Jayapura, Jubi/ Asia New Zealand Foundation – Assisted by an Asia New Zealand Foundation media travel grant, Māori Television’s Native Affairs producer and cameraman Adrian Stevanon and freelance photojournalist Karen Abplanalp travelled to West Papua, Indonesia in August. They were the first New Zealand television crew to visit the province in 50 years.
In the days leading up to our assignment to Papua, a lot of their work colleagues were asking where they was going and why. Their reply was generally met with a confused look followed by “Papua? Is that in Papua New Guinea?”
The lack of knowledge and public awareness about a territory so close to Aotearoa is actually quite remarkable.
If you don’t know where Papua is, it’s located just north of Australia – the province occupying the western side of the island of New Guinea. The region is largely referred to as ‘West Papua’ by western countries, although the area is actually divided into two separate provinces of Papua and West Papua.
It’s a resource-rich land that has been governed by Indonesia since 1969. The province boasts the world’s largest goldmine, and one of the world’s largest rainforests. There has also been a bloody struggle for independence since Indonesia took over governance of the territory from the Dutch.
Since the Indonesian takeover, West Papua has also tainted by allegations of wide-spread human rights abuse, and environmental destruction.
For more than 50 years, West Papua has largely been a no-go zone for foreign journalists, and after three years of trying our Native Affairs team was finally granted a visa to enter. This was a unique opportunity that had to be accepted.
Flying into the capital of Jayapura, the thing that hit us first is the size, and the beauty of the place from above. On the ground, one of the first things I noticed was the fusion between Asia and the Pacific. The number of indigenous faces at the airport was dwarfed by those from other parts of Indonesia who now call West Papua home.
Jayapura itself is bustling metropolis, with a population of over 300,000. The level of development was not unexpected, but the size of the city sprawl was, as was the quality of the infrastructure – which was certainly better than we had anticipated. The military presence was noticeable, as too the interest from locals to our presence on the street with a TV camera.
For a place that has a somewhat violent and dangerous reputation, our experience was safe and enjoyable.
Jayapura is a great place with great people, but it’s also a place that’s grappling with some challenging social dynamics.
West Papua has an indigenous population of around two million people who speak more than 270 different languages.
They travelled to the highlands, where the vast majority of indigenous Papuans live. Their aim was visit some villages involved in a New Zealand aid project that’s focused on the growth and commercialisation of crops, in particular kumara or ‘ubi jalar’ as they call it in the Highlands.
There are many traditional and cultural similarities between Māori and the Dani people we connected with. From the way they greet guests, and cook their food, to the traditional gods they worship, the cultural parallels are clear to see.
The concerns around colonisation felt by the locals we met echo the sentiments felt here by Māori. The loss of traditional knowledge and culture was by far the greatest concern for the village elders we spoke to.
Adrian Stevanon and Karen Abplanalp describe their trip to Papua.
“As youth from the villages get educated and migrate to the cities in search of work, few are willing to return to the hard graft of village life. So much of the village way of life operates around working the land and their crops. The Indonesian influence of rice is strong, with free rice delivered to villages by the government; many villagers don’t see the value in continuing to grow their traditional crops,” said Adrian.
“We were told this can lead to a break down in the functioning of the village, and lead to issues of alcohol abuse and domestic violence. Traveling to the highlands and connecting with some of the indigenous people of West Papua was such an incredible experience. Their hopes and dreams and dreams for their kids are the same as ours, so too are the dreams of the kids. One teenage boy we spoke to said he wanted to be a pilot, another girl wanted to be doctor so she could help the sick in her village. Both spoke about the struggles of life living in a poor community. The irony is, theirs is a resource-rich land, with a third of Indonesia GDP coming from Papua alone. Its promising to see the Indonesian government loosen their grip on the province and allowing foreign journalists to enter, we hope this continues,” Karen added. (*)
Indonesian military to complete Trans-Papua Highway
Papua, Jubi – Officials working on a troubled road project in Papua say Indonesia’s military will complete the job this year.
In December, at least 16 Indonesians working on the Trans-Papua Highway in Nduga province were massacred by fighters from the West Papua Liberation Army.
The project was put on hold with the military saying it would take over work on the 4000 kilometre highway.
Combat engineers will reportedly carry out the construction, with hundreds of extra security personnel deployed to the area.
Detik News reports a military battalion has been assigned to the building of the project’s remaining 16 bridges.
Indonesian army engineers had already been working on the Trans-Papua Highway project for a number of years.
Military involvement in the project was cited by the Liberation Army as a central reason for killing the road workers, who were suspected of being soldiers. (*)
Indonesian soldier dead after attack at Papua airport
Papua, Jubi – Indonesia’s military has evacuated the body of a soldier killed at an airport in Papua’s Highlands on Monday.
Xinhua reported that gunmen shot at an arriving aircraft carrying soldiers at Mapenduma airport of Nduga district, leaving one soldier dead.
Military spokesman Colonel Muhammad Aidi said when the plane was about to land, it was shot at, and soldiers who were guarding the airport shot back, triggering gunfire exchange.
He said the gunmen retreated and escaped to the forest and the plane landed.
Tempo reported that two soldiers were shot, and hospitalised, with one dying later.
The soldier’s body has been evacuated to Papua’s provincial capital Jayapura,
He is the latest apparent victim in the Highlands conflict between guerilla forces of the West Papua Liberation Army and Indonesian security forces that intensified last year. (*)
A sad story of education from Papuan outreached and border areas
Jayapura, Jubi – Education, in Papua today is still a sad story since many schools in outreached or border areas have to struggle to continue their activities even without adequate support from the government.
An educational activist Agustinus Kadepa said the education in Papua, especially in the border and outreached areas, is a complex issue, from the lack of teachers’ attendance to lack of teaching facilities that hampers the learning activities at school.
“This is complicated. Furthermore, we know that a good and qualified educational education could exist when it gains support from many aspects, namely the economy, educational facilities, public awareness of education and so on. Therefore, I think these factors have made many teachers prefer to live in town rather than in those remote areas,” said Kadepa on Thursday (24/1/2019).
Another factor is when teachers apply for the position of civil servants. It has an indirect impact on the number of teachers staying at schools, especially in remote areas. Because most of those teachers would accept the new position as a civil servant and choose to live in town rather than continue teaching in remote areas.
Meanwhile, this problem also considered by the village chief of Kampung Moso, Muara Tami Sub-district of Jayapura Municipality, Agus Watapoa. He said that all the time the primary schools of the Indonesian and PNG border have not a sufficient number of teachers. Therefore, the children are neglected and cannot study at school.
“Teachers who teach in this school village come late to school, at 10 in the morning. So this school is not well running. It’s still open but just not running very well because we only have two classes with a roof,” he said. (*)
Reporter: Agus Pabika
Editor: Pipit Maizier
Health & Education Service5 years ago
Sex Education Taught at School In Jayawijaya
Headlines11 months ago
Three refugees reportedly died in Nduga Forest
Headlines12 months ago
Papuan people demand the President to withdraw troops from Nduga
Human Right3 years ago
LP3BH: Indonesia continues to lie on human rights violations in Papua
Environment1 year ago
Green economy development would be on five indigenous territories
Headlines1 year ago
When a dense forest turns into an oil palm plantation
Economy1 year ago
Freeport Indonesia disregards Papua Manpower Office’s Decree
Analysis11 months ago
Indonesia’s pressure tactics over West Papua issue resemble the actions of China over Tibet