Decentralisation and elite politics in Indonesian Papua

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This paper focuses on conflicts in the Province of Papua (former Irian Jaya) that were stimulated by the recent devolution of power of administrative functions in Indonesia. While the national decentralisation policy aims at accommodating anti-Jakarta sentiments in the regions and intends to stimulate development, it augments contentions within the Papuan elite that go hand in hand with ethnic and regional tensions and increasing demands for more sovereignty among communities. This paper investigates the histories of regional identities and Papuan elite politics in order to map the current political landscape in Papua. A brief discussion of the behaviour of certain Papuan political players shows that many of them are enthused by an environment that is no longer defined singly by centralised state control but increasingly by regional opportunities to control state resources and to make profitable deals with national and international commercial ventures. As a result, the aspirations of legislators are all too often detached from the reasons for demands for more sovereignty cherished among the majority of Papuans whose frustrations about ineffective governance are ever increasing. More generally, the conflict in Papua only partly follows prevailing opinion about the tensions between ‘Papua’ and ‘Jakarta’ or ‘Indonesia’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalState Society and Governance in Melanesia
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes


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