Jakarta. Indonesian students hosted a seminar on Papua and West Papua in Wellington, New Zealand, on Monday (30/07), to discuss various issues faced by the provinces on the 49th anniversary of their integration with Indonesia.
The event was held at Victoria University of Wellington by the Indonesian Students Association (PPI) and the Indonesian Studies Forum.
Keynote speakers from Papua included former Jayapura Mayor Michael Manufandu, who has also served as the Indonesian ambassador to Colombia.
According to a statement issued by PPI's Wellington chapter, Michael discussed recent infrastructure developments, which he said needed more time and even greater support.
He said the government's development projects in Papua, including the Trans-Papua road project, have helped lower costs of logistics in the region.
He also spoke about the special autonomy law in Papua, highlighting how it ensures only native Papuans can be appointed governors.
According to Franz Albert Joku, former journalist and correspondent in Papua New Guinea, the special autonomy law has allowed the people of Papua to decide their own future.
"[With the special autonomy], it is now up to Papuans. The future of Papua is already in the hands of Papuans," Franz Albert said, as quoted in the statement.
He was also of the opinion that there has been progress in terms of freedom of expression, although "stricter rules" for journalists covering the region are still persistent.
PPI said similar talks will also be held this week at the University of Canterbury and the University of Auckland.
The region, formerly known as Irian Jaya, was integrated into the Republic of Indonesia in 1969, following a controversial plebiscite.
Today, the two easternmost provinces still suffer from the government's security-centered policies to address grievances in the region, which experts say lack a humanitarian approach.
Papua and West Papua are the country's poorest regions, continuously facing a variety of struggles, including human rights violations.
Amnesty International said in a report published in July that Indonesian security forces have committed nearly 100 extrajudicial killings in the region between January 2010 and February 2018. Most perpetrators — members of both the police and military — have not been brought to justice.