Government Debates Failings and Successes in Aceh, Papua

Government Debates Failings and Successes in Aceh, Papua
, 23 July 2010


The government has acknowledged it needs to run more development programs in Papua and Aceh provinces, saying the existing programs are not enough.

The statement was made at a meeting on Friday between the House of Representatives’ team to monitor regional autonomy, and a clutch of high officials, including Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Djoko Suyanto, Home Affairs Minister Gamawan Fauzi, Justice and Human Rights Minister Patrialis Akbar and National Police Chief Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri.

Djoko said the situation in Aceh was a little better than in Papua, with the government making good progress on 75 programs stipulated in the August 2005 peace deal.

He also said supporting legislation was already in place, including to establish a communication forum for development programs in the province.

“As result of the programs achieved thus far, the people of Aceh now enjoy better security and political situations,” he said.

However, Djoko said several pressing problems required urgent attention, in particular making amends for past human rights violations by the military.

He ruled out the possibility of establishing a truth and reconciliation commission in Aceh to address the issue, pointing out there was no legal basis for it.

“We can’t set up a human rights tribunal in Aceh because the prevailing law stipulates such bodies may only be established in five provinces, and Aceh isn’t one of them,” he said.

Meanwhile, similar development programs have been rolled out in Papua, but the volatile security situation there has limited their impact, Djoko said.

He added that the government was applying the lessons it had learned in Aceh by assigning responsibility for security in Papua to the police force rather than to the military.

He conceded that criticisms in both provinces over the lack of development were justified. Demonstrators in Papua earlier this month demanded an independence referendum similar to the one that saw East Timor secede in 1999.

However, Djoko called for patience, saying development would take time.

“It’s unfair to expect to have Jakarta-type metropolises in Papua within the next five years,” he said. “I believe we’ve made significant advances over the past five years.”

He said part of the solution in Papua was for the provincial administration to improve its development coordination and allocate its budget wisely.

Home Affairs Ministry spokesman Saut Situmorang, speaking after Friday’s meeting, denounced the Papuan referendum call and said the province’s people would be better off sticking with the Jakarta-mandated development programs.

“Rather than moan about wanting a referendum, they should get with the program and propose ways to improve the province,” he said.

“If Papua’s special autonomy needs to be revised, then flag it.”

However, legislator Ali Katsela, from the People’s Conscience Party (Hanura), questioned the government’s claims of having made progress.

“In the 10 years that Papua has had regional autonomy, its human resource index has fallen, taking it from 22nd out of 33 provinces to 29th,” he said.

Meanwhile, the US ambassador to Indonesia, Cameron Hume, said at a press briefing with visiting US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on Thursday that Aceh had undergone “a remarkable evolution in the past couple of years in terms of peace and peaceful cooperation,” citing the relatively incident-free local elections held there during that time.

“So I would say it’s tremendous progress.”