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Rights groups concerned over renewal of Papua autonomy law

CIVICUS and TAPOL say the law's extension will damage decentralization and autonomy in the restive region

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Published: July 19, 2021 05:14 AM GMT

Updated: July 19, 2021 05:15 AM GMT

Rights groups concerned over renewal of Papua autonomy law

Free West Papua Campaign Nederland members hold a demonstration in The Hague, Netherlands, on May 25 for recognition of the sovereignty of indigenous peoples. In West Papua, families are being displaced by Indonesian military operations. (Photo: AFP)

Two rights groups have condemned the renewal of the special autonomy law in Papua and say it further erodes critical aspects of decentralization and autonomy in the region.

CIVICUS and TAPOL are also concerned about the arbitrary arrest of people protesting the renewal and forcible disruptions of protests over the law, which was passed by Indonesia’s House of Representatives on July 15.

Police arrested 23 students and activists in Jayapura on July 14 and four protesters were injured. On July 15, police arrested 18 demonstrators rested in Kaimana, West Papua, while a protest in Manokwari was blocked. Another 50 protesters were arrested and beaten in front of the House of Representatives in Jakarta on July 15 just prior to the passage of the law.

“We call on the Indonesian authorities to halt their repression of peaceful protests against the extension of the special autonomy law,” the groups said in a joint statement.

“The law was first enacted in 2001 and has now been extended for another 20 years, with some concerning new amendments. The originally enacted law had itself long been rejected by many West Papuans as failing to realize meaningful autonomy.”

CIVICUS and TAPOL said 18 articles of the revised law were amended and two articles were added, with serious implications for issues of decentralization and autonomy.

We urge President Joko Widodo to issue a regulation in lieu of law to annul the special autonomy law

According to Article 76, the central government can now decide on the creation of new regencies and districts. This has been opposed by many Papuans because it could lead to further marginalization and militarization in the region.

Two sections of Article 28 were omitted, which removed the right to form local political parties. A new rule is now in place that the vice president will have an office in the region to oversee the implementation of the special autonomy law.

The Papuan People’s Assembly (Majelis Rakyat Papua/MRP) was excluded from the amendment discussions despite its inclusion in consultations being explicitly required by the law.

The government’s unilateral decision to revise and extend the law is a flagrant violation of the right to self-determination of Papuan people, the groups said.

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“We urge President Joko Widodo to issue a regulation in lieu of law to annul the special autonomy law. Instead of forcing this extension, the authorities should instead hold meaningful consultation with the West Papuan people to address their grievances, deal with the injustices they have faced and to seek an end to the conflict,” they said.

“This includes releasing all political prisoners detained for their activism, including Victor Yeimo, ending the harassment of human rights defenders, activists, students and others in Papua, and ensuring that all serious crimes committed by Indonesian security forces are investigated, findings made public and that victims and their families receive reparations.

CIVICUS is a global alliance of civil society organizations and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society around the world. UK-based TAPOL campaigns for human rights, peace and democracy in Indonesia.

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