Autonomy failing in West Papua
The Age, Tom Allard
September 4, 2010
A CONSENSUS is emerging in Indonesia that special autonomy for the fractious province of West Papua has failed.
Among Indonesian military advisers, policy analysts and the indigenous population of the resource-rich region, there is near unanimity that the policy introduced almost 10 years ago to placate separatist sentiment has deepened discontent. And few agree on how to fix it.
International Crisis Group Jakarta-based analyst Sidney Jones said as part of a dialogue to address discontent and frustration, the government must apologise for the manipulated vote in 1969 that led to Papua's inclusion in the republic.
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She warned that without reconciliation, ''increased radicalisation is likely''. Jakarta's failure to tackle human rights abuses in the two provinces that make up the western half of New Guinea island, West Papua and Papua, the heavy security presence, an influx of migrants, rampant corruption and persistent poverty undermine the ''special autonomy''.
Violence has worsened in the past two years while the Papuan People's Council, which represents indigenous values, symbolically handed back special autonomy to the provincial parliament during June and July protests.
Ms Jones said President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono must kick-start talks and pursue public reconciliation and new governing arrangements.
''They are going to have to address the Act of Free Choice and acknowledge that there was a manipulated process,'' Ms Jones told The Age.
West Papua, with its indigenous Melanesian population, was initially excluded from the state of Indonesia during negotiations with former Dutch colonialists. Only after a United Nations-sponsored vote among Papuans did Western powers agree to Jakarta's demand for its inclusion. But that plebiscite, conducted among just over 1000 Papuans, is widely derided as farcical.
The 1969 vote remains a source of rancour and the most powerful weapon in challenging the legitimacy of Jakarta's rule.
A referendum on independence remains a demand of a coalition of indigenous Papuan groups and the Papuan People's Council but Jakarta has declined to respond to the demands. Even so, a referendum may be a disappointing exercise for independence advocates as West Papua's population is thought to be split between indigenous peoples and migrants.
In his only concession, Dr Yudhoyono has agreed to an ''audit'' of the special autonomy next year. Jakarta itself is unsatisfied with special autonomy, noting that the two provinces get more money from the central government than any other province - $1 billion a year - but are yet to demonstrate much economic progress.
The development deficit is widely linked to rife corruption and the diversion of funds into new bureaucracies rather than community-level expenditure on health services, education or job creation schemes.
Frederika Korain, a leading Papuan activist in Jayapura, says the autonomy funds are going to non-Melanesian Papuans who dominate the economy.
She said reconciliation must be preceded by an end to abuses by security forces, curtailment of pro-Jakarta militias and efforts to give Papuans back their ''dignity''.
She flagged an ongoing campaign of mass mobilisation. While most Papuans pursue non-violent means, a growing element supports armed action.
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