Decision to split Aceh, Papua into new provinces 'dangerous'
Analysts and religious leaders in Papua and Aceh have decried a decision by the Indonesian parliament to split the provinces into several administrative areas, labelling it dangerous politicking.
On Tuesday, the House of Representatives unanimously endorsed its own initiative to create eight provinces and 13 regencies in the sprawling Indonesian archipelago.
The decision could add four provinces to the two in western New Guinea (Papua and West Papua), and split Aceh province in half.
The MPs said the move was necessary to decrease the burden on the local administrations and improve the development of the two regions, which are among the poorest in the country.
Aceh and Papua are also home to strong secessionist feelings and have a deep-seated distrust of Jakarta.
Aguswandi, an Aceh-based analyst, said the decision would not improve the lives of local people and was driven by the interests of local and Jakarta elites.
'There is no economical, political or administrative need to establish a new province in Aceh. The idea comes solely from the political elite's interest groups who want to gain greater power locally, however irresponsibly,' he said.
Mr Aguswandi also argued that the decision was in breach of the peace agreement signed by the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and the Indonesian government in 2005. The agreement ended an almost three-decade-long war that killed about 30,000 people.
'The agreement mentions one Aceh and does not contemplate the splitting of the province. The partition would weaken Aceh's standing and create dangerous unhappiness,' Aguswandi said.
The peace agreement also calls on Jakarta to consult Aceh's local government on decisions concerning the province. 'I do not believe this has happened,' he said.
The Reverend Socrates Sofyan Yoman, general chairman of the West Papuan Baptist Church, called the move to split Papua further a divide-and-rule tactic by Jakarta.
'There is no rationale behind it. The only aim is to divide Papuans and gain favours with some of the local elite,' he said.
The government pushed for the creation of West Papua province in 2003 without approval from the Papua People's Council, as mandated by a 2002 law on special autonomy for the province.
The most recent proposal for new provinces in the Papua region has not received the council's endorsement either.
'Dividing Papua will not bring prosperity. It will bring more problems and corruption. What we need is an honest and balanced discussion with Jakarta on how to solve Papua's problems,' Mr Yoman said.
The decision to create more provinces was also widely criticised by observers in Jakarta.
In an assessment report, Concord Review, a risk-assessment firm, said: 'It flies in the face of reason and will do little more than accentuate primordial politics in the country.'
The parliamentarians' endorsement came despite the government's call for the suspension of regional division, citing budget constraints and findings that many new administrative regions lack the capability and resources to provide basic services to their people.