Presseerklaerung

Urgent Appeal: Imminent escalation of violence in Papua needs to be addressed in a level-headed manner

August 05, 2005

August 15th, 2005 may possibly – hopefully – be recorded as a day of peace in Indonesian history books. Two days ahead of the 60th anniversary of Indonesia’s independence, the government is going to sign a peace accord with the Free Aceh Movement (GAM). The bloody conflict in Indonesia’s westernmost province that has lasted for more than 30 years may thus soon be past.

Watch Indonesia! welcomes the accord and calls on all sides to contribute constructively to the difficult task of implementation.

But also for Indonesia’s easternmost region of Papua, August 15th, 2005, might become a date that will be remembered, albeit for quite the opposite reason. Disappointed about the lack of success as regards special autonomy for the province, the Council for Indigenous People of Papua (Dewan Adat Papua) has decided to „hand back” the Special Autonomy Law to the central government in Jakarta. The Dewan Adat is calling upon people to protest peacefully. The intention of the Special Autonomy Law, effective since January 1st, 2002, was that the conflict in Papua be resolved by peaceful means.

The feeling of discontent among the Papuans concerning the insufficient implementation of special autonomy is more than understandable. Their socio-economic situation has all but improved. Human rights violations by police and the military continue unabated. The lack of political will concerning the proper implementation of special autonomy is apparent, as has been demonstrated by several political institutions in Jakarta, not least by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

But also the administration in Papua, which is largely in the hands of indigenous Papuans, shares a great deal of responsibility for the current volatile situation. A considerable amount of the funds provided by Jakarta under the Special Autonomy Law have been sucked up by the local bureaucracy. This has created the impression among the general Papuan population that special autonomy has not enhanced development in their province.

The unilateral „handing back” of the Special Autonomy Law is linked with the unrealistic hope by the Papuans that third parties (The Netherlands, the US, the UN) get involved in favour of an independent Papua. And in an irresponsible manner, certain parties seem to deliberately feed this illusion whereas others – due to lack of knowledge – do not seem to recognize how their activities nourish false hopes. The authorities and the security forces start getting nervous. The military has already increased its presence. With each day, tension is rising. It is feared that it will explode in violence sooner rather than later.

A new escalation of violence would not only set back any conflict resolution for Papua by years. It will also have negative repercussions for the fragile peace process in Aceh. With the Aceh accord, the Indonesian government has shown that it is possible to solve political conflicts by peaceful means. This should be an example for how to deal with conflicts elsewhere.

We call on all sides to act in a level-headed manner and to work to prevent an escalation of violence by all means. <>

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