The rising violence in Papua is a cause of worry not just for the government but the country as a whole. The region remains underdeveloped despite its rich natural resources and vast area.
Patterns of increasing violence have usually preceded significant events or dates. Last year, a spike in attacks was also seen ahead of the Dec. 1 anniversary of the establishment of the Free Papua Movement. This has been going on for far too long.
During the past two months, at least 14 people have been killed and 24 cases of violence reported in Papua. In the past week, a shooting incident was reported almost every day.
Jakarta must pay serious attention to what is happening in Papua. It must treat the violence seriously and find solutions quickly if the situation is not to deteriorate markedly. What is needed most urgently is the right kind of investment.
When President Susilo Bambang Yudhonoyo visits Papua on July 3, he must outline a bold plan that will help uplift the people. He must give hope of a better future if the government is to end the cycle of violence. The perpetrators must be dealt with firmly, but the authorities must at the same time win the hearts and minds of Papuans with projects that create jobs and a better standard of living. This will be crucial in the longer term.
Papua is an integral part of Indonesia and Papuans deserve the same opportunities as their fellow countrymen. The private sector has already recognized the opportunities that are available in the vast province and has started to invest in food estates and health care facilities.
But without proper infrastructure, the province will remain a backwater. This will lead to social frustration and despair among Papuans. Change is therefore urgently needed both in Papua and among the political elite in Jakarta.