[Jakarta, 30 July 2020] The need to revise a law on “special autonomy”(otonomi khusus or otsus) for Papua could be an opening for urgently needed new approaches to halt the worsening conflict there. The prospects of a major course correction in Jakarta, however, are slim.
Renewing, Revising or Rejecting Special Autonomy in Papua, the latest report from the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), describes the options on the table as a funding deadline looms. The 2001 law granting limited autonomy to Papua authorised special funding for twenty years. If it is to be continued, the law will have to be amended before 2021. But political tensions are higher than ever as Papua experiences increased violence in the central highlands, ongoing fall-out from the 2019 anti-racism protests and the spread of Covid-19.
In this context, three camps have emerged. The Jokowi government would like to roll over funding with a minimum of debate. Many Papuan elected leaders and legislators want a thorough evaluation first of what the law has or has not achieved, based on extensive public consultations. Other Papuans, especially in the central highlands where support for independence is strongest, are calling for rejecting special autonomy out of hand and opening negotiations with pro-independence groups instead.
“New ideas are desperately needed,” says Sidney Jones, IPAC director, “The problem is that in the past, every time Papuans have presented concrete proposals to address the issues that matter most to them – migration, security and justice, for starters – they have been undercut or overruled.”
The report explores the background to special autonomy and the current dynamics, as the rejection movement gathers steam. It also examines some of the proposals for specific reforms that have been presented in the past.