Court favors indigenous Papuans

Court favors indigenous Papuans
Arghea Desafti Hapsari , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Tue, 02/02/2010

The Papuan Legislative Council will have to appoint 11 new members after the Constitutional Court issued a ruling on Monday favoring two Papuans who demanded that indigenous people be better represented.

The new members will be representatives of the Papuan people, paving the way for the traditional communities in the resource-rich province to have more say in determining the fate of their land.

The Constitutional Court granted the appointment of the new council members “for the sake of national unity under the Unitary Republic of Indonesia and to ensure benefits, just treatment, equality and opportunity for the indigenous Papuans”.

The court ruled that the mechanism for the appointment of the new council members will be regulated in a special bylaw.

“… the Papuan governor and the Papuan Legislative Council need to immediately issue [the bylaw], which will regulate the appointments of the 11 new members of the council,” constitutional judge Achmad Sodiki said.

Plaintiffs Ramses Ohee and Yonas Alfons Nusi, both lost the legislative election held in April last year and are respectively the chairman and secretary-general of the Red and White Front (Barisan Merah Putih). They filed for a judicial review of an article in the 2001 Law on Papuan Special Autonomy in August 2009.

The article stipulates that members of the Papuan Legislative Council comprise those who are elected in a general election and those who are appointed according to the law.

In April last year, however, the General Elections Commission ran a legislative election for all 56 seats allocated for the Papuan council.

Constitutional judge H.M. Akil Mochtar said the commission’s act went “beyond [its] authority and against the Constitution and the 2001 law (on Papua Special Autonomy)”.

Nevertheless, the Constitutional Court confirmed the validity of the current 56 members of the council. The court’s ruling will bring the total number of council members to up to 67 including new appointments.

“The appointment of 11 new members of the Papuan council and the special bylaw regulating it will apply only for the 2009-2014 period. For the next term, [a different] special bylaw will regulate the mechanism for the following appointments,” Achmad said.

Ramses said he welcomed the Constitutional Court’s ruling. He said he had high hopes concerning the planned putting into place of the new council members.

“The 11 people that we, the Papuans, will choose ourselves will bring peace to our land under the NKRI. There will be no more fighting and disputes because the people that the Papuans love will be in the [legislature], and entrusted to keep the country safe,” he said emotionally.

The province of Papua has been one of the main centers of the exploitation of minerals and natural resources in the country.

The province was granted special autonomy in 2001. Many saw this as a breakthrough intended to silence demands which have been made from the province for separation from Indonesia.

But although the separatist movement has remained active throughout, even after nine years of political lobbying the province is still facing a struggle with poverty and illiteracy, despite the impressive Rp 30 trillion (US$ 3.2 billion) in special autonomy funds poured into it.