During the years of Indonesia’s undemocratic New Order regime, successive UK Governments from Harold Macmillan then Alec Douglas to John Major then Tony Blair, have supported Generals Suharto who rule Papua from Jakarta. If we ask why did UK Governments gave a strong support to the New Order regime, there were so many explanation and we can start from the Cold War impact to business linkages. If the undemocratic government of New Order got a lot of international support, then we can assume that the support for the new democracy Indonesia will be even stronger and stronger. Now, Gordon Brown administration give a clear sign of support to Indonesia in managing a democratization and economic development in Papua thorough the current UK Foreign Office Minister with responsibility for the UK’s relations with Indonesia, Meg Munn MP.
Indonesia which has it first directly elected President in 2004, is a big baby in democratic world, so Indonesia needs an honest support in consolidating democracy power within all community including among Papuan. The special autonomy government is the implementation of the concept of tribal democracy, because Papua will develop its democracy not only adopting Western/modern style, but also by strengthening traditional culture such as the formation of traditional assembly. We all simply can be sure that Papua is on the right track. Back to Indonesia-UK relation,
the provoking ideas of independence of Papua among intellectuals in UK is minor and they don’t understand the root problem in Papua. Some may argue about the internationally recognized Act of Free Choice in July-August 1969. Others may criticize about the human rights condition, and the rest may questioned the development policy in Papua.
Discussing about the Act of Free Choice or the Act of Self Determination will be endless because each party will never find a common understanding. Every historian who watch the Papua case know that the principle of “one man one vote” cannot be applied in all areas of the territory, both on account of the terrain and the lack of sophistication of vast segments of the population. Historian are also know that all parties including the United Nations Team, Indonesian Government, the Netherland Governement, US Government and Australian Government at that time were not very sure about the right mechanism and the results of the consultation.
The decision on the number of individuals, representatives, and institutions to be consulted was made after all parties agreed to guarantee fully the rights, including the rights of free speech, freedom of movement and of assembly, of the inhabitants of the area. Lets imagine the situation at that time, there were 250 tribal groups and each has its own leadership, just imagine the potential problem that would arose. There were several factions, pro-Netherland under the influence of the Dutch Colonialism mentality, pro- Indonesia, and pro-independence, and believe me the majority were Papuan who didn’t even understand about what was going in their land.
We can not neglect the problem of human right, mismanagement and other problems in Papua. However, we also can not stuck on it and stay in a conflictual situation. We should open our heart to dialogue and start the reconciliation by focusing our energy to the future.
One of the biggest problem in Papua after the Act of Free Choice is the ambivalence of Indonesian regime in managing the province. The security approach came first then the economic development, furthermore the economy clearly neglected for a long time and this create a grievance among Papuan. Actually, the Act of Free Choice is final, legal and internationally recognized. However, the New Order regime was also occupied with national development and it seemed that the development in Papua was left behind. That is what should be repaired by the federal government of Indonesia and our local elites/leaders in Papua. Hopefully, all Papuan human resources abroad can contribute positively whatever they have to the future of Papua, including those who are disillusionated by Western provocateur to create conflict in Papua by the idea of independence.
From the brief explanation above, we can see why a democratic United Kingdom give a strong support to the government of Indonesia. It is simply because of the long experience of UK can predict the future of Papua. All democratic states will support each other to strengthen the spread of democracy in the world. So, I believe that all democratic peple in the world will support the democratization process in Indonesia and especially in Papua. To conclude my writing, I would like to invite all readers of this Blog to correct me if I am wrong and ignorant to the future of Papuan.
My highest respect to the Government of UK that consistently supporting the development in Papua.
Free West Papua