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MRP calls House, government to suspend plan for new provinces in Papua

Jakarta Post - April 20, 2022

The House and the government should postpone the deliberation process for a set of bills that will create three new provinces in Papua otherwise it will further stoke tensions in the restive region and marginalize indigenous Papuans, the Papuan People's Assembly (MRP) has warned.

In a plenary meeting last week, lawmakers endorsed three bills, all of which are listed as the House's initiative, which would act as a legal basis for the establishment of South Papua, Central Papua and Papua Central Highlands provinces.

The endorsement, which came before the House entered recess, means that the three bills will be open to be deliberated with the government in the next sitting session. House Commission II member overseeing home affairs Rifqinizamy Karsayuda previously said the commission aimed to pass the bills into law before June.

The move to accelerate the bills' deliberation came despite a judicial review petition filed by MRP members with the Constitutional Court to challenge several new provisions of the Papua Special Autonomy Law.

The amended law, which was passed by lawmakers last year, includes a provision that allows the House and the government to create new provinces, cities and regencies without the approval of the MRP or the existing regional legislative councils (DPRP). In the previous version of the law, the creation of new administrative areas could go ahead only after being approved by the MRP and DPRP.

The move was made despite a government-imposed moratorium against establishing new administrative areas, which has been in effect since 2014, as a result of budgetary constraints.

'Not the time'

MRP chairperson Timotius Murib called on the House and the government to suspend the bills' deliberation until after a ruling is issued by the Constitutional Court justices.

"It is not the time for new administrative regions [to be established], and this is not the only answer to bring prosperity to Papuans. This is why the MRP believes the establishment of new provinces [in Papua] should be postponed," Timotius told The Jakarta Post in Jakarta on Tuesday.

He also pointed out that the proposal to establish new provinces was in contravention of the 2014 moratorium.

Timotius said if the proposal went ahead without taking into account input from Papuans, it would further marginalize indigenous Papuans politically and would heighten the ongoing conflict in the country's easternmost territory.

"If the new provinces' establishment goes ahead, it could come at a cost of the indigenous Papuans' participation in [local] politics. The seats of the regional legislative councils [DPRP] would be filled by outsiders," Timotius said.

He went on to add that the breakup of administrative regions would likely bring a new influx of people and capital from other parts of the country to Papua, a situation that would exacerbate the marginalization of indigenous Papuans.

"If the plan [for new provinces] goes ahead without consultation with local people, the indigenous Papuans' will face a hard time in competing for jobs [with non-indigenous Papuans]," said Timotius.

New provinces

If the bills are passed into law, the new provinces will redraw the administrative boundaries of Papua, according to the draft of the bills, copies of which were obtained by the Post.

South Papua Province will include Merauke, Mappi, Asmat and Boven Digoel regencies, while Central Papua Province will include the regencies of Nabire, Mimika, Paniai, Dogiyai, Deiyai, Intan Jaya, Puncak Jaya and Puncak.

Meanwhile, Papua Central Highlands province will include Jayawijaya, Lanny Jaya, Central Mamberamo, Nduga, Tolikara, Yahukimo and Yalimo regencies.

Timotius said he was concerned that the makeup of the proposed provinces would lead to more conflict, particularly if tribes with different cultures and languages were put together under a single administrative area.

Gadjah Mada University (UGM) political expert Arie Ruhyanto said the formation of new administrative regions in Papua could become a tool to reduce tensions only if it was carefully prepared and took into account input from indigenous Papuans.

"It [the formation of new provinces] should be made after a thorough preparatory process to allow the opportunity for indigenous Papuans [to be consulted]. If such preparation is made, the establishment of new provinces could become a tool for conflict resolution."

Without proper preparation, Arie said that such a move would only serve to increase the alienation of indigenous Papuans.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/indonesia/2022/04/20/mrp-calls-house-government-to-suspend-plan-for-new-provinces-in-papua.htm