Thu, 13 Mar 2003

Papua split would lead to corruption: Analysts

Moch. N. Kurniawan, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The decision to split Papua into three smaller provinces will only benefit a few wealthy people and increase corruption among public officials who do not have the support of the Papuan people, analysts said.

Speaking at a seminar here on Wednesday, Iman Sugema of the Institute for the Development of Economics and Finance (Indef), former Papua governor Barnabas Suebu and a lecturer at Satyawacana University in Salatiga, Stephen Kakisina, suggested that the government delay the decision.

"With this kind of pressure from the central government, unprepared people and new local administrations, there will be 'lavish parties' for new local governments and big, questionable projects for rich businessmen," Barnabas said.

He said the split would be feasible only when Papua had sufficient human resources, maturity in social and cultural interaction, and steady economic growth.

Stephen said that despite the province's rich natural resources, at least 80 percent of Papua's population of 2.3 million struggled just to meet their daily needs.

"Do not force through the division now, otherwise people could be marginalized and left out of the process of development," he said.

President Megawati Soekarnoputri signed on Jan. 27 decree No. 1/2003 dividing Papua into the provinces of Papua, Central Papua and West Papua.

The decree contradicts Law No. 21/2001 on special autonomy for Papua, particularly Article 76, which states that any policy affecting Papuans must be approved by the Papuan People's Assembly.

However, the assembly has not yet been established and Jakarta insists that the division must go forward.

The Papuan administration, fully backed by the provincial legislature, has set up a joint team to study any possible legal flaws in the presidential decree and to file a judicial review with the Supreme Court.

Iman and Stephen shared the views of Barnabas.

Iman questioned the effectiveness of the two new provinces, saying they would lack popular support and did not offer any concrete development programs for Papuans.

"Where will the state's funds goes then?" he asked.

Papua's budget was set at Rp 2.99 trillion (US$332 million) for the current fiscal year, including special autonomy aid of Rp 1.53 trillion.

Stephen said the central government should commit itself to strengthening Papua and improving the welfare of the people before splitting the province.

The current provincial government should concentrate on providing food, better education, adequate health care and empowering economic institutions, the panelists said.