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Honour And Truth In West Papua

By: Bramantyo Prijosusilo, a poet, living in Jogja.

The horrific murder of Papuan leader Mr. They Hiyo Eluay shocked the world but the procrastinating process in finding the culprits was expected by many. Inspector General Made Mangku Pastika’s men from the Irian Jaya Police have investigated the case thoroughly but cannot declare their suspects for political reasons. However, the people of the troubled province know for certain that between the point of Mr. Eluay’s abduction and the place where his body and car were found, there are numerous military check points and no one can pass in the dark without being thoroughly searched. This fact should make the investigation of the murder an easy task, and people are waiting for the Indonesian government to act in an honourable way and bring those guilty to justice. However, in Indonesia, justice never comes easy and honour has long been scarce. Papuan leaders and people are suspicious of Jakarta’s motives towards them, even though ex-president Mr! . Abdurrahman Wahid gave financial support for their Congress in 2000.

Mr. Moses Weror was an Indonesian diplomat in the 1960 Indonesian delegation to the UN, but since 1971 has been living in exile in Papua New Guinea. Although he attended the Congress, he does not trust Jakarta’s intentions in his homeland: "Wahid financially supported the Congress so that he could see who were the leaders of the Free Papua movement, and what strategies they had. Now the people of Papua are suffering the consequences."

One of the mandates given to the Presidium of the Papua Council (PDP) was to "straighten out the history of Papua" meaning, to challenge the narrative that has been put forward by Jakarta since the days of the first President Sukarno, mainly that the people of Papua actually chose in a fair referendum to unite with the Republic of Indonesia. The truth is that ever since the region became an Indonesian province the people of Papua have experienced more oppression and humiliation than brotherly love. "Development" there has primarily been in the interest of the multinational companies like Freeport McMoran, most often with complete disregard to the sensibilities and the needs of the local population. Many Papuans feel cheated by Jakarta. That is why Megawati’s visit in year 2000 was met by demonstrations and that is also the probable reason why she has been putting off her visit scheduled to be at the end of last year. Defense Mi! nister Mr. Matori Abdul Jalil told detikcom that she will visit the province in mid January, but it is difficult to imagine that the problems in Papua will have been ironed out by then and that she will receive a warm welcome. People like Mr. Weror, because of their bad experiences in the past, actually suspect that she had knowledge of or even ordered the terrible assassination of Mr. Eluay.

Mr. William Sawaki from the Waropen tribe of the North Coast, is a lawyer in Jakarta and he sees that there could be positive things arising from a Presidential visit to West Papua. "She should come as a mother, with open arms and an open heart and listen to the people of Papua. If she can solve the murder of Mr. Eluay she might be able to build some trust. There are good aspects in the new autonomy laws, but the unsolved murder of Mr. Eluay has all but locked the doors of dialogue." However, the most important issue to be discussed is actually the history of Papua, not merely the murder of Mr. Eluay. Jakarta must have the wisdom and courage to acknowledge that there was much politicking behind the scenes involved in the process that brought West Papua to become part of Indonesia, and that the people of West Papua were not really properly consulted in the matter at all, as things were firstly decided in New York between Indonesia, Holland and the United ! States. It is important to note that there was no representative from West Papua in the historic "Youths Oath" (Soempah Pemoeda) in 1928 Batavia, which is one of the most important bases of Indonesia’s nationhood. Therefore, an independent state of West Papua need not be seen as a violation towards Indonesia’s territorial integrity, just as an independent East Timor has not hurt Indonesia’s territorial integrity, but rather has relieved Indonesia from the burden of continuos lying about the 1975 integration / annexation. One might look to the independence of India, Malaysia, and even Indonesia for examples. These nations became independent without, in the long run, harming the territorial integrity of Great Britain of Holland.

Chairman of the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) Amien Rais told Tempo News Room that Mrs. Megawati’s government should implement the new Autonomy Bill passed by Parliament last October as soon as possible, before the next scheduled Papuan Congress in March. "So that there is proof that there need not be a referendum or demands for independence any more." Although he also calls for dialogue in settling the matter of West Papua, his statement actually blocks the doors of dialogue because it disregards the mandate given to the Presidium of the Papua Council formulated in its last congress: to organize for a referendum. How can there be dialogue if one side refuses to listen to the grievances of the other? West Papua has been victimized by Indonesia, not the other way round, so the honourable way out should be that Indonesia listens to the people of West Papua before Jakarta demands that Papuans listen to Indonesia.

The honourable and truthful path for Jakarta is obvious: Firstly, there must be a "straightening out of history" like the Presidium of the Papua Council want. This does not mean that there can only be one narrative, there can be several, but there must be the acknowledgement that each narrative has its own political agenda behind it. Secondly, there must be justice. All cases of state violence should be swiftly taken to court and solved satisfactorily, not only the cases of West Papua, but also all the cases in other parts of Indonesia. The fact that not one serious case of state violence has to date been solved properly in Indonesia is a cause of great dishonour to our nation and state. Thirdly, the new autonomy bill must be given not as a concession, but as the long neglected right of the people of West Papua.

If these three steps are taken swiftly, Indonesia will solve most of her problems, not only the question of West Papua. It does not guarantee that West Papua will not continue it’s secessionist path, but it does guarantee that whatever happens will happen peacefully and honourably. However, this rosy plot is virtually impossible to imagine, given the culture of state and state-craft in Indonesia. At least since the mass slaughter of members of the then legal Communist Party in 1965 and after, Indonesia has shown extreme difficulty in acting this honourably and truthfully. Therefore, it is safer to predict that the cancerous rot in Indonesia will continue to grow at the expense of the millions of "little people" who have always been at the mercy of the elite.


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