What’s happening in West Papua? This question is about curiosity or provocation? In one side, such question has been used repeatedly to attract international attention by separatist group, but the other side this question may pose a significant search for answer about West Papua.
Indonesia opposes Papuan separatism not only supported by the historical fact of control over the region long before the Dutch colonialism, but also by a West Papuan self-determination result of the 1969 referendum (Act of Free Choice), which is internationally legitimate and legally binding.
A former Dutch colony, West Papua was formally incorporated into Indonesia in 1969, after an undisputed vote of about 1,025 representative tribal leaders. The result of the plebiscite was overseen and endorsed by the United Nations.
Since the democratization in 1998, especially since 2007, democracy by mean of elections has been introduced to increase political participation in the two provinces. The fact that the leaders of Papua and West Papua provinces are democratically elected by the people has strengthened the legality of the region as a province of Indonesia.
During the Abdurrahman Wahid administration in 2000, aside from changing the province name from “Irian Jaya” to “Papua”, Papua gained a “Special Autonomy” status, a political compromise between Papuans and the central government.
The political will of politicians in Jakarta to proceed with the implementation of the Special Autonomy was formalized in 2001 with the special autonomy law.
Special autonomy is part of democratic means to address aspiration of Papuan people. In late 2001, Indonesian government introduced a “special autonomy” bill for West Papua. The bill, which was drafted mostly by indigenous Papuans, passed the Indonesian parliament as Law No. 21 in November 2001.
A crowd of people in New Zealand, Australia, and United Kingdom who support separatism do not help improved the condition of West Papuan. In contrast, due to their provocative campaign that instigate violent conflict, make the situation even worse. For example, they make so many false accusation with hyperbolic expressions such as “barbaric Indonesia”, “crimes against humanity”, “genocide”, twisting the 1969 referendum as “Act of No Choice”, “military repression”, and so on. Such completely out of proportion campaigns are mostly emotional and irrational.
West Papua is home to 4.3 million Papuans (indigenous, mixed and migrants). This figure consists of 963,600 inhabitants of West Papua and 3.34 million inhabitants of Papua. Then, the population on the island of Papua will continue to grow to 5.78 million people in 2045. This figure clearly refutes allegations of genocide.
With more than 300 different tribes and languages, the region is also rich in copper, gold, oil, and gas. One of Free West Papua leaders, who is also a police killer and conflict provocateur, Benny Wenda often mentions about military repression. However, if we carefully investigate Benny’s propaganda, we will find that Benny is the one who provoke the violent conflict using armed group like the killing of dozens construction workers in 2018 and also medical workers in May 2020 and many other killings in the region. Furthermore, Benny defended his armed group by saying that they are not criminals after killing so many innocent people.
The exact number of those who have died at the hands of the Free West Papua armed group is hard to say, especially if we combine with repercussion it created in the region. Without separatism, all West Papuan will live in peace.
Free West Papua armed groups is largely funded by self-sufficient and small donations from irresponsible and immoral group who support Benny Wenda’s campaign. The largest portion of the donation has been corrupted by Benny himself, according to former of his aide in Oxford.
Please read also: What actually happened in West Papua?
Authoritarian Indonesia rule
Between 1969 and 1998 West Papua was under authoritarian rule. In order to deal with violent separatism by Free Papua Movement or Free West Papua armed group a.k.a. West Papua Army, the government gave the military an authority to crush the violent rebellion.
The Tentara Nasional Indonesia (the army) and a specialised army branch Kopassus, conducted operations against armed guerillas who often terrorise the people and challenged Indonesian rule. However, a surgical operation to only pursue and kill the terrorist combatant is not an easy task. Collateral damages which have been utilised by Free West Papua armed group were difficult to avoid.
Free West Papua supporters are trying to maximise cases that happened during this period of time to depict what’s happening in West Papua. So, please be careful with Free West Papua propaganda and ask Indonesian Embassy in your country for clarification.
The most obvious form of democracy in Indonesia and in Papua and West Papua provinces. At national level, all eligible citizens (17 years old minimum) can vote for members of parliament and president/vice president. Similarly, in Papua and West Papua, all population with minimum 17 years old are able to vote for their representatives at local parliament and also governors and regents. In 2020, 11 regions in Papua to hold local elections.
This future fiesta of democracy was launched at a ceremony by Papua Governor Lukas Enembe, General Elections Commission (KPU) Chairman Arief Budiman, and the KPU chairpersons and officials from 11 regions in Jayapura on Tuesday.
Waropen, Supiori, Merauke, Yalimo, Boven Digul, Asmat, Mamberamo Raya, Nabire, Keerom, Pegunungan Bintang, and Yahukimo are the regions to participate in this simultaneous regional elections.
The only problem against democracy in Papua and West Papua provinces is the violence and ongoing security threats of notorious armed rebels continue to pose a challenge to the province.
Please read also: West Papua: Freedom Inside Indonesian Democracy
What’s happening in West Papua may remain debatable due to so many opinions from those who lack of knowledge about West Papua. Finally, I would like to ask whoever read this to help West Papuan to stop horrible provocation and terror by Free West Papua.