Is Dialogue Enough to Achieve Peace in Papua?

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Masyithoh Annisa Ramadhani — December 2020

It takes two to tango. That is an old saying emphasising that in order to make such movements, it requires two people or two sides willing to take part and do their best to make things happen. In Papua’s case, many have argued that dialogue is the best tool urgently needed to resolve Papua’s never-ending conflicts.

However, there seems to be a missing gap on how this effort is not supported with the government’s adequate resources to facilitate the process and communicate with the people involved, not to mention the lack of political will, to find pathways to peace talks in Indonesia’s easternmost province.

On the other hand, those who proclaim the idea of Papua independence and other Papuans, in general, seem to be unwilling to engage in the dialogue process simply because they have lost trust towards the existing mechanisms run by the central government.

In fact, dialogues could only be successful when key elites have bought into the processes; when change-oriented actors in the country keep the momentum going; and when structures and procedures of such dialogues were set up in a way that ensured genuine representation.

Military and political elites are important to effective peace processes, but they are sometimes responsible for their failure. Thus, greater inclusion of civil society, community, women, youth, and other groups such as religious groups are the key to improve the chances of achieving sustainable in Papua.

Begin with the Understanding that Dialogue is not a One-size-fits-all Strategy

Dialogue is not a goal. It is merely the tool to guide the achievement of the goals. The goals at first should be clearly defined by all parties involved in the early stage of the dialogue process to avoid misunderstanding, which could hinder the process. Besides, the dialogue is about sitting around the table and being deeply engaged with the way people talk, think, and communicate with one another.

One thing for sure, the dialogue is not a one-size-fits-all strategy which can directly solve all the problems on the ground. It is also not a panacea for resolving all the crises, especially when there is deep political paralysis or a long history of violence and misunderstanding. Rather, it represents just one tool in policymakers’ toolbox.

As dialogue is an inclusive process, it must involve and accommodate all parties’ interests to further identify approaches to address common challenges. Unlike other forms of discussion, dialogue requires self-reflection, the spirit of inquiry, and the present state. All parties involved, those in Jakarta and Papua, must be willing to address the root causes of a crisis, not just the symptoms on the surface since dialogue stresses a long-term perspective.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, however, has made Papua as the priority area for his second term administration. He also tried to ensure that openness and transparency are highly respected in Papua by declaring open access for foreign journalists to do media coverage in Papua’s land.

The implications may not bear fruit until now we see more negative news about Papua dominating the world and only a few brave enough to speak up about the positive movement or the significant progress, made by both the national and local governments in Papua.

To find sustainable solutions through dialogue in Papua may require time and patience. The process can be painstakingly slow and incremental, lasting anywhere from ten minutes to ten years, or even more — but it is worth trying, especially when the protracted social conflicts continue to exist.

Political Will is a Catalysator to Achieve Sustainable Peace

To date, there remain unsolved problems. They include how human rights may not be highly respected in Papua and West Papua. According to many international and national human rights organisations, these two provinces are frequently reported to be the hot spot of human rights violations and conflict in Indonesia.

Lately in 2020, the Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights (KOMNAS HAM) declared that the shootings in Paniai, Papua in December 2014 are considered human rights violations.

It is a shame that it took six years to jump into that conclusion finally. In addressing this situation, the central government’s political will is urgently needed to respond to the investigation and seek for the way to peace, including fostering the full work of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Papua (Komite Kebenaran dan Rekonsiliasi Papua).

The Komite was declared by Indonesian Coordinating Minister of Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Prof. Mahfud MD as the solution to resolve all past human rights violations and evaluate the implementation of special autonomy in Papua, as well as discuss the vision of forming a new province in Papua.

For the past few years, Indonesia has been overwhelmed by internationally continued misunderstandings about what is happening in Papua. In this regard, the government is responsible for ensuring the accountability of all parties involved and contributing to the process.

Central government should therefore act as the catalysator to fast track the process. Under the vision of fostering dialogue to promote sustainable peace in Papua, a comprehensive strategy revolves on multi-stakeholder and multi-parties engagement. The talk is also to avoid any reactive and fragmented approaches since they would hamper the spirit of engaging in such dialogue process.

Moreover, as the Special Autonomy will extend by next year, this should be the right momentum for both central and Papuan parties to find common ground by emphasising the inclusive dialogue.

Such an approach must be supported with the strong political will of the central government to ensure that finding a just, practical, and non-violent solution to the conflict is highly respected. Besides, all stakeholders and all parties involved must also agree to refrain from using force, promote the culture of peace, and commit to fostering reconciliation as these are the key to ensure the inclusive dialogue process in Papua. (*)

This piece fully represents the writer’s idea. It does not express any ideas or stances of specific institutions or organizations she works at or is affiliated with.

Enriching discourse and understanding. A protest to Indonesian govt that unsuccessfully serves the world fair info about West Papua.

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