Act of Free Choice and the Noken System Equally Legal by John Al. Norotouw

John Al. Norotouw

Indonesia is a nation which successfully won its independence and ended the longest colonial era in history. Therefore, it can boldly declare that independence is the right of all nations, and that colonialism must be abolished. That is the spirit of Indonesia’s proclamation of independence embedded in the hearts of every Indonesian from Sabang to Merauke. It is with the grace of the Almighty that on every August 17, the entire nation can commemorate Indonesia’s independence proclamation in safely, peacefully, and joyfully.

Indonesia’s independence is the long historical struggle of its people for more than 350 years against colonialism, distinguishing Indonesia from other countries in the world which gained independence without resistance or having it gifted on a silver platter. Indonesia became a democratic country that is recognized by the international community and has even been repeatedly elected as a member of the Commission on Human Rights and participates as an active member in various international organizations such as APEC, G20, ASEAN, PIF, and many others. Indonesia was also a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. Indonesia in the future certainly has the opportunity to become a developed country with great economic power.

Domestically, Indonesia is filled with various development dynamics, the main objective being the welfare of the Indonesian people. Under the leadership of President Joko Widodo, the motto Kerja, Kerja, Kerja (emphasizing the eagerness to work) was used to activate all management and governance processes, so that the goal of improving the prosperity of the Indonesian people could be realised. The fight against corruption, collusion and nepotism continues to be strengthened to make Indonesia a clean, safe, and peaceful country.  

Despite having celebrated 77 years of independence and becoming a country and nation that is known and recognized in various forums and various international issues, Indonesia to this day continues to be burdened by the historical moment known as Pepera (Act of Free Choice) in 1969, due to lingering questions regarding its legality. Scrutiny is needed so as not to create prejudicial or negative views resulting in conflicting opinions among the Papuan people themselves or with the Indonesian government.

Recently, there has also been a campaign by groups supporting Papua’s independence (Free Papua) for a referendum to be held in Papua. A referendum may be defined as a statement of democratic rights by a community group in a certain area for a political goal to be decided through a process whereby opinions are expressed through ballots. In a real sense, if we look closely, we can conclude that a referendum is like casting votes at voting booths during elections.

However, the word referendum is a politically loaded one that is related to what the pro-independence groups in Papua are fighting for and is related to Papua’s supposedly questionable status due to Pepera’s perceived illegitimacy. The contents of the 1963 New York Agreement stipulate the expression of opinions through the process of direct voting, namely “one man one vote”. However, due to the difficult conditions of Papua’s regions, these articles have been revised through a negotiation process between UNTEA and the Government of Indonesia at the request of the Indonesian government, leading to a mutually agreed compromise that Pepera will be held using a voting system through Representatives.

Subsequently, 1026 Papuan elders were elected as representatives to act on behalf of the Papuan people to choose whether to become Independent or become part of Indonesia. Despite alleged intimidation, coercion and bribes by the Indonesian government marring its implementation, 1026 Papuan elders came to a decision on behalf of the people of Papua, that the Papuan people would unite under Indonesia and become Indonesian citizens by becoming a territory of the Republic of Indonesia, stretching from Sabang to Merauke. This was the result of a referendum process in Papua using a representative system whereby 1026 Papuan elders acted on behalf of the Papuan people.

If the historical events that have united Papua in Indonesian independence are compared with the election of the Governor and Deputy Governor of Papua through the 2018 Regional Election, it turns out that there is no difference at all because voting through Representation, namely the Noken System was done by almost all voting communities in the Papua Mountains region to express their democratic rights through tribal heads or village heads. This is the process of millennial democracy, where Noken was decided through the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Indonesia to be a powerful tool of democracy so that all forms of arguments about democracy are the sole rights of each person fade, and democracy is a shared right that is united in one Noken as a sign of representation, whether someone expresses their rights or not but absolutely decided to be included in Noken, so it cannot be contested.

So when compared to areas that do not use the Noken system, the absolute majority of votes are counted in areas that use the Noken system, i.e. after counting the number of voters and declaring that they are all included in the Noken and afterwards tied, whereas in other areas, votes are only counted according to the right to vote at the polling station. Whether this is seen as an appropriate act of millennial democracy or a violation of the one man one vote democratic process, it has in fact been a direct acknowledgement by the Papuan people that the Representative process carried out during the Act of Free Choice is the same as the Noken system enacted in the 2018 regional elections where the Governor and Deputy Governor of Papua were elected by representation.

Whether this is realised or not, in the use of the Noken system there are also elements of intimidation, coercion, and perhaps bribery, but all of them are absolutely legally binding. Thus, whatever the desire of the Papuan people to assert their rights on a legal or political issue, it is absolutely self-defeating because the process of assertion must always relate to millennial democratic means such as the Noken system or the Representative system. When compared to the one man one vote system, the 1969 Act of Free Choice was a Noken System that filled 1026 votes that bound all Papuans to unite in the independence of the Republic of Indonesia.

Whatever the reason for declaring the invalidity of the Act, which is considered full of legal defects, the entire democratic process of declaring the right of one man one vote bound in the Noken system, the Act has been validly implemented. That is the Referendum process that has occurred in the Land of Papua. Demands for a referendum to be held in Papua would also mean that the elections of the Governor and Deputy Governor are considered invalid. 

If viewed logically, the millennial era is a time that conquers the stone age where the entire democratic process of one man one vote in the use of voting rights is dominant, the Noken system should not benefit certain parties and even become a benchmark because of the 1969 Pepera but instead the Papuan people are flocking into political and legal traps that continue to injure their own political rights. 

On the contrary, there is a direct threat to the decision of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Indonesia where the Noken System will become a benchmark for the legality of the democratic rights of the Papuan people and if it becomes something that is mandatory or mandatory, then the Representative system through the House of Representatives can be considered as not representing the rights of the majority of people’s voices directly outside the legislative channel. Similarly, if another Referendum is held in Papua, all the votes in the Noken are the answer to the demands of the Papuan people.

Adapted from John Al. Norotouw, “Pepera dan Sistem Noken Sama Sah”

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