Dialog Between Central Govt, Papuans Focuses on Separatism: Observer

Jayapura, Papua Province (Antara) – A dialog between the central government and all groups in Papua province is needed to seek a solution for those wishing to separate from Indonesia, according to province Chairman of the Legislative Council Deerd Tabuni.


“The central government must talk to all elements in Papua, including religious figures, politicians, and academicians, about what they really want in the future for Papua, whether it will be a referendum or special autonomy,” he said here on Saturday.


The separatism issue in Papua province has long been advocated by some groups in the area as a result of their dissatisfaction regarding economic development and perceived injustices. Further, thousands of soldiers, police and civilians in the resource-rich region have been killed as a result of regional violence.


In order to address this issue, the government in 2001 issued Law No 21 of 2001 on Special Autonomy for Papua, which granted the province special funds, equal to two percent of the national general allocation fund (DAU) ceiling, for a period of 20 years.


Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Hatta Rajasa reportedly said last year that until 2010, the government had allocated state budget funds of Rp 22 trillion for Papua and West Papua, which is the highest state budget allocation compared to funds delivered to the country`s other regions.


“The special autonomy funds are meant to accelerate development programs in Papua and West Papua. The government has, indeed, seen progress. The poverty rate has declined, but not significantly enough. This is because of a lack of support for the real sector,” Hatta said.


In 2011, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono established a special unit, called the Unit for the Acceleration of Development in Papua and West Papua (UP4B), to plan improvements in the two provinces and build constructive communications between central and regional administrations.


The UP4B was established because nearly US$3.2 billion in special autonomy funds delivered to Papua and West Papua provinces since 2002 had failed to improve the local population`s standards of living.


The team is headed by Lt Gen Bambang Darmono, a former commander for military operations in Aceh and also former secretary general of the National Defense Council. The UP4B is based in Papua`s capital of Jayapura and will continue operating until 2014.


The UP4B has also been assigned to supervise the use of special autonomy funds in the provinces, as well as to strengthen the budget`s control and evaluation system.


Supervision of the special autonomy funds is crucial, particularly because the government plans to increase the 2012 budget allocation for Papua by 23 percent. In the 2012 budget, the provinces of West Papua and Papua would receive Rp 1.64 trillion (US$186.96 million) and Rp 3.8 trillion, respectively. These are significant increases from this year`s budget, which allotted Rp 1.33 trillion and Rp 3.1 trillion for the two provinces.


Presidential spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha said in Jakarta recently that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono¿s administration would prioritize a socio-economic approach to deal with problems in Papua.


The head of state also instructed concerned ministers and officials to make sure that no violence is directed towards the Papua people, Julian said. (*)


Reporting by Alfian Rumagit
Translating and Editing by Amie Fenia Arimbi

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