Sat, 15 Mar 2003

Councillors urge government to delay Papua split

Nethy Dharma Somba, The Jakarta Post, Jayapura, Papua

A special team formed by the Papua provincial legislature has concluded that the government's plan to split the province in three should be delayed until the Papuan People's Assembly (MRP) is established.

The team, comprising 23 councillors in charge of legal and administrative affairs, experts and activists, said in a report presented to the legislature that the assembly was needed to legalize the division of Papua, according to Law No. 21/2001 on special autonomy for the country's easternmost province.

"In principle we do not oppose the plan to divide Papua into smaller provinces, but it has to comply with Law No. 21/2001, which has already taken effect. The plan must be approved by the MRP, which has not been formed as yet," the chairman of the legislature's Commission A, Yance Kayame, said.

Jakarta is preparing a government regulation on the MRP, but has insisted that the division of Papua will not wait until the assembly is operational. Minister of Home Affairs Hari Sabarno has said the MRP would have no authority to endorse the division plan as the body was not equivalent to the People's Consultative Assembly.

Yance also expressed his surprise at suspicions by officials both within and outside of Papua that when formed, the MRP would become a people's organization that would encourage the secessionist movement in the natural resources-rich province.

"The MRP does not have the power to initiate the separation of Papua from the Republic of Indonesia. The law on special autonomy for Papua itself falls under the Constitution, which ensures national integrity.

"The assembly is to be established to protect the rights of the Papuan people," Yance said.

The special team was set up by the legislature in response to Presidential Instruction No. 1/2003, which revived the plan to split Papua into three provinces. The plan was originally laid out in a 1999 law passed during the tenure of president B.J. Habibie.

Habibie's successor Abdurrahman Wahid issued a presidential instruction delaying the implementation of the 1999 law, on the grounds that the law went against the aspirations of Papuans.

Yance and his team will depart for Jakarta on Saturday to present the results of their examination to government officials and lawmakers.

During their week-long stay in Jakarta, the Papuan delegates will meet with President Megawati Soekarnoputri, People's Consultative Assembly Speaker Amien Rais, House of Representatives Speaker Akbar Tandjung, Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Minister of Home Affairs Hari Sabarno.

Before meeting with the officials, the delegates will hold a series of meetings with Papuans living in Jakarta.

The opinions of Papuans who support and oppose the division of the province will be attached to the team's report, Yance said.