Govt to step up socio-economic approach toward Papua

By: B Kunto Wibisono. Poverty and perceived injustices are believed to be among the problems triggering violence from time to time in Indonesia`s eastern most provinces of Papua and West Papua, which are resource-rich regions but among the least developed ones.

Eight years since the special autonomy status was given to Papua, poverty and backwardness still linger on until today.

Under Law No 21 of 2001 on Special Autonomy for Papua Province, the province is entitled to special funds equal to two percent of the national general allocation fund (DAU) ceiling, which is granted for a period of 20 years.

Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Hatta Rajasa reportedly said last year that until 2010, the government had allocated state budget funds amounting to Rp 22 trillion for Papua and West Papua – which is the highest state budget allocation compared to similar funds for the country`s other regions.

“The special autonomy funds are meant to accelerate development programs in Papua and West Papua. The government has indeed seen progress. The poverty rate has declined, but not significantly enough. It`s because of lack of support for the real sector,” Hatta said.

Following the escalation of violence in Papua lately, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has decided to establish a special unit called the Unit for the Acceleration of Development in Papua and West Papua (UP4B) to formulate improvement in the two provinces and to build constructive communications between central and regional administrations.

The UP4B was established because nearly US$3.2 billion of special autonomy funds disbursed for Papua and West Papua provinces since 2002 have failed to improve the local people`s welfare.

The team is headed by Lt Gen Bambang Darmono, a former commander for military operations in Aceh and also former secretary general of the National Defense Council. The UP4B will be based in Papua`s capital of Jayapura and work until 2014.

The UP4B is also assigned to supervise the use of special autonomy funds in the provinces, as well as to strengthen the budget`s control and evaluation system.

Supervision of the special autonomy funds utilization is crucial particularly because the government plans to increase the 2012 budget allocation for Papua by 23 percent. In the 2012 budget, the provinces of West Papua and Papua would receive Rp 1.64 trillion (US$186.96 million) and Rp 3.8 trillion, respectively; which are significant increases from this year`s budget, which allotted the two provinces Rp 1.33 trillion and Rp 3.1 trillion respectively.

Presidential spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha said in Jakarta recently that the President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono administration would prioritize a socio-economic approach to deal with the problems in Papua.

The head of state also instructed concerned ministers and officials to make sure that no violence would be used against Papua people, Julian said.

The president`s instruction regarding social-economic and non-violent approach toward Papua and West Papua is in accordance with recent appeals made by several parties including legislators and religious leaders in the country.

House of Representatives (DPR) Speaker Marzuki Alie said in Jakarta on Monday (14/11) that the problems in Papua must be addressed seriously and with concrete actions.

“Every problem (in Papua) needs serious handling, and not merely statements of concern. It needs concrete actions by the government,” Marzuki Alie said at the opening of a new House session period.

During the past one month, Papua had again come into the spotlight because of the occurrence of disturbing problems there, he said, citing at least three major issues developing in Papua, namely separatism, socio-economic gaps, perceived injustices and a conflict between the management of PT Freeport Indonesia and its employees.

The House Speaker said the UP4B set up under Presidential Regulation No 65/2011 must be given a chance to work effectively, and efficiently, and intensive communication must be done through dialogs to find solutions, he said.

Director of National Defense Institute (Lemhannas) Budi Susilo Supandji also urged the government to avoid using a military approach in managing Papua, suggesting that monitoring the implementation of special autonomy would be a good place to start.

“We must focus on using dialogues when dealing with these kinds of issues. A military approach is not an option yet,” Budi said as quoted by The Jakarta Post on Wednesday (09/11).

A similar appeal was also voiced by a church leader in Papua who urged the central government to immediately hold a dialog with the regional governments in Papua to reduce the recurring conflicts in the region.

“For now, there is nothing better than for central government officials to come to Papua and sit together with regional government officials to discuss the future of Papua,” Mgr Leo Laba, the Catholic bishop of Papua, said recently.

He said the central government had not been quite responsive so far towards problems in Papua, causing disappointment among part of the community in the region.

Meanwhile, NU (Nahdlatul Ulama) leader KH Said Aqil Siroj urged the government, including President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, to be physically present in Papua to resolve the problems there.

“The central government, including the president in person, should go there because he made many promises about welfare, justice,” said Said, chairman of the NU Central Executive Board (PBNU) recently.

To prevent the problems in Papua from dragging on indefinitely, the government must take quick, responsive, concrete and comprehensive steps. It should start by stopping all forms of violence, enforce the law, embrace the local communities, customary figures and also involve religious mass organizations, Said said.

In the longer run, the solution of Papua`s problems must be done within a larger framework of creating justice and upholding the dignity of the native population, he said.

The province`s special autonomy would only be meaningful to the local community if they also felt there was genuine justice, especially with regard to enjoying the fruits of the development of their province`s natural resources, respect for their human rights and their status as respectable Indonesian citizens, Said said.

Dialog between the central government and the local people was also recommended by the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM).

Nurkholis, Komnas HAM`s vice chairman for external affairs, expressed hope that the police, the National Defense Forces (TNI) and Papuans could refrain from committing further violence because such acts would hamper efforts to initiate a dialogue.

Responding to the calls for dialog with Papua`s people, President Yudhoyono said the government was always ready to hold dialog with all components in the framework of seeking solutions to the problems and improving the welfare of the people of Papua`s two provinces.

“The possibility of dialog between the central government and the people in Papua is wide open. We must hold a dialog, an open dialog to find the best solutions and options to Papua`s problems,” he said at the opening of a cabinet meeting (09/11).

In tackling the problems in Papua, the government was upholding three main principles in all its policies and working programs, he said.

The first principle was the Indonesian Unitary State (NKRI), the second, implementation of special autonomy in Papua and West Papua, and the third, acceleration of development in Papua and West Papua as a national priority, Yudhoyono explained.

“I would like to see you and all of us, both in the central and regional administrations, seriously implementing these policies based on the three principles,” he said.

“In view of that I have asked coordinating ministers and other ministers concerned and the head of UP4B (unit for acceleration of development for Papua and West Papua) to keep conducting consultation and communication with the Papuan regional government and the people in Papua and, if necessary, to go there to understand the core of the problems and see the real situation there and find the solutions,” he said.

He said there is a great difference between receiving reports in Jakarta on conditions or events in Papua and going there to observe conditions on the ground. As regards this limited cabinet meeting will discuss whatever you have done to assure that all agenda and programs are carried out well and political, security, legal, economic and people`s welfare programs are handled well,” he said.

Basically, all parties have agreed that Papua`s problems should not only be solved through approaches in the political, legal and security domains but also required efforts in the economic and people`s welfare fields.

Source: ANTARA News

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Filed under Development, Economy, Papua

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