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‘Papua Suffering Is Too Deep To Be Forgotten’. text of article in Satu Harapan, Indonesia

Text (rough translation – I had two meetings with the West Papuan groups, not ‘several’, as well as some other minor factual errors):

Ten years ago Professor Damien Kingsbury held several meetings with representatives of Papuan groups. The goal is to discuss and find ways to speak in a single voice.

At that time, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has indicated that he wants to resolve the Papua issue. However, some senior officials say no group speaks for the Melanesian Papuans. The International Political Professor Initiative at Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia, is meant to coordinate among these groups, so they can have a voice so that they can engage in dialogue with Jakarta.

“However, time runs out and SBY has many other problems to overcome, so the chances are gone,” Damien Kingsbury, told, in an e-mailed reply, Saturday (23/12).

Later the groups could unite themselves in what is called the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), which many in Papua regarded as a viable dialogue partner in representing Papua against Jakarta. However, neither government nor ULMWP seem to have opened communication for dialogue.

As a scientist, Damien Kingsbury pays attention to the Papuan problem, just as he was concerned with the conflict between Aceh and Timor Leste. Even his name was recently mentioned in a negative tone by a TNI retired general. He is considered to be behind the turmoil in Papua, an allegation that Kingsbury strongly denies.

Indonesia is no stranger to Kingsbury. The scientist who began his studies in Journalism and Politics at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, earned his Ph.D. from Monash Univesity with his dissertation Cultural and Political Issues in Australian Reporting of Indonesia 1975-1993, in 1997.

Once a journalist in several small-town newspapers in Australia, he later joined the Australian Associated Press. Lalua then he traveled to South America and made a number of writings about the civil war in El Salvador. These reports became the reason he was awarded the Australian News Correspondents Memorial Award in the form of a scholarship the Tony Joyce Scholar went on to study Journalism at Columbia University, New York. In 1989.

At Deakin University, Kingsbury initially taught Journalism. But he had left academia and led Australian volunteers to Timor-Leste in monitoring ‘popular consultation’ ahead of the referendum. In 2005, when he was a lecturer at Deakin University, Kingsbury was again involved in conflict resolution by being an adviser to the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) during the negotiations in Helsinki. Kingsbury is also involved as an adviser in conflict resolution for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

In 2006 Kingsbury was promoted to Associate Professor and in 2010 was designated as Personal Chair as Professor While at Deakin University, Kingsbury, coordinated election observer missions in East Timor in 2007, 2012 and 2017.

In 2015, he was named Professor of International Politics. In November 2015, he was assigned to coordinate Myanmar election observers.

For the second time in this week interviewed him, related to the Papua issue. Against the background of his work involved in conflict resolution in Aceh and Timor Leste, and with the introduction of pro-independence groups in Papua, Damien Kingsbury we ask to give an overview of the prospects of Presidential Instruction No. 9 of 2017 on the Acceleration of Development Welfare in Papua and West Papua Provinces signed on December 11, 2017. Will this Inpres be the way for a comprehensive solution of the Papua problem and how the Papuan people should respond.

Damien Kingsbury notes that the views he presented in this interview are his personal views and do not necessarily represent the views of the Papuan people.

Here’s the interview: President Joko Widodo on December 11, 2017 issued Presidential Instruction No. 9 on the Acceleration of Welfare Development in Papua Province. In this Presidential Directive, Jokowi instructed the Minister of National Planning to coordinate and synergize the preparations and establish an annual action plan for the Papua Welfare Development Acceleration program until 2019. The Inpres also specifies several specific duties to several ministers, including Minister of Finance, Minister of Health and Minister of Foreign Affairs. What do you think about this Inpres, in order to resolve the Papua conflict?

Damien Kingsbury: It seems that Inpres is well intentioned, but, as Papua’s history shows, very little goodwill in Jakarta reaches the Land of Papua. So, we have to wait and see if Inpres Jokowi can be translated into action.

If possible, Presidential Instruction can help alleviate some of the material pressures faced by many Papuans. The problem is, however, that the systematic persecution and treatment of Papuans from generation to generation as second-class citizens can not be fixed by a gesture, no matter how good their intentions are. Sometimes the situation has reached the point where the complaints are too deep to be forgotten or forgiven.

As far as we know there is no plan to hold dialogue between Papua and Jakarta in the Inpres. What is your opinion?

The presidential decree does not mention a dialogue and it appears that it is not part of Jokowi’s thinking about Papua, as seen when he campaigned for president, as reported in the media at the time, as well as earlier this year. As Philippine jurist Jose Diokno says: it is not enough to have shelter and food; many prisons offer it. That is, until or unless there is a dialogue about true self-determination, the Papuan problem will continue. This may be in accordance with the wishes of some parties with an interest in maintaining their presence in Papua amidst high security environments.

What development acceleration can be expected to solve the Papuan problem?

I’m not sure that development alone can solve this problem. It is part of the answer, but it does not address the fallacy of history, which began more than half a century ago, and it also does not offer the dignity that comes with the freedom to make decisions for oneself. There is a simple test for this: if Indonesians are reoccupied, will they not say ‘food and shelter is not enough – we must have the right to self-determination and a sense of self-worth!’

Does this Inpres answer the demand for self-determination from some Papuans?

(Inpres) This is a good gesture and, assuming it is delivered properly, is likely to alleviate some of the negligence of Melanesians in Papua. But that alone, will not be able to solve the Papuan problem, without addressing the issue of self-determination, which in this case is not directly touched upon.

Can you tell your experience to unite pro-independence Papuan factions until they reach an agreement on ULMWP?

About a decade ago I held several meetings with Papuan representatives to discuss them with them so they could speak in a united voice. At that time, President SBY has indicated that he wants to solve the Papuan problem, but some senior officials say there is no group that speaks for the Papuan Melanesians. Coordination of these groups is meant for them to have a voice so that they can engage in such dialogue. However, time runs out and SBY has many other problems to overcome, so the chances are gone.

What do you think is most central to the demands of United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP)?

Do you mean what is the demand of ULMWP, or what do I think of their demands? When it comes to their demands, it can be read on their website:

My own view is that there will be no final reconciliation without dialogue around the true process of self-determination. Whether such a dialogue creates self-government, as in Aceh, or independence, as in Timor-Leste, is a consequence of the process of dialogue itself.

With the presence of this Inpres, how do you see the possibility of dialogue between Jakarta and Papua?

This Presidential Instruction does not discuss dialogue and at this stage, I do not see the opportunity to dialogue, unless Jokowi chooses to hold such a dialogue. If he did, I would imagine that Mr. Jusuf Kalla would be responsible for his coordination, because with a successful dialogue that ended the Aceh conflict in 2005.

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