Regional Division of Papua Province has Positive Values for The People of Papua

by JRG Djopari*)


The aim of this article is to inform readers about why the province of Papua (formerly known as lrian Jaya) needs to be divided into more than one province. Apart from pros and cons toward the policy of regional division of Papua into three provinces, the writer, through this article is trying to discuss the issue briefly, particularly on the reasoning process developed chronologically before the idea of the division became a national as well provincial issue. It is hoped that this writing may give a clear picture to the readers so that they can understand what has happened thus far and what were the issues and concerns behind the regional division policy of Papua Province. Above all, the issue will return to the people of Papua themselves, whether they understand well and are aware of the advantage and disadvantage of the policy in question.

a. The process of regional division

The Polemic of the regional division of Papua Province into three government administrations and the establishment of new regencies or districts, however, had already been introduced since 1983 and was discussed in a seminar on ‘the Development of Local Government’ conducted in the occasion of commemorating the-l6th anniversary of the Institute for Government Administration (lIP) at Campus IIP Pasar Minggu, South Jakarta on 3 May 1983. At that time, two opinions were put forward regarding the issues of regional division. The writer’s opinion, on the one hand, was that the division or rather the expansion of local government has to be done at the Regency level (bottom-up policy) while the opinion of Papuan representatives at National Parliament (DPR-RI), among others are MC Da Lopez and lzaac Hindom on the other hand, was that the expansion of the local government had to be done at provincial level (up-bottom policy) (see daily newspaper ‘Sinar Harapan’ on 3 May 1983 and other newspapers issued in different cities throughout Indonesia at that time).

In relation to that matter, the former Governor for Papua, the late Mr.Busyiri Suryowinoto, invited the writer with three other IIP students (Michael Menufandu, Obednego Rumkorem and Martinus Howay) to his residence at Jalan Kertanegara (Kertanegara street) No. 19, where nine members of National Parliament and House of Assembly (DPR/MPR-RI), (MC Da Lopez, Izaac Hindom, lzaac Saujay, Mohammad Wasaraka and Sudarko) were already present in order to discuss the scheme of the regional division for Papua Province. We were then requested to submit written input to the Governor on what we have achieved in that informal discussion.

The issue and polemic about the division of the Papua Province later exposed by the National Journalist Association (PWI), sponsored by Mr. Jacob Utama. General Manager of ‘Kompas Newspaper’ in a National Seminar on ‘the Acceleration of the development process of lrian Jaya’, conducted at Horizon Hotel, Ancol, Jakarta on 12 – 14 February 1984. The topic on the division of Papua Province was also discussed in that Seminar. The result of the Seminar then recommended to the National Government. After reviewing the paper, the Minister for Home Affairs, Supardjo Rustam, assigned Board of Research and Development of the Department of Home Affairs to conduct a feasibility study in lrian Jaya for six months on the possibility of dividing the region into three provinces. The research findings were later submitted to the Government and President Soeharto seemed to agree with the idea and therefore advised that if the country’s economic condition allowed and if the process of cadres forming to the native Papuans who were government officials considered sufficient for minimal structure of government bureaucrats at the provincial level, then the Government can proceed with the implementation of regional division. The regional division can be initially started with three, and later be expanded into six provinces, similar to six residencies (‘karesidenan’) as practiced during the Dutch administration in Irian Jaya.

In 1999, fifteen years later, former Governor of Irian Jaya, Freddy Numbery, suggested that it was about time for the Papua province to be divided into three separate provinces, after studying data and information obtained from feasibility study conducted by a Team of the Department of Home Affairs in 1984. However, when the Government Act No. 45, 1999, was issued, the Regional Parliament of Papua Province (DPRD) through its Decree -No. 11/DPRD/1999 issued on 16 October 1999 rejected the idea of the division plan due to the pressure of the people of Papua. Considering the social political situation at that time, the National Government through a letter of Minister for Home Affairs, Surjadi Sudirdja, therefore postponed the implementation of the division until a conducive moment for its implementation arrived.

The main objective of the regional division is to accelerate and evenly implement the development in lrian Jaya, which is relatively far from the National Government control, so that it can improve living standard of the people that can free them from poverty, lack of knowledge, backwardness and poor condition of health (4K)

Later, toward the end of 2001, the Government issued Act No. 21-2001 about Special Autonomy for Papua Province. The Act was a manifestation of an MPR Decree No. IV, 2001. The very Act was also a concept developed by a Special Team formed by the Government of Papua Province that also aimed at accelerating and evenly implementing development in Irian Jaya for the sake of improving living standard of the people.

After the social-political situation in Papua was conducive, a Presidential Instruction No.1, 2003 dated 27 February 2003 was therefore issued in order to implement Act No.45, 1999. However, the Instruction was firmly rejected by various parties, particularly by non-Papuans who did not thoroughly understand the problems in Papua, and later, the Papuans themselves who, to a certain extend, did not understand quite well the significance of the regional division into three provinces also rejected it.

b. Background of the problems and consideration

There are several points of discussion constituting the background of the problems and consideration in this article:

1. The main problem faced by the majority of the people of Papua is that though the Province is rich in natural resources, the people are suffering from poverty, lack of knowledge, backwardness and poor condition of health.

2. Through Special Autonomy Act No. 21, 2001 (UU Otsus), the basic rights of the people of Papua are recognized and guaranteed and can be developed to the capacity where they can manage to take care of themselves.

3. Through the Special Autonomy Act, it is hoped that the acceleration and the evenly implemented development in Papua can reach as many people as possible in order to improve their living standard from time to time so that gradually they can share the welfare of their lives, as individuals, families, or as a community.

4. In regard to the ‘UU Otsus’, the National Government provided 1,8 trillion rupiahs (US$202.247.191) as the 2002 budget to Papua Province. However, this budget in fact does not have any effect on the majority of the people. On the contrary, some of the elite bureaucrats and their legislative members enrich themselves at provincial and district level. Out of this budget, only 20 per cent was given to low level government (districts and towns), while the other 80 per cent was used at the provincial level with 600 physical projects, mostly fictitious for districts and towns.

5. There was a conflict in budget distribution between the Governor and the ‘Bupati’ (Regent/District Heads and Town Majors) due to the unfairness of the provincial government.

6. The Governor was not able to coordinate government administration and the development in the province due to the wide-range of the region.

7. The Presidential Instruction No.1, 2003, was not meant to eliminate Otsus Act (No.21, 2001), but to implement Act No.45, 1999 regarding the establishment of Provinces and Regencies in Indonesia, including lrian Jaya (Papua) where its region was to be divided into three provinces (East, Central, and West).

8. The land of Papua Province, almost similar in size to the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, consists of three provinces with the population of 2.5 million people. Papua New Guinea has 20 provinces with 5,2 million people. The ratio of population is around 700.000, compared to 210.000 for one province.

9. The regional division of Papua province is meant for the distribution of administrative regions for better government services, and does not necessarily mean to break up or disintegrate the unity of the people, as most people might think.

10. Nowadays certain elite Papuans and their cronies to firmly maintain Papua as one province and reject the idea of regional division into three provinces are fooling many of our people, especially younger generation and public figures. Since they are under provocation, such group of people would no longer think critically and reasonably because they were deceived for momentary happiness and therefore join the elites to build an ivory tower’ for the benefit of the elites and their cronies while neglecting many people in rural areas and villages who are really in need of help.

11. An interesting polemic is therefore created in regard to pro and cons toward the regional division that need a thorough study for the sake of mutual comprehension.

In the end, the question is ‘what are the advantages and disadvantages of the regional division of Papua Province?’


In order to get a rational and comprehensive picture about the issue, we need to study it from various different aspects, among others are, government administration, political, law, economic, social-cultural, and defence & security.

a. Government Administration Aspect

Whether we like it or not, we have to honestly concede that the control span of the government administration in Papua Province is too far-reaching and consequently a Governor cannot manage to control all his government administrative regions, neither can he make working visits throughout the whole region, where dialogues with the people can be held in order to know better the real condition of the people. In fact most of the time during his term as the Governor of Papua, he tends to spend in Jakarta, sometimes for two or three weeks in a month, or make a trip out of the Province for various reasons, rather than staying in the region. Currently there are 14 regions at the level of regency that are difficult for one Governor to control and coordinate, let alone the size of the region is four times bigger than the island of Java. To make it worst, just recently in 2003, another 14 new regencies were established to add up the number that becomes 28 regencies all together. It is a fact that there is a conflict between the Province (Governor) and Regency (Bupati), Municipality and Administrative towns (Towns Major) in Papua in 2002, which needs a careful study. The conflict occurred due to the unfair distribution of 1,8 trillion rupiahs, part of the Special Autonomy budget, where only 20 per cent of the budget was distributed to 14 Regencies (including 2 towns), while the other 80 per cent was kept and used by the provincial government. Six hundred projects at the provincial level were neglected or not properly completed and yet the budget for the projects was finished. Special aids for Veterans were not delivered to those who were supposed to receive. There was a rumour that the money had been used by Department of Works of the Province. Since the budget was so big that it was difficult to plan how to spend it wisely, officials and elite politicians in Papua Province (executive and legislative) therefore make official trips out of Papua Province and this tendency therefore becomes a trend. From a reliable source in Jayapura I learned that Regional Budget (RAPBD) for Papua Province submitted to the Regional Parliament (DPR Propinsi) for approval, was unfair and not balance, because the allocated budget for Sorong and Jayapura Regencies was too big compared to 12 other Regencies. Furthermore, the source from DPR also mentioned that there was an indication of inside collusion and nepotism. The impact of the budget allocation policy caused the development cannot reach many people in regencies, sub-districts and rural areas or villages, but provide enjoyment to elite bureaucrats in the government, their business cronies and the people’s representatives at provincial level. All these showed that the government leadership is weak and the government administration cannot run well. Therefore we need to divide the government administration of Papua Province into three regions, that is, Eastern Papua Province, Central Papua Province, and Western Papua Province.

b. Political Aspect

From the political aspect, the regional division of Papua province into three provinces will give the opportunity to three qualified natives of Papua to become Governors after the process of election by the people. If we observe thus far, at the time of hand over-take over of the Governor post in Papua, it appeared that tens of candidates were nominated. For the office term of 2000 – 2005, for example, 150 governor candidates with their partners as deputy governors were nominated in order to get one seat. However, now the opportunity is open for three seats. From political communication and education point of view, if the region becomes smaller in size, the government and political parties will have easy access to rural areas or villages to do their obligation, because the program of opening isolation will become the main priority for the sake of development.

c. Law Aspect

From the hierarchy order and normal practice of legislation, the decree of lrian Jaya Provincial Parliament No.11, 1999, cannot eliminate the Government Act No.45, 1999 regarding the Establishment of New Provinces in Indonesia, including the Regional Division of Papua into three provinces, that is, East, Central and West. Act No. 21. 2001 in regard to Special Autonomy for Papua Province, also cannot abolish sections concerning the regional division of PaDua based on Act No.45, 1999. Therefore. Presidential Instruction No.1, 2003 dated 27 January 2003 in the eyes of law is correct and right for that. The Presidential Instruction does not eliminate and is impossible to abolish Special Autonomy Act, but on the contrary the ‘Otsus’ Act will be valid for three provinces in Papua.

This can be done by revising ‘Otsus’ Act or by issuing Presidential Decree to substitute the Act.

d. Economic Aspect

From the economic aspect, the three prospective regions have similar potential of natural resources of mining. If Central Region has PT Freeport, Western Region has ‘Pertamina’ and Tangguh-BP project, and Eastern Region has copper/gold mining at Oksibil (PT Inggold) and oil (PT Connoco) at Kouh – Tanah Merah. Eastern Region has not been exploited yet due to security disturbances reason. It is estimated that the Government will make a policy so that the three regions will still in accordance with Act No.21, 2001 concerning Special Autonomy, and thus, there won’t be any region suffer loss. The estimated ‘Otsus’ budget of more than 6 trillion rupiahs (USD…) will be divided into three so that the development in Papua will be more effective compared to present situation. The three regions will open more opportunities for domestic as well as foreign capital investment.

From the view point of development strategy, the vertically divided of the three regions of Papua has the objective of breaking through the isolation of the region which has been difficult to do until now, because the highlands region cannot be neglected like now and continually be treated as marginal region. As a comparison we can see the island of Java and also can be compared to Sumatra. The development in Sumatra used to be relatively slower than in Java. However, after the Trans Sumatra railroad was completed, they speed up the development throughout the island. If there is a road from north to south (Semarang to Jogyakarta) and from east to west (Banyuwangi to Merak) in the island of Java, in Papua we need to build land road from Jayapura to Merauke, Nabire to Timika and Wamena to Sorong. When a Trans Papua land road is completed, it will trigger the acceleration and evenly implemented development in Papua. Each of the three provinces will compete to open its region from isolation and not like today.

From living environment aspect, its damage is not a good thing, because it has a big impact toward human life, such as landslide disaster, flood, scarce of flora and fauna, fish, etc. These types of damages are due to the logging thefts in protected forest, burning of forest for gardening, catching fish by using bombs and poisonous substance. All these have created difficulties for human lives. The fact that with one province it is very difficult to control. Therefore, it is appropriate to divide the region into three provinces for the welfare of the people.

e. Social-cultural Aspect

By having three new provinces, we can build and develop culture and tradition more effectively, because the distance to reach the people in each region becomes relatively close range where the government can support the people who have the ability and the priority becomes clear if compared to present condition. Social services such as education and religion, facilities and infrastructure can be improved. Assistance to social institutions, community self-supporting and religious and education (private agencies) will be more effective, compared to present condition.

f. Defense and Security Aspect

From the defence, security, and law and order perspectives, there is no strong reason to add up military personnel through the establishment of Regional Military Command and Regional Police for the new provinces, because the present personnel are sufficient in numbers to take care of the situation this far. Law and order and security matters in Papua Province are gradually improving, particularly when both Government of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea have established and enhanced mutual respect and understanding by giving priority to find solutions to common land border matters for the benefit of bilateral relations, so that in turns people of the two countries can exchange visits for various purposes, either for social visit, trade visit, tourism, or simply for cultural and traditional purposes as how neighbours should live.

Furthermore, if any parties intend to push that the regional division of Papua into three provinces will have impact on horizontal conflict among Papuan community, I assure that it is wrong and it is impossible to happen if we want to explain honestly to the people positive values of the division policy as what has been discussed in this article. Don’t use the horizontal conflict as an excuse to obtain momentary benefit for a group of people by sacrificing the majority of the people of Papua.


The discussion above shows the advantages and disadvantages that can be seen as follows:

a. Possible Advantages

The province of Papua is divided into three regional provinces with the following benefits:

1. The control span of the government becomes narrow, and government services will certainly reach people in rural areas or villages quickly, properly, and transparently.

2. The region will become small for regional security and law and order handling which is crucial for development activities in all aspects.

3. There are three opportunities for Governor nominees that can be contested by three best-qualified Papuans.

4. Jobs opportunities will be opened, at private sectors and the government, so that unemployment problems in Papua that shows increasing figures every year can be minimized or even completely be overcome. Priority in this case is always given to the natives of Papua.

5. Big opportunity for both domestic and foreign investors to invest their capital, since the bureaucratic procedures in the government become simple and short and the authority becomes clear and transparent.

6. There will be competition in the development activities among the three provinces to improve living standard of the people.

7. Due to the competition in the development activities, the control toward the development done by the people will be more effective because everything will become transparent for the people.

8. Regional isolation will be opened immediately because of the geographical position of the regional division is supportive. There won’t be any marginal region in highlands that is difficult to reach like today.

9. The use of ‘Otsus’ budget will be more effective and right on target if compared to the present reality with its various fictitious projects.

10. More people will be reached by the development as a result of the good services from the government, because the development can be fast and evenly implemented and not only enjoyed by elite bureaucrats and legislative and their cronies like the reality today in Papua.

11. Various development policies will be more open and transparent to be discussed, criticized in order to get better solutions. Clear explanation will be provided and therefore the people will be free from lack of knowledge or foolishness that is deliberately created as a realization of not being morally responsible, but benefit their own groups.

12. Each province in the region in accordance with all the ease obtained will immediately overcome the problem of poverty, lack of knowledge, backwardness, and poor health.

b. Possible Disadvantages

It is clear that the regional division of Papua into three provinces will certainly give disadvantages to the supporters who want to maintain status quo of the region. This is because various opportunities and happiness will become less, particularly among the elite government bureaucrats, legislatives with their cronies. They will never make a fool out of the people, because the performance of “one man show” in developing the people in Papua Province thus far has changed and becomes “transparent, control and competitive three men show” with various different consequences in the future.


From the earlier discussion on different aspects, we have listed advantages and disadvantages of the idea of regional division of Papua into three provinces. The result of the discussion shows that the advantages of the regional division are positive values that will be gained in the future by putting into effect the ‘Otsus’ Act in the three prospective provinces in question.

The result of the discussion also shows that when Papua still remains as one province with a performance of one Governor (one man show), the government can only manage to improve living standard of elite government bureaucrats, legislatives and their cronies. Thus, the development has only reached a small group of people, while the majority is still under the condition of poverty, lack of knowledge, backwardness, and poor condition of health.

Therefore, it is reasonable to welcome the policy of the regional division of Papua into three provinces by improving its stipulations of law. We now need three Governors who are “transparent, control and competitive three men show.”


*) The writer was former the Indonesian Ambassador to Papua New Guinea, and was the former Deputy Governor of Papua

2 comments so far

  1. Charles on

    Decentralization is the key to economic growth for a big country like yours.

  2. Alan on


    Thank you for the great quality of your website, every time i come here, i’m amazed.

    have a nice day,

    Alan Foe

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: