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Weekend catch-up: Papua, Waterloo and the Cold War, Japan-South Korea, risk assessment and more

Weekend catch-up: Papua, Waterloo and the Cold War, Japan-South Korea, risk assessment and more
Published 27 Jun 2015   Follow @BrendanTN_

This week, The Interpreter concluded former Fairfax Indonesia correspondent Michael Bachelard's seven-part series on the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua. Here is the introductionpart 1 and part 2 from last week. Below are extracts from the rest of this outstanding series. First, on Papua's 'education malaise':

The problem is not just with the administrators. Ob Anggen is funded not by government but by fees and donations, and the school is fighting an uphill battle against some parents, and the culturally important uncles, who can't understand why children need to spend so much time in classrooms to attain certificates which, at other schools, can simply be bought or cheated.

In part 4, Michael concentrated on health care in the provinces:

Poor education in Papua means there are few locally trained doctors. But not many from outside Papua want to stay in these hard postings with their thorny health problems. 

One young physician arrived for his two-year stint in a taxi via the bumpy road from Wamena. He got out and looked around, then climbed back into the same taxi, returned to town and was never seen again.

Dr Poby, by contrast, finds the work satisfying. On the desk in the consulting room are testing kits for patients diagnosed that day with tuberculosis which, along with HIV/AIDS, is in epidemic proportions here. In the eleven months to November 2014, he diagnosed 26 new cases of HIV and three of AIDS.

Michael interviewed several journalists in Papua and West Papua:

Oktavianus Pogau is another journalist, the chief editor of newspaper Suara Papua. After the presidential election last year, he tried to draw attention to the massive irregularities and ballot box stuffing that delivered counts in some places of 100% for Joko Widodo. In most Papuan districts, there was no ballot box at all, but every man and woman miraculously managed to vote. He accuses politicised electoral commission officials, not Joko's party, of wrongdoing.

In the remote village of Lolat the fact that a ballot box never appeared for the election makes people feel they have no stake in the outcome. Asked about the promises of Joko Widodo, a young woman in Lolat says: 'We didn't actually elect him so why should he listen to what we say?'

The reasons why Papuans want independence are often misunderstood in the West, as Michael discovered: [fold]

The men in this darkened room know that their cause is supported by many Western activists, as well as a broader Papuan diaspora. But Balingga is frustrated that these people too often focus on human rights issues to drive their cause. 'The main picture that gets out internationally is that people get killed and that is why we should have freedom. But that is not the true reason in our hearts,' Balingga insists. 'It's much bigger than just killing people. We want our own country because we're different.'

In the conclusion to the series, Bachelard examined Papua's relationship with the central government in Jakarta, what has happened since the election of Jokowi and what local activists believe needs to be done:

In his conversations with Jokowi's ministers, Harsono had three suggestions to make to improve the situation in Papua. Firstly, open it up to international monitors, including the Western media; secondly, release the political prisoners; and thirdly, throw some kind of bone to the military — perhaps a grace period to wind up their financial affairs and improve their performance.

Stephen Grenville wrote on investor-state dispute settlement and the TPP:

Where is the Government's substantive response? What is the case, in the Australian context, for giving foreigners more favoured treatment than domestic players? Negotiating tactics should not be an excuse for lack of transparency here: an open debate is just part of good governance. The Government should make the case why ISDS benefits Australia. ISDS is not something to be bargained away in exchange for some (probably ephemeral) export advantage.

The 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo was last week. Matthew Dal Santo makes a connection between the peace that was achieved afterward and the end of the Cold War in 1991:

The restoration of a European balance after Waterloo was a testament not just to Waterloo or Britain's wealth and geographic invulnerability, but to Castlereagh's vision as a statesman and his skill as a diplomat. The problem in 1991 was that America combined in itself the role of both victors in 1815: that of the offshore balancer (Britain) and that of the dominant military power on the continent (Russia). Castlereagh's vision for peace was available, but the US effectively chose Alexander's.

In another anniversary, it was the 50th year since Japan and South Korea established formal relations. Robert Kelly took the opportunity to argue that now is the time for Shinzo Abe to end the region's history wars:

Usually these sorts of articles end with arguments that both Japan and Korea need to compromise in order to get along and deal with the really serious issues of their neighborhood – North Korea, China, etc. And so they should. In my previous writings on this topic, I have often suggested that Koreans might take steps to ease the tension, such as dropping the needlessly provocative Sea of Japan re-naming campaign that only stiffens Japan's spine rather than encouraging reconciliation.

But it must be said that Abe has veered so widely from accepted fact on Japanese 20th century imperialism that he must now make the first move, not just to the Koreans but to much of the Asia Pacific, including the Americans. 

In an excellent piece, former intelligence analyst David Wells talks risk assessment in counter-terrorism:

We want our intelligence agencies to be risk averse, given the potential consequences of things going wrong. My concern is that the (justified) scrutiny of the Monis case, the desire to apportion blame and political commentary in the aftermath of the attack, could push the intelligence agencies towards risk avoidance. In future, will intelligence agencies make a similar assessment based on similar information as they did with the Monis case? How comfortable will they feel ruling out an individual as an ongoing target? 

The consequences of increased risk aversion are easy to imagine. Intelligence agency target lists will grow and resources will be stretched. Perversely, risk aversion could thus increase the chances of an attack. In practical terms, the coverage needed to 100% prevent these types of attacks is incredibly resource intensive. Monitoring every individual posing a possible threat is simply not feasible nor desirable.

What are the possible outcomes from the dissolution of the opposition alliance in Malaysia? Anneliese Mcauliffe:

But another real possibility is the further fracturing of the opposition, plunging Malaysia into a political realm in which nationalists and religious hardliners unite in one opposition alliance while political moderates form a separate opposition group. Not only would it be far less likely that either of these groups could pose a real threat to the ruling coalition, such political organisation around ethnic and religious lines could pose serious problems for the future of social cohesion and inclusive political life of Malaysia

Responding to a recent debate on The Strategist, Raoul Heinrichs says that by preserving Australia's strategic independence we can protect ourselves from alliance failure:

In practice, that means building powerful, genuinely self-reliant military forces. To achieve their purpose, these would need to be optimised strictly for the limited task of defending Australia – not the regional order; not Japan, Taiwan or Korea; and not the countries contesting Chinese claims in the South China Sea. It would mean prioritising independent operational capability over interoperability (when the two goals conflict), and air and maritime forces over land power. It would also mean taking full advantage of Australia's fortuitous strategic geography, using asymmetric military technologies and doctrines in ways that impose intolerable costs and risks on an adversary seeking to surmount it.

Why does Southeast Asia have a strange obsession with Hitler and Nazi iconography?  Elliot Brennan argues it's a lack of awareness of European history among the region's youth:

The love affair with Nazi imagery seems to be gathering strength among Southeast Asia's youth. Outside the region, this will feed comparisons between, say, Nazi Germany and Myanmar's persecution of the Rohingya. Some commentators argue that this stubborn love affair has taken on new significance under Thailand's repressive military-led government. Since seizing power last year, the junta has used all means to win over Thai youth and when it has failed it has detained activists for what it has termed 'attitude adjustment'.

Visiting scholar to the Lowy Institute Ye Yu wrote on the New Development Bank:

Within China, the NDB is seen as one package with the AIIB, and both banks are still at the preparatory stage. The Shanghai municipal government has given strong support to the NDB as the first international organisation headquartered in Shanghai and the first international financial organisation headquartered in China. The NDB is expected to help strengthen efforts to build up Shanghai as an international financial centre. What the Chinese and Shanghainese governments should provide is more entrepreneurship and intellectual leadership in defining the mandate of the bank. The fact that all the BRICS countries are now founding members of the AIIB could also help the NDB develop a consistent and complementary relationship with that organisation.

Finally, Leon Berkelmans with five points on the Greek debt crisis. Here's one:

If the ECB does cut off Greek banks, and the banks are headed towards bankruptcy, this is the point at which Grexit becomes more likely. If Greece leaves the euro, the Greek central bank can lend money to the banks unencumbered by the ECB's permission. But Grexit will be messy. I have no idea what it would look like. I don't think anybody does.

(Photo: Michael Bachelard/November 2014)

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