West Papua Report
This is the
71st 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 http://etan.org/issues/wpapua/default.htm Questions regarding this report
can be addressed to Edmund McWilliams at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The lightly-armed Papuan resistance organization (OPM) expressed public
support for a internationally mediated dialogue between Papuans and the
Indonesian government. The announcement indicates broad unity among Papuans for
a peaceful approach to resolving Papuans' myriad problems with Jakarta. In late
March, Papuan demonstrators in various Papuan cities met a mixed response from
police who at times used repression against the uniformly peaceful protests.
The trial of Victor Yiemo
began. The activist stands accused of "rebellion" under Indonesia's
infamous Article 106. The Indonesian military announced plans, not yet approved
by the civilian government, to significantly augment its presence in West Papua.
The plan stands in stark contrast to broad Papuan calls for demilitarizing their
homeland. Environmentalists have pointed to new problems with
government plans to develop a massive food estate in the area of Merauke.
In its annual assessment of human rights in Indonesia in 2009, the U.S.
Department of State chronicles many of the cases of rights abuse, usually at the
hands of the security forces, but inexplicably ignores
a key June 2009 Human Rights Watch report which detailed extensive Kopassus
abuse of Papuans, as well as decades of Indonesian
government failure to extend health, education and other basic services to
Papuans. The International Crisis Group (ICG) issued a report on West Papua
which seeks to assign blame for growing violence to individual Papuan groups
rather than acknowledge deteriorating human rights and humanitarian conditions.
Some media reports of the
analysis, abetted by an ICG official's comments, mischaracterize the report's
assessment of who is to blame for recent violence in the area of the
Freeport-McMoran mine. A recent violent incident in the Puncak Jaya region has
local people on edge.
If such a dialogue takes place, the most important problem to discuss is the
flawed integration - not special autonomy
- development, money or formation of new regions which will create
OPM Calls for
Internationally Mediated Dialogue between Papuans and Indonesian Government
The military wing of the Free Papua Movement (TPN-OPM) announced
on March 13 that it would support internationally mediated
dialogue (preferably by the UN)
between Papuans and the Indonesian central government. The statement
specifically offered support for plans proposed
separately by Papuan Catholic Priest Neles Tebay and the Indonesian Institute of
commenting on the new position, the leader of the military wing, General
Thadius Jhoni Kimema Jopari Magai Yogi, explained that Papuan leader Theys Eluay
had always supported peaceful resolution of outstanding issues between Jakarta
and Papuans. The rebels only again took up arms after the 2001 torture murder of
Theys Eluay by Indonesian
special forces (Kopassus), after a "conducive
period" during the tenure of late president
In the statement the rebels said: "We will magnanimously accept any outcome of
such a dialogue. If such a dialogue takes place, the most important problem to
discuss is the flawed integration, not special autonomy, development, money or
formation of new regions which will create new conflicts. TPN-OPM members who
have long resided in the jungles, valleys, coasts and mountains, affirm that if
any Papuan participates in talks when the mediator is [former Indonesian Vice
President] Jusuf Kalla they will be deemed traitors to our cause."
(Comment: Kalla who has been rumored for a role in a dialogue was a central
player in the 2005 agreement between GAM, the Aceh independence movement, and
the Indonesian Government. That agreement, which was internationally mediated,
has been incompletely implemented with the Indonesian Government failing to set
up a human rights court or a truth and reconciliation commission as required by
the 2005 final agreement.)
Police Interfere with
One Demonstration, Allow Others to Proceed
arrested 26 people of West Papua on peaceful rally to demand
On March 22 the Indonesian police used force to break up a rally in Jayapura
sponsored by the West Papua National Committee (KNPB). It was the second protest
KNPB had organized within a week and was aimed at communicating Papuan concerns
to President Obama before his visit to Indonesia, now set for June.
Demonstrations were also held in several other cities, including Sorong,
Manokwari, Wamena and Serui. All the demonstrations were peaceful. Organizers in
Jayapura had obtained a permit but police there fired their weapons to disperse
the crowd and arrested 15 Papuans.
All but two of the peaceful demonstrators detained by the police in Jayapura
were released. Mara Koyoga and Linus Pagawe were formally charged for alleged
possession of "sharp implements." The two will face charges under Law 12/1951
regarding possession of weapons. They face a maximum of 20 years in prison.
All the demonstrations were coordinated by the KNPB. Buchtar Tabuni, chair of
the KNPB, is serving a three-and-a-half year sentence in Abepura Prison. He
reportedly said that the peaceful demonstration had taken place according to the
organization's intentions. "They are taking place according to my directives. If
the police need any clarifications, they should ask me," he said.
At least one Papuan official, the deputy chairman of the provincial
legislative assembly (DPRP) Yehuda Gobay S.Th, condemned the detentions and
arrests in Jayapura. He noted that security officials frequently round people up
during peaceful demonstrations and fire shots in the midst of demonstrators. He
described this as unacceptable in an era of democracy and called for the
unconditional release of all those arrested.
At least one Papuan official noted that security
officials frequently round people up during peaceful demonstrations and fire
shots in the midst of demonstrators. He described this as unacceptable in an
era of democracy and called for the unconditional release of all those
Also on March 22, hundreds of Papuans demonstrated peacefully without police
interference in Manokwari . The coordinator of this action, Zeth Wambrauw,
welcomed the prospective visit of President Obama and urged local officials
to arrange a meeting of Papuans with him. This demonstration, as did the
others, called on the Indonesian Government to withdraw organic and
non-organic troops from Papua. The demonstrators, including students from
the University of Papua (UNIPA), rejected calls for a Papua-Jakarta dialogue
unless there is an international mediator, especially the UN. The
demonstrators also called for closing of the massive Freeport McMoran copper
and gold mine and for a review of the so called "Act of Free Choice."
Although some of the demonstrators tried and failed to meet members of the
local Parliament (DPRP), some did meet the secretary of Commission A, Yulius
Moniaga, and someone from Commission B. Moniaga urged the police not to use
violence towards those arrested. He was also quoted as saying that when people
are arrested and put onto trucks, what usually happened was that they were
A demonstrator named Mako Tabuni was quoted as saying that similar
demonstrations had been held in other parts of the territory since 18 March
where the demonstrators had been calling for proper legal procedures to be used.
"These are not anarchistic actions but people calling for the principle of
democracy to be respected," he said. One of their demands was for Memorandum of
Understanding to be reached regarding the way people can struggle for their
The harsh police action against the demonstrators in Jayapura coincided with
publicity surrounding a flawed report by the International Crisis Group (ICG)
which alleged that the KNPB (which organized these demonstrations) was a
separatist organization which was prepared to employ violence to advance its
aims. (WPAT among others has criticized the report, see item below for summary
of the ICG report and WPAT's critique.)
Victor Yeimo Trial Begins
December 12009 protest at Dutch parliament. Photo from
The respected UK-based Indonesian human rights organization Tapol has
translated a report about the opening of the trial of Papuan activist Victor
F. Yeimo on March 11. Yeimo, a leading figure in the West Papua National
Committee (KNPB) is charged with rebellion (makar) under Article 106 of
the Criminal Code for allegedly seeking secession. The
prosecutors charge that in a speech at a peaceful rally on March 10, 2009,
Yeimo "demanded independence for West Papua, rejected
special autonomy, and called for a referendum, and a
review of the 1969 Act of Free Choice He also called for the release of
all political prisoners, both those tried as well as
those not yet tried."
Outside the court house after the hearing, witness Marcho Tabuni, told
journalists on behalf of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) that Yeimo's
arrest and "detention had taken place without any
proof.... He said that Article 28 of the Indonesian
Constitution upholds the right to freedom of expression. He called for greater
space in West Papua for basic freedoms, for the withdrawal of the military,"
and the unconditional release of all Papuan political prisoners.
Article 106 of the Indonesian criminal code which criminalizes peaceful
political speech is regularly employed by prosecutors to target dissenters.
Article 106 is fundamentally inconsistent with Indonesian obligations under the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Articles 19 and 21) which
Indonesia signed in 2006 as well as the under the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights (Articles 19 and 20).
TNI Announces Plan to Augment Troops in
Papuan officials, echoing public calls by
demonstrating students and other Papuans, have repeatedly called for the
removal of TNI personnel from West Papua.
The Indonesian military (TNI) March 23 announced plans to deploy thousands
of additional troops to West Papua. Papuan officials, echoing public calls
by demonstrating students and other Papuans, have repeatedly called for the
removal of TNI personnel from West Papua. There is no indication that the
central government has discussed the troop increase with Papuan officials.
Rear Marshal Sagom Tamboen said up to four battalions, approximately 4000
troops, from a "Rapid Reaction Strike Force" division based in Jakarta could be
sent to the province to "maintain the territory's unity within eastern
Indonesia." Experts assess that there are already at least 10,000 troops in West
Papua plus addition unknown numbers of military personnel associated with the
special forces (Kopassus), military intelligence personnel and other special
Rear Marshal Tamboen said the planned deployment, which has not yet been
approved by the government, had nothing to do with recent shootings targeting
police and employees of U.S. mining giant Freeport McMoRan. Despite deployment
of additional security personnel to the region in 2009, violence there has
The proposed deployment appears unrelated to any conceivable foreign threat
and the lightly armed, small-in-number armed resistance poses no significant
military threat. It appears that the principal purpose of the proposed
deployment would be to intimidate Papuans who are increasingly vocal in
peacefully advocating for their human and political rights. The troops would
also be in position to increase the flow of cash into TNI coffers through
extortion of local businesses, enforcement for "developers" attempting to push
Papuans off their lands, human trafficking, and illegal logging.
New Complications for Food Estate Project in Merauke
Greenomics Indonesia, an environmental NGO, has expressed concern about the
Government's agricultural estate development plan for Merauke (see WPAT reports
for February and
March regarding this plan). According to the
March 24 Jakarta Post, Greenomics Indonesia predicted most of the planned
1.6 million of hectares to be transformed into food estates would consume virgin
forested areas. An assessment of forestry data by Greenomics said there were only
300,000 hectares of production forest (i.e., non-virgin forest). This area of
production forest is too scattered and not large enough to accommodate
so vast an area of food estates.
"The area is not large scale; they are scattered and the permit should be
issued by the Forestry Ministry," Greenomics Executive Director Elfian Effendi
said. He also said that developers should also seek approval from the House of
The Indonesian environmental group Walhi called the project a land grab and
warned that the estate would threaten the ecosystem. "Large-scale land
conversions in Merauke, which consists of predominantly low-lying land and
marshes, could cause it to lose its land areas,"
Walhi said in a statement. "The
decrease in forest and water catchment areas could result in a faster intrusion
of sea water to the land."
The issues raised by Greenomics and Walhi add to previously voiced concerns
over land tenure rights and the impact of a large influx of non-Papuans into the
region to be employed in the agricultural development.
(WPAT Comment: A similar government plan to convert a massive area in South
Kalimantan to agricultural use in the latter years of the Suharto dictatorship
led to disastrous results when brackish water inundated the area being prepared
for agriculture rendering it useless for any purpose.)
State Department Finds Extensive Human Rights
Abuse in West Papua
The annual U.S. Department of State annual Country Reports on Human Rights
Practices, included a detailed account of human rights abuse in West Papua,
especially by Indonesian security forces (see Indonesia report at
There were important omissions despite
the extensive coverage. The report completely ignored the widely cited June 2009
report by Human Rights Watch,
"What Did I Do Wrong?" which documented in great
detail abuse of Papuans by Indonesian Special Forces (Kopassus) personnel.
Observers speculate that the omission might have been intentional with the
purpose of diverting attention from the
notorious unit which is under
consideration for U.S. training and other assistance for the first time in
12 years. The U.S. Congress has long barred assistance to units like Kopassus
because of their exceptionally notorious record of human rights violations, many
of them committed in West Papua, East Timor, Aceh, and
As in past years the State Department report fails to note the failure over
many decades of the Indonesian Government to provide minimally adequate
services to Papuans, especially those in rural areas. The infrastructure for
health care and education are insufficient and account for some of the worst
rates of infant mortality and other health indices in Asia.
The Report also fails to note the fundamental inconsistency between
Indonesia's obligations under the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (signed by
Indonesia in 2006) and the persistence of Article 106 in the Indonesian
criminal code, which criminalizes as treason or rebellion peaceful,
political speech. Article 106 is a common weapon used by Indonesian
authorities to punish peaceful dissent, especially in West Papua.
As in past years the State Department report fails to note the failure over
many decades of the Indonesian Government to provide minimally adequate services
to Papuans, especially those in rural areas. The infrastructure for health care
and education are insufficient and account for some of the worst rates of infant
mortality and other health indices in Asia. The report errs in not acknowledging
the Indonesian Governments utter failure to address such basic human needs as
required by the International Covenants on Social, Cultural and Economic rights
to which Indonesia is party.
The following highlights key description in the
State Department report for the year 2009 regarding government policies and
practices which have negative implications for human rights protection in West
Papua. The report also contains specific reports of human rights violations:
In some parts of the country, particularly in Kalimantan and Papua,
residents believed that government-sponsored transmigration programs, which
move households from more densely populated areas to less populated regions,
interfered with their traditional ways of life, land usage, and economic
opportunities. Although the number of new persons in transmigration was
significantly less than in previous years, the government continued to
support financially approximately 6,756 households moved in 2008 from
overpopulated areas to isolated and less-developed areas in 21 provinces.
The government used its authority, and at times intimidation, to
expropriate land for development projects, often without fair compensation.
In other cases state-owned companies were accused of endangering resources
upon which citizens' livelihood depended. A presidential decree on land
acquisition for public use allows the government to acquire land for private
development projects even if landowners have not agreed on the amount of
compensation. A number of NGOs argued that the decree served the interests
of wealthy developers at the expense of the poor.
Human rights activists asserted that the government-sponsored
transmigration program transplanting poor families from overcrowded Java and
Madura to less populated islands violated the rights of indigenous people,
bred social resentment, and encouraged the exploitation and degradation of
natural resources on which many indigenous persons relied. In some areas,
such as parts of Sulawesi, the Malukus, Kalimantan, Aceh, and Papua,
relations between transmigrants and indigenous people were poor.
Based on recent statistics the authorities arrested at least 30
persons for raising separatist flags in Papua. Although the Papua Special
Autonomy Law permits flying a flag symbolizing Papua's cultural identity, a
government regulation prohibits the display of the Morning Star flag in
Papua, the RMS flag in Maluku, and the Crescent Moon flag in Aceh.
The government continued to restrict foreign journalists, NGOs, and
government officials from traveling to the provinces of Papua and West Papua
by requiring them to request permission to travel through the Foreign
Ministry or an Indonesian embassy. The government approved some requests and
denied others. Some journalists traveled to Papua without permission....
NGOs in Papua continued to report widespread monitoring of their
activities by intelligence officials as well as threats and intimidation.
Activists reported that intelligence officers took their pictures
surreptitiously and sometimes questioned their friends and family members
regarding their whereabouts and activities.
During the year indigenous persons, most notably in Papua, remained
subject to widespread discrimination, and there was little improvement in
respect for their traditional land rights. Mining and logging activities,
many of them illegal, posed significant social, economic, and logistical
problems to indigenous communities. The government failed to prevent
domestic and multinational companies, often in collusion with the local
military and police, from encroaching on indigenous peoples' land. In Papua
tensions continued between indigenous Papuans and migrants from other
provinces, between residents of coastal and inland communities, and among
A more detailed critique of the State Department report by WPAT and the East
Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) will be released shortly (check
International Crisis Group Accused of Misrepresenting
Causes of Violence in West Papua
A March 11 report by the International Crisis Group (ICG), "Indonesia: Radicalization and Dialogue in Papua,
claimed that several Papuan groups were behind
rising tension and violence in West Papua. Some media and senior ICG officials misrepresented elements of the report to
suggest, incorrectly, that it had assigned blame to Papuan rebels for recent
violence in the area of the Freeport McMoran mine. The Report had described the
rebels as more likely to be responsible, but said "there are no
conclusive answers." The ICG
report usefully criticized the Indonesian government for its restrictions on
access to West Papua by journalists, researchers and others and also urged the
Indonesian Government to desist from attempting to portray all Papuan critics
and dissenters as "separatist." ICG also usefully encouraged efforts supported
by Papuans and some Indonesians to launch a dialogue between Jakarta and West
The West Papua Advocacy Team, among others, expressed serious objections to the
report's analysis, methodology and conclusions (see
). WPAT noted, in part, that
Indonesian actions in West Papua, including its "security approach" to problems
and its assault on human rights there were the leading causes of tension and
Incident in the
Antara news agency reported on March 23 that Indonesian troops and a group
it labeled "separatist" were involved in an exchange of gunfire in the troubled
Mulia District in the central highlands regency of Puncak Jaya. The incident
reportedly began when an armed group fired on a military vehicle as it was
returning to its base in the Puncak Senyum area.
Local officials said that no civilians were hurt and there appear to have
been no casualties among the 13 TNI personnel in the vehicle or their alleged
WPAT sources in the area report that some villagers have already fled their
homes fearing onset of military operations.