Political Context: Key Developments by January 2021

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Widespread protests against OTSUS vol. II

High-ranking government officials advocated prolonging West Papua's Special Autonomy (OTSUS) by extending the autonomy funds, which would otherwise end in 2021. Papuan students launched peaceful protests against it in Manado, Makassar, Timika, Nabire and Jayapura demanding a referendum. Demonstrations were either dispersed or deterred by the government, limiting democratic space. The 'Peoples' Solidarity for West Papua', consisting of at least 102 organisations, announced in November that 520,261 people had signed their petition against OTSUS vol. II.

Churches and MRP call for negotiations between ULMWP and Jakarta

In February, the MRP suggested President Jokowi enter into dialogue with the ULMWP. Churches in West Papua support this path to find a peaceful solution to the conflict. The call came in response to armed clashes in West Papua's central highlands, which have deteriorated since December 2018.

Self-declared Provisional Government of West Papua

On 1 December, the ULMWP formed a provisional Government with exiled leader Benny Wenda as interim president. It aims to mobilise Papuans to achieve a referendum on independence, which Indonesia rejects.

COVID-19 reduces civil society freedoms

Police and Military use COVID-19 health protocols to justify harsh actions and increasingly excessive use of force against Papuans and government critics in general. Demonstrations against the prolongation of Special Autonomy have been prevented or dispersed using health protocols as pretext.

Omnibus law

The Omnibus law, intended to boost foreign investment and economic growth in Indonesia, has been criticised by many civil society groups. The bill adopted by the parliament on 5 October 2020, promotes non-sustainable economic growth and abandons fundamental rights to protect workers and the environment. The message behind is that economic growth remains the top priority of the Jokowi Government, at the expense of human rights and environmental protection.

Administrative partition of Papua Province

In September, Jakarta announced a plan to divide Papua into five provinces. The majority of stakeholders, including the Governor and the Papuan Peoples Assembly (MRP), are against it. They argue this partition ignores the procedure described in the Papuan Special Autonomy Law (UU No. 21/2001) for forming new autonomy regions.

Jokowi appoints HR perpetrators as officials in the Ministry of Defence

President Jokowi has appointed perpetrators of human rights violations, who were sentenced for participating in the enforced disappearance of 13 activists in 1998, as high-ranking government officials. Dadang Hendrayudha and Yulius Selvanus belonged to the Mawar Group of Kopassus, which was implicated in kidnappings and disappearances of pro-democracy activists when now-Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto was heading Kopassus.

Investigations on killings in Intan Jaya

Coordinating Minister for Politics, Law and Human Rights, Mahfud, formed a team to investigate the deaths of a military member and a Papuan pastor in Intan Jaya. He did not include the national human rights commission (Komnas HAM) in the team. So, Komnas HAM conducted its own investigation. Many stakeholders in West Papua rejected the team (TGPF). Thus, the Papuan Governor also established an investigation team called humanitarian aid team.

Special team to process gross human rights violations

The Attorney General's office formed a team of 18 Attorney General Staffers to accelerate the legal processing of 13 alleged gross human rights violations in Indonesia. Its establishment followed President Jokowi's pledge during a meeting on 10 December to resolve past cases. Komnas HAM has carried out investigations, but the Attorney General's office never processed the claims.