Indonesian Papua is not a uniform entity. When outsiders think of Papua, they imagine provincial and national-level political conflicts and protests against Indonesian rule. But this is only the reality for a minority of Papuans in the major towns of Jayapura, Wamena, and Timika, and their suburbs. Outside of select groups within these areas, most people do not engage in political issues related to referendum protests, dialogue with Jakarta, or Merdeka (independence).
General elections in Indonesia are held every five years, the most recent one being in April 2009. But this time round, the elections in Aceh on the northern tip of Sumatra were very different. For the first time, the Acehnese voted in free elections after almost three decades of conflict. The former rebel movement GAM had transformed itself into a political party and fielded its own candidates in the local elections.
The University of Sydney has published an edited volume of papers representing the views of leading scholars and activists working on West Papua, including TAPOL's Paul Barber. This groundbreaking publication "represents the views of the world's leading scholars and activists currently working on understanding the conflict in West Papua" and is available to download in PDF form below.
Jayapura - Special Autonomy (OTSUS) came into being at a time of struggle when the Papuan people had become the objects of development, resulting in many incidents of violence and human rights violations over many years. This was acknowledged in the introductory paragraphs of the OTSUS law and Articles 45- 47 of OTSUS, in which the State acknowledged that mistakes had been made. There were hopes that an era of truth would emerge by means of creating peace and the right to life for the people of Papua. At the same time, however, there were groups who were against the enactment of OTSUS.
As the much-heralded visit of President Barack Obama draws near, it is worth remembering that, unlike any other US president, Obama enjoys a special affection among Indonesians.
Most Indonesians know that he spent several years in Indonesia as a child and probably still remembers the language he used when he played on the streets with local children. For Indonesians, a US president who can actually speak their lingo is indeed a novelty.
There seems to be no end to conflict and violence in Papua. Discussions about the situation always focus on the problem of conflict, which only goes to show that something is amiss in the most easterly part of Indonesia.
The many conflicts that occurred in the four months from April to July 2009 show that Papua never seems able to rid itself of the language of conflict. The violence has been an integral part of central government policy, particularly before and after the recent parliamentary and presidential elections.
With less than two months to go before Indonesians go to the polls on 9 April, attention is on the corruption that has bedevilled the political system for years.
The global financial crisis has prompted questions about how the numerous parties will raise the money needed to fund their campaigns without resorting to dubious or illegal practices. A number of legislators have recently been charged with bribery.
Although the Indonesian military, TNI, is now excluded from formal politics, many retired officers have been nominated as candidates for next year’s parliamentary elections. Several heavyweight former officers with notorious human rights records – among them Wiranto, Prabowo and Sutyoso - have put themselves forward for the presidential election later in the year.