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'Precarious' Papua needs government focus

Antara News - August 30, 2009

The man who led President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's campaign team in Papua for the July presidential election urged the government on Sunday to pay more attention to the province, where he said conditions were becoming "more and more precarious."

Yusak Yaluwo, the head of the Boven Digoel district administration, said there had been a number of concerning incidents in Papua recently, including sporadic skirmishes between unidentified armed groups and security forces, the flying of the banned flag of the separatist Free Papua Movement (OPM) and indications that the movement was growing stronger after setting up headquarters in a 15-story building in Fiji.

Yaluwo said separatism in Papua posed greater risks than the secessionist movement in Aceh in the past, because in Aceh there had been cultural and religious affinities between insurgents and the government.

"What we are facing in Papua is something much different from the Aceh situation," Yaluwo said. "Therefore Papua must be handled in a very special way in which many sensitive factors must be taken into account, including the polarization of international forces in the Pacific, especially in the South Pacific."

Yaluwo said the government had so far taken positive steps in Papua, such as enacting the special autonomy law for the region, initiating development programs and allocating large funds for infrastructure development, education, public health and economic empowerment.

"However, in practice and on the ground, these things are not implemented effectively nor efficiently, even triggering conflicts of interest that only tend to deepen resentment against central government policies," he said.

To solve the problems, the government should form a special body called the Papua Development Acceleration Board, he said, which would be directly responsible to the president. "It is this body that should manage all things related to the acceleration of development in Papua," he said.

The body could help defuse the currently precarious conditions in the province and should be set up as soon as possible through a government regulation in-lieu-of-law, known as a perpu, Yaluwo said.