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Indonesia plans to divide troubled Papua into 5 provinces.

JAKARTA, Feb. 8 Kyodo

The Indonesian government plans to divide its troubled Papua in the remote east into five provinces by 2009, despite a recent annulment by a court of a controversial law to divide it into three provinces, a government official said Tuesday.

''We plan to divide Papua into five provinces, namely West Papua, Cendrawasih Bay, North Papua, Central Mountainous Papua and South Papua,'' Papua Gov. Jan Salossa told reporters after meeting President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

''The president was very happy with the concept and suggested it to be followed up,'' Salossa added.

He stressed, however, the division will be made after getting approval from a Papuan People's Council that will be set up to represent three social elements in Papua -- traditional leaders, religious leaders and women.

The establishment of the council is a consequence of a 2001 special autonomy law given to Papua that gives it greater power to manage its own affairs.

According to the law, the council must facilitate the aspirations of Papuans and help guarantee the protection of their human rights and find solutions for any disputes on rights issues.

The council, however, is not to serve as a political body but simply be a cultural representative of Papua that will accommodate religious and cultural leaders to express the people's aspirations.

The plan to divide Papua into five provinces came up less than three months after the Constitutional Court annulled a controversial 1999 law dividing Papua into three provinces -- Papua, West Irian Jaya and Central Irian Jaya.

The court determined the law violated the Constitution and contradicted the special autonomy law for Papua.

Under the decision, Central Irian Jaya Province, which had not been officially established, could not be set up.

The court, however, confirmed the establishment of West Irian Jaya Province as it has been factually effective, including by the establishment of its local government, local legislative council through the 2004 legislative election and administrative apparatus.

As a result, Papua has been split in two -- Papua Province and West Irian Jaya Province.

The law to divide Papua Province led to a clash between supporters and opponents of the law last year, leaving two people dead.

Non-Papuans, who mostly come from Java and South Sulawesi, are mostly supporters of the government's decision to divide Papua.

Following the unrest, the implementation of the law was indefinitely delayed except for West Irian Jaya, which was established as a separate province with little opposition from its residents.

But many Papuans in Central Irian Jaya oppose the division plan, saying it violates the 2001 special autonomy law for Papua.

The government has said the division is intended to boost development and to allow it to maintain order in the region, including by cracking down on the separatist Free Papua Movement. But many believe the government aims to gain more control over the province's vast natural resources.

Papua, previously known as Irian Jaya, has been tainted by four decades of separatist violence that have left thousands dead.

The rebels have been fighting for an independent state in the western half of New Guinea Island, which Indonesia took over from Dutch colonialists in 1963 and incorporated into its territory after a disputed 1969 plebiscite.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Date:Feb 14, 2005
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