Papua Governor looks to protect his people's future
The Governor of Indonesia's Papua province says his plan for a revised autonomy package for the region is a solution to a critical threat facing ethnic Papuans in their homeland.
The Governor of Indonesia's Papua province says his plan for a revised autonomy package for Papua region is a solution to a critical threat facing Papuans in their homeland.
Lukas Enembe has warned that indigenous Papuans could disappear as a people if they remain demographically and economically marginalised in their own land.
Through a translator, Mr Enembe spoke with Johnny Blades who asked him how economic development has been progressing in Papua.
LUKAS ENEMBE: In economy, the progress is happening but not everywhere in the regencies because there's not much investment coming into Papua and not good maintenance. It's caused by these new regencies -- we have many new regencies and very high unemployment. It's also caused by so many people coming into Papua, they become migrants and they take up the native Papuans' job opportunities.
JOHNNY BLADES: Transmigration, I've read that you have voiced concern about that in the past. Is it going to be curbed to meet those concerns that you raise?
LE: I have said to media that I refuse transmigration from outside Papua coming into Papua. But I do support local migration from one place in Papua to other places in Papua. Why I refuse migration like transmigration is because it triggers more unemployment for the native Papuans. There are many native Papuans that live in poverty. Then the question is 'do we have enough capacity to compete with other migrants coming in to Papua from other places'.
JB: How do the Papuans stand the best chance of participating in economic development in the years to come?
LE: Until today, native Papuans, they still live in very poor conditions with a lack of education, low health profile, and if you talk about competing with other non-native Papuans we have no chance because we're not ready yet. I don't think it will come in a short time that we can compete against them, but I do believe that education is the key. So now my strategy is we send students everywhere including overseas -- New Zealand is one -- so that it will increase their capacity which will make them ready to compete, especially in this Asian free trade area that is coming very soon.
JB: Your province has some great natural resources, obviously the Freeport mine is a clear example. Are you keen for the mine to continue operating under its current owners? Are you satisfied with the way that mine is operated?
LE: Papua, according to a US database, Papua's natural resources is number two in the world after Mongolia. And we're now under the spotlight because the US, China and other Asian countries are now competing against each other to get us. For example, Freeport, it was here since 1967, way before Papua became part of Indonesia in 1969, so we were literally given to the US. We have asked them 17 points that may make us consider whether we want them to keep operating in here or not. But there are some points that I would like to express here. The first one is divestment; so by 2021 the continuity of the contract will be whether happening or not. So we want to take this opportunity to get some of Freeport's share through this divestment process so that we can have ownership over the company. The second one, Freeport has to release some of its area and give it back to the provincial government so that we can have the right to manage our own natural resources which have been taken away from us for so long. The third one is its commitment to develop Papua. Our point is that if they don't have commitments to develop Papua then there's no point in them being here, so that's what I want to emphasise. We want the share that's been divested to be shared among these surrounding regencies. At the moment, there's a process, like a law process, because Mimika regency sued Freeport over the traditional ownership of the land because since they've been operating they haven't paid anything to the community -- no repayment, no development and now the mountain is gone. That's why it's a big loss for them and they're asking for 207 trillion rupiah.
JB: This special autonomy plus, is it all about what you were mentioning earlier -- the capacity, the education. Is that where the focus is? And where do you see Papuans being in, say, 10-20 years in terms of development?
LE: The special autonomy plus is actually an improvement for the quality of native Papuans in all aspects. It includes the economy, education, health, everything. So it's not that political unless there are a few points like the customary represent, but yeah it's very much development. So if you ask me in 10 or 20 years again in the future, I thought Papuans might be gone already if we don't protect them. They're gone, I mean, they're vanished because nowadays we haven't got the exact number of Papuans but it's decreasing very rapidly the number of native Papuans. On one hand, Papua is very rich in natural resources, and on the other hand everyone wants to come here and extract our natural resources without developing our people. So special autonomy plus is one of the ways to protect native Papuans so that they can enjoy all their rights on their own land.
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