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Papuans call for start of special autonomy

18 October 2004

Papuans have called on president-elect Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to enforce the Special Autonomy Law for Papua to resolve the prolonged issues in the province.

A meeting of Papuan activists and leaders last Wednesday and Thursday urged Susilo to support the Papuan people by implementing fully Law No. 21/2001 on special autonomy for Papua and reconsider the division of Papua into several provinces, according to the organizer.

Rev. Karel Phil Erari, spokesman of the National Forum for Human Rights Concerns in Papua (FNKHP), which organized the meeting, said in a press conference here on Sunday that government officials, religious and informal leaders and women activists attended the event.

"We have entrusted Susilo to fully enforce the law to help resolve the issue. Otherwise, the friction between Jakarta and Papua will only get worse," he said.

The FNKHP itself is chaired by Susilo.

Susilo won majority votes in Papua during both rounds of the presidential election.

Karel said this showed that Papuans had come to distrust Megawati over her policy on Papua, especially the establishment of Central Papua and West Papua provinces.

President Megawati issued Presidential Instruction No. 1/2003 to implement Law No. 45/1999 on the division of Papua into three provinces, effectively undermining the Special Autonomy Law for that province.

Megawati also refused to establish the Papuan People's Assembly (MRP) as mandated by the law as the highest law-making body in the province, fearing that the body could lead to the secession of the province from Indonesia.

The Papuan Legislative Council has requested the Constitutional Court to annul the presidential instruction.

"The contentious presidential instruction and the establishment of a new province (West Papua) are actually a betrayal of the Special Autonomy Law, which stipulates that the formation of new provinces requires approval from the MRP," said Karel.

To date, the MRP has not been established.

Agus Sumule, who accompanied Karel to the press briefing, said Susilo should live up the Papuans' expectations by revoking the instruction.

"Susilo still has a good chance to settle the issue and to fully enforce the Special Autonomy Law to win the hearts of the Papuan people," he said.

He said the majority of Papuans had not yet seen the benefits of special autonomy, in particular financially, as most of the special autonomy fund from Jakarta went into local government officials' pockets.

"The majority of Papuans have yet to enjoy free education, health and transportation services that the government has promised. Worse still, Papua is facing an HIV/AIDS crisis," he said.

Ridwan Max Sijabat
The Jakarta Post

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