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West Papua Report

September 2012

This is the 101st 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 directly via e-mail, send a note to


The West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) called on Secretary Clinton to raise concern about West Papua with Indonesian officials during her September 3 visit to Jakarta. Military operations there continue to disrupt and endanger the lives of Papuan civilians in Paniai. Security forces raided a student dormitory beating students; initial reports indicate at least one student died in the assault. A religious leader and long-time resident in West Papua paints a bleak and deteriorating picture of conditions there. Indonesian security forces continue to rely on armed force to address Papuan dissent according to religious leaders. A detailed report explores the dire humanitarian consequences posed by the proposed sale of U.S. Apache helicopters to the Indonesian military. A new project to provide easy access to information on Papuan prisoners of conscience/political prisoners is being organized. Amnesty International has issued an alert regarding the recent detention of Yusak Pakage. A Papuan member of the Indonesian parliament (DPR) decries failure of the body to create human rights mechanisms in West Papua as mandated by Special Autonomy legislation passed in 2001.


WPAT Calls on U.S. Secretary of State To Raise Critical Issues With Indonesian Leaders

The West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) wrote on August 31 to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton concerning key issues regarding West Papua on her September 3 visit to Indonesia. The text of the letter follows:

Dear Secretary Clinton:

The West Papua Advocacy Team respectfully requests that you raise the following concerns in your upcoming meetings with Indonesian officials during your visit to Jakarta:

The Killing of Mako Tabuni
On June 14 in West Papua, Government of Indonesia security elements shot and killed Mako Tabuni, a prominent Papuan human rights advocate. According to eyewitnesses, Mr. Tabuni was shot by plainclothes officers after he eluded their attempts to force him into an unmarked vehicle. Although he was badly wounded, the plainclothes officers failed to take him to a nearby hospital and instead brought him to a distant police facility where he died. The appearance and modus operandi of the security officials strongly suggest that they were members of the U.S.-funded "Detachment 88." This unit has been accused of human rights violations in West Papua and elsewhere by reputable human rights organizations.

We strongly urge you to insist that the Government of Indonesia conduct a thorough and transparent investigation of the killing of Mako Tabuni.

Military Operations Impacting Civilians
For decades the Government of Indonesia has conducted military operations in remote areas of West Papua purportedly aimed at countering the activity of the small, lightly-armed Papua Freedom Movement (OPM). These operations have severely affected local civilians resulting in the destruction of homes, places of worship and public buildings, and causing the flight of civilians to nearby forests where they face life threatening conditions. Invariably, security forces impede efforts by humanitarian relief organizations to assist these displaced civilians. Many civilians have died as a result of these military operations. Currently such an operation is underway in the Paniai region.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton greets Indonesia President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Foreign Minister Raden Mohammad Marty Muliana Natalegawa in Jakarta, September 2012. Photo via U.S. Dept of State.

We strongly urge you to call on the Government of Indonesia to cease resort to armed measures to address largely peaceful Papuan protests and to permit humanitarian relief organizations to respond to the urgent human need generated by these military operations.

Provision of Vital Human Services to Papuans
Since assuming control of West Papua through the widely discredited "Act of Free Choice" over 40 decades ago, the Government of Indonesia has consistently failed to provide minimally adequate health, education and other vital services to the Papuan people. That failure has resulted in health and education indices for the Papuan population that are consistently among the lowest in Indonesia and the region and have prompted charges that Jakarta's malign neglect of the Papuan people's basic human needs amounts to genocide.

We strongly urge that you press the Government of Indonesia to address the dearth of human services in West Papua and that the U.S. Government increase its own assistance, particularly in the areas of health, education and creation of employment opportunities for the systematically-marginalized Papuans.

Papuan Political Prisoners
Human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have repeatedly accused the Government of Indonesia of incarcerating Papuans for peaceful activities protected under international covenants assuring the right to peaceful political activity and the right to assembly. Moreover, these organizations and a 2007 report by a UN Special Rapporteur determined that conditions of incarceration for these (and other) prisoners and detainees do not meet minimal international standards. Recently, Papuan political prisoner (and Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience) Filep Karma has suffered delays in the provision of crucial medical services guaranteed him under international covenants to which Indonesia is a signatory party.

We strongly urge you to raise with Indonesian officials concern over the continued persecution of peaceful dissent by Papuans and their mistreatment when in custody, including the Indonesian government's failure to provide minimally adequate medical care as required under international law.

U.S. Sale of Attack Helicopters to Indonesia
In March of this year, 90 international NGO's urged the U.S. not to sell AH-64 Apache attack helicopters to Indonesia. These organizations argued that provision of these helicopters would pose a direct threat to Papuan civilians, who have suffered deadly TNI (Indonesian military) assaults for many years. Specifically, the NGO's noted that the heavily-armed AH-64 was a highly lethal weapon which could be used to escalate conflict within Indonesia and in West Papua as these aircraft would substantially augment the TNI's capacity to prosecute its "sweep operations" in West Papua. The consequence of this augmentation of the TNI arsenal would lead to increased suffering among the civilian populations long victimized by such operations.

We again urge that the U.S. government not approve the sale of this weapon system to the Indonesian military and that you use the occasion of your visit to inform the Indonesians that the sale will not go forward.

Calls for Government of Indonesia-Papuan Dialogue
Respected Papuan leaders have long called on the Government of Indonesia to engage in an internationally mediated dialogue with the Papuan people regarding the future of West Papua. At the July 2011 "Papua Peace Conference" which convened in Jayapura with more than 1,000 in attendance, Papuan representatives were selected for such a dialogue. The Indonesian Government observed this conference at the ministerial level.

Welcoming past U.S. Government support for a dialogue, we urge you to reiterate U.S. Government encouragement for such a dialogue.

Thank you for your consideration of our concerns.

The West Papua Advocacy Team

TNI Sweep Operation in Paniai 

West Papua Media and sources in Paniai report that military operations there continue to disrupt and endanger the lives of Papuan civilians. Initial reports from middle-August indicated a growing military presence in the area and increasing fear there among villagers that military operations against Papua Freedom fighters purported to be in the area could lead to reprisal raids against civilians by the military.

At least three companies of the Battalion 753, a unit linked to ongoing brutal human rights violations and incidents of torture in Paniai, parachuted into the headwaters of the Weya Creek of Bibida district in Wagamo, Paniai, according to sources cited by West Papua Media. The TNI is reportedly searching the villages around Weya Creek for the Paniai OPM/TPN leader John Yogi, who has eluded capture since a massive offensive that displaced more than 12,000 since it began in November 2011. However, Yogi has not been seen in the area according to local sources, who report that the local civilian population is bearing the brunt of interrogations and abuse from Battalion 753. Witnesses report that Battalion 753 units, supported by Brimob police units, have launched aggressive raids in villages since the evening of September 4, detaining and interrogating all villages and destroying property. Security forces also have seized sharp items, including tools necessary for subsistence agriculture. A repeat of the humanitarian crisis that developed last December when troops from 753 Battalion torched and destroyed food gardens and forced thousands to flee to police run "care centers" in Enaratoli is possible. During the 2011 campaign, several people died of starvation and sickness in the so-called care centers.

WPAT notes that the Indonesian military routinely prevents non-government organization such as churches from aiding those people displaced by the military's operations.

Another Brutal Security Force Assault on Papuan Students
The Indonesian military, police and possibly the infamous "Detachment 88" assaulted a student dormitory in Abepura which houses students from West Papua's highland region, West Papua Media reports .

Students reported being beaten by security officers during the assault and again after they were detained. West Papua Media reports many serious injuries among the students and at least one fatality. Security forces initially detained 35.

The news service speculated that the August 26 attack may have targeted these students because many were Dani from the central highlands, and thus suspected of links with the West Papua National Committee, one Papuan nonviolent resistance group.

Long-Time Resident of West Papua Paints Bleak Picture of Conditions There 

Father John Djonga  

Father John Djonga, a religious cleric who recently completed 12 years of service in Keerom District in West Papua painted a bleak picture of living conditions, injustice and threats by security forces posed to Papuans. Father Djonga, an Indonesian citizen from Flores and winner of the prestigious Yap Thiam Hien award in 2011, spoke with Bintang Papua, which printed excerpts of their interview with him on August 24 (translated by Tapol).

Djonga said that in many parts of the territory, particularly in the interior where most of the Papuan indigenous people live, the situation with regard to education and health was worrying. "These are matters of crucial importance for the dignity and welfare of the people. The issues of justice and equality also are very pressing indeed. These are matters for which the government is responsible," he told the newspaper.

Djonga said that forests are being cut down benefiting a small group of people who sell off the land. Local people lose their livelihood as less land is available for agriculture. (WPAT: This minority often includes local Papuan leaders suborned by corporate interests and Indonesian civilian and military bureaucrats.)

Djonga also expressed his concern about the level of violence as increased: "Both sides, the government apparatus and the people resort to violence to resolve their problems. This never solves anything. On the contrary, it only complicates things."

"The people living in Keerom live in a constant state of fear and anxiety. There is no trust at all between the two sides, and the people live in a state of trauma because of the presence of the Indonesian military in every kampung." he told Bintang Papua. "There are growing discrepancies and injustices between people of the different communities and this represents a great challenge to the need for mutual harmony and respect between the communities."

Father Djonga, like many supporters of human rights in West Papua, faced threats over his advocacy (see next story).

Indonesian Government Increasingly Resorts to Military Means to Address Protest

UCANews described growing concern by religious leaders in West Papua about the Indonesian government's reliance on military measures to address Papuan demands for justice and political rights. The article, excerpted below, also contends that Papuans were increasingly turning to religious leaders rather than government officials to address their plight.


"The situation becomes worse when Papuans have no chance to express themselves. Every protest against the government is always regarded as separatist movement."

Researchers at the National Commission on Human Rights found that "Papuans trust religious leaders more than the government and that gap is widening."

From the UCANews report:

The government's military approach to controlling the restive region, including an incident in October where more than 300 Papuans were arrested and six killed by security forces, has inflamed resistance and resentment. With these factors in mind, religious leaders now need to take a more active role than ever in conflict resolution, the commission says.

"Conflicts in Papua cannot be solved only by the government," the commission's Yosep Stanley Adi Prasetyo said yesterday at the Indonesian Bishops Conference offices in Jakarta. "When I met with some Papuans living in remote areas, they said their trust in the government has gradually lessened."

"The situation becomes worse when Papuans have no chance to express themselves. Every protest against the government is always regarded as separatist movement," Prasetyo said.

Father Neles Kebadabi Tebay, coordinator of the Papuan Peace Network and rector of Fajar Timur School of Philosophy and Theology in Abepura, agreed that religious leaders could do more for the situation in Papua.

"They have not united yet," Father Neles said. "They conduct movements individually not institutionally. As a result, these movements are not strong enough."

However, anyone working towards conflict resolution in the region faces strong opposition.

"I often face threats while fighting for Papuans," said Father John Djonga, an activist priest who received the 2009 Yap Thiam Hien Award. "I even received a text message saying that I would be buried alive if I kept speaking up about violence in Papua."

"Obamacopters" Pose Threat to Papuans


A report by Philip Jacobson in Truthout reviews the Indonesian government's request to buy eight Boeing AH-64 attack helicopters to the Indonesian military. The report underscores objections raised by nearly 100 NGOs who in March condemned the transaction (Groups Urge U.S. Not to Sell Attack Helicopters to Indonesia).

The article reinforces their concern that the Apache helicopters would substantially augment the Indonesian military's capacity to prosecute "sweeping operations" which, for decades, have devastated Papuans living in rural areas. These operations, purportedly targeting the lightly armed Papuan resistance (OPM) destroy homes, churches and public buildings and have driven thousands of Papuans into surrounding forests where they face grave hardships, including death through starvation.
New Project Focuses on Papuan Prisoners

Members of the international solidarity network for Papuans, working with the assistance of the U.K.-based TAPOL, are nearing completion of a project collecting data on "Papuans Behind Bars." Over 90 profiles of Papuan political prisoners have been completed with translation from English into Bahasa Indonesia underway. Once completed the project will serve as a central database for all information regarding the plight of Papuan prisoners useful to human rights advocates based in Papua, Jakarta and internationally .

The information will be available at a website now under development.

Project organizers note that the Indonesian government is increasingly denying that these prisoners even exist, while torturing them, denying them health care, arresting and harassing local activists who assist prisoners, and charging activists for events which happened after they were arrested. Providing a clear and accessible data on arrest rates, exactly who is in prison, and what has happened to them is vital in order to bring these practices to an end.

Those wishing to support this initiative can donate funds at or offer other assistance (native translators and web development skills are especially sought) by contacting

Amnesty International Issues Urgent Alert Regarding Papuan Prisoner

Amnesty International on February 24 issues an Urgent Action regarding the plight of former prisoner of conscience Yusak Pakage. [Take action here ]:

Former prisoner of conscience Yusak Pakage is being denied access to medical treatment while in police detention in Papua province, Indonesia.

He has reportedly been threatened with torture and has not had access to a lawyer since his arrest.

Yusak Pakage was arrested on 23 July and is being detained at Jayapura city police station. According to sources he is suffering from stomach pains and has not been able to eat. He is being denied access to medical treatment by the Jayapura police authorities and has reportedly been threatened several times with torture and other-ill-treatment.

He has been beaten in detention in the past.

Yusak Pakage was arrested during the trial of Papuan political activist Buchtar Tabuni. While waiting for court proceedings to begin, he is reported to have kicked a bin in frustration, which hit a nearby civil servant. Police who were also in the court room approached Yusak Pakage and searched him. They found a pen-knife in his bag. He was arrested and later charged under Emergency Regulation 12/1951 for "possession of a weapon", which carries a maximum sentence of ten years' imprisonment.

He has not had access to a lawyer since his arrest.

Amnesty International has also received information that Yusak Pakage's interrogation has not focused on the incident in the court on 23 July.

Instead, police have questioned him about his political activities and his recent efforts to raise funds for sick political prisoners. He has also been questioned about his connection with the pro-independence movement in Papua.

A former Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, Yusak Pakage is currently the coordinator of a local movement in Papua called the Street Parliament (
Parlemen Jalanan). He has raised concerns about security for Papuans and the situation of political prisoners in Papua. He was recently involved in supporting local non-governmental organization Solidarity for Victims of Human Rights Violations (SPKP HAM) in raising funds for political prisoners who are sick. He and dozens of other activists were arbitrarily arrested on 20 July by the Jayapura police in connection with their fundraising activities. All were released a few hours later.

(WPAT Note: See August 2012 West Papua Report for coverage of these arrests.)

Indonesian Parliament (DPR) Failing Papuans

A a Papuan member of the Indonesian parliament (DPR) has accused the DPR of engaging in human rights violations in Papua. Parliamentarian Diaz Gwijangga told a public gathering that the DPR bears indirect responsibility for human rights abuse there insofar as it has failed to enact legislation to establish a Commission for Truth and Reconciliation and an Ad Hoc Commission to address rights violations there. Both bodies were mandated under the Indonesian parliament's 2001 law conferring Special Autonomy (Otsus) on Papua.

A high-ranking member of the upper house of the Papuan regional parliament (Majelis Rakyat Papua) also recently spoke out about the need to set up the two rights bodies. "This points to the failure of Otsus," said Hofni Simbiak, first deputy chairman of the assembly.

WPAT Note: The DPR has also failed to establish similar bodies in Aceh as mandated in the 2005 Aceh peace agreement.

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