Papuans call for independent autonomy budget

Papuans call for independent autonomy budget
, 26 July 2010

Papua's special autonomy fund should be kept separate from the province's budget and independently managed by a new institution, a DPR member says.

Chairman of the Papua Legislative Council (DPRP)'s Commission C on financial affairs, Carolus Bolly, said that the fund, which has been disbursed directly to the province for the last nine years, should not be managed as part of the province's budget.

Joint management of the special autonomy fund and the provincial budget will make its use unclear, he said.

The special autonomy fund, amounts to two percent of the province's annual General Allocation Fund from the central government.

The province's special autonomy under a 2001 law stipulates that the fund can only be used to finance four sectors - education, health, welfare and infrastructure.

"The use of the special autonomy fund became unclear once it was placed into the province's budget and listed as other income," Carolus said.

"It is also unclear how much is actually spent from the special autonomy fund on education, health, welfare and infrastructure," he told The Jakarta Post.

A lack of transparency in the use of special autonomy funds is one factor that has triggered criticism of special autonomy in Papua, he said.

The central government granted Papua special autonomy in 2001 in what critics said was an effort to win the hearts and minds of Papuans while muting their demands for independence.

The law on special autonomy allows Papua to keep up to 80 percent of revenue generated from the exploitation of its local resources and authorized the province to change its name from Irian Jaya to Papua.

The law also stipulates that the province has autonomy in the social, political, economic and cultural fields. Defense, foreign policy, monetary affairs and the legal system were reserved for the central government.

Papua is allowed to have its own flag, symbol and anthem to representits own cultural identity. The province was also authorized to establish a bicameral legislature - comprised of an assembly and a council - that could issue bylaws, policies and control the executive.

Protestors in a series of recent rallies in several cities, including the provincial capital of Jayapura, demanded authorities revoke province's special autonomy status and return to central government rule since autonomy has failed to improve popular welfare.

"The latest protests at the DPRP, which demanded that we revoke special autonomy status and return to central government rule, is one of the effects of poor management and lack of transparency in administering trillions of rupiah from the annual fund," council commission chairman Ruben Magai told the Post.

"The fund should be managed independently and transparently so that the people know where the money goes. This will also ensure that the fund's use is controlled."

Carolus suggested the formation of an institution to manage the special autonomy fund in Papua and in Aceh.

These proposed institutions should serve as a facilitator for supervising, evaluating and examining the funds, while an independent institution plans, budgets and disburses funds, he said.

The institution will need to be established by a new law, he said.

The initiative was supported by head of Papua provincial administration's Financial and Asset Management, Ahmad Hatari.

"It's not hard to create a law on special autonomy fund management since it is badly needed," Ahmad said.

The province has received more than Rp 18.7 trillion for the special autonomy fund from 2002-2009 and is expected to receive Rp 2.6 trillion in 2010.

"Special autonomy status has been the law for nine years in Papua, but its management is not transparent and it has been poorly implemented for Papuans. Those reasons have created a need for good management under the law," Carolus said.