Nine Years on, Papuans Say Autonomy Has Brought Few Benefits

Nine Years on, Papuans Say Autonomy Has Brought Few Benefits

  28 May 2010


Little good has come of the special autonomy status conferred on Papua in 2001 with most people there left behind by the nation’s push for development, activists and community representatives said at a discussion in Jakarta on Wednesday.

“We haven’t seen for ourselves the benefits of development in Papua, despite being nine years into the special autonomy phase,” Papuan Students Association representative Agus Kossay told the Jakarta Globe. “Where do the trillions of rupiah from the budget go?”

He added most Papuans still lived in poverty.

“It’s particularly bad in the mountain areas,” he said. “We also suffer from gross human rights violations.”

In a 2005 study, the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) listed Papua as having the lowest human development index in the country, rating it at 62.1 compared to the national average of 69.6.

Biak native and University of Indonesia student Yopi Paliama told the Globe that things had deteriorated since the province was granted special autonomy.

“The roads, buildings, everything are just as they were 10 years ago,” he said. “What on earth is the government doing by way of development?”

Paskalis Kossay, a House of Representatives legislator from Papua, said the failure of autonomy to bring change could be blamed on both the government and the people of Papua.

“Everything got messed up after the 2003 presidential decree establishing the new province of West Papua,” he said. “Now the development aims for Papua itself are unclear. Where are we actually headed?”

He also blamed the varying notions of that autonomy comprised.

“The idea as espoused by the central government differs from that touted by the local administration, which in turn is different from that held by the local people,” Paskalis said.

“Some of the people on the ground believe it means separating from Indonesia,” he added.

But Papua Development Planning Board head Alex Rumaseb argued that there had been a significant level of development in the province.

“There’s improved access to education and health care, and we’re doing our best to develop every part of the province,” he said. “Admittedly, though, it’s more difficult in the central highland areas.”

Alex added the main hurdle was how to empower human resources.

“Our biggest problem is developing the human resources to develop their own region,” he said, adding that Papuans comprised only 30 percent of the work force, while the rest were mostly migrants from elsewhere in Indonesia.