Jakarta weakens support for Papua's autonomy law
Neles Tebay, Pontifical, University of Urbaniana, Rome
Despite strong opposition from Papua, the government of Indonesia installed Brig. Gen. (ret) Abraham O. Ataruri as acting governor of West Irian Jaya, on Nov. 14. The installation clearly marks the official split of West Irian Jaya from Papua province.
This very inauguration clearly undermines Papuan support for Law No. 21/2001 on special autonomy for Papua province.
When Papuans raised the demand for independence, the government offered special autonomy status. The government then passed the Papua autonomy law, which was also internationally supported.
Papuans were forced by the government to accept the special autonomy law. The international community also took sides with the government in persuading Papuans to welcome the law. In spite of objections, Papuans began to see the benefits offered by the law.
Yet, the government has undermined Papuan support for the law.
The undermining process began with the delay in working out the governmental regulation for the establishment of the Papua People's Assembly (MRP), which has until now yet to be established.
It was strengthened by issuing the controversial presidential instruction to divide Papua into three provinces, without the approval of the MRP, as mandated by the Papua autonomy law.
The process of undermining culminated in the inauguration of the new acting governor.
For Papuans, this inauguration is a clear indication that the government has no willingness to implement the law at all.
It has offered the status of special autonomy, but it has now been destroyed by the same government.
The Papua autonomy law is, therefore, no longer a means of peaceful resolution of the Papua case, but simply a useless piece of paper.
The government has again deceived Papuans, as happened 40 years ago on May 1, 1963.
Papuan support for the special autonomy law has been rejected totally and undermined deliberately by the government through the installation of the new acting governor of West Irian Jaya province.
The government has also undermined the support given by the European Union (EU). When Papuans demanded independence, the EU supported Indonesia's territorial integrity and therefore was committed to make the Papua autonomy law successful. The EU commitment has been repeatedly expressed through resolutions adopted by the Members of the European Parliament (MEP).
For the MEPs, the government's decision to divide Papua into three provinces without the approval of the MRP "undermines the special autonomy law for Papua" and consequently "EU commitments regarding this special autonomy."
Rejecting the establishment of new provinces, the MEPs urged the government to work toward the full implementation of Papua's autonomy law "by finalizing and approving government regulations regarding budgeting, legislative drafting and institutional development, including the implementation of the MRP and a commission for truth and reconciliation."
However, EU support for Indonesia's territorial integrity and the Papua autonomy law has been rejected totally by the government through the installation of the new acting governor of West Irian Jaya province. It means that the government does not need any support from the EU.
The government has also ignored support for the Papua autonomy law by the American think-tank Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). To support Papua autonomy within the Unitary Republic of Indonesia, the CFR established an Indonesian commission led by retired General Dennis C. Blair, with David L. Phillips as the project director. The commission has offered some concrete steps to encourage "full and effective implementation of special autonomy." Seeing Papua autonomy as a win-win solution, the commission believes, "Special autonomy preserves Indonesia's territorial integrity while advancing the needs of Papuans."
However, the government has chosen a win-lose solution. It means that the government has deliberately rejected all support and goodwill expressed by the CFR commission.
By installing the new acting governor of West Irian Jaya, the government has also undermined support for the Papua autonomy law given by the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF). Three countries in the Pacific have clearly expressed their support for West Papua independence. However, united in PIF, all the Pacific countries "reiterated their support for special autonomy for Papua." The PIF then urged the government "to expedite promulgation of the necessary regulations and to take other steps needed to give effect to special autonomy."
Consequently, the government has destroyed its own credibility before other countries in dealing with the Papua case. Any explanation from the government about its commitment to implementing the Papua autonomy law will not convince the EU, PIF and CFR, for they know that it is not Papuans but the government that has no willingness to implement the law.
It will be a big challenge for the Indonesian foreign minister and its embassies in convincing other countries.
Besides, the foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) united in the international solidarity movement for West Papua will use the controversial moves of the government in their campaign. They will try to convince their respective governments to heed the cry for West Papua's freedom from oppression.
The campaign for West Papua's self-determination and call for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to review the UN's conduct before and during the 1969 Act of Free Choice will be stronger.
It is very likely that many more NGOs, politicians and states will support Papua's campaign, due to the unwise move of the Indonesian government.
Should the government take military action in dealing with the opposition of Papuans to the creation of the new province and the inauguration of the new acting governor, then the international community will not be silent.
The best way for the government to maintain Papua within the Unitary Republic of Indonesia is therefore to rescind the government's move to divide Papua without the approval of the MRP, to implement the Papua autonomy law fully and effectively and to engage in a peaceful dialogue with Papuans, mediated by a third party. Otherwise, sooner or later, Papua will become the next East Timor.