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West Papua Report

December 2010

This is the 80th 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 If you wish to receive the report via e-mail, send a note to 

During his November 9-10 visit to Indonesia, President Obama and President Yudhoyono unveiled a "comprehensive partnership" that strongly reflects Washington's traditional perception of Indonesia as a platform servicing U.S. security and commercial interests. A key element of the "partnership," broadened security ties, comes at the expense of human rights and democratization which are under growing threat from corrupt and unaccountable Indonesian security forces. Secret Kopassus documents released by investigative journalist Alan Nairn reveal that the targeting of senior members of Papuan civil society is official policy, approved at senior levels. Papuans used the occasion of President Obama's visit to protest the denial of self determination and the continuing devastation of local resources by the U.S. mining giant Freeport McMoran. Journalists have complained loudly over Indonesian government subterfuge regarding the trial purportedly of security personnel involved in the torture of Papuans. On December 1, Papuans and their supporters in West Papua and in cities around the world celebrated the day in 1961 when the Papuans declared their independence from Dutch colonial rule. A late November visit to West Papua by President Yudhoyono and many members of his cabinet failed to address long-standing Papuan concerns. A statement by an Indonesian military leader indicates military intent to deepen already substantial military involvement in commercial activities in West Papua.


Security and Commercial Interests Drive Obama Administration Policy in Indonesia

President Obama's brief November 9-10 visit to Indonesia  revealed a Washington policy firmly rooted in previous administrations' narrow perspectives. The "comprehensive partnership," formally announced during the visit as the centerpiece of U.S.-Indonesian relations, is reminiscent of decades-old U.S. policy towards Indonesia. The "partnership” affirms the intent to broaden educational exchanges and offers lip-service to purportedly shared global goals related to the environment and democratization. However, at its core, the accord betrays the same lack of vision that characterized U.S. relations with the Suharto dictatorship and its successors: e.g., Indonesia's importance to the United States is as regional leader capable of counter-balancing China, as a market for U.S. goods and (especially) services, and as a source of raw materials and cheap labor.


President Obama offers a toast during State Dinner with President Yudhoyono' at the Istana Negara State Palace Complex in Jakarta, Nov. 9, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)


Missing is any U.S. recognition of the growing challenges to democratization and stability that beset Indonesia. Indonesian democracy is increasingly hostage to an ambitious, corrupt and unaccountable military and police, as set forth in a WPAT letter to President Obama. Nowhere is this security force brutality and rogue behavior more in evidence than in West Papua where video footage of security force murder, torture and beatings of Papuans in recent months has slipped through a cordon of silence enforced by the security forces to hide systematic brutality there. The extent of this brutality was revealed during the Obama visit by investigative journalist Alan Nairn who released secret Kopassus documents that make clear that intimidation and brutalization of Papuans smeared by Jakarta as "separatists" is official policy. The documents lay bare the deliberate falsehood perpetrated by the Government of Indonesia (and gullibly accepted by foreign governments) that egregious security force human rights abuse in West Papua are anomalies perpetrated by individual personnel acting outside their orders. In fact, such abuses are revealed as systematic and doctrinal. The documents also firmly establish chain of command responsibility for these abuses extending to the most senior levels of the Indonesian military.

The "comprehensive partnership" contains, as a fundamental element, a strengthened and expanded bilateral security force relationship initially announced by U.S. Secretary of Defense Gates during a July 2010 visit to Jakarta. That expanded relationship remarkably includes collaboration with Indonesian Special Forces (Kopassus), which had been denied U.S. assistance since its infamous role in the 1998 riots in Jakarta and other major Indonesian cities. Kopassus's continuing abuses and unaccountability as documented in a June 2009 Human Rights Watch report, has demonstrated that unit's unwillingness to reform.


Missing is any U.S. recognition of the growing challenges to democratization and stability that beset Indonesia. Indonesian democracy is increasingly hostage to an ambitious, corrupt and unaccountable military and police.

Inclusion of security sector cooperation, including with Kopassus, as a key element of the "partnership" ignores what had long been bicameral and bipartisan U.S. Congressional objection to restoration of ties with Kopassus. Restoration of ties with Indonesia’s special forces, as well as continued U.S. support for "Detachment 88," the purported anti-terror unit, credibly and repeatedly accused of human rights violations, provides Kopassus and all Indonesian security forces an imprimatur of U.S. approval that removes critical pressure for reform. The decision to move forward broadly with U.S. military assistance also communicates a disheartening message to Indonesian reform advocates who have pressed for such reform in the face of security force intimidation up to and including murder.

See also Statement of East Timor and Indonesia Action Network on President Obama's Visit to Indonesia

Release of Secret Indonesian Military Documents Proves Human Rights Abuse Indonesian Government Policy

Allan Nairn


Allan Nairn


The November 9 release of a 25-page secret report by a Kopassus task force in Kotaraja, Papua, conclusively demonstrates that human rights violations in West Papua is Indonesian government policy. The document, released by investigative journalist Alan Nairn, identify individual senior members of Papuan civil society and clergy as targets for intimidation and abuse. The task force alleges without evidence that they harbor "separatist" goals. While senior Indonesian government military and civilian officials have long groundlessly alleged separatist sympathies among Papua's civil society, the document are unique as they name the targets for attack and explicitly ordain extralegal measures by security forces to be employed against them. The report indicates that such actions are supported at the highest levels of the Indonesian military. Moreover, calls for action to impede and prevent Papuans from peacefully exercising fundamental freedoms including the right of association and of free speech constitute clear violations of Indonesia's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights, both acceded to by Indonesia in February 2006. They also violate Indonesian law affirming these rights.

Responding to the leak, Indonesia’s armed forces commander confirmed to the Jakarta Globe that his troops conduct intelligence gathering operations in Papua. According to the newspaper, Adm. Agus Suhartono “rejected the idea that gathering intelligence among civilians was wrong, saying all intelligence operations in Papua served to detect and prevent separatist threats.” He “added the operations were always carried out by officers sent over from the military’s central command, including from Kopassus and other elite units.”

See also Democracy Now!: As Obama Arrives in Jakarta, Secret Docs Show U.S.-backed Indonesian Special Forces Unit Targets Papuan Churches, Civilians

Papuans Risk Arrest and Mistreatment in Appeal to President Obama during His Visit to Jakarta

Hoping to draw the attention of President Obama and the international media that accompanied his entourage to Jakarta, Papuans in various cities demonstrated peacefully. An unknown number of demonstrators in Jayapura were detained despite the peaceful nature of their November 6 march. In Jakarta, a WPAT team member monitored a two hour peaceful march of over 100 Papuans to the gates of U.S.-based gold and copper mine Freeport McMoran. The protesters carried banners critical of the U.S. and Indonesian governments for denying Papuans the right of self determination and also decrying Freeport's decades of destructive exploitation of Papuan resources and violation of Papuan rights. During their march the protesters followed instructions of accompanying police to minimize disruption of Jakarta's mid-day traffic. Some demonstrators sat down in the street blocking several lanes of a major Jakarta thoroughfare near Freeport’s corporate offices, after they were denied permission to enter and meet with officials. Police were initially confused by the tactic but eventually struck at least one of the demonstrators and briefly detained three forcing the demonstrators to the side of the road.

Jakarta Authorities Mislead about Trial of Purported Torturers


Describing the event as"classic bait and switch" and "a red herring,"Journalists claimed to us that they had been deliberately misled, "they wanted to make the story go away before the Obama visit," said one Jakarta-based journalist.

Indonesian and international media reporting on the eve of President Obama's visit to Indonesia initially claimed that Indonesian justice had acted with unusual speed in the case of the security personnel shown torturing two Papuans in video footage that circulated widely in October (see November West Papua Report ). In Jakarta a WPAT member heard international and Indonesian journalists express consternation that Indonesian authorities had misled them about the identity of the security personnel who appeared in court in Jayapura November 4. Describing the event as "classic bait and switch" and "a red herring," the journalists explained that in reality the police personnel who appeared in court were not the ones involved in the torture videos but rather were personnel who had been shown beating villagers in separate video footage that had surfaced at the time of the torture videos. Journalists claimed to us that they had been deliberately misled, "they wanted to make the story go away before the Obama visit," said one Jakarta-based journalist.

The November 4 court proceeding in any event was flawed. Three low-ranking officers of the Pam Rahwan Yonif 753/Arga Vira Tama squad, based in Nabire, Papua, were sentenced to five months imprisonment for their beating of bound Papuan villagers in March 2010.  Second Lt. Cosmos was sentenced to seven months in prison by the same court. The sentences were more than the three months proposed by military prosecutors but in the eyes of most observers were not commensurate with the seriousness of the crime. Indonesian courts regularly sentence Papuans charged with peaceful protest to imprisonment for ten to fifteen years.

Papuans and International Supporters Celebrate Independence Day
On December 1, Papuans and their supporters in West Papua and in cities around the world celebrated the day in 1961 when the Papuans declared their independence from Dutch colonial rule.  The day was marked with peaceful demonstrations at the Indonesian embassy in Washington D.C. where Amnesty International rallied on the sixth anniversary of the arrest of prisoner of conscience Filep Karma. Demonstrations were also held in New Zealand, Australia and elsewhere.

President Yudhoyono's Visit to West Papua Deepens Resentments

Papuan officials publicly criticized President Yudhoyono's late November visit to West Papua. Weynand Watori, head of the Provincial Legislature's (DPRD) Commission A said the visit decried the President's unwillingness to engage in a dialogue with the people. Watori noted specifically the President's failure to address human rights violations or the people's rejection of special autonomy as proposed by the central government but never effectively implemented. 

The President was accompanied by nearly all members of his cabinet, as well as people from the anti-corruption commission and the state finance investigation agency.

The President did not meet with the Papuan Customary Council (DAP) which has been particularly vocal in its criticism of the Government reliance on the "security approach" to address political, cultural and social problems. In July, DAP firmly rejected Jakarta's "special autonomy" policies, acting at the behest of thousands of demonstrators in Jayapura and local constituencies throughout West Papua.

Indonesian Military Leader's Statements Foreshadow Growing Role for Military in West Papua

Indonesian daily Republika on November 23 carried comments by Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI), Major General Suprapto that indicated TNI intent to expand its role in the exploitation of natural resources. His remarks suggest strongly that the TNI is eyeing an expansion of its already significant commercial activities in West Papua. According to Suprapto, the TNI must be given a role to play in support of infrastructure (development), especially in "isolated regions such as conflict areas, outer lying islands and along land borders with other countries." (West Papua is one of the few "outer islands" with foreign land borders and which is regarded as a "conflict area.") Suprapto specifically called for closer coordination between the TNI and key ministries dealing with forestry and maritime affairs and fishing. The TNI has long been credibly accused of involvement in illegal logging and collusion with illegally operating foreign fishing vessels, especially in and around West Papua.

Notwithstanding legislation requiring the TNI to divest itself of an empire of legal and illegal businesses by fall 2009, the TNI continues to evade civilian control through maintenance of a major flow of funds outside the civilian-controlled budgetary process; i.e., through its business empire.





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