Plan to divide Papua slammed after draft law on new provinces approved

CNN Indonesia – April 8, 2022
Papuans hold protest action agaisnt creation of new autonomous regions – Undated (AFP)

Jakarta – The Humanitarian Coalition for Papua says that the unilateral creation of three new provinces in Papua by the central government is like repeating the management model of Dutch power during the colonial era.

National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) head researcher Cahyo Pamungkas, who is part of the coalition, says that this policy will cause mistrust among the Papuan people in the government to broaden.

"This top-down decentralisation which is being done arbitrarily by the central government is like repeating the model of Dutch power in order to continue exploiting natural resources and controlling the land of Papua", said Pamungkas in a press release received by CNN Indonesia on Friday April 8.

Pamungkas, who is also a member of the Papua Peace Network (JDP), said that the new Papua Special Autonomy Law (Otsus) and the policy on creating new provinces will give rise to a situation which is counter-productive.

Amnesty International Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid meanwhile said that creating new provinces must involve the Papuan People's Council (MPR) which represents the cultural interests of indigenous Papuans (OAP).

This is a mandate of Law Number 2/2021 on Papuan Special Autonomy (Otsus Law) as a form of protection for the rights of indigenous Papuans.

"Decentralisation in Papua must involve the MRP as the cultural representatives of OAP. This is regulated under the Otsus Law as a form of protection for the rights of indigenous Papuans", said Hamid.

Public Virtue Executive Director Miya Irawati said that the government must cancel or postpone the planned creation of new provinces in Papua until there is ruling by the Constitutional Court (MK) on a challenge against the revisions to the Otsus Law which was launched by the MRP.

According to Irawati, the move by the House of Representatives' (DPR) Legislative Body (Baleg) and the government in agreeing to the draft law on the creation of three new provinces in Papua is a setback for democracy in Papua.

"We also urge the government to cancel the planned creation of new provinces in Papua or at least postpone the plan until there’s a ruling by the MK in several months time", said Irawati.

Indonesian Human Rights Watch (Imparsial) researcher Hussein Ahmad meanwhile is concerned that the policy will be used to justify adding more military commands in Papua which have the potential to increase the level of violence and human rights violations.

"If there are three new provinces then usually this is followed by the formation of three [new] Kodam [Regional Military Commands] and new units underneath it which of course will impact on increasing the number of military troops in Papua", he said.

The Papua Humanitarian Coalition is a voluntary partnership made up of a number of organisations and individuals including Amnesty International Indonesia, the Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI) Papua Bureau, Imparsial, the Jakarta Institute for Public Research and Advocacy (Elsam), the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), the Democracy Alliance for Papua (ADP), the Land of Papua Peace and Unity of Creation Synod of the Papua Injili Christian Church (KPKC GKI-TP), the Jayapura Diocese Peace and Unity of Creation Justice Secretariat (SKPKC Keuskupan Jayapura), the Public Virtue Research Institute, the Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI) and BRIN researcher Cahyo Pamungkas.

Improving public service, social welfare

DPR Speaker Puan Maharani claims that the formation of three new provinces in Papua are to improve public services and social welfare. According to Maharani, the additional provinces are aimed at accelerating even development in the Land of Cenderawasih as Papua is known.

"The additional provinces in the eastern part of Indonesia are intended to accelerate even development in Papua and to better serve the Papuan people", said Maharani in a press release on Friday.

The chairperson of the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) Central Leadership Board said that the additional provinces are aimed at advancing Papua and increasing the level and dignity of the Papuan people.

Maharani confirmed that the deliberations on the draft law on the creation of the new provinces will still be in line with Law Number 2/2021 on Otsus.

"In the deliberations on this draft law later it will pay attention to the aspirations and needs of the Papuan people", said Maharani.

Baleg Deputy Chairperson Achmad Baidowi meanwhile said that the names of the three new provinces in Papua could still be changed. Earlier, it was decided that the names of the new provinces would be Anim Ha for South Papua, Meepago for Central Papua and Lapago for the Papua Central Highlands.

"If there is a wish to change them, it can be done during the deliberations", Baidowi told journalists at the parliamentary complex in Senayan, Jakarta, on Friday.

Baidowi explained that the traditional names used for the prospective provinces were a recommendation from the Baleg. He claimed that the names were chosen in accordance with the wishes of the public and academic studies.

"Certainly we recommended that the traditional names be included in the draft law. For example Papua Central Highlands would be what, then Central Papua what, South Papua what", he said.

Earlier, the Baleg agreed to the Draft Law on the Provinces of South Papua, Central Papua and Papua Central Highlands during a plenary meeting held on Wednesday April 6. The draft law will then be taken to a DPR plenary meeting for deliberation.

The draft law regulates the creation of three new provinces which will cover a number of existing regencies.

South Papua province will be given the name Anim Ha with the provincial capital being Merauke and covering the regencies of Merauke, Mappi, Asmat and Boven Digoel.

Central Papua province will be named Meepago with the provincial capital being Timika and covering the regencies of Mimika, Paniai, Dogiyai, Deyiai, Intan Jaya and Puncak.

Meanwhile Papua Central Highlands province will be named Lapago with the provincial capital being Wamena and covering the regencies of Jayawijaya, Puncak Jaya, Lanny Jaya, Mamberamo Tengah, Nduga, Tolikara, Yahukimo, and Yalimo. (mts/fra)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Koalisi: Pemekaran 3 Provinsi Baru Papua Ulangi Model Belanda".]