Benny Mawel, Jayapura – The Papuan People's Assembly (MRP) has reiterated its reluctance to Jakarta's plan to establish new provinces in Papua, saying the administration of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo should first address human rights violations in the country's easternmost region.
MRP chairman Timotius Murib said the formation of new provinces would only "worsen the situation" in the region, as it might add more violence committed by the authorities in the name of security, worsen economic inequality and depopulate lands of natives Papuans.
"We should sit together first. We should solve cases of human rights abuse before talking about forming new provinces," Timotius told The Jakarta Post recently.
Home Minister Tito Karnavian previously said the government would consider proposals from Papuan local figures regarding the establishment of two new provinces, namely South Papua and the Central Highlands, to be carved out of the province of Papua.
The assembly, a state-sanctioned representative council consisting of Papuans, has previously rejected the plan.
Timotius went on to tell the Post that the government should prioritize solving past and recent cases of human rights abuse, including a racial abuse incident in East Java in August, in which Papuan students in Surabaya were called "monkeys" and other things by security staff and members of mass organizations.
The incident provoked local people across the provinces of Papua and West Papua to launch a series of protests condemning the racial abuse. Some of the protests eventually led to riots that damaged several facilities in cities and regencies across the restive provinces.
"This human rights issue can't be solved by forming new provinces. It requires eye-to-eye talks between children of the nation," Timotius added.
MRP member Nicolaus Degey said Jokowi had yet to fulfill his promises to Papuans to solve past human rights violation cases in the province, including the Paniai shooting in 2014. In the incident, five civilians, including four students, died, allegedly after being shot by security personnel in Paniai.
"He [Jokowi] should fulfill such a promise, as it is already his second presidential term," Nicolaus said. (kuk)