Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Indonesia: The Deepening Impasse in Papua


Jakarta/Brussels, 3 August 2010: The Indonesian government needs urgently to address discontent in Papua, its easternmost region, and recognise that the root of the problem is political, not economic.

Indonesia: The Deepening Impasse in Papua,* the latest briefing from the International Crisis Group, examines the political fallout from Jakarta’s rejection of a local initiative to require all candidates in district-level elections to be indigenous Papuans. The debate that followed brought to the fore Papuan concerns about being increasingly marginalised by steady in-migration from other parts of Indonesia and unhappiness with implementation of a 2001 autonomy package.

“The gulf in perceptions between Jakarta and Papua is huge”, says Sidney Jones, Crisis Group’s Senior Adviser. “Jakarta sees autonomy largely in terms of giving Papua more money, while Papuans want more authority to make political decisions without constantly being trumped by national laws. The only way to bridge the gap is to talk.”

The current impasse began with the November 2009 decision on district candidates by the Papuan People’s Council (Majelis Rakyat Papua, MRP), a body established under the autonomy law and charged with protecting Papuan values and culture. Jakarta rejected it on several grounds, including that it was discriminatory and in violation of a national law on local government. Officials also argued that the council had no authority to issue decisions and that it was overstepping its mandate by venturing into political affairs.

Anger over the rejection led to a Papua-wide consultation hosted by the MRP in June which produced eleven recommendations, including that autonomy be “handed back” to Jakarta, an internationally-mediated dialogue held, and a referendum on Papua’s political status conducted.

The uproar finally got Jakarta’s attention, and in late July, for the first time, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono directly addressed the issue – but by calling for an audit of special autonomy funds.

“To move forward, the president needs to explore directly with credible Papuan leaders how political autonomy can be expanded, affirmative action policies strengthened, and fears about migration addressed”, says Jim Della-Giacoma, Crisis Group’s South East Asia Project Director. “Unless these issues are tackled head on, increased radicalisation in Papua is likely.”


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