Indonesia cuts funding for Papuan students in New Zealand
The association representing international students from West Papua provinces in Indonesia applauded, saying the move was a “human resource assassination”.
International students in New Zealand are appealing to the Indonesian government as Melanesian autonomous provinces are supported to send students abroad.
West Papua students are studying all over the world – but with recent funding cuts to the West Papua Autonomous Scholarship Funds by the Indonesian government, 125 may soon be packing their bags to return home.
Following the announced cut of 10% of education funds previously allocated to provincial governments in Indonesian Melanesia, 42 students in New Zealand and 84 students in the United States have been sent home – with things still pending for d other students in Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan and Russia.
In a public statement, the International Alliance of Papuan Overseas Student Associations criticized the decision, saying it does not respect the human right to education and impedes the development of indigenous human resources for the region by Indonesia conflict.
“We consider the removal and embezzlement of 10% of the education fund managed by the Papua Provincial Government to be an assassination of investment in human resources for the future of Papua through education,” said the president of the Oceania section of the student association Yan Piterson Wenda.
Now the association is calling for a meeting with Indonesian President Joko Widodo to discuss the change.
Laurens Ikinia hails from the central highlands of West Papua, an area plagued by conflict between the West Papua Liberation Army and Indonesian central government security forces.
The armed conflict, exacerbated by the increased activity of the Indonesian army over the past year, has displaced tens of thousands of people.
Indonesia’s Melanesian provinces have long had deep grievances against Indonesian rule — grievances stemming not only from allegations of human rights abuses and military control, but also from frustrations around self-determination.
Papua Governor Lukas Enembe has been credited with advancing scholarship funds for students from Papua and West Papua to study abroad, in part to invest in the human capital of contested regions.
So, after studying in New Zealand for six years under this scholarship system, Ikinia was shocked to see his name on a list.
The education fund will no longer support Ikinia – putting in doubt her progress towards a master’s degree in communication, as well as the academic future of 125 others.
And to add insult to injury, the government claims that students on the list are excluded due to poor progress – a claim that Ikinia denies.
“The reason the government is using to repatriate us is baseless,” he said. “Most of the students on the list are in the second and third years of their respective programs.”
Another statement from the student association said it found no evidence of a lack of performance after investigating each student mentioned.
Ikinia said all other Papuan students shared her dismay and wondered what their forced return would mean for the autonomy of their homeland.
“If we have to come back, that means special autonomy means nothing to us,” he said. “The central government of Indonesia just transfers funds to the provincial government without giving it the power to manage the budget.”
This news comes a week after Education New Zealand chief executive Grant McPherson issued a statement doubling down on the importance of international students in New Zealand, after filing a submission to the Productivity Commission to consider it. when changing immigration policy settings.
“International students who come to New Zealand support the achievement of broader government goals and objectives, while contributing to New Zealand’s economic development,” McPherson said.
The submission also highlighted the benefits that international students bring to New Zealand, such as regional development, research output and helping relationships with other countries.
But at 55 times the size of New Zealand, Indonesia is unlikely to consider this because it has cut off the lifeline of these students. And for the students themselves, it could go so far as to be a human rights issue.
The association’s first statement called the move an override of students’ right to education, saying that international law accepted by the Indonesian government legally binds it to respect, protect and promote the right to education.
The association questioned the recall of these students due to a lack of academic progress and wondered what motive is behind the use of erroneous data.
Ikinia certainly does not seem to belong to the category of student who does not progress. Since arriving in New Zealand, he has completed an English language certification, earned a Bachelor’s degree in Contemporary International Studies, and is heading to the other side of his Masters at Auckland University of Technology.
Now it looks like the graduation may be snatched away from him due to the seemingly arbitrary workings of the bureaucratic machine in Jakarta.