Governmental elements in a country must be able to represent the wishes of their people. The separatist issue that occurred in West Papua has placed key leaders from Papua to continue dialogue with their community. The strategic position of the tribal chiefs and customary leaders is a way for the government to better understand the Papuans need. This has been proven when a Papuan customary leader was selected as a part of the Presidential Special Staff. His existence guarantees the aspirations and desires of the Papuan to be heard directly by the President. Indonesia’s attention and concern for Papua and West Papua since 1945 is a proof that Indonesia continues to fight for the sovereignty of its people, so as not to be destroyed by the interests of groups and foreign intervention.
A few years ago, it was difficult to imagine a Papuan inside Jakarta Presidential Office. Let alone visiting Jakarta, studying outside Papua is almost like an unreachable dream for them. But shortly after the Seventh President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, was sworn in, several Papuan figures with typical regional head accessories were seen entering the Palace courtyard.
They were Lenis Kogoya and his three colleagues. Lenis had been the Chair of the Papuan Customary Institution since 2009. The four were the first Papuans to set foot in the Presidential Palace. “We, Papuans, previously felt marginalized, underdeveloped. Now with Jokowi’s leadership, we are at the forefront. This is a new history and we can even enter the Palace,” Lenis said in 2014.
It is true, there are still many who think that Papuans are low in education and less developed in civilization. This does not only affect people outside Papua’s way of thinking but also the Papuans themselves. Many young Papuans become inferior and lose their ambition to move forward. Whereas like other Indonesians, the Papuan population also has great potential and intelligence. If driven by high education and better welfare, it is certain that Papuans can also compete with Indonesians from other islands. Lenis’s first step at the Presidential Palace gave a lot of hope that Papua could become prosperous later.
Unbeknownst to Lenis, he would be a frequenter of the Presidential Palace few months later. Jokowi appointed Lenis to be the Presidential Special Staff based on Presidential Decree No.50/M in 2015. Lenis was overjoyed over this important position. “I am orang koteka or orang Papua Gunung (Papuan that dwells in the mountain and still using the traditional attire), the first inland citizen who was appointed by the President to enter the Palace. I rejoice over this (decision). Whatever the President orders me to do, I will do,” Lenis stated. He aspired to help Jokowi in building Papua through welfare, health, religion, and educational approach.
Being the Presidential Special Staff is a lot of hard work but Lenis decided to embrace and enjoy it. He that was previously known with his dread hair and clumsy style is looking much more neater now. He cut his dread and has started to wear batik shirt, pants, and loafers. “I cut this hair straight away; it used to be long, now it’s short. I really went down the mountain (embracing the city life) but I keep my mustache and beard so that people can still recognize me,” Lenis explained humorously.
Lenis’s previous position as the Chair of the Papuan Customary Institution gave him a lot of insight about Papuan needs. This works very well with his new position as the Presidential Special Staff. According to him, the separatist issue were always associated with violence. However, he reckoned that this issue happened because not everyone understood what the Papuans want. “Papua and Jakarta were like a child (Papua) who cried because the mother (Jakarta) does not understand him. Why does the child cry? Because the child is hungry, because the child is being left out. The most important things is that we have the sense of belonging for the United Republic of Indonesia. There will never be separatist groups if we were taken care of (by the government),” Lenis said.
Not only did he work hard as President’s staff, Lenis also took his time to motivate Papuan youth as they continue their studies on scholarships in Java. Lenis stressed that although dark-skinned, Papuans also helped to build Indonesia. This is also proved by his position as Presidential Special Staff. For this father of four children, the key to the next Papuans generation success is to learn. “The key is learning. Remember, learn!”
Lenis and other Papuans that believe in Indonesian government will fight for Indonesian sovereignty, even in the future. The reason is that every arrow shot towards the target board had to be stretched back first using its bow. Even though it seems like Papua and West Papua is still in the early stages of their development, their future is bright with the support from the government to reach their goal as a better place for their future generations and community.