Jakarta – The Indonesian government can prevent the "Papua problem" from becoming another international cause cé·lè·bre by implementing the Special Autonomy Law, said well-known Indonesian political analyst Jusuf Wanadi.
Papua, in eastern Indonesia, is back in the limelight after the International Relations Committee of the US Congress passed a draft law supporting freedom for Papua in June.
In a commentary published in The Jakarta Post, Mr Wanadi, co-founder of the Centre of Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), noted that the Papua problem is different from Aceh since there has never been a major armed struggle for independence in Papua as there was in Aceh.
Papua was incorporated into Indonesia in 1963 – with the agreement of the people of Papua and later recognised by the United Nations.
However, Mr Wanadi noted that the central government in Jakarta had long neglected Papua. Many Papuans, who are mostly Christians, feel like second-class citizens in Muslim-majority Indonesia. While the central government draws huge revenues from Papua’s natural resources, the Papuans get to enjoy little of it.
"It is true that the government needs to give greater attention to the development and welfare of the Papuan people. This is the essence of the problem," he said.
Mr Wanadi said the government needs to take a serious look at the Special Autonomy Law, which was first introduced in 2001 to organise Jakarta’s future relations with both Aceh and Papua.
"To resolve the Papua problem, the central government must first regain its credibility by consistently implementing the Special Autonomy Law. To help Jakarta focus its attention on resolving the problem, a presidential committee needs to be formed,” said Mr Wanadi.
He said there is a need to expedite the establishment of the Papuan People’s Assembly, which will be tasked with formulating the basic policies for Papua. The assembly forms a core element of the Special Autonomy Law.
"If Papua is managed well there is no reason to worry about foreign comments or even 'intervention' by the US Congress…. Jakarta can do much better in supporting the Papuan people to make the Special Autonomy Law work."
* Papua problem and the international community (The Jakarta Post, Sept 2)