Ministers, Papua leaders to meet on autonomy

Ministers, Papua leaders to meet on autonomy
, 15 October 2010


Regional Representatives Council (DPD) will host a meeting between ministers and Papuan leaders on Monday to break the impasse over the future of Papuan autonomy.

The meeting will focus on stalled talks on leadership change in the Papuan People’s Assembly (MRP) and how to recover lost trust between the sides.

DPD Deputy Speaker Laode Ida said the MRP, whose current term will end this month, should already have elected new members. Elections have not been held due to disagreements between local leaders and the central government.

“With political support from the parliamentary caucus of eastern Indonesia and local elites in Papua, the DPD will encourage both sides to extend the 75-member MRP’s term until new members are elected,” he told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

Outgoing MRP chairman Agus Alua told the Post that according to the Law on Special Autonomy for Papua, MRP elections should have occurred in August but were suspended after the central government rejected the idea of a single MRP for Papua and West Papua.

“Ongoing deliberation by the MRP and the provincial legislature on bills mandated by the special autonomy law will be put off indefinitely,” he said.

The MRP has endorsed eight of 17 special bylaws, including bills on the MRP and its job description, Papuan people’s communal rights, communal courts, forestry and intellectual rights.

The central government rejected a bylaw allowing indigenous people to contest local elections during special autonomy’s 30-year implementation period. The central government has not commented on the report of a Presidential team from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences on their peace mission in Papua.

The team called for dialogue between the central government and Papua to seek a comprehensive solution to the autonomy issue.

Laode said that the DPD was concerned about the complexity of the Papuan issue and the implications of stagnant implementation of special autonomy due to the absence of mutual trust.

He said the central government’s suspicions of a Papuan separatist agenda were baseless. A population comprised of 250 deeply divided ethnic groups, each speaking different dialects, coupled with the number of migrants, would make it difficult for Papua to unite to seek independence, he added.

University of Indonesia public administration expert Sojuangon Situmorang agreed with Laode, saying the issues’ settlement would depend on the commitment of the central government and local elites.

“Substantial progresss has been made over the past nine years since special autonomy began in 2001, but progress has been obstructed by Jakarta’s suspicion and the Papuan people’s distrust of the central government. Problems can be settled if both sides open their minds and are honest in implementing special autonomy,” he said.

Sojuangon, who was also acting governor of Papua in 2005, said the central government and the Papua political elite should develop a common understanding of the root problems in Papua’s two provinces and commit to improving the quality of human resources to allow Papua to catch up with other provinces.

Demands for self-determination by the two resource-rich provinces have increased due to what some see as the central government’s half-hearted support for special autonomy in Papua.