Nothing special about Papuan 'autonomy'

Nothing special about Papuan `autonomy'

The Jakarta Post, August 31, 2009
Ridwan Max Sijabat

Eight years after the introduction of "special autonomy" scheme developed by the central government for Papua and West Papua, major problems remain, with much of the regions population yet to see intended improvements to their social welfare, a discussion concluded recently.

The program have not improved the welfare of more than 2 million indigenous Papuans in terms of their economic livelihood, health and education, because a large portion of the program's funding had gone into the pockets of local elites and the bureaucracy, Boven Digoel Regent Yusak Yaluwo said.

"The special autonomy program has effectively generated a growing social disparity between elites and the common people at grassroots levels," he told a discussion on Papua autonomy over the weekend.

"Secessionism remains because poverty and marginalization are still major issues."

Yusak urged President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to form a joint board to revitalize the special autonomy program for the next five years.

"The joint board should represent the central government, the two provincial administrations, churches, civil society groups and informal leaders from the Papuan Customary Council *DAP*," he said.

"Its main responsibility should be to evaluate the special autonomy program each year, and address obstacles in its implementation."

He said government representatives on the board would provide feedback to the central government and provincial administrations on what should be done.

Since 2001, Papua and West Papua have received some Rp 4 trillion (US$397 million) in special autonomy funds, to finance development programs focusing on education, financial and health sectors, to bridge the development divide between Papua and other provinces and gradually eradicate poverty and secessionism.

Yusak also urged provincial authorities to speed up the issuance of special and provincial bylaws to boost development in all sectors in the two provinces.

Meanwhile, Rev. Neles Tebay, a senior official of the Jayapura Archdiocese opposed the proposed establishment of a board.

He said Papua did not lack institutions or agencies and that the key problem was that the government had no political commitment to special autonomy in Papua.

"Funding is not the only factor. The government has not shown political commitment to issuing special and provincial bylaws to bring about special autonomy," he said.

No grand designs have been made on what should be achieved in the short, middle and long terms under special autonomy.

With the lack of supervision, much room had been left for local elites to enrich themselves and their groups, he said.