Jayapura & Sorong. The Indonesian government’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of the integration of Papua on Wednesday was overshadowed by pro-independence flags being raised across the region and reports of a deadly shooting of separatist activists by police.
Police allegedly killed two activists and arrested six others after reporters witnessed them raising the Free Papua Organization’s Morning Star flag on Jalan Raya Adibay, Biak, on Wednesday morning.
“There is information that two people were shot, but we’re still investigating it by gathering information from officers who detained them,” Papua Police spokesman Sr. Comr. I Gede Sumerta Jaya said on Wednesday.
The spokesman denied that residents hoisted the flag, instead saying that police were called in to break up a mob that was provoking local residents.
“There was no Morning Star [flag] hoisting in Biak, only dozens of people making speeches,” Sumerta said.
The spokesman said that when police tried to break up the gathering, members clashed with the officers and tried to steal their weapons. Police detained six of them, Sumerta said, adding that a firearm, arrows and machetes were confiscated.
The pro-independence flag was raised repeatedly across the two provinces comprising the Papua region on Wednesday. In Fakfak, West Papua province, police hauled down a Morning Star flag raised at a pre-dawn ceremony at a local school.
In Papua province the National Liberation Army of the Free Papua Organization (TPN-OPM) raised the Morning Star flag at a pre-dawn event in Kemtumilena hamlet, Jayapura district.
Flag raisings were also conducted at other settlements in the province, including Bukisi and Demta.
Western New Guinea came under interim Indonesian administration in accordance with the UN-ratified New York Agreement on 1 May 1963, a date celebrated yesterday by the Indonesian government with a ceremony led by Papua Armed Forces chief Maj. Gen. Christian Zebua in Sorong.
Full integration with Indonesia was completed in 1969 through the controversial “Act of Free Choice” vote which was restricted to 1025 men selected by the Indonesian military, rather than open to all adults, as the UN mandate specified.
The government has come under sustained criticism of its handling of development and security in the region over the intervening 50 years.
In a meeting with Papua Governor Lukas Enembe and other officials on Monday, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono introduced new policy proposal to calm the two restive Papuan provinces.
The region’s status would be upgraded to “Special Autonomy Plus” by August, the president said, without detailing what this would entail and how existing laws would be brought into line.
Yudhoyono said he planned to seek the input of local residents and other stakeholders in drafting the revision, which would likely require ratification by the House of Representatives.
Doubts linger on how effective the government’s newest attempt to secure welfare for Papua and West Papua will be.
Based on the data from the Center Statistics Agency (BPS), 27 percent of people in West Papua and 30 percent of people in Papua live below the poverty line.
The government has already disbursed around Rp 40 trillion ($4.12 billion) to the provinces since 2001, but violence, security concerns and poverty remain the norm.
This year, the central government gave the two provinces Rp 7 trillion. The Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) announced this week it plans to monitor the funds.
Poengky Indarti, the director of human rights organization Imparsial, told Suara Pembaruan on Wednesday that the problem in Papua was that policies were implemented from the top, without considering input from the residents. He said Papuans feel that their concerns are not heard for decisions that will effect their lives.
“Beside that, the most important thing is to punish the officials and elites in Papua who embezzled [regional budget funds], while punishing those who commit violence,” Poengky said.
Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Priyo Budi Santoso from Golkar Party said that he did not understand the president’s intentions .
“It was probably meant well, but the concept isn’t clear. How far should the Papuan autonomy extension go,” said Priyo.
“Implementation of the current Papuan special autonomy, and its consequences, aren’t fully comprehended by the government,” Priyo said on Tuesday, adding that the president was neglecting to involve lawmakers in the special status revision.
Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) lawmaker Puan Maharani urged the government to provide a comprehensive solution for Papua, instead of addressing each problem separately.
Additional reporting by SP/Carlos Paath, Markus Junianto Sihaloho, Ezra Sihite