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West Papua Report

July 2009

This is the 62nd in a series of monthly reports that focus on developments affecting Papuans. This series is produced by the non-profit West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) drawing on media accounts, other NGO assessments, and analysis and reporting from sources within West Papua. This report is co-published with the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) Back issues are posted online at Questions regarding this report can be addressed to Edmund McWilliams at

WPAT's annual "John Rumbiak Human Rights Defender's Award for 2009 has been awarded to the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) and its National Coordinator John M. Miller. Despite the remoteness of the area and Indonesian restrictions on access, reports are emerging of a new "sweep" operation in Puncak Jaya which has already led to mass civilian displacement and some civilian deaths. U.S. Representative Eni Faleomavaega has at the last minute pulled language from a key House of Representatives Bill. The language would have required State Department reporting to Congress about West Papua. Human Rights Watch in June issued two compelling reports: one on continued human rights violations in West Papua by Indonesia's "Special Forces' (KOPASSUS) and one on prisoner abuse in West Papua.Freeport shareholders fail in a vote to get an Environmentalist on the Freeport board but collect a significant percentage of shareholder votes. A new report implicates President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and U.S. officials in a miscarriage of justice concerning the 2002 murder and wounding of U.S. and Indonesian citizens at Timika in West Papua. An academic reviews the historic-diplomatic connection between West Papua and Africa. Indonesian academics have echoed calls by Papuans for several years for a Jakarta-Papuan dialogue.


John Rumbiak Human Rights Defenders Award for 2009 Awarded to ETAN and John M. Miller

The John Rumbiak Human Rights Defenders Award for 2009 award is presented to the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network and its National Coordinator John M. Miller. ETAN is a leading U.S. NGO working on behalf of human rights in East Timor and Indonesia. In recent years, reacting to the significant deterioration in the human rights environment in West Papua ETAN has been especially active in opposing the U.S. Government's open-ended assistance to the Indonesian military, the TNI, and to the militarized police, BRIMOB, which are the leading human rights abusers in West Papua and the rest of the Indonesian archipelago.

ETAN also opposes any restoration of U.S. assistance to the Indonesian Special Forces (KOPASSUS). John M. Miller, has been a key leader in these efforts.

The West Papua Advocacy Team created the John Rumbiak Human Rights Defenders Award in 2008. The award is given annually to the individual or institution that has contributed most substantially to protection of human rights in West Papua. The award honors John Rumbiak, a Papuan who, until suffering a debilitating stroke in 2005, was a leading voice in the defense of Papuan human rights. He founded the West Papua Advocacy Team. His courageous devotion to the cause of human rights defense, the non-violent assertion of political rights and demands for justice, including accountability for human rights violators, has inspired not only Papuans but individuals and organizations widely in the international community. The award includes a $500 stipend and a plaque which honors the winner. The 2008 awardee was Tapol's Carmel Budiardjo.

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Concerns about security sweep in Puncak Jaya, West Papua

On June 22, WPAT issued the following statement:

Disturbing information has reached WPAT from a variety of sources of a very serious situation now transpiring in Puncak Jaya, West Papua. A "sweep operation,' reportedly carried out by Indonesia's mobilized police or "Brimob," has killed several Papuans and led to the death of others. People's homes have been raided and burned and farm animals killed. Hundreds of Papuans have been forced from homes and have sought refuge in surrounding forests where some have already died due to a lack of food, shelter and access to medical care. Reportedly, seven young girls were taken hostage and raped. At least five villages are believed affected, but the military has also raided houses in Mulia, the Puncak Jaya district capital.

"Security" operations have been conduced in the Puncak Jaya district since April of this year though it appears these operations have broadened and become more violent since then.

In recent years similar "sweeps" conducted by the military, also lasting for months, have led to the death of hundreds of civilians displaced by the operations.
According to our information, West Papuans are falling victim to rivalries among several different security forces of the army and the police in the area. They are deliberately provoking local resistance groups to engage in armed activities, perhaps as a way to ensure that the security forces continue to be well funded. This contradicts the decision by all West Papuan resistance groups to refrain from acts of violence and to focus on seeking dialogue with the authorities in Jakarta. The groups believe that this is the best way of reaching a solution to the many West Papuan grievances accumulated since their unlawful, coerced integration within the Indonesian Republic in 1969.
It is difficult to get a clear picture of recent events because of long-standing restrictions on travel to and within West Papua imposed by the Indonesian government and security forces as part of their occupation strategy.
We urge the U.S. Government and the international community to demand the following:

  • an immediate cessation of the ongoing operations in the central highlands;
  • full access to the affected region by Indonesian and international humanitarian and human rights organizations to assist the besieged civilian population, as well as by journalists;
  • and an investigation by the Indonesian Human Rights Commission (Komnas Ham) to determine who authorized and is leading the current operation.

Update: After the release of the above statement WPAT learned that in addition to the many civilians displaced who fled to nearby forests, some also have sought refuge in the towns of Ilu and Mulia. Unconfirmed reports indicate that Indonesian security forces have destroyed at least on church and occupied one other, using it as a command center.

U.S. House of Representatives Supports Call for President Obama and State Department to Report on Conditions in West Papua, But Sponsor Pulls Language at Last Minute

ETAN and West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) expressed disappointment that between the vote of the full House Foreign Relations Committee and its passage by the full House of Representatives, a provision concerning West Papua was removed.

"A greater understanding of the current human rights and governance situations in West Papua and a fuller understanding of the effects of West Papua's incorporation into Indonesia are certainly needed internationally and within Indonesia," they said.

The deleted provision would have required for two reports to Congress from the U.S. State Department: A "report on the 1969 Act of Free Choice, the current political status of West Papua, and the extent to which the Government of Indonesia has implemented and included the leadership and the people of West Papua in the development and administration of Special Autonomy." The second report is to describe "the extent to which the Government of Indonesia has certified that it has halted human rights abuses in West Papua."

The removed text can be found at here:

Human Rights Watch Exposes Abuse of Prisoners in West Papua

Human Rights Watch has issued a report regarding abuse of prisoners in the Abepura Prison in West Papua. Its June 5 report, "Indonesia: Stop Prison Brutality in Papua," called on the Indonesian Government to "investigate and hold accountable abusive guards and officials at the Abepura prison in Papua." According to the report, "sources report that torture, beatings, and mistreatment by guards are rampant." HRW also noted that among the approximately 230 prisoners at the facility, "more than a dozen are imprisoned for peaceful political acts."

The report noted:

"How can the government turn a blind eye to beatings and torture in one of its prisons?" said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "Jakarta needs to put an end to this disgraceful behavior, punish those responsible, and start keeping a close eye on what is happening there."

Human Rights Watch has received reports of more than two dozen cases of beatings and physical abuse since Anthonius Ayorbaba, a Papuan civil servant who previously worked in the Jayapura office of the Ministry of Law and Human Rights, became the prison warden in August 2008. As prison warden, Ayorbaba is the most senior prison official in Abepura. The administration of prisons falls under the Ministry of Law and Human Rights.

Human Rights Watch said that the Indonesian government should replace the prison administration and open the prison to international monitoring. Foreign human rights monitors and foreign journalists require special police permission to enter Papua province and are unable to carry out independent research there. Human Rights Watch also urged President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to set up an independent team to investigate abuses in Abepura prison

HRW made clear that the abuse was not simply a matter of one errant warden at one facility:

"The Indonesian government needs to replace the Abepura prison management," said Adams. "But this is not just a failure of one prison warden. It's a failure of Jakarta to set proper standards and enforce them."

In March, the Indonesian Foreign Ministry ordered the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to close its field offices in Jayapura and Banda Aceh. The ICRC ran sanitation projects in Papua and also visited detainees, including political prisoners, in Abepura prison. Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Teuku Faizasyah denied that the closure had anything to do with the ICRC's visits to Papuan prisons, including Abepura, saying that it was merely a regulatory measure.

Human Rights Watch said that international monitors such as the ICRC and independent human rights groups should be able to visit prisoners in Abepura to investigate reports of abuse, given the ministry does not appear to be protecting the interests of prisoners or responding to grievances.

"These prisoners have exhausted all avenues to fight for their rights, but officials refuse to listen," said Adams. "Given the scale of abuses, the Indonesian government should open Papuan prisons to international monitoring."

Human Rights Watch Finds Special Forces (KOPASSUS) in West Papua; Appeals to Government to Forego Assistance To the Forces Absent Real Reform
On June 24, Human Rights Watch issued a detailed report on continuing human rights violations and other extra legal activites by the Indonesian Special Forces (KOPASSUS) in West Papua. The report contained over twenty interviews with victims and victim family members as well as witnesses of abuse ranging from beatings to torture. Incidents of abuse covered a period from August of 2007 to as recent as May 2009. As HRW made clear, KOPASSUS personnel, as during the Suharto dictatorship, enjoy broad impunity for their actions. The report also contained a direct appeal to those foreign government who either assist or are contemplating assisting this notorious organization:


KOPASSUS personnel, as during the Suharto dictatorship, enjoy broad impunity for their actions. The report also contained a direct appeal to those foreign government who either assist or are contemplating assisting this notorious organization.

Human Rights Watch urged the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia to withhold training from Kopassus until serious efforts are made to investigate and hold abusive soldiers accountable "Foreign governments concerned about human rights should insist on a clear political commitment to reform, which includes holding abusive soldiers accountable, before offering the seal of approval of formal relations with Kopassus," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "Training will go in one ear and out the other if the government does not make it clear to Kopassus that it will have zero tolerance for abuses by its soldiers."

In the wake of the report, Australian media editorialized for an to end military to military ties to Kopassus. TAPOL called on the U.K. government to end cooperation with KOPASSUS.

Indonesian authorities have responded contemptuously to the report, suggesting that the highly regarded U.S.-based human rights organization "eat" its report. The senior commander of KOPASSUS, General Pramono Edhie Wibowo, is the brother-in-law of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The report is all the more remarkable given the restrictions imposed on access to West Papua by human rights reporters, journalists, foreign parliamentarians and others, and the threats and intimidation meted out by security forces to Indonesians attempting to monitor human rights developments there.

(see for full text of the report)

Indonesia President Yudhoyono Covered Up Ambush Murder of U.S. Citizens

Previously secret U.S. State Department documents implicate the President of Indonesia in covering-up the ambush murder of U.S. citizens in Timika, West Papua. The documents show Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who is running for reelection on July 8, maneuvering behind the scenes to manage the investigation into the August 2002 murder of three teachers--one Indonesian and two U.S. citizens.

"The documents reveal that Yudhoyono initially stalled attempts by the FBI to launch an independent investigation," said Eben Kirksey, a regional specialist and WPAT member. These stalling tactics let the Indonesian military cover their tracks. Before the FBI investigators arrived in the field, Indonesian military agents systematically intimidated witnesses and tampered with material evidence.

"The FBI investigation proceeded within a narrow framework that fit the Bush administration agenda in the Global War on Terror," continued he continued. "The Special Agents found a fall man, while tiptoeing around evidence connecting their man to the Indonesian military."

Antonius Wamang, an ethnic Papuan, was indicted by a U.S. grand jury for his role in the attack. He was apprehended in 2006 by the FBI and sentenced to life in Indonesian prison. Wamang had extensive ties to the Indonesian military, according to a peer-reviewed article, Criminal Collaborations, co-authored by Dr. Kirksey and Andreas Harsono, an Indonesian investigative reporter.

The declassified documents disclosed today were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act Request (FOIA) by Dr. Bradley Simpson of the National Security Archive. The State Department found 62 documents relevant to the Timika murders. They released only two of these documents in full and 20 others "with excisions." The rest were withheld. The FBI did not release any documents, writing: No records responsive to your FOIA request were located by a search of the automated indices. The FBI is notorious for not complying with Freedom of Information Act requests.

"The documents reveal evidence of a cover-up," said Dr. Kirksey. "The fact that many relevant documents were not released is more evidence of the same."

Selections from the declassified State Department documents were published on-line in seven distinct sections:
Freeport Shareholders Demonstrate Unprecedentedly High Concern about Freeport's Environmental Policies
A June 11 article in the The Arizona Republic reported that a shareholder proposal requiring Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc.'s board of directors to include at least one member with experience in environmental matters failed at the mining company's June 11 annual meeting. The proposal contended that persistent criticism of Freeport's methods for disposing [[of]] mining byproducts at its Grasberg copper and gold mine in Indonesia have hurt shareholders. The resolution was filed by New York City's Pension Funds, General Board of Pension and Health Benefits of the United Methodist Church, Stichting Pensioenfonds ABP in the Netherlands, and several Swedish national pension funds.

Freeport's board urged shareholders to vote against the proposal, arguing that the requirement would hinder the company's ability to attract the most qualified directors. Of the 66% of ballots tallied, a reported 33 percent of shareholders voted in favor of the proposal and two percent abstained.

This shareholder resolution received a far greater "yes" vote than any previous resolution focusing on environmental or human rights concerns. The one-third total is extremely high for any shareholder resolution before any company, bearing in mind that management/directors control the majority of shares.
In June 2006, the Norwegian government made international headlines when it announced its decision to exclude Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold, Inc., stock from its U.S. multi-billion-dollar pension fund. This decision was based on a judgment by Norway's Council on Ethics for the Government Pension Fund Global that Freeport's dumping of toxic mine waste into local river systems has caused environmental damage that is "extensive, long-term and irreversible," with "considerable negative consequences for the indigenous peoples residing in the area." In September 2008, the Norwegian Ministry of Finance announced its divestment from Norway's government pension fund of Rio Tinto PLC, stating that the government won't invest in the company again because of concerns over environmental damage at the Freeport mine in West Papua. Rio Tinto holds a 40 percent stake in Freeport's Grasberg operations. Finance Minister Kristin Halvorsen said that the mining operation was causing "severe environmental damage" and that the fund's Council on Ethics had determined that Rio Tinto was directly involved through its participation in the mine. "There are no indications to the effect that the company's practices will be changed in future," Halvorsen said. "The Fund cannot hold ownership interests in such a company.

The Papuan-African Connection
"Many, many times you have heard about us from the Dutch and Indonesians, without having known us. Now we will take the floor ourselves. We are living in the Pacific, our people are called Papuans, our ethnic origin is the Negroid Race? We do not want to be slaves any more."
-- Voice of the Negroids of the Pacific to the Negroids Throughout the World, 1962
The language has changed, but the appeal remains the same. The dark-skinned, curly-haired Melanesian people of West Papua have long sought support from Africa and the African diaspora, including from African-Americans.
Indonesia is originally an anthropological term that became a political claim. So too with Melanesia, although the Melanesian Way stresses diversity. Papuans have long felt themselves a different people from Indonesia, and pointed to "racial differences" as the reason. Instead, they have claimed kinship with other Melanesians in the Pacific, and beyond that with Africa and the African diaspora.
In some ways Papuan nationalism can be traced back to 1944, when U.S. troops liberated West Papua from Japan in the Second World War. Papuans witnessed African-American soldiers being treated with apparent equality. "They worked and fought shoulder to shoulder with their white comrades," one prominent Papuan leader recalled. "The Negro men flew fighter planes, commanded warships, fired artillery, and drove vehicles and so forth." Seeing this, Papuans asked themselves why can the Negroes do these things and the Papuans not? Is not our skin color and hair the same?"
The first Papuan diplomacy began in 1960. That year a New Guinea Council was elected and sent diplomats abroad, to make the point that Papuans should not be treated as bargaining chips, but rather as a people with the right to decide their own future. Early diplomatic missions toured Africa, gaining considerable support. A large group of African countries backed Papuan self-determination at the UN, but lacked the votes in the UN to pass this.
The US government, nevertheless, intervened to engineer a handover to Indonesia. In vain did a group of New Councilors telegram to Washington: "We Papuans are not Indonesians ... forced participation in Indonesian administration would be equivalent to a slave trade carried on by members of the United Nations." That communication was not even acknowledged, let alone answered.
Prevailing views in the U.S. at the time saw Papuans as primitive -- this at a time when the civil rights movement was still fighting for equality at home. Major media outlets portrayed the Papuans as backwards, savage cannibals living in --the Stone Age." Racist characterizations were common. US News and World Report was typical in dismissing West Papua as a "primitive, poor, forbidding land" without "a single positive element of civilization."
Once Indonesia took over West Papua, a campaign grounded in racist assumptions about "primitive" Papuans began. The Indonesian foreign minister said the job was to "get them [Papuans] down out of the trees, even if we have to pull them down." Government policy aimed at assimilation. In the words of one Indonesian cabinet minister, "the different ethnic groups will in the long run disappear because of integration ... and there will be one kind of man."
The ideas of primitiveness sounded familiar to African governments and Africa-American political groups. Thus for instance the majority of African states decline to endorse the Indonesian take-over of West Papua, and the NAACP lent its support. Papuans continue today to look to Melanesian, African and African-American groups for solidarity. Racial identity has been expressed through popular musical groups such as The Black Brothers. The Papuan voice is still silenced and ignored internationally. Yet Papuans work to change that, to be heard and recognized as a distinct people. (Contributed by David Webster, Assistant Professor of International Studies, University of Reginia and WPAT member)
Indonesian Academics Join Papuans in Call for Dialogue

TAPOL has translated a June 30, 2009 Kompas article regarding the publication of a book, "Papua Road Map." The book was written by a team of five members of the LIPI, the Indonesian Academy of Sciences. Minister of Defense Juwono Sudarsono attended the June 30 book launch.


"You can say that the special autonomy was born defective, grows on toxic food and is gradually dying ," Muridan said. "The whole political process was set from the beginning to fail."

The book identifies four key problem areas and offers recommendations as to their solution:
Mudian S. Widjojo, one of the writers, said that these problems were the marginalization of Papuans and its discriminatory effects; the failure of education, development and the empowerment of the small-scale economy; the use of violence by the state and violations of human rights, in the past and present; and contradictory historical understandings of political identity or status.

"You can say that the special autonomy was born defective, grows on toxic food and is gradually dying ," Muridan said. "The whole political process was set from the beginning to fail."

Aside from highlighting the problems, the report also offers solutions. Muridan said the government needed to immediately launch comprehensive programs to help Papuans develop their natural and human resources so they could enjoy parity with the rest of the nation.

He advocated a limited affirmative action program to reduce marginalization, and significant investment in building quality education and health facilities and supporting the provinces' economies.

Muridan also said the government should deal directly with investigating and solving cases of violence and human rights abuses. "If possible, to bring them to court; if not, then by reconciliation," he said. "It should be done in order to heal deep-set wounds."

The analysis also calls on the Indonesian government to recognize the need for reconciliation between Indonesia and the Papuan people with regard to the violence and human rights violations to which they have been subjected for over four decades. Although a human rights court has been established, no violators have been arrested and there is no clarity about has been no compensation for the Papuan people.

The LIPI study underscores the need for a dialogue, a call which echoes that of many Papuans in recent years. The book notes an attempt at dialogue in 1999 but contends that "preparations for talks were inadequate, the results were unclear and no agreement was reached. (WPAT Note: In fact 100 Papuan elders stunned their Indonesian hosts with a call for "independence.")

The LIPI team recommends that there should first be a pre-dialogue, "in which the two sides could seek agreement on the issues, the mechanism, who exactly will be involved and a fair share between those representing the Papuans, so that they are properly represented in the dialogue. only after agreement has been reached on all this should dialogue go ahead."

(WPAT Comment: The LIPI study is to be commended for candidly pointing out that "Special Autonomy" is moribund and that the "security approach," entailing years of security force brutality and intimidating targeting the Papuan people, has failed and needs to be ended. The LIPI call for dialogue appears to be missing one key component stressed by Papuans: namely participation of an international mediator/facilitator as was successfully employed in the Jakarta-Aceh dialogue.)

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