Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Consitutional Court reaffirms Irian Jaya Barat

Despite opposition from many Papua province interest groups, the Indonesian Constitutional Court has reaffirmed the status of Irian Jaya Barat as a separate province, saying it only lacks a legal operational basis to regulate government activities there. Irian Jaya Barat Legislative Council chief Jimmy Demianus Itjie and Irian Jaya barat caretaker governor Timbul Pudjianto were part of a delegation that met Tuesday with Constitutional Court Chief Justice Jimly Asshiddiqie and justice Achmad Rustandi to ask about the current legal status of their province.

In 2004, the Constitutional Court was asked to rule on the validity of Irian Jaya Barat province, established in 1999, following the enactment of the 2001 Papua Special Autonomy Law. The latter stipulated that any partitioning of Papua province would require the approval of the Papua People's Assembly (MRP). The court ruled the 1999 law was unconstitutional, but said the 2001 law could not be applied retroactively because Irian Jaya Barat was already established as a province.

"Establishment of a gubernatorial government is an act of law which cannot be rescinded," Jimly said. His comment drew cheers from the delegation, The Jakarta Post reported..

He noted that under the Constitutional Court's ruling, the government needed to establish a legal basis regulating operational matters for its activities there, not a legal basis for the province itself. The government missed its deadline of 20 February to reach a solution with groups opposed to the partition of Papua to establish Irian Jaya Barat.

Jimly reiterated that because Irian Jaya Barat was established by the 1999 law and legitimised by the court in 2004, the special autonomy law of 2001 was not pertinent. He added that he believed every party involved in the issue understood the 2004 Constitutional Court's decision. "It is just a matter of determination from the government," he said. "The Constitutional Court cannot dictate to the government what to do."

Jimmy said he was relieved by the explanation, and the province would go ahead with gubernatorial elections on 10 March concurrently with Papua provincial polls.

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