Papua expansion is natural wealth exploitation in disguise: Amnesty International Indonesia

Demonstration against the division of Papua and the establishment of a new autonomous region that took place in Jayapura City on April 1, 2022. – Jubi/Theo Kelen

Jayapura, Jubi – Amnesty International Indonesia director Usman Hamid said that the Papua expansion plan by the central government was merely a way to control Papua’s natural resources.

“As we can see, the establishment of new autonomous regions violates the national moratorium on regional expansion,” Usman told Jubi when contacted by telephone on Friday, April 8, 2022.

Therefore, Usman said, there was no urgency in establishing new autonomous regions (DOB) in Papua. He said the presence of DOB would be followed by the exploitation of natural resources for the benefit of the political elites.

It is in the event the elites allegedly do not get a business permit from the Papua Provincial Government that they ask the central government to form new provinces in Papua.

“What could the motive be if not for the sake of controlling the land and its natural resources?” he said.

Statistics Indonesia data shows an increase in Papua’s economic growth of 15.11 percent in 2021. From the production side, the largest growth occurred in the Mining and Quarrying Business Field of 40.80 percent.

“This growth comes from industries that extract natural wealth, not from the people’s economy, not from sago processing, animal husbandry or other people’s economies,” said Usman.

According to Usman, saying that the regional expansion was to improve service in Papua was a very misleading opinion. If the government wants to serve the Papuan people well, it should evaluate the regencies and cities in Papua.

Usman said that the new autonomous regions would escalate the political, economic, social, and armed conflicts instead and lead to human rights violations.

Even though the bill on the formation of three new provinces in Papua has been approved by the Legislative Body of the House of Representatives, Usman urged the government and the House to request approval for the expansion of Papua from the Papuan People’s Assembly (MRP), Papuan Legislative Council, and the Papuan Governor as representatives of Papuan people.

He further said that the government’s arbitrary attempt in amending the Papua Special Autonomy Law, which stripped the authority of the MRP to approve or reject regional expansion and gave the authority to the central government instead, was unfair.

Researcher from the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) Cahyo Pamungkas said that the Indigenous Papuans rejected the expansion plan as it was feared to bring in many migrants from outside Papua who would dominate the economic sector and other sectors.

Cahyo said the “top-down” expansion plan unilaterally made by the central government was an undemocratic process as it did not go through public consultations in various customary areas in Papua.

The policy on the Papua expansion will only exacerbate Papuan distrust toward the central government. And it will make it harder to end the Papuan armed conflict,” said Cahyo. (*)

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