Fri, 18 May 2001

House sidelines government on Papua autonomy

JAKARTA (JP): Disregarding its internal rules, the House of Representatives has decided to deliberate the draft law on special autonomy for Irian Jaya proposed by the provincial legislature.

House Speaker Akbar Tandjung, during a hearing with Irian Jaya councillors on Thursday, said the House would always put the aspirations of the people above all else, particularly in matters of regional autonomy.

The draft from the Irian Jaya legislature was submitted to the House in April, two months after a government-sponsored draft reached the legislative body.

"We have decided to treat the government's proposal as supplementary material in our deliberations of the draft on special autonomy for Irian Jaya. We will take the draft from the local people and use it as our initiative bill," Akbar said.

The internal rules of the House stipulate that deliberations of bills must be based on the principle of "first come, first served".

The President has been at loggerheads with the House for almost throughout his 19-month term. In response to the House's second censure against him earlier this month, Abdurrahman reminded the House of its neglected legislative duties.

As with the Irian Jaya draft law, the House bypassed the government-sponsored draft law on special autonomy for Aceh in favor of a draft proposed by the provincial legislature.

The government, whose draft reached the House before the draft from Aceh, agreed to the House's decision, but pointed out that it was a violation of the House's internal rules. The Aceh draft law is currently being deliberated.

Akbar said the House expected to hold its first hearing on the Irian Jaya draft law sometime during the current session, which ends on July 23.

People's Consultative Assembly Decree No.4/2000 ruled that special autonomy laws for the two provinces should be in place before May 1, 2001, a deadline the House failed to meet.

The deputy chairman of House Commission II for legal and home affairs, Hamdan Zoelva, who also attended the hearing with the Irian Jaya councillors, asked for understanding if deliberations of the draft were not completed by July 23.

"We will set a date for the deliberations as soon as possible, but we hope that people will understand that we may not be able to finish the discussions as early as expected," Hamdan, who is an Aceh native, said.

The Irian Jaya councillors also asked the House to approve the use of Papua as the official name of the province.

"Papua means 'earth ruler' or 'small land from heaven', so we are asking the House to let us use the name as was promised by the President," Irian Jaya councillor Ahmad Hakim said.

In response, Akbar, who is also the chairman of the Golkar Party, said the House always respected the people's aspirations and it was possible the House would agree to the request.

"For us, Golkar Party, to use Papua as the name of the province is not a problem," Akbar said, adding that it was also possible to call the draft law the Papua Special Autonomy Bill. (dja)