SIG Continuous Stand On Papuan Human Rights A National Interest?

Matilda Dora
14th January 2014,
Brawijaya University, Indonesia

As observed, the Solomon Islands government continues to advocate for the Papuan human rights claims inflicted by the Indonesian law enforced forces, a claim that the Indonesian government denies, that lacks factual data in this present era. This political stand has impacted both countries relations as well as construing the minds of the people of Solomon Islands to have a negative perception of the people of Indonesia.

In 2014, I was told from family members to be careful because I am a Christian and a Melanesian by race; but having stayed here for more than three years now; my perception has changed. Thus I feel the need to briefly share my experiences here in Indonesia and my personal view point of the SIG political position on Papua with you, my fellow Solomon Islanders.

Indonesia has a Christian population higher than that of the South Pacific Island states combine. Despite being the minority, Good Friday, Easter and Christmas day are also public holidays in Indonesia. I study Christianity class in my University, have fellowship prayer every Fridays and personally prefer local churches to the Expat fellowship groups. Indonesia practices a moderate type of Islam; different from that of the Middle East so to speak. Moreover, Indonesia has a Melanesian population of 11 million people residing in five provinces including, Papua and West Papua provinces. The culture, people and food is very much the same for both countries; little did I know we share many commonalities.

Though I respect the DCCG advocacy for the Papuan human rights claims, the two fundamental grounds argued for, namely the human rights violation and development claims are perspectives that lack a strong factual argument in this present time. Indonesia does not deny that during the Suharto’s era, human rights violations happened to the Papuans, an era where the country was ruled by a military regime (authoritarianism), an era with conflicting uprisings. It is important for us to understand that Indonesia as a country has transformed over the years to become the 4th largest democratic state of the world today; a transformation of the political system that resulted in democratization, decentralization, economic stability and development growth.

The development of both Papua and Western Papua over these past years has improved. For instance, from 2014 – 2017, seven new airports projects were established, new roads projects, 30 new sea ports, electrical and power plants, 2.8 million Papuans have free basic health care. Since President Susilo Bambang till now, Papuans have free education for both primary and secondary schools. The domestic airport of Jayapura is even bigger and more advanced than the international airport of Honiara.

Furthermore, West Papua and Papua are among the five special areas legislated in the Indonesian law that obtained special treatment and exercise own provincial government powers with the biggest share of government revenues compared to the rest of other 29 provinces of Indonesia. Allocated funds for 2017 under the special autonomy fund totals to Rp. 8,022,595,617,000.00 while for supplement fund for infrastructure sums up to Rp. 3,500,000,000,000.00 allocated to Papua and West Papua in a percentage ratio of (70:30) respectively. Papua economic growth now recorded as the fastest at a rate of 9.3%. President Jokowi’s policies are in-ward looking and a pro-people political leader who wants to achieve a robust economy and poverty eradication for the Eastern Provinces of Indonesia.

Regarding the human rights claims, one should ask the question of its relevancy in today’s era and its importance in consideration to the national interest of all Solomon Islands citizens of today. For these are not new allegations nor hidden from the public eye, let alone this new digital era. According to Hon. George Brandis who was also among the deployed Australian team to Papua in 2017 confirmed that no human rights allegations were reported and that the human rights issues of Papua has improved.

Recalling the 72nd General Assembly held in August 2017 where world leaders/ delegations meet to discuss on the theme of SDGs and climate change, the Solomon Islands delegation instead of voicing issues that matter the most to Solomon Islanders, choose otherwise to advocate again for the SIG Papua stand. This is an important platform that the national interest of the people of Solomon Islands must come first.

My people of Small Malaita province are suffering from climate change in broad daylight, Walande has disappeared underwater, Fanelei on an observable basis has only one or two years to survive. Malaita outta Islands are continuingly calling for food supply; or if we are keen to assist urgent matters then consider the sinking Island State of Kiribati. In terms of sustainable development, focus on implementing functional policies and its implementations to foresee the licensing of foreign companies and eco-friendly regulations that is productive for both the economy and the environment. Domestic violence rate and corruption are issues that speak loudly for it- self.

The present government should reconsider the look north policy; consider the significance of cooperation and economic integration of vital states of South East Asia and ASEAN. Importantly, the development gap of ASEAN member states is not far beyond that of Solomon Islands compared to the West, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Therefore, the Solomon Islands Embassy in Indonesia is an important mission in my view that should be actively functional and supported. The Solomon Islands ambassador to Indonesia is also accredited to Singapore, Brunei and East Timor as well as the ASEAN Secretariat. This is one vital establishment with promising benefits in terms of security, social, cultural and economic cooperation, should the present government focus on a mutual relationship and prioritize the national interests of the Solomon Island people. Finally for the coming 73rd UN General Assembly, the Solomon Islands delegation should be reminded that, that opportunity and platform should be used for the urgent and matters of concern to the citizens of Solomon Islands.