Papua, special autonomy and 2024 presidential elections Innovative policies are needed to improve and accelerate public services and fulfill the economic, social and cultural rights of the native Papuans.

Ahmad Suaedy (The Jakarta Post)

PREMIUM Jakarta Sat, November 11, 2023

Vice President Ma’ruf Amin (left) shakes hand with Jayapura Bishop Mgr. Yanuarius You during a meeting at Suni Hotel and Convention in Abepura, near Jayapura in Papua on Oct. 11, 2023. (Secretariat of/Vice President) I n a meeting between Vice President Ma'ruf Amin and Papuan religious leaders in early October, Jayapura Bishop Mgr. Yanuarius You, who will soon be inaugurated as chairman of the Federation of Papua Churches (PGGP), made a sharp statement, demanding immediate resolution and cessation of human rights violations in the country’s easternmost territory. The first native Papuan bishop affirmed that the demand was based on a commitment to humanity, rather than a pursuit of Papua independence. The vice president, who chairs the Special Autonomy Acceleration Board for Papua (BP3OKP), was visiting Papua to hear directly from the Papuan people about various contemporary issues within the framework of the implementation of the second special autonomy.

Ma’ruf said he wanted to “scratch only the itchy parts” of Papua and “only Papuans know which parts of their body are itchy.” On top of various fundamental issues such as poverty, educational and health disparities, violence and human rights violations persist in several areas and regions in Papua. Violence, along with prolonged displacement and the dysfunction of local governments in conflict-affected regions, however, have received inadequate attention from presidential and vice-presidential candidates contesting the Feb. 14, 2024, election. Neglecting the Papua issue is feared to turn the clock back to the past, when the natural resource-rich land served only as a cash cow for Jakarta.

The second special autonomy regime, which is based on Law No. 2/2021, aims to improve Law No. 21/2001 on special autonomy for Papua. The new law’s enactment, however, coincided with the division of Papua and West Papua into six provinces: Papua, West Papua, Central Papua, Papua Highlands, South Papua and Southwest Papua. Therefore, when talking about “Papua”, the Jayapura bishop was referring to the entire Papua region, which covers the six provinces.