SPECIAL AUTONOMY FOR WEST PAPUA: NO WAY OUT

admin's picture

By Wens Manggut, Levianer Silalahi and Krisitian Ansaka (Jayapura)

JAYAPURA, Indonesia (May 8 - 14, 2001 - Tempo Magazine/TAPOL)---West Papua has put forward its proposals for special autonomy. But they look very likely to be rejected by both the central government and the independence camp.

Internet mail has become a prime way for West Papuans in exile to propound there and, through them, the ageing leaders of the rebel Free Papua Organization (OPM) still insist that independence is a fixed price.

"Forget autonomy. Because freedom is a fixed price," writes Moses Weror, described as chairman of the ‘Revolutionary OPM,’ headquartered in Madang, Papua New Guinea.

A draft law for special autonomy, put together by Papuans, has met a cold response from them. Also from the Papuan Presidium Council, the pro-independence umbrella body within the province Indonesia calls Irian Jaya.

But some Papuans have at least given it a second thought.

One woman on the mailing lists prefers compromise: Papua could receive special autonomy as proposed for Aceh, Indonesia’s other separatist trouble spot. In biblical language, designed to appeal to the strongly Christian region, she suggested special autonomy could be a stepping-stone and was an acceptable compromise for now.

"Special autonomy is like John the Baptist, and freedom is like the Lord Jesus. It is John that opens our eyes to find Lord Jesus," she wrote.

Led by governor Jacobus Prividia Solossa, some Papuans have come up with their own compromise proposals of what special autonomy should look like. But Jakarta may well not accept them.

The governor assigned a number of intellectuals and non-governmental organizations to look directly into what the people wanted. The group was headed by Frans Wospakrik, director of Cenderawasih University in the capital, Jayapura. It started work in February.

They went right down to village level, to talk to the people. A draft law on ‘Special Autonomy for Papua’ was the result. Currently, the draft law is awaiting approval from the national legislature in Jakarta, in which Papuan voices only hold a few votes.

The draft law covers the legislative system, governance, economics, justice, safety and foreign relations for the province.

The intellectuals proposed a bicameral or dual chamber system. The first chamber would be known as the Papuan People’s Assembly. The second chamber would be the Papuan Representative Council. The assembly’s members would be drawn from tribal, religious, and women’s organizations. The council’s members would be determined through a general election.

"The authority of tribal leaders in Papua, who have not been given a place in the national political system, is the background to the assembly’s establishment," Wospakrik told TEMPO.

These intellectuals say under-development has contributed to hostility to the central government. They propose that 80 percent of state revenue from the region be returned to Papua. The regional government should handle new negotiations with foreign investors.

"This is very important so that the Papuan people do not feel that they are only spectators in development," Wospakrik added.

If the proposal is approved, Papua will have two types of courts, traditional courts and the state courts. The state court will include religious courts and general courts. They will also cover state administration and human rights. Traditional courts will deal with traditional issues. In general, it will not be possible for a decision issued by one court to be annulled by another court.

They also proposed that Papua’s security be placed entirely under police jurisdiction. And not just the existing Indonesian police force. The police in Papua would be answerable to the governor. What would their relationship be to the central police? Merely to coordinate. The armed forces would be only there on a ‘stand-by’ basis in case of a threat from a foreign party.

"This is the best compromise that we could find," said Wospakrik.

But many parties are viewing this draft law skeptically. Lisidius Animung, a government staff researcher in West Papua, doubts it will be accepted by the central government.

"The central government will reject this draft law due to its strong federal influence," Animung told TEMPO.

And how did the national legislature take it? Although they did not reject the draft law outright, last week’s meeting of the central board of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) decided that special autonomy for Papua and Aceh must be within the framework of an integrated country. PDI-P is Indonesia’s largest party.

"Papua may be hindered by its federal influence," one PDI-P legislator from Papua told TEMPO, on condition of anonymity.

But special autonomy, or even federation, may be the only way to put a stop to separatism. Pro-independence activists feel the draft law belittles their rights and their struggle for independence. In addition to the harsh rejection from the OPM, outspoken Papuan students at Cenderawasih University have scorn for the bill.

Perhaps most significantly, the pro-independence Papuan Presidium has rejected it. They are asking for the return of their independence, they say, not autonomy.

Paul Barber TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign 25 Plovers Way, Alton Hampshire GU34 2JJ Tel/Fax: 01420 80153 Email: plovers@gn.apc.org  Internet: www.gn.apc.org/tapol 

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment