Use of ‘Noken System’ in 2014 Legislative Election Remains Uncertain

JAYAPURA CITY - The plan to apply the noken system in the upcoming legislative election in Papua may be dropped due to a lack of legal certainty.

Papua General Elections Commission (KPUD) head Adam Arisoi said recently that the noken system would not be used in the legislative election because the central KPU deemed it lacked a legal basis and was only effective for regional leadership elections.

However, in a recent meeting it was disclosed that the noken system would be used in the legislative election on April 9.

“Despite the lack of a legal basis, in Jayawijaya regency, the noken system will continue to be applied because it has been the tradition of people living in the Pegunungan Tengah region, in the 3, 4, 5 and 6 constituencies in 15 regencies,” said Jayawijaya Regent John Wempi Wetipo recently.

Wetipo said the noken system in Pegunungan Tengah had been practiced within the society for a long time and was the method used by residents to reach a decision.

“The noken system is very democratic and this democratic system has been practiced within the community. But then came a regulation which prohibits them from using a method with which they are long familiar. Will it not trigger conflict later?” said Wetipo.

Besides that, he went on, in the legislative election, ballot papers all had the photographs, names and numerical order of candidates.

“In general, people living in the Pegunungan Tengah region who practice the noken system don’t know how to read and write. In the previous elections, ballots papers were enclosed with the names and photographs so those who could not read and write could look at the photographs. Voters would face difficulties if the noken system is not put into practice.”

The noken system in Papua is a decision-making process in a particular community represented by a tribal chief. In the noken system, voters place their ballot papers in a noken, a multi-purpose traditional bag.

In the election of a regional leader, a community or a tribe entrust their choice to the tribal chief. A leader is not chosen by the tribal chief, but a consensus is reached beforehand to arrive at a common decision, so there is unanimity among a tribal community.

“The choice is not made on voting day but long before that. It could take months of conducting various activities, such as the bakar batu feast, and then the decision is made to vote for a particular candidate,” said Papua Governor Lukas Enembe.

Since the system has caused controversy, Jayapura Regent Mathius Awoitauw suggested that a legal basis was necessary to avoid conflict during the upcoming election. [TheJakartaPost]
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