Papuans Don’t Understand What They Really Want, Ministers Claim

If the broad autonomy accorded to Papua had not raised the region’s prosperity it was the local authorities’ fault, government ministers said on Tuesday.

The comments came on the heel of massive protests in Papua last week that demanded a referendum on self-determination and claimed the special autonomy handed to the region in 2001 had failed.

“In Papua there are people demanding freedom from Indonesia,” Justice and Human Rights Minister Patrialis Akbar said.

“Actually, they don’t really understand that what they really want is good welfare. In fact, we have sent Rp 30 trillion [$3.3 billion] to Papua.”

The coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, Djoko Suyanto, said it was not up to Jakarta to monitor the region’s special autonomy status.

“If there are funds for the region that have not been disbursed, that is the work of the governor and the DPRP to supervise,” Djoko said, using the acronim for the Papua Legislative Council.

Djoko said that trillions of rupiah had been sent to develop the region, making Papua the largest single recipient of special autonomy funds.

The coordinating minister said that last week he had met twice with representatives of the DPRP and the Papuan People’s Council (MRP) to discuss the calls for a referendum in Papua.

“They have stated what they need to say and we also stated our standing position,” he said.

Salmon Yumame, who heads the United Papua People’s Democracy Forum (Fordem), said that despite the introduction of special autonomy, Papuans remained marginalized.

“The special autonomy with its trillions of rupiah has never touched the lives of our people,” Salmon said.

“Those who enjoy the money are only the elite and bureaucrats,” he added.

Salmon said that special autonomy did not protect or benefit Papua’s native people and that there was a need for the policy to be evaluated.

“In the nine years since special autonomy was given, it has never been evaluated,” he said.

Salmon said that the special status given to the region had failed to raise the dignity of the Papuan people and that the MRP had seen its decisions ignored.

He said that despite the council’s recommendation that heads and lawmakers in Papua be native to the region, many were appointees from outside.

Fordem’s secretary general, Benny Giay, said that another problem giving rise to dissatisfaction in Papua and therefore fueling the demand for a referendum was the wide economic gap between natives and migrants in the region.

“There are also problems of the basic needs and rights of the Papua people, such as education and health, which are not being fulfilled by the government,” Benny said. “This reality has forced some of Papuan people to ask for a referendum.”

He said migration to Papua from other parts of the country should be halted. Benny accused the government in Jakarta of being arrogant and failing to ensure special autonomy in Papua was really implemented.

Discontent in Papua has been fueled by what local people perceive as the siphoning off of the region’s natural resources by non-Papuans and the alleged human rights violations in the region committed in the name of national security.

Source: Jakarta Globe

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