Exploring the Cultural Attraction of Papua’s Baliem Valley

The Baliem Valley tourist destination in Wamena is home to the indigenous Papuan tribes (Instagram @habema_buseleck)

Papua, often referred to as the land of the black pearl, has many hidden gems in the form of beautiful tourism destinations waiting to be discovered by adventurous travellers. One of these is the Baliem Valley in Wamena.

As a tourism destination, the Baliem Valley is well-known for its cultural attraction. Quoted from Youtube Berwisata, the valley has it all, lakes, waterfalls, and unique peoples with their culture.

The Baliem Valley is located in Jayawijaya Mountains near Wamena, and the location allows one to be close to the indigenous peoples of Papua. Three indigenous tribes of Papua, the Dani, Lani, and Yali live side-by-side in peace in the valley.

One of the major attractions of the valley other than the cultutal aspect is the beauty of the landscape, particularly those who enjoy trekking.

The beautiful valley is located about 1600 metres above sea level and is surrounded by gorgeous natural vistas.

In order to reach the area, a traveller must first get to Sentani airport in Jayapura. Afterwards, the journey continues to Wamena where, upon arrival, various accommodation options are available, from hotels to traditional lodgings.

The valley’s surrounding areas are known for having the largest concentration of Muslims in Papua, namely in Papua’s Walesi district. According to the Dani tribe, Walesi is the centre of Islamic learning due to the Islamic schools that have been established there.

One of the main attractions that cannot be missed in the valley is the Baliem Valley Festival which performs the dramatization of the war between the Lani and Yali tribes.

The show that is performed is completely safe to watch, and has become a major attraction for domestic and foreign tourists.

The performance is held in August and lasts for three days, and is considered to hold positive significance for the community of the Baliem Valley, namely the hope that tomorrow will be better than today.

Overall, the draw of the traditional communities and their culture residing in the Baliem Valley make it a worthy destination for adventurous travellers.

Adapted from www.enampagi.id

Electric Assistance Program Completed, 1920 Papuan Households Receive Free Electricity Connection

The State Electricity Company (PLN) in cooperation with the Government and House of Representatives has completed its free electricity connection for 1920 low-income households all over Papua, West Papua, Central Papua, Southwest Papua, and South Papua provinces.

The New Electricity Connection Program (BPBL) was given as commitment to provide access to electricity for the whole community without exception. The assistance included installation, three lamps, an electrical socket, and an IDR 50.000 electricity token voucher. The assistance was well-received by the community, one of whom, Ferosina Sikan from Nabire stated that previously, she had to share electricity with a neighbour.

“Every three days we had to chip in IDR 20.000 to 50.000, I hope that this assistance will reduce our electricity bills. Thank you to the Government and PLN,” she said.

Nabire Regent, Mesak Magai, expressed his appreciation to the Government and PLN for the new electricity assistance program, which is much needed by the community.

“Today, I express my appreciation to PLN and the Government and also the Ministry for the current condition. Previously, lighting in Nabire Regency was like a disco lamp because it only operated 12 hours a day, if it was even on. The citizens of Nabire feel that this service from the central government and PLN is extraordinary,” he said.

According to the Wanhar, Director for Electricity Program Development at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, the Government is committed to continue increasing the electrification ratio. One of the ways to accomplish this is through the BPBL program.

“We express our gratitude to PLN and PLN ICON Plus who have made the BPBL program a success by preparing an information system to support implementation, payment, and monitoring of the program in 2022,” he said.

The Director also hopes that the cooperation can continue and be improved in the future, with the hope that it can improve the economic well-being of the community.

“We hope that the BPBL program can fulfil the electric energy needs of the community and raise the standard of living for more productive economic activities. In the future, we plan to increase the capacity of the assistance to 900 VA in 2023 to increase the community’s productivity,” he added.

Marthen Douw, member of the House’s Commission VII on a separate occasion stated that electricity is not only about lighting but can also increase the quality of life of the Papuan community. The availability of electricity can awaken the spirit of education for Papuan children and the economy of the community.

“Children can study in the evening, and the availability of electricity can spur home industries. However, the most important thing is that our children can study which will improve the quality of human resources in the future to compete with other countries,’ he said.

For this reason, Commission VII along with the Government and PLN will continue to collaborate.

“The House’s Commission VII and PLN will work together and continue to provide new electrical assistance so that Papua can be illuminated.” Douw explained.

According to the Special Advisor to the Board of Directors of PLN, Ismail Deu, PLN is ready to fulfil its duty in the field of electrification, and also conveys its appreciation to the support provided by many stakeholders in completing the BPBL program in Papua.

In 2022, PLN was given the BPBL target by the Government of 1920 households in Papua, which has been accomplished. According to Ismail, with regard to Nabire, PLN has given 24-hour access to electricity to 266 households.

“With the original target set at 247 households for Nabire Regency, we have successfully exceeded our target with 266 households. We thank all stakeholders for their cooperation and hope that it can continue in the future,” said Ismail during the BPBL program delivery ceremony in Nabire.

On the same occasion, PLN also presented assistance in the form of 247 basic necessity packages, in order to meet the community’s food demand.

Adapted from web.pln.co.id

Mansinam Island, Historical Religious Tourism Spot in West Papua

Divers from the Ketapang Dive Kwawi Community, want to plant coral reefs in Doreri Bay, Manokwari, West Papua (TribunPapuaBarat.com/Safwan Ashari Raharusun)

As one of Indonesia’s easternmost provinces, West Papua is known for its beautiful vistas. The points of interest found here are varied, having natural beauty and often also historical significance. One such destination is Mansinam Island, known as the place where Christianity first came to Papua. 

Much like many places in Papua, this island located a short distance from the city of Manokwari has scenic panoramas. It is roughly 410,97 hectares in size and is located 6 kolometres away from Manokwari, South of the Doreri Bay. To reach this island, one can take a motorboat from the city, a journey which takes 10 to 15 minutes.

The island is also well-known for its history, specifically related to the spread of Christianity. On 5 February 1855, two German missionaries, Carl Wiliam Ottow dan Johann Gottlob Geissler first taught the Bible to the Numfor tribe who dwelt on the island. They arrived on the island after having undertaken a long journey which took them all over Indonesia.  

Mansinam Island, a religious tourism asset in West Papua Province (Berita Satu)

Visitors can see religious monuments that tell the history of the island, including a cross monument located at the coast marking the arrival of Ottow dan Geissler on the island in 1885. The monument is inscribed with German words describing how the two were the first missionaries to arrive in Mansinam.

On the island is an old church called Lahai Roi as a place of worship. Next to it is an old well that the locals still draw water from. The well was also dug by Ottow dan Geissler. The locals believe that water from the well is holy, and has the power to heal many diseases. Visitors to the island often take the opportunity to use the well’s water to wash their faces and drink the water as it is considered clean and natural.

Not far from the area is the island’s most well-known landmark, which is the large statue of Jesus Christ. An imposing monument to the spread of Christianity in the region, the statue is 35 metres tall. The statue was built by the Government in honour of the history of the island. The statue’s form is very similar to the Christ the Redeemer statue found in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The statue is located on top of a hill, a walk which can take around 20 minutes. Every year on February 5, thousands of people gather from all over Papua to Mansinam Island to hold a celebration to commemorate the historic day the two missionaries arrived at the island. As a destination for religious tourism, the island has a lot of potential. In developing the island, the Government can ensure that the local community will benefit, increasing their welfare from tourism.

Adapted from Berita Satu and Tribun Papua Barat.

Home Minister:  Sorong as Southwest Papua Capital, optimizing public services

View of Sorong Harbor, Sorong City, West Papua. (SHUTTERSTOCK / Widhibek)

According to Home Affairs Minister Tito Karnavian, the establishment of the Southwest Papua province aims to make development and prosperity of the Papuan people more equitable.

Through the inauguration of the autonomous region, the bureaucratic process, which was previously based in Manokwari, can be shortened upon being moved to Sorong as capital of the Southwest Papua province.

“We also hope to shorten the bureaucracy, no longer needing to coordinate, communicate between Manokwari and Sorong Raya, we now only need to travel to Sorong as the capital,” said Tito in his address after inaugurating the province of Southeast Papua at the Home Ministry in Jakarta, as broadcasted by the Home Ministry’s YouTube on Friday (9/12.2022).

Tito explained that the establishment of the new province in Papua is a solution for optimizing public services. This step can shorten the government’s span of control to be more efficient and effective, in line with the principles of good governance.

“There needs to be expansion in order to shorten bureaucracy since it is no easy task to cut down lengthy bureaucracy in a geographical environment as tough as Papua, as well as very high level of population distribution,” he said.

In addition, he has requested all concerned parties to assist the Acting Governor of Southwest Papua Muhammad Masa’ad who was appointed to develop the new province. Southwest Papua was inaugurated as a new province, making it Indonesia’s 38th province.

The inauguration was conducted by Home Minister Tito Karnavian on behalf of President Joko Widodo on Friday, 9 December. The inauguration was marked by the beating of a tifa, and continued with the signing of the inscription of the Southwest Papua Province by the Home Minister. The Bill for the establishment of the Southwest Papua Province was passed into law during the plenary of the Indonesian House of Representatives (DPR) on 17 November 2022. The bill was then passed into Law No. 29 year 2022. The province’s establishment underwent a long process, starting from the submission of the people’s aspirations to the Home Affairs Ministry, Regional House of Representatives, and House of Representatives, as well as from Papuan figures to the President.

Adapted from Kompas.

Developing Papua’s Youth Potential through the Papua Youth Creative Hub

Development in Papua has seen much progress in the past few years, with tangible benefits that are being felt by the its communities. In terms of infrastructure, the Government has opened up previously isolated areas, increasing access as well as connectivity throughout the region. Papua now has roads, bridges, settlements, and other public facilities similar in quality those found in other major cities. This has dispelled the widely-held notion that the development in Indonesia focuses too much in certain areas, ignoring the country’s periphery. An often-overlooked aspect of this development is the human dimension, as the drive to improve human resources in Papua has become an important objective.

The development of quality human resources in Papua is considered equally vital as the building of infrastructure, as it will improve the ability of Papuans to, among other things, manage their natural resources. The ability to manage these resources well will in turn will improve the welfare of Papuans as a whole. The Government’s efforts in this regard are apparent, and nothing represents this better than the construction of the Papua Youth Creative Hub.

In essence, the Papua Youth Creative Hub is a centre for developing young talent and is projected to become a place to gather the best and brightest young talent from various scientific disciplines in Papua.

It is hoped that the Creative Hub can make a greater contribution in reducing the number of unemployed and poverty. The hub is located in Wahno, Abepura District in the city of Jayapura. It is currently in the middle of construction on 15.000 sqm tract of land, with the main building measuring 3.520 sqm with other buildings measuring 1812 sqm. The building is located 11 km from Jayapura.

President Joko Widodo expressed his hope that the Papua Youth Creative Hub will serve as an engine and centre for the development of young talent in Papua.

Youth Papua Creative Hub Able to Advance Papuan Human Resources

“I am sure that there is plenty of potential that is still untapped and undeveloped. That is our task in Papua and West Papua. There is plenty of talent in the fields of science, art and culture, as well as sports, and it is a major task for all of us to prepare good management, good talent management that is well arranged,” said the President at the Papua Youth Creative Hub’s ground-breaking on 2 October 2022.

The President continued that he is certain that the youth of Papua have much potential to develop. He added that the there is excellent talent in various fields. The Papua Youth Creative Hub will hopefully contain various talented individuals, such as millennial farmers, digital ecosystems, as well as developing research and innovation. He expressed his confidence that the future of Papua, as well as Indonesia, lies in the Papua Youth Creative Hub.

A number of planned facilities at the hub included co-working spaces, spaces for learning technology, digital technology, product innovations, a concert hall, dormitories and sports facilities. These facilities will hopefully serve as tools for enhancing the potential of Papua’s youth so that they may utilise their talents for the benefit of the country.

The Papua Youth Creative Hub will hopefully become the locus for and engine powering the development of exceptional talent in Papua as well as serve as a centre of creativity for the youth of Papua to strengthen the existing innovative ecosystem. This will then improve and develop their talents, whether in the domestic or international arenas.

Adapted from Membangun SDM Muda Papua Melalui Papua Youth Creative Hub

Vice President Concludes Papua Working Visit, Imparts 7 Key Messages

The Vice President and Mrs. Wury Ma’ruf Amin before leaving for Papua, Monday (28/11/2022). (Photo: BPMI Deputy Presidential Secretariat)

Vice President Ma’ruf Amin recently concluded his five-day working visit to Papua. Wrapping up his visit, which lasted from 28 November to 2 December 2022, the Vice President, who is also Chairman of the Papua Steering Committee imparted 7 key messages.

“I like to call this working visit as a Papuan tawaf, going around Papua,” he said, likening his trip to the ritual circumambulation of the Kaaba in Mecca, as quoted on the release by the Vice-Presidential Secretariat (3/12).

The working visit, which took place from 28 November to 2 December 2022, covered several cities and regencies all over Papua, such as Jayapura, Merauke, Mimika, Kaimana, and Biak Numfor.

First, the Vice President admitted that this particular working visit was the most memorable and had much optimism in helping the advancement of the people of Papua.

Vice President Ma’ruf Amin greets students lined up in front of YPK IV Sburia Biak Kota Elementary School, Biak Kota District, Papua province on Friday (2/12/2022). ANTARA/Desca Lidya Natalia.

“I was very impressed by the highly optimistic spirit of various social segments in realising a Papua that is prosperous, fair, and peaceful,” he added.

Secondly, he felt positive energy, through the foundation of religion, customs, and leadership ties of the local Government in maintaining harmony between religious groups.

“I will strengthen collaboration with churches through the Alliance of Churches in Papua, as well as through the Religious Harmony Forum (FKUB),” he said.

Thirdly, he also expressed his appreciation to the people of Papua for their diligence and perseverance in advancing the regional potential found in every region, such as coffee centre in the mountain regions, food stores in Merauke, nutmeg in Fakfak and Kaimana, national fish stores in Papua, to the Sail Cendrawasih Bay – Great Bomberai Peninsula policy.

“I appreciate the strong desire to develop superior local commodities,” he said.

Fourth, the Vice President stated the importance of connectivity and infrastructure as the main factors in developing Papua, which requires thorough planning.

“The presence of new provinces demands a new masterplan for an integrated transportation system,” he said.

Fifth, the Vice President feels that the New Autonomous Regions can awaken the spirit of acceleration, service, and development in Papua, which he considers a game changer.

“The expansion of Papuan Provinces is a game changer in the acceleration of Papuan development,” he added.

The Vice President’s sixth message is directed at the Ministers and Heads of Agencies to immediately deliberate on the 2023-2024 Action Plan.

“I have instructed the Ministers and Agency Heads to immediately discuss detailed and concrete solutions to be included in the 2023-2024 Action Plan, including the Sail Cendrawasih Bay 2023,” he said.

Finally, the Vice President conveyed his plan to visit Papua again in 2023 with the hope that the 2023-2024 acceleration program can be more thoroughly formulated.

“God willing in 2023, I will return to visit a number of regions in Papua to fulfil the invitation of various strategic groups, as well as to solidify the quick wins of 2023-2024,” he said.

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

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.

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.