Saturday, August 6, 2011

Papua Oh Papua

The Western part of the Island of Papua became a part of the Republic of Indonesia after the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA) transferred administration of the territory in 1963 (here).

In 1969 the territory became a legitimate part of the Republic of Indonesia, and became the province of West Irian, later changed to Irian Jaya in 1973.

With a total land area of 421,981 Km2, the province is the largest province in Indonesia, but it only has a population of 2,9 Million. The province has very rich natural resources a.o Gold and Copper mines, also natural oil and gas, however until now the income of the people is one of the lowest in Indonesia.

The said Copper and Gold mines are run by PT Freeport Indonesia, owned by the multinational company Freeport-McMoRan, since the late '60s are the largest in the world. 

These mining activities have cause continuous troubles with local people, and the mines' Tailing have severely impacted the natural environment.

Before May 1998, the authoritarian regime of the late former President Soeharto has managed to fully control the province, silenced it's people's protests, and eliminate separatist movement. by the Free Papua Movement (OPM).
After that year, liberal democracy came to Indonesia, and things started to change, people in the province expressed their protests on various matters such as demand fair share of PT Freeport's revenue, injustice, corruption, poverty etc.

In compliance with the demands of the people, 2002, the name of the province was changed to its original name i.e. Papua.

In 2003, the central government declared the western most of the province, around the Bird's Head peninsula, a separate province called West Papua

The people of both provinces of Papua has staged protests against the PT Freeport, including strike by its 8,000 workers following several shooting incidents that killed of some the workers.

On Monday 1 August, an internal conflict between two rival candidates of the Gerindra Party for the election of the Head of the Puncak Jaya Regency has caused the death of 21 people.

On Wednesday 3 August, an Army helicopter was shot down by the OPM. Tempo quoted the Army Chief of Staff General Pramono Edhie Wibowo as saying that the helicopter was shot while it was evacuating the body of a soldier who was shot to death the day before at Puncak Jaya. There were no more casualty and the helicopter was able to fly again.

I felt that the social unrest and violence that follow in the provinces of Papua and West Papua were sparked by the same causes like in other parts of Indonesia, i.e. Socio-Political-Economic-Judicial Injustice, Poverty, Corruptions, Greedy Politicians, etc.

I therefore hope that the central government, law enforcement agencies and politicians in Jakarta and in both provinces would do their very best to eliminate all those causes, or at least minimize them, so that their people would live far more happier


triesti said...

Papua is one of the most corrupt Provinces in Indonesia. I've never been there, all I know about the people is from people who deal with them... none of them are very positive. Not enough education, too much ego/emotion. That being said, my classmate back in the day from Papua is one of the sweetest people I know.

Multibrand said...

It is very sad what happened to Papua. Serious efforts must be made to eliminate corruption, poverty and injustice there.

colson said...

The many reasons for bad governance you mentioned, do apply to the situation indeed, as far as I can see. The provinces had a false start as part of the RI. On top of that Papua is geographically faraway and Papua people are psychologically faraway from central government. This periphery therefore is prone to trouble and hardship.

Like you said: there is an urgent need for good governance. That is: a better standard of living for the indigenous people, fair treatment and justice and strict maintenance of integrity among the military, civil servants, officials and politicians.

Multibrand said...

False start as part of RI ?
I don't get you, sorry.
The Western part of the Island of New Guinea was part of former Dutch East Indie colony. And as legal consequence of transfer of sovereignty from the Dutch government to Indonesia, the territory should become part of RI too. It was for that reason that the UN transferred administration to RI in 1961 and full sovereignty after plebiscite (act of free choice) in 1968.

colson said...

@ Harry: Yes, these facts are correct indeed. Like I agree with the causes you mentioned for the problems now.

However, what about the "false start"? It's complex, but I'll try to explain what I meant.

In 1949 the colonial power officially transferred sovereignty of the Dutch East Indies to the new independent, sovereign ( btw: "federal") state.

However "Nieuw Guinea"( = Papua) was left out.

In the years between '49 and '61 -fuelled by Dutch revenge-policies - the Dutch put up a serious effort to build a sense of nationalism among the indigenous people. With some success.

When after tough arm-twisting by the US (Robert Kennedy), the Dutch were obliged to give in to Indonesian demands in '61, a considerable part of Papuans already cherished nationalist and anti-Indonesian opinions.

In comparison to most of the other parts of the archipelago in '45 - which cried Merdeka and did put up a tough fight to shed the yoke of colonialism - the small elite of the Papua population in '61 had a quite different destiny in mind than becoming part of Indonesia.

(The '68 plebiscite took place in a - what many considered to be- occupied country. So some doubt about the results is possible).

Java ( and other parts of the new state) cheered in '45 and '49, but Papua in '68 lacked sincere enthusiasm ( to put it mildly). That's what I meant with the 'false start".

Multibrand said...


You reminded me of history.
Western New Guniea was left out in the transfer of sovereignty in 1949 because the Dutch government refuse to do so and our government took it as a next step that would follow.

In spite of the legitimacy that the UN has provide for us, I must admit that the central government had not treated both provinces properly. Otherwise they would not be as bad as they are now.