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Students reject special autonomy plus bill

Jakarta Post - November 7, 2013

Nethy Dharma Somba, Jayapura – Hundreds of students from various universities in Jayapura, Papua, continued protesting against the Papua administration bill, also known as the special autonomy plus bill, which is still in draft form and will soon be submitted to an assistance team at the Home Ministry in Jakarta.

The students blocked the entrance to Cenderawasih University (Uncen) in Waena, Jayapura and forced the suspension of activities at the biggest campus in Papua.

"We returned home because the campus was blockaded, so we couldn't attend lectures today [Wednesday]," said Joni, a school of natural sciences student. The students planned another long march to Jayapura but were tightly guarded by police personnel from the Jayapura Police.

Earlier on Monday, thousands of students marched from Abepura to Jayapura in protest against the Papua administrative bill.

The students claim the bill, if passed, would not improve the welfare of Papuans but would follow the same path as Law No. 21/2001 on Papua special autonomy, which is considered to have failed to significantly improve the welfare of indigenous Papuans. The students pointed to the fact that Papua is ranked 32nd out of 33 provinces on the Human Development Index in Indonesia.

Besides opposing the bill, the students also demanded that 29 Uncen lecturers involved in the assistance team on the bill resign.

Rally coordinator Yason Ngelia said Uncen had failed to properly oversee the drafting of Law No. 21/2001 on Papua special autonomy and yet was involved once again in formulating and disseminating information about the special autonomy plus bill.

"Uncen must stop being involved in state crime. The Papua special autonomy plus bill will only kill Papuans," he asserted. Yason urged Uncen to explain the involvement of the 29 lecturers and warned that failure to do so would result in more protesters taking to the street.

Uncen lecturer Paul Homers criticized the behavior of students who blockaded the entrance to the campus in protest. "They can express their aspirations, but don't disrupt the teaching and learning process as it is also undemocratic," Homers told The Jakarta Post.

He said that the Papua administration bill was aimed at giving wider access to Papuans to improve their welfare. Homers acknowledged that there was a lack of dissemination of information about the bill among students and said it had led to them rejecting it due to a lack of understanding.

Separately, West Papua Governor Bram Octovianus Atururi held a meeting with Papua Governor Lukas Enembe in Jayapura to discuss the bill. The bill, if passed into law by the House of Representatives, will come into effect in both Papua and West Papua provinces.