Democracy within West Papua Special Autonomy

After the New Order Suharto regime stepped down in 1998, the aspiration for democracy was aired throughout West Papua and other parts of Indonesia. East Timor was given options to vote for independence or autonomy within Indonesia because East Timor has a strong historical background as non Dutch colony, whereas other parts of Indonesia, particularly Acheh and West Papua was given the special autonomy, democratically offered by Jakarta.

Special autonomy was given to West Papua based on Autonomy Bill for West Papua No.21 of 21 November 2001a. While regional autonomy was offered to other provinces (according to the Bill of Regional Autonomy No. 22 of 1999).
According to the UN Declaration on Democracy [Declaration of the UN on Democracy, Adopted by Inter-Parliamentary Group Council, on its 161st session, (in Cairo, 16 September 1997) in DEMOCRACY: Its principles and achievement, Inter Parliamentary Union, Geneva: 1998], the fundamental function of a state is to guarantee the civil, cultural, economic, political, and social rights. Democracy goes hand in hand with an effective government, honest and transparent, freely chosen and responsible for public governance.

One of the free expressions of Papuan people is that they neither accepted nor refused special autonomy package that entered into force on 1 January 2002. West Papuan want to accept the offer with guarantee of improvement in all sectors of development but a small number of opportunist try to politicize the special autonomy simply because they don’t get the access for economic and political control.

The Special Autonomy Bill has considerable impacts to the livelihood and survival of indigenous Papuans. It will create a democratic atmosephere that will be very conducive for regional development, and at the same time will facilitate the process of cross cutural communication.

West Papuan are Indonesian, the same human being with the same right and opportunity and equal in the development process. The special autonomy is a challenge for all human being who live in West Papua to help each other, to work hand in hand, for the betterment of the future.

However, the Liberation Army of Free Papua Movement (TPN/OPM) is always terrorizing West Papuan to create chaos and to stop the process of democratization. It is not true that the use of local languages as well as the use or practice of traditional identities and symbols has been banned by local or central government. In contrast the creation of Majelis Rakyat Papua (Papua People’s Assembly) has opened a wide opportunity for all Papuan people to support the development, the democratic system and also the creation of West Papuan identity. We are West Papuan and We are also Indonesian. We have the right to join any activities in local and federal level. As an example, we can see our Papuan brother such as Mr. Fredy Numbery as a Minister in the central government of Indonesia.

The organs and systems for democratic governance in West Papua are in the right place. The democratic elements of the autonomy bill is including the establishment of the Papua People’s Assembly (MRP), which considers the voices of tribal elders, religious leaders, and other elements of the community. However, the challenge for most of tribal elders, leaders of youth and women, and religious leaders maybe too big and too difficult especially when they should deal with a complicated situation among them. It is very difficult to reach a consensus for many issues of development.

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