by Allanah Leahy – EM TV International, Port Moresby
Indonesian President, Joko Widodo, is committed to developing the lives of Papua’s indigenous people.
Papua, Indonesia’s largest territory, is rich in resources and home to the biggest gold mine in the world, yet its indigenous population live in poverty.
Widodo is spearheading major infrastructure projects to connect regions throughout Sulawesi and Sumatra, Indonesia’s fourth and largest islands, respectively.
But the President said this week that construction of a railway in Papua is also to begin by mid-this year.
Indonesia is priming itself in the wake of several upcoming international events, including the Asian Games and annual World Bank meeting in 2018.
The development is a positive for indigenous Papuans, whose poverty rate is almost three times higher than Indonesia’s national average, according to the Australian Institute of International Affairs.
Governor, Gary Juffa, has compared the on-going human rights abuses of indigenous Papuans and West Papuans to the Nazi holocaust, referring to the extensively reported human rights abuses by the Indonesian military.
The region’s media blackout presents difficulties in verifying the many reports of military abuse and deaths, which saw a fact-finding mission being a main discussion point at last year’s Pacific Islands Forum.