Why the Special Autonomy Law Matters for the Papuan Government

Special Autonomy Law
Special Autonomy Law

Indonesia’s central government has allocated a special fund called the special autonomy fund for Papua since 2002 and West Papua since 2008. These funds are disbursed following the mandate of the Special Autonomy Law (Otsus) No. 21/2001, which regulates special autonomy for the two regions.

Why did the government choose Papua and West Papua? It is none other than because the two regions had the highest gini ratio (data in March 2019), which means that the socioeconomic discrepancy compared to other regions of Indonesia is very high. The Special Autonomy Law is expected o reduce the gap.

Special Autonomy (Otsus) Law No.21/2001

Special Autonomy Law
Special Autonomy

Under the presidency of Megawati Soekarnoputri, the government came with Law No. 21/2001 to regulate special autonomy in two of the easternmost provinces in Indonesia—Papua and West Papua.

The law protects the rights of the Papuans to have autonomy in managing their own region in three main fields: politics, economy, and culture. Specifically, it regulates and divides between the central government and local government authority over Papua and West Papua regions.  For the Papua region, the central government has authority over fiscal and monetary, foreign policy, religion, defense and security, and judicial fields. Meanwhile, the local government has authority over other fields.

The law regulates not only autonomy but also additional funds allocation called special autonomy funds that will be provided for 20 years from 2002 to 2021. The fund is IDR 126,99 trillion in total: IDR 93,05 trillion for Papua and IDR 33,94 trillion for West Papua.

Otsus Papua was born from the dissatisfaction of the Papuan people with the civil, political, economic, social, and cultural situation in Papua. Military aggressions are used in response to the dissatisfaction, exacerbating the human rights violation in Papua.

Special Autonomy Law gives as much freedom as possible to the people of Papua to govern their region under the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia. The first fundamental value of the law is the protection of the basic rights of the indigenous Papuans, especially the rights of the Papuans to their territorial land and water, including the natural resources in the territory area.

The word “adat” (customary) has been mentioned 109 times, the word “adat istiadat” (customs) has been mentioned four times, “masyarakat hukum adat” (indigenous communities) has been mentioned 32 times, and the word “masyarakat adat” (indigenous people) has been mentioned 32 times. It can be seen that this law focuses on the rights of the indigenous people of Papua.

Why Do the Papuans Need Otsus Law?

Special Autonomy Law
Special Autonomy Law

Conflicts between the people of Papua and companies or government over the forest and land issues have been long overdue. One of many is the dissatisfaction of the Moskona tribe after PT Wanagalang Utama got the right of forest products in the territory area of the Moskona tribe.  The forest products that should belong to the indigenous people and used for their livelihood are taken over by the company—a violation of indigenous people’s rights.

Deforestation becomes another huge problem. Forest Watch Indonesia data shows the rate of deforestation in Papua. From 2000 to 2009, the rate of deforestation in the Papua bioregion reached 60,300 hectares per year—increased threefold in 2009-2013. From 2013-2017, the rate of deforestation also increased to 189,300 hectares per year.

Otsus Law is needed so that the national forestry policy follows the context of customary forests in accordance with the situation of indigenous peoples in Papua.

The law places indigenous Papuans and the people of Papua in general as the main subject, and each element of the government is directed at providing the best services and empowering the people of Papua.  The law aims to reduce the gap between Papua province and other provinces, improve the living standards of the people of Papua, provide more opportunities for indigenous Papuans, and to protect the basic rights of the indigenous Papuans.

The new division of revenues in the original draft submitted to Jakarta was 80% for Papua and 20% for the central government, giving more proportion to the Papuans to benefit from their own sweat. If this is implemented properly, the new revenue split will double West Papua’s income, making a huge difference for the livelihood of the people. This needs adequate safeguards to protect land and resource right.

The provisions give a high percentage of oil, gas, mining, forestry, and fisheries royalties to the Papuans; provide additional funds for infrastructure, education, and health; and establish Papuan People’s Assembly (MRP). Besides, the Morning Star (Bintang Kejora) flag is acknowledged as a cultural symbol rather than a political statement. Therefore, hoisting the Papuan flag will not be considered as a crime nor a rebellion.

The special autonomy fund can be used to improve public services and community welfare, especially in education, health care, and other basic infrastructure. In addition, Otsus Law is needed to resolve problems related to the violation and protection of human rights of indigenous Papuans in peace as it guarantees peaceful reconciliation.

Otsus Law has proven to reduce the stunting rate in Papua and West Papua and improve access to proper sanitation in West Papua. However, the practice of Otsus Law is still flawed that it has not significantly improved the livelihood of Papuans. The misuse of funds due to lack of supervision and difficult geographic conditions are two of many factors contributing to slow development in Papua and West Papua.

Those are the reasons why Otsus Law is important for Papua and West Papua, especially if implied properly. The law will increase the standards of livelihood for people of Papua and reduce the gap between Papua province with other provinces to end discrimination and socioeconomic gap.