A global Papuan student welfare advocacy group has condemned the Indonesian government's disruption of autonomous local education grants supporting studies abroad, branding the move as "assassinating" indigenous human resource development.
The International Alliance of Papuan Student Associations Overseas (IAPSAO) issued an open letter today headed "Do not disturb and hinder [us] – leave us [to] study in peace", saying that funding changes created under the controversial new autonomy statute would have a crippling impact on education.
Some 125 Papuan students – 41 studying in New Zealand and 84 in the United States – have been ordered home under the new policy removing the 10 percent autonomous education funds allocated to the Melanesian provincial governments and transferring the administration of funds to other departments.
Papuan students studying in Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, Russia and the United Sates are also affected.
The Papua provincial government led by Governor Lukas Enembe has followed a proactive policy on education with a scholarships programme abroad to invest in the region's human resources.
"Papuan students, the recipients of the Papuan Provincial Government Foreign Scholarships, are aware and understand that education is one of the human rights guaranteed by the state constitution in Article 31 of the 1945 Constitution and Law No. 20 of 2003 on the National Education System," the student statement said.
The students also cited international laws concerning human rights endorsed by Indonesia, which "provide legal obligations [on] the government to respect, protect and promote the right to education".
"Political policies by the central government towards Papua often create bad legal implications for the rights and dignity of indigenous Papuans," added the statement.
Scholarships, empowerment affected
The students said that amendments to the Special Autonomy Law volume 2, the enactment of Law No. 2 of 2021, the second amendment to Law No. 21 of 2001, and regarding special autonomy for the Papua province and Government Regulation No. 107 of 2021, had led to several priority programmes of the provincial government of Papua being stopped.
"Especially programmes funded from Papua's special autonomy fund, including education scholarships, economic empowerment and health," had been impacted on, the student statement said.
"We are aware and understand that the basis of the Papua provincial government's decision to repatriate Papuan Students from Abroad in a very large number, which is due to the 10 percent of the Special Autonomy funds for the education sector [being withdrawn] and transferred to other institutions.
"The termination and diversion of 10 percent of the education fund managed by the Papua provincial government is an assassination of human resource investment for the future of Papua through education.
"We also view that [with] the policy of diverting the allocation of education funds, the central government does not consider [the interests] of the ongoing scholarship programme (Papuan Students Abroad)."
The student statement also said the central Jakarta government's political policies did not consider human rights, including "the rights of Papuan children to obtain a quality education".
The students demanded the following:
1. The central government must return the 10 percent of OTSUS funding allocation in the education sector to the Papua provincial government for the continuity and sustainability of the "Governor's Policy" to develop Papuan human resources through the Papua Foreign Scholarship Programme;
2. The central government must take responsibility for the negative implications of the amendment to Law No. 21 of 2001 concerning OTSUS Papua which has an impact on the Papua Provincial Government's Foreign Scholarship Programe;
3. The central government should not "kill Papuan human resources" anymore with its political policies; and
4. The central government should take responsibility for policies that have an impact on the 2022 budget (tuition and living costs) for Papua Province Foreign Scholarship recipients.
The statement is signed by the presidents of the Papuan Students Association in Oceania, Papuan Students Association in the United States of America and Canada, Papuan Students Association in Russia, Papua Students Association in Germany and the Papua Students Association in Japan.