Papuans will be better served by administrative reform to improve public services at the grassroots level than by forming new provinces, activists say.
“Papuan people up to the district and village level do not have adequate access to public services. It has nothing to do with the creation of new provinces. Focus on the improvement of the services to help the public feel they are being served,” Rev. John Jonga said in Jayapura on Wednesday.
“Creating new provinces will only create new problems,” Jonga, a Catholic priest and 2009 recipient of the Yap Thiam Hien human rights award, recently told The Jakarta Post.
Jonga said that he had been shocked to learn of the recent demands for sections of Papua and West Papua to be incorporated into new provinces.
“If there must be the creation of provinces, it should be carried out one by one through thorough assessments. Don’t create a new province simply based on cultural similarities or regions. This tends to create conflicts between regions in Papua,” he said.
Jonga said that Papuan elites had not coordinated or thought through their proposals, as evinced by demands that some regions simultaneously be included in two proposed provinces: Central Papua and Teluk Cenderawasih.
Describing those who called for the new provinces as less than conscientious, Jonga said that elite groups in Papua needed to sit together to search for an optimal solution.
“Don’t use differences to spark disunity,” Jonga said.
New provinces would also be obliged to pay for more police, troops and bureaucrats, Jonga said. “If most funds are spent for governance and security, when will they reach the people?”
Similar sentiments were voiced by Latifah Anum Siregar, the director of Papua Democracy Alliance (ALDP).
Those calling for new regions always cited improved public services, Latifah said, adding that the previous creation of a new autonomous region in Papua had not improved the welfare of local residents.
Latifah said that there was no example of a successful case where the creation of new regions contributed greatly to the welfare of the people.
What must be done, according to Latifah, was for ineffective bureaucratic procedures at all levels of government levels to be reviewed and improved.
“Poor relations between the provincial government and regencies up to the district level have created frustrations, thereby sparking the idea to set up their own administrations,” Latifah said.
“This way of thinking has to be changed, not with the creation of new autonomous regions, but through improvement of the bureaucratic system. If the system is not improved, whatever number of autonomous regions are created will not improve the people’s welfare,” she said.
The proposals to create new regions clearly did not come from the people, Latifah said.
“What if we ask the people how many new provinces they need. They will answer they don’t care about the number as long as they can live decently,” Latifah said.