Different from other provinces in Indonesia, Papua has its own way to hold the democracy practice in the legislative or executive elections, that is, by using Noken System. Noken itself is a woven bag that is often used by Papuans to carry items, animals, or even, a baby. In the electoral process, noken is used as the replacement of ballot box in which people who vote put their election paper in it.
This voting system has been existed in the ‘Island of Cenderawasih’ for a long time. It is even acknowledged by UNESCO under the list of “Intangible Cultural Heritage” that needs urgent safeguarding. What makes Noken System special as the Papuan voting method? Seven points below are the answers to that question.
Noken System is special because of its origin
The origin of Noken System has already been a special part of the people of Papua. The system is closely related to Papuan traditionally and culturally. Besides being used as the carrying equipment in the daily activities of Papuan people, noken also has a particular purpose as the voting facility in the election of tribal group leaders.
The regional and tribal election using Noken System is an ethnic feature in Papua as it used long before the system is applied to the larger context such as a legislative or presidential election.
It conveys a historical value that has passed through generations
Noken System has been used by Papuans as the voting method in their area through generations. Although there is no clear history record about when exactly does the system begin, or who does firstly introduce it, Noken System still conveys the historical value of Papuans which has been passed from the older generation to the younger. As a part of Papuan local wisdom, it may continue to help the people of Papua in making their political choices in the future generation.
It is used as the voting method in the Act of Free Choice
One of the most distinctive usages of Noken System is when it is used in the Act of Free Choice, an important historical event for Papuans held in 1969. This referendum act makes Papua what it is today when the easternmost island is reclaimed by the Republic of Indonesia.
It is a part of Papuan culture
Noken System is not only used as a mean or tool to vote, but beyond that, it is a part of the cultural heritage that has been existed in Papua for a long time. Noken which is used as the replacement of regular ballot box is an appreciative form of local wisdom and cultural value of Papuans. It is also considered as an approach to the native Papuan’s local culture.
Cultural practitioners also believe that the use of Noken System as the election mechanism in Papua proves that it is a cultural tool that cannot be separated from the Papuan culture itself.
It has a philosophical meaning of Papuan’s democratic life
Apart from its differences from regular voting method existing in Indonesia, Noken System actually conveys a philosophical meaning that is strongly related to the people of Papua and their ways of life, particularly in the term of democracy.
The basic concept of Noken System that involves all members of social or tribal groups that are qualified to vote is in accordance with the main principle of democracy. This is due to the fact that the final decisions of the election are falling greatly in the people’s hand.
It adopts the national voting principle that is based on deliberation for consensus
Deliberation for consensus is the election principle that is believed and applied by Indonesians in general. Noken System adopts the same principle as well since it is developed from the tradition of a tribal chief election that is usually done to reach a consensus in a discussion or deliberation forum.
It becomes the special characteristic of Papuans who live in the mountain area
Papua consists of several areas and divisions that are inhabited by different tribal groups. Noken System, in fact, mainly exists in the middle mountain areas in Papua. Expanded from two major districts of Jayawijaya and Nabire, the areas include Yahokimo, Yalimo, Dogiyai, Puncak Jaya, Bintang Mountains, and seven other sub-districts.
Those sub-districts use the Noken System as the special characteristic that differentiates them from other sub-districts and ethnical groups living in Papua, thus, they are often referred to as the Noken System Area.
Despite the debates about its fairness and legalization, Noken System has been regulated by legal basis as it officially refers to two regulations: the Decision Number of Indonesian Supreme Court Number 47-48 in 2009 about the result of a legislative election of Yakuhimo district, and the Decision Number 1 in 2014 about the Presidential and Vice-Presidential election. Therefore, besides being the cultural heritage and special voting method for Papuans, Noken System is a fair mechanism when it is applied to certain conditions of the electoral process.