For those who are not familiar, the only known fact about KNPB is that they are fighting for West Papua independence from the Republic of Indonesia. But what is it, to be exact, that they are aspiring for?
A second chance for referendum
Firstly, they demand for a second chance to determine their own future through referendum, as a democratic solution for the West Papuans. The first chance was given in 1969, and the Papuan Congress were held two times between 2000 and 2011. The first referendum, dubbed as “The (1969) Act of Free Choice”, was deemed unacceptable by some of the West Papuan who aspired for independence, as they believed that the Indonesian government had too much influence on the result of the Act of Free Choice. The act was supervised by the United Nations, in accordance to Resolution 2504, 24th Session of General Assembly, attended by 126 countries.
So far, the Indonesian government has been letting the West Papuan to voice their concerns, including the separatist movements. While Joko Widodo’s administration is trying not to make any arrest unless there is violence involved, the government looks focused on the development of projects like Trans Papua roads or Rubella vaccination. The Republic of Indonesia sees no need to entertain the demand for referendum, and the reason behind Indonesia’s stance is surely elaborate and complex. But one that we can be sure of, is the risk for prolonged violence outbreak after the referendum, no matter what the result would be. It is highly possible that people who have benefited from Indonesian subsidies, education and healthcare facilities would raze houses, while the troops would be helpless against massive yet sporadic attacks.
Stopping the operation of multinational companies
Second, to stop all natural exploration activities of multinational companies such as Freeport, British Petroleum, LNG Tangguh, Medco, Corindo, and other companies. As much as this point is making an appealing speech against capitalism and soft-colonization, the realization for this huge demand might have to stay in utopist imagination.
It is a common knowledge that in poverty eradication, foreign aids and private investments are crucial for any developing country. These investments are useful not only for the development of infrastructure, but also the establishment of institutions to organize and educate people.
It is interesting that, even if West Papua will ever goes separated from Indonesia, the only way for the country to survive and maintain its economy is by keeping the multinational companies operating. Any legitimate nation state has to maintain trust within the international realm, so that actors like World Bank, IMF, regional development banks or private investor can keep the flow of aid and investments in check.
Indonesia is now focusing on managing the result of big takeovers, one of them being Freeport acquisition. While the government is starting to share the assets of multinational companies to the local government in Papua, the demand from KNPB will directly negate the benefits for the people.
To withdraw all military components of Indonesia
Third, to withdraw all military components of Indonesia, army and the police, to end all forms of human rights violations by the government of Indonesia towards Papuans.
While it is easier to picture the military and police authority as perpetrator in violent clashes with the separatists, it is also important to see that many of the murders in Papua were done by members and supporters of the Free West Papua movement.Data from Puncak Jaya District Government stated that until 2012 there were about 112 Indonesian military personnel, motorcycle taxi drivers, and even local people who died as a result of shootings and violence allegedly committed by OPM, led by Goliath Tabuni, whom a lot of KNPB supporters see as a true legend. Not only that, separatist groups are also notorious for spreading fake news containing hoaxes, from questionable sources.
To ensure the freedom of journalism in Papua
Fourth, to ensure the freedom of journalism in Papua. This had been a point of criticism for years, especially during the regime of Suharto, between 1969 and 1998. For this point, though, the Indonesian government seems to have a solid answer.
As a conflict area, journalism in West Papua is showing significant improvements. Certain areas of West Papua are known for its militant separatist movement hence the Indonesian government is taking the alert on higher level in giving permission for the foreign journalist.
In May 2015, President Jokowi announced that foreign journalists are welcomed in West Papua. just like any other region in Indonesia. In 2013, there were 354 journalist visas to Indonesia, 28 of which were to Papua and West Papua. In 2014, 27 journalists came to Papua and only 5 of them were refused due to administrative incompleteness, while in 2015, all journalists applications were accepted. KNPB is probably too busy to notice that there are 20-60 local news regarding Papua on the internet, daily.
Unlocking the access for Papuans to participate in democracy
Fifth, KNPB demands Indonesian government to unlock the access for Papuans to actively participate in democracy. While this demand is more abstract and stands in conceptual level, the response from Indonesian government throughout the years can be summed up in four indicators:
1. Participation in presidential election
Papua holds the highest vote turnover during the last presidential election in 2014, with 92%.
2. Participation in gubernatorial election
Papua holds the highest vote turnover during the last gubernatorial/district election in 2018, with 84%.
3. Increasing number of civil organizations
Regarding their political aspiration, KNPB through their declaration encouraged the West Papuans to utilize LPBP (“The Papuan Parliament”). The Indonesian authorities have never taken any action to mute or disband any separatist political group until this day, and the number of civil organizations in West Papua, local and international, is increasing.
4. Representation of Orang Asli Papua (native Papuans)
Article 21/2001 verse 1 regarding special autonomy of Papua guarantees that the only eligible political candidates in Papua are native Papuans by blood. The article was made to ensure that the needs of native West Papuans are being prioritized by local administrations, from district level to gubernatorial.
5. The decline in political arrests
Answering the criticism from international society, the Jokowi administration bears the burden from all that remained since the regime of Suharto. Since 2015, the Joko Widodo’s administration has granted numerous amnesty, abolishments and pardons for many Papuans who were detained in the name of separatism and rebel movements. Jokowi stated back in 2015 that Papua was only ‘a start’. There were 90 of Papuan political inmates three years ago, and as this article was being written, there are seven left of them. One of the most memorable names is Filep Karma, who was released in 2015.
In summary, there is a fine line between a demand for fulfillment of self-interest, and a demand that wholeheartedly voice the need of West Papuan. The question would be: is independence really an answer, or have we already got an answer for a better West Papua by developing massive economy, eliminating marginalization, repairing political violence and strengthening Pancasila identity?
NN, 2016. Retrieved from: https://indoprogress .com/2016/10/nasib-tahanan-politik-papua-dan-maluku-selatan/ , 2018
NN, 2015. Retrieved from: https://lampung.antaranews .com/berita/281454/jokowi-grasi-tapol-papua-hentikan-stigma-konflik , 2018