Local government in Indonesia. The case of Papua

Conference “Autonomy for Papua – Opportunity or Illusion?”, 04-05 June 2003

Local government in Indonesia. The case of Papua

by Harun Alrasid

The era of reform and the Law on Regional Government

Harun Alrasid beim Runden Tisch zu PapuaFoto: Hans-Georg Gaul

Harun Alrasid beim Runden Tisch zu Papua

Photo: Hans-Georg Gaul

On May 21st, 1998, after 32 years in power, President Soeharto, stepped down and the ‘New Order’ era was succeeded by the so-called ‘Era of Reform’. In line with the spirit of reform was that with regard to local government the New Order legislation, i.e. Law No. 5/1974, was replaced by Law No. 22/1999 on Regional Government. 1

In the new Law, the legal process concerning the division (pemekaran) 2 of a region (daerah) into two or more regions is stipulated as follows:

* First step: With the approval of the respective Regional Parliament, 3 the Head of the respective Region (Kepala Daerah), i.e. the Governor of a Province, the Head of a Regency (Bupati) or a City Mayor (Walikota), sends an official letter to the President.
* Second step: The President forwards the letter, in other words: gives an assignment, to the Local Autonomy Consultative Council 4 (Dewan Pertimbangan Otonomi Daerah) to conduct research concerning the proposal. The Council has to consider economic potential, social, political and cultural factors, population figures, the size of the area and other factors.
* Third step: In case the report of the Council is favourable, the President prepares a Draft Law on the division of the related region and sends it to the national Parliament, the DPR.
* Fourth step: If the legislative process in the DPR runs smoothly, in the final stage a plenary session of the DPR approves the Draft Law and sends it back to the President.
* Fifth step: The President signs the Draft Law to become a Law and then promulgates it in the State Gazette (Lembaran Negara) in order for it to have a binding force (verbindende kracht).

The division of the Province of Irian Jaya into three provinces

The Province of Irian Jaya (meaning ‘Prosperous Irian’), formerly named West Irian, was initially formed as an autonomous province by Law No. 12/1969. Thirty years later, based on Law No. 45/1999, the Province of Irian Jaya was stipulated to be divided (lit.: expanded) into three autonomous provinces. President Habibie signed Law No. 45/1999 on the Establishment of the Province of Central Irian Jaya, the Province of West Irian Jaya, the Regency Paniai, the Regency Mimika, the Regency Puncak Jaya, and the City Sorong on October 4th, 1999.5 Due to obstacles to hold local elections in the new Provinces, the Law was then amended by Law No. 5/2000, signed on June 7th, 2000, by President Abdurrachman Wahid.

Reactions against the division of the Province of Irian Jaya

It should be noted that the division of the Province of Irian Jaya into three provinces was not in accordance with the procedure as stipulated in Law No. 22/1999 on Regional Government. The main requirement, i.e. a proposal sent by the Governor to the President preceded by the approval of the Provincial Parliament, was lacking. No wonder that, just one day after President Habibie had signed the Law, the Provincial Parliament firmly rejected the division initiated by the Central Government, as clearly indicated in its Decision No. 11/1999 of October 5th, 1999.

The Broad Outlines of State Policy on the Province of Irian Jaya and Law No. 21/2001

As a response to the movements which opposed the division of the Province of Irian Jaya, in its Broad Outlines of State Policy 1999-2004,6 the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) granted the Province of Irian Jaya the status of Special Autonomy (otonomi khusus). The main objective was to maintain the integrity of the nation within the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia.

Meanwhile, to meet the aspirations of the people of Irian Jaya, President Abdurrachman Wahid supported the idea of changing the name ‘Irian Jaya’ to ‘Papua’.

As an implementation of the mentioned provision in the MPR’s Broad Outlines of State Policy, on November 21st, 2001, the DPR issued Law No. 21/2001 on Special Autonomy for the Province of Papua, which was signed by President Megawati Soekarnoputri. It is important to note that Article 19 provides for the formation of the Papua People’s Assembly (Majelis Rakyat Papua, MRP) and that Article 76 states clearly that the division of the Province of Papua must be approved by the Papua People’s Assembly and the Papua Provincial Parliament – obviously, prior to the legislative process in Jakarta.

Presidential Instruction No. 1/2003 – a switch of Government policy?

Like a ‘thunder on a sunny day’, the public was astonished when on January 27th, 2003, President Megawati signed Presidential Instruction No. 1/2003 on the Acceleration of the implementation of Law No. 45/1999. This Instruction is evidently not in the line with Law No. 21/2001 which granted the Province of Papua the status of Special Autonomy, thus implying the derogation of Law No. 45 Year 1999.

As a spontaneous reaction, on February 10th, 2003, the Communication Forum of the Papua Young Generation in Jakarta and the National Solidarity for Papua made a public statement rejecting the Presidential Instruction. On February 20th, 2003, a public debate was held at the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute sponsored by the National Solidarity for Papua.

Concluding remarks

In conclusion, it can be summarised as follows:

* Law No. 45/1999 has a legal defect since it did not comply with the procedure specified in Law No. 22/1999 on Regional Government.
* Law No. 45/1999 is actually derogated by Law No. 21/2001 on Special Autonomy for the Province of Papua since it ignored the division into three provinces.
* Law No. 21/2001 is regarded as a means to satisfy the people of Papua who firmly opposed the division initiated by the Central Government.
* From a socio-cultural and legal point of view, the people of the Province of Papua are a homogenous ethnic community and a legal circle (rechtskring) so that the division could affect the integrity of the people.
* In order to achieve development in the Province of Papua, the political decision-makers should make the welfare of the people a top priority.
* In accomplishing local autonomy, as stated in the introductory Consideration part of Law No. 22/1999, the emphasis should be on democratisation, social participation, equality, justice, local potentials and (ethnic) diversity.

1 For the original version of Law No. 22/1999, Undang-Undang Republik Indonesia Nomor 22 Tahun 1999 tentang Pemerintahan Daerah, cf. the Government homepage http://www.ri.go.id.
2 Literally pemekaran means “the making more out of”, often also translated as “expanded”.
3 This is the provincial DPRD (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat Daerah, Regional People’s Representative Council), or the DPRD of the regency or the city.
4 The Local Autonomy Consultative Council consists of the Minister of Home Affairs as Chairman ex officio, the Finance Minister as Vice-Chairman ex officio, the State Secretary, and, if necessary, other Ministers, as well as representatives of the Association of Local Governments and representatives of the Regions (with two persons representing the regencies, and two persons representing the cities). The term of office is two years.
5 For the original version of the Law cf. the Government homepage http://www.ri.go.id; selected articles of the Law are also included in this book.
6 The Broad Outlines of State Policy (Garis-Garis Besar Haluan Negara, GBHN) 1999-2004 are included in the MPR Decree (Ketetapan MPR) No. IV/1999, available at the homepage of the MPR at http://www.mpr.go.id.

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