Papuans distrust anything from the government
18 October 2005
The Ministry of Home Affairs announced last Wednesday that the Papuan People's Assembly (Majelis Rakyat Papua/MRP) would be established on Oct. 15, as required by the Papuan Special Autonomy Law (No. 21/2001).
In order for the MRP to function properly and effectively, the government needs to be aware of the fundamental problem that must be settled.
This problem is related neither to which Papuans should become members of the MRP nor how the elections should be conducted, but rather concerns the government's understanding of Papua Province.
For, on the one hand, the MRP is being established for Papua Province, but, on the other hand, the central government employs two different understandings of Papua Province.
The first understanding of Papua Province is based on the Papuan Special Autonomy Law (No. 21/2001). In article 1(a) of this Law, Papua Province is defined as Irian Jaya Province after the granting of special autonomy within the framework of the Unitary Republic of Indonesia (NKRI).
It means that this legislation recognizes only one province in the western part of the island of New Guinea, which is Papua province (known as Irian Jaya before the enactment of Law No. 21 of 2001).
The province is confined by the Pacific Ocean to the north, Maluku province and the Arafura sea in the south, the provinces of Maluku and North Maluku in the west, and the state of Papua New Guinea in the east.
The government also has another definition of Papua Province, however. This second understanding of the province is based on the decision made last year by the Constitutional Court to recognize the existence of West Irian Jaya province.
The Court did not formulate any definition of Papua Province. But it offered a different understanding of Papua Province from that contained in the Papuan Special Autonomy Law.
The court implied that there are two separate provinces in the land of Papua, namely, Papua and West Irian Jaya.
Since President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in his speech in August has legitimized the existence of West Irian Jaya province, Papua Province in the eyes of the government, then, no longer covers the entire western half of the island of New Guinea, but only the eastern part of it. In another words, it includes only the eastern part of Papua province as defined in the Papuan Special Autonomy Law.
The government still employs these two different definitions of Papua province, as manifested in various statements. By saying that the government is still committed to implementing the Papuan Special Autonomy Law, the state should actually stick to the definition of Papua province given in the legislation. However, at the same time it has legitimized the existence of West Irian Jaya province and therefore embraced the meaning of Papua Province implied in the Constitutional Court decision.
That's why, with regard to the election of the MRP in Papua province, the government could be asked: For which Papua province is the Papuan People's Assembly (MRP) being established? Is it for the Papua province as defined in the Papuan Special Autonomy Law or for the Papua province created by the Constitutional Court and legitimized by the government?
If the government applies the first definition of Papua province (that given in the Papuan Special Autonomy Law), this will have certain consequences as regards the election of the MRP members.
First, all regencies in Papua, including those of West Irian Jaya province, should be allowed to participate in the MRP's election.
Second, the MRP should be based in Jayapura as the capital of Papua province.
Third, allowing the Papuans from West Irian Jaya to take part in the MRP election means the government should not acknowledge the existence of the province. Therefore, the government should not form another MRP to be based in Manokwari, the capital of West Irian Jaya province.
Fourth, if the government persists in recognizing West Irian Jaya province, then people may ask: Why does the government allow people from West Irian Jaya to select MRP members not for their own province but rather for Papua Province, and not based in Manokwari but in Jayapura? How about the status of West Irian Jaya then?
The second definition of Papua province will also have certain consequences as regards the election of MRP members.
First, if the second definition of Papua Province is applied, the government should no longer recognize the Papuan Special Autonomy Law, or its definition of Papua Province.
Second, the government should issue a new legal foundation for Papua province as the definition of Papua province based on the Constitutional Court's decision is totally different from that given in the Papuan Special Autonomy Law.
Third, if the legal basis for the election of the MRP members is the Papuan Special Autonomy Law and this legislation is to be discarded, then the government should terminate the MRP election process underway at the moment.
Fourth, the decision of the Constitutional Court provides no legal foundation for the creation of an MRP both in Papua and West Irian Jaya provinces. Therefore, if Jakarta intends to continue with the MRP election process, it should provide a new legal foundation.
If both definitions of Papua province are applied at the same time, as is being done by the government at the moment, the situation in the land of Papua will only become worse. For it continues to perpetuate tension, conflict and division among the Papuans. The government, in turn, appears to be the source of the confusion and conflict, as well as the primary cause of the failure to implement the Papuan Special Autonomy Law.
More problems will continue to emerge because of the government's betrayal of Law No. 21.
Consistency and faithfulness in upholding the law, then, is the main thing that Papuans want from the government.