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  • West Papua
  • Jaap Timmer

The year 2003 was marked by a proliferation of erratic Jakarta politics toward Papua and a related reconfirmation of the role of the Indonesian National Military Forces ( TNI) in the province. Parts of the military effectively induced powerful elements in the central government to support its presence in Papua, on the one hand by suggesting that there is a need to stem secessionism, and on the other hand by conniving at communal conflicts. In line with the current policy of the Megawati government, the military defines its role in Papua as safeguarding the unity of the nation and its activities there as necessary to prevent the "terrorist" acts of independence [End Page 409] movements. By referring to Papua as the second in line for secession after East Timor, elements of the military have practically sidelined Papua's civil society organizations, its intellectual elite, and significant parts of the population that support resolutions short of violence. Moreover, since the Bali bombings in October 2002 and the explosion in front of the Marriot Hotel in Jakarta in August 2003 , the National Intelligence Agency ( BIN) has positioned itself at the forefront of the war against terrorism and is attempting to take a leading role in drawing up plans for Papua.

Positive developments were expected to sprout from the Special Autonomy law for Papua (Law No. 21 /2001 , commonly referred to as Otsus, from its Bahasa Indonesia name of Otonomi Khusus), which would give more autonomy to local communities in terms of equal sharing of the benefits of resource extraction and democratic governance. But these faced a dead end after President Megawati promulgated a decree on the expedition of the implementation of Law No. 45/1999 regarding the creation of two new provinces (West Irian Jaya and Central Irian Jaya), three new regencies (Paniai, Mimika, and Puncak Jaya), and one municipality (Sorong). The plan to divide the province was actually devised in the early 1980 s by then Irian Jaya Governor Busiri Suryowinoto and Minister of Home Affairs Supardjo Rustam. The idea was to Papuanize the bureaucracy, beginning at the district level, and create six provincial levels based on the administrative areas demarcated by the colonial Dutch government. The plan was shelved largely because there were not enough qualified locals to fill the required positions. In 1999, the division of the province was proposed again by the transitional government of President Habibie as a way to speed up the "pemekaran" (blossoming), or administrative fragmentation, of the province. However, the law was suspended after sweeping resistance in Papua, where the provincial government and a majority of the people feared that it would spread discord among the people of Papua.

On 27 January President Megawati issued the decree that raised the matter again, apparently as a result of BIN and security leaders encouraging groups of Papuans to lobby for the change to three provinces. The decree was issued without consultation with local communities, the provincial government, or leaders of religious and other civil society organizations. Malcontent Papuan political elements were mobilized by Provincial Secretary Decky Asmuruf and Brigadier General (ret) Abraham Atururi, the former regent of the Sorong Regency who had lost against the current governor, Jaap Solossa, during the election rally in 1999. Shortly after the decree was issued, the Ministry of Home Affairs appointed Asmuruf as the chair of the assistance team for the pemekaran. During interviews with journalists, Asmuruf made no secret of his aspiration to become governor of Central Irian Jaya.

Despite growing controversy over the status of the province, the Minister of Home Affairs, Hari Sabarno, [End Page 410] inaugurated Atururi as the governor of West Irian Jaya in November, leading to a barrage of criticism from Papuan leaders and people. The Speaker of the Papua provincial legislature, John Ibo, said that the inauguration contradicted a recommendation issued by the People's Consultative Assembly during its latest annual session, recommending that the government should revise the law on the division of Papua. Atururi arrived in Manokwari in February to start work on the establishment of new provincial headquarters. On the way from Jakarta he stopped in Jayapura to present to Speaker Ibo an official BIN statement signed...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9464
Print ISSN
1043-898X
Pages
pp. 409-419
Launched on MUSE
2004-08-31
Open Access
No
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