[Jakarta, 23 December 2021] The new 2021 Special Autonomy Law for Papua (Otsus) effectively ends Papua’s political autonomy by taking powers away from provincial governments and giving them to Jakarta.
The law contains several provisions to improve efficiency and accountability of development spending in Papua. But at the same time, it increases friction between Papua and Jakarta and ignores long standing Papuan demands for limiting migration and protecting human rights. Unless the government initiates a policy reset to bring Papuans on board with the new law, instead of accelerating development, it may end up accelerating conflict.
“Diminished Autonomy and the Risk of New Flashpoints in Papua”, the latest report from the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), provides an in-depth analysis of the main changes in the new Otsus Law and the contentious process through which it was formulated.
“Jakarta steered a unilateral revisions process that sidelined the very people it claimed to help,” says Sana Jaffrey, IPAC director. “The result is a law that makes Papua’s Special Autonomy ‘special’ only in that it does not exist anymore.”
The report notes that the new Otsus Law makes three fundamental changes to Papua’s autonomy: diminished provincial power, greater fiscal control from Jakarta and reconfiguration of political representation for indigenous Papuans. These amendments, made with minimum input from Papua, triggered widespread protests and a challenge in the Constitutional Court that is still pending. Steamrolling the new law over these objections risks creating new flashpoints for violent mobilization.
“President Jokowi prides himself on visiting Papua more than any of his predecessors. He promised that he was there to listen, and the people of Papua rewarded him with their trust by electing him by a landslide, not once but twice,” says Jaffrey. “He needs to use this political capital for building consensus on the implementation of the new law if it is to have any success.”