Strategic leadership, policies can save Papua

By: Wibawanto Nugroho.* — TODAY’S critical situation in Papua is attributed to accumulative public policies that have been imposed on this richly endowed island for almost five decades. Acknowledging the root causes and implementing the right solutions are two daunting challenges.

The Indonesian jurisdiction of the island of Papua, which consists of Papua and West Papua provinces, is one of Indonesia’s largest islands and one of the world’s richest reserves for copper, uranium, gold and silver. But they are still the two provinces whose Human Development Index (HDI) is among the lowest in Indonesia — at least, looking at the socioeconomic quality of life there. According to the Central Statistics Agency, the two provinces combined contribute 2.1 per cent of Indonesia’s gross regional domestic product for oil and gas, and 2.2 per cent for the non-oil and gas sector.

The stepping down of Suharto and the new democratic era since 1998 has not solved degenerative politics in Papua. Until today, the Indonesian government is still struggling against serious insurgency movements that aim to separate Papua.

Papua is an obvious case where degenerative public policy is prevalent in a corrupt society exacerbated by weak law enforcement, weak democracy where transparency is hardly ever found, and conditions in which powerful parts of society disproportionately supersede other parties in many respects.

Degenerative politics have placed political elites, business communities and the central government as the powerful stakeholders (powerful and positively constructed). Papua’s local indigenous people, however, have become dependents (positively constructed as “good” people but relatively needy or helpless, who have little or no political power).

Papua’s local insurgents are deemed deviants and groups of reformers who aim to reform Papua economically, politically and socially are considered the contenders.

Looking ahead, Indonesia obviously needs strong and strategic leadership that knows how to implement at least five main objectives through a strategically overarching model of engagement.

FIRST, Indonesia needs a strategic leader who can acknowledge the bias and weaknesses within the government, including those of previous governments;

SECOND, the president, as commander-in-chief and a strategic leader, needs to be open-minded and accommodative towards diverse perspectives held by various stakeholders;

THIRD, the president, along with other policy stakeholders, needs to approach and solve problems in Papua from an overarching perspective using historical and innovative approaches coupled with the courage to take risks;

FOURTH, the endgame state of solving the issues in Papua must bring degenerative politics to an end; and,

FIFTH, the government needs to formulate and exercise an overarching, entire-governmental campaign to deal both with the provinces’ root issue — degenerative politics — and current symptoms.

At an operational level, the government needs to engage in five interconnected measures.

THE FIRST is psychological engagement to truly win the hearts and minds of the people in Papua;

THE SECOND is law enforcement to deal with any abuse of power, including the allegation of mismanaged funding allocations from 2002 to 2010 as reported by the Supreme Audit Agency;

THE THIRD is public diplomacy to win support from domestic and international stakeholders, accompanied by a set of real actions in order to gain credibility and trust;

THE FOURTH measure is counter-insurgency (COIN) engagement in order to neutralise separatist movements. COIN must be a combination of offensive, defensive and stability operations. The government also needs to trace and halt any financial support for Papua’s separatist movements; and,

THE FIFTH measure is the acceleration of economic development that is truly based on a well-designed platform of public policy so that the government can ensure that degenerative public policies are not implemented in the future; and development in its widest sense — economic, social and political — takes place in Papua.

Having succeeded in this strategic and overarching engagement, the government will be well in advance of the separatist movements, whose main components consist of mass bases, united fronts, political warfare, armed wings and international support.

The endgame state of any engagement in Papua must be strategic and overarching in order to create a lasting peace and sustainable development.

The critical success factor to achieve this goal is to think and act strategically: Indonesians must be honest with ourselves, understand our past mistakes, clearly acknowledge the real problems, address the underlying causes — not merely act as a fire extinguisher to treat the perennial symptoms — and dare to take risks and adopt innovative ways to solve the chronic problems. It’s time for Indonesians to think clearly and act for Papua. If we fail to save Papua, the country’s national security will be in peril.

* Wibawanto Nugroho is PhD Fulbright presidential scholar at the GMU School of Public Policy in Washington DC.

Source: New Strait Times

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