Papuaweb.org - Reviews of recent books.

[extracted from TAPOL Bulletin 179, July 2005] Available online at http://tapol.gn.apc.org/bulletin/2005/Bull179.htm Reproduced with permission.

Book review: Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in West Papua: A Study on Social Reality and Political Perspectives

This timely study, published in Germany, seeks to explain some of the facts about the history, politics, economy, society and cultures of West Papua. It is an important reminder that human rights are indivisible and that the Papuans' struggle for freedom is as much about securing respect for their economic, social and cultural rights (ESC rights) as their civil and political rights (CP rights). Part of the reason why the Papuans have been unable to effectively resist Indonesian oppression for so long is because they have been made to suffer enforced poverty, economic subjugation, poor educational attainment and healthcare, social and demographic changes imposed from the outside, and the destruction of their special identity and culture. At the root of this 'human tragedy', as Willy Mandowen points out, is the denial of the right to self-determination through the fraudulent 'Act of Free Choice' in 1969. But, as he says, the future of the Papuan people is not just about their political status, but also about meeting their daily aspirations to be free from fear, injustice and the denial of their identity. Ultimately, if self-determination is to be realised in a meaningful way, the Papuans must attain sovereignty over their natural resources, which are now being rapaciously exploited, as well as political sovereignty. Dr Theodor Rathgeber, the editor of this volume, goes as far as suggesting that 'the threat to people's right to self-determination which emanates from globalisation and weakens any kind of national sovereignty is, at least, of similar importance compared to the dominance of Indonesia'. While this may be arguable, it does highlight the fact that the Papuans will have to deal with difficult issues concerning neo-colonialism and the exploitation of their resources by western multinationals, such as Freeport and BP, whatever the political status of their country. The experience of East Timor in this respect has not been easy since its independence in 2002. The Indonesian occupation left the country bereft of a viable infrastructure and beholden to the requirements of international aid donors. The economy is unable to compete with the influx of imports, unemployment is widespread, and Australia is intent on appropriating oil reserves in the Timor Sea. The law on special autonomy has presented a particular dilemma for the Papuans in terms of their ESC rights. Many have rejected the law as a means of improving their situation because, for justifiable reasons, they simply do not trust the Indonesians and seek independence as an immediate goal. Rev. Socratez Sofyan Yoman, the head of West Papua's Baptist Churh, for example, has elsewhere described the law as a cover for policies which perpetuate the misfortune and suffering of the indigenous people of West Papua through killings and systematic violence (See his paper: 'Systematic genocide of the indigenous people of West Papua under special autonomy', 14 May 2005.). Others, however, have regarded special autonomy as a means by which the Papuans can achieve greater control over their own affairs and as a step towards self-determination. In this study, Agus Sumule - a Panel member of the Papua People's Congress and part of the team which drafted the initial Papuan version of the law - sees it as a source of empowerment, 'a breakthrough toward enabling Papuans to improve their economic status'. Willy Mandowen, a member of the Papuan Presidium Council, although doubtful about the law's implementation, says it provides 'a legal platform for the Papuan communities to develop their own institutions and rulings'. This in turn, he suggests, will help to build up new leadership among the indigenous Papuans. It is questionable, however, whether there is now much support left for special autonomy in West Papua. The mistrust and anger of the anti-autonomy Papuans has intensified as a result of Indonesian attempts to split the territory into three or more provinces in contravention of the spirit and letter of the autonomy law, the emasculation of the Papuan People's Assembly (MRP) established under the autonomy law, and reports that special autonomy funds have been used to fund military operations. The Papua Customary Council (Dewan Adat Papua) has said that the autonomy law is no longer relevant. It has set a deadline for the law's implementation of 15 August 2005 after which time it will call for the law to be returned to Jakarta and will urge national and international dialogue aimed at realising the rights of the indigenous Papuans (Declaration of the Third Papua Customary Council, Manokwari, 4 February 2005). The plight of the Papuans in terms of their ESC rights is exposed and analysed in this volume from a number of perspectives. Willy Mandowen reviews the recent history of West Papua in terms of the denial of self-determination and the abuse of human rights and considers future options especially in relation to the implementation of special autonomy. Siegfried Zöllner, a former missionary in West Papua and former coordinator of the German West Papua Netzwerk, contributes a fascinating in-depth analysis of the culture of the Papuans in transition with particular reference to the threats posed by modernisation-Javanisation and discrimination. The editor, Dr Theo Rathgeber, a German academic and consultant on human rights and indigenous peoples, and Hermien Rumbrar, who works with the Women's Training and Development Centre of the Evangelical Church in Papua, provide brief remarks on the role of women as social actors in the transitional society of West Papua. Agus Sumule, considers the Papuans' rights over their natural resources and analyses the conditions of employment and income generation in the informal sector. Finally, Theo van den Broek, who worked in the Catholic diocese of Jayapura from 1975 until 2004, latterly as director of the Office for Justice and Peace, contributes an exhaustive study with useful statistical illustrations on four fundamental elements of Papuan social life: demography; governance and adminstration; education; and health. The volume also includes helpful appendices on Indonesia's economy at a glance and the economic activities of military forces in Indonesia. While the book does not include a detailed analysis of the opportunities and obstacles presented by the political situations in Indonesia and internationally, it does suggest that the Presidency of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia provides a window of opportunity for dialogue on the political status of West Papua. At the same time it cautions that the situation in Indonesia with respect to democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights will improve only gradually. One of the reasons for this is that at both the political and economic levels, the military still plays a crucial role. And, in West Papua, as the study rightly points out: 'the political economy of the security forces...and the symbiotic relationship they have developed with resource companies, most notably Freeport, have created an institutional imperative for maintaining the territory as a zone of conflict'. The study notes the Papuans' commitment to making their country a 'Land of Peace' and in pursuance of this objective, it advocates a rights-based approach to dialogue with Jakarta based on Indonesia's accession to and implementation of the international covenants on CP and ESC rights. This would, it argues, provide a legal and political platform for upholding the rights of the poor and excluded people of West Papua and enable them to participate in economic, social and political decision-making which directly affects them. The international aspect of the West Papua problem is not merely of historic importance but also of vital importance today, says the study: 'Beyond the debate on the historic failures of the international community in the 1960s, there is a human rights-based obligation and responsibility of international bodies to make their means and measures available to the Papuan people in favour of a peaceful conflict-resolution'. The implementation of the international covenants should be overseen by the appropriate mechanisms of the UN. Other international and UN-based bodies, such as WHO and UNICEF, could provide a range of necessary expertise and technical assistance, suggests the study. The need to strengthen the capacity of self-organisation of the Papuan people and its intstitution-building must also be addressed, it says. It remains to be seen whether this approach will help the Papuans realise a new future free from oppression and pauperisation, but the authors should be thanked for providing new information, insights and ideas, which may one day help to break the cruel deadlock. Published by The Evangelical Church in the Rhineland, 2005, ISBN: 3-932735-98-6