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The Jakarta Post Jakarta, Indonesia


October 26, 2001

During the last hours before the House of Representatives went into recess, the law on special autonomy for the province of Papua was endorsed. A cursory look reveals that this new law covers many aspects which will hopefully push the province of Papua into modernity and neutralize any serious intentions on the part of some Papuans to secede from the Republic of Indonesia.

The money aspect of this new law alone is simply staggering. If for the current budget year of 2001 this province of 2.1 million inhabitants was allocated the sum of Rp 3.5 trillion (roughly US$ 350 million), a conservative calculation for 2002 would raise this to Rp 7 trillion ($700 million), which means an increase of 100 percent.

A good example of the grand-scale adjustments which this new law makes for the province is the increase in the portion of revenue allocated to Papua from oil and gas royalties as stipulated by Law No. 25/1999. According to this law, Papua receives only 15 percent of the accrued oil royalties and 30 percent of the gas royalties.

The new law stipulates an increase of 55 percent in oil royalties to arrive at a total of 70 percent, and a 40 percent increase in gas royalties to 70 percent. These new increases will be implemented over a period of 25 years in order to give the province an opportunity to catch up with the more advanced provinces in the republic. After 25 years, these increases will be respectively reduced by 20 percent.

These arrangements are far more generous than those applied to the special province of Aceh Nangroe Darussalam. If the huge potentials of the offshore Tangguh gas field in the Bird's Head area of Papua comes fully on stream and the marketing contracts are in place, one does not need a superb analytical mind to project the huge windfall for Papua.

Although this money aspect is not unimportant, the new law on the special autonomy status for Papua carries some sociopolitical arrangements that are no less significant and will satisfy the long-suppressed aspirations of the Papua people. For instance, there will be a specially installed Papua People's Council with the membership comprising indigenous Papuans. This council is designed to protect the rights of the indigenous Papuans based on their customary laws and rituals.

The council has the prerogative to voice its opinion on possible candidates for the governor, candidate members for the People's Consultative Assembly and an assortment of issues that affect the representation and administration of Papua. On the appointment of the police chief for the special province of Papua, the new law stipulates that candidates' names should be submitted to the governor for approval. It is also agreed that the flag of Papua is considered a cultural symbol and that it does not express Papua's sovereignty as an independent state. Although the law makes far-reaching concessions and adjustments, certain diehard separatists under the leadership of Theys Hiyo Eluay or those associated with the Free Papua Movement (OPM) will not be satisfied.

The crux of the matter, however, is how the trillions of rupiah will be spent and managed. We suggest that a highly placed advisory board be established, of course with generous remunerations, to design a development plan for Papua. Certainly, human resources development should have the highest priority. Papua should have a first-class secondary education system. For that purpose quality teachers could be recruited from other parts of Indonesia. Of course, Papua can afford to offer generous arrangements for recruited teachers in terms of salary, housing, etc. The important thing is a solid plan exists that is not too complicated, and there is determination to prudently manage the newly acquired wealth.

The adoption of the new law does not mean that all problems related to Papua will cease to exist. Constant dialog and consultation among Papuans and between Papuans and the political leaders in Jakarta will still be needed. At least, however, it can be said that the new law on special autonomy for the province of Papua provides us with a window of opportunity to achieve stability and prosperity in this easternmost Indonesian province.

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

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