Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Merauke Bupati 'launches' South Papua province

Papuans must not be sidelined in the possible establishment of an autonomous South Papua province, but should benefit from it as stipulated in the 2001 special autonomy law for Papua, a member of the Papua People's Assembly (MRP) says. "Just like a farmer cultivating his farm, don't let others enjoy the yields from the farm. It's the same as the current issue on the petition to establish an autonomous province in Papua ... don't let it create opportunities only for other people to obtain positions, while Papuans just become spectators in the development process," an MRP member from Merauke regency, Erna Mahuse, said in Merauke on Tuesday.

According to Erna, the MRP can discuss issues related to autonomous provinces in Papua as long as the proposal being considered does not violate the autonomy law. "It is not a taboo to discuss it, so long as it is in accordance with mechanisms of Law No. 21/2001 and benefits Papuans, because the main aim of an autonomous province is to shorten the reins of development," she said.

On Monday in Merauke, Regent John Gluba Gebze announced the formation of a South Papua province in a traditional procession of the Marind tribe, the largest tribe in southern Papua. The event was attended by thousands of people. Gebze marked the occasion by planting a Masi tree along with Boven Digul Vice Regent Mercelino Yamkomdow and Asmat regency legislative council vice speaker Eduardus Kaise.

"The tree symbolizes our spirit to establish the South Papua province," said Marind tribal figure Imbuti Kasimirius Ndiken. Gebze, a Marind tribesman, joined in the Gatzi traditional dance during the event. Gebze told reporters the day before the event that the establishment of the South Papua province was a continuance of a colonial-era plan to form territories in Papua.

The Dutch administration had divided Territory V in four regencies, he said: Merauke, Boven Digul, Asmat and Mappi. "We just have to continue with the plan prepared by the Dutch." The territorial divisions, said Gebze, had based on sociological and anthropological aspects to form an area in which the tribes would live and govern in one cluster under a territorial administration. - Nethy Dharma Somba (JP)

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