708 Papuans waiting to return from PNG; LIPI discussion highlights marginalisation of the Papuan people


Plans for 708 West Papuans to return home from Papua New Guinea have been postponed because of a lack of funds to cover the expense of the journey.

According to Sujatmiko, a representative of the Indonesian Department of Foreign Affairs, there are altogether about 25,000West Papuans currently living in PNG spread out in ten provinces and they have been there for between 5 and 25 years. Many of them say they left home out of fear of the conflict involving the OPM or because of conflict with migrants (from Indonesia) or for economic reasons. Many of them were border-crossers who had walked across the border because the authorities are not able to control the 700 kms-long border.

Sujatmiko said that they had not been able to enjoy better living conditions, and had in fact become even poorer in PNG.

There have also been reports of the return home from Australia of 43 Papuans. Five of them have been assisted in their return while the other 38 are waiting to return.

LIPI discussion points to marginalisation of the Papuans At a discussion in Jakarta addressed by Muridan Widjojo from the Indonesian Academy of Sciences, LIPI, it was pointed out that a great deal needs to be done by the Indonesian authorities in West Papua to improve conditions there. This included ending the marginalisation of the indigenous people, promoting development activities and dealing with human rights violations, as well as understanding the Papuan people s belief in their right to independence. Development meant improving the education facilities, the health facilities and paying attention to the very low level of welfare among the Papuans.

Muridan suggested that the Indonesian government should encourage the National Human Rights Commission to publish a White Paper on the state of human rights, and there should also be a dialogue between the Papuans and the Indonesian authorities.

Another speaker, Yoel Rohrohmana, a Papuan, said that much of the development work going on in Papua failed to do anything about the basic living conditions of the people, in particular their social, economic and security conditions. As a result, the Papuan people were getting even more left behind, which was highly regrettable because the economic and social-cultural potentials of the Papua people were very high.

Kompas (12 January 2009)

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