The Implementation of Special Autonomy in West Papua, Indonesia: Problems and Recommendations

Thesis by Muhammad Yusran Halmin

Captain, Indonesian Army
B.A., Indonesia National Military Academy 1995
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the
requirements for the degree of
MASTER OF ARTS IN NATIONAL SECURITY AFFAIRS
from the
NAVAL POSTGRADUATE SCHOOL
December 2006

 

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ABSTRACT

West Papua in the easternmost area of Indonesia has long been recognized as one of its most controversial provinces. Since its integration into the Republic of Indonesia in 1969, recurring controversy has colored many aspects of West Papuans’ everyday lives and the province’s relationship to the rest of Indonesia. The problems in West Papua are rooted to the way it was originally integrated, which, according to some scholars, is “unacceptable.” They argue that the Indonesian government manipulated the self-determination process and its results. The government, however, has always denied this claim, noting in its legal argumentation, for instance, the involvement of the United Nations and the international community in the process of self-determination, known as “the Act of Free Choice.” Far from being resolved, the problems in West Papua have been exacerbated by the Indonesian government’s policies, which rely heavily on a strict security approach in an effort to suppress the secessionist movement.

As part of its attempt to address the problems comprehensively, the Indonesian government introduced a “special autonomy” bill for West Papua in late 2001. The bill, which was drafted mostly by indigenous West Papuans, passed the Indonesian parliament as Law No. 21 in November. Implementation of the law, however, has not worked as expected. Many of the law’s requirements either have not been implemented or have been only minimally implemented, even five years after the law’s promulgation. As a result, West Papuans have become increasingly skeptical and cynical about the government’s promises. Obviously, the Indonesian government must deal with and resolve the problems inherent in the implementation of the law’s requirements. This thesis addresses some of those problems and provides recommendations for potential solutions.