Award for Suebu new challenge for Jakarta PDF Afdrukken

The Jakarta Post ,  Jakarta   |  Wed, 10/31/2007 4:47 PM  |  Opinion

Neles Tebay, Abepura, Papua

Along with former U.S. vice president Al Gore, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Prince Charles and other top environmental leaders, Papua Governor Barnabas Suebu was named a Hero of the Environment by TIME magazine. It was announced in its Oct. 29 edition.

The governor of Indonesia's easternmost province received the prestigious award on Oct. 25, 2007, in the Royal Court of Justice, London, for his commitment to protect Papua's rainforest.

Suebu's nomination highlights three challenges in particular for the central government in Jakarta.

First, Suebu's nomination by the U.S.-based weekly shows that the central government's policy of restricting foreign journalists has failed to keep Papua province out of the international media's spotlight.

The government has officially erected a ""fence"" around Papua to isolate it from the rest of the world by preventing foreign journalists from visiting the western half of the Island of New Guinea.

The purpose of the restriction is to block the flow of information about and from Papua for international media coverage so the ""Papua case"" can be prevented from getting international media attention. However, by picking Suebu as a hero of the environment, Papua has already been lifted up to the international level.

It is not an exaggeration to say that TIME magazine has demolished the government-erected fence surrounding Papua and successfully introduced the province and its present governor to the international community.

As a result, more people now know where Papua is located on the map, and the significance of Papua's forest for the health of the planet.

Will Papua and its problems, especially the environmental issue, draw more international attention and publicity in the days to come?

Indigenous Papuans, for their part, are now convinced they are not forgotten by the international media, even without the presence of foreign journalists in Papua.

Second, it is clear also that TIME magazine and Governor Suebu share the same commitment concerning environmental issues. Both parties realize the importance of protecting Papua's forests in order to save the planet.

They know also the severe consequences of deforestation on environmental balance, the security of humankind, and the other threats posed by global warming.

Governor Suebu has been given international recognition and support for his commitment and efforts to protect Papua's virgin rainforest from deforestation efforts launched by government-authorized timber and palm oil plantation companies, and illegal loggers.

The central government is expected to encourage and support Governor Suebu in standing up against all deforestation efforts in Papua province.

Third, through the naming of Suebu as a hero of the environment, TIME magazine also uncovered some fundamental problems in Papua province.

As reported, TIME (Oct. 29, 2007, page 50) recognizes that Papua has a history of separatist activity. This public recognition should be understood as an invitation for all related parties, especially the central government and Papuans, to settle Papua's separatism and its root causes.

The government, then, should be encouraged to engage in a genuine dialogue with Papuans, with the help of a neutral party as facilitator.

The magazine also revealed that Papua has an extensive poverty. Despite its wealth of natural resources being exploited by multinational and domestic companies, some 80 percent of indigenous Papuans still live in absolute poverty. Papua also has the country's highest HIV rate.

The magazine also disclosed the deeply entrenched business and military interests that have richly profited from Papuan timber.

These two elements are obstacles that should be removed by the central government, in collaboration with Papua's governor, in order to protect the Papua's rainforest.

It is the hope of all Papuans that the central government and the governor of Papua, with the support of the international community, will collaborate to preserve Papua's forests for the sake of our planet, and to overcome all the above mentioned problems.

The writer is a lecturer at the Fajar Timur School of Philosophy and Theology in Abepura, Papua. He can be reached at Dit e-mailadres is beschermd tegen spambots. U heeft Javascript nodig om het te kunnen zien. .