Former president of Timor Leste Jose Ramos-Horta has expressed optimism that the Indonesian government will settle cases of human rights abuses in Papua, saying that officials should prioritize peaceful dialogue.
Despite long decades of insurgency and rebellion from Papuan separatists, the government should not regard these people as enemies, but should instead work to rebuild trust with them, Horta said.
The process will not be easy because the government has neglected Papua for too long, Horta added.
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s commitment to the Papuan people had begun to build up a sense of goodwill after a period of prolonged disappointment, Horta said.
“They are hopeful that significant steps will be taken to improve human rights in Papua,” Horta told journalists on Thursday.
The statement follows Horta’s visit to Papua from May 2 to May 4 after receiving an invitation to inspect development in the region from Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan.
During the visit, Horta reportedly met with Papuan officials including Papua Governor Lukas Enembe, Papua Legislative Council Speaker Yunus Wonda, the Papuan People’s Assembly (MRP), local teachers and medical assistants.
Horta also met with former rebels who used to be active in the Free Papua Movement, but who now agreed to develop Papua as a part of Indonesia.
The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) will cooperate with human rights NGOs to investigate cases of violence in Papua, Horta said. The government should also work closely with local churches, he added.
“Indonesia can settle the human rights cases in Papua internally without the help of foreign actors,” Horta asserted.
The government should also avoid using violence that often ended up wounding innocent civilians, Horta said.
According to Horta, the government should find the right balance between national development and understanding centuries-old Papuan values.
This will be difficult because Papua is a large region, Horta said.
The government should develop programs to create more economic opportunity for Papuans, he went on to say.
Besides developing infrastructure and reducing the disparity gap, education should also be a top priority to advance the quality of the region’s human resources, Horta said.
Indonesia should take note of Singapore, a state with minimum natural resources, but a positive reputation in the international community, Horta said.
“A nation can be minuscule, but if everybody studies and gets a degree from a reputable university, they can operate in a big industry,” Horta said. (dan)