Civilians Suffer as
Security Force Sweeps Perpetuate Cycle of Violence
In late February, the Indonesian military (TNI) and National Police
new "sweeping operations" in the Central Highlands of West Papua. The
security force campaign follows the February 21 attack by the armed
anti-Indonesian resistance which killed eight Indonesian military soldiers
and two Indonesian civilians in Tingginambut, Puncak Jaya,
reportedly carried out by Goliat Tabuni-led elements of the National
Liberation Army of the Free Papua Movement (TPN-OPM). These latest
Indonesian security force sweeps are disrupting civilian life in communities
around Sinak, Gurage, Mulia and Tingginambut in Puncak Jaya District. Papuan
leaders have condemned the violence and called anew for a Jakarta-Papua
dialogue. (see for example
The latest "sweeping operation" parallels a similar ongoing operation in
neighboring Paniai area., where "helicopters belonging to illegal gold
miners in Degouwo were again being used by Indonesian troops to support the
Governments, especially those
like the United States which have partnered with Indonesian security forces,
should use the influence garnered by such dubious cooperation to bring an end to
these sweeps. The United States government, which condemned the February 21
attack on the Indonesian military is obliged to forthrightly condemn and seek an
end to the Indonesian security forces ongoing assault on innocent civilians.
The West Papua Advisory Team (WPAT) condemns the February 21 violence.
Such violent acts only perpetuate the cycle of violence that has trapped
Papuans, particularly in the Central Highlands, for decades.
WPAT vigorously condemns the actions of the Indonesian state security forces
which, regardless of the provocation, have a fundamental international
obligation to protect civilian life. The seizure and destruction of civilian
homes and communal buildings as well as destruction of civilian food sources
inevitably will force the flight of civilians to inhospitable forests and
mountains. Many of those caught in such a maelstrom will surely soon begin
We call on governments, especially those like the United States which have
partnered with Indonesian security forces , to use the influence
garnered by such dubious cooperation to bring an end to these sweeps. The
United States government, which
condemned the February 21 attack on the Indonesian military is obliged
to forthrightly condemn and seek an end to the Indonesian security forces
ongoing assault on innocent civilians.
We urge international bodies, especially the appropriate offices of the
United Nations, including the Human Rights Commission, to turn their
attention to these sweeping operations and which pose a lethal threat to
large numbers of civilians.
Humanitarian mechanisms must be immediately established to provide for the
welfare of civilians whose lives have been disrupted and the area must be
opened to both the humanitarian offices that will undertake that vital work
and to credible reporting by journalists and human rights reporters.
As of February 26, the Indonesian security force sweeps had burned at
least 18 houses to the ground, destroyed five GIDI (Protestant) churches,
and destroyed a library and two schools in Tingginambut, according to
reliable church sources who relayed eyewitness accounts to
West Papua Media.
The toll on local civilians posed by the military/police operations is
grave: "Witnesses have also reported that soldiers are deliberately burning
and destroying food gardens and shooting livestock, including over 100 pigs.
There are fears of a major humanitarian disaster unfolding with the reports
of the destruction of food gardens and livestock, an act of collective
punishment on a civilian population,"
writes West Papua Media.
|TNI 753 Btn
interrogating locals in Sinak (photo: Malanesia.com via West
Entire populations in villages the area of Gurake, Sinak, Tinggi Neri,
Trugi and Nelekom have fled to the mountains. Several thousand people,
mainly subsistence farmers, are said to live in the area. Townspeople from
Mulia in Puncak Jaya are preparing to flee. As in the past, civilians who
flee to the remote forests and mountains face possibly deadly separation
from sources of food, shelter and medical care.
Another trademark of these sweeping operations, also employed in the current
military/police campaign, is the prevention of reporting on developments by
the authorities. The only media personnel allowed into the operations area
are those with approval from the Indonesian army. Independent journalists
and human rights workers have been prevented from traveling into the area by
a de facto Military Operations Area being applied across the entire
highlands, including the regional center of Wamena.
Papuan civil and
religious leaders Rev. Dr. Benny Giay and Rev. Socratez Sofyan Yoman,
among others, have pointed to the failure of Indonesian authorities to
control the illegal sale of weapons in the Central Highlands as contributing
to the February 21 attack. They have also noted the government's long term
objective of creating a new military command in the Central Highlands, an
intention that is well served by violence in the area. "We believe that the
Indonesian government and the security forces are part of the problem of
violence [emphasis in original] which has been created by the
state, preserved by the state and allowed to continue in order to legitimize
yet more acts of violence in the Land of Papua and to take advantage thereof
in order to strengthen the security forces," they wrote. Both leaders called
anew for "the Indonesian government to enter unconditionally into a dialogue
based on the principle of equality between Indonesia and West Papua, with
mediation by a neutral party, which is what happened in the dialogue between
GAM (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka -- the Aceh Liberation Movement) in Aceh. "
They urged the release of political prisoners and an end to the violence.
Giay is Chair of the Synod of KINGMI Church, Papua; Yoman, Chair of the
Executive Board of the Alliances of Baptist Churches in Papua.
Papuans Seek to Join Melanesian
Radio Australia, on February 5 reported that West Papuans are seeking
membership in the Melanesia Spearhead Group (MSG), a regional political and
trade block which represents Melanesian peoples in the region, with the
exception of the Papuan people in Indonesian-controlled New Guinea. The West
Papua National Coalition for Liberation presented its petition asking to
join the group to the MSG Secretariat in early February.
The MSG is comprised of four nation states: Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Fiji,
and the Solomon Islands. The group also includes the FLNKS of New Caledonia.
The inclusion of the FLNKS, a non-state actor, could serve as a precedent
for inclusion of the Papuan petitioners.
U.S. Author Defames Papuan
People; Ignores Consequences of Indonesian Occupation
|London protest at talk by Jared
Diamond. Photo from Free West Papua Campaign.
Papuan civil society leaders strongly protested statements in a book by
U.S.-based author Jared Diamond
which portray Papuans (in both parts of New Guinea) as warlike and
backward. Diamond's argues in The World Until Yesterday that "most
small-scale societies... become trapped in cycles of violence and warfare"
and that "New Guineans (Papuans) appreciated the benefits of the
state-guaranteed [Indonesian Government] peace that they had been unable to
achieve for themselves without state government."
Papuan leaders noted that Diamond ignored the extraordinary violence
meted out to Papuans by Indonesian security forces since Jakarta forcibly
annexed West Papua over four decades ago. Diamond also ignored Jakarta's
deliberate marginalization of indigenous peoples in favor of non-Papuan
"transmigrants" brought to West Papua in a decades-long project that amounts
to ethnic cleansing.
Among the many protests was one by Dominikus Surabut, currently jailed for
treason for peacefully declaring West Papuan independence. He aptly compared
the relationship of Papuans and the Indonesian state to South African
apartheid. In a statement smuggled out of his jail cell,
he said, "This is the very nature and character of colonial occupation
of indigenous peoples, where they are treated as second class citizens whose
oppression is justified by painting them as backwards, archaic, warring
tribes -- just as suggested by Jared Diamond in his book about tribal
sued for defamation by purported "sources" from Papua New Guinea for
article published in the New Yorker magazine in 2008. While the suit was
withdrawn, it is expected that it will be re-filed soon.
WPAT Comment: The U.S. government leaders, in justifying the betrayal of
Papuan self-determination aspirations in the infamous
New York Agreement of 1962,
similarly demeaned the supposed backwardness of the Papuan people. Both the
U.S. then and Diamond in his recent analysis rely on defamation of the
people being victimized.
See various statements by Papuan leaders at:
Tensions Grow Along Indonesia-PNG
The Papua New Guinea government
announced the deployment of new military forces to its border in order
to protect PNG citizens located near the border from the Indonesian
military. The surprising February 18 announcement was accompanied by a
formal protest by PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill's government over the
Indonesia's construction of new military posts along the border. The protest
also addressed Indonesian military harassment of PNG citizens.
WPAT Comment: The Indonesian military has long operated smuggling
operations across the Indonesia-PNG border and has regularly harassed Papuan
refugees who have fled military pressure from Indonesia-controlled West
Papua to Papua New Guinea.
A Half Century of Failure
Bobbie Anderson in Inside Indonesia provides a detailed
and insightful portrayal of life in remote, rural West Papua. Anderson
describes how life is extraordinarily difficult and dangerous for Papuans
and writes that the population there is completely bereft of government
services. The government's neglect of the majority of Papuans who live in
rural West Papua over a half century is perhaps the most devastating
critique of Indonesian governance.
Urgent Appeals on Behalf of
Papuans Detained and Tortured by Police
Amnesty International is calling for action to help two men
detained in Jayapura. The
February 25 Urgent Action states that "Daniel Gobay and Matan Klembiap
are currently detained at the Jayapura district police station in Papua
province. Police officers allegedly tortured or other otherwise ill-treated
them and five other men while interrogating them about the whereabouts of
two pro-independence activists." While the other five were released, the
other Gobay and Klembiap "have not received medical treatment and they have
not had access to a lawyer since their arrest." The Asian Human Rights
Commission (AHRC) also
released an alert on the case, as well as a video with an interview with
two of those picked up at the same time as Gobay and Klembiap. The two
activists, Eneko Pahabol and Obed Bahabol, describe how they "were arrested
and tortured by the police on 15 February 2013 on the false allegation of
being related with two pro-independence activists." The video is available
on AHRC's YouTube Channel on
On February 22, AHRC has issued an
Urgent Appeal on behalf of prisoners at the Abepura Correctional
Facility. The appeal cites allegations of torture by guards. It details how
three prison guards "with the acquiescence of the head of the prison," beat
the prisoners "with bare hands as well as whipped [them] with thick wire
until some parts of their bodies were bleeding. The guards did not give any
medical treatment to the tortured prisoners."
Papuans Behind Bars
Papuans Behind Bars
published an "Update" in which it reports that "At the end of January
2013 there were 33 political prisoners in Papuan jails." The Update contains
important information on prisoners, prisoner releases and ongoing and
upcoming political trials in the region. Papuans Behind Bars is a new
grassroots initiative of Papuan civil society groups working together as the
Civil Society Coalition to Uphold Law and Human Rights in Papua. The project
plans to "provide accurate and transparent data, published in English and
Indonesian, to facilitate direct support for prisoners and promote wider
debate and campaigning in support of free expression in West Papua."
The project will publish records of over 200 current and former political
prisoners on its
website, which will go live in March.
Link to this issue: