Papua problem can’t be solved with dirty money

Kompas – February 27, 2010
ALDP chairperson Latifah Anum Siregar (Suluh Papua)
ALDP chairperson Latifah Anum Siregar (Suluh Papua)

Suwardiman – After nine years, support by various elements of society for special autonomy (otsus) is weakening. The problematic nature of the application of special autonomy is closely linked with the failure to implement Law Number 21/2001 on Special Autonomy for Papua along with mistrust between the central government and the Papuan people.

It is these two problems that are contributing to pessimism on the part of social groups about the future of special autonomy in Papua. The implementation of special autonomy is believed to have failed due to a number of factors. Data from the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) indicates that the human development index (HDI) in Papua has not improved significantly in the nine years since special autonomy was implemented.

Between 2005 and 2008, Papua ranked 33rd with the lowest HDI of all the provinces in Indonesia. Yet prior to the application of special autonomy, Papua’s HDI was still higher than West Nusa Tenggara.

The other factor is the delays in establishing legal mechanisms such as provincial regional regulations (bylaws, perdasi) and special regional regulations (perdasus) as the basis for the implementation of the Papuan special autonomy law. In the first four years of special autonomy, only 12 perdasi were drafted. Between 2006 and 2009, 35 perdasi and 8 perdasus were produced, the majority of which were drafted in the year of the final term of the 2004-2009 Regional House of Representatives (DPRD).

The other legal mechanism mandated by the Papuan special autonomy law is a human rights court, a truth and reconciliation commission and customary law courts. To this day these institutions have yet to be realised.

As revealed by Democratic Alliance for Papua (ALDP) chairperson Latifah Anum Siregar, what should be fought for under special autonomy in Papua is primarily the issue of law enforcement and human rights. According to Siregar, during the 10 years of special autonomy, law enforcement and human rights have failed to flurish.

A similar point was raised by the rector of the Fajar Timur Higher Institute of Philosophy and Theology in Abepura, Neles Tebay. According to Tebay, the roots of the failure of special autonomy lie both with the central government as well as the Papuan people who have never formulated real targets on what is to be achieved in specific periods post the application of special autonomy. There has been no yard stick to make an evaluation resulting in different perceptions and in the end special autonomy has been undertaken without direction.

Otsus = money

Currently, there is a tendency for special autonomy to be identified as simply poring money into the region. Regardless of the fantastic amounts of special autonomy funds that have poured into Papua (in 2002-2010 it was at least 21.4 trillion rupiah), the welfare of the Papuan people has not really improved.

This is apparent, for example, from BPS data that shows a less than adequate decline in the poverty rate in Papua. Prior to the implementation of special autonomy, the number of people living in poverty throughout Papua stood at 970,900 people (BPS, 2000). Eight years later, the number of poor had only declined by 2.5 percent to 946,600 (BPS, 2008).

Moreover the unemployment rate has actually increased since special autonomy. The number of unemployed in 1999 stood at 63,465 people and increased by 15.6 percent to 73,380 eight years later.

It is this paradigm that defines “otsus = money” that appears to overlook other substantial aspects in the concept of special autonomy. The disbursement of large amounts of funds for example, is not accompanied with a clear legal basis. No longer are there clear rules on distribution mechanisms and accountability. As revealed by Siregar, this vagueness not infrequently becomes the source of friction between governors and regent. When a governor asks for accountability, regents or mayors refuse because they feel that there is no longer any relationship between superiors and subordinates.

Papuan Traditional Council (DAP) head Forkorus Yaboisembut rejected special autonomy from the very start. Yaboisembut believes that the law on Papuan special autonomy was a one-sided offer by the government and failed to answer the Papuan people’s demands. Papuan Governor Barnabas Suebu however, in his written response to Kompas (6/8/2009), stated that Papuan special autonomy had not failed, but rather had not yet been consistent in its implementation. (Kompas Research & Development)

[Translated by James Balowski.]