Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Papuans yet to benefit from special autonomy

The "special autonomy" status of the two Papuan provinces in Indonesian New Guinea has not brought significant progress to the people because it has failed to address their fundamental needs, a survey suggests. The survey was conducted by National Solidarity for Papua (SNUP) in cooperation with Partnership for Governance Reform in Indonesia. It examined the impact of special autonomy, which began in 2002 in an effort to ease separatist tensions and grant Papuans greater control over their government and the province's resources. The 323 respondents were from different backgrounds and locations across six regencies. They said their welfare has not improved because the local political elite, the bureaucracy and non-governmental organizations are out of touch with the common people.

SNUP executive director Bonar Tigor Naipospos said a sizable portion of the funds granted to Papua to implement autonomy have been spent on things other than essential needs. "Besides the conflicting interests between local people and their elite group, the two resource-rich provinces have spent a lot of money to establish new institutions required by the special autonomy law, on the controversy over the formation of West Irian Jaya province and on local elections," Naipospos said while presenting the survey's results.

Seventy-six percent of respondents said autonomy has yet to strengthen basic services in the areas of health care, education and the economy. This, they said, is closely related to rampant corruption and nepotism among those in power. Forty-six percent of respondents said that the newly-established Papuan People's Assembly (MRP) and political parties had not paid serious attention to
their fundamental problems, and that the increasing number of security personnel did not improve their sense of security. Instead, respondents felt their freedom of expression had been hampered.

Seventy-six percent said the administration at all levels in the two provinces needed reform, and that NGOs should be encouraged to closely monitor the implementation of autonomy in outlying areas.

Naipospos told Ridwan Max Sijabat of The Jakarta Post that the proposed reform of the bureaucracy and the adoption of transparency and accountability have to be carried out by the provinces' newly elected governors. "West Irian Jaya Governor Octavianus Atururi and Papua Governor Barnabas Suebu should start their jobs by reforming the bureaucracy while pressing the MRP to issue the necessary bylaws to implement autonomy," he said. Only two such bylaws have been issued, on health and education, and critics have called them unworkable.

Laode Ida, the deputy chairman of the national upper house, the Regional Representatives Council (DPD), blamed Jakarta for the slow development of autonomy. He said the central government still interferes in Papua's internal affairs. "Jakarta remains suspicious that the local political elite and bureaucracy are sympathetic to the separatist movement," he explained.

He said that the territory has received more than Rp 6 trillion in autonomy funds annually but no significant progress has been made on health, education, transportation and the economy, four sectors given high priority by the law. He called on the two provinces to review all contracts with national and multinational companies to seek greater economic benefits for local development programs.

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