DOB of Papua and Evaluation of Decentralization – Indonesia has three New Autonomous Regions (DOB). Namely West Papua, Central Papua, and Papua Pegunungan. That way, the total provinces in Indonesia are currently 37 from are the previously 34 provinces.

The inauguration of the three new autonomous regions of Papua was carried out on Friday (11/11) by the Minister of Home Affairs (Mendagri) Tito Karnavian. For the time being, the three new autonomous regions in Papua will be led by an acting (Pj) until the 2024 local elections are held.

The formation of the three new autonomous regions in Papua was the result of the division of the Papua Province which was initiated by a DPR decision (30/6) which approved three draft laws for the formation of new autonomous regions in Papua to become laws. Then, the three Papua New Guinea Laws were ratified by President Jokowi (25/7).

Since the 1998 Reformation, regional division (decentralization) has taken place so massively. This happened in line with the fast paced discourse on decentralization that took place after the fall of the New Order’s “centralized power”.

In 1999, Maluku Province was divided into two, namely Maluku and North Maluku and also Irian Jaya Province was divided into Papua and West Irian Jaya. Then, in 2000, South Sumatra Province was also divided into South Sumatra and Bangka Belitung.

Meanwhile, West Java Province was also divided into West Java and Banten. Meanwhile, North Sulawesi Province was divided into North Sulawesi and Gorantalo. Then, in 2002 Riau Province was also divided into Riau and the Riau Islands.

Then, in 2012 the Province of East Kalimantan was also divided into East Kalimantan and North Kalimantan. Thus, the total provinces in Indonesia in 2012 have reached 34 provinces from only 27 provinces during the New Order era.

After the Reformation, the idea of decentralization was initially greeted with great confidence. Many people believe that this idea will be able to overcome the development failures that occurred in the centralized New Order government (Abdul Gaffar Karim, 2020).

However, in recent years we have realized that the idea of decentralization is not without loopholes. Various academic records find that the trend of decentralization has paved the way for the formation of “little kings”.

The term “little kings” refers to the power of regional heads who position themselves “like a single king” regulating and designing all kinds of bureaucratic affairs and economic resources. It is unfortunately arranged and designed for his own interests as well as his group and close relatives.

Because of that, the term “decentralization is corrupted” subsequently emerged from which describes how the ideas and practices of decentralization have strayed far from the true spirit of decentralization. Instead of being independent, recent phenomena show that many regions are actually the burden of the central government.

This happened because many autonomous regions were “mismanaged”, unable to read economic and political opportunities. The breadth of authority and budget injections from the central government cannot be managed consistently for regional progress and independence.

Therefore, it is only natural that up to now a lot of autonomous regions have not progressed and developed. This is because regional development budgets from the center that should be allocated to infrastructure and economic development have instead been corrupted and have gone into the private pockets of officials.

Political decentralization seeking to bring democracy closer to grassroots communities has reached a dead end (Cohen, 2010). It can be said that decentralization has not been able to bring “political blessings” that can really be relied upon as a series of deliberative political movements and ideas.

Nils Bubandt (2018) in his book entitled Demokrasi, Korupsi dan Makhluk halus dalam Politik Indonesia Kontemporer says that ghosts and decentralization discourses in Indonesia have in common that they are “equally occult/ethereal”. Discourse of decentralization has so far not materialized into reality.

The ghost in the mystical dictionary of Indonesian society are creatures that are invisible to the eye (supernatural/ subtle/ invisible). According to Bubandt, that’s how the discourse of decentralization in Indonesia, “magical/subtle”, doesn’t appear in people’s lives as a promising political concept.

The establishment of the DOB of Papua in this regard cannot be separated from the spirit and idea of decentralization that has been around since the beginning of the 1998 Reformation. Namely, increasing welfare and public services in the fields of health, education and regional infrastructure development. With this new autonomous region, it is hoped that “the state will be present” more closely in people’s lives.

But, as already described, in fact “decentralization” is not the best. It is only limited to the most likely to be implemented. The long journey of decentralization politics, at least in the last two decades, has given us many important lessons that “decentralization” is not without loopholes.

The phenomenon of “little kings” and “decentralization being corrupted” should be a “red note” in the administration of the Papua New Guinea. It seems that it is necessary to reiterate that the first and main goal of the formation of the the DOB of Papua is to empower and prosper the indigenous Papuan people (MAP) who are within it.

Recent academic evaluations broadcast a lot of bad news about decentralization in Indonesia. Because of this, efforts must be made that the three new autonomous regions in Papua will not add to the unsavory narrative regarding the decentralization discourse.

Therefore, do not let the formation of the new autonomous regions give rise to the impression and the fact that the formation of the three new autonomous regions is merely “political engineering for Jakarta” to control the natural resources of the three Papua new autonomous regions.

Author: Farisi Aris (a Researcher at the Yogyakarta Academy of Law and Politics (AHP)

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