Fri, 22 Aug 2003

C. Irian Jaya to be declared a province

Nethy Dharma Somba, The Jakarta Post, Jayapura, Papua

Despite opposition from the Papua administration, local officials are pressing forward with their plan to declare the Central Irian Jaya province on Saturday, with the support of the central government.

The declaration will be marked by the unveiling of a sign bearing the name of the new province in front of the Graha TSD building in Timika, the capital of Mimika regency.

The building will temporarily hold the main offices of the Central Irian Jaya administration.

It will come six months after West Irian Jaya province was declared by local officials on Feb. 6, 2003.

The speaker of the Mimika legislative council, Andreas Anggaibak, who also chairs the Central Irian Jaya establishment committee, said Saturday's declaration ceremony would be attended by the regents of Mimika, Biak Numfor, Yapen, Waropen, Nabire, Puncak Jaya and Paniai.

Leaders of the legislative councils from the eight regencies that will make up the new province of Central Irian Jaya will also attend, he said.

Andreas said the establishment of Central Irian Jaya was based on Law No. 45/1999 on the division of Papua into the provinces of Papua, West Irian Jaya and Central Irian Jaya.

"People have continued to press for the declaration of a Central Irian Jaya province since Presidential Instruction No. 1/2003 was issued to speed up the implementation of Law No. 45/1999," he said.

Minister of Home Affairs Hari Sabarno also issued decree No. 188.51/1717/SJ on July 30, 2003, recommending the immediate creation of the new province, he added.

The planned declaration is opposed by Papua Governor Jaap Salossa and the speaker of the Papua legislative council, John Ibo, who said it would contravene Law No. 21/2001 on special autonomy for Papua.

Salossa also said it would be a violation of existing procedures if Central Irian Jaya province was declared, as it was never discussed with his administration in Jayapura, the capital of Papua.

"If the people (in Mimika) have such a plan, they should discuss it with us. They must notify us," he said.

Ibo said the establishment of Central Irian Jaya province would violate Article 76 of the special autonomy law, which stipulates that any such move must be approved by the Papua People's Assembly (MRP), which still does not exist.

The central government has continued to delay the enactment of a decree on the establishment of the MRP.

"So who approved the expansion plan?" Ibo asked.

However, the secretary of the Papua administration, Decky Asmuruf, said it would be difficult to prevent the declaration of the new province as it seemed to have the support of people in Mimika and neighboring regencies.

Yoseph Yatenea, a Komoro tribal leader who is also a councillor in Mimika, said local residents backed the formation of Central Irian Jaya province.

They hope the new province will speed up development in the region and improve their welfare, he said.

"The sooner the better. If not now, when will the ambition of locals to set up a separate province be realized?" Yoseph said.

Analysts have criticized the central government's plan to split Papua into three provinces, a move they say is in the interest of the authorities not the people.

These critics question why the government never seriously enforced the special autonomy law in the province, rather than pushing for its division.

Papua, rich in natural resources, is home to just 2.3 million people. If split into three provinces, West Irian Jaya would be expected to be richer than the other two, given its vast natural resources.