Tuesday, February 21, 2006

MRP's opposition to acceptance of Irian Jaya Barat

Uncertainty continues about Irian Jaya Barat province's status with the central government unable to reach a solution with groups opposed to the partition of Papua to create the new province. Although the government previously set 20 February as the deadline to decide on the status of Irian Jaya Barat, no agreement was forthcoming after Vice President Jusuf Kalla met with Coordinating Minister for Political, Legaland Security Affairs Widodo A.S., Home Minister M. Ma'ruf, Papuan People Council (MRP) and the Papuan Legislative Council at his office. No representatives of Irian Jaya Barat province were present, but Kalla reportedly met Papua Council Speaker Jimmy Demianus Itjie at his residence earlier in the morning.

The creation of Irian Jaya Barat, already operating as a de facto province, has pitted the central government against the MRP and Papua administration. The province was established through the 1999 law on autonomy. The MRP, founded last year, is seeking the revocation of the establishment of the province, based on the 2001 Papua Special Autonomy Law. Under the latter's terms, any matters concerning the partitioning of Papua must come before the MRP.

MRP chairman Agus Alue Alua said the council filed a recommendation Monday with Jakarta, which he said came after consulting with various groups in Papua, most of which opposed the partitioning of the province. "The recommendation is a fixed decision by the MRP and Papua Council. We didn't come for more discussion. We'll let the government study it first," he said. Agus said the MRP and the council would agree to negotiations only if the government acknowledged that all issues related to the country's easternmost province must refer to the special autonomy law.

Home Minister M. Ma'ruf said the government would look into the recommendation, but referred to a Constitutional Court verdict that acknowledges the establishment of the new province. The court said the 1999 law was unconstitutional, but then recognized Irian Jaya Barat on the grounds that the division was already made.

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