Indonesia is widely known as a large country that is made of various cultures and ethnicities. With all the diversity this archipelago country has, it‘s unsurprising that conflict can sometimes spark due to ethnonationalism. This sentiment is one of the reasons why West Papua is one of the four Indonesian provinces that are given a special autonomy status.
Another crucial underlying reason why the government grants the status is to ensure equitable development throughout the nation. This is also one of the efforts of the central government to actualize an Indonesian-centric government, not just a Java-centric one.
What is Special Autonomy in West Papua?
The Special Autonomy Law is one of the affirmative actions implemented by the government to promote the welfare and prosperity of the West Papuans. In general, this status is granted to lessen or even eliminate the existing discrepancy between the land of Papua and other Indonesian regions.
The main point of this legislation is the arrangement of powers between the central and local governments. The implementation should be conducted with acknowledgment, particularity, and of course, concerns for the indigenous Papuans’ fundamental rights. In addition, strategic empowerment is regulated to ensure effective governance.
Papuans are the main crucial subject of this regulation. Special Autonomy in West Papua is a way to achieve justice, enhance welfare, accelerating infrastructure development, and preserve law and order. To achieve the said goals, Papuans are encouraged to participate in its implementation.
Papuans’ Participation in Special Autonomy
Michael Manufandu, a prominent senior figure from the Land of Cenderawasih, is a historical actor and living witness of the issuance of the Special Autonomy Law in 2001. Along with the other three Papuans, namely Lukas Degei, Erari, and Simon Morin, he was summoned by Gus Dur to participate in the drafting of Special Autonomy Law.
In other words, today’s existing autonomy law is established in accordance with the desires, aspirations, and wills of the Papuans themselves. It has been 20 years since the said four influential Papuans made a breakthrough that brings a lot of improvement for their land.
Today, the existence of this law continues to be supported even by a number of ethnic leaders in West Papua. Zet Morin is just one of the many figures in Biak Community Customary who strongly supports the long-term viability of Special Autonomy. According to him, the law has been in line with the indigenous Papuans, and with this law, the Papuans may flourish and be proper.
Furthermore, Billy Mambrasar, a young generation of Papua who becomes a special staff of President Joko Widodo, also encourages Papuans, especially the younger generation, to take part in the implementation of Special Autonomy West Papua.
Participating in the application of the autonomy program does not have to be complicated. Papua’s younger generations only have to take advantage of education programs, joining the national army program specified for Papuans, support the development of health facilities, and so on.
Positive Impacts of Special Autonomy Law
The Special Autonomy Law has proven to be successful in improving welfare in the land of Papua, thanks to the Papuans’ participation. In the infrastructural sector, this law supports the escalation of the development of several airports, seaports, and empowerment programs dedicated to the indigenous Papuans.
Meanwhile, regarding human resource development, many West Papuans today receive flexibility to explore their abilities and even enroll in prestigious institutions in the country and overseas. Even this year, 1,399 native Papuan students passed the administration of the Special Autonomy scholarship program.
The Special Autonomy program sure has brought a lot of positive improvements for Papuans. However, the program is believed to be ended in 2021. Even so, the local government of West Papua continues to support this regulation to ensure the long-term viability of this program for years to come.