In Brief... DTE 49 - May 2001

Down to Earth No. 49, May 2001

Special autonomy delayed...

The May 1st deadline for passing laws on ‘special autonomy’ for Aceh and West Papua is being postponed. Home affairs minister Surjadi Sudirdja, who announced the decision in late April, did not set a new deadline for passing the laws. According to the Indonesian Observer, the two separate bills propose that Aceh and West Papua be given 80% of revenues from natural resources. Special autonomy is supposed to offer more than regional autonomy and is part of the government’s attempt to appease pro-independence sentiments. Under regional autonomy districts and provinces receive 80% of revenues from forestry, mining and fisheries, but only 15% of oil and 30% of gas revenues.

The delay is likely to make the populations of Aceh and West Papua even more cynical about the central government’s commitment to decentralisation. The postponement has been blamed on the fact that MPs have been too busy preparing a censure against President Wahid to debate the bills properly. This only confirms the impression in Aceh, West Papua and other regions, that the Jakarta is more concerned with political power struggles and infighting than solving the country’s problems.


... ‘normal’ autonomy under review

When he took over responsibility for the government’s decentralisation project, minister Sudirdja was already well-known as one of those cabinet members in favour of retaining a strong central government and laying much emphasis on the need to protect Indonesia as a unitary state.

In February Sudirdja announced that the government would review the regional autonomy law of 1999 because it contained some articles that could threaten the country’s territorial integrity. Provincial governors have also called for increased powers (at present most authority and revenue allocations have been transferred to the district level.

Implementation of regional autonomy started in January this year, but the response and activity level of different provinces and districts have been very varied (see DTE 48 for more background).

A former government official involved in drafting regional autonomy legislation warned in March that human rights violations could increase under autonomy as there were no mechanisms for monitoring, supervising and co-ordinating between Jakarta and the regions. He called for the decentralisation of the government’s national commission for human rights (Komnas HAM) as a matter of urgency.

In the mining sector, responsibility for new investment projects has, in theory ,already been handed over to local governments - provinces will be in charge in regions where district governments are not considered ready to do the job. However, new oil and gas and coal investments will remain under central control for another four years under the terms of a new regulation being prepared. 
(Indonesian Observer 14/Feb/01& 28/Apr/01; Jakarta Post 16/Mar/01, Straits Times, 22/Mar/01; Petromindo 25/Apr/01)


International STD meeting in Sulawesi

NGOs and community groups from 15 countries met in Minahasa, North Sulawesi in April to discuss the problems of submarine tailings disposal (STD) by mining companies. In Indonesia STD is used by Newmont at its Minahasa Raya gold mine in the province and at its Batu Hijau mine in West Nusa Tenggara province.

In March Newmont said it would close the Sulawesi mine in 2003, 13 years earlier than initially planned.

A fuller report of the meeting will be included in the next newsletter. 
(Jakarta Post 9/Mar/01, Petromindo 11/Apr/01; Indonesian Observer 24/Apr/01)


Communities oppose new Rio Tinto Sulawesi mine

Local people from Poboya, Central Sulawesi are opposing plans to explore for and mine gold in their area by PT Citra Palu Mineral, a company 90% owned by the Anglo-Australian mining giant, Rio Tinto.

PT Citra Palu Mineral has been carrying out general exploration since 1997, but has recently stepped up its activities. Although the concession overlaps with the Poboya-Paneki Forest Park, mining plans have been approved by the municipal and provincial authorities as well as the parliament, mines and energy minister and forestry minister at national level. The deputy mayor of Palu, Suardin Suebo, is - on behalf of the local authority - trying to get the people of Poboya to hand over their forest, land and settlements for the 500ha mining project area. ( 24/Feb/01)


Refugees starving in Aceh

Thousands of Javanese transmigrant refugees living in camps in East Aceh are suffering from acute food shortages, following a decision by the local government to stop supplying basic commodities. According to a report in the Indonesian Observer, there are several thousand of the refugees in ten separate camps. All are former transmigrants who fled resettlement sites because of the fighting between government troops and independence guerillas in the war-torn territory (see also DTE 47 for more background on this issue). 
(IO 11/Apr/01)