Protests hail renewal of Papuan autonomy law in Indonesia – the Diplomat
A photo that allegedly shows police deployed to quash protests against the Special Autonomy Law at Cendrawasih University in Jayapura, Indonesia on July 14, 2021.
Credit: ULMWP Press Service
Protests have erupted again in Indonesia’s Papua region after the renewal and amendment last week of a special autonomy law that local activists say will strengthen Jakarta’s grip on the troubled region.
On Thursday, the Indonesian parliament voted to revise and extend the special autonomy law for the provinces of Papua and West Papua for 20 years. The day before the law is passed, the police arrested 23 students protesting against the law at Cendrawasih University in the provincial capital of Jayapura. Reuters reported that 40 others were arrested in Jakarta on Thursday.
Originally passed in 2001, the law was a response to growing demands for independence in Papua, home to a decades-long low-level separatist insurgency. But many independence-inclined Papuans have opposed its renewal, saying it has been used to circumvent independence aspirations while doing little to improve the lot of ordinary Papuans.
Indeed, rights activists and Papuan separatists claim that the revisions, which involved amending 18 articles of the law and adding two new articles, will further dilute critical aspects of decentralization and autonomy in the law. way the region is governed.
“The Indonesian government’s unilateral decision to revise and expand the Special Autonomy Act is a flagrant violation of the right to self-determination of the people of West Papua,” said the human rights group TAPOL, based in the United States. UK. A declaration Friday.
TAPOL said section 76 of the law paves the way for the Papua region to be divided into more administrative areas, which it said could lead to “further marginalization and militarization in the region.” Two sections of Article 28, which removed the right to form local political parties, were also omitted.
Benny Wenda, the exiled Papuan separatist leader and acting leader of the United West Papua Liberation Movement (ULMWP), said in A declaration that the law amounted to a “second act of non-choice”, referring to the 1969 United Nations referendum which led Papua to join the Indonesian republic that year – a situation which Papuan activists said was deeply flawed.
For its part, the Indonesian government says the new law will ensure affirmative action for indigenous Papuans in local politics, increase funding for health care and education, and ensure that more of oil revenues are earned. , gas and other natural resources remain in the Region.
“We hope this law will accelerate development in Papua and see Papuans prosper,” Home Secretary Tito Karnavian told Parliament after the law was passed, according to Reuters.
But given the deep roots of the grievances that drive separatist activists and the decades of human rights abuses that have been committed in an attempt to quell the insurgency, passing the amended law will likely only further fuel the tensions in the region. .
Since 2018, the province of Papua in particular has become increasingly militarized as Indonesian security forces deploy in increasing numbers to respond to attacks by West Papua Liberation Army guerrillas and other military groups. ‘insurgents. In November, the United Nations Regional Human Rights Office expressed concern about the wave of violence and arrests that have taken place since 2018. “Military and security forces have been strengthened in the region and there have been repeated reports of extrajudicial killings, excessive use of force, arrests and continued harassment and intimidation of protesters and human rights defenders, ”the UN statement said.
The conflicts have intensified further in recent months. In April, the Papuan separatist rebels ambushed and assassinated the brigadier. General Gusti Putu Danny Nugraha, head of the Indonesian intelligence agency in the Eastern Province. The assassination led the government to officially designate the Papuan separatists “terrorists” and to deploy additional troops to remote areas of the provinces of Papua and West Papua. The campaign has resulted in deaths on both sides, dozens of arrests and the massive displacement of Papuan villagers caught in the midst of the conflict.
Against this background, the renewal of the Special Autonomy Act is unlikely to quell calls for a more substantial form of autonomy for Papua and West Papua, or even outright independence. In fact, if the protests are indicative, they can even ignite them. Given the track record of the Indonesian government, therefore, a further militarization of the Jakarta regime seems unfortunately inevitable.