Special Autonomy And The Prosperity Of Papuans?

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(Photo Credit: idntimes.com

Annalia Bahar — October 2020

Recently there has been a growing controversy over the revision of Law no. 21 of 2001 on Special Autonomy for Papua versus the rejection towards its continuation, while in fact this law has been implemented for 20 years.

Many perspectives arise; some Papuans and Indonesian central government are involved in the blaming game given the implementation of the Special Autonomy Law. Unfortunately, some people try to argue that this special autonomy has failed thus capitalizing the issues of referendum for covering such problems due to the inconsistency of implementation. Then how do the government and Papuan react to this situation?

A reflection of Papua’s Special Autonomy

If we try to read the history of Papua’s Special Autonomy, this policy is actuall a win-win solution to find a common ground for strengthening Papua integration and bridging the gap to peace and prosperity in the Land of Cendrawasih. However, as the time goes by, there are many interest groups who try to politicize this issues for their own benefits.

Special Autonomy itself is still ongoing according to Law no. 21 of 2001 on Special Autonomy for Papua. For the past 20 years, the total amount of 126,9 trillion have been disbursed for Papua, focusing on the education sector (30%) and health and nutrition sector (15%)- and the rest will be allocated for infrastructure development in Papua. This budget allocation indeed shows the commitment of Indonesian central government to ensure the development progress in Papua.

Also through this special autonomy law, only the natives Papuan who can run for the governor election, as stated in article 12 in Law no. 21 of 2001 in which the governor and vice governor should be natives Papua (Orang Asli Papua/OAP).

The background behind the establishment of this special autonomy is through substantive and symbolic approach. There are at least four basic factors of its substantive nature, namely social, cultural, and economic disparities between the natives Papua and immigrants; development gap between Papua and other provinces in Indonesia; violations of human rights committed by security forces; as well as clarifying the history of the “unification” of Papua to be part of the Republic of Indonesia. And the last two factors should oblige the government to form a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which has not been formed yet until now.

This symbolic interpretation is often becoming the symbol of resistance in the mass protests orchestrated by students and Papuan, especially those who demand an independent Papua such as the Morning Star.


After nearly 20 years of the implementation of Papua’s Special Autonomy, the special authority of Papua has never been specifically defined. In fact, this could be the reason behind the chaos between the central government and the Papuan. With regard to authority for example, there should be a clear regulation stating the relations and authorities of the province and district, as well as the relations between central and province government.

Besides, despite the continued distribution of the special funds, some parts of Papua remain underdeveloped. While according to the data on regional revenue, Papua Province still do not experience any significant changes so far. It is ironic that the Papuan are still unable to take advantages of any business opportunities in the region.

Moreover, if this Special Autonomy is expected to contribute to the progress of Papua Province, there should be a greater effort spent for the case settlement of human rights violations in the past. Discussion and search for common ground must be used as a win-win solution to negotiate with local communities and traditional leaders, in finding the solutions for reconciliation. The latest case of Bloody Paniai where some prisoners were murdered by the authorities and other human right violations cases are the evidences on how peaceful reconciliation is critical.

Finding A Solution

It is inevitable that Special Autonomy has its weakness and strength. Papuan are iin dire need of accountability and transparency so that the special funds could benefit the Papuan themselves. The issuance of Special Autonomy in 2001 was actually a result of Papuan demands who feel left behind on various aspects. However, it has been 20 years after its implementation and there are still many things which need to improve in spite of its progress.

First, government must evaluate the whole implementation of the Special Autonomy so that everyone can measure the extent to which this policy has been successful or not.

Second, it is necessary to form an independent team examining the judicial aspect of this policy and examining three priority aspects namely education, health, and development.

Third, if the government would like to make any revision on the existing policy, it is therefore important to highlight the substantive parts of it in order to better clarify the law itself, for example on the authority for budget management, and other power separation.

Fourth, government must participate in supervising and controlling the use of the funds so that the budget allocation can meet the targets.

Last but not least, government must build a strong commitment towards the settlement of human right violations that happened in the past and always seek to engage with Papuan natives in formulating such policies for Papua Province and its people. (*)

This piece fully represents the writer’s idea. It does not express any ideas or stances of specific institutions or organizations she/he works at or is affiliated with.

Enriching discourse and understanding. A protest to Indonesian govt that unsuccessfully serves the world fair info about West Papua.

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