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  • Policy Studies 10

    Secessionist Challenges inAceh and Papua:Is Special Autonomy theSolution?

    Rodd McGibbon

    East-West Center Washington

  • Policy StudiesA Publication of the East-West Center Washington

    Editor: Dr. Muthiah Alagappa

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  • Secessionist Challenges in Aceh and Papua:Is Special Autonomy the Solution?

  • Policy Studies 10

    Secessionist Challenges in Aceh and Papua:

    Is Special Autonomy the Solution?

    Rodd McGibbon

  • Copyright 2004 by the East-West Center Washington

    Secessionist Challenges in Aceh and Papua: Is Special Autonomy the Solution?by Rodd McGibbon

    ISBN 1-932728-19-8 (online version)ISSN 1547-1330 (online version)

    Online at:

    East-West Center Washington1819 L Street, NW, Suite 200Washington, D.C. 20036

    Tel: (202) 293-3995Fax: (202) 293-1402



    The Policy Studies series contributes to the Centers role as a forum fordiscussion of key contemporary domestic and international political,economic, and strategic issues affecting Asia. The views expressed arethose of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the Center.

    This publication is a product of the East-West Center Washington proj-ect on Managing Internal Conflicts in Asia. For details see pages 99107.

    The project and this publication are supported by a generous grant fromthe Carnegie Corporation of New York.

  • ContentsList of Acronyms v

    Executive Summary vii

    Introduction 1

    Prelude to Special Autonomy 6

    Putting Autonomy on the Agenda 12

    Drafting the Aceh Law 14

    Drafting the Papua Law 18

    Implications of Special Autonomy 22

    Implementing the Laws 27

    Aceh: From COHA to Martial Law 46

    Papua: From Backsliding to Conflict 54

    Lessons 64

    Endnotes 71

    Bibliography 79

  • iv Rodd McGibbon

    Appendix A: Main Elements of Law 18/1999 on Special Autonomy for Naggroe Aceh Darussalam 83

    Appendix B: Main Elements of Law 21/1999 on Special Autonomy for Papua 87

    The Aceh Conflict: Background and Map 91

    The Papua Conflict: Background and Map 95

    Project Information: The Dynamics and Management of Internal Conflicts in Asia 99

    Project Purpose and Outline 101 Project Participants List 105

    Policy Studies: List of Reviewers 200304 109

    Policy Studies: Previous Publications 110

  • List of AcronymsASEAN Association of Southeast Asian NationsBIN Badan Intelijen Negara (State Intelligence Agency)COHA Cessation of Hostilities AgreementDPR Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat (national legislature)DPRD Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat Daerah (local legislature)FORERI Forum Rekonsiliasi Rakyat Irian Jaya (Forum for

    the Reconciliation of Irian Jaya Society)GAM Gerakan Aceh Merdeka (Free Aceh Movement)HDC Henry Dunant CenterIMF International Monetary FundJSC Joint Security CouncilKNPI Komite Nasional Pemuda Indonesia (Indonesian

    National Youth Committee)KRA Kongres Rakyat Aceh (Aceh Peoples Congress)MPR Majelis Permusyawaratan Rakyat (Peoples

    Consultative Assembly)MRP Majelis Rakyat Papua (Papuan Peoples Assembly)MPU Majelis Pemusyawaratan Ulama (Consultative

    Council of Islamic Clerics)

  • vi Rodd McGibbon

    NGO nongovernmental organizationNKRI Negara Kesatuan Republik Indonesia (Unitary

    State of the Republic of Indonesia)OPM Organisasi Papua Merdeka (Free Papua

    Organization)OTK orang tak kenal (unknown persons)PDI-P Partai Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuanganan

    (Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle)PDP Presidium Dewan Papua (Papuan Presidium Council)PKB Partai Kebangkitan Bangsa (National Awakening

    Party)PNG Papua New GuineaSAMAK Solidaritas Masyarakat Anti-Korupsi (Solidarity for

    Anticorruption Society)SIRA Sentral Informasi Referendum Aceh (Aceh

    Referendum Information Center)TNI Tentara Nasional Indonesia (Indonesian Defense

    Force)Uncen University of CendrawasihUnsyiah University of Syiah Kuala

  • Executive SummaryThis study examines the drafting and implementation of special autono-my laws for Aceh and Papua as part of the Indonesian governments broad-er response to secessionist challenges in both provinces. I examine thebackground to the political decision to grant special autonomy to Acehand Papua while also presenting a detailed examination of each law. Theobjective of this analysis is to provide a case study for policymakers andacademics seeking to understand the dynamics of separatism. The analysisseeks appropriate policy responses to the challenge of secessionist move-ments and outlines the conditions under which granting autonomy mayor may not be conducive to addressing separatist conflict.

    As this study illustrates, special autonomy laws were drafted inIndonesia as a response to rapidly growing independence movements inAceh and Papua that followed the collapse of the authoritarian regime ofPresident Suharto in 1998. Responding to mounting violence, the gov-ernment offered special autonomy laws in a bid to divert secessionistdemands. This offer of asymmetric autonomy in fact contained signifi-cant and special concessions for Aceh and Papua. Special autonomy wasthe product of an opportune moment of Indonesias democratic transitionin which the government faced multiple crises and central authority was ata weak point. With pro-independence movements intensifying their pres-sure on Jakarta, the government was impelled to make major concessionsas a way of staving off crisis and keeping the country together.

  • viii Rodd McGibbon

    It was not long, however, before the government was able to closedown the political space for independence leaders and their supporters,and address other crises challenging the state. As the government reconsti-tuted central authority, the imperatives that had driven the decision togrant special autonomy eased. And as the governments commitment tospecial autonomy faltered, it soon turned to more coercive measures torespond to separatist demands. By 2003, the government was pursuing analternative strategy of imposing martial law in Aceh and subdividingPapua, a strategy that eclipsed special autonomy and signaled a return toa more coercive, less accommodating, posture.

    In presenting the case study of Aceh and Papua, this essay confirms acentral theme of the comparative literature on autonomy: the fragility ofsuch arrangements and their vulnerability to reversal. Special autonomyarrangements are exceedingly difficult to entrench as national elites almostalways resist demands to devolve political authority and are suspicious ofany initiative that may set a precedent for other regions. This is particu-larly the case in large multiethnic countries such as Indonesia where thestate faces an array of possible challenges to its authority. A driving forcein the Indonesian governments backsliding, for instance, was the officialconcern that special autonomy was fuelling separatism rather than resolv-ing it. In conceding special rights to Papua and Aceh, officials feared a cas-cade of similar demands from other regions.

    All of this suggests that special autonomy, in and of itself, does notrepre