The Unity Fought For: PON Papua Answering The Doubts Of The Irresponsible

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Muhamad Rosyid Jazuli — October 2021

On October 3, 2021, Kompas published a headline titled PON Papua, the Stage of Unity and Equality. It was reported that President Joko Widodo officially opened Papua’s National Sports Week or PON Papua 2021 at the Lukas Enembe Stadium, Jayapura Regency, Papua, on Saturday (2/10/2021).

President Joko Widodo and his entourage arrived at the stadium at around 19:00 WIT (Indonesia’s Central Time). Then, the event opened with the performance of a trio of singers from Papua, Edo Kondologit, Michael Jakarimilena, and Nowela Auparay.

The contingent parade of 34 PON participants also enlivened the series of events that day. Furthermore, as many as 850 dancers from dozens of art studios and schools in Jayapura, Papua, performed a colossal dance featuring the culture of the five customary regions in Papua.

President Joko Widodo said that “This PON is a stage for equality and a stage for justice to move forward together, prosper together, within the framework of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia.” He believed that all Indonesians are proud that this is the first PON to be held in Papua.

Papua Governor Lukas Enembe went on to appreciate the hard work of the central government so far so that the historic day of the presence of PON in Papua was realized. According to Lukas, the Papuan people were very proud because all community representatives from various regions in Indonesia could gather through the PON event.

“From the Land of Papua, I will show all my friends throughout the archipelago that we, the Papuan people, will always be an inseparable part of the Republic of Indonesia,” said Lukas.

This time, the Papuan PON reaffirms the fact that Papua is an area that has great potential. Papuan human resources have, in fact, a myriad of achievements. The Indonesian public will never forget the accomplishments of Papuan athletes such as Lisa Rumbewas, weightlifter; Serafi Anelis Unani, athletics; Franklin Ramses Burumi, athletics; Boaz Solossa, soccer player, etc. Furthermore, the hope is that the arenas that have been built for PON be optimized for the subsequent significant achievements from Papua.

PON Papua 2021 are attended by 34 contingents from 34 provinces with 6,116 guest athletes and 923 Papuan home athletes. They are competing in 37 sports or games consisting of 56 disciplines and 681 matches, for 681 gold medals, 681 silver medals, and 877 bronze medals.

The implementation of PON is spread across four areas, namely Jayapura City, Jayapura Regency, Mimika Regency, and Merauke Regency. There are 45 arenas of national standard, some of which are even of international standard.

Although the opening ceremony of the Papua PON 2021 was centered at the Lukas Enembe Main Stadium, Jayapura Regency, the event’s excitement was felt by all residents who could not attend the arena directly. For instance, in the Youtefa Red Bridge area, Jayapura City, about 25 kilometers from the stadium, hundreds of people gathered to watch the fireworks going off from the bridge.

In its report, Kompas states that this PON is also expected to have significant economic impacts on Papua. Papuans hope that after the PON, Papua will be visited by more tourists, and the Papuan economy will continue to grow and prosper.


Apart from the PON Papua’s excitement above, one may not be able to put aside the fact that there have been debates around Papua’s and Papuans’ position within Indonesia. There is no need to argue that Indonesian ethnic Papuans have a different appearance from the major ethnicities. With their dark complexion, the public will quickly draw the line of difference. However, this primordial and primeval argument has been used as fuel by several parties to ignite the fire of separatism within Papua.

The argument is simple. Because Papuans have a different appearance, they cannot be part of Indonesia. The view is then deliberately intertwined with the process of integration of Papua, which was not in line/parallel with other regions/provinces.

I don’t know if they are foolish, irresponsible, or do it on purpose because it has been a fact of life that every country has its own formation process. The nation-building of a country is very different from one another. Regarding differences in physical appearance, isn’t it that most countries nowadays have multi-looking and multi-cultural societies? Even the superpowers recognize that multiculturalism is a source of prosperity.

Regarding the integration process that is not parallel with other regions, do those supporting the separation in Papua not see that even countries as big as the US and UK have similar issues? Not all regions in the US joined at the same time. In the UK, too, the debate regarding inter-kingdom integration and interrelations is still going on.

In the end, the debate regarding the integration or separation of Papua and Indonesia is nothing but irrelevant. Therefore, when such a thing shows up, let it show up. But of course, ignoring it is the right course of action.

Moreover, related to this multiculturalism and citizenship matters, some doubtful parties (individuals, organizations, and countries) often argue that Papuans are ‘endowed’ with various rights as citizens of Indonesia. In this sense, the argument is that Papuans have the right to be free from Indonesia. This concept of citizenship developed rapidly in the prosperous West, especially after the Allied victory in World War II (Hill & Fee, 1995).

In such a rights-based citizenship sense, citizens need to ask the government for their rights constantly. It is so considering that their obligation to fight, or help with the nation-bilding, has been fulfilled before and during the war.

In Indonesia, and many countries born after World War II, however, the situation is very much different. Their citizens are in a condition where their country has not prospered or that well-off. Some are even still partly engulfed in war. Therefore, instead of demanding rights, in this sense, citizens are also equipped with obligations and duties to build the nation.

We need to correctly position Indonesia’s situation to a stage where to achieve prosperity, the contribution and collaboration of citizens are vital. Within that context, PON Papua is a very appropriate step in the effort to actualize such duties-based citizenship (Hill & Fee, 1995).

Indonesians are grateful for Papuans who have worked hard to organize the PON as well as possible and host their ‘families’ from various regions in Indonesia. Indonesians are proud of their fellow Papuans as they demonstrate and carry out their duties as citizens by ensuring that PON is safe and runs smoothly.

Indonesians, in general, do appreciate Papua’s efforts to play its central role in national issues, one of which is through this PON. Therefore, what Kompas states that PON is a stage of unity and equality is nothing but truth. It indicates that all Indonesian citizens continue to work hard to build their nation. This PON also shows that anyone in Indonesia, regardless of ethnicity, is guaranteed equality, of course, if they work hard in carrying out their duties, not just begging for their rights.

This piece fully represents the writer’s idea. It does not express any ideas or stances of specific institutions or organizations he 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.