Papua still struggling despite autonomy

Papua still struggling despite autonomy

The Jakarta Post

Poverty, poor education, and a lack of health care continue to plague Papua eight years after centralized control gave way to regional autonomy in the province.

The current government in Papua is highly corrupt and entrenched in traditional values that do not necessarily benefit democracy or development, speakers at a seminar in Jakarta said Tuesday.

“[Papuan] authorities have failed to provide locals with basic necessities,” Muridan S. Widjojo, a researcher from the Center for Political Studies at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), told the seminar looking at governance in the country’s most eastern province.

In 2001 the central government granted Papua special autonomy, which allowed the formation of the Papuan People’s Council (MRP) and the introduction of traditional laws to settle legal matters.

“Many leaders were chosen simply because they were local politicians’ sons,” Muridian said.
“They might lack competency.”

Yusak Reba, from the Institute for Civil Strengthening Papua, offered a similar assessment at the same event.

He said the Papua administration had failed implementing special autonomy for the benefit of the people.

“Attempts to build basic educational facilities have been unsuccessful,” Muridan said.

“Many health centers are still lacking staff and the necessary drug supply.”

Vidhyandika D. Perkasa from the Center for Strategic and International Studies said that just five years ago, Papua’s poverty rate was twice that of the national rate.

“The Central Bureau of Statistics’ data showed that in 2004, almost 39 percent of Papua’s citizens were living below the poverty line,” Vidhyandika said. In 2005, the region’s human development index of 62.1 was the lowest among the country’s 33 provinces.

Vidhyandika said some Papuan leaders still put their family’s interests first when running the government.

“For instance, they see no problem in helping their needy relatives using funds from the regional budget, because they fear karma more than the law.”

He added that traditional values also prevented Papuans from clans other than that of the local leader from ever entering government.

“The leaders tend to pick those from their own clans, or those close to them,” he said.

“A government survey in 2006 showed that 71 percent of respondents thought the number of corruption cases in Papua was high,” Vidhyandika said. According to

data from LIPI, the central government has distributed around Rp 1.3 trillion to Rp 1.5 trillion every year to Papua to support its special autonomy projects, but only a fraction has been spent on and health and education.

In 2008 only 8 percent of the regional budget was allocated to develop health facilities, despite the fact that nearly 70 percent of locals were HIV positive and more than 75 percent had Malaria.

Muridian said the education sector lacked teachers and facilities, resulting in extremely low educational standards. In 2008, only 4.19 percent of the regional budget was allocated to developing the education system. (dis)