During 2009, the Papua and West Papua provinces of Indonesia witnessed a number of prominent events that maintained an atmosphere of conflict between the Government of Indonesia and Papuans in general. In cities, secessionist demands were expressed openly in the mass media. In remote highland areas, a number of very low level armed attacks occurred, allegedly conducted by secessionist groups of the Free Papua Movement (Organisasi Papua Merdeka, or opm); these included a series of shootings in the concession area of the gigantic Freeport mining company, targeting Freeport employees. Papuan youth and student groups dominated by highlanders became prominent actors in political opposition in 2009. The year closed with the killing of influential opm leader Kelly Kwalik. The political picture of Papua and West Papua remains generally somber since the implementation of the Special Autonomy law in 2001.
In the media, opinion makers at universities, politicians, and Papuan religious leaders ceaselessly criticized the implementation of the Special Autonomy law. Most feel that very little significant progress has been achieved over the past eight years in addressing the roots of the Papua conflict, such as disputes about history, human rights abuses, failure of development, and most importantly the marginalization of the indigenous Papuans. Despite high budgets for the two provinces, there was little improvement in public services for remote areas, and the already bad image of the Indonesian government in the eyes of Papuans deteriorated further due to corruption on the part of local Papuan bureaucrats. Many prominent Papuan intellectuals have concluded that the Special Autonomy legislation has stagnated, and has failed to function as a “middle way” to solve the roots of the Papua conflict.
The failure of Special Autonomy has driven many parties to think about how to break the political impasse. Hoping to open a process of dialogue, a number of researchers from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences [End Page 440] (Lembaga Ilmu Pengetahuan Indonesia), collaborating with nongovernmental organizations and government officials, have been striving to gain support from important political figures and high officials in the Indonesian government. The proposed dialogue is expected to involve representatives of Papuan pro-independence groups and delegates of the central government, and would be openended, covering all issues, including the demands for independence and the revision of the Special Autonomy law. Those advocating dialogue in Jakarta have in fact received a sympathetic hearing from many individuals within the Indonesian Parliament and the government (except from certain intelligence and security-related bodies).
In Papua, priests from various denominations connected with a Jakarta-based peace working group, under the leadership of Rector Neles Tebay of the Sekolah Tinggi Filsafat Teologi Fajar Timur (Philosophical and Theological College) in Jayapura, collaborated with local nongovernmental organizations, student leaders, and adat (customary) groups, to create constituencies of dialogue from various local actors, including representatives of the armed pro-independence groups. These constituencies talked about the necessity of dialogue as a more realistic method for furthering the interests of the Papuan majority. People are now discussing the possibility of a compromise on the issue of independence. But crucial questions remain. Papuans question the political will of Jakarta, especially given the failure of many aspects of Special Autonomy. Deep mistrust of Jakarta prevails, and the Indonesian government has no policy blueprint to resolve the Papua conflict. The suggestion of conducting peace talks with Papuan oppositions has received no response from the president. Most of the policies of Jakarta remain ad hoc and reactionary in nature.
The presidential and legislative elections in 2009 were successful despite some tensions and minor disturbances in Papua. Almost half of those who managed to gain seats in the Papua provincial parliament—24 (the Danis and the Me) out of 56 members—are of highlands origin. However, in general Jakarta policies on Papua did not change significantly this year. In dealing with the violent conduct of Papuan opposition, the police did not retaliate as aggressively as before. The military stayed more in the background, and the Indonesian government restrained the use of repressive measures. Persuasive and law enforcement approaches were more prominent this year, even though a number of activists were tried and sent to prison and there was an...