UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


2001 - Special Autonomy

As an answer to the loud voice for sovereignty in West Papua, the Indonesian government offered Special Autonomy to the province of Papua. In October 2001, the Indonesian Parliament (DPR) endorsed the Special Autonomy law for Papua (Law No. 21 / 2001) and in January 2002 the law was enacted. The Special Autonomy was rejected by the Presidium of the Papua Council (PDP) because the Indonesian government had presented it as the ultimate solution to all the problems in West Papua, and because it was imposed on the Papuans without proper consultation. Nevertheless, PDP recognised that Special Autonomy could benefit the Papuans. Increased income for the province from natural resources exploitation may be used to catch up in development: infrastructure and human resource development. Also the establishment of a Papua People’s Council (MRP = Majelis Rakyat Papua) with representatives from traditional groups, religious organisations and women, was welcomed.

Almost three years after the enactment of the Special Autonomy in January 2001, essential parts of the autonomy have still not been worked out and agreements are not met. From all over Papua the Indonesian government is called upon to take position by first of all supporting the implementation of the Special Autonomy in a consistent and constructive way. ‘Jakarta’ is reluctant to transfer the agreed payments from royalties and taxes to the province of Papua. This year (2003) Papua did not receive the 1,3 trillion rupiah (158.6 billion US $) it is entitled to according the Autonomy Law. Last year the central government only transferred 851 million rupiah. The Papua People’s Council (MRP) has not yet been installed; Jakarta keeps delaying the approval of rules and regulations needed for the election of representatives and the installation of the MRP.

While the bickering over the implementation of the Autonomy Law was still going on, Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri added to the confusion by issuing a Presidential Decree (Inpres 2003/1- 27 January 2003) on the Acceleration of the Implementation of Law no. 45/1999 on the Division of the province of Papua into three new provinces. In 1999, Law no. 45/1999, already sparked huge protests in West Papua and was rejected by the provincial parliament (DPRD) in Papua. Subsequently then-President Habibie and his successor President Wahid shelved the whole idea.

Forty years after Indonesia took over the former Dutch colony, tensions ran high in Papua, fueled in part an October 2003 government decision to divide the province in two. Jakarta said the move made it easier to administer the huge area. Some critics, however, said there were other motives. They said what there was outrage of an unprecedented level with Jakarta for this effort to divide the province with an almost explicitly stated motivation of weakening the political independence movement.

Although the Special Autonomy Law enabled the possibility of a future division of the province of Papua it clearly stipulates in Article 76 that any plan to divide the region into more provinces can only be executed after approval by the Provincial Parliament of Papua (DPRD) and the People’s Representative Council (MRP) that has not yet been established because its ratification is delayed by the Central Government. Article 76 also stresses that the decision about the division of the province should take into consideration social and cultural unity, the availability of human resources, and economic viability and economic prospects.

Immediately after Inpres 2003/1 became known in Papua, political and religious leaders warned that the Presidential Decree was leading to uncertainty about law and politics and that it would affect the current harmony of the lives of the people of Papua. Moreover it would increase the distrust of the people of Papua about the intention of the Central Government with respect to the dealing with the problem of Papua in a peaceful and democratic way.

The Papuan people had hoped that reformasi would be the starting point for the growth of democracy. Therefore, after the meeting of “Team-100” [with president Habibie], the Mubes (Big Papua Consultation) and the Peoples’ Congress of 2000 were organised. At these occasions the whole population expressed the hope that the new energy would lead to actual respect for humanity and human dignity in Papua.

After the fall of president Abdurrachman Wahid who has been replaced by Megawati Soekarno Putri, openings for dialogue were slammed through acts that were undemocratic, unfair and very repressive. In Papua, special autonomy is presented as the solution for the political dispute. The Indonesian government considers the autonomy as the total and final solution while the people of Papua see autonomy as just an answer (in the sense of the task and responsibility of the Indonesian government) to the development backlog. The Indonesian government never listened seriously to the criticism of the majority of the Papuan people concerning the presumptions of autonomy; this criticism has even resulted in loss of lives among the population.

Even before special autonomy was wholly executed, the central government imposed its will again by issuing presidential decree [Inpres] 1/2003 concerning the division of the province of Papua. This act was in defiance of law 21/2001 concerning the establishment of the MRP (Papuan Consultative Assembly), a product of the Indonesian government itself.

Although deemed "unconstitutional and undemocratic", Inpres 1/2003 formed the basis for the official declaration by certain people of the province of West Irian Jaya [February 6, 2003]. This situation has led to protests not only from the population and students, but also from NGOs, academics, human rights activists, bureaucrats, as well as officially from the DPRD (provincial parliament) of the province of Papua.

The Indonesian government did not take seriously the protests and accusations and there has not been any clarification. On the contrary, the government deliberately tolerated and consequently endorsed the declaration of the province of Central Irian Jaya. This led again to loud protests from all sectors of society in Papua.

But there was more to come. While the wheel of Papuan protest kept turning and the smell of the victims in Timika was still in the air, the Indonesian government took steps to formalise the West Irian Jaya electoral district and to install a provisional DPRD for the province of West Irian Jaya.

Researchers of the Yale Law School in the US, on 10 December 2003, released the results of an examination of human rights conditions in West Papua, the Indonesian-controlled western half of the island of New Guinea. The paper, entitled Indonesian Human Rights Abuses in West Papua: Application of the Law of Genocide to the History of Indonesian Control, considers the policies and practices of the Indonesian government and military in West Papua during the four decades that the Republic of Indonesia has exercised sovereignty over the territory. The paper concludes that the historical and contemporary evidence "strongly suggests that the Indonesian government has committed proscribed acts with the intent to destroy the West Papuans . . . in violation of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide."

"Since the so-called [1969 UN-supervised] Act of Free Choice, the West Papuan people have suffered persistent and horrible abuses at the hands of the Indonesian government. The Indonesian military and security forces have engaged in widespread violence and extra-judicial killings in West Papua. They have subjected Papuan men and women to acts of torture, disappearance, rape, and sexual violence, thus causing serious bodily and mental harm. Systematic resource exploitation, the destruction of Papuan resources and crops, compulsory (and often uncompensated) labor, transmigration schemes, and forced relocation have caused pervasive environmental harm to the region, undermined traditional subsistence practices, and led to widespread disease, malnutrition, and death among West Papuans. Such acts, taken as a whole, appear to constitute the imposition of conditions of life calculated to bring about the destruction of the West Papuans. Many of these acts, individually and collectively, clearly constitute crimes against humanity under international law."

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 20-12-2016 19:41:49 ZULU