As violence escalates in Papua, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is ready to deploy his special team on Papua, established on Sept. 20, according to an aide on Saturday.
Velix Vernando Wanggai, the President’s aide on regional autonomy and development, told The Jakarta Post that the Unit for the Acceleration of Development in Papua and West Papua (UP4B) was ready for duty.
“The team is ready to accelerate development, chop down bottlenecks between the central and local governments and initiate breakthroughs to solve socioeconomic and political problems in Papua,” Velix said.
The Jayapura-born presidential aide explained that the team would initiate the “new deal for Papua”, saying the deal could spark a transformation in the way the government dealt with Papua. According to Velix, the new deal would embrace the local Papuans by inciting dialogue with strategic groups in the region.
Lt. Gen. Bambang Darmono, commanding officer in Aceh from 2002 to 2005 who was appointed UP4B chief, would soon start his work, Velix said. “Bambang Darmono is a capable and well-experienced figure in handling conflicts, especially with his previous experience in Aceh. Even though the conflicts in Aceh and Papua have different contexts, there are a lot of similarities.”
Indonesia is under international scrutiny for the rising violence in the restive region. On Saturday morning, a skirmish broke out between the military and unidentified armed people near PT Freeport, a US gold mining subsidiary.
The incident was preceded by the killing of Mulia Police chief Comr. Dominggus Oktavianus Awes by unknown assailants and the arrest of six Papuans for treason following the controversial Third Papuan People’s Congress in Abepura.
Velix said the UP4B would have a specific department assigned to supervise the use of Papua’s special autonomy funds to strengthen the budget’s control and evaluation system, “This would ensure that the money was being spent according to [Papua’s special autonomy] blueprint.”
The autonomy funds for Papua jumped into the spotlight following the government’s decision to increase the 2012 budget allocation for Papua by 23 percent. In the 2012 budget, the provinces of West Papua and Papua would receive Rp 1.64 trillion (US$186.96 million) and Rp 3.8 trillion, respectively; which are significant increases from this year’s budget, which allotted the two provinces Rp 1.33 trillion and Rp 3.1 trillion, respectively.
Despite the increase in next year’s budget, a House Commission I lawmaker from Papua, Paskalis Kossay, told the Post that the spike in autonomy funds was unnecessary, calling the 2011 allocation “big enough”.
In line with the UP4B’s objective to strengthen supervision of Papua’s special autonomy funds, Paskalis agreed that the government should impose stricter controls and thoroughly evaluate how this year’s funds were used, citing the fact that the Supreme Audit Agency found indications that Rp 4.12 trillion of the Rp 19.12 trillion in special autonomy funds for Papua and West Papua between 2000 and 2010 may have been misused or embezzled.
“So far, I have never seen an evaluation of [Papua’s] special autonomy funds. In fact, there should be a thorough evaluation [of Papua’s special autonomy funds],” Paskalis said.
In August, the International Crisis Group (ICG) urged the UP4B to start its work quickly in Papua, citing the special team’s massive authority that allowed it to address not only issues relating to Papua’s development, but also more sensitive problems such as land, conflict and human rights.
“Without [the UP4B], the chance for any positive change in policy is much lower, making the developments in Puncak Jaya a symbol of everything that is wrong in Papua for activists inside and outside Indonesia,” the ICG said as quoted from a statement on the organization’s official website. (sat)