The Indonesian government has said it will comply with the Constitutional Court’s upcoming decision on a petition for judicial review filed by the Papuan People’s Assembly (MRP) last year that challenge several provisions in the 2021 Papua Special Autonomy Law.
The statement came after President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s meeting on Monday with representatives from the Papuan People’s Assembly (MRP) that extensively discussed the 2021 law, which amended a previous law on special autonomy in Papua.
The 2021 amendment includes a provision that allows the House of Representatives and the government to create new provinces, municipalities and regencies in the country’s easternmost region without the approval of the MRP or regional legislative councils (DPRP). In the law’s previous edition, the creation of new administrative areas required green-lighting by the two institutions.
The MRP filed its petition last year challenging several some provisions in the 2021 amendment, including those that allowed bypassing MRP and DPRP approval in establishing new administrative regions in Papua.
Monday’s meeting marked the first time the President had met with the MRP after the House endorsed three new bills earlier this month on the creation of the new provinces of South Papua, Central Papua and the Papua Central Highlands.
The MRP had previously called on the House and the government to postpone the bills’ deliberation citing the ongoing legal process. It also stressed that establishing new provinces in the region was “not the only [solution] to bring prosperity to Papuans”.
According to a statement released on Monday by the MRP, the President said the government would comply with the Constitutional Court’s decision regarding the 2021 law, but stopped short of confirming that the government would postpone its plan to form the new provinces.
“Regarding the process to amend the Papuan Special Autonomy Law, according to the reports that I have received, it was conducted with the involvement of the House, the Regional Representatives Council (DPD) as well as DPRPs and the MRP,” Jokowi said, as quoted in the MRP’s statement.
“If there are provisions that are under judicial review at the Constitutional Court, we will respect and comply with the court’s decision.”
Jokowi also said that creating new provinces “was not an easy matter”, adding that it needed further ed with the government.
Speaking after the meeting, Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud M.D. said that the majority of Papuans supported the plan.
“According to a survey, 82 percent of Papuans demanded the creation of new [administrative regions],” he said.
MRP deputy chairperson Yoel Luiz Mulait refuted Mahfud’s claim, saying that the majority of Papuans opposed the creation of new provinces.
“We question the survey because so far, according to the people’s aspirations gathered by the MRP” the majority oppose the plan, he told the Jakarta Post on Tuesday.
Yoel said the government should conduct studies on Papua’s society and culture, human resources, basic infrastructure, the local economy and future developments before deciding to form new provinces in the region.
Amnesty International Indonesia executive director Usman Hamid, who accompanied the MRP to its meeting with the President, criticized Jakarta unilateral policy on forming new provinces, arguing that the plan neglected the views of the Papuan people.
He also expressed concern that the policy, if it went ahead, would only increase tensions in the restive region and would lead to more violations of human rights.
House Deputy Speaker Sufmi Dasco Ahmad, a Gerindra Party politician, met with the MRP on Tuesday.
“I will tell the other House [speakers] to delay the deliberation of the three bills until the Constitutional Court ruling has been issued,” he said afterward.
The House, which had pushed for accelerated deliberation on the three bills, said on Tuesday after Sufmi’s meeting with the MRP that it was now considering postponing the bills’ deliberations.
THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK