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JAKARTA, Indonesia (May 1-7, 2001 – Tempo Magazine)---A concrete proposal for "special autonomy" has been carefully formulated by a group of Papuan intellectuals. Many roads lead to Rome.

There are 20 wise people from West Papua. They are part of a team formed by the governor and led by the Rector of Cenderawasih University, and they have the task of formulating a proposal that reflects the wishes of the West Papuan people.

They are wise because their language is comprehensible, their ideas are clear, their blood does not boil, and there hearts are in the right place. They want to find a way to redress the suffering of the people on this island without resorting to force.

Various proposals they have formulated for a system of "special autonomy" in the area is indicative of such good intentions.

A number of the proposals put forward by the team, such as a special flag for Papua and a special police force for local areas, might appear extreme. But they need not be viewed this way. The reason being that every province in Indonesia has its own flag -- or should have its own flag -- beside the Red and White. Regarding police: in Jakarta, for example, there is the auxiliary police force, which in no way nullifies the role and position of the Police Force of the Republic of Indonesia. Of course it needs to be added, remembering how much violence has been committed by the police, that supervision and checks of police operations by local people is clearly needed. This applies for the West Papuan people and for other regions as well.

As to the other matters in the proposal, doubtless there are some that need to be discussed and debated, and others that need not. And of course this team representing the people of West Papua must be prepared to compromise, and the government in Jakarta must try not to become the bully in negotiations. Like all decisions that stem from the mind of mankind, there are none that are built upon an absolute conception.

A large number of people in the Papuan Presidium and other activist figures from the island believe that the most important goal to be achieved is "merdeka" – freedom -- so they consider the team’s efforts to initiate "special autonomy" a waste of time. The call for freedom is proclaimed widely in West Papua nowadays. A number of hotheaded types in Jakarta also consider the proposal by this team to be no more than a "trick." These two standpoints will only lead to a dead end.

A note for the people in West Papua: the suffering of the Papuan people (especially those who are not migrants) is a serious matter. Poverty continues to choke the people. Violence is also a common occurrence. This forms the basis for the calls for freedom.

What is not often noticed, however, is that this is not the fault of "Indonesia" or a particular ethnic group. The cause is the corruption that continues to spread and the lack of democracy due to a continual state of "emergency" that was engineered during the New Order period. Nor is this suffering limited to people in West Papua and Aceh. Suffering and destruction has likewise burdened many people in Java (since 1965, for example, the New Order has ushered in the deaths of more people in Java than in any other area). By reflecting upon this, the important thing is not the "merdeka" and the creation of a new nation, rather it is democracy and the absence of corruption.

A note also for the government in Jakarta: we should remember that many roads lead to Rome if we do not want to become another Yugoslavia, torn apart by inter-ethnic and regional violence. There is a road between "freedom" and "special autonomy." In Spain, for example, there is the Basque Republic, which continues to exist as a part of Spain. We need to study variations such as this, and avoid falling into the trap of the slogan "persatuan dan kesatuan" -- unity and integrity.



JAKARTA, Indonesia (May 1-7, 2001 – Tempo Magazine)---Overshadowed by the call for a memorandum, preparations for "freedom" in West Papua continue. Dialogue between Jakarta and the Papuan Presidium, which wants regional independence, has stalled since November last year. The Papuan envoy came to Jakarta to discuss the remembrance of Papuan independence, celebrated on the December 1. The meeting did not get off the ground and on November 27, amid accusations of trickery, Theys Hiyo Eluay, Head of the Papuan Presidium and a number of other leaders, were arrested by local police.

But there is fresh news out of Papua. Intellectuals and Papuan NGOs have come together to produce a concept of special autonomy. They say it offers a middle-way between the pro-independence Papuan groups and the central government. They produced the idea by surveying all West Papuan regencies between February and April 2001. Last week, the team led by Frans Wospakrik, Rector of Cenderawasih University, came to Jakarta. They submitted a draft proposal for special autonomy to the government and DPR’s (House of Representatives) Commission II.

The Papuan Presidium group however fiercely opposes this move. In front of a gathering of Papuans in Sentani, Jayapura, on April 8, Theys Hiyo Eluay uttered a shrill call, "We want freedom, not autonomy."

But Wospakrik remains calm. "We only propose a middle way," asserts the 1975 graduate from the Bogor Institute of Agriculture.

He was interviewed last week by Wens Manggut of TEMPO, in Jakarta’s Senopati Apartments.


Q: In summary what is the special autonomy package that you are proposing?

Special autonomy emphasizes the right of the Papuan people to organize their own society, especially the economics, politics and internal security of Papua. We also propose a system of governance that is autonomous and consists of a bi-cameral legislature.

Q: A bi-cameral legislative system, can you explain further?

For the provincial legislature we propose the formation of two bodies, that is the Council of the Papuan People and the Representative Assembly of Papua. Members of the assembly would come from ethnic representatives in Papua, women and religious circles. The members of the councils would be elected through general election in accordance with the national political system.

The assembly would be responsible for supervising the functioning of the government and the councils. The period of office for the councils and assembly would be the same, five years. We suggest a system of two houses because in Papua customary law is still very strong and the current situation under national political structures does not accommodate these interests properly.

Q: Can migrants become members of the assembly?

No. The assembly is solely for native Papuans, but the council can consist of people from all places, as is the case for national elections. The council will appoint the governor, which is also the case in the national system.

Q: Can you explain further the system of governance?

In accordance with the national system, we propose that the governor be given full authority to arrange the economy and security. We also propose that the police operate under the authority of the local government. The relations between the local police and national police will be limited to the fundamentals of coordination. Commandos will continue to be directed by the regional government. The army will only assume responsibility for external threats to the area they will not interfere with internal security.

Q: What about the economic arrangements?

This will be the sole responsibility of local government. We propose that 80 percent of all production in Papua be handled by the local government. The remaining 20 percent would be controlled by the central government.

Q: So, what exactly will the central government control?

The central government will continue to be responsible for foreign and monetary policy, defense and security. This reflects that Papua remains a part of Indonesia.

Q: Does this concept strike an accord with the aspirations of the Papuan people?

Our team was formed in accordance with a decree made by the Governor of West Papua. We then formed small teams at regency levels and another team that was responsible for finding out from the people about their understanding of and desires for autonomy. We have analyzed the situation several times and have formulated our findings into a more academic proposal for new laws. We believe that this concept more or less represents the wishes of the Papuan people.

Q: Then why does the Papuan Presidium oppose it?

We spoke to a wide range of people before bringing this proposal to Jakarta. This included the Papuan Presidium and other pro-independence groups. Indeed, it is difficult to convince these groups, but we believe that the middle way must be taken.

Q: So, are you optimistic that the central government will approve of this concept?

Twelve times we have already met the Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and he is very keen to discuss these proposals. He has informed us that the concept is being discussed and worked on by the DPR’s Commission II. We hope they will accept the proposal and quickly pass the relevant laws.

KABAR-IRIAN ("Irian News") Websites: http://www.irja.org/index2.shtml and http://www.kabar-irian.com 

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