Regional autonomy

Down to Earth No. 47, November 2000

Natural resources are one of the main factors underlying the independence struggle in Aceh, but decades of plunder have left them severely depleted.

The brutal murder of the internationally known Acehnese human rights activist, Jafar Siddiq Hamzah, reminded the world in September that the northern-most tip of Sumatra remains a dangerous place. Despite a 'humanitarian pause' signed by Indonesia and Acehnese independence leaders in June this year, the murders, disappearances and torture have continued.

Down to Earth No. 46, August 2000

The rights of Indonesia's tens of millions of indigenous people are not properly recognised under Indonesian law and forest-dwellers are at a particular disadvantage. Although some attention is given to customary law (hukum adat) in the 1999 Forestry Act and in other pieces of legislation, adat land rights are not recognised in forest areas because all forests are categorised as state-owned.

Down to Earth No. 46, August 2000

How far will local democracy be capable of counteracting the negative influences of the military, the economic crisis, the untrustworthy judiciary and endemic corruption?

During the Suharto years local level democracy was suffocated. Local governments rubber-stamped decisions made by Suharto and his ministers in Jakarta just as the national parliament did.

Down to Earth No. 46, August 2000

Another major obstacle to the sustainable management of natural resources is the continuing prominence of the military in many regions. Its continued high profile role from province to village level means that it is a potent threat to the success of regional autonomy, where 'success' means managing local resources sustainably, sharing benefits equitably and respecting human rights.

Down to Earth No. 46, August 2000

The tension between state control over resources and local communities' demands for 'sovereignty'.

The tug of war between the centre and the regional governments has dominated the debate about regional autonomy in the media, in parliament and among Indonesia's creditors.

Down to Earth No. 46, August 2000

The Wahid government's emphasis on foreign investment prioritises the needs of multinational companies over sustainable, community based natural resource management

Soon after taking office, President Wahid pledged his commitment to foreign companies and declared his new government investor-friendly.

Down to Earth No. 46, August 2000

The response to regional autonomy by Indonesia's main creditors has been mixed. While they officially acknowledge the need for decentralisation and greater decision-making powers at regional level they also express doubts about the capacity of Indonesia to implement regional autonomy in a way that will avoid economic chaos.