President establishes a unit to settle conflict in Papua

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has established a special unit to settle conflict in Papua, said presidential special staff for regional autonomy Velix Wanggai on Saturday (29/10).

The team is named the Unit for the Acceleration of Development in Papua and West Papua (UP4B).

“The team was led by Bambang Darmono (former commander for military operations in Aceh),” Velix said. Bambang, who is also the former secretary general of the National Defense Council, would be assigned to formulate the change in Papua and to build constructive communications between central and regional administrations.

“The team is ready to accelerate development, chop down bottlenecks between the central and local governments and initiate breakthroughs to solve socioeconomic and political problems in Papua,” Velix said.

“We hope the unit can bridge aspiration of Papuans and the government,” said Velix.

The Jayapura-born presidential aide explained that the team would initiate the “new deal for Papua”, saying the deal could spark a transformation in the way the government dealt with Papua.

According to Velix, the new deal would embrace the local Papuans by inciting dialogue with strategic groups in the region.

Velix said the UP4B would have a specific department assigned to supervise the use of Papua’s special autonomy funds to strengthen the budget’s control and evaluation system, “This would ensure that the money was being spent according to [Papua’s special autonomy] blueprint.”

The autonomy funds for Papua jumped into the spotlight following the government’s decision to increase the 2012 budget allocation for Papua by 23 percent. In the 2012 budget, the provinces of West Papua and Papua would receive Rp 1.64 trillion (US$186.96 million) and Rp 3.8 trillion, respectively; which are significant increases from this year’s budget, which allotted the two provinces Rp 1.33 trillion and Rp 3.1 trillion, respectively.

In line with the UP4B’s objective to strengthen supervision of Papua’s special autonomy funds, a House Commission I lawmaker from Papua, Paskalis Kossay, agreed that the government should impose stricter controls and thoroughly evaluate how this year’s funds were used, citing the fact that the Supreme Audit Agency found indications that Rp 4.12 trillion of the Rp 19.12 trillion in special autonomy funds for Papua and West Papua between 2000 and 2010 may have been misused or embezzled.

In August, the International Crisis Group (ICG) urged the UP4B to start its work quickly in Papua, citing the special team’s massive authority that allowed it to address not only issues relating to Papua’s development, but also more sensitive problems such as land, conflict and human rights.(*wpnn)

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Filed under Development, Papua, Separatism

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