Papuans protest Draconian offer from Jakarta to replace Governor Enembe
SPECIAL REPORT: By Yamin Kogoya
Indonesia’s most troubled province of Papua is involved in yet another mass protest with protesters barricading provincial government buildings and offices over a draconian and undemocratic appointment.
The latest unrest follows the controversial appointment last week of Papua Provincial Government Secretary Dance Yulian Flassy as Acting Governor of Papua Province by Indonesian Interior Minister Tito Karnavian.
It has been alleged that Flassy sent a letter to the Home Office asking to be appointed acting governor of Papua.
Letter No. T.121.91 / 4124 / OTDA dated June 24, 2021, was signed by the Director General of Regional Autonomy of the Ministry of the Interior, Akmal Malik.
The sudden appointment shocked Governor Enembe, who has been in Singapore for medical treatment since May. The governor said he had not been informed or made aware of the appointment.
He said it was “maladministration” and an attempt to cause more unrest in Papua.
Governor Enembe wrote a letter to President Jokowi, which highlighted four points:
- Governor Enembe will return to Papua to fulfill his duty as governor as soon as he is fully recovered;
- As an active governor, Governor Enembe was not consulted, informed or accepted the appointment of Flassy as acting governor;
- Governor Enembe was elected by his people in accordance with the Indonesian constitution to administer the province and lead his people. He said that when he took office he took an oath to protect the unitary state of Indonesia. He is disappointed by this kind of illegal and unconstitutional behavior coming from the high office; and
- Governor Enembe asked President Jokowi to remove Flassy from office because he had abused his public portfolio by trying to take office without consulting Governor Enembe.
“In addition to these [points], Mr. Flassy has already done a lot of things that contradict my policies as governor, ”Governor Enembe said (Fajar Papua.com, June 25).
The governor said he was surprised that Home Secretary Tito Karnavian was the one who granted him permission to travel to Singapore for medical treatment in April. Governor Enembe asked, “Why, then, is Mr. Tinto trying to replace me, knowing that I am still alive and recovering?”
Muhammad Rifai Darus, spokesperson for Governor Enembe, said Enembe was still active as head of Papua’s regional and provincial government and criticized the appointment due to its violation of proper procedure and mechanism (such as reported by Papua today news online, June 25).
Ricky Ham Pagawak, vice-chairman of the Papua Democratic Party, said the appointment was discriminatory and constituted a civil coup against Governor Lukas’s office (Papua Post, June 26).
Pagawak continues to criticize the appointment, saying the letter was published in the morning and afternoon of the same day Flassy was appointed.
“Is it right?” He asked.
In response, the Papuans have already blocked off several government buildings, including the Democratic Party office.
“If there is no withdrawal of this central government appointment, the Papuan people will continue to galvanize mass rallies and occupy the provincial office until the matter is fully resolved,” Pagawak said. (Suara Papua, June 26).
A member of the Papuan provincial parliament, Nason Utty, also expressed his disappointment at Flassy’s decision, sending a letter to the Home Office, asking to be appointed interim governor of Papua.
“It is inappropriate for the provincial secretary to do this. Mr. Enembe remains the rightful governor of the province of Papua, so this is an important decision that should be consulted with him first, ”said Nason Utty (SindoNews.com, June 26).
Despite harsh criticism from Governor Enembe and the Papuans, Luqman Hakim, deputy chairman of Commission II of the House of Representatives in Jakarta, said the appointment was appropriate and the proper procedures and mechanisms were followed.
“The Home Secretary’s decision to appoint Papua Provincial Secretary Dance Yulian Flassy as interim governor was necessary and legitimate. In the principles of constitutional law, a government is not allowed to have a power vacuum, ”Hakim said. DetikNews journalists (June 26).
There is an element of common sense in Hakim’s statement – such high office should not be left as an infinitely power vacuum. Especially in Papua, one of the most conflict-ridden parts of Indonesia and the world.
But even the simple rules that govern, such as common sense, differ greatly between Jakarta and Papua.
In Papua, strong local leadership is needed to respond to the looming endless crises.
However, Jakarta is also notoriously known for introducing nefarious policies, contrary to the wishes of the Papuan people, which aggravate these conflicts and crises.
One such failed policy is the infamous Papuan Special Self-Government Act No.21 of 2001, introduced 20 years ago to deflect the ever-growing demand for Papuan independence, following the fall of Suharto’s 32-year-old iron fist in 1998.
Opposed Autonomy Law
This law will expire in November 2021. Jakarta’s insistence on expanding what Papuans see as a “failed and dead special self-government” policy has already been sharply criticized and overwhelmingly rejected by Papuan society.
Further exacerbating these situations, the controversial labeling of all Papuans who opposed Jakarta as “terrorists” in recent months, following the murder of a senior Indonesian intelligence officer, General I Gusti Putu Danny Karya Nugraha, also sparked outrage among Papuans and Indonesians.
Civil society groups and Papuan churches have firmly rejected this “terrorist” label and called on Jakarta to revoke the decision. This harmful label will give the green light to the security forces to shoot down any Papuan considered to be a member of the West Papua National Liberation Army.
Local media Suara Papua (Papua Voice) has recorded rare shocking images on the ongoing devastating humanitarian crisis in the Papua Highlands, as security forces continue to terrorize residents in their pursuit of the Papua Liberation Army.
Jakarta’s unsympathetic approach in disregarding Papuans’ customary practice of 40 days of national mourning for the May 21 death of their vice-governor, Klemen Tinal, is erasing Papua’s deep wounds.
These are some of Jakarta’s draconian and top-down policies that are stoking the burning flames in the hearts of Papuans in this region of the world stricken by a decade-long conflict.
Because the central government does not even have the courtesy of asking its own governor-elect to appoint another indigenous Papuan as interim governor, this indicates that Jakarta creates and sustains conflict between indigenous Papuan peoples.
Governors not consulted
Jakarta also did not question the governors of the two provinces (Papua and West Papua) about the impact that the recent Papuan “terrorist” label might have on the psychology of the Papuan people.
It seems that Indonesia, a country that prides itself on being the fourth largest democracy in the world with the ambition to play a role in world affairs, is struggling to decide what it stands for – democracy and freedom ? Or something else?
This indecision was further manifested when Indonesia decided to join 14 other countries (including North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, Russia and China) in rejecting a resolution on “The Responsibility to Protect” ( R2P) and the prevention of genocide, war crimes, cleansing and crimes against humanity during the vote at the United Nations Assembly last May.
This ambivalence is reflected in almost all of the policies Jakarta has put in place for Papua. Jakarta’s ruling elites make declarations to remove all indigenous Papuans from their ancestral homeland.
On the other hand, President Jokowi wants to approach Papua through social assistance.
Sadly, the same welfare-speaking president is also giving orders to his troops on a manhunt for “terrorists” in West Papua.
Flassy’s appointment as interim governor without consulting Governor Lukas Enembe and the Papuan people reflects the tragic mismanagement of West Papua’s Jakarta.
Practice what is preached
Jakarta should choose the principles and values by which it wishes to live and manage its business with Papuans accordingly.
Otherwise, no meaningful and permanent peace can be brought to the land of Papua if Jakarta continues to approach Papua with self-contradicting policies. It’s about practicing what you preach.
Both Enembe and Flassy are Papuan and should be united to resolve the many challenges their people face, not to fight for the highest positions. But sadly, Jakarta’s elites continue to introduce policies that encourage Papuans to disagree with each other on all kinds of things.
This is the true color of the old colonial strategy of “divide and conquer” at work. We learned what happened in the last 500 years of European colonization – they used this strategy to decimate local indigenous people.
Due to these unfortunate tragedies, Governor Lukas Enembe said the people of Papua remain calm and united to protect Papua and are not easily provoked by what is happening.
He asked if the Papuans wanted to express their frustrations at the appointment of Dance Yulian Flassy, to do so peacefully without harming all life on the land of Papua.
Muhammad Rifai Darus, spokesperson for Governor Enembe, said Governor Enembe was alive and recovering.
When he returns home, he will deal with Jakarta and appoint his deputy governor in accordance with the appropriate procedure and mechanism.
In the meantime, he calls on the people of Papua to remain calm and not to give any unnecessary opportunity to the enemy of Papua to use this moment to create more conflict and devastation.
- Yamin Kogoya is a West Papua scholar with an MA in Applied Anthropology and Participatory Development from the Australian National University who contributes to the Asia Pacific report. Descended from the Lani tribe in the Papuan Highlands, he currently lives in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
- Other articles by Yamin Kogoya