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Government accused of lacking sincerity in Papua issue

Jakarta Post - July 11, 2003

Nethy Dharma Somba, Jayapura – The central government is accused of a lack of resolve in enforcing the special autonomy law for the troubled province of Papua, which was implemented two years ago to appease separatist groups.

The autonomy law recommends the establishment of a Papuan People's Council (MRP) as a key element in enforcing the law, but the situation remains unclear as government regulations to establish the council have not been issued.

Speaker of the Papua Legislative Council, John Ibo, said that although wide-ranging autonomy was granted in 2001, the central government had not made a regulation concerning the establishment of MRP.

"The central government is still suspicious of Papuans. They have sincerely accepted the special autonomy as a solution to existing problems in the province. But their sincerity was not immediately responded to through the approval of the MRP," he told journalists in the Papua capital of Jayapura on Wednesday.

He made the comment as Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ended his two-day visit to Papua on Thursday. The issue of the MRP was also raised during a dialog between Susilo and Papuan religious and community leaders.

Ibo dismissed the government's suspicions as groundless and said the planned council was aimed at promoting and protecting the "basic rights" of Papuans, which he said was a key component of Law No. 21/2001 on special autonomy.

"The MRP's existence would only strengthen the rights of Papuans, that have been neglected under the current governmental system. It would not serve as a bridge to achieve the independence that has been campaigned for by a group of people here," he argued.

Similar to the war-torn Aceh province, the resource-rich Papua has long seen separatist movements fighting for breakaway from Indonesia.

Ibo said that, should the government seek to change articles on the establishment of the MRP, this should be discussed with the council. "The government should not abandon the matter, this would only create suspicion among Papuans that the central government is not serious in granting them the special autonomy," he added.

The chief councillor said the autonomy law could not be implemented adequately in the province because the MRP was not established.

In response to the criticism, Minister Susilo said that the MRP would certainly be formed and that the Ministry of Home Affairs was discussing its status to prevent an overlapping between the council's ruling and that of the legislative or executive bodies.

"The MRP government ruling continues to be discussed so that its structure will not cause a problem. It should not remove the function of legislative or executive bodies," Susilo added. He promised to raise the MRP issue during a Cabinet meeting after he arrived back in Jakarta.