MPR chair refutes claim at Palace meeting that Papuans support new provinces

CNN Indonesia – May 20, 2022
Jayapura regent Mathius Awoitauw and MRP members at speaking at Bogor Palace – May 20, 2022 (PR)

Jakarta – On Friday May 20 President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo invited political figures from Papua and West Papua provinces to an audience at the Bogor Presidential Palace in Bogor city, West Java.

During the meeting, they discussed a number of issues including the creation of new autonomous regions (DOB) in Papua.

Jayapura Regent Mathius Awoitauw, who represented the group, claimed during the audience that they support DOB in Papua and that this represents a solution to the problems in the land of the Cenderawasih, as Papua is known.

"DOBs are a solution to accelerate prosperity in Papua and West Papua", said Awoitauw following the meeting as quoted in a video recording uploaded to the Presidential Secretariat's YouTube channel on Friday.

The video was given the title, "Press information on the audience with Papuan and West Papuan figures at the Bogor Palace on May 20, 2022".

According to Awoitauw, DOBs bring public services closer to the people. This is because geographically, this is indeed the main obstacle in Papua.

"However much money is disbursed under Otsus [Special Autonomy], if the geography is difficult, such as exists at the moment, it will continue to face extraordinary obstacles", he said.

Awoitauw continued saying the planned creation of DOBs represents a genuine wish on the part of Papuans which they have fought for for a long time. The creation of South Papua province for example, has been fought for for 20 years.

"So this is not something new that has suddenly emerged. But it is a genuine wish, both from South Papua as well as [the regions of] Tabi, Saereri, also La Pago and Mee Pago", claimed Awoitauw.

When sought separately for confirmation, Papua People's Council (MPR) Chairperson Timotius Murib tried to straighten out the meeting in which Awoitauw claimed they agreed to DOBs. According to Murib, although five MPR members did indeed take part in the Bogor meeting, they do not represent the position of the MPR.

He even said that the five members were invited by parties with certain interests.

"Those five members do not represent the MPR, but are rogue figures who were invited and went to convey [their] aspirations and accept DOBs", said Murib when contacted by CNN Indonesia on Friday.

According to Murib it is normal if within the MPR there are differences of opinion on DOB, but the Bogor presidential visit by the five members was not done through official MPR mechanisms.

"They were also never mandated by the MPR leadership to meet with the president. We suspect that it was setup by a certain party", he explained.

"There was no official trip by the MPR as an institution. So they don't represent the institution. [There was no] letter of assignment (SPT), [no] official travel order (SPPD). Perhaps they only represented their own group", said Murib.

Plans by the government to create new provinces in Papua have attracted strong opposition from local people in Papua.

People held demonstrations against the plan in different parts of Jayapura on Tuesday May 10. Police forcibly broke up several of demonstrations and arrested a number of activists who reject Special Autonomy and DOBs in Papua. (dmi/kid)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Jokowi Terima Tokoh Papua, Bupati Jayapura Beri Aspirasi Setuju DOB".]