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Rabu, 22 Mei 2013

Indonesia’s Missteps in Papua Fuel Foreign Support for the Push for Independence

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Penangkapan Aktivsi Papua

Recently, a journalist in Papua asked me the question, “Do you support the opening of the Free West Papua campaign office in Oxford?” The question seems simple but in fact, it’s tricky.

It’s simple because it only requires a short “yes or no” answer. But I am more concerned about the tricky side: my answer will reflect whether I am pro-Papuan independence or pro-Indonesian territorial integrity. If it is the former, I will be labeled a separatist by the state, and if it is the latter, I will be considered irrational and lacking a sense of humanity regarding the situation in Papua.

As an academic, I think a different question needs to be asked. Instead of a yes/no question, I prefer a “why” question. So the interesting question is, why was the Papua campaign office opened, and why is there now growing international solidarity for the West Papua freedom campaign?

I have a couple of responses, I told the journalist.

First, the security-dominant approach employed by the state results in the relentless shooting, arbitrary arrest and conviction of Papuan political activists. This raises the concern of the international community. And if this approach continues, more sympathy will flood to Papua not only from states but also from non-state actors.

Furthermore, that approach will not deter the Papuan people from demanding their freedom. Rather, it will fuel a stronger sense of nationalism among Papuans and damage government goodwill to develop Papua.

The detention by Jayapura Police of the chairman of the National Committee of West Papua, Victor Yeimo, along with three other activists who took part in a demonstration against police violence is a case in point. Yeimo said, as quoted by local outlet, that the police shut down the rally as part of the continued suppression of freedom of expression in Papua, and that it will not deter the Papuan people from peacefully voicing their aspirations. In principle, they will not give up, Yeimo said.

The recent deadly police shooting of demonstrators in Aimas, Sorong, and the detention of Yeimo and others during a rally to protest those killings, raises concern from the international community. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay in a public statement said that recent incidents in Papua are “unfortunate examples of the ongoing suppression of freedom of expression and excessive use of force in Papua.”

Similarly, academics and researchers in an open letter to Bob Carr, Australia’s minister of foreign affairs, condemned what they described as atrocities in Papua, and urged the minister to request the Indonesian government to hold state perpetrators of violence to account.

In responding to rallies, the security apparatus should seek to manage the demonstration, not undertake suppressive, coercive and brutal acts. Such measures should be taken only if demonstrators engage in acts of violence causing death or material destruction.

Second, I said in reply to the journalist, the government concentrates on first-track (intergovernmental) diplomacy but forgets to counter second-track (public-focused) diplomacy. In the case of Papua, second-track diplomacy is growing strongly and enjoys considerable support from non-state actors and Melanesian countries.

The Indonesian government has received assurances from Britain that it respects the territorial integrity of Indonesia amid calls for Papuan independence. While that may be true at the moment, the world is ever-changing and politics is unpredictable — today’s friend can be tomorrow’s enemy.

Human rights violations, torture, arbitrary killing and detention in Papua may become a political excuse for Western governments to reconsider their commitment to upholding Indonesia’s integrity.

The government has failed to ensure it approaches both state and non-state actors to persuade them to reject the freedom campaign.

Restricting international journalists and human rights workers from accessing Papua demonstrates this failure. Instead of banning them, the government could cooperate with them to promote peaceful dialogue and efforts to bring prosperity amid special autonomy.

With this approach, the international community, both state and non-state actors, will trust the Indonesia government, and sympathy for the Papuan freedom campaign will gradually wane.

Looking at the situation through the lens of international relations theory, the Indonesian government is employing a neo-realist approach, believing that states are the only key actors in world politics, and that threats come mainly from other states.

Cooperation with non-state actors receives less attention — and this is dangerous for promoting democracy in the country. The Indonesian government needs to change its policy to include non-state actors in its efforts to promote its territorial integrity.

Petrus K. Farneubun is a graduate of the Australian National University and teaches at Cenderawasih University in Jayapura.

Publikasi di : The Jakarta Globe News

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