Parliament committee says revised Papuan Special Autonomy bill ready to be adopted

The chairman of the committee for the revision of the Papuan Special Autonomy Law (UU Otsus), Komarudin Watubun, declared on 12 July 2021 in Jakarta that the revised Special Autonomy Bill (RUU Otsus) is ready to be debated during a plenary meeting at the Indonesian parliament. The draft bill suggests 19 amendments to the current special autonomy law. The Indonesian Government proposed the amendments to Articles 1, 34 and 75. Particularly, the revision of articles related to the allocation of special autonomy funds and the formation of new autonomy regions had caused heated discussions and public outrage in West Papua.

Article 34 of the new draft law sets the new legal timeframe for special autonomy funding until 2041. Moreover, the new bill provides an increase of special autonomy funds from 2% to 2,25% of the national general allocation fund and elaborates that 1,25% of the national funds must be utilised for education, health and economic empowerment of indigenous Papuans (RUU Otsus, Article 34(3)e). At least 30% of this fund shall be used to develop education and at least 20% to improve the healthcare system.

Article 36 RUU Otsus contains more additional requirements for allocating special autonomy funds, with 35% to be allocated for education, 25% for healthcare, 30% for infrastructure and 10% for the empowerment of indigenous communities. Currently, Article 36 of the special autonomy law only provides requirements for the health and education sectors, namely allocating 30% of the special autonomy budget for education and 15% for healthcare.

While Article 76 of the Special Autonomy Law states that the formation of new autonomy regions in West Papua can only be conducted with the approval of the Papuan Peoples Assembly (MRP) and the provincial parliaments in Papua and Papua Barat, the new bill provides additional authority to the Indonesian Government and the national parliament to establish new autonomy regions (RUU Otsus, Article 76 (2)). However, Article 76 RUU Otsus still contains the current article stipulating that the formation of new provinces, regencies or municipalities needs the approval of the MRP and the Papuan parliaments (RUU Otsus, Article 76 (1)).

In addition, two important paragraphs under article 28 which stipulate that Papuans can establish their local political parties (UU Otsus, Article 28(1)) were erased from the new special autonomy bill. Paragraph two of the same Article states that Papuan political parties can participate in local elections in accordance with legal regulations (UU Otsus, Article 28(2)). 

On 17 June 2021, The Papuan Peoples’ Assemblies (MRP) of the provinces Papua and Papua Barat challenged the legality of Jakarta’s unilateral effort to revise the Papuan Special Autonomy Law at the Constitutional Court in Jakarta. In early July, the Constitutional Court adjourned the trial indefinitely due to the growing number of Covid-19 infections in Indonesia. The MRP called upon the Indonesian Parliament to stop further debates about the revised bill as long as the Constitutional Court had not decided.