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INDONESIA: Activists urge economic development for Papua

Sumber: IRINNEWS.ORG | Tgl terbit: Rabu, 03 Agustus 2011

JAKARTA, 3 August 2011 (IRIN) - Indonesia needs to boost economic development in Papua, human rights activists say, a day after thousands in the restive region rallied for independence.

â??There's growing discontent among Papuans. The government needs to act fast to address various humanitarian issues,â? Haris Azhar, coordinator of the human rights group Kontras, told IRIN on 3 August.

Some 10,000 Papuans took to the streets of the provincial capital Jayapura and six other towns on 2 August, defying a heavy police presence, a day after a deadly ambush, which police blamed on separatist rebels, witnesses said.

â??There's a serious lack of human development in Papua,â? Azhar said. â??The increase in regional budgets under the autonomy scheme has become a major source of corruption as can be seen in the number of officials investigated for corruption,â? he said.

The Indonesian half of the New Guinea island, comprising Papua and West Papua provinces, receives about US$472 million annually.

Longstanding tension

Papua, home to ethnic Melanesians, has experienced a low-level separatist conflict for decades, according to experts.

Critics said the special autonomy status, granted in 2001 as part of Jakartaâ??s efforts to appease calls for independence, failed to raise Papuans' standard of living.

Ifdhal Kasim, chairman of the National Commission on Human Rights, urged the government not to use heavy-handed tactics in dealing with pro-independence sentiments.

It should instead offer dialogue and address the grievances of the Papuans, including complaints that the government was plundering the region's natural resources at the expense of locals.

â??Young people in Papua have political aspirations and repressing them is counter-productive,â? Kasim maintained.

The government should improve the monitoring of funds used by the regions, he added.

"What's happening in Papua is not so much of lack of money,â? he said. â??There's so much mismanagement and incompetence there.â?

The creation of new districts in Papua as part of the autonomy had given rise to more corruption, he added.

He also said the more than 100 political prisoners languishing in Papuan jails for raising rebel flags and other pro-independence activities did not help appease the separatist sentiments.

Government response

But according to Djoko Suyanto, the coordinating minister for security, legal and political affairs, the government is fully aware of what is needed.

"The focus of the present cabinet in Papua is economic development," he told reporters.

"There's no war there. If people killed members of the armed forces or police, action must be taken to enforce the law," he said.

A group of unidentified people attacked buses carrying migrant traders in Jayapura on 1 August, killing four, including a soldier, and wounding nine, police said. The attack came a day after 17 people were killed in clashes involving groups supporting rival politicians in the central highland district of Puncak.

Papuan police spokesman Wachyono, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, said the two incidents were unrelated, although the West Papua National Committee, a pro-independence group, has accused the security forces of involvement.

â??Repressionâ?

Andreas Harsono, a consultant for New York-based Human Rights Watch, said economic marginalization, human rights abuses and the influx of migrants from other parts of Indonesia continued to fuel discontent in Papua.

â??The government has since the beginning responded to the aspirations of Papuans with repression,â? he said.

According to a 2010 report by the International Crisis Group (ICG), many Papuans were frustrated that autonomy had meant so little, while Indonesian officials complained that Papuans were not satisfied with what they had been given.

â??President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono needs personally to take the lead in recognizing that autonomy means more than increased budgetary allocations or accelerated economic development,â? the report said.

â??He needs to explore directly with credible Papuan leaders how political autonomy can be expanded; affirmative action policies strengthened in all sectors; and Papuan fears about in-migration addressed.â?

After its original short-lived independence, the region was temporarily administered by the UN before being officially annexed by Indonesia in 1969.

According to the UN, despite its vast natural resources, this eastern-most region - an area half the size of Brazil - continues to remain one of Indonesiaâ??s least developed. Although Papuaâ??s population comprises only 1 percent of the total population, more than 40 percent of its residents live below the national poverty line.



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