Indonesia's government says its infrastructure drive in Papua region is a long term integrated plan.
The president Joko Widodo has commissioned a series of large infrastructure projects in the region such as the trans-Papua road, a railway system and major electricity programme.
The government official overseeing development in Papua, Judith Dipodiputro, spoke about the projects to Johnny Blades who began by asking how feasible a rail project is for Papua.
JUDITH DIPODIPUTRO: The first thing you have to remember is we are running a country, right. So it is a long term, integrated plan. We should not look at this as only building the rail system. It's building the whole infrastructure of a country, without looking at it as because it's Papua therefore it's not feasible. It's not only about the rail system. We don't say because it's a rough area and very difficult we do not build airports or airstrips etc. It's about giving the fair facilities for all Indonesians wherever they are, whether they are in Papua, in Kalimantan or up mountain in Puncak Jaya for example. So it is not about being feasible. It's about a long term plan, a greater plan about providing complete infrastructure that is necessary to meet the needs of all Papuans.
JOHNNY BLADES: But the fact is it's a hard engineering task to have to go through that central cordilla of mountains whether it be the rail project, the trans-Papuan road or the electricity project. So I'm just wondering, this is a long term thing, but it does present some difficulties, doesn't it?
JD: But this is when you have a mix of infrastructure. The rail system will be adapted to areas that are able to receive, the most feasible, rail system. It will be inter-connected with other transportation systems. It's a model of mixed transportation infrastructure. When we speak about infrastructure, why only speak about roads and train and airports? Remember basic needs infrastructure: clean water, health facilities, education facilities. These facilities need infrastructure like roads etc. It's not about building roads and trains and bridges, only related to economy. It's related to delivering public services to the community, to the people.
JB: We do hear some concerns from people in Papua, that these big infrastructure projects will further entrench the marginalisation of Papuans in Papua. What do you say to that?
JD: Ok, first of all, who is saying this? This is important.
JD: Pak Johnny, I'm saying who, which Papuans are saying this? I think it's important to differentiate who are saying what. Because at the bottom of the pyramid of the population, where the President is most concerned, there's only positivity about these developments. People are very excited, very trusting, people wanting to know ok how can I do (be part of this), or how can we help each other do. The easiest way would be to follow conversation in social media between Papuans who are in Papua today, who are in the mountains, like Dogiyai, Paniai, Puncak Jaya, in Wamena etc. It is positive. I think most of the world that you have to listen because they are indeed at the bottom of the pyramid, because they are in the most remote areas, the most difficult to reach, most left behind from the legacy that President Jokowi inherited from the past. And we see excitement, it's trusting. It's positive, yeah. But one thing that's important is that if you hear negativity, I think it has to do with because people now know it's not about having the hands facing up. It's not about that, it's not about asking (for a handout). But it's about wanting to upgrade oneself. This is the realisation. If they want to be part of the growth, they have to upgrade themselves, getting the right training, the right education, being sober from alcohol; saying that if they get a bank loan, it is imperative that they have to pay. Basically, it's understanding, learning that it's about being professional. It's about the issue of whether Papuans, but not just Papuans, all Indonesians in remote areas, whether they want to work hard because there's a time when we all have to work hard. And in that case of that's why I say who is saying this, who is talking about this negativity, because probably it's about those who were used to being easy money brokers. You know, they were probably who were used to getting easy money. Building Indonesia, where we are today, is about hard work.
JB: Some of the jobs associated with these big infrastructure projects, they'll be taken up by local people, or is it more people coming in from outside the region?
JD: The whole government of Pak Jokowi accepted by the president that it's your duty to ensure that not only jobs, but access to supply chain, the whole supply chain. Now there's an issue of whether Papuans want to work, want to work hard instead of (being) easy money brokers and for that the different ministries are working at making these training centres meet the requirements of not only government programmes but also of the private sector, so involving the private sector in opening up supply chains, opening up jobs.