Saturday, November 06, 2004

Interview with Papua Governor Jaap Solossa

Papua Governor Jaap Solossa talked with Ridwan Max Sijabat of The Jakarta Post after leading a Papuan delegation to meet with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to discuss the situation in Indonesia's most eastern province.

Question: Would you like to summarize your delegation's meeting with the President?"

Answer: The President and our delegation were of the same opinion that the special autonomy regulated by Law No. 21/2001 is the main pillar of a grand strategy to seek a comprehensive solution to the complex Papua issue.

The President promised to make a fundamental decision to prove his strong political commitment to settling the issue through peaceful dialog, and instructed his aides to take concrete measures to enforce the special autonomy law.

He was very glad to meet with us, and shared his intention to fully implement the special autonomy, which was left untouchable during former president Megawati Soekarnoputri's tenure, over the last three years.

Q: Would you like to explain that issue in detail?

A: During the meeting, the President instructed the coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs (Widodo A.S.) and home minister (Moh. Ma'ruf) to discuss the draft regulation on the Papuan People's Assembly (MRP), and to make the necessary preparations for its establishment. The implementation was delayed because it was feared that it could pave the way for the province to separate from Indonesia in the future.

The establishment of the MRP has been included in the President's first 100-day program, and he pledged that the MRP's establishment would be his "Christmas gift" to the Papuan people.

The President also promised to set up a Papua desk at the Presidential Office to deal with Papua matters. The special desk, led by the President and consisting of Papuan figures, military officials and politicians would mainly be tasked with preparing necessary policies and development programs in Papua.

Q: What is your comment on the controversial draft regulation on the MRP?

A: It is not really controversial because it is based on the special autonomy law. And what makes Papua special, unique and different from other provinces is the MRP, which according to the law is the highest decision-making institution, representing all components in the province.

Megawati and her former government declined to approve it, and to set up the long-awaited MRP, because they feared that the institution would be used to assist the province's separation from Indonesia.

But, if Acehnese people are allowed to adopt the sharia according to Islam, why aren't we allowed to do the same thing? (The majority of Papuans are Christians.)

Q: How is the planned formation of the two new provinces progressing?

A: The President has agreed to review the controversial Presidential Instruction, No. 1/2003, which was issued to enforce Law No. 45/1999 on the development of North Maluku, West and Central Irian Jaya provinces, which is no longer effective since it is against the special autonomy law.

Papuan people are not against any idea to form four or five more provinces in Papua, which is 3.5 times the size of Java Island. However it should gain approval from the MRP.

The Papuan provincial legislature has filed a law suit against the presidential instruction, and the Constitutional Court is scheduled to make a decision on the case on November 11.

The Higher Administrative Court has annulled Presidential Decree No. 10/2003 on the extension of Octavianus Abram Atururi's one- year period as acting governor of West Irian Jaya.

Q: What other issues are most urgent in Papua?

A: Illegal logging, illegal fishing and HIV/AIDS. And the three issues correlate with one another.

Illegal logging and illegal fishing activities have been rampant in the province because the region is out of the close supervision of the public in Jakarta. The looting of Papua's rich resources involves timber and fishing companies from Malaysia and Thailand. They are backed by security personnel from local Navy units and police offices.

Timber barons have paid police personnel to back the illegal logging activities, which have involved local loggers. It is also common for them to offer sex workers from Java as presents for local informal leaders, to keep their mouths closed. The timber barons also bribed local Navy units to escort their log vessels out of the province.

The number of people living with HIV/AIDS has reached around 15,000 at present, and most of them are living in the southern part of the province, particularly in Mimika and Merauke regencies, where illegal logging and fishing activities have been rampant.

Q: What are you doing to address these serious problems?

A: During the meeting with the President, we asked the government to lift the joint decree issued by the forestry minister, fisheries and maritime affairs minister, the Indonesian Military (TNI) commander and the National Police chief, concerning the supervision of forest and maritime resources (wanalaga and wanabahari) in the province.

Corrupt officials of the National Police and the Navy in the province abused their power and manipulated the joint decree to loot the province's resources.

Most Papuan people are no longer sympathetic toward the security authorities because many innocent people have been shot in military operations and their resources looted.

The provincial government will intensify the anti-HIV/AIDS campaign among youths and school students aged between ten years and 18 years to curb the spread of the virus.

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