By. Pater Dr. Neles Kebadabi Tebay, Pr
The central government and the provincial government of Papua have taken the initiative to produce another new policy for Papua under the name of “special autonomy plus”.
The initiative was announced by Papua Governor Lukas Enembe after a meeting with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on April 29. According to the governor, “special autonomy plus” will translate into a new law on the governance of Papua. The governor expects the bill to be debated at the House of Representatives and enacted by the President in December 2013.
The new development has raised questions. Why has the government changed its mind from consistently implementing the 2001 Papuan Special Autonomy Law and what has gone wrong with the existing Autonomy Law?
Although the special autonomy policy has not resulted in a dialogue or negotiation, it has been accepted as a realistic solution to the Papua conflict. The policy has been nationally and internationally supported and it is expected that effective and consistent implementation of the Autonomy Law will enable Papuans to enjoy a better and brighter future within Indonesia.
In a nutshell, the law is believed to be able to address the grievances of indigenous Papuans. Does the new policy mean that the Autonomy Law is no longer a solution to the Papuan issue?
After having been implemented for 12 years, the reality on the ground shows that the autonomy policy has yet to improve Papuans’ prosperity and quality of education and healthcare. Many fundamental problems triggering Papuans’ demands for independence remain unsettled.
A human rights court has not been established to address the rights abuses committed against the Papuans under Indonesian rule, as stipulated in the Special Autonomy Law. There is no willingness on the part of the central government to form a truth and reconciliation commission to deal with the historical question of how Papua was incorporated into Indonesia.
If all these fundamental problems have not been resolved through the implementation of the Autonomy Law, what is the importance and relevance of producing a new policy for Papua? What are the push factors behind the government’s bid to complete a new law on Papua this year? Will the new law be able to kill calls for independence in Papua?
Looking at how the bill on the governance of Papua is being processed, it is clear that only a team comprising professors at the state University of Cenderawasih and some government officials at the governor’s office are fully involved in drafting the bill. Meanwhile, the majority of Papuans are excluded from the process.
The provincial government has excluded representatives of religious, tribal, women and youth groups from contributing to the process despite their prominent roles in the eyes of indigenous Papuans.
The government also seems reluctant to involve the Free Papua Movement (OPM), which has been waging a guerilla war in the province for 50 years.
OPM members, who never deem themselves Indonesians, are scattered in the towns and villages of Papua and West Papua provinces, in the jungle and in exile in Papua New Guinea, the Netherlands and Australia.
The multi-dimensional conflict in Papua has economic, political, cultural, legal, security and international impacts. But the policymakers either do not know or just ignore the fact that only several of the aspects are accommodated in the law.
If the bill maintains the content of the existing Papua Autonomy Law, what are the new items that will be added into it? Who will decide what new items will be included in the bill?
It is important for the government to learn from past experiences — the autonomy policy was strongly rejected first and foremost because the people were not adequately consulted.
Excluding the OPM in the consultation of the bill will intensify the demand for a referendum, an independent state in Papua and incidences of people hoisting the outlawed Morning Star flag. In short, the fire of the Papua conflict will continue to burn.
If the government is truly committed to a comprehensive solution to the Papua conflict through a new law on Papua’s governance, the OPM rebels should be included in the drafting of the law.
It is high time for President Yudhoyono to realize his promise in 2010 for constructive communication with the Papuan people. A new bill on Papua governance that is the result of dialogue will receive strong popular support and legitimacy.
The author is a lecturer at Fajar Timur School of Philosophy and Theology and is coordinator of the Papua Peace Network in Jayapura.