Indonesian Elections and West Papua

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Last week Indonesians voted in only the second presidential election in their nation’s history. A race between three major coalition parties, it was the Democratic Party Coalition of current President Yudhoyono that cruised to victory with 60% of the vote. A former military man who was known to many as a “thinking General”, his first term seems to have earned a good amount of support among Indonesian voters.

But what of his policies in regards to West Papua? In the last few weeks the reports have been rolling in about the Indonesian military activities in that region; burning down of homes, attacks and arrests of accused opposition members. Though I can’t sit here and say for sure these activities were ordered by the president himself, they have still occurred under his leadership. A leadership that since 2004, could have sought peaceful and open dialogue with the independent West Papua movement as well as human rights workers on the ground who have been trying for decades to raise awareness for the plight of the region.

Does the re-election of Yudhoyono mean that Indonesians approve of the government’s actions in West Papua? Do the reports coming from the region ever see the light of day in Indonesia? And is there any chance that in this second term, the president might shift his approach away from diplomacy by the barrel of a gun? These are only a few of the questions that need answering following last week’s elections. Questions I’d like to pose in an upcoming podcast to someone closely following the vote in Indonesia.