Extension of Special Autonomy Law Number 21 of 2001 for West Papua by Indonesian Parliament: A One-sided Policy implementation

by Solidarity for Indigenous Papuans

Facts on the Special Autonomy

The much talked about Special Autonomy Law Number 21 of 2001 was officially extended on 15th July 2021 through the Second Amendment Bill to Law Number 21 of 2001 in the Indonesian Parliament. Summary of facts covered as reported by various media outlets are as follows;

  • the extension was finalized and approved for endorsement through the Second Amendment Bill of Law Number 21 of 2001
  • the government focus on amending only three articles; Article 1 on general provisions, Article 34 on Special Autonomy Fund for Papua, and Article 76 on Territorial Expansion
  • the new articles added to the existing law were only 20 articles, which mainly were added or extended in Articles 1, 34 and 76.
  • apart from the three articles reviewed, no other articles from the previous law were removed or adjusted; the Minister for Home Affairs confirmed that “the content of the law has not changed, but funds have to be extended and increased.”
  • The Indonesian Parliament agreed that all Papuans they have consulted approve of the extension of Special Autonomy

The general feeling in Papua has different narratives from that held by Indonesian leaders in Jakarta and their collaborators in Papua. It was fortunate that the government-controlled media smooth over the rough edges of the Autonomy narrative, avoided publicising views from the Papuan public. The fact remains that all indigenous Papuans rejected outright its extension. A total of 105 organisations, including the support organisations from neighbouring countries, formed a resistance group inside West Papua put up consistent protests at meeting venues, only to be met by heavy police and military beatings and hefty jail terms.

Consultation Initiative for the Special Autonomy

Consultation for the extension was organized in ways that only seek approval from the public and avoided criticism, complaints, or adjustments from the Papuans’ side. Three separate factions initiated their schedules for consultations with Papuan people; (1) initiated by Papuan People’s Assembly in Papua (MRP) and Papuan Provincial Parliamentarians (DPRP) under Article 77 of Special Autonomy Law, (2) initiated by Special Committee for the Special Autonomy (DPD PANSUS), and (3) initiated by Indonesian Parliamentarians.

According to Article (77) of Special Autonomy Law Number 21 of 2001, the changes to the law has to be done by Papuans through MRP, DPRP and Governor of Papua province in consultation with the Papuans. Thus, the setup of the Special Team for Special Autonomy and direct involvement by Indonesian Parliamentarians were not in the spirit of the law.

The exclusion in the discussion and contribution to Special Autonomy prompted MRP to appeal to the constitutional court in Jakarta to seek its interpretation of Article (77) on 16th June 2021. The court did not hand the decision to date due to political interference. The MRP was forced to withdraw the case on 21st July 2021. The Parliamentarians passed the Second Amendment Bill on 15th July 2021, extending the Special Autonomy Law Number 21 of 2001.

Groups Consulted in Papua

The three groups set up two separate camps to review the Special Autonomy Law, Jakarta and Jayapura. The Jakarta group set up the Indonesian Research Institute (LIPI) and the University of Gaja Mada (UGM) to research and draft the law. In contrast, the Jayapura group set up the university of Cenderawasih to do the review. The Jakarta group has a separate list of Papuans to consult in Papua, and the Jayapura group has its list with different schedules.

The Jayapura group, led by MRP/MRPB1, conducted consultations throughout Papua and West Papua provinces. The approach appeared fair for the ordinary people and civil society, including the opposition groups who presented petitions against the Special Autonomy in several regencies. In Pegunungan Bintang, Yahukimo, Paniai, Jayapura, Manokwari and Sorong presented petitions against the extension of Special Autonomy. The people at the grassroots level trusted the first group led by the MRP/MRPB.

The Jakarta group led by the Special Team scheduled five days for a visit to Jayapura and Manokwari. They listed the following names for their consultation; (1) Governor, (2) Regional Leaders (FORKOPIMDA), (3) Papuan Provincial Parliamentarians (DPRP/PB), (4) Papuan People’s Assembly Members (MRP/MRPB), (5) Provincial Rep. of National Intelligence Organization (BINDA), (6) Association of Indonesian Lecturers in Jayapura (7) Forum for Regional Leaders, (8) Forum for inter-religious group, (9) Special Autonomy Review Team in Jayapura, and (10) Cenderawasih University. They scheduled for five days from 26th to 30th April 2021.

Another Jakarta group led by Indonesian Parliamentarians (DPR RI) had their separate schedule for consultation with the Papuan side on 1st April 2021. The group met (1) Governor, (2) Indonesian Military Commander in Papua (Pangdam Cenderawasih), (3) Papua Provincial Police Commander, (4) Papua provincial Chief Judge, (5) Chairman of Papuan People’s Assembly, (6) Chairman of Papua Parliamentrians, and (7) Regional leaders and town mayors in Papua province.

Consultation and Review Results

The consultation and review results of the Papuan side led by MRP/MRPB disappeared in thin air between Jakarta and Jayapura. The petition collected from the Papuans, main discussions about human rights and dialogue between Jakarta and Jayapura, including the opposition groups, were vaporised into thin air living the original review and consultations from the Jakarta side to endorsement by the Indonesian Parliament. It was a shadow play that Indonesian intelligence (BIN) designed and played hard from the sidelines, directing the flow towards Jakarta.

Indonesians called “wayang kulit”, an Indonesian shadow play myth often told and played in Indonesian cinemas. The MRP/MRPB group was only a decoy to attract Papuans’ attention to their side, so the actual moves from Jakarta are implemented undisturbed.

During the parliament session, Mr Komarudin Watubun the chairman of the Special Committee for the Autonomy concluded that “discussions about the Special Autonomy was conducted well in the spirit of brother-hood.”2 Mr Yan Mandenas, his deputy added that the process of consultation was done according to “normal policy processes and procedures and satisfied all the existing government’s requirements”3 according to the available laws of the country.

Peoples’ representation

The people consulted in Papua do not represent most Papuans because they were members of the “Barisan Merah Putih” (BMP)(Red and White movement). The BMP group is organized by the Indonesian military and police, forcing people to love Indonesia and hate other people who are against the Indonesian state ideology. These people are descendants of the “1025” selected to participate in the “Act of Free Choice” in 1969. This group of Papuans are well-looked after by the Indonesian government. They continue to receive monthly allowances from the Indonesian government to compensate for their part in the 1969 saga and formed the stronghold for Indonesia in Papua. They have no connection with the West Papua independence struggle either.

It was a pre-planned process with name lists prepared by the Badan Intelijen Negara (BIN) State Intelligence Organization with venues scheduled and dates fixed for the events. They also listed Church leaders, customary leaders, students and intellectuals that were aligned with the views of the Red and White group. People selected to represent Papuan’s view were mainly from West Papua province and coastal regions which traditionally allied with Indonesians most often or do not dare to talk aggressively like the highlanders. Indonesia is indirectly creating ethnic divisions as a method of divide and rule, which appears to be colonial in its approach to Papuan issues.

Excluded Groups

The excluded groups in Papua are led by Petisi Rakyat Papua4 (PRP) (Petition for the People of Papua). The PRP group is a collective group consisted of 105 civil society based organizations, including politically charged organizations such as the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) and others whose leaders are at the forefront. The groups appeared to be formidable and aspire to continue in whatever way possible to halt the implementation of the Special Autonomy.

From experience, the opposition to the Special Autonomy Law at the beginning could be a bad sign for Indonesia as it cannot teach new tricks to the Papuans. Papuans have grown thick skin over the years of the Indonesian’s undignified treatments, and it looks like the opposition would continue to grow in the months and years ahead. The Special Autonomy review and consultation was done in a secret and undemocratic way that violated the rights of the people of Papua. The failure of the first part of Special Autonomy experienced from 2001 to 2020 will be repeated in the second part of the Special Autonomy. Indonesians are ignorant of the reality existing in Papua.

Expected fulfilment of SDG 2030 in Papua under Special Autonomy

The last five (5) years of implementing Sustainable Development Goals Agenda 2030 (SDG 2030) since 2015 has catapult Indonesia’s economic success. It has enabled Indonesia to invest heavily into education, health, agriculture, commerce and other sectors of the economy boosting living standards and creating millions of jobs for its 273 million people. However, the economic miracle that Indonesia enjoyed over the years occurred at the expense of mounting human rights violations5 and environmental destruction in Papua. The suppression of Indigenous peoples rights, LGBT rights, People With Disability, minority rights, and environmental destruction in Papua and Boneo Islands where vast forests are being destroyed are a few areas that the Indonesian government has been overlooking in the last five years.

West Papua region in Indonesia tells the exact opposite of Indonesia’s success story over the same period that seems to paint a negative image on Indonesia. The much talked about and promoted Special Autonomy for Papua is nothing but a tool for Indonesian diplomatic advancement to cover its human rights violation record in West Papua. Indonesia treats West Papua as its number one priority in international relations, perfecting any defects coming out of the province in every international forum that smells human rights in Indonesia focusing on Papua. It is uncertain that the existing negative record would likely to improve with the extension of the autonomy package. Already, violated SDG principles from the beginning when the Indonesians excluded Papuans from taking part in the review and consultation process.

BY Solidarity for Indigenous Papuans (SIP)

1 Majelist Rakayat Papua/Majelis Rakyat Papua Barat (Papuan Peoples’ Assembly Members/West Papua Peoples’ Assembly Members) the Special Autonomy covers both provinces.

2 DPR and Government Approve Papua Otsus Bill (voaindonesia.com)

3 DPR Affirms the Discussion of The Revision of the Papua Otsus Law Is Final and Constitutional – Tribunnews.com

4 Papuan People’s Petition (petisirakyatpapua.org)

5 Johnny Blades a senior journalist at Radio New Zealand International describes the human rights conditions in West Papua here; West Papua: The Issue That Won’t Go Away for Melanesia (lowyinstitute.org)

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