2000 - Presidium of the Papua Council
The massive Second Papuan Peoples’ Congress held in June 2000 in West Papua, marked a turning point in the Papuan resistance against the Indonesian administration. Since the Indonesian take over in 1963, the resistance consisted mainly of armed resistance groups attacking Indonesian army units with primitive weapons. For decades, underground armed resistance was the only opposition possible, as the regime of president Suharto reacted violently to any form of autonomous organisation. But after the fall of Suharto in May 1998, a democratisation movement came up throughout Indonesia. The Papuans used the newly found freedoms for organising the Second Papua Peoples’ Congress which was attended by some 10,000 people from all corners and sectors from the territory.
The Congress accepted a new political structure, the Dewan Papua, in which the executive tasks are with the Presidium of the Papua Council (PDP = Presidium Dewan Papua) and the legislative tasks with the Papua Panel, which consists of representatives from ten civic pillars (sectors) including women, students, traditional leaders and ex-political prisoners. The Congress established four commissions that will advise the PDP on the rectification of history, the political agenda, the consolidation of Papua organisations, and on indigenous rights.
The PDP was mandated to work with peaceful means for the restoration of Papuan sovereignty. The ongoing terror and human rights violations, which claimed about 100,000 deaths in the past 40 years (according to Amnesty International), were an important motivation to opt for a peaceful path.
Through the new organisational structure a series of meetings and conferences have been organised for discussion on the problems and strategies and for the foundation of organisations aimed at strengthening the position of the people and at real development. After all the years of oppression, the people experience these public meetings where they can openly discuss the political situation and plan for their own future, already as a liberation. But at the same time people of West Papua are unaccustomed to taking the future in their own hands.
For several decades they were not allowed to participate in deliberations and planning and again and again they were pushed back in the mud because they were seen as backward and primitive. The main challenge is boosting self-confidence and learning about universal human rights and indigenous (collective) rights. The desired and much needed local initiatives do not come about from one day to the other. It’s a matter of time in which tangible improvement of the security situation and international recognition of, and support for the right to development are major elements.
The PDP also organised some big conferences. Important are the women’s conference in July 2001 and the indigenous rights conference in February 2002. The first conference established the women’s movement Solidaritas Perempuan Papua (SPP, Solidarity Papuan Women). The women’s organisations set up earlier under the Indonesian system are elitist clubs that are mainly involved in charity; the positions in these organisations are divided on basis of the importance of the husbands. SPP is a women’s movement with chapters in the 14 kabupaten (districts) and aims at strengthening the position of women through training and local organisations and also by questioning (traditional) male-chauvinist practices and by stimulating women to participate actively in political bodies.
The conference on indigenous rights decided on the foundation of the Papua Indigenous Council (Dewan Adat Papua) with representatives from the various tribal peoples, and an indigenous authority (Pemerintahan Adat Papua) which consists of intellectual representatives and has a co-ordinating role. The task of the council and the authority is to revive and empower the traditional institutions. For decades, the Papuan culture has been suppressed because, in the eyes of Indonesia, the ‘primitive’ Papuan culture didn’t fit within a modern Indonesia; moreover Indonesia feared the power that can originate in a cultural self-confidence. The adat-branches are to make the Papuans proud again of their traditional heritage and to work towards restoration of Papuan sovereignty through empowerment of the traditional institutions. The communities are to take up their own development and to set up organs for security and order. A major feature of this strategy is that efforts are not directed at fighting Indonesian institutions, but that in fact a parallel civic society is being developed.
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