Indonesian parliament passes draft laws on the formation of new provinces in West Papua

The Indonesian parliament (DPR) has taken another step towards the administrative division of the two Papuan Provinces into five new provinces. On 6 April 2022, the DPR adopted new draft laws (Bhs Indonesia: Rancangan Undang-Undang, RUU) on the formation of three new provinces. Indonesian lawmakers officially approved the three draft laws for finalisation during a plenary meeting on 12 April 2022. These provinces should carry the names of customary areas, namely Anim Ha (Papua Selatan Province), Meepago (Papua Tengah Province) and Lapago (Pegunungan Tengah Province). The remaining two provinces shall be given the non-customary names provinces Papua Province and Kepulauan Papua Utara Province. All factions in the legislative body (Badan Legislasi, Baleg) agreed to the bill.

The chairman of the Papuan Peoples Assembly (MRP), Timotius Murib. called upon the government to immediately stop any legislative process for the formation of new autonomy areas in West Papua. The MRPs in the provinces Papua and Papua Barat, the cultural representative bodies of indigenous Papuans, challenged the legality of unilateral amendments to the Papuan Special Autonomy Law No 21/2001 at the Constitutional Court in June 2021. Jakarta changed articles in the law which elaborate that any administrative partitions can only be implemented with the consent of the provincial parliaments and the MRPs.

The MRPs consider that Jakarta’s unilateral intervention to amend the law and establish new autonomy regions violates Article 77 of the Papuan Special Autonomy Law. The article stipulates that only the MRPs and the provincial parliaments in West Papua have the mandate to suggest amendments to the law to the national parliament and the central government.

The DPR and the government are pushing for a fast division of the provinces Papua and Papua Barat without considering the voices of the Papuan people. Thousands of Papuans have participated in protests against the formation of new autonomy regions in early, mid and end of March 2022 (see photo on top). Many people in Papua fear that the administrative partition of provinces will accelerate mineral resource exploitation and increase the marginalisation of indigenous Papuans. The establishment of new provinces will inevitably be accompanied by the expansion of military infrastructure. Human rights groups and indigenous peoples are concerned over a possible aggravation of the armed conflict and human rights situation in West Papua as a result of the planned partitions.

Background information

Jakarta has announced plans to establish additional provinces in West Papua in 2021. On 27 January 2022, the Indonesian parliament held a first discussion about the administrative partitions. The lawmakers announced that the Papua Barat province shall become the provinces Papua Barat and Papua Barat Daya, while the Papua Province will be split into the new provinces Papua, Papua Tengah (central), Papua Selatan (south) and Papua Pegunungan Tengah (central highlands).

Table with new provinces with their provincial capitals, regencies and municipalities

NoName of the new provinceProvincial capitalRegencies under the new provinces
1Papua ProvinceJayapura– Jayapura Municipality
– Jayapura Regency
– Keerom Regency
– Sarmi Regency
– Mamberamo Raya Regency
– Pegunungan Bintang Regency
2Kepulauan Papua UtaraBiak– Waropen Regency
– Kepulauan Yapen Regency
– Biak Numfor Regency
– Supiori Regency
– Nabire Regency
3MeepagoTimika– Paniai Regency
– Mimika Regency
– Dogiyai Regency
– Deyiai Regency
– Intan Jaya Regency
– Puncak Regency
4LapagoWamena-Puncak Jaya Regency
– Jayawijaya Regency
– Lanny Jaya Regency
– Mamberamo Tengah Regency
– Nduga Regency
– Tolikara Regency
– Yahukimo Regency
– Yalimo Regency
5Anim HaMerauke– Merauke Regency
– Mappi Regency
– Asmat Regency
– Boven Digoel Regency