AN OPEN LETTER TO GOVERNOR OF PAPUA : A Market for Mama-Mama Papua: A way out or a way in

Since your inauguration as the top person in Papua Province, you must have seen that as far as the mind’s eye can reach how much problems have accumulated which require a wise touch of serious attention. To mention but a few, the disorganized special autonomy implementation, the nearly stagnant local government, the labyrinth of corruption, social-political conflicts which could burst anytime in anywhere, human rights violations, the claim for political rights & the right to live which have been voiced to matters regarding unsatisfied people welfare, although this has taken billions of funds.

In this opportunity, through this open letter I am interested in looking closely into an ‘inherited agenda entrusted from Governor Bas Suebu, the building of pasar mama-mama Papua (a market for Papuan mothers). From various local media, we knew that the building of a marketplace where Papuan mothers could sell their goods has been a fixed and emergent policy.

Your honorable Governor, I am honestly one of a few people who would not believe that building the marketplace would help Mama-Mama Papua get out from the economic grapple of modern market. For this reason, I think this policy needs to be reviewed closely from different perspectives before it turns out to problems in the future.

Is it true, that a marketplace an urgent need set up to help boost mama-mama Papua’s economic progress, or there is another factor even more important? Is a packaging truly more important that its substance?

A market or school has often been regarded merely a building, because since the new order the country’s bureaucracy has trapped itself to the depth of project oriented mindset. This happens as well to hospitals, churches or mosques which, however; buildings have not always been principal context. The essence of a school is laid to whether there is a transfer and transformation of knowledge and technology. The nature of a market is when trade comes to play as part of economic activities, not just a plain building. The same nature applies to church, mosque and Buddhist temple. The essence of faithful assemble (Jemaat/jamaah) the worship and building of faith and moral. Since its substance has slipped, the names and its functions should change as well. Thus, I strongly believe that Papuan mothers’ economic problems do not lie merely on whether or not there is a physical marketplace.

De facto, the Papuan mothers have made their effort to get into modern market sector since 1970s. Such willingness means they have voluntarily wanted to bear the title ‘pejuang ekonomi keluarga’ (family economy fighter) although they have struggle under the pressure.

Mother vendors from Genyem (Mama-mama Genyem) at Kampung Tiba-Tiba can be put as pioneer of the struggle at former Abepura market. Mother vendors from Serui (mama-mama Serui), residents of Hamadi and Doksem, can also serve the same pioneer.  Such phenomenon has shown that women, Papuan mothers, are those who were already be willing to join modern market. The are ready to carry out economic interaction even though it has to manage with very limited intensity and capacity.

Over 1980s, modern markets at almost every corner of City of Jayapura were dominated by mama-mama from Paniai and some from Jayawijaya. Once again, this is another fact that Papuan women (regardless of their origin: highlands or coastal areas) are those ready to interact with modern situation. They managed to find alternatives for productive business when they moved to the city, leaving their gardens and farm lands at their kampongs. Wisely they moved from the upriver regions to the downriver regions, from production to trade, even though they are in fact encountering full pressure situation. That it how they decided to tackle the need to be survive in the city.

I believe, much of the pressure they are encountering slightly of structure, which include the policy on building marketplace which tends to be unfair. Besides, capital gains is another factor sits as the setback that has put them tied in such problem for long and found no better solution. Moreover, cultural trait is another impeding factor since they try to mutate from traditional economy to modern economic transaction. This includes also certain cultural perceptions which put women to work more outside than in their houses to take care of children and husbands.

They are Super Women seeking for economic power. Thus, our first critical question would be: Is it worthy of us to incarcerate these market pioneers’ economic appreciation in a so-called prison of market, especially when it comes to a physical building.

Adi Sasono, one of the fathers of Indonesian NGOs who has worked incessantly in the field of people’s economy delivered a strong message, … If we want to work to release people from the mud of poverty, we need to ensure that they have production tools to enable to determine their own economic life.

Having their own production tools gives them hope to grow to be agent of economy who are free to make their own choice and faith (economy) to be independent, honorable and not dependent on mercy.

We all know that mama-mama Papua who sell items in the city of Jayapura are not generally farmers. They are not farmers who produce crops to be marketed. Vegetables, tomatoes, peppers, onions that they sell are obtained from producing farmers which they resell to consumers in the city. With such way of trading, locally known as papalele, these farmers will everyday need trading token, fresh money, to buy selling items including their transport. The fundamental question is, how would these mothers get access to such light capital? In reality, they need it everyday.

They have too much to bear. Pressure at modern market is increasingly complicated, so it is wise for use to make a choice of what should be an urgent need. Shall we build a designated market place for mama-mama Papua or shall we promote setting up a Micro Finance Agency. The agency is where the mothers can get safe capital loans as well as cooperation with NGOs, universities or other competent parties where these merchandisers could get practical management cultivation and business guidance.

The Entry Way

A designated market for Papuan mothers will automatically create economic market segregation. This happens specifically when those allowed to sell things at the marketplace are only Papuans. We can just tell that things sold there can be of similar items. In terms of consumers, anybody could, but when there are not various items sold, it won’t be attractive.

Another important this is the fact that a marketplace is instrument of economy, not political construction. If market was put to merit a particular ethnic entity, the dynamic would be confined. We truly know that economy is universal in its nature. Money doesn’t belong to any group of people, religious group or other such entities. The rupiahs we deposited in Papua will be in Euros when they are withdrawn through a cash machine in Europe. This is how money related to kinship, a global brotherhood of money.

This paradoxical condition has indeed prevailed and friction is unavoidable, since it has been wrongly managed in the first place. Believe it or not, the phenomenon of Papuan mothers refers to a contradictive social condition where local community at their onset of escaping from the pattern of sago economy have to collide with globally economic pattern and mechanism which have sustained for hundreds of years. For this reason, I believe that if we started to take wrong maneuver, it should be clear to us who is going to kicked and casted powerlessly. The road is twisting sharp. Economic market power lies at capital and accessibility, not in the hand of Chinese, Javanese, Makassar’s or Papuan.

Let us ponder on this issue once again. Will locating Papuan mother vendors at an exclusive storey building, constructed with tens of billion rupiahs be helpful or even produce a number of new tasks that they have to carry through? The burden they should bear will be tougher while the highest price of any goods may reach 100 thousand rupiahs on average. Think about any levies charged on them: taxes, security, cleaning service, electric and water bills. Would these burdens be laid on the mothers account? Oh God….., this is not going to be a way out for an independency, but it is even an entry to an unending confinement.

If then we assumed that such levies and bills and other such of collections will be charged to the local government, we are instead struggling to put the mothers who used to be the market to be inferior. They will cry for mercy, respect, and be vulnerable to be exploited, as well as serving as a political commodity.

According to me, let these Mama-mama Papua to compete within the market heterogeneous, open, and lesson-learned resourceful interactions. Yet, this could happen on 4 conditions, namely: (i) capital power on safe credit (cheap money); (ii) building practical management; and (iii) accessibility to information and technology; (iv) favoring regulations for example protection on local commodities sold only by the Mamas.  Take, pinang sale (betel nut) management, as an example. Ormu Tribe are good betel nut farmers while Papuan people are the main group consuming this type of palm seed. However, who is going to gain profit of this commodity?

The Way out

One of the 4 central points of Papua Special Autonomy is empowering Papuan people’s economy, Papuan people’s native culture. We all have understood that the special autonomy is neither a gift nor a synthesis of development policies. The granting of special autonomy to Papua Province (including Papua Barat Province) is totally not a political initiative in response to political disturbance. Different kinds of motives can be attributed to the disruption. However, regarding this context, I think it is not necessary for us to stay off the fact that unfair practices of economy have long been managed. Such practices have resulted in marginalization and liquidation of the people’s native culture in terms of their traditional economic assets (rich forests, sago forest, and sea).

Another aggravating trigger to this problem is social injustice comparable to human rights violations which have not been held to account for legally and morally. To my knowledge, in anywhere in this world, if such conditions persist constantly and massively, social and political disorder would pay for it. Don’t blame a stepped child who broke the window, but let’s ask why he would do it?

Special Autonomy of Papua is clearly an Asymmetric Decentralization granted to a region on account of the region’s political disturbance. Therefore, when he was the coordinating minister for political and security affairs, SBY always held on to a principle that special autonomy is a political solution to problems in Papua.

As a political solution, illustrated by the above picture, this is at least the principal goal of Special Autonomy of Papua. It is really envisioned within 2001 – 2025: as the special autonomy is increasingly useful for Papuan people (welfare, right to live, cultural right, economic right, right for social emancipation, human rights, right for freedom and democracy), political aspiration for Papuan independence is hoped to decrease comparably.

Today, at the end of 2013, at the time when you were inaugurated as the governor, the special autonomy has entered its 12 year. And it has been known internationally that the special autonomy is filled with twists and turns, wounds, failures, and perplexity. Special autonomy funds are increasingly used up while they have yielded nothing to satisfying basic needs of Papuan people. No exact results have been significantly gained to change the ideological choice Papuan people have made. Voices and works of Papuan independence activists are still echoing while the special autonomy is going down. In reaction, President SBY soon issued Presidential Instruction Number 5 of 2007 which finds dead end. Similar to this, the president formed Development Acceleration Unit (UP4B) for Papua and Papua Barat and tries to save the special autonomy through program coordination and synchronization. The life of UP4B is coming to its end. Then, what would be the next move to make?

Your honorable Governor, the economic motive in the dynamics of Papua seems to demand serious attention. To my understanding, it is the motive which has far dragged Papua to the curve of conflicts and muffled the people in this land in the mud of poverty. Would it be possible in Lukmen era, we can bring back the dignity of Papuan people’s economy to life?

I think, it is not an impossible ideal if Mr. Governor would dauntlessly take necessary revolutionary measures.

Let us count. After 12 year of the implementation of special autonomy, how much funds have been allocated to people’s economy? Were there 5 billion allocated per year or at least 4 billion annually? So, if 4 billion x 25 years of the special autonomy, we would get 100 billion the government would reserve as a special coverage for empowering Papuan people’s economy.

With certain formal agreement and mechanism, this 100 billion can then be saved in Bank Papua. Bank Papua, Universities, relevant institutions, SOLPAP (Solidarity for Papua), NGOs, Church and religious organizations conduct workshops to design regulations on credit gains specifically used to utilize this funding source. Don’t employ any conventional credit regulations with intriguing promises. The funding is made for special autonomy, an urgent fund. The money that has to be disbursed in that Papuan people would not cry out for their independence anymore. So, it is no need to speak of any empty talks of politics. Be realistic!

Do not be afraid, Mr. Governor. Just let a rustic logic plays, the big-man logic and do not be tempted too much by bureaucracy rhetoric. The special autonomy funds are for the people.

We need to invite the president to launch this Special Credit Scheme. For you Mr. Governor, it can be regarded as optimization and revitalization of special autonomy; more logic than mulling over any amendment or revision of the special autonomy law. Moreover, the bargaining position of Papua’s politic is in its low bearing, different from the time when the special autonomy was first introduced. This then is not sufficiently helpful in a negotiation.

Within this 5 year tenure of Lukmen and the rest of special autonomy period, Lukas Enembe, a newly appointed governor who just came down from the Victorious Summit (Puncak Jaya) still has the good opportunity to bring forth young Papuans to be strong and dignified entrepreneurs. Not only will Papuan mother vendors become respected and dignified pioneers of economy, the fishermen are those of financially invulnerable as well for they have their own production tools. They will not be dependent and hoping for mercy. They are well prepared through ways accounted for that is a pattern of special credit. This is not about asking with compassion for funding support where hands are laid inferior, little, and incapable. Lukmen’s tenure will be recorded in history of Papua as the golden period because of his courage to take the role as a Tribal Chief, the leader of once people’s revolution to bring about Papuan people to achieve independency, welfare, and prestige. The people are strong not because of every bit of tears and every step begging they made, but of the way they grow and raised in challenges, competitions, and open market.

Your honorable Governor, this is, in my opinion, the way out. It is the time for Lukmen to show their ability to build Papuan People’s Economic Sovereignty, instead of having it 13 years later when everything is fading away as wave foam at edge of the beach. It then leaves Papuan people to look at each other in vain and blame each other.

Warm greeting & God Bless

Thaha Moh. Alhamid

Founder of Aliansi Demokrasi untuk Papua.