“THE REAL PROBLEM in Papua is corruption,” Jayapura Bishop Leo Laba Ladjar, OFM Cap. has said, referring to street protests and rallies in Jayapura by an independent group of mainly young people, and the recent requests for a referendum on independence from Indonesia.

Protesters organised a “Long March” Jul 10 starting from locations outside the city to the provincial Parliament building, where there was a sit-in lasting a day and a night.

According to the protesters, Papua is still too poor (38 percent of the population is below the poverty line) despite the great natural resources it has and it lacks minimum respect for human rights by the Indonesian government in dealings with the local population.

“It should be noted that, since the admission of a special administrative status for the regional autonomy in 2002, there have been small groups against the autonomy and in favour of secession,” Bishop Ladjar said.

“Today these groups are attracting young people who are often frustrated by unemployment and social problems.

“However, the majority of the people of Papua intend to work for the development and human promotion of Papua in Indonesia,” the bishop continued.

“There is a safety problem, as there are rebel groups, hidden in the highlands of the interior, which sometimes take revenge with weapons,” he says.

However, since 2002, the people of Papua themselves have been governing their own territory, and the redistribution of resources by the Indonesian government, after 25 years of centralised government, has increased considerably.

“Resources that should be used for the social and economic development of Papua, however, remain trapped in streams of corruption. This is why the poverty rate is still very high (twice the national average), there are strong exclusion problems, there are delays in infrastructure and shortcomings in health services and education,” the Bishop told Fides.

“We need to fight a widespread mentality and form a new ruling class that puts the common good in the first place. This is why the Church and other Christian communities often denounce corruption and work for the formation of consciences,” Bishop Ladjar concluded.  FIDES

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