Fri, 11 Apr 2003

`Papua division create more tension'

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A presidential instruction (Inpres) issued in January 2003 to divide Papua province into three parts has done more to create tension and turmoil there than any government action in years, a nongovernmental organization warned.

In its overview of the government's controversial policy, the International Crisis Group said the instruction was against the spirit of the 2001 Special Autonomy Law for Papua that assumed the natural resource-rich province to be a single territorial unit, and it has thrown Papua's administrative status into legal limbo.

"The ruling undermines moderate intellectuals who saw special autonomy as a way of strengthening Papuan institutions and encouraging independence supporters to work within the Indonesian state," the Brussels-based NGO said in its report released on Wednesday.

The instruction has further infuriated many Papuans, pro- independence and pro-autonomy alike, who have a deep attachment to Papua as a single political unit with a distinct history and who see the decree as a divide-and-rule tactic by Jakarta, it said.

All major religious leaders in the province have come out against the presidential instruction.

At the same time, ICG said, the decree has generated intense acrimony within the governing elite in Papua between those who stand to gain from the division and those who benefit more from the status quo.

The division of Papua has major political ramifications as the 2004 elections nears.

The former ruling party, Golkar, still dominates the provincial government and legislature, and supporters of its main rival, President Megawati Soekarnoputri's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), have accused the governor of using special autonomy revenues for Golkar's 2004 war chest.

Golkar members suggest that the division into three provinces would benefit its rival party and enable the new governors to divert funds to the local PDI Perjuangan campaigns.

"The overriding motivation behind the decree appears to have been the weakening of the Papuan independence movement, but far from lessening the possibility of conflict, the decree may actually increase it," ICG said.

The possibilities include increased resentment and distrust of the central government by Papuans and mobilization of grassroots support (including through strategically distributed payments) by the leaders of pro- and anti-division positions respectively, leading to physical clashes, according to the report.

ICG predicted that pre-election Golkar and PDI Perjuangan rivalries could easily add to the tension and so could the interest of the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) and the Army in portraying any tensions in the province as an inter-Papuan conflict.

Other consequences could include: emergence of different and competing demands for new provinces from those who support division but do not agree with how Jakarta has drawn the dividing lines; increased competition over resources and business contracts; and unwillingness of pro-autonomy moderates to work with the central government.

With elections looming and an increasingly nationalist mood in Jakarta, the government has three options to undo the damage by revoking the decree, implementing it over massive objections and dealing with the consequences and deliberate bureaucratic inertia, so that for all practical purposes, special autonomy remains in effect.

"The best one can hope for is inertia, with implementation postponed at least until after the 2004 elections and perhaps beyond," ICG said.

Unfortunately, it added, the expectations created by the decree, particularly in the western part of the province, could make this position untenable, unless Jakarta could offer some attractive consolation prizes to the would-be beneficiaries.