Papuan People’s Assembly under fire

At least 100 people demonstrated Monday in Jayapura, Papua’s capital city, to demand the dissolution of the Papuan People’s Assembly (MRP), which they said failed to protect the rights of Papuans. The demonstrators, carrying banners reading “Bubarkan MRP” (Dissolve MRP) and “MRP Adalah Boneka NKRI” (MRP is the puppet of the Indonesian unitary state), protested outside of the MRP office against the Assembly, the Indonesian government and the 2001 special autonomy law for Papua.  It is unknown whether the demonstrators were supporters of the Free Papua Movement, although the protest precedes the Feb. 18 visit by Vice President Jusuf Kalla to the city to evaluate the region’s development.  The demonstrators criticized the MRP for its failure to solve the many problems plaguing the people including poverty and unsettled human rights abuses.  “In the past, the MRP was seen as a powerful institution to which other institutions would give respect, but in reality it is no more than a toothless lion — unwilling to say ‘No’ to Jakarta in fear of their guns,” said Butcher Tabuni, a demonstrator.  Tabuni said that after six years, special autonomy had yet to improve the lives of people or to resolve past rights abuses.  MRP chairman Agus Alua responded to the protest by saying the demonstrators wanted the same things for the people as the Assembly.  “We are here for the people and to fight for their rights. What you are fighting for is similar to what we are doing, but the difference lies in the way we are taking to reach the target. We are all aboard the same ship but we are in different rooms,” he said.  Agus said the MRP and the demonstrators would meet again to formulate a list of common concerns and recommendations to be handed to the Vice President during his visit next week.  He said he had no problem with the MRP being labeled a “toothless lion”, saying the Assembly, mandated by the law to protect the rights of Papuans, would continue with its mission in a law-abiding manner.  Agus called on the demonstrators to unite with the MRP as a way to force the central government to comply with their wishes.  He said the government declared special autonomy as a solution to the province’s increasing demands for separation,  

“But after the solution was accepted, the government has been inconsistent and the people remain poor.”

Source: The Jakarta Post

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