Thu, 28 Aug 2003

No more 'divide and rule'

At least three people have been killed and 45 injured in clashes between supporters and opponents of the setting up of Central Irian Jaya province in Timika since Saturday, when the province was formally established. And the government -- fully aware that these clashes should never have erupted in the first place -- for some unfathomable reason has yet to step in with a clear-cut policy.

It is extremely difficult to believe that the government, as Minister of Home Affairs Lt. Gen. (ret) Hari Sabarno claims, did not anticipate the clashes following its decision to divide Papua.

The opposition to the division of the easternmost province of this Republic has been strong and clear to all since President B.J. Habibie signed Law No. 45/1999.

Virtually all Papuans bitterly opposed that law, which provides that Papua, with a population of less than 2.5 million, should be divided into three provinces. They considered it to be part of a central government divide-and-rule plot to allow the Jakarta elite to keep on plundering the rich natural resources of the province.

Eventually, former president Habibie postponed the division of Papua indefinitely in 1999, to the relief of most Papuans.

The political aspirations of local people were further boosted when the government enacted Law No. 21/2001 on special autonomy for Papua, which constitutionally speaking should have superseded Law No. 45/1999. Law No. 21/2001 stipulates that Papua province covers what is now known as Papua, West Irian Jaya, and Central Irian Jaya. And any move to split up the province must receive the prior approval of the Papuan People's Assembly (MRP).

Expectations ran high that eventually the Papuan people would get their fair share of the cake. Months passed, but the central government kept postponing the implementation of Law No. 21/2001. It has yet to approve the establishment of the MRP and the selection of its members, who are supposed to consist of the leaders of tribes, religious groups, and noted public figures in the province. Instead, one noted public figure in Papua, Theys Hiyo Eluay, was found dead in November 2001. Even though all the indications lead to the conclusion that Indonesian soldiers were involved, the government has yet to thoroughly investigate the case.

To add insult to injury, President Megawati Soekarnoputri in January this year issued Presidential Instruction No. 1/2003 on the establishment of West Irian Jaya province, based on Law No. 45/1999, thus constitutionally flying in the face of Law No. 21/2001. She even instructed the governor of Papua province, Jaap Salossa, to assist the new governor in Manokwari, the capital of West Irian Jaya province, in taking charge of his new domain.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the Annual Session of the People's Consultative Assembly recommended that the House of Representatives revise Law No. 45/1999 and Presidential Instruction No. 1/2003, in order to bring the two into line with the spirit of Law No. 21/2001. This call has gone unheeded.

This newspaper last week warned that political stability in Papua would be adversely affected if the government continued to arrogantly ignore the deep-seated political aspirations of the Papuan people. Incredibly, after the violent clashes that killed at least three people and injured many others, Minister Hari Sabarno had the temerity to tell reporters that the government never expected such a bloody reaction.

It is not surprising that House deputy speaker Muhaimin Iskandar and legislator Tjahyo Kumolo of Megawati's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle have singled out Minister Hari Sabarno as the one who should be held responsible for the fiasco.

As House Speaker Akbar Tandjung said the other day, the government should refrain from dividing up the province until it fully implements Law No. 21/2001 on special autonomy for Papua. It is time for President Megawati to listen to these prudent voices instead of the generals in her entourage.