11 Mar 2003

Papua's chiefs propose splitting the Indonesian province into seven autonomous regions

11:32 am on 11 March 2003

Papua's customary or chiefly council will meet with the Indonesian government to discuss an alternative to President Megawati Sukarnoputri's controversial decision to split the province into three.

Council member, Franz Albert Joku says next week's meeting will discuss the possibility of dividing Papua into seven autonomous regions, similar to what existed during the Dutch colonial days.

President Sukarnoputri ordered the division saying the province was too big for one governor to administer.

Her decision is seen as conflicting with the Government's earlier decision on special autonomy for the province.

Mr Joku says Jakarta's plan fails to take into account customary land ownership, ethnic composition and demography.

"The main driving force behind all these decisions is the greater empowerment and also recognize the distinct diverse indigenous groups spread across West Papua and to empower them by ensuring people have access over their land, have access over their forests, rivers so on the right of ownership over what is rightfully ours"

Franz Albert Joku in Papua.