Word: Ayu Arman
We cannot choose what fate offers us. But we can choose what kind of life goals we want.
Why choose Tony Tesar? A line of questions posed by political opponents to the people during the local elections (Pilkada) of the Yapen Islands ten years ago. I understand why the doubts arose. They see that I look different from other Papuan brothers. I was born as a “white” Papuan, a mixed-race generation who inherited a mixture of Mongoloid and Melanesian races. People call us “Perancis” which is an acronym for “Peranakan Chinese Serui” (Crossbreed Chinese-Serui).
I fully believe that all of us cannot choose who our parents are. You can’t choose which country you were born in. You can’t choose under what circumstances and where we will leave this world. However, we can choose how we live life, how to behave in circumstances, and set what kind of life goals we want. We can choose and decide to do what is important and valuable in our lives. Because, whoever becomes a citizen, regardless of race and ethnicity, we have the same right to compose and take part for Indonesian homeland. The supreme constitution guarantees it.
However, in socio-political life, some tribal identity or ethnic identities in this archipelago nation sometimes still often get unfavorable stereotypes so that they become the forerunners of conflict. The dichotomy of indigenous and non-indigenous people, indigenous Papuans or non-native Papuans, is still a political narrative that divides sharply into the structure of social and political life. When I ran for the Yapen Islands regional election in 2010 and 2017, stereotypes and prejudices swept over me. In fact, some circles doubt my Papuan blood.
I understand that. I am aware of the factual condition. This is because the social and political environment in Indonesia is still using identity politics as an instrument in gaining votes and influence in society. Also, some of them don’t know my family roots that come from Papua. They do not understand the history of citizens of Chinese descent who are one of the ethnic and tribe groups of Indonesia that have existed since before Indonesia’s independence and also fought for national liberation from the shackles of colonialism.
The role restrictions imposed during the New Order era on citizens of Chinese descent who only occupied economic roles made them more active as entrepreneurs, pursuing trade or business jobs. My family background and I am actually a businessman who then decided to enter the world of politics and government.
There is a strong reason why I finally had to enter this political arena.
After the 1998 reform, the Chinese ethnic community who were Indonesian citizens, were no longer limited in their activities to the economic role only. Thus, some citizens of Chinese descent who have social care and responsibility for this nation can finally play an active role in political activities to contribute their thoughts and dedication to their homeland. It was this concern and love for my homeland that moved me to take on a political and governmental role.
The Yapen Islands are my homeland. This large house is located in Cendrawasih Bay with a visualization of a group of islands with an elongated coastline flanked by the Sorenarwa and Saireri Straits. The rivers meander between forests, hills and mountains. The Yapen Islands Forest has even become a nature reserve area in Papua Province.
Administratively, the Yapen Islands have a water area (4,713.16 km2); twice as wide as its land area (2,432.49 km2). The capital city, Serui, has been known as a city of education since the Dutch era because at that time boarding schools had been established from elementary to secondary levels. In fact, Serui was once the basis of the struggle to return West Irian to Indonesia’s lap. There are many warriors born from this city. Call it Silas Papare, Berotabui, Stevanus Rumbewas, Hermanus Wayoi, and other young figures who pioneered the rise of Indonesian nationalism.
The nationalism spirit of the Serui people was further strengthened by the presence of Dr. Sam Ratulangi who was exiled by the Dutch government in Serui. They present various political course activities that implanted a spirit of nationalism. One of the monuments from various of courses was the founding of the red and white movement through the Irian Indonesian Independence Party (PKII) a year after Jakarta declared Indonesia’s independence. Therefore, the people of the Yapen Islands in general have the potential for reliable human resources and have an important role in forming a spirit of nationalism which is quite high compared to other urban communities in Papua.
This has been proven by the fact that many Serui people in the Yapen Islands occupy important positions in this country. One of them is Vice Admiral (Ret.) Freddy Numberi, a military figure who has served as governor in Papua and minister in two different governments; became Minister of State for Administrative Reform during the leadership of President Abdurrahman Wahid and Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries of Indonesia during the reign of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. There is also Marine Brigadier General Abraham Octavianus who is the first governor of West Papua. Or, Yorrys Raweyai, a politician with a name on the national stage.
Merely that the Yapen Islands, which gave birth to many smart and successful people, have been isolated for decades since the establishment of the Yapen Islands Regency in 1969. Development has stagnated. People call our area “3 Kilometer City”. Because the construction is piece by piece. Road construction is only around the city area. Nearly 90 percent of road access to districts and villages are still closed. The only way at that time could only be reached by sea. It also requires expensive transportation costs. Not all people own a fleet of boats or speed boats and can afford to buy fuel. When the season for big waves arrives, sea travel is at high risk.
The delay in the development of the Yapen Islands region does not mean that the Yapen Islands people are unable to take care of their own homeland. Generally, those who are successful outside the Island don’t want to go home to raise and build the Yapen Islands. Meanwhile, I, one of the children who was born, raised and works in the Yapen Islands, witnessed how this isolation created a series of problems that went on and on; Starting from the high cost of living, low education, poor health, limited public services, and low economic growth, the people of the Yapen Islands have been in almost acute suffering for years.
On the other hand, when I served as a member of the Indonesian Regional Representative Council (DPD) for the period 2004-2010, I knew exactly that hundreds of billions of budget had been disbursed by the Central Government for the development of Yapen. However, the size of the budget has not changed the face of development. As a member of the DPD RI representing the province of Papua, I of course provide support and contribute development thinking behind the scenes to the government. However, the support and contribution of thought also did not have a significant effect. It was at that point that I realized that the crux of the matter was in executive leadership. Changes in development in Yapen Islands Regency can only be realized if its leaders have a commitment to development and high social concern for the community.
These are some of the reasons why I finally ran for the 2010 Yapen Islands regional election to change the direction of development for the progress of the people of the Yapen Islands. There are many things that I dreamed of from this land of my birth. Infrastructure progress. Quality of human resources. Natural sustainability. The revival of tourism. Its economic growth. Also, the awareness of the people to become individuals who are economically independent.
There have been many experiences that touched my life in this homeland that made me really have to commit myself to make that dream come true. I actually have tried to contribute to the land of my birth through the gifts I received from the opportunity to develop a construction business by helping children to go to school and college, building roads and places of worship, and also helping people who are in trouble. However, no matter how much wealth I have, it is never enough to help many people. Moreover, to help a region to progress and prosper the people throughout the Yapen Islands. So, the only way to realize this big dream is through politics and government.
My commitment to advancing my homeland by taking the path of politics and government does not mean that there are no challenges and risks that threaten me. Moreover, I am a Serui-Chinese who is considered dirty-blooded by some political elites and is often used as ammunition for conflict and fighting against each other during regional elections. It was because of ethnic issues that were played in politics as an instrument in gaining votes in regional head elections that I almost became a mark and target of shooting by my brothers from the Independent Papua Organization (OPM).
They may not accpet me as a Papuan. However, they should not forbid me from saying that I am a son of Papua, Indonesia. I don’t feel like a foreigner. In fact, I feel like I don’t belong in China. China is not where I was born and live. China is only the homeland of my grandfather’s ancestors. I was born and grew up in the land of Serui, Yapen Islands, Papua. This is where I go to school, play, and work. My entire life, my thoughts and my heart, from childhood until now, have been entirely in Papua, Indonesia. It was inconceivable for me to be called a migrant when the only place I have lived since childhood, since I was a baby, is the Yapen Islands. Identity politics in our politics has become a barrier for someone who fully love the land of their homeland.
I know that in a number of moments in Indonesia, identity politics has often become an issue. However, I don’t see this issue as something natural, genuine. The race issue was created, designed, for the sheer power interests of a few parties. I believe that all conflicts that harden and divide can be softened and united with love and the desire to simply do good. The vibration of sincere kindness is a universal language of warmth that can unite us all regardless of race or social class.
Chinese descent is not the only issue, entrepreneurs political motivations are also often suspected when they want to enter the political arena. That’s what I experienced too. They may doubt my political motivations because my background as a businessman. It is their right to judge. However, we have to open our eyes that entrepreneurs transforming into politicians in this country is actually nothing new. This is because the relationship between entrepreneurs and the world of politics has actually blended in such a way that it is impossible to separate them.
On one side, transformation is a rational choice because entrepreneurs have sufficient economic capital so they do not seek to profit from the power they have. On the other hand, this allows the power he has to become a vehicle for seeking as much profit as possible. It all comes back to personal character and political motivation. Is the political motivation due to encouragement motivation because of the urge to perpetuate his business or to serve the interests of the nation and state?
How to measure?
Track record, time, and performance during his leadership, thats the answer.
We also have to admit that a successful entrepreneur generally has a high leadership spirit and good management. So, if an entrepreneur becomes a leader and he has a spirit of devotion to the nation and state that is higher than his business spirit, his leadership can revive and make the community and region more independent. That is my reference in leading the Yapen Islands. Serving for the good of the whole community regardless of class, skin color, or religious belief factors.
Devoted to kindness is my way of life. It is a form of expression of my gratitude to God who has poured out extraordinary blessings in my life so far. So, when I was entrusted with leading the Yapen Islands for a decade (2012-2022), I did my best to turn the Yapen Islands into a comfortable, advanced, prosperous area and in tune with natural dances and all of their ancestral cultural heritage.
Praise to God, during this decade of leadership, a change has been taking place in the Yapen Islands Regency. We can see transformation from the beginning, the Yapen Islands were an isolated and dark area, now they have an open and bright access. The road connects everything that is far away: districts, villages are well connected. Now, the activities of the people of the Yapen Islands are now easier, faster and cheaper. People can travel at any time, day or night, no more difficulties. The community’s economic growth began to grow. People can bring their harvest to the Serui City market at any time, day and night. They can access health services at any time. Infrastructure is the mother of all development.
Therefore, infrastructure development is the main and important thing in my leadership. Why?
Economic growth occurs when infrastructure is available properly. Come on, take a closer look at the Yapen Islands. Let’s start with the question, why are so many houses built with random materials? Why can’t the fish and various fruits and vegetables produced by the people widely marketed? Why hasn’t the beautiful nature of the Yapen Islands become a tourism destination?
The answer is that so far the infrastructure has not been developed properly.
Building infrastructure actually builds the community’s economy. We build airports, roads, bridges, docks, electricity, telecommunications and others, actually preparing the community to develop products and services from the natural potential that the community has while attracting investors to invest in the Yapen Islands. Good infrastructure conditions facilitate the process of economic activity. Good infrastructure is capital to increase community activity, attract investment, break up isolation between regions, increase access to technology to open up economic growth.
After focusing on infrastructure development, we encourage community economic development by managing the regional natural resources that we have. The Yapen Islands offer beauty, but also have fisheries potential and high quality types of seaweed. The land also has great agricultural potential. Starting from coffee, various fruits, especially durian and matoa, and various vegetables. The forest is a nature reserve area that contains quite a high diversity of flora and fauna throughout Papua. Seeing the potential of the Yapen Islands’ natural resources, we are developing three economic sectors. Namely, the development of fisheries, agriculture and tourism.