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2020: A year of meaningful diplomacy over Papua?

Jakarta Post - February 3, 2020

Ronny Kareni, Canberra – The year 2020 dawns with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's continued blatant avoidance of human rights violations and willful ignorance of West Papuans' right to self-determination. But with Papuans' increasing commitment to realizing peace with justice in their homeland, the time has come for Indonesia to act swiftly and decisively over the issues that are important to Papuans.

The next 12 months will determine whether Jokowi's multi-party coalition is capable of finalizing the timing of the visit of the United Nations high commissioner for human rights (currently Michelle Bachelet), which aims to address the Nduga humanitarian situation, and of entering into a third-party mediation with Papuan independence leaders for a peaceful resolution to the ongoing conflict in the territory.

These events are pivotal as they will make or break Jakarta's diplomacy over West Papua in the coming decade.

Indonesia has in principle committed to granting the UN Human Rights Office access to Papua. But little progress toward this end is apparent. Despite issuing an invitation to the office in February 2018 to visit the territory, the government flounders when it comes to setting an actual date. Invitations mean nothing until genuine action is taken. Jakarta still maintains, contra to the evidence, that economic development in Papua is the solution to the human rights crisis. It is a stalemate.

Overcoming the requires courage, and courage requires action from Jokowi, rather than the willful blindness toward Papua that he has so far shown during his presidency, which is flailing under the influence of nationalist heavyweights – Indonesia's oligarchs, political elites, and the national security apparatus.

But if a date is set during Jokowi's presidency for the UN visit, this will soften decades worth of persistent criticism of human right violations in Papua, violations that include suppression of political dissent, torture, extrajudicial killings and systemic police and military violence.

It will also go some way toward improving Indonesia's global standing. Pacific leaders, including those in Australia and New Zealand, have urged Jakarta to set a clear timeframe for the UN visit to Papua to address allegations of human rights violations and the root causes of the conflict.

Since Jokowi took on the presidency, nothing has been achieved toward resolving human rights cases and nothing has changed in the pattern of violations by the Indonesian armed forces. Foreign journalists seeking to report on Papua are restricted with specific regulations.

Even worse is Jokowi's deliberate negligence toward ending the 13-month old conflict in Nduga. Jokowi must pull his head out of the sand: The Nduga crisis will not fade away if he only improves infrastructural development in the region.

Although economic development is a state obligation, it is not the solution for Papuans' outcry. Neither is deploying thousands of troops in the name of stability and security.

If Jakarta is serious about human security, it needs to demilitarize Nduga and engage the local government and rights groups to help Nduga residents return home safely to rebuild their lives.

It must also invest in the future of Papuan students. Following the racial slurs and harassment of Papuan students in Surabaya by out-of-control military officers in mid-August 2019, an exodus of Papuan students fled home, their right to education in limbo. These are future leaders of a nation.

Political imprisonment must cease. Many of Papua's brightest citizens are behind bars. A record number of arrests between August and December 2019 has landed 84 prominent leaders with suspected treason charges.

It's self-evident that Jokowi must do everything in his power to resolve the Nduga crisis and respond to the Papuan provincial government and Pacific regional leadership, including the urgent call of the 79 member states of the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States.

Third-party mediation is the best way forward, not the tried and failed methods of dialogue and special autonomy.

Jokowi has met Papuan public figures numerous times, visited the region more often than any of his predecessors and received countless recommendations from ministerial authorities who have put forward solutions to the problems in the territory.

Why then has Jokowi failed to defuse Papuan grievances? Whether Jakarta recognizes it or not, at some point in the near future, as West Papuan activism builds toward a crescendo, Indonesia will have to enter into negotiations about West Papua's future. Jokowi could be the president that takes the negotiations forward.

The time is ripe for meaningful engagement without pre-conditions over Papua. Should Jokowi turn his attention to setting a date for the UN visit, resolving the Nduga humanitarian situation and arranging third-party negotiation, this would be a win-win solution for Jakarta and Papua.

[Ronny Kareni is a Papuan musician and activist, and has worked as a fixer and programmer in Australia for the past 10 years. He graduated in diplomacy studies at Australian National University, and is cofounder of Rize of the Morning Star, a musical and cultural movement, and consults the Pacific Mission of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua.]

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/02/03/2020-a-year-meaningful-diplomacy-over-papua.html