Yeremia, Carlos Paath & Markus Junianto Sihaloho
Newly elected Papuan Governor Lukas Enembe says he will form a special team to resolve conflicts and violence in the province as soon as he is inaugurated.
Lukas said in Jakarta on Tuesday that the team, expected to work during his first 100 days in office, will be people with vested interests to help take in different views on how to solve problems. Those problems, he says, have roots in high unemployment, poverty, underdevelopment — as well as in pro-independence and anti-government sentiment.
The governor-elect, who won the gubernatorial race by a landslide 52 percent earlier this month, also said the team will talk to the opposition as well as pro-independence groups such as the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI) to find common ground.
“I am sure that once I am in office, there will be a huge change in Papua. The team that will be formed will at least give a voice to our brothers who have opposing views with NKRI,” Lukas said.
Papua has seen a series of armed insurgencies since the 1960s, when the resource-rich province became part of Indonesia.
In the latest violence, a military convoy was ambushed, resulting in the death of eight soldiers and four civilians.
The central government has poured trillions of rupiah into the region since it declared it a special autonomy area in 2001. It disbursed Rp 28.5 trillion ($2.9 million) for Papua last year. However, many of the region’s residents remain poor.
Even the presence of US mining giant Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, which operates the world’s largest copper mine in Papua, could provide little help to the province where three of every 10 residents live in poverty.
According to the Central Statistics Bureau (BPS), the poverty rate in Papua was 31 percent as of September 2012, while in West Papua province it was 27 percent. More than 1.1 million people in the two provinces are living below the poverty line.
Lukas, who was in Jakarta to discuss the region’s expansion, said Papua’s problem is so complex that it goes beyond special autonomy as a solution.
He said the central government’s development policy was often not in line with regional implementation and the will of Papuans. He called on the government to closely monitor development in the region.
“So many policies have been implemented yet they are still not what the Papuans want or hope for. As long as Papua is still seen as a land to make profit, the problems here will not go away,” Lukas said, adding that state budgets for Papuan development were a ripe target for corruption.
Velix Wanggai, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s special adviser on regional autonomy and development, said that the key to developing Papua was keeping up intense communication with local leaders and public figures.
“The spirit of the special autonomy is balancing socioeconomic development,” he said.
Velix added that the government was constantly increasing its budget for Papua.
Meanwhile, calls for the president to visit Papua in order to assess the province for himself rather than leaving it to the military and other bodies, is mounting.
La Ode Ida, deputy chairman of the House of Regional Representatives, told the government to refrain from using a militaristic approach in handling the situation in Papua as it could make matters worse.
But military spokesman Rear Adm. Iskandar Sitompul said it had refrained from using force in an effort to gain public trust and reduce tension, warning that such moves have often been exploited by armed rebel groups to launch attacks against soldiers and civilians — as seen in the recent incident.
“They see us getting along with the Papuan [people] and they don’t like that,” he said, adding that the rebel group shot at the military because it was losing influence over locals.