Rapid Infrastructure and Human Resource Development Proof of Indonesia’s Commitment to Papuan Development

Under President Joko Widodo, the government has shown strong commitment for developing the less developed areas in Eastern Indonesia, including Papua. Based on Presidential Instruction No. 9 Year 2020 on the Acceleration of Welfare Development in Papua, tangible results in the form of rapid infrastructure development in the region since 2014 are evident. The drive for improving connectivity in order to open up isolated areas, reducing prices, and increasing the quality of life of Papuans has led to large-scale construction projects including roads, power plants, schools, as well as efforts to improve human resources in the region.

Construction of a sports arena for the 2020 PON in Papua Province

One of the government’s most ambitious projects is the Trans Papua Highway which, according to data from the Ministry of Public Works and Public Housing, will be completed in 2024. The highway will be 3462 km long, with 183 km left to be completed. Of the completed parts, 1647 km in Papua and 670 km of roads in West Papua are already paved with asphalt. The highway, which is a National Strategic Project and part of the National Medium Term Development Plan 2020-2024 aims to revitalize the economy and improve connectivity for Papuans, which will ease logistics distribution and mobility for the people. The construction has progressed despite facing various challenges including the area’s natural conditions, materials and security.

Another important development target is increasing access to electricity, which has seen much progress in recent years. This can be seen from the increased electrification ratio which grew significantly from 30,48% in 2013 to 77% in 2018. The number rose to 94,55% in 2021, closing in on the target of 100% for 2022. To reach it, the State Electricity Company (PLN) has relied on solar power, especially for villages far from existing networks.

Other major ongoing projects include the Yetekun Border Post, Yetekun Access Road, the rehabilitation of 235 educational infrastructure units, Papua Youth Creative Hub, Merauke Diocese building, and the Asmat Bridge. President Joko Widodo has shown that he is serious about developing Papua, including by making 15 visits to the region in his two terms in office.

In addition to physical infrastructure, the Government is committed to enhancing Papua’s human resources through scholarships such as the Middle Education Affirmation (ADEM), High Education Affirmation (ADIK), and the Educational Fund Management Institution (LPDP) programs. These provide the opportunity to Papua’s young generation to enhance their capabilities and skill, which must start from an early age.

A total of 10 Indonesian students from Papua graduated from Corban University, Salem in the state of Oregon, United States and graduated on Saturday (7/5/2022). (ANTARA/HO-KJRI San Francisco)

Quality human resources is important to prepare for the demographic bonus period which will impact the economy, politics, and improving the nation’s welfare. The collaboration and participation of the young generation must be maximized to speed up human resources development in Papua. This development needs to be accelerated to fill various employment sectors in line with the region’s potential. The central government’s efforts in this regard can hopefully stimulate the young generation in order to be more proactive so the programs can bring maximum returns. Quotas have also been set aside for Papuan youth to work as civil servants, police and army personnel, as well as employees of State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs).

In conclusion, it is clear that the government’s efforts in the development of Papua and its people have produced tangible results, which is set to continue. The efforts to achieve equal development everywhere through various concrete programs is testament to its commitment

Subsidised flights, mobile communications, and medical personnel: how Government programs bring tangible benefits to the people of Trikora, Papua

The pioneering subsidized flight in Jayawijaya last year. ANTARA/Marius Frisson Yewun

The Government has launched various programs in an effort to alleviate difficulties faced by communities, such as the citizens of the remote Trikora District in Jayawijaya Regency, Papua Province, who previously faced hardships even to purchase basic necessities due to their isolated location.

A major breakthrough to reach the region is through subsidised pioneer flights. Such a program would have limited impact in regions more easily accessible by land, air, or sea but invaluable to one as inaccessible as Trikora District, which lies deep in the interior of Papua. Its isolated location, far from the coast meant that many in the community have never seen boats, let alone know how goods can be distributed through the Government’s Sea Toll program. Many people in the district’s six villages have never even seen motor vehicles which are commonplace in cities such as Jayapura due to there being no roads due to the difficult geography.

Prior to the initiation of the subsidised flight program, members of the community faced serious challenges in acquiring basic necessities such as salt, sugar, and rice. To do so, they must trek to the capital Jayawijaya through narrow roads and dense forests, on a journey that takes between four nights to a week. After purchasing the goods and now being heavily burdened, their return trip is invariably longer and more arduous.

The six villages in Trikora are located behind a mountain and a valley, and also borders the Nduga Regency. To reach Keneyam, the Nduga Regency’s capital would require an equally grueling journey as the one to Jayawijaya.  The community, which does not yet have electricity, has only one airfield located in Anggolok village. Airfields constructed in three other villages have yet to be completed and are currently unusable. One airfield being constructed in Nanggo is 200 metres long, and will be very useful for distributing basic necessities to the community once it is operational, doing away with the need to undertake long journeys on foot.

These subsidised flights also make it easier for the Government to distribute aid to the local communities, although they cannot be transported directly to each individual village, and must be distributed at the airfield in Anggolok.

“We convey our gratitude to the Government for sending us aid using the flights. We are grateful that we can receive (basic necessities) because the journey from Trikora to Nduga takes four nights, so it is difficult to get industrial goods,” said Anggoma Kalolik, an intellectual figure in Trikora.

The community hopes that gradually, the Government can complete the airfields in other villages, to allow subsidised flights to land there. This will allow the distribution of aid and basic necessities to reach every village, with transportation costs that are lower than that of hiring a helicopter, which can total IDR 40 to 50 million.

They also hope that the flights, which are currently scheduled twice a week, can increase in frequency to once a day, so that gradually their welfare can be enhanced, like in the other 39 districts in the regency.

Communications

The people of Trikora are now able to use mobile phones to communicate with relatives living in other regions due to the government’s completion of a telecommunications network in most regencies in Papua.

Although they are still unable to access sites such as Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram like the citizens of the city centres, the people of Trikora are glad that they are now able to communicate with their faraway relatives.

The phones will also allow better communications with the Government. For example, when it comes time to deliver aid, the Government can inform the community by phone in advance so that the district or village heads can gather their citizens to pick up the aid to immediately take home. For Government programs such as elections, the organisers can inform the community ahead of time so that they can gather at the specified date to vote for their local leaders, and even the President during national elections.

Another much appreciated program is the aid for kiosks for the villages in Trikora. According to Nikolas Itlay, the head of the Jayawijaya Social Services, the aid for the Remote Traditional Communities (KAT) has been disbursed this year, which is only possible with small planes or helicopters. The aid, which comes from the Special Autonomy funds will be sustained in the years to come so that the community living in one of the highest points in Indonesia (Trikora Peak) can feel that the Government is there with them.

Health services

One year after the COVID-19 pandemic drained the local government’s funds, health services for the local community have halted, an unfortunate situation that the local government has continuously tried to remedy. To revitalise health services, the government plans to send doctors and nurses to the district in 2023. The medical personnel will provide services for more than three months in Trikora, and will then be replaced by other medical personnel once they have completed their duties.

Before the pandemic, the local government was able to allocate funds to charter helicopters and small planes to transport medical personnel and medicines. The personnel do not live in the health centres, as none have been constructed in the area.

“Next year we focus only on Trikora, so all the money we have proposed will be used to fund medical personnel in Trikora,” said Dr. Willy Mambiew, Head of the Jayawijaya Health Service.

The difficult terrain of Papua province has not discouraged the country’s leaders from helping the community to develop. The tangible effects are being felt by the people of Trikora, as the Government shows care for their citizens, no matter how difficult they are to reach.

Adapted from: Marius Frisson Yewun, “Upaya konkret pemerintah yang kian dirasakan warga Trikora Papua”, Antara, https://www.antaranews.com/berita/3234825/upaya-konkret-pemerintah-yang-kian-dirasakan-warga-trikora-papua

Biak, the new tourism gateway to Papua

Biak Numfor can rightly be considered a piece of Paradise in Papua. Blessed with beautiful and natural underwater sights, the views are much like a painting, with scenic atolls and coral reefs in their natural condition.

Biak Padaido, one of the best scuba diving spot in Papua (source: Our Travel Tip)

Not only is Biak an attractive tourist destination, it is amply supported by infrastructure such as the airport which plays a major role in the region’s economy. Its strategic location and infrastructure support has made it worthy of being named the new gateway to tourism in Papua.

The administrative area of Biak measures 1602 km2 with the surrounding seas measuring 12,522 km2. It is made up of 19 districts with 257 villages and 14 wards. To the North and East lies the Pacific Ocean, while the Yapen Bay is located to the South and Supiori Regency in the West.

The major draw of Biak is its natural beauty, and has many attractive destinations. It is a great destination for marine tourism, especially for divers with its three diving points namely Catalina Wreck, Undi Cave, and Rasi Wreck. In addition, it is also known for its history and culture, making it a draw for foreign tourists.

According to Dr. Ira Adriati, Lecturer at the ITB Arts and Design Faculty and writer of the book  “Perahu Biak”, Biak has a wealth of natural and cultural tourism potential. She adds that when the local government through the tourism office continues developing the unique natural and cultural tourism potential of tourism, it will be draw more foreign tourists to visit.

The area has plenty of nature tourism destinations. In the Raja Tiga Islands at Adoki Village there is a beautiful natural vista, made up of three islands. Another scenic destination is the Samares Spring in Sepse village in East Biak with its blue waters.

In terms of cultural destinations, Biak possesses a unique culture that is preserved to this day, namely the custom of walking on hot stones or Apen Byaren an interesting sight which draws tourists.

Apen Beyeren, walking on hot rocks barefoot in Biak (source: Okezone)

One of the bigger programs slated by the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy is the Sail Cendrawasih 2023, which has designated Biak Numfor as the host of the event In 2023. This certainly will bring more tourists to the area. In preparation, the various supporting infrastructure has been completed by the local government. These include roads, clean water, and others.

Several nature tourism spots have also been prepared including the Old Padwa Cemetery in Yendidori District. The location is a cultural heritage site in the form of limestone cliffs used as graves of the ancestors of Biak tribes even today. Another interesting site is the World War II Monument located in Paray Anggraidi built in 1994. It is a silent witness of the brutality of WW2, with areas  containing relics of the war including flags, and even ashes of cremated soldiers can be seen. 

Another destination is the Bird and Orchid park which are sites for education. It was built in 1984 by the Forestry Office to preserve the many species of birds in Papua which face extinction including Cassowaries, black parrots, and the famous birds of paradise.

Those who prefer to witness natural beauty can visit the Batu Picah beach at Kampung Sor in the north island of Biak with its wonderful views. Other points of interest include the Oridek beach which possesses exotic natural beauty with blue sea waters as well as the Tanjung saruri beach at the mouth of the Pacific which is a draw for surfers. Overall, the growing development of tourism in Biak will impact the hotel and restaurant businesses in the area, along with increasing tourism flows. Many related organizations have made the area a focus of their activities, which in turn will increase the number of tourists and contribute to the local economy.

Southwest Papua becomes Indonesia’s 38th Province, Home Minister: This is historic

Minister of Home Affairs Tito Karnavian during a speech after the Southwest Papua Bill was passed into law by the DPR, Thursday (17/11/2022).


As the Bill for the Establishment of Southwest Papua Province was passed into Law by the House of Representatives (DPR), Home Minister Tito Karnavian expressed his happiness. He further stated that the new province will bring happiness to the people of Sorong Raya region in Papua.

“Today is a historical milestone for the people, especially the people of Sorong Raya and its surrounding areas. Of course, Indonesia is happy to welcome Southwest Papua as the 38th Province of Indonesia,” the Home Minister said at the DPR plenary meeting on Thursday (17/11/2022). The country previously inaugurated the 3 new provinces of South Papua, Papua Highlands, and Central Papua six days before.

The Minister hoped that people are not be carried away in the joyful atmosphere of the new province of Southwest Papua, rather that the new province means there will be more work for everyone involved.

“There is still much to do going forward which will require everyone’s collaboration, whether it’s the Government, region, and of course the House and the Regional Representative Council (DPD), all the stakeholders,” he said.

The Minister stated that the collaboration is needed so that Southwest Papua Province is not just agreed in a de jure manner, but also operational in a de facto way.

In addition, the Minister expressed that the discussions on the Bill involved the participation of various parties, including the people of Papua. “The creation of the Bill on the Southwest Papua Province was initiated by the House of Representatives which was then approved for discussion by the Government, received the aspirations of various elements of West Papuan society, from the regional heads, West Papua Regional House of Representatives, traditional and religious leaders, women, and bureaucrats present in Southwest Papua which were received by DPR, DPD, or Government, “he explained.

Furthermore, he explained that the main foundation of the Bill on the establishment of Southwest Papua Province is that the regional expansion of Papua must guarantee and provide opportunities to the indigenous Papuans to access politics, government, economy, socio-culture, and others.

Previously, DPR officially passed the Bill on the Establishment of Southwest Papua into Law. This was conducted at the House’s 10th plenary meeting of the 2nd Session of the 2022-2023 Year of Assembly, on Thursday. “We will inquire of every faction whether the Bill on the Establishment of Southwest Papua Province can be approved and passed into Law, does everyone approve?” asked Speaker of the House Puan Maharani, chairing the Thursday’s meeting. All the meeting’s participants voiced their support as the Speaker brought down the gavel, signifying approval of the law.

Three New Provinces in Papua Inaugurated by Home Minister

Minister of Home Affairs Muhammad Tito Karnavian inaugurated the three new provinces of South Papua, Papua Highlands, and Central Papua on Friday (11/11), joining the two established provinces of Papua and West Papua, and increasing the number of provinces on the island to five.

The inauguration ceremony took place at the Home Ministry in Central Jakarta, and was marked by the beats of Tifa drums beaten by Karnavian and his deputy, John Wempi Wetipo, along with two government officials.

“This Friday, November 11, 2022, on behalf of the Indonesian president, I, as the home minister, inaugurate South Papua Province based on Law No.14 of 2022, Central Papua Province based on Law No.15 of 2022, and Papua Highlands Province based on Law No.16 of 2022,” Karnavian remarked.

Following the ‘ (DPR’s) enactment of the three laws on June 30, 2022, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) validated those three new autonomous provinces on July 25, 2022. Based on the laws, the President must appoint acting governors within six months after the enactment of the laws, who will be in office until regional elections are held to elect the definitive pairs of governor and deputy governor.

The three acting governors are Apolo Safanpo (South Papua), Nikolaus Kondomo (Papua Highlands), and Ribka Haluk (Central Papua). Apolo is the Rector of Cendarawasih University, Nikolaus is the Head of the Papua High Court, and Ribka is Head of the Papuan Social, Population, and Civil Registry Office.

The acting governors will immediately commence their administrative duties after the inauguration. They are also mandated by the laws to facilitate the formation of the Papuan People’s Assembly (MRP) and Papua People’s Representatives’ Council (DPRP), and organizing regional elections for electing the definitive pairs of governor and deputy governor as well as to manage their respective provinces’ budgets.

The Minister stated that the three new provinces in Papua will further positively impact the lives of people as shown by the earlier experience of regional division to create West Papua Province. The province has rapidly developed in terms of bureaucracy, issuance of permits, public services, and the handling of other administrative matters, he added.

Exploring Doom Island, a scenic and richly historic destination in West Papua

West Papua has many attractive places to visit, some of which are lesser known than others. Doom island, located just off the coast of Sorong is one of many. It is a worthwhile destination, especially those interested in the history of West Papua.

Community activities on the coast of Doom Island, Sorong City, West Papua, Thursday (6/10/2022). (Info Publik/ Agus Siswanto)

The exact location of the island is about 3 kilometres east of the mainland and can be reached in just 10 to 15 minutes on a boat. Visitors usually come to the island after taking the flight to Sorong, after which they make their way through the busy city centre to a small port here boats are docked, ready to take them to the island.

The island is not very large and only measures 5 km2 and is surprisingly heavily populated, mostly by outsiders. One of the main draws of the island is the scenery. Despite its sinister-sounding moniker to English speakers the island’s name actually translates to “the island where many fruit trees grow” in the local language.

The island’s main attraction is its historical value. It has been used as a settlement since before the colonial era. Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the island was part of the Tidore Sultanate. The first Dutch settlers came to the island in the 1800s. In 1935, the island served as the capital of the Sorong government and an economic centre. By then it was already established as a city, with all the necessary supporting infrastructure such as electricity, and other supporting facilities. This is why the island appears relatively advanced compared to others in the area. Even today, the island is known for being visibly brighter than its surrounding areas at night, no doubt due to the long-established electricity grid powering the island’s lights.

The Dutch were not the only ones who dwelt on the island at one time. The Japanese, who ruled Indonesia after the Dutch during the World War II period, had a sizeable military presence on the island during the war and built supporting infrastructure. They dug out caves and built many bunkers for defensive purposes all over the island, based on their military strategy. During this time, the island saw frequent attacks by the Allied forces of the United States and Australia.

This history has shaped the island ever since. This is visible from the infrastructure, particularly the houses. These were designed very differently from those in the rest of West Papua. A few buildings left behind include government offices and places of worship. These structures were well-built, and the fact that many are still being used today is testament to their solid design.

Of course, many visitors will be looking for ways to relax and enjoy their time on the island. They can enjoy the white beaches with surrounding coral reefs. The waves around the island are gentle, making the waters ideal for swimming. Those who want to see the sights can hire pedicabs to take them on a scenic trip around the island.

Overall, Doom Island is certainly an interesting destination, especially for those who want a different atmosphere from the typical attractions in West Papua.

Sasi, the Tradition Safeguarding West Papua’s Marine Biodiversity

Raja Ampat archipelago in West Papua is an important region that lies at the centre of the Coral Triangle, encompassing roughly 40,000 km² of land and sea and including a series of more than 1,500 islands surrounding the main islands of Misool, Salawati, Batanta and Waigeo. In addition to being a well-known tourism destination, it is blessed with the richest tropical marine biodiversity in the world. It is estimated that the region possesses 1318 species of fish, 699 species of molluscs, and 537 coral-dwelling species. In addition, Raja Ampat is blessed with diversity in its coral reefs, mangrove forests, and scenic beaches with rocky cliffs. Considering the staggering diversity, it is important for local communities to take steps to protect it.

The Misool people of Raja Ampat, West Papua have a tradition for the conservation biodiversity within its marine ecosystems, namely the Sasi tradition. This traditional practice by local communities for many years have contributed to the maintenance of its environment and biodiversity. Sasi is a form of local wisdom which, when defined simply, is the prohibition of over-exploiting marine resources, in order to conserve them and ensure their quality and plentiful supply. The practice may take many different forms and can be practiced on both the sea and land.

The way Sasi is practiced in Papuan waters is by prohibiting the catching of fish and other marine life which includes clams, and sea cucumbers for a period of roughly 24 months. After that period expires, communities are welcome to fish as much as they require. This is known as the harvesting period and is limited to a period of one month to prevent overfishing.

The Sasi period also prohibits the catching of fish within certain zones. The zones are designated based on decisions based on local customs, which are then given specific signs. Based on local beliefs, those who violate these zones will receive divine punishment which can take various forms including serious illness.

The tradition usually begins with a special community meeting held at a house of worship such as a mosque or a church. During the meeting, the village head or traditional leader prepares an offering to mark the Sasi tradition. The offering is made from a Ketapang tree which is decorated with spices and colourful paper. After some prayers, the tree is paraded along the beach and planted there. The start and end of the Sasi are marked by a traditional ceremony performed by the local traditional leader.

The ceremony can take between one to seven days which usually begins with the presentation and designation of markers. This is then followed up with a parade of the markers around the village accompanied with music from flutes and drums. The parade shows the markers that will be planted on the Sasi areas to the community so that they do not violate them. At the ceremony’s conclusion, the markers are planted at the Sasi zones.

Communities with such local customs that help conserve nature and its resources understand that their lives are very dependent on it. They rely on these natural resources for their daily lives and are thus motivated to conserve and maintain them. Overall, oceans play a major role in Indonesia’s economy; according to the World Bank, its fishery sector is worth US$ 27 billion, supports 7 million jobs, and provides 50% of the country’s animal protein needs. The country faces challenges to its marine and coastal ecosystems which could undermine its ocean economy. Over a third of the country’s marine fisheries are overfished, around a third of its coral reefs are in poor condition, while marine debris costs the economy over US$450 million per year.

Githa Anasthasia, a conservation advocate, seen here after a diving mission to observe manta ray behavior. Nature preservation brings economic benefits to the community. Photo credit: Donny Fernando/National Geographic Indonesia.

The Indonesian government has stated that it is working towards a blue economy strategy to improve the governance of marine and coastal ecosystems, achieve equal economic opportunities, and promote livelihoods, including through the conservation of mangrove and other ocean ecosystems. The local wisdom of Papua is important for helping achieve the government’s targets. In fact, the World Bank argued in its recently-launched Oceans for Prosperity report that it can be replicated in other areas of Indonesia through a rights-based approach granting harvesting rights to coastal communities or enterprises under specific terms and limits.  This will serve to encourage better management and increase fishery productivity.

West Papua Set to Intensify Mangrove Conservation

West Papua has one of the largest areas of mangrove forest in Indonesia, making up 482,029 hectares of the overall area of mangrove forests in Indonesia which total 3.49 million hectares. The area of mangroves is the largest in the world, exceeding Brazil (1.3 million ha), Nigeria (1.1 million ha) and Australia (0.97 ha).

Mangrove forests act as lungs of the world, with the most essential functions for human survival, namely as a producer of oxygen (O2) and absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2) gas as well as preventing abrasion. They are also habitats for various marine species as well as a source of food for them. Several types of mangroves that grow in Indonesia are Avicennia, Bruguiera, Ceriops, Rhizopora and Sonneratia.

In addition to the aforementioned roles, mangroves have a variety of uses. In Papua, communities often use timber from the mangroves for construction of homes and other structures. It also has industrial uses, to be processed as chips that are exported to European countries as fuel for heating. The communites in the Southern coasts of West Papua also utilize mangrove forest ecosystems to supply their everyday needs for fish and shellfish.

Mangrove forests in Papua, like others all over the country are facing various threats. Indonesia is the world’s fourth-most populous country, and as its population has grown, pressure on mangroves has increased. According to experts estimates, 19,000 hectares of mangrove forests have disappeared all over the country, to make room for aquaculture and even oil palm plantations. Illegal logging and over-exploitation, as well as various forms of pollution have also worsened the situation. As of 2015, an estimated 40% of the country’s mangroves had been degraded or lost.

The West Papua Government is currently preparing a Special Regional Regulation for the protection of mangrove forests in the region. The regulation will hopefully help transform West Papua into a conservation province that cultivates and develops mangrove forest areas more sustainably. One of the main points of the regulation is the establishment of research centre to innovate the cultivation and utilization of mangroves and other essential ecosystems, as well as protection of mangrove forests from uncontrolled logging. This step is line with the overall strategy of the Indonesian government. Indonesia is currently drafting a new mangrove policy, focused on balancing mangrove protection, sustainable use and restoration.

The plan will complement other steps that have been taken over the years to conserve mangroves in West Papua. One of the major steps involve the planting of new mangroves by the Ministry of Forestry and Environment, the army, as well as local communities.

Mangrove conservation has been intensified all over the country due to the recognition of its very important role in coastal environments and the aforementioned threats. The steps include spatial plans, a system for resolving land use conflicts and balancing environmental and economic considerations by delineating zones for specific uses. In addition, the government will expand Marine Protected Areas to over 23 million hectares. The government has also included labour-intensive mangroves restoration as part of the country’s National Recovery Program. The Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs and Investment (CMMAI) is mandated to coordinate the related ministries and agencies, including Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, Ministry of Environment and Forestry, and the Mangrove and Peatland Restoration Agency to support mangroves rehabilitation across provinces in Indonesia.

The government has set the ambitious goal of restoring almost all of what’s been lost, rehabilitating 600,000 hectares of mangroves by 2024. 

Indonesia has placed a special focus of mangrove rehabilitation and conservation to mitigate climate change as it holds the Presidency of the G20 this year. It has recognized that mangroves can contribute 60 percent of net-zero emission targets, as stipulated by the Paris Agreement.