Regional autonomy

Down to Earth No. 46, August 2000

In a recent article outlining the history of decentralisation in Indonesia, Trevor Buising states that the changes to be introduced by Law 22 "are not as great as imagined".

Down to Earth No. 46, August 2000

The idea of devolving authority to regional centres has been around for a long time. Indeed, incipient movements for autonomy and regional independence were strong in the first years of after independence, but clumsy CIA support triggered the centralist policies of the Sukarno regime. (Kahin, A.R. and Kahin, G.McT., 1995. Subversion as Foreign Policy: the Secret Eisenhower and Dulles Debacle in Indonesia. The New Press, New York).

Down to Earth No. 46, August 2000

In Indonesia, regional autonomy (otonomi daerah, or "Otda") is a loose term used by government ministers and the media usually to describe transfer of authority and functions from central to regional government, as set out in Law No 22 of 1999. Because the term is used so loosely there is often confusion between devolution of authority - government by the region - and delegation of authority - government in the region.

Down to Earth No. 46, August 2000

In this time of great economic, political and ecological uncertainty in Indonesia, regional autonomy is just one of the big question marks hanging over the country's future. It is a particularly complex issue because it concerns much more than the devolution of authority from Jakarta to regional level.

Down to Earth No. 46, August 2000

In the run-up to the January 2001 starting date for decentralisation, there are already many signs that regional autonomy will be used for very different purposes. Local governments are using decentralisation to impose taxes on businesses operating in their areas. NGOs and community groups are making demands that conflict directly with the limits set on autonomy in the laws.

Down to Earth No. 45, May 2000

Indigenous communities whose forests have been plundered by logging companies are demanding compensation for the damage. Deprived of the protection they enjoyed under former President Suharto, the companies are having to take them seriously.

Down to Earth No. 45, May 2000

New laws on regional autonomy and financial control were passed by the Habibie government in 1999. Now, Indonesia is waiting for the regulations which will determine how the laws are to be applied. Implementation is planned for January 2001. But many questions remain about how far the Jakarta government will permit decentralisation to go and how much control it will really relinquish.