Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Two provinces united for culture and development

Papua Governor Barnabas Suebu and Papua Barat (West Papua) Governor Abraham (Bram) O. Atururi have signed an agreement to settle differences, the first cooperative move by the two directly-elected leaders since they were installed six months ago. The reconciliation may end Papua province bickering over the legal basis for the establishment of West Papua.

The signing was held on Mansinam Island, a symbolically important island for Papuans since it is where two preachers from Europe landed on 5 February 1855 and began spreading Christianity. "The ceremony was titled "One but Two, Two but One", meaning that Papua's culture, economy and infrastructure development are unified even as its government has split into two provinces," Nethy Dharma Somba reported for The Jakarta Post from Manokwari.

The three-step process included an agreement on the legal basis for the creation of the new province under the Special Autonomy Law; the handover of documents on personnel, financing, equipment and other issues from Papua province to West Papua; and a pledge to jointly manage the economy and infrastructure.

The agreement means that the two provinces will share management of the special autonomy funds, which account for 2 percent of the central government's general allocation funds.

The special autonomy law, along with its attendant funding, is intended to speed Papua's development and give the region more control over its rich natural resources. The funds have thus far been managed by Papua province in cooperation with regency and mayoralty administrations throughout Papua, including those in West Papua.

The reconciliation meeting was held in a very friendly atmosphere. The two governors and their entourages were greeted with traditional dances and all the civil servants of West Papua province lined the road where the guests passed. Governor Suebu shook hands with all of them.

The Mansinam agreement will be deliberated by a special team before it is discussed at a joint working meeting between the two governors and all regents and mayors in the two provinces in Biak.

"We will try to complete the deliberation as soon as possible so that we can hold the next meeting, thereby enabling us to work and build," Bram said.

The reconciliation has melted the cold relations between the two provinces following the creation of West Papua province, which was initially named West Irian Jaya province.

"On this day the conflict between the province of West Irian Jaya, which was later called West Papua, and the province of Papua must end," Suebu said. He added that the two provinces must work together in thought, feeling and spirit to build a new Papua.

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