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Papuans protest 'puppet government'

29 October 2005

The central government's plan to appoint all 42 members of the Papuan People's Assembly (MRP) is against the law, undemocratic, and will create a puppet government of Jakarta, protesters in Jayapura say.

The government is under pressure to cancel a plan to install all 42 members of the Papuan People's Assembly (MRP) on Saturday as anger has grown in the province about the legitimacy of the powerful body.

The Special Autonomy Law for Papua requires two-thirds of the assembly to be directly elected by the people, with the other one-third, or 14 members, to be directly appointed by the region's religious authorities.

More than 100 people marched to the Papuan People's Representatives Council (DPRP)'s office in Jayapura on Friday to protest the election of MRP members.

The protesters, grouped in the United Front for the West Papuan People's Struggle, rallied outside the DPRP office after being prevented by police from entering the local legislative compound.

They demanded that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono stop the establishment process of the MRP, which they called a "puppet government".

The DPRP should dissolve the 42 elected members of the MRP and reject the special autonomy law for Papua, which mandated the establishment of the assembly, they said.

The demonstrators also asked the Papua provincial administration to disband the committee responsible for selecting members of the MRP.

United Front secretary-general Selpius Bobii said all the selected members of the assembly should be annulled because their selection contravened existing regulations.

The selection process was conducted without a proper information campaign, with only around 20 percent of the Papuan population aware of the MRP's establishment, said.

The 28 representatives from women and traditional communities were also directly appointed by local regents instead of being elected by people as regulated in Bylaw No. 4/2005 on recruitment of MRP members, he said.

Even the religious representatives to be inaugurated for the assembly were not those selected by religious leaders, Bobbii said.

Jayapura spokesman for the Bishop Januaris Youw confirmed that Catholic representatives for the assembly were not recommended by the city's diocese. Their election was facilitated by a religious organization, "Icakap", and the MRP election committee.

Its detractors say Icakap is a pro-central government organization and not representative of the religious groups in Papua.

Youw said the religious institutions in Papua had decided not to recommend representatives for the MRP because of limited time and lack of funds given for to them for selection of candidates.

However, Youw stressed the Jayapura diocese gave support for the establishment of an MRP on the condition that it was created in line with the law.

On Thursday, a similar protest against the MRP was lodged by prominent Papua opposition figure Tom Benal, who chairs the Papuan Customary Council (DAP).

He said the selection was unfair as the government had interfered in the process and only pro-governmental figures had been selected to represent their constituencies for the assembly without any elections.

The establishment of MRP is mandated by Law No. 21/2001 on special autonomy for Papua.

Under the law, the assembly is authorized to approve candidates for governor and for members of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), as well as to give recommendations and approval for any cooperation between the Papua administration and other parties.

It comprises 42 members with 14 representing traditional communities, 14 representing women and 14 others representing religious communities. While representatives of traditional and women's communities are supposed to be elected through a popular ballot, religious representatives are supposed to be chosen by religious institutions across Papua.

Nethy Dharma Somba

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