Towards a Contextual Special Autonomy [OTSUS] for Papua – A revision of the Papua Special Autonomy Law (Otsus) has been ratified (15/7). One milestone in the achievement of a development agenda for the Earth of Cendrawasih has been realized. The great narrative of this ‘new’ Otsus is of course to accelerate Papua’s development. However, it is undeniable that the ‘new’ Otsus, like the old one, is still sparking a debate, especially whether this is a success or a failure.

Technically, of course this ‘new’ Otsus clearly generates some positive values. Among other things, the extension of the granting of special autonomy funds until 2041. In addition, the special autonomy funds were increased from 2 percent to 2.25 percent of the national general allocation fund. Of the funds, 30 percent is for education and 20 percent is for health (, 2021).

We understand that infrastructure development is still ongoing in Papua, such as the Trans-Papua Road construction. The government, with this ‘new’ Special Autonomy, will be committed to develop Papua’s human resources (HR). These positive things unfortunately do not at all, or at least have not been able to decrease the debate. Some even hesitate that this ‘new’ Otsus will resolve the Papua problem.

However, it should be realized that there is no significant public understanding yet regarding this ‘problem’ in Papua. Is it related to infrastructure or the people? Regarding the lack of access or representation of local people? It is not easy to define it. What has emerged so far is that the central government unilaterally made decisions. Jakarta’s role is very dominant with this respect.  Where is then the role of the Papuan people, which seems to be zero?

It is here where the central government needs to take an extra mile role. The government needs to be more active in helping the Papuan people to determine who their real representatives are. Obviously they now have regional leaders (governors and regents/mayors). However, it is widely known that the Papuan people also have tribal chiefs (Ondoafi) as their voice representatives who hold significant social influence.

Of course a solution of the problem must be found. Whatever the debate, Otsus has been approved. Materially, this ‘new’ Special Autonomy has the potential to accelerate development in Papua. In this Special Autonomy Law, it is mandated to establish a special agency that is directly responsible to the President. This body should not only be the executor, but also a discussion forum at least to form an understanding on the main issues of Papua. As with simple management mechanisms, we can’t take action, let alone evaluate if we can’t explain what the problem is.

Indigenous Papuans (OAP) clearly have to be involved. In a contextual Otsus for Papua, an active involvement of OAP is a requirement. Therefore, multilateral discussions or dialogues must be carried out, especially within the body. Technical debates related to budgets and development targets are certainly important. However, a humane and heart-to-heart dialogue must also be carried out.

The actors involved later, especially from the Jakarta side, ‘must have another’ skills and cross-ethnic sensitivity. This is to avoid potential communication blunders and the handling of disagreements that have often been a problem in handling Papua so far. Of course we still remember the problem of racism in Surabaya and recently by a minister. The most recent is an unseemly incident in Merauke which was completely unnecessary.

In implementing Otsus, the central government must properly understand and reflect on the social context of the Papuan people. Various developments (infrastructure, employment, education, and health) are clearly needed by Papuans. However, the implementation cannot be equated with Java, Sumatra, or other regions.

Author: Pascal Norotouw (A Founder and Director of Numbay Research Center (NRC), Jayapura

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