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Jakarta Post

'€˜Otsus Plus'€™ for Papua: What'€™s the point?

  • Cillian Nolan

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, March 7, 2014   /  10:58 am

A draft law for reworking Papua'€™s special autonomy contains potentially far-reaching proposals that need broader debate '€” within Papua, between Papua and Jakarta, and among the presidential candidates. Without it, the drafters risk delivering a bill that satisfies few and cannot be implemented.

The proposals now under review include efforts to increase the power of Papuan governors, strengthen Papuan control over politics and the economy; control incoming migration by non-Papuans; increase revenues; strengthen adat or customary institutions; improve education and health services; and end direct local elections.

The draft was produced largely by Papuans in Papua and for that reason deserves attention. But the drafters were a few dozen people close to the Papua and West Papua governors; there has been almost no public consultation on the substance and it has sparked protests from activists who feel that amending a failed law, whatever its contents, will not solve Papua'€™s problems.

If it is unpopular in Papua, it is also likely to face objections from some ministry officials now tasked with making the draft congruent with national law.

Papua Governor Lukas Enembe and some parts of the government are nevertheless trying to fast-track the draft '€” known as Otsus Plus '€” toward approval by the House of Representatives before this term ends. But many of its provisions could have major ramifications for Papua, so why the rush?

The first step should be to make clear what the goals are for reconstructing special autonomy, something missing from the process so far. Those goals could include addressing Papuan political grievances, improving Jakarta-Papua relations, reducing violent conflict, improving economic opportunities for Papuans and improving local government.

One political grievance, for example, is the fear that indigenous Papuans face becoming a minority in their own land, swamped by migrants from other parts of Indonesia. The draft has concrete proposals for controlling incoming migration, including by requiring special identity cards for non-Papuans, but they need more discussion.

If improving Jakarta-Papua relations is another shared goal, Jakarta will need to make clear its willingness to allow the provinces to make policies that will not always be trumped by national law. The draft proposes several ways to do this, including by detailing 30 areas of policy from mining to labor, where the provinces would have to include provisions recognizing that special provincial regulations take precedence in Papua. But no discussion over the division of powers has taken place, and in any case, there will need to be consultation with individuals beyond the outgoing administration.

Papua is home to some of Indonesia'€™s deadliest violence; separatist violence is responsible for only a small portion of these deaths. Finding ways to reduce other types of violence is obviously desirable. Governor Enembe cites this as the primary goal behind a proposal in the draft to end direct local elections, which in several instances have turned deadly, most notably in Tolikara and Puncak.

The West Papua drafters have rejected the proposal, but it has the support of the Home Ministry and many in the Papuan political elite. But will indirect elections will be any less violent, and even if so, is it worth rolling back democracy to achieve it? More consistent application of electoral regulations could be a more effective strategy '€” but would require a more comprehensive effort than a new law.

An unrealized ambition of the 2001 law was to promote economic opportunities for indigenous Papuans through affirmative action. Little has been done to implement its vaguely worded provisions, but the current draft mandates special attention, funding and resources for Papuans in agriculture as well as positions in all businesses operating in Papua up through managerial levels. These are concrete proposals which might address complaints from Papuans that they always lose out to migrants. But again, they will only be useful if they are widely understood.

Even reaching agreement among the tiny elite that produced the draft law on the fundamental issue of who counts as indigenous has proven difficult, which does not augur well for its broader acceptance.

Another possible goal would be to improve the effectiveness of local government. This is the aim behind proposals in the draft that would shift considerable authority from the regencies to the province, most notably the authority to issue mining permits. Some of these ideas may have merit '€” particularly given the weakness of many local government administrations in Papua '€” but they only make sense as part of a coordinated approach that has agreement from all levels of government.

Nothing in the draft would slow down pemekaran, the creation of new regencies and provinces, which looks likely to continue in Papua. Separate proposals before the House that would double the number of regencies and add three new provinces will have more effect on the quality of government than any shifting around of powers.

Cynics have explained the rush behind Otsus Plus as a last effort by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to shore up his image as a peacemaker before he leaves office. Passing poorly understood legislation will do little to achieve this; it is likely to be summarily rejected as an empty gesture by Papuan civil society, which sees the central government'€™s lack of good faith as the primary weakness of special autonomy.

Many of the Otsus Plus proposals are useful ideas that have the potential to create positive change. But they will get nowhere without buy-in from necessary constituencies. Rather than try to push the bill through without discussion, the Yudhoyono administration and the governors might do better to open it up to more debate, by the Papuan public as well as by presidential candidates, to ensure that Papua policy after SBY starts out on the right footing.

The writer is deputy director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict in Jakarta.

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