Preserving West Papua’s Local Wisdom with Noken System

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The self-determination as urged by the international independence community was the fundamental step for West Papua to decide whether this territory remained to be part of Indonesian sovereignty or separated from the country. The resolution for the future of Western New Guinea basically was the sequel of the early negotiations from round table conference in The Hague to New York agreement in the UN headquarters in New York. The act of free choice or PAPERA (Penentuan Pendapat Rakyat) taking place in 1969 resulted in the noken system – a typical election approach only applicable in the Melanesian region.

In a brief description, a noken system only allows certain people to cast a vote. In the remote Papuan villages, the individual having access to both the provincial or national election is no other than the tribal leader or designated person. Uniquely, the term of noken refers to a woven bag made of root. The object coming with multiple purposes and usages is such an identical symbol inseparable from the cultural values of West Papua. In addition to that, it has been counted as the intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO. It’s no wonder that noken plays a major role in any single life of Papuan people.

Noken System is Indonesia’s Appreciation toward Cultural Diversity

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The whole practice of noken system has begun since the 1971 public election was held. Although the execution once got a bad reaction from the world as it was not in line with the key principle of democratic worth, it is often regarded as local wisdom that needs to be cared and maintained. The concept reflects how the tradition in western part of New Guinea is still held. Regardless of the emerging controversy, the election method of noken is legal and regulated under the Indonesia’s law constitution. Even, the country put high respect to that in the name of looking after the cultural diversity.

Some might go with a thought that the noken system is irrelevant to today’s modernity highlighting the democratic culture. However, criticizing and reproaching this unique concept in applying the backbone of democracy life without understanding the philosophy and its meaning are full of senselessness. The system of noken literally adds not only the local values but also universe heritage that everybody is encouraged to take care of. Instead of harming the populist principle, this one enriches the color of the globe’s human civilization

Types of Common Noken System in West Papua

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If you take notice, there are two kinds of noken systems commonly implemented in the mountainous regions of West Papua, i.e., the pattern of big man and the pattern of consensus. The big man pattern lets the ballot handled by a tribal chief or community leader when the day of the election comes. What about the people? Instead of having a go for casting a ballot, they totally give their trust to their head. Yes, it sounds unfair, but that’s how the reality runs. Meanwhile, the consensus pattern is where the vote can be bagged by a particular party having been appointed before.  Arguably, the application of these systems is no longer confidential.

So, how about the unusual democratic form execution? The individuals having a chance to cast a vote are invited to come to the voting area filled with a couple of noken bags remaining empty. The sum of elected candidates, in point of fact, hinges on the total number of the traditional woven root pockets. When the invited voters have attended the democratic party, the election committees ask the people to stand at the noken bag with a row formation. Instead of putting a ballot paper in a voting box, the voters just do nothing unless being accounted by the committees. This way of the public election really is extraordinary.

Noken System is Suitable for West Papua’s Geographical Condition

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The exercise of noken system obviously fits for the region’s neighborhoods which are mostly mountainous, crowded with thick bushes, and unreachable by land transportation. In addition to the geographical matter, the unequal population spread could be another main concern which can easily be solved. Some tribal residents who are untouched by the modern civilization are illiterate, as well as less well-informed. Once the regular election system demands people to cast a vote with a ballot paper, it is definitely clear that the locals are unable to participate in the voting properly due to the lack of human resources and not to mention the transportation cost spending much money.

In conclusion, the noken system truly represents the local wisdom of the people in West Papua – it’s typical, traditional, and authentic. Despite inappropriate critics and condemnation from the world’s independence community, this exceptional way of election method brings out an array of deep meanings and cultural values which can’t be understood by everybody in the entire planet. .