Many Papuan students are studying abroad with financial support from Papuan provincial government, Republic of Indonesia. The goal of the program is to develop a brighter generation of Papuans, when they return to their homeland.
The students have pledged to give back to their Papuan society, Indonesia, and the world. Nonetheless, a few of them had shown sympathy towards the West Papuan armed separatist criminal group.
However, Indonesian government confirmed that those Papuan students will not be persecuted for wearing pro-independence attributes. The government has stated that they will just re-emphasize local Papuan values, and the importance of building Papua as homeland to the students.
The West Papuan armed separatist criminal group had threatened to kill native Papuans who stand with Indonesia in the issue of West Papuan separatism. Papuan students are often faced with dire consequences of the peer pressure from friends and relatives who support West Papuan separatism. The pressure existed since the generation of their parents, up until they are in college, since a lot of academics and people perceived as intellectuals will openly show their ‘support’ for the armed separatist criminals.
Despite the fact that there are several students who acquired a little bit of separatist perspective, most of them who study abroad are strongly optimistic. Association of Papuan Students in United States (IMAPA-USA), for example, is full of young people who delightfully carry the mission to make Papua a better place.
“We would like to see what (we) can do in the future; what the Papuan millennials can do to make the economy progressing, as (we are) the people who are going to come home and build the place. We don’t want to dwell on ‘why now, why not sooner’ (kind of) thing, we would rather look forward and towards opportunities.” – Anis Labene, President of IMAPA-USA
In the middle of political propaganda, ran by the armed separatist criminal group for years, Papuans are making visible progress as they improve their human development index vastly. In Indonesia, Papua is the province with highest HDI growth for the 2016-2017 period, 1.79 percent. In comparison, Indonesia’s West Papua scores 62.99 in HDI score (HDR; UNDP), higher than Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, and Papua New Guinea.
Current pace of development in West Papua would not be possible without support from Papuan provincial government. We cannot let the violent conflicts, escalated by the armed separatist criminal groups, to become obstacle for the Papuan youth who are going to shine.