TOM ALLARD JAKARTAMarch 9, 2011
Dr Boediono ... help for indigenous people. Photo: Mosista PambudiINDONESIA'S Vice-President, Boediono, has signalled a new drive for reconciliation with the troubled province of Papua, revealing plans to create a new agency to arrange talks with disaffected Papuans and promote prosperity.
In an interview with the Herald, Dr Boediono conceded the central government needed to move beyond its usual preoccupation with economic development and develop new policies for Papua.
''There is room for improvement. That's why the President asked me to look into what can be done in this area,'' said Dr Boediono, who arrives in Australia today for a visit to Perth and Canberra.
Advertisement: Story continues below Papua, a resource-rich region in eastern Indonesia, has an indigenous Melanesian population racked by poverty and swamped by migrants from others parts of Indonesia. Separatist sentiment simmers amid a low-level insurgency and frequent allegations of human rights abuses by security forces.Papuan groups, including its major churches and elected Papuan Peoples' Assembly, want a formal dialogue ''without condition'' with the central government and a renegotiation of Papua's special autonomy deal, introduced in 2001 but widely seen as a failure.
But Dr Boediono rejected such a ''bilateral'' dialogue, saying multiparty ''communications'' would be better assisted by a new agency. He said a proposal was being formulated for ''some kind of institution that will be there on the spot, that will look at all the co-ordination and communication and implementation as well''.
It is hoped the agency would be created this year after a special decree by Indonesia's President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Representatives from Papuan civil society groups, local government and the central government would be in the agency on an ''ongoing'' basis as it formulates new policies and development programs.
International donors would be welcome to contribute aid money, but not to play a mediation role as happened in Aceh in 2005 when a peace accord was forged to end decades of bloody separatist insurgency. Even so, the new agency is loosely modelled on the reconstruction and rehabilitation agency known as the BRR that successfully organised the development of Aceh after the devastating tsunami that spurred on the establishment of the pact.
Dr Boediono identified three priorities for Papua: better communication, more affirmative action for indigenous Papuans and ''more openness''.
International human rights groups, aid organisations and foreign journalists are banned from visiting the province without special, and difficult to obtain, permission from Jakarta.
But Dr Boediono offered no firm commitment this would change and also declined to endorse moves to allow Papuans to display their Morning Star flag and other symbols of cultural difference, as is now permitted in Aceh. Under a law passed in 2007, Papuans face up to 10 years in prison for displaying the flag and leaders such as Filep Karma are in jail for doing so.
Asked about reducing the heavy security presence in Papua, Dr Boediono offered no immediate encouragement. ''Let's see the new approach, how it works [first]. The process is to make all these programs effective on the ground and give benefits directly to the communities - that's what is our main aim.''
Socratez Yoman, a prominent figure in Papua's Baptist Church, said the proposed arrangement was inadequate. ''Stop the creation of new bodies, new programs. These won't work as long as dialogue is not held. In the dialogue, Jakarta must abandon its jargon of 'unitary state of Indonesia' and Papuans must abandon our demand for independence,'' he said.