http://www.economis t.com/blogs/ banyan/2010/ 04/growing_ violence_ papua_indonesias _easternmost_ province
Still searching for Papua's sunlit uplands
April 23rd 2010,
ONE of the joys of my job is that if I sidled up to my employers to suggest that a jaunt to the PapuanIndonesia, though still a young democracy, is admirably open about most of its affairs. The exception is Papua. The security apparatus ensures that the country's easternmost province remains a closed book. In Jakarta, foreigners—and journalists above all—are turned away before they can board the six-hour flight.highlands was in order, “off you go” is what they would say. Sadly, it’s not as simple as that.
Papua (first known as Dutch New Guinea, then West New Guinea and later Irian Jaya) is the glaring exception to Indonesia’s progress in tackling the explosion of ethnic, sectarian and separatist violence that only a decade ago threatened to tear the country apart. Today peace prevails in once strife-torn places such as Aceh, Ambon and Poso, along with a measure of reconciliation. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono can take a good chunk of the credit. But all this progress now serves mainly to highlight the failure of Indonesia’s approach to Papua, heavily militarised already and now seeing a fresh troop surge. Papuans’ resentment towards their overlords—first Dutch, later Indonesian—has been nourished for half a century, with much to justify it. Over the past year, it has been expressed in intensified violence. In particular, a number of fatal shootings have taken place around the giant Grasberg gold-and-copper mine, run by America’s Freeport-McMoRan. The hideous mine has long been a focus of discontent.
Much is murky about the upsurge in violence. Among other incidents, a cult group seized a government airstrip. Its leader claimed the strip to be the site on which the “Great General” Jesus had ordered her to create the Kingdom of Heaven. For a fuller understanding of the murk, I recommend a recent report by the International Crisis Group which can be found here.
A chief factor behind the violence, it is clear, is the recent radicalisation of a group of Papuan university students, past and present, from the central highlands. This group, along with many Papuans, questions the legitimacy of the Act of Free Choice, supervised by the United Nations in 1969, that brought Papua into the Indonesian republic. Student frustration has grown over the fact that peaceful methods have brought no progress towards a review of the act, while state repression and abuses of human rights continue. Meanwhile, the students have strengthened contacts with the Free Papua Movement, whose guerrilla commanders have for decades conducted a low-level insurgence from the remoter reaches of the highlands.
Many Papuans believe that independence or at least self-determination can only happen if their cause is given international prominence. And indeed some Western politicians set up a support group, International Parliamentarians for , in 2008. Violence around the time of Indonesian elections last year was probably the doing of the students, with the intention of highlighting the Papuan crisis. Some part of the Free Papua Movement is thought to be behind the killings last year and this on the road to the mine, in which foreign mineworkers have died as well as Indonesians. But to add to the murk, parts of the paramilitary forces that guard the mine are also suspected. This is far from proven. But their motive might be that heightened insecurity could easily lead to lucrative new contracts from the mine-owners.
Back in Jakarta, officials say the government is getting a bad rap over Papua. They say it has poured investment in, bringing measurable improvements in infrastructure, health and education. On the political front, it has guaranteed that nearly all positions of government, from the governor down, go to locals rather than to Indonesians from further west, a process known as “Papuanisation”. Democracy and decentralisation, officials say, applies as much to Papua as to anywhere in Indonesia.
Juwono Sudarsono , defence minister until last year, gives a rather subtle justification of the army’s role. It is not just that the army helps keep the country together while democracy puts down roots. In Papua, he says, the contribution is material, in the form of road- and bridge-building and other assistance to rural folk. Most important, the army (particularly its younger officers) plays a crucial conciliatory role in what Mr Sudarsono claims is Papua’s chief conflict: a fight over resources and political power between Papuan highlanders and lowlanders. Military officers as anthropologists, mediating among myriad tribal groups; Mr Sudarsono paints a not entirely unconvincing picture.
Elsewhere the signs are that the authorities’ handling of separatist violence is better, ie, less dogmatic and iron-fisted, than once it was. Arrests are still made on the flimsiest of evidence, much of it still coerced from illiterate innocents. But at least there are more acquittals and lighter sentences. So if the government has a generally good story to tell, why doesn’t it let journalists like me in? Mr Sudarsono says that our presence “would become a magnet for local groups vying for attention over human-rights problems.” What moderation there is would go out of the window.
That does not sound plausible to me. More likely, as John Braithwaite of the Australian National University (ANU) argues, the army, part of the solution in Aceh and elsewhere, remains part of the problem in Papua. Mr Yudhoyono has been bullied by the army to take a timid approach to Papua. International efforts towards a constructive settlement seem to offer Papua’s—and Indonesia’s—best hope for peace. President Barack Obama’s eagerly awaited pulang kampung, or homecoming (he spent four boyhood years in Jakarta) has been set for June, having been postponed once already. With a bit of flair, his visit could set in train a fresh process in Papua. As Andrew MacIntyre, also of the ANU, points out, Indonesia and the United States want to find ways to revive army-to-army relations. These have been suspended for more than a decade by the Leahy Act, which forbids America to offer training to military units with a record of human-rights abuses—and, Kopassus, the army’s special forces, had plenty, in Papua included. The offer to engage with younger Kopassus officers, their hands less bloodied, could give Mr Obama what he needs to prod the Indonesian government into a dialogue with Papuans over a more peaceful future.
http://www.smh. com.au/world/ jakartas- plan-for- farm-in-jungle- unsettles- papuans-20100402 -rjxg.html
Jakarta's plan for farm in jungle unsettles Papuans
April 03 2010
JAKARTA: The Indonesian government plans to create a vast agricultural estate in the restive province of Papua, sparking fears of environmental destruction and a return of mass migration policies that have done much to antagonise the indigenous population.
Launched last month and already piquing the interest of foreign investors, the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE) will initially earmark 1.6 million hectares of land for development but could expand to 2.5 million hectares, or about half the area of Merauke district, in south-east Papua.
The ambitious proposal marks a return to the huge agricultural developments promoted by the former dictator Suharto, some of which were spectacular failures, such as the 1 million hectare ''mega rice'' project in central Kalimantan that devastated peatland forests and did not produce a bushel of rice. But Indonesian officials insist the land around Merauke is suitable for agriculture and that the new estate will help the world's fourth most-populous nation become self-sufficient in food within five years, and later earn it valuable export income. ''Feed Indonesia, then feed the world,'' was the catchcry of the President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, when the plan was announced last month.
Rice, corn, sugar cane, soya bean and palm oil plantations and grazing land for livestock are planned for Merauke. The district encompasses tracts of rainforest, including swamp forests that are ecologically fragile and which contain stores of peat that absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The project will require about $6 billion of investment, up to 49 per cent of it coming from foreign investors.
It is expected to swell the population of Merauke from 175,000 to 800,0000 people, agricultural ministry officials say. Few of those extra workers are expected to be indigenous Papuans, as they are tied to their local areas ''We have two concerns,'' said Father Decky Ogi, the director of the Justice and Peace Secretariat of the Merauke Diocese of the Catholic Church. ''The first is ecological and the second is about what happens to the indigenous people.''
While Indonesia's Co-ordinating Minister for the Economy, Hatta Rajasa, has insisted that scrubland or areas already logged will be converted to farmland, a recent study says that assertion is wildly optimistic. Using satellite images and data from Indonesian government agencies, the non-government organisation Greenomics has found that more than two-thirds of the land needed for the project will have to come from felling virgin forests. ''In total, based on our assessment, there's 500,000 hectares of unforested land that can potentially be used in Merauke,'' said Greenomics' executive director, Elfian Effendi. ''And those areas are not in one place, they are scattered everywhere. ''Foreign investors will not be interested in using small, separated landholdings … In any case, if they want to use the maximum area designated for the food estate, they will have to cut down 2 million hectares of forest.''
The Indonesian environmental group Wahli warned that large-scale land conversion would decimate water catchment areas and ''could result in a faster intrusion of sea water to the land''. Father Ogi said Merauke's ethnically Melanesian indigenous people were anxious about the plan. They feared land traditionally used by them would be taken, and were apprehensive about a likely influx of workers from other parts of Indonesia.
In the early 1970s, the Suharto regime began a massive program of internal migration, known as transmigrasi, subsidising people from Java, Sulawesi and other regions to move to Papua. Papua was annexed by Jakarta following a hotly disputed vote of 1025 handpicked delegates in 1969 known as the Act of Free Choice. At that time, 96 per cent of Papua's residents were Melanesian. At the last census, in 2000, Melanesians represented less than 70 per cent of the population, and the proportion is widely thought to have continued its decline.
Moreover, the non-indigenous population of Papua dominates formal employment and business, creating tensions among the Melanesians and fuelling separatist sentiments. ''The transmigrasi policy has been stopped [since 2000] but its impact is still going on,'' said Father Ogi. ''Indigenous people are marginalised and there is a social gap. It has created a lot of social jealousy. If the MIFEE is implemented, I think indigenous people will be more marginalised than they are now.'' Even so, the proposed estate has the strong support of the local government and the qualified backing of the Governor of Papua, Barnabas Suebu.
Mr Suebu's senior adviser, Agus Sumule, said the scheme should proceed gradually, first targeting 150,000 hectares of under-utilised land already converted into farmland as part of earlier transmigrasi programs. Under Papua's special autonomy status, Mr Suebu had a veto over transmigration, Dr Sumule said, and the Governor had already vowed to preserve all swamp forests.
''The Governor introduced a special bylaw that transferred the unused forest in the province to the communal ownership of the people,'' said Dr Sumule. ''You can't just go and transfer the ownership of it, like under the New Order [the era of Suharto].''
Indonesia considers more troops for Papua
23 March 2010
The Indonesian army is considering whether to station extra troops in the province of Papua, in a bid to take quicker and more effective action against separatists. An army leader says that if problems erupt in the province, it takes too long for reinforcements to reach it.
The number of troops currently stationed in Papua is unclear, but thought to be in the thousands. Several organisations, among them Human Rights Watch, have accused the Indonesian military of human rights violations.
The unrest in Papua, which occupies the western half of the island of New Guinea, has been linked to the presence of foreign mining companies. Many inhabitants believe they profit too little from the exploitation of the province's gold and copper mines. In the months since July last year, when an employee of the Australian mine construction company Freeport was shot dead, there have been several attacks on foreign companies in the province.