ICG report on Indonesia and local governance in Papua

Aug. 11, 2010, 10:42 a.m.

Indonesia has made tremendous progress in its democratic development over the past decade.  The country has held several free elections, increased its number of female representatives, and is decentralizing governance to the local level.  Despite this progress, however, the nation still struggles with several issues such as press freedom and minority representation.  The International Crisis Group has released a report, Indonesia: The Deepening Impasse in Papua, which examines the recent developments between Jakarta and the indigenous Papuan community.  The situation stems from the government's rejection of a local Papuan initiative to require all district-level candidates to belong to their community.  Papuans created the initiative, believing that it was the only way to ensure they would be able to govern themselves.

The debate that followed brought to the fore Papuan concerns about being increasingly marginalised by steady in-migration from other parts of Indonesia and unhappiness with implementation of a 2001 autonomy package.

The current impasse began with the November 2009 decision on district candidates by the Papuan People’s Council (Majelis Rakyat Papua, MRP), a body established under the autonomy law and charged with protecting Papuan values and culture. Jakarta rejected it on several grounds, including that it was discriminatory and in violation of a national law on local government. Officials also argued that the council had no authority to issue decisions and that it was overstepping its mandate by venturing into political affairs. Anger over the rejection led to a Papua-wide consultation hosted by the MRP in June which produced eleven recommendations, including that autonomy be “handed back” to Jakarta, an internationally-mediated dialogue held, and a referendum on Papua’s political status conducted.

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