Papuan women's groups call for dialogue to end decades of clout (The Jakarta Post)

The Papuan Women Working Committee has demanded the central government to open a dialogue with them on underlying problems facing Papuans including human rights violations, corruption and regional autonomy.

Committee member Frederika Korayn said, as quoted by Wednesday, Papua had been integrated with Indonesia for 42 years but the living standards of Papuans had
not improved, with more than 80 percent of women on the island poorly educated, in poor health and living in absolute poverty.

"If the government is willing to talk with the government of Aceh, then why not with the people of Papua?" she said during a seminar in Jakarta which heralded the theme "Fostering
Constituency and National Support for the Rights of Papuan Women".

Further evidence of the low quality of life in Papua was shown by population growth figures. Last year only saw 1.5 percent growth, far lower from the 10 percent growth recorded in 1971.

She also questioned the benefit of regional autonomy since no clear results had been felt directly by the majority of the population.

Another committee member, Hanna S. Hikoyabi, said bridging the gap by engaging in more intense dialogue would serve everyone's interests better than passing ineffective legislation on regional autonomy.

"Don't let our feeling of trusts and hope toward Indonesia diminish. That's why we're asking for dialogue," said Hanna, who is also vice chair of the NGO Papuan People's Assembly.

Another seminar speaker, Yenny Rosa Damayanti of the Association of Indonesian Legal and Human Rights Aid (PBHI) said problems Papuans face could not be detached from how the rest of Indonesia regards Papuans.

"Because we have different skin color and hair, we feel they are 'the others', not brothers," she said.

Such a view, she said, was clearly manifested in how the army was operating in Papua. The majority of Indonesians oppose military measures to solve conflicts, but they somehow applied a different standard when it comes to matters involving Papuans.

She proposed Indonesians redefine what constitutes Indonesianness. "Is it only the Malay race? Is it only Muslims?"