Editorial: Dividing then Sucking Papua Dry

Editorial Omong-Omong

3 min read

When Megawati Soekarnoputri, chairwoman of the country’s ruling party, Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), made fun of and laughing at Papuans in front of the party’s members, inferring that because of their skin color they are not a true Indonesian, and suggesting that they mix with other Indonesians with brighter skin to create genetically better people, or what she called “coffee milk” skin color, she was not joking or felt it was inappropriate or racist.

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She openly talked about it as if there was nothing wrong with it. It’s really what the former Indonesian president thinks or believes. It’s her mindset.

As shocking and humiliating as it is, this is hardly unique. It’s what Indonesia’s political and military elites are thinking: native Papuan is a humiliation to them and to Indonesia, and thus must be turned into a little bit brighter, or else, they are not a real Indonesian, and something must be done about it.

The fact that Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who was in attendance in the gathering as a member of PDI-P, was joining in smiling, and even laughing, at whatever comment Megawati was making, demonstrates how deeply rooted this sickening mentality has been.

Elites in Jakarta have never really considered Papuans as a human being, and never sincerely listen to them or treat them as one. Thus, whatever policies or programs designed by Jakarta have never been about native Papuans or helping Papuans or make them better.

What these elites are interested in is how to suck Papua’s natural resources dry, and in the process, enriching themselves.

It is in this perspective that we can see why the House of Representatives passed a legislation to create three new provinces in Papua just several days after Megawati’s controversial comments.

Despite massive protests and rejection from the Papuans, the House of Representatives, one of the country’s most corrupt institutions according to various survey, created Thursday a law allowing the establishment of provinces of South Papua, Central Papua and Highland Papua in addition to existing Papua and West Papua provinces within the country’s easternmost region.

The government, however, defended the creation of new provinces as a move to better develop the underdeveloped region and to open up more civil servant job for the native Papuans, while Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Mahfud MD claimed previously that 82 percent of Papuans backed the establishment of the new provinces.

Whatever the government’s argument, it is clear that the move’s main aim is to divide and rule Papua, and thus wiping away possibilities that different tribes in Papua could forge unity to come up with one demand for independence. Even in the current state, it is almost impossible to unite tribes which have often been in war to each other, and perceived themselves as having different interests and goals.

The creation of the three new provinces also means Megawati’s intention of blending native Papuans with other Indonesian ethnic to create “Kopi Susu” skin color will be realized with more and more people from Sulawesi, Java and Sumatra coming in to push the black skin indigenous people away as these newcomers have more skills, more educated and more experienced in taking whatever opportunities available in the new lands.

And most of all, the creation of these provinces means that more areas will be opened for exploitation as more land and forest concession will be given to rich people coming from the outside, and that the political elites in Papua and Jakarta can enjoy mediating fees and shares allocation from these companies.

The $15 billion scandal allegedly implicating Minister Luhut Panjaitan in Block Wabu, for instance, revealed that many military and police generals have shares in companies operating in Papua.

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While Jokowi is now busy in creating world peace, traveling faraway from home and rubbing shoulders with both Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Rusia’s President Vladimir Putin, he failed to see the elephant in the room: Papua. He acted as if everything is alright back home.

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Jokowi has promised a new era for Papuan right after he assumed presidency back in 2014 , and now would like to argue that development of roads in Papua have benefitted the people there. However, reports after reports suggest that interests of big businesses have always been the main consideration. Where the roads go, the plantations follow, or the roads follow wherever the plantations want to go. With Papua home to world’s biggest gold and mineral reserves, such road developments also follow the establishment of mine sites. In other words, we are not really sure if there any initiatives – from government and corporations alike – that genuinely aim at benefitting the native Papuans. The fact is despite possessing such huge natural resources, Papua is still among Indonesia’s poorest regions, with more than 25 percent of Papuans live below poverty line.

So, what is there for native Papuans? More military troops? More destruction to their livelihood?

For now, we can only wonder how much these lawmakers have been paid for passing the law by businesspeople and those who will get benefits from the it.

Editorial Omong-Omong

One Reply to “Editorial: Dividing then Sucking Papua Dry”

  1. I don’t agree Megawati had a racist mindset at all when she talked about “coffee with milk”. Only her language was coming with an old fashioned racist stereotype which is still used a lot in Indonesian daily life. As someone who gets addressed with “kopi susu” a lot, I can refer…
    What Megawati wanted to say is mixed marriages show that Papua is a part of Indonesia. Because racism ends where parents let their children marry other races without hesitating. And this is not only about Malays / Melanesian / Chinese / Arabs and so on, it’s also about different ethnics and it used to be about mixed religions, too in older generations of Indonesians.

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