Seventy-five percent of Papuans want independence – Survey

Sinar Harapan – July 3, 2003
Papuans wearing traditional dress march in Yogyakarta (Tempo)
Papuans wearing traditional dress march in Yogyakarta (Tempo)

Jayapura – Seventy-five percent (75) of native Papuans appear to want Papua to be free and become an independent country. This was revealed in the results of a survey conducted by the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) in cooperation with Tyler Nelson Survey (TNS), an international research institute.

The results of the survey were actually outlined during a training workshop for the 2003 all-Papua public opinion survey trainers meeting for members of the Regional Development Planning Agency, the Regional House of Representatives (DPRD), non-government organisations and colleges throughout Papua that took place not long ago in the provincial capital of Jayapura.

IFES monitoring and evaluation director David Y. Dewata told Sinar Harapan that the survey was conducted by questioning 3,450 respondents from the 12 regencies and two municipalities in Papua using a direct approach method. The survey was conducted between September and November 2002.

The results of the survey can be said to be quite surprising. The reason, because Papuan special autonomy (otsus) has been running since 2001 with the expectation that the implementation of otsus would extinguish the desire for independence. For the Papua region however, there are indeed some people who want to split away from the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI) and determine their own fate.

In addition to this, the survey also revealed that 69 percent of native Papuans believe that independence means the freedom to manage one’s own affairs. Almost one third or 28 percent of respondents believe that all people would receive equal treatment if they were independent. What is particularly interesting meanwhile, is that 27 of Muslim residents believe that there will be absolutely not change if Papua is given independence. Sixteen percent meanwhile said that security would improve if Papua became an independent nation.

Reevaluation needed

With regard to the results of the IFES and TNS survey, the director of the Papua Institute for Civil Strengthening (ICS), Budi Setyanto, told Sinar Harapan that this is only one type of survey and needs to be looked at again. He conceded however that that a desire for independence still exists, and this is because proper socialisation about the implementation of otsus has yet to be carried out at lower levels of society.

From the results of an evaluation by the ICS, it appears that the implementation of Papuan otsus over the last year has been ‘jargonistic’, meaning it has not reached down to the lowest levels including in the utilisation of otsus funds, which are more focused towards the lower layers of society.

“Don’t let that be the understanding of otsus, what is meant by otsus isn’t even understood by lower layers of society, because the regional government hasn’t carried out any proper socialisation. If it isn’t even understood by society, it can be imagined that Papuan otsus will not run at all,” he said.

Moreover, Setyanto said that the implementation of otsus is still the same as has been undertaken by the regional government and the DPRD. So he is pessimistic that there will be any change in Papua for the next ten years, even if otsus is completed. Therefore Setyanto suggested that in order to implement otsus a desire or political will on the part of the government is absolutely necessary. In his view, up until now the utilisation of otsus funds has been restricted to the elite level and its use has been unclear. (ded)

[Abridged translation by James Balowski.]