papuan Congress was the political forum for the Papuan people to give expression to their aspirations, after being forced to remain silent under the previous governments. By allowing this event to be held, Gus Dur revealed that he was in favour of pluralism while at the same time protecting the rights of minority groups that had until then been marginalised.’

‘Following the death of Gus Dur, I very much hope that another Indonesian leader will emerge to replace him and his special characteristics, particularly in giving political advice regarding matters relating to our nation.’

‘Furthermore, it was on 31 December 1999 that Gus Dur came to Jayapura to welcome the New Year, while at the same time restoring to us the name Papua, in place of ‘Irian Jaya’, the name given by President Suharto.

The name Papua was first mentioned in the Manifesto launched by the Papuan National Committee, which stated: ‘The name of our land is PAPOEA BARAT and our people’s name is PAPOEAN.’ This statement was published in the newspaper ‘Pengantara’ on 21 October 1961.

The Deputy Chairman of the Central Committee of the Majelis Muslim Papua (Papuan Muslim Council), Fadhal Alhamid said that Gus Dur had paid a great deal of attention to the problems in Papua, particularly during the time he served as Indonesia’s fourth president.

During Gus Dur’s presidency, the broadest possible freedom of assembly and expression was given to the Papuan people, in fostering their own identity,’ he said.

He said that Gus Dur was a national leader who devoted his attention to the aspirations of the Papuan people, as is evident from his decision to grant permission for the convening of the 2000 Papuan Congress, proving himself to be a pluralist, while defending the rights of a minority people.

He also granted permission for Papuan people to fly their own flag, the ‘Kejora’, alongside the ‘Red and White’ as the ethnic symbol of the people inhabiting the most easterly part of the country, which was formerly called Irian Jaya. ‘This was a courageous step by Gus Dur and a mark of his deep respect for the basic rights of the Papuan people, which had never before been recognised by any other president.’

This is why,’ said Fadhal, ‘the Papuan people feel his loss very deeply and hope that another national figure will emerge to match his charisma and leadership, in particular, in his ability to understand the social and political problems in Papua.’

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