ICG: Govt must recognize Papua beyond money terms

ICG: Govt must recognize Papua beyond money terms
, 4 August 2010


Ahead of an audit of Papua’s special autonomy regional development fund, an NGO has urged the government to recognize that the root of problems causing resentment among Papuans is in fact a political, not an economic issue, an NGO says.

People power: Hundreds of Moni tribal people from Iwaka village in Kuala Kencana district in Papua demonstrate in front of the Regional Representatives Council in Mimika, on Tuesday. They were demanding that police not evict them from their traditional land located in a protected forest area managed by PT Freeport Indonesia. JP/Markus Makur


In a report received by The Jakarta Post on Tuesday, the International Crisis Group (ICG) urged the central government to facilitate a dialogue with credible Papuan leaders to discuss, most importantly, non-economic aspects of the “special autonomy” given to the Papuan province in 2001.

The report highlights a huge gulf in perspectives between the government and Papuans on what has gone wrong. This gap can be bridged through a constructive dialogue.

“Jakarta sees autonomy largely in terms of giving Papua more money, while Papuans want more authority to make political decisions without constantly being trumped by national laws,” Crisis Group senior adviser Sidney Jones says in the release.

The 16-page report warns of the dangers of avoiding a dialogue to address the Papuans’ needs to have their political rights acknowledged.

The report also points out that the government has rejected a decision (called SK14), made by the Papuan People’s Council (MRP) in November 2009, which requires that all candidates for elected office at a sub-provincial level must be indigenous Papuans.

The Home Ministry said in May that the ruling was discriminatory and in violation of a national laws on local government.

“There was a sense that the effort to protect certain areas of government for Papuans was the essence of what autonomy was supposed to be about. If that protection is denied, what was left?

“It reinforced the conviction of many Papuans that the central government saw special autonomy only in terms of extra money. Jakarta’s failure to appreciate the depth of that conviction played directly into radical hands,” the group says, adding that discontent and resentment have gone beyond the pro-independence community in the area.

The government had also argued that SK14 was illegitimate because the MRP had no authority to issue “decisions” or anything that had the force of law and that its mandate was supposed to be restricted to cultural, not political affairs.

But putting the MRP’s mandate into question soon brought long-standing resentment to the surface.

A number of local activists sensed that the Papuans’ support for SK14 could unite them in a way no recent issue had done, the report says. The activists immediately formed the Democracy Forum of the United Papuan People (FORDEM).

“Anger over SK14 had been the original rationale for a consultation, but FORDEM had something much bigger in mind now. In its view, Papuan political unity had steadily declined since its height in 1999-2000. Getting approval for the MRP decision was far too small a goal; achieving Papuan political unity was more important.”

Increasing political tension in Papua has stirred the government to take action and study Papuans’ demand to “return” its autonomy, and led to Yudhoyono’s order to audit the state budget for development in Papua’s two provinces.

An audit would be useful, ICG says, “but the issues are not just about money as most Jakarta-based officials seem to assume.”

“To move forward, the President needs to explore directly with credible Papuan leaders how political autonomy can be expanded, affirmative action policies strengthened, and fears about migration addressed,” ICG’s Southeast Asia project director Jim Della-Giacoma says.

“Unless these issues are tackled head on, increased radicalization in Papua is likely.”