West Papuans fear for survival as a people
While Indonesia's government is taking new steps to foster economic and social development in Papua, West Papuans say their survival as a people is under threat.
West Papuans say their survival as a people is increasingly threatened under Indonesian rule.
But Jakarta says it's working to address what it sees as the real issues holding the indigenous people back.
Johnny Blades reports after securing a rare journalist visa to enter Papua.
It's estimated that West Papuans are now a minority in their homeland. A University of Sydney study predicts they will make up less than 30 percent of the population within five years. The Governor of Papua province, Lukas Enembe, who is a Papuan himself, warns the inward migration of Javanese and other non-Papuans poses a critical threat.
LUKAS ENEMBE: If you ask me 10 or 20 years in the future, I thought Papuans might be gone already, if we don't protect them. I mean, they'll vanish because nowadays we haven't got the exact number of Papuans but it's decreasing very rapidly.
Many West Papuans still see Jakarta's rule as a threat to their well-being and while estimates vary wildly, 150,000 to 500,000 are thought to have died in a separatist conflict simmering since the 1970s. But in a region tightly guarded by Indonesian military and police, speaking out is a dangerous business for West Papuans who maintain self-determination dreams. In Abepura jail a Papuan political prisoner, Filep Karma, is serving a 15-year jail term for raising the banned separatist Morning Star Flag. He said West Papuans relish the support offered by Pacific Islands governments.
FILEP KARMA: Solomon, Vanuatu, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and all Melanesian countries, please continue to support us until our independence.
West Papua is a sensitive issue for Indonesia's government which has long restricted outside access to the region. But recently, amid growing international interest in West Papua, Jakarta has allowed a handful of foreign journalists in. I was granted a rare interview with a Presidential envoy focusing on grassroots development in West Papua, Judith Dipodiputro. With Jakarta investing significant amounts of money in the region, she expects Papuans will increasingly appreciate being part of Indonesia.
JUDITH DIPODIPUTRO: The problem of Papua is not unique to Papua. We have poverty, and education, lack of competitiveness, lack of basic infrastructure all over Indonesia. So by taking Papua we are making pilots that can be replicated all over Indonesia.
Franzalbert Joku is a West Papuan, who in recent years has returned to live in his homeland and work for the Indonesian administration after years in exile campaigning for independence. He feels life there has improved and West Papuans must look to build a better future.
FRANZALBERT JOKU: Rather than sitting here everyday waking up, dreaming about being independent, not wanting to work the land or fish the lake or the sea. It's time for serious reflection and taking serious decisions by ourselves.
Mr Joku says while many West Papuans still harbour dreams of independence, he now prefers to work within the realm of what is possible and an acknowledgement that his homeland is part of Indonesia.
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