Papua expansion feared to further marginalizing Indigenous Papuans

expansion
Musamus University Merauke academic, Yosehi Mekiuw, as a speaker in the discussion on "The New Autonomous Region of Papua and Development" held by Pusaka Bentala Rakyat online on Tuesday (19/7/2022). – Jubi/Zoom screenshot of Heirloom Bentala Rakyat.

Jayapura, Jubi – An academician of the Musamus University in Merauke, Yosehi Mekiuw, said the formation of three new provinces in Papua would marginalize indigenous peoples as it would trigger further exploitation of Papua’s natural resources when forests are the source of people’s livelihood. Today, many sago forests have been replaced with oil palm plantations.

Even before the expansion, Mekiuw said, indigenous Papuans had lost the forests where they used to find food. For example, the Marind Anim tribe had lost their forest due to oil palm plantations. They also cannot use water from the river because the water source has been polluted by factory activities. Sago, fish, and vegetables that used to be produced by forests are now being replaced by instant foods such as instant noodles and biscuits.

“It’s clear that forests, land, swamps, and sago hamlets are the treasures, legacy, dignity, the future of the food barn and the breath of life for indigenous peoples,” Mekiuw said in an online discussion held by Pusaka Bentala Rakyat on Tuesday, July 19, 2022.

Mekiuw said the government needed to take steps and policies to protect indigenous peoples after the Papua expansion. This can be done through the making of regulations, both Regional Regulations and Special Regional Regulations regarding the protection of customary forests, communities, and their sources of livelihood.

The government, said Mekiuw, must also create a community empowerment program based on the culture of the local indigenous community and regularly evaluate each program. “Our children and grandchildren must continue to eat sago,” he said.

Constitutional Law expert Bivitri Susanti said that instead of establishing new provinces, the government should first evaluate the implementation of special autonomy that has been running by involving the participation of indigenous Papuans. According to Bivitri, who is also a lecturer at the Jentera Indonesian Law School, the monitoring and evaluation of special autonomy did not work so far.

The government even revised the Special Autonomy Law No. 21/2021 to Law No. 2/2021 without taking into account the Papuan people’s aspirations. This new Special Autonomy Law allowed the government to carry out Papua expansion directly, without having to ask for approval from the Papuan People’s Assembly (MRP) or the Papuan Legislative Council (DPRP).

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“It is just unethical to form new autonomous regions, which was based on the article stipulated on the new Special Autonomy Law, while the law is being tested in the Constitutional Court,” said Bivitri. (*)

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