Papuan students in Jakarta protest against Special Autonomy extension

CNN Indonesia – July 14, 2020
Papuan Student Alliance protesters sing songs during rally in Central Jakarta – December 1, 2014 (Safir Makki)

Jakarta – Papuan students from the Action Committee Against Special Autonomy demonstrated in front of the Home Affairs Ministry offices in Jakarta on Tuesday July 14 against Special Autonomy (Otsus). The students said that the policy is not needed by the people of the land of the Bird of Paradise as Papua is known.

Action coordinator Eto Rumpaday said that the peaceful action was held to reject the Indonesian government’s plan to extend Papua’s special autonomy status which will end in 2021.

“Our action is a peaceful one. We reject Otsus chapter two. We as the spokespeople of Papuan society, we are not asking for Otsus chapter two, it’s being pushed on to us by Jakarta”, said Rumpaday in an SMS message received by CNN Indonesia on Tuesday July 14.

In addition to this, the Committee also slammed the political elite who in the name of the Papuan people support Otsus. The Committee also urged the government to release all Papuan political prisoners.

The Papuan students also called for an end to all forms of discrimination and racism against Papuans and for the widest possible access to be given to foreign journalists to report in the land of Papua.

They also demanded the cancelation of a decision to suspend four students from the Ternate Khairun University (Unhair) and declared their rejection of the 1969 UN sponsored referendum (Pepera) that saw Papua being integrated with Indonesia which they said was undemocratic.

The Committee also demanded that the Indonesian government withdrawal all military personnel, both organic and non-organic, from Papua and demanded a referendum for Papua.

“We strongly condemn this, we the Papuan people reject Otsus chapter two. We ask for a referendum, this is non-negotiable”, asserted Rumpaday.

Similar rallies were held also in other cities around the country including Yogyakarta (Central Java), Surabaya and Malang (East Java), Makassar (South Sulawesi) and Ternate (North Maluku).

The Jakarta rally was held at the Ministry of Home Affairs (Kemendagri) because the protesters wanted to meet with government representatives.

Special Autonomy for Papua is regulated under Law Number 21/2001 on Special Autonomy. Under the law, Special Autonomy for Papua and West Papua provinces will expire in 2021.

As of 2019 the government has disbursed some 83.36 trillion rupiah in Special Autonomy funds for Papua and West Papua. Although in the lead up to the end of Special Autonomy, the Home Affairs Ministry once said that it planned to reassess the implementation.

“We say that that based on the results of our study along with friends at the Lemhanas [National Resilience Institute], the Wantannas [National Resilience Council] and several NGOs, as directed by the Pak [Mr] Minister, our Otsus fund will continue”, said Home Affairs Ministry Regional Autonomy Director General Akmal Malik at the ministry’s office in Jakarta on September 25, 2019.

Throwing money at Papua

In relation to Special Autonomy, the director of the Papua chapter of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), Aiesh Rumbekwan, believes that the government of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is maintaining a policy which is not based on the needs of indigenous Papuan and is undermining regional authority through the Special Autonomy law.

“Although it visibly violates [the law], the central government continues to peddle its implementation with a view that it will bring prosperity to the Papuan people. This view carries with it a meaning, as if Papuan traditional communities are incapable or stupid”, he told CNN Indonesia on Sunday July 15.

Yet, he said, the needs of the Papuan people are access to natural resources, a resolution to human rights (HAM) violations, putting a stop to extractive industries in Papua and the theft of indigenous people’s land, not never ending money.

“The government’s argument always rests on the issue of the funds (Otsus funds) which the government gives to Papua [and West Papua] provinces. Meanwhile no space is given to the Papuan people to manage natural resources and the tendency is for it to be robbed”, said Rumbekwan.

“Explicitly that the state must immediately resolve the problems of HAM in the land of Papua, including giving access to communities to manage natural resources (forests)”, he said.

The government, said Rumbekwan, must also listen to indigenous Papuans, not people or groups who speak in the name of the Papuan people but without any agreement with the communities themselves.

“That the central government immediately stop accepting the interests of certain groups or individuals without first gaining agreement from indigenous Papuans and the Papuan and West Papuan provincial regional governments, the DPRP [Papuan Regional House of Representatives] and the DPRPB [West Papua Provincial House of Representatives}, along with the MRP [Papua People’s Council] and the MRPB [West Papua People’s Council]”, he said. (dhf/arh)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Mahasiswa Papua Demo Otsus Jilid II: Itu Pemberian Jakarta”.]