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'Roadmap' Proposed to Help Bring Peace to Indonesia's Papua Province

Johan Tererisa was arrested by Indonesian security officials for unfurling a banned flag that symbolizes Papua independence (File)

Johan Tererisa was arrested by Indonesian security officials for unfurling a banned flag that symbolizes Papua independence (File)

The political conflict in Indonesia's easternmost province of Papua is growing increasingly violent. Policy researchers and civic groups say the only way to improve the situation is for Papuans to talk with the central government.

Nine years after Jakarta granted Papua special autonomy, many there say it has failed to bring the region prosperity or peace.

They say what is needed is a new dialogue with the Indonesian government.

This week, researchers from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences released a 'roadmap' to guide talks between the two sides. It outlines the roots of the conflict: the marginalization and discrimination against Papuans; failed development; state violence and alleged human rights abuses; and conflicting ideas about Papua's political identity.

The roadmap suggests an affirmative action policy to empower Papuans, improved basic services such as health care and a human rights court to punish those who commit abuses. And, they say, there must be talks between the two sides to resolve differences about Papua's political identity.

Brigham Golden is an anthropologist at Columbia University who specializes on Papua. He says the government should support the roadmap if it wants peace in Papua.

"It's not going to be easy, but if political solutions can be found that help Papuans to feel like they are respected parts of the Indonesian society - if Jakarta can do things to integrate Papuans in to the diverse family of Indonesia, then I'm hopeful that will put them on the path to dealing with these much deeper development issues," Golden said.

Some ministries in Jakarta say the plan undermines Indonesian sovereignty. But the government's human rights agency has vowed to investigate recent allegations of police abuses in Papua.

Over the decades, Indonesia has battled several separatists insurgencies. Two of the most deadly - in East Timor and the Indonesian province of Aceh - have been resolved. East Timor has become an independent state, and a peace agreement has granted Aceh considerable autonomy within the Indonesian government.

One problem for Papuans is Jakarta's policy of encouraging Indonesians from all over the country to migrate to the province.

Frederika Korain is a human rights activist with the Office for Justice and Peace of the Diocese of Jayapura. She says as a many as 5,000 newcomers arrive a day.

"That's a real problem for us," she says, "It's not about economic advantage, but also it is about the survival of the nation, of the indigenous community."

She worries that indigenous Papuans can not compete with outsiders because many of the provincial government officials are migrants who do not consider Papuans' needs.

After a few relatively calm years, the separatist insurgency in Papua is becoming more violent. That is drawing international attention to Papua, with 50 U.S. congressional representatives calling on President Obama to make Papua one of his highest priorities.