Mon, 10 Feb 2003

`Presidential decree weakens Papuans' confidence in govt'

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Papuan intellectuals and observers joined forces Sunday to oppose the formation of two new provinces in Papua, saying the issuance of Presidential Instruction No. 1/2003 to enforce the 1999 law on the two provinces had weakened again the Papuan people's confidence in the central government.

Muhammad Musaat, a political analyst from Cenderawasih University in Abepura, Papua, said the presidential instruction had blasted special autonomy to pieces, raining confusion down on people in the province.

"The presidential instruction has clearly negated Law No. 21/2001 on special autonomy. Both the local elite in Papua and local people have never been asked for their approval of the formation of the two provinces," he said during a seminar on the political and legal implications of the presidential instruction on Sunday.

Most Papuans had been convinced of the central government's commitment to solving the Papua issue when the government gave the province special autonomy in 2001, but it failed to maintain the people's confidence by issuing the presidential instruction to divide Papua into three provinces, he said.

"The presidential instruction has raised skepticism among the people as the people and the elite are seriously focussing on implementing the special autonomy to improve the people's social welfare and the local administration's service to the public."

Leaders of religious groups and officials in Papua have opposed the presidential instruction, because besides raising confusion and unrest among the people, the presidential instruction went against the special autonomy law.

Former regional autonomy minister Ryas Rasyid warned the government of strong opposition to the presidential instruction from Papuans, saying the formation of the provinces would create friction among Papuans.

Oentarto, director general for public administration and regional autonomy, defended the government's policy, saying the division of Papua into three provinces was not contrary to special autonomy and was aimed at speeding up the development program in the region.

The new instruction was issued to lift an instruction issued by former president B.J. Habibie to delay the enforcement of Law No. 45/1999 on the formation of West and Central Irian Jaya provinces.

Agus Sumule criticized the central government, which he said was not serious in solving the Papua issue. He said the presidential instruction had displaced Papua out of the Indonesian unitary state.

"legally, Papua is still inside the unitary state but, in fact, Papuan people are no longer confident in a government that has deceived Papuans several times," he said.

Andi Ramses Marpaung, a lecturer at the Public Administration Institute (AIP), said Papua needed no new provinces and regencies but new districts to speed up the government's service to Papuans, many of whom lived in remote areas.

"The formation of the two provinces will likely use up to 90 percent of the autonomy funds on bureaucracy as the current provincial administration spent 80 percent of the 2002 budget on bureaucracy," said Marpaung, also the former district head in Paniai and Nabire.

The political analysts were of the same opinion that the government's paranoia of separatism was behind the formation of the two new provinces.

They said it could be counterproductive as indigenous Papuans could form a new alliance to fight for the territory's independence.