Geographical location and past history makes West Papua have a difficult relationship with the Indonesian government. There is a hope to improve it, though.
As a region located far from the central administration, West Papua does not always get the chances to thrive that it deserves. This situation is said to create division among people in the region. However, as the years go by, the central government begins to put more effort into developing this region and patching up their relationship.
Major Issues of the Region
The well-being of Papuans has become a big concern for the government (central and local) and the natives. It is the main cause for the distant relationship between the central government and natives. Certain issues become the major cause that prevents people in the region to achieve well-being, including:
In 2020, the autonomy fund given to West Papua amounted to USD 580 million. This was a massive increase because the fund didn’t even reach a fifth of that amount around twenty years ago. However, policy experts call for stricter supervision in the use of that fund so that it would be used as intended.
Other than the lax supervision of government funds, there is a big economic discrepancy among people in the region. Most of the time, tribal people live on the brink of poverty because they don’t have enough resources to thrive.
Political and security issues
People who live in major cities like FakFak and Jayapura experience relatively stable political and security situations. However, the same cannot be said for people who live in rural areas of the province. The political situation there is very volatile, particularly due to separatist groups.
The Indonesian government implements strict military actions to deal with such problems. However, studies have indicated that these actions may not be effective. It may even create a rift between the region and the central government.
Human rights issues are also prevalent in West Papua. There are many facets to this issue. First, it is related to the military program implemented by the government. Sometimes the use of force may cross the lines of civic rights, and it causes mistrust towards the government.
There is also prejudice towards people in the region from people who live in other places (particularly those who reside close to the central government). It broadens the gap between citizens in the country.
Issues in the management of public health
This issue is especially prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic shows how poorly managed the health system in this province is. There are efforts to improve public access to healthcare during this trying time. However, underdeveloped infrastructures become a major obstacle.
Progress of West Papua in Recent Years
Has progress occurred in this province in the past years? Citizens have definitely seen improvements in their lives, such as:
The education sector has always been targeted in the quest to improve the well-being of people. Education increases human capacity so that they can tackle any problems that they encounter. When everyone in a region is well-educated, you will see massive progress in that area.
One of the efforts done to improve education in this province is by offering scholarships to potential students. These native students get the chance to receive high-quality education for free in the hope that they will use their knowledge and skills to build their hometown.
Accessibility is difficult in the province because it is a vast region with underdeveloped infrastructures. Thus, the government makes an extra effort to develop its public access. Compared to the past, you will now be able to visit this region with more ease.
The infrastructure development supports the well-being of people in West Papua. Locals are able to commute from one area to another easily, which means more access to education and healthcare facilities. Economic activities are also improved because of this development.
To tackle the health problems experienced by native people, the government is committed to enhance the province’s health service. The most important step is by building many healthcare facilities in strategic areas. People no longer need to travel for days just to receive medical attention.
Its health service also starts to address endemic health problems such as stunting in children. There are also efforts to modernize the health service by providing telemedicine service for Papua people.
Cooperative Relationship with Central Government
Experts noted the importance of cooperative relationships between West Papua and the central government to further boost the development of this region. Each party has its own responsibility to carry in ensuring success. Poor cooperation was the main reason why development was so slow in the past.
Understanding each party’s responsibility is very pivotal in this case. The central government needs to make efforts to provide more resources so that the region can thrive. At the same time, locals also need to support the government programs for the betterment of their lives.
The relationship between the Indonesian government and people in West Papua is historically difficult. However, combined efforts from both parties can not only bridge this gap, but also improve the province’s overall well-being.