My story

The first time I arrived in Papua (June 2007) as a migrant was not as I imagined. I went to Papua because my good friend, Pote Karoba (the deceased), invited me. He was my senior at Sam Ratulangi University – Manado and also my colleague in the committee of GMKI (Indonesian Christian Student Movement) branch of Manado. In short the story, after sailing 5 days from Sulawesi, I arrived at the Jayapura seaport but I could not contact Pote Karoba through his mobile phone (I later found out that Pote was hospitalized and a few days later he died). He was the only person I knew in that city. Because I couldn’t contact him, I decided to look for the GMKI branch of Jayapura. With the guidance of some good people, I arrived at the GMKI branch of Jayapura. I told my intentions to the board committee and they accepted and provided a room for me to rest. The next day, I saw they were holding a closed meeting, eventually I realized that they were discussing me. They suspected I was a BIN agent (national intelligence agency). In the middle of the night when I was asleep, someone knocked on the door and shouted with harsh words. They command me to leave GMKI. I tried to convince them that we were under the same umbrella organization that is GMKI, but they remained suspicious and one of them entered my room, took my suitcase containing clothes and my stuff, and threw out in the yard. Following that I walked aimlessly in the middle of the dark night; finally someone approached me, helped me, and brought me to his home to stay for a few days.

Is it happening everywhere?

My story above is just one of many stories that now regularly occurs in Papuan society. There are many other stories even more painful than my story. For example, in the year 2000 there was an incident in Wamena (the central mountainous region of Papua) an adopted child sadistically killed his both adoptive parents. There was no clear reason why he had the heart to kill his adoptive parents. Was it because his adoptive parents came from another part of Indonesia? As the title of this article suggests this is a discussion of behavioral psychology. However, this article will focus on discussion over the causes of the protracted conflict in Papua from one aspect, namely, the suspicion lens.

What is it?

A suspicious person is the opposite of trusting person. A review in an online journal Truth about Deception (na, 2015), illustrates that suspicious people often see things more accurately, even though they tend to be cynical and negative when facing problems so they only believe in things that really exist. Meanwhile, suspicious mind is one of the title song popularized by Elvis Presley in the 1960s. Its contents tell of mistrusting and dysfunctional relationships. One of the lyrics says, “we cannot go on together with suspicious minds and we cannot build our dreams on suspicious minds.”

So, what is the relationship between the suspicious mind and the failure of peace building in Papua?

Actually, the beginnings of Papua also stem from the “suspicious mind” of the founding fathers of Indonesia. At that time, Indonesia has just freed itself from the invaders, the Dutch. However, Papua was the only region that was not given back by the Netherlands to Indonesia. Indonesia’s first president, Soekarno, suspected the Dutch wanted to continue colonizing the territory of Papua. Therefore, Soekarno did anything in order to claim Papua. One of Soekarno efforts was asking for support from Russia that at that time was the power in the eastern bloc of the Cold War. The USA considered the efforts of soekarno jeopardized the position of the west in south East Asia. Through the New York agreement, the Dutch were forced to leave Papua and Papua submit to UNTEA, and then back to Indonesia. In 1969 an act of free choice (PEPERA) was held but it was not in accordance with the New York Agreement. The New York Agreement suggests that all indigenous adult men and women have a vote to determine the opinion of the referendum. However, the implementation of the provisions was changed because they suspected the people of Papua would choose to secede from Indonesia, if not controlled. This suspicion made the Indonesian government select 1025 people as representative voters from the total population of around 800,000. This act started the growth of distrust between the Indonesian government and the people of Papua.

Suspicion between Jakarta and Papua

Data shows that Indonesian government has made many efforts in order to reduce the uprising of rebellion in Papua from time to time. For example, they started to boost economic growth, including infrastructure development, health, and education. In 2001 Jakarta even approved the implementation of special autonomy in Papua. The people of Papua were allowed to manage their economy, politics, government, and culture.   The people of Papua even get special treatment in various fields including affirmative action. Affirmative action is intended to accommodate all the people from Papua. However, it is very regrettable, because all of the government efforts have always been overshadowed by the distrust of the people of Papua, especially those who are sympathetic to the Free Papua Movement (OPM). Government used to use military and police force to approach people in Papua. On the other hand, Papuans often suspect anything done by the government as a systematic attempt at genocide. For example, the transmigration program in the Soeharto era is considered as a new way to occupy the land of the Papuan. Papuans rejected the transmigration program because migrant’s issues are a new threat to Papuan composition of populations. Similarly, delivery of the teaching staff to the villages in Papua was initially suspected as the central government’s efforts to campaign. The most recent was granting autonomy to the region of Papua. Both sides are suspect in practice.


The main issue in Papua is a matter of lack of openness on both sides. Not much progress has been made by the Indonesian government in Papua because of all the development is done based on the lack of understanding. Mutual trust is the key to building peace. I realize that, building mutual trust is certainly not easy but all parties should put an end to their bitterness and hatred of the past. They need to sit together, talk about how they feel, draw conclusions, and commit to implement their decisions.


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