Special autonomy is part of democratic means to address aspiration of Papuan people. In late 2001, Indonesian government introduced a “special autonomy” bill for West Papua. The bill, which was drafted mostly by indigenous Papuans, passed the Indonesian parliament as Law No. 21 in November 2001.
The process of special autonomy began in November 2000 under the leadership of West Papua Governor, Jaap Salossa. He convinced the MPR (Indonesian People’s Consultative Assembly) that West Papua, like Aceh, needed a policy of special autonomy, Salossa began the process of drafting a special autonomy bill by inviting local scholars, academics, activists, tribal leaders, and customary figures, including some of the NGO representatives and religious organizations in this region.
Since the beginning of the process, there was strong debate among the participants whether the word “independence” should appear in the draft. After several exhaustive meetings, the forum agreed to a final draft abolishing the word “independence,” using instead the word “autonomy” (Peter King, West Papua and Indonesia since Suharto: Independence, Autonomy, or Chaos, Sidney:University of New South Wales Press, Ltd., 2004, 81)
The Special Autonomy Law comprises twenty-seven chapters and seventy-nine articles. Several important points of the law:
- the Law provides broad opportunities for West Papuans to participate and contribute in shaping and directing local development strategies and regional policies.
- the Special Autonomy Law recognizes the existence of traditional rights and customary law.
- political issues comprise thirty-two articles which include rules governing the executive, the legislatures, political parties, and the overall identity of the region. The most significant article is article nineteen, which governs the existence of the West Papuan People’s Assembly, the MRP.
- the law contains ten articles that govern financial matters such as taxes, revenues, trade, and industry. Of these, the most important issue, and one that is often debated in respect to West Papua, is how to divide the revenues from all the natural resources in the region.
- the law stipulates that one third of all natural-resource revenues should be given to the region. More specifically, it rules that eighty percent of the forestry, fishery, and general mining revenues must be allocated to the region. It also states that seventy percent of the natural-oil-mining and natural-gas-mining revenues should be given to the region.
- Human rights and justice are ruled on in eight articles, including articles about the regional police force and the existence of a customary judiciary and customary laws. Article fifty-one addresses the conduct of the customary court, which dominates the life of West Papuans, especially in customary and religious matters. Human rights are ruled on in articles forty-five, forty-six, and forty-seven, all of which specify the government’s obligation to protect, respect, improve, and enforce human rights in the entire region and for the entire population. Article forty-five also notes the need to establish a representative for a Commission on Human Rights, a Human Rights Court, and a Commission on Righteousness and Reconciliation.
- West Papua’s socio-cultural and customary rights are ruled on in twelve articles. The protection of customary rights is mentioned specifically in two articles, numbers forty-three and forty-four. Religion is acknowledged in three articles, numbers fifty-three, fifty-four, and fifty-five, which state explicitly the freedom and right of religion for West Papuans. Education and culture are ruled on in articles fifty-six, fifty-seven, and fifty-eight. And, finally, social matters are explained in articles sixty-five and sixty-six.
- The Special Autonomy Law has several additional articles, which address various subjects, including the environment, certain kinds of disputes, population and manpower issues, and supervision matters. The articles are obviously meant to enhance people’s overall comprehension of the policy of Special Autonomy. The additional articles lend a sense of popular complicity to Indonesia’s Special Autonomy ruling as a final government policy for West Papua.