IIAS Newsletter 8

6-9 December 1995
Jayapura, Irian Jaya

The Development of the Region of Irian Jaya

The seminar "The Development of the Region of Irian Jaya" was organized with two aims in mind. Firstly, to gain a comprehensive understanding of general, macro, and strategic aspects of development in Irian Jaya. Secondly, to brainstorm about alternative solutions to development problems, especially within the scope of some specific problems that are found in selected areas. The motivation behind these aims was the need to look for development strategies that will enhance the interests of the local population and be sensitive to cultural and environmental aspects. Therefore, development planners as well as researchers were invited to take part in the seminar and discussions.

By Dianne van Oosterhout

The seminar was organized by LIPI, PemDa Tk I Irian Jaya, and UNCEN, and took place at the University of Cendrawasih, Jayapura. It was attended by some hundred participants, mostly from Indonesia, and from different fields of specialization, which was exactly what had been envisaged by the organizers. Most speakers were non-Irianese, with LIPI and the provincial government conspicuously represented. Joining Dutch representatives from WWF, two ISIR members were present as well, Hendrika Lautenbach and myself.
The official opening of the seminar by Mr J. Patipi took place at the office of the Governor of Irian Jaya.The second day was reserved for the presentation of papers and subsequent discussions. Papers were presented by such scholars as Taufik Abdullah (PMB-LIPI), Yulfita Raharjo (PPT-LIPI), Prof. H. Soedarto (UNCEN), Prof. Lucky Sondakh (Un. Ratulangi; Manado), and Dr H. Haeruman (Bappenas). Most papers dealt with the question of how to upgrade human resources and how to apply this knowledge for the benefit of the local population. In the discussions following the presentation of the papers, cultural and environmental factors received the lion's share of the attention.
Haeruman argued that the quality of human resources should be improved through education, the raising of health standards, and the upgrading of the productivity of the work force with the aim of developing Irian Jaya. Although transmigration is seen as one very important way to improve human resources, local regulations that influence economic actions, such as land rights and the local market should not be overlooked. Yulfita Raharjo showed that although the per capita income had improved through investments, there had been little benefit to the local population because investment had not been made in projects that are directly relevant to the local population, such as education and health care. She, like Haeruman, argued for an improvement in the social situation in order to upgrade the human resource level.
Lucky Sontack discussed issues such as work ethos, the influence of alcohol, motivation, responsibility, and cargo-cults that could affect the efficiency of economic activities. He also commented that the way development funds are spent is a political choice which is not always in the best interest of the local population. The audience gave his point of view an enthusiastic response.
Soedarto examined cultural factors in some depth. He argued that development-stagnating factors should be identified as a strong, static adat and then changed. With cogent insight, Taufuk Abdallah stated that if you want to involve cultural factors in development strategies, you should be aware of the fact that a population cannot be changed simply as planned, it has the right to adapt its own culture to the new developments according to its own ideas and perceived needs. Applied anthropology could help to form development strategies more attuned to the desires and capacities of a population.

On the third day, four workgroups were formed to discuss and look for solutions for or alternatives to development problems in certain selected areas: Biak; Jayawijiaya; Timika; and Jayapura. I joined the session on Biak. Biak is scheduled to become a centre for transport, industry and tourism for the area. The government and investors argue that the plans include enlargement of educational opportunities and job promotion and that the local population is free to participate in the development of the island, and that only a small group will need to move and sell their land. Refusing to be lulled into a sense of false security, the other participants in the workgroup, worried that the profits from industry and tourism will not benefit the local population and that the natural resources, needed to attract tourists, will be damaged. Intrinsically, rapid changes do not give the local population time to acquire essential education and develop the required work ethos to take part in the new income sectors. Despite such pertinent objection, the plans are not likely to be modified.
On the last day of the seminar, reports of the discussions were presented to the governor to mark the conclusion of the seminar. One general conclusion was the recognition of the need to integrate the local population more intensively into the development programmes if their situation is to improve in step with the development potential of Irian Jaya. The interdisciplinary approach of the seminar led to interesting discussions and questions. It was generally recognized that anthropological knowledge should play a role in the refinement of development programmes, but the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. The seminar did perhaps contribute to a stimulating of an awareness of the complexity of development problems and the many factors which cannot be ignored in such an operation.


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