Jayapura. Celebrations of Indonesia's 70 years of independence this year reflect Indonesian patriotism across the country as much as Papuans' love for it, a senior Papuan community said on Wednesday, stressing that Papuans, too, are Indonesians.
"Have you noticed that people in Papua do respond positively to the government's urging to raise the Indonesian flag and other Independence Day paraphernalia?" George Awi told the Jakarta Globe.
"This tells us Papuans share the outlook of a common archipelago with other Indonesians. But the government needs to continue developing this land, regardless of the obstacles. Indonesia also needs to prove it loves Papua."
A dearth of mutual confidence is at the heart of the festering issues in Papua, George said. Only recently, he added, have Papuans started seeing Papuan faces in government offices and in other undertakings. All this was despite the insistence in Jakarta that Papua was, and continues to be, an integral part of Indonesia.
"But opportunities are now open to those who can compete; we now have a Papuan at the head of the provincial police. The government deems us trustworthy so we need to repay this by keeping Papua safe and peaceful," George said.
"Don't underestimate the Indonesianness of Papuans," George added. But what of those who demand independence? "That's the task of the government and our collective responsibility to ensure they, too, enjoy the results of an advancing Papua."
"This country loves Papua; that much is clear. We now have the Special Autonomy Law; President Joko [Widodo] visited us three times in one year. That capable Papuans can now move Papua forward is not just hot air."
Meanwhile, the Papuan provincial government will take a "sensible but lively" approach to the 70th anniversary of Indonesian independence.
Elia I. Loupatty, assistant for development and people's welfare at Papua's provincial secretariat and head of preparations for Independence Day, said, as entertainment for the locals in Jayapura traditional games will be organized as well as a marathon and an arts, sports and culture competition.
"We are mindful of the traffic and other logistical challenges so we will focus most activities at the Kusuma Trikora Military Cemetery for a public commemoration ceremony and at the Mandala-Jayapura Stadium for the flag-raising ceremony," Elia added.
Representatives from Papua New Guinea and other neighboring countries will attend the ceremonies in Papua, similar to previous years. "They will arrive on Aug. 15 or 16, and we look forward to welcoming them as they are our close neighbors," Elia said.
Indonesia celebrates its independence from Dutch colonial rule on Aug. 17.