Sri Krishnamurthi – A global Papuan student body International Alliance of Papuan Students Association Overseas (IAPSAO) is seeking a meeting with Indonesian president Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to air their grievances over a new policy to cut 10 percent autonomous education funds allocated to the Melanesian provincial governments.
IAPSAO also does not want the transferring of administration of funds to other departments.
They have branded the disruption of autonomous local education grants supporting studies abroad as "assassinating" indigenous human resource development.
IAPSAO issued an open letter this week titled "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.
Student sources say that at least 125 Papuan students – 41 of them studying in New Zealand – had been ordered home under a new policy reallocating education funds.
Indonesia annexed West Papua in 1962 under the New York agreement which changed ironically to the 'Act of Free Choice' in 1969.
In response to that letter the Indonesian ambassador to New Zealand and the Pacific Fientje Maritje Suebu says that the repatriation of students was based on a "thorough assessment" begun in 2017 by the provincial government of Papua over their achievements at their respective educational institutions.
"On 5 January 2022, the provincial government of Papua informed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the planned repatriation of 98 students – 51 students in the US, 5 students in the Philippines, 3 students in Canada and 39 students in New Zealand," she said.
The recalled students are part of 593 students on the 'Papuan Autonomy Scholarship' given to them by Governor of Papua Lucas Enembe.
"We would like to reaffirm that the decision to repatriate some of the Papuan students studying abroad is conducted on the basis of evaluation regarding academic performance and time allocation of the relevant scholarships," she says.
"Only those who have exceeded the allocated time of the scholarship and those who cannot meet the academic requirements are being recalled.
"The Provincial Government of Papua, in coordination with Indonesian Missions abroad, has duly notified concerned students and education institutions of the matter," she goes on to say.
Furthermore, she said, there would be no budget cuts to Papuan Autonomous Scholarship fund.
"The Government of the Republic of Indonesia, as explained by the Minister of Finance of Indonesia in November 2021, emphasises that there are no budget cuts for the Papuan Autonomy Funds, including for the purpose of education, such as scholarships for Indonesian students abroad," she says.
In a statement put out by IAPSAO this week they say: "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 allocation of 10 percent of the Special Autonomy funds for the Education sector is withdrawn and transferred to other institutions from the Papua Provincial Government.
"We discern that the central government's political policy does not consider the elements of human rights. Including the rights of Papuan children to obtain a quality education, and we are aware and understand that there are several elements of human rights violations. However, in this claim, we would like to talk more specifically about one aspect of human rights, namely our right to obtain an education." the statement says.
Today in response to RNZ Pacific queries the students said "the reason for repatriating students is because no progress is not true and baseless, due to the data on names issued by the Papua Province Human Resources Development Agency is not following the current progress made by the students.
"Currently, all the students whose names are listed in the letter, are all studying in their respective programmes. Some are already in their second year, third year and some are finishing their final project or thesis.
"We, from the organisation and coordinator of the Papua province scholarship in New Zealand, have investigated this. Then, some of the names listed on the list have completed their studies.
"We cannot find any reason why students who are making good progress are also listed. Therefore, we question what is the motive for this incorrect data?" the statement said.
"Student data also does not match the letter issued by the Papua Province Human Resources Development Agency dated 17 December 2021 regarding the termination of overseas scholarships, 42 students in New Zealand and 84 students in the USA. So, the numbers issued by the Indonesian Embassy, 39 students in New Zealand and 51 students in the United States are incorrect," it bluntly states.
"Responding to no budget cuts, yes, this is true, but the central government has revoked the authority held by the governor as a regional head. The problem is not about the budget, but about the authority to set the budget and other important things.
"The sending and financing of Papuan students abroad are based on the 'policy of the governor' Lukas Enembe, not from the central government.
"Once the Special Autonomy Law volume two was passed, the governor's authority was also limited, and automatically it is affecting students, the recipients of Papua province Foreign Scholarship," the statement goes on to say.
Finally it calls for meeting with Widodo "at this time, we, the International Alliance of Papuan Students Association Overseas, call for one thing, namely: The Indonesian Embassy in New Zealand, in Australia, In the USA, in Canada, in Germany, in Russia and in Japan to facilitate us to have a dialogue with the President."