SPECIAL AUTONOMY WILL SWELL THE INCOME OF THE IRIAN JAYA REGIONAL GOVERNMENT.

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BUT WILL THAT SOFTEN THE PUSH FOR INDEPENDENCE?

JAYAPURA, Irian Jaya, Indonesia (October 23-29, 2001 – Tempo Magazine/Kabar-Irian)---For Irian Jaya governor J.P. Salossa, the Draft Law on Special Autonomy for Papua Province represents the final gamble. Now people in every corner of the province are waiting to hear the results of the bill's debate. Pro-independence protests have eased. But they can always start up again.

"If the result is unsatisfactory, we cannot guarantee that the people of Irian Jaya will not act again," said Salossa.

His statement is clearly directed at the government and the House of Representatives (DPR) in Jakarta, which is now discussing the draft law in Senayan. The bill was first put forward by the Irian Jaya regional government; then it was passed over to the DPR. In essence, legislators have agreed to the draft, which runs to 23 chapters and 80 sections. It just remains to see what attitude the government takes, through the home affairs minister. The plan is for the discussions to finish at the end of October.

If the draft is not changed substantially, Irian Jaya will change drastically. The provincial name will officially be changed to Papua and it will get its own flag, to accompany the Red & White national flag. There will be a guarantee that the governor will always be an indigenous Irianese and will have substantial authority. The governor will have to approve the appointment of the regional police chief. And he will also be able to take out foreign loans directly.

In carrying out his tasks, the governor will be supervised by the Papuan House of Representatives and the Papuan People's Council. This last body could be compared to Indonesia's supreme national People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), but on a provincial level. It will include representatives of traditional law, religion and community figures. To guarantee human rights and law in the region, there will also be a Papuan human rights court.

What still remains a tricky subject of debate is how to share out the province's substantial ‘lolly’ between the region and the central government. The draft law states that ‘regional firms’ can add their capital to state firms or private firms which operate in Irian Jaya. That means the regional government will replace the central government as regulator on issues of investment.

On the issue of sharing out income, the province will get 65 percent of the income from its natural resources and 50 percent from oil and gas, along with 80 percent of all the national-level taxes.

Then there is the issue of the 1.25 percent from the national general allocation fund (DAU) for building infrastructure. According to Governor Salossa, the DPR has agreed to this. If calculated from the national total of Rp 60 trillion, Irian Jaya will get around Rp 900 billion. This money, said Salossa, can help build up the province's infrastructure. Every year this requires Rp 4 trillion. [NOTE: Indonesia rupiah 1,000 = US$ 0.10956]

Last week the DPR special committee on the draft law agreed the pattern for sharing out the results of natural resources, 80 percent and 20 percent respectively for Irian Jaya and the central government. If approved by the government, the province's income will go up substantially. From general mining alone, the province will get more than Rp 1 trillion a year alone. Then there is the income from oil and gas, forests and fisheries, which are also substantial.

"That is fair. If they don't agree, yes, the government please face the Papuan people," said Peter Susanto, a member of the special committee.

The question is whether this fulfills most of the wishes of the Irian Jaya people and whether the push for independence there will lose steam. This appears far from certain. There is still a strong lobby for outright independence. According to Theys Hiyo Eluay, chairman of the Papuan Presidium Council, the Papuan People's Congress last year did not at all recommend autonomy.

"The mandate from the congress was not autonomy or a referendum, but independence," said Theys.

A lot of people in the province do not really care very much about special autonomy. Niko, 45, a trader in Jayapura's Ampera market, has only heard that the ‘land of the bird of paradise’ will be more prosperous if special autonomy is implemented. An indigenous Irianese, he does not terribly understand how this law can change his fate as a trader.

"Will we be given capital for investment?" he asked TEMPO.

His colleague, Hasma, understands it quite well but is pessimistic. He's unconvinced that special autonomy can change his life.

"Before, they said reform would make things better, but prices go up instead," he said.

If the special autonomy law is approved, ultimately the senior regional officials will be the ones to determine whether or not it is a success. They are the ones who can ensure the ‘lolly’ makes it to the hands of Hasma and Niko and does not get diverted for their own purposes.

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

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