Papuan students say Jakarta using Special Autonomy to cover its sins

CNN Indonesia – February 24, 2021
Rally in front of home affairs ministry in Jakarta against Special Autonomy – February 24, 2021 (CNN)

Jakarta – Scores of Papuan students held a protest action in front of the Home Affairs Ministry office in Jakarta on Wednesday February 24 expressing their opposition to the extension of Special Autonomy (Otsus) in the land of the Cenderawasih as Papua is known.

The protesters began arriving at the Home Affairs Office at around 12 noon carrying posters rejecting the extension of Special Autonomy.

One of the demonstrators also brought a black coffin with the writing "Otsus is Dead". Another brought a black cross with the writing "Special Autonomy" on it.

In a speech, Ambrosius Mulait said that Papuan students do not want Special Autonomy to be extended, saying it has had no influence on the people's welfare in Papua.

"Otsus only covers up the sins of the Jakarta government", said Mulait leading the front ranks of the action on Wednesday.

Mulait said that development in Papua does not need Special Autonomy and asserted that regional development is the government's obligation. He also asserted that the government is obliged to ensure health services, development and infrastructure.

The protesters believe that Special Autonomy is a nothing more than a political agenda by the administration. "Regardless of their policies don't let them be too political. Papuan is not a puppet which must be sacrificed by this country", said Mulait.

Another group also held a demonstration at the same time as the Papuan students. The counter-demonstration called on police to break up the Papuan rally because of Covid-19 health protocols.

"Break it up oyi! Break it up! This pandemic! NKRI [the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia] is not negotiable!", shouted the counter-protestors.

Throughout the action, police officers from the Central Jakarta district police were on guard near the Home Affairs Ministry offices. The police repeatedly warned the protesters to maintain social distancing and apply Covid-19 health protocols.

Similar actions were also held by Papuan students in several other parts of the country including Pontianak in West Kalimantan, Malang in East Java and Bengkulu in Sumatra.

The demands at these rallies were the same, namely opposing the extension of Special Autonomy in Papua. In addition to this, they also opposed a New Regional Autonomy (DOB) plan to create new provinces and regencies in Papua and called for an end to troop deployments in Papua.

"Special Autonomy, which has been in effect in the land of Papua for 19 years counting from 2001, has not in fact added anything special for the Papuan people other than human rights violations and the stifling of democratic space against the voices and aspirations of the Papuan people", read a statement by the Greater Malang Papuan High-School and University Student Association (IPMA-PAPUA) received by CNN Indonesia.

The central government has applied the policy of Special Autonomy since 2001. A number of special facilities have been given to Papua including a special annual budget allocation from the state budget.

Special Autonomy will expire this year. Plans for its extension are currently being discussed by the government and the House of Representatives (DPR).(dhf/nma)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Mahasiswa Papua Demo Kantor Tito Tolak Perpanjangan Otsus".]