West Papua Report September 2014: Timor and W Papua, Journos detained, Bintuni Bay, Jokowi prospects, freedom of expression
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West Papua Report

This is the 125th 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 by the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN). Back issues are posted online at http://www.etan.org/issues/wpapua/default.htm Questions regarding this report can be addressed to Edmund McWilliams at edmcw@msn.com. If you wish to receive the report directly via e-mail, send a note to etan@etan.org. Link to this issue: http://etan.org/issues/wpapua/2014/1409wpap.htm.

The Report leads with "Perspective," an analysis piece; followed by "Update," a summary of some developments during the covered period; and then "Chronicle" which includes analyses, statements, new resources, appeals and action alerts related to West Papua. Anyone interested in contributing a Perspective or responding to one should write to edmcw@msn.com. The opinions expressed in Perspectives are the author's and not necessarily those of WPAT or ETAN. For additional news on West Papua see the reg.westpapua listserv archive or on Twitter.


This month's PERSPECTIVE is by ETAN's John M. Miller. It looks at differences and similarities in the historical experience of Timor-Leste (East Timor) and West Papua.

UPDATE examines the potential impact a Joko Widodo administration may have on West Papua, noting high expectations for a new focus on the "neglected region." Two French journalists have been detained by security authorities in West Papua; this action may be intended to challenge President-elect Widodo who has spoken of his intention to open West Papua to international media scrutiny. "Development" plans in the Bintuni Bay area appear to be ignoring the voices and interests of local Papuans. Security forces have detained and beaten two Papuans in Manokwari. Widodo plans to establish a human rights court are encouraging, but it is not clear whether the court will address the extraordinary abuses of the 1965-66 period or the systematic abuse of human rights in West Papua extending back even further.

CHRONICLE highlights appeals to President-elect Widodo by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch regarding the need to make human rights a priority. Both appeals include a focus on West Papua. A comment by Pat Walsh offers the view that the Widodo administration may offer the "best prospect" for progress on the decades-old "Papua problem."


Timor's Success, Papua's Struggle
by John M. Miller

Fifteen years ago, on August 30, 1999, thousands of East Timorese voters lined up to exercise their long-denied right to self-determination, a process that had been interrupted by Indonesia's U.S.-backed invasion and occupation in 1975. By noon of that day, most had chosen independence (in preference to an "enhanced autonomy"). As the United Nations announced the result, the Indonesian military and its militia proxies began their long-threatened wave of destruction and violence. This was meant both to punish the East Timorese for their choice and to send a message to other rebellious areas, especially West Papua and Aceh.

After a short period of UN administration, East Timor finally became the independent Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste on May 20, 2002. Timor's successful referendum inspired hopes for many in West Papua that they might also be able to choose their political status. Indonesia's elite reacted to the "loss" of Timor-Leste by vowing never to let anything similar happen again. Many in the military were upset about the loss of opportunities for promotion and side income. In response, Indonesia combined grants of "special autonomy" with harsh crackdowns in Aceh and West Papua.

There are many parallels between West Papua and Timor-Leste and, as tellingly, substantial differences. First some of the parallels:

On the periphery of the archipelago, neither territory was part of Indonesia as it was established on independence. The colonizers of both had said that they would help them exercise their own rights to self-determination. Initially, the United Nations also agreed. In both cases, when Indonesia acted to annex the territories, major powers -- especially the United States -- actively supported Indonesia. (Indonesia's takeovers serve as bookends to Henry Kissinger's career at the highest levels of the U.S. government. The annexation of West Papua was completed soon after he began serving as Nixon's National Security Advisor; Indonesia's invasion of Portuguese Timor was notoriously given the green light by President Ford and Secretary of State Kissinger a little more than a year before Ford's term ended.)

Order from ETAN
East Timor: A Rough Passage to Independence The Trial Henry Kissinger The Independence of East Timor by Clinton Fernandes A Woman of Independence - Kirsty Sword Gusmao

The populations of both territories suffered massive human rights violations, from arbitrary arrests and systematic rape and torture to discrimination. Indonesian security forces engaged in mass murder, deliberate starvation, and massacres -- some well-known, others little documented. Indonesia stands accused of genocide in both regions. Where the number of pre-invasion colonizers was relatively small, both places saw an influx of people from Indonesia under formal and informal transmigration programs. Children, orphaned by war or otherwise, were permanently removed to other islands. Underlying this was a paternalistic and racist attitude holding that the mostly darker-skinned peoples of Timor and Papua were too stupid or primitive to govern themselves.

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Demonstrators at the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili, Timor-Leste on November 12, 1991, just prior to Indonesian troops opening fire killing hundreds. Photo by Steve Cox.


No Indonesian generals or political leaders have been held accountable for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in occupied Timor-Leste. The same is true for West Papua. This impunity contributes to ongoing human rights violation in West Papua.

After a time, both territories were opened to tourism, but the Indonesian government worked to keep journalists, diplomats, and others from freely visiting to investigate conditions.

Importantly, as many insisted their causes were lost, both populations continued to insist on their right to self-determination. In the face of Indonesia's overwhelming force, aided by weapons and training from the United States and others, the armed opposition became less prominent and resistance tactics shifted to emphasize nonviolent opposition in the towns and cities and stepped up outreach and diplomatic efforts abroad. Indonesia's violent reaction to peaceful protest crucially highlighted the real nature of its rule over its unwilling subjects.

Now some major differences:


Importantly, as many insisted their causes were lost, both populations continued to insist on their right to self-determination.

While Portuguese Timor was sometimes included in Indonesia's leaders' conception of a greater Indonesia, they never argued for any historic claim to the territory, instead they said that they were protecting their neighbor from civil conflict. On the other hand, West Papua -- with its Dutch colonial heritage and its place in "the Indonesian nationalist imagination as 'the martyr place of the struggle for independence,' in the words of Sukarno"  - was always seen as an important piece of a unified Indonesian state.

Timor's petroleum and other limited resources are mere drops in Indonesia's bucket compared to the great mineral and other natural resource wealth of West Papua.

Critically, while Timor's self-determination was never considered fully settled until it gained independence, the United Nations views the issue as closed for West Papua. Despite its well-documented flaws, the 1969 "Act of Free Choice" was accepted as valid and West Papua was taken off the UN agenda. (The Indonesians tried a similar gambit after invading Portuguese Timor. In November 1975, representatives of four Timorese political parties signed the Balibo Declaration, supposedly inviting Indonesia annexation. The declaration was written hastily in Bali, not the Timorese border town notorious for the pre-invasion murder of five Australian based journalists. )

Unlike West Papua, Timor remained on the UN agenda, even after Indonesia formally annexed Timor as its 27th province in 1976. The UN Security Council quickly, though ineffectually, condemned the invasion in two resolutions (on December 22 1975, and April 22, 1976) and the General Assembly passed annual resolutions supporting Timor-Leste's right to self-determination, beginning on December 12, 1975, through to November 1982, when the issue was placed under the good offices of the Secretary-General. The Committee of 24 on decolonization held annual hearings on Timor up until it was removed from the UN's list of non-self governing territories on independence in 2002.

Even some staunch Suharto supporters like the U.S. government were not ready to unconditionally endorse how Timor became part of Indonesia. State Department officials were always careful to say "We accept Indonesia's incorporation of East Timor without maintaining that a valid act of self-determination has taken place." When asked about West Papua, the response has no such nuance. It is usually some variation of these remarks by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from September 2012: "Regarding the very important question on the situation in Papua, we support the territorial integrity [of Indonesia] and that includes Papua and West Papua provinces. We believe strongly that dialogue between Papuan representatives [and] the Indonesian Government would help address concerns that the Papuans have and assist in resolving conflict peacefully, improving governance and development." This is usually followed by support for the "special autonomy" many in West Papua have rejected and a statement deploring violence without identifying Indonesia's security forces as the main perpetrators.

To reinforce its diplomatic efforts, the Timorese resistance had the support of Portugal and the Portuguese-speaking African countries. Portugal as an EU member vetoed certain forms of cooperation with Indonesia and acted for the Timorese resistance in UN-sponsored negotiations. The Dutch government has shown no interest in advocating for West Papua, and Vanuatu has been its only consistently supportive government.

Once Suharto fell, there were many -- inside and outside governments and the United Nations -- poised to seize the opportunity to press for Timor's self-determination. And seize it they did. Building on past activism and advocacy, U.S. policy changed to an explicit call for "a valid act of self-determination." (For an overview of how U.S. policy toward East Timor shifted during the 1990s see here.)

The above is history and government policies. What about movements for change?


Aboriginal Australians show their support for West Papua during September 2013's Freedom Flotilla.


Awareness of West Papua is certainly growing, as is the number of people acting as advocates. West Papuans, often at great risk, continue to resist and demonstrate within the territory and Indonesia proper. And Papuans are traveling the globe to advocate for themselves. Grassroots global support is important, but outside of Portugal support for Timor was never a mass movement except for a few weeks in September 1999. Changes in U.S. policy were the result of targeted advocacy mostly aimed at ending U.S. support for the Indonesian military in response to growing congressional concern about the violations of human rights.

In the 1990s, the Timorese resistance was clearly unified, both within the country and abroad, under the umbrella of the National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT). Its positions were clear, as was its main request to international solidarity activists: change your own government's policies to end support for Suharto and the occupation. The multiple messages and lack of unified leadership from West Papua is difficult for supporters to navigate.

Post-Suharto Indonesia is now a member of the international community in good standing, despite its ongoing rights violations in West Papua. Indonesia is seen as a democratic example to the Muslim world, a bulwark against China, and important front in the "war on terrorism."

Overcoming the many disadvantages relative to Timor's struggle, international efforts for West Papua will need to generate greater public support and more targeted campaigning to ensure an effective  international response to Indonesia's 50-year rule over West Papua.

John M. Miller is National Coordinator of the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN). In 2012, ETAN received the Timor-Leste's highest honor, the Ordem de Timor, for its role in liberation of the country.

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President-elect Widodo Pledges Signals Greater Presidential Attention to Neglected Region

Indonesia President-elect Joko "Jokowi" Widodo


A victorious President-elect Joko "Jokowi" Widodo. Photo: Reuters.


President-elect Joko "Jokowi" Widodo pledged to construct a "presidential palace" in West Papua; a gesture apparently meant to convey the expectation of greater Presidential attention to the region. His predecessor had visited the region only three times in ten years. Widodo also pledged his administration would meet quarterly for "dialogue" with Papuan leaders. These  meeting would involve either himself or key members of his administration.

These pledges are among a series of steps and statements which suggest a new direction from the Widodo administration regarding West Papua. Widodo visited West Papua during the parliamentary campaign and then while campaigning for president. He also made a public pledge to open West Papua to foreign journalists and others.

In early August, Widodo met with about 30 Papuan politicians and religious leaders to describe his plan to increase contact between the Jakarta and Papua. The step was reminiscent of a meeting called by President Habibie with 100 prominent Papuans in February 1999. In that meeting, the Papuans told the stunned Habibie that they wanted independence.

Papuan leaders reportedly raised several issues with Widodo related to the Freeport gold and copper mine, including demands for a greater share of money and for the company to move its headquarters to Jayapura from Jakarta. They also asked for investigations of killings allegedly related to the mine's operations.

Reaction to the President-elect's statements has been skeptical: "My experience of Indonesian politicians is that any program made for Papua makes no difference - that is, it creates more suffering," Reverend John Djonga of Wamena said. Rev. Socratez Yoman, who was not at the August meeting. said the President-elect "will not solve the West Papua case in the short term if he spends two or three days there." He called for withdrawing Jakarta's troops and police, stopping migration from other parts of Indonesia, freedom for political prisoners and inviting exiled activists home.

French Journalists Jailed in West Papua

French journalists Valentine Bourrat and Thomas Dandois


Valentine Bourrat and Thomas Dandois. Photo: AFP


International journalist groups and others have called for the release of two French journalist detained in West Papua. Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat were arrested in Wamena on August 6 while working on a documentary for Arte, a French-German TV network. They had entered the region with only a tourist visa. Indonesia rarely grants foreign journalists permission to go to West Papua.

An action alert from Tapol and the International Coalition for Papua calls on  people to contact Indonesia officials demanding the journalists release, "access for international journalists and institutions to conduct journalistic or human rights related works without restriction, in accordance with international human rights standards." And an end to "intimidation and legal threat" to those  providing assistance to the journalists. Police are holding Areki Wanimbo, an indigenous leader from Lanny, who the journalists had met. The police also want to question Theo Hesegem, a human rights defender seen with the journalists.

Sulistyo Pudjo Hartono, a provincial police spokesperson, said "We were concerned that [the French journalists] activities were part of a plan to create insecurity and instability in Papua." The journalists "video footage, audio recordings and the journalists' phones had been seized," said Hartono.

The Southeast Asian Press Alliance said "the detention of Dandois and Bourrat and the ongoing ban on foreign journalists in Papua as blatant violations of Indonesia's own Press Law (U.U. 40, 1999)." Reporters without Borders called the arrest of the journalists "illegal," and called for their "immediate release."

The Association of Indonesian Journalists' president Eko Maryadi said that "The arrest of foreign journalists in Papua is not new, but the government's repressive stance is increasing the desire of the international media to go to Papua." "We are hopeful that new President will be more open to the outside world. Becoming more transparent and accommodating to foreign journalists who wish to cover the Papua region."
Phelim Kine, a former Jakarta-based foreign correspondent now with Human Rights Watch, wrote that the two journalists, "are just the latest victims of the Indonesian government's Papua censorship obsession."


Indonesian authorities have long sought to hinder international scrutiny of conditions in West Papua, including the widespread human rights violations by security and intelligence authorities.

The two journalists are currently being held on immigration violations, but may face "subversion" charges for allegedly filming members of the Free Papua Movement (OPM). A Papua police spokesman Sulistyo Pudjo accused the journalists of being "part of an effort to destabilize Papua."

Successive Indonesian administrations have long sought to hinder international scrutiny of conditions in West Papua, including the widespread human rights violations by security and intelligence authorities. Applications by foreign reporters to visit West Papua are rarely approved. "Journalists who do get official permission are invariably shadowed by official minders, who strictly control their movements and access to interviewees," writes Kine,

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, like his predecessors, persisted in maintaining restrictions on journalists' access to West Papua. However, President-elect Widodo during the election campaign indicated he might change course. When asked if as president he would open access to Papua for foreign journalists and international organizations, he replied "There's nothing to hide."

In mid-August, Papuan students in demonstrated in Yogyakarta demanding the French journalists release.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, "Foreign journalists who are detained in the region without a journalist visa or official permits are usually deported immediately."

WPAT Comment: The journalists should be immediately released and allowed to resume reporting from West Papua. Their harsh treatment is a stark contradiction to the Widodo pledge to allow international journalists greater access to West Papua. The detention of the French journalists should be viewed as a message from Indonesia's security forces to the President-elect that notwithstanding his intention to allow greater access, they still call the shots in West Papua.

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Industrialization at West Papuans' Expense

An August 23 report from AwasMIFEE provides a detailed account of plans by the Indonesian government to significantly expand the industrialization of the area around Bintuni Bay in the Bird's Head region of West Papua.  AwasMIFEE reports that "key decisions expected soon will give several multinational companies the green light to build petrochemical factories" in the area. BP's Tangguh Liquefied Natural Gas project begun in 2005 currently operates there, and several international corporations are interested in building methanol plants which would source Tangguh gas. Companies are also interested in developing ethanol and fertilizer factories .

Not surprisingly, the concerns of local Papuans regarding these developments have not been sought and are unknown. Failure to seek the involvement, opinions, much less the consent of local people before major projects affecting them is not new in West Papua. Local Papuans were not involved in the decision to launch the Tangguh project.


Tangguh LNG plant at Bintuni Bay, West Papua. Photo: Tempo.


Moreover, from the outset there have been and continue to be problems associated with a lack of accountability by Tangguh project authorities. The August 23 article points out,  that problems between the Tangguh project and local people are likely "only get worse as Genting oil commences exploration activities -- for example there have been cases of intimidation from soldiers employed by the company." Malaysia's Genting is operating in an exploration block, south of Tangguh that extends into Fakfak regency.

The breadth of the challenges posed to Papuans in the area derives not only from the development of energy projects and subsequent downstream industrial development.  According to AwasMIFEE: "To make things worse, PT Varita Majutama has recently obtained permission for a 35.371 hectare expansion of its oil palm estate and PT Rimbun Sawit Papua has also just got permission for another 30.596 hectares. The forest will soon be gone too, leaving an industrial landscape where local indigenous people little choice but to become dependent on handouts from the various companies."

WPAT Comment: Corporations sourcing workers from outside West Papua is another major impact seen in earlier major projects in West Papua undertaken in collaboration with the central government . This is a harsh reality that exacerbates the ethnic cleansing of West Papua and the marginalization of Papuans in their own land.

Indonesian Military and Police Beat Two Papuan Peaceful Dissenters

A West Papuan daily reports that on August 8 Manokwari District police detained and severely beat two members of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB). The Papuans had written graffiti calling for a boycott of Indonesian National Day (August 17) activities. According to a source who visited the two victims in detention, Oni Wea, a 21-year old university student, was beaten by a rifle butt and repeatedly kicked in the chest. His lip was split and swollen and his eyes were swollen and he was unable see. Sixteen-year old high school student Robert Yelemaken's lip was also split, his face swollen, and his chest hurt after he was also kicked and beaten by rifle butts.

President-elect Widodo to Set Up Human Rights Court


Any such court should prosecute a number of generals, among others those on Jokowi's transition team, such as former head of intelligence Agency AM Hendropriyono and Jokowi supporter Gen. (Ret.) Wiranto, as well as former commander of the Special Forces (Kopassus) Prabowo Subianto."

President-elect Widodo intends to establish an ad hoc human rights court to deal with past rights violations, according to Andi Widjajanto, a member of Widodo's transition team. He told the Jakarta Post that "regulations which are being drafted by Jokowi's transition team include a presidential decree to hear cases of human rights violations that took place during the 1998 May riots and a government regulation in-lieu-of law (Perppu) to address the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (KKR) to bring about solutions to a number of past human rights abuses."

The 2000 Law on human rights states that ad hoc human rights courts can be set up by a recommendation from the House of Representatives and a decree by the president.

KontraS, the Indonesian human rights group, doubted Jokowi's commitment, saying that if he were serious the President-elect should have announced the step himself. KontraS Coordinator Haris Azar said that any such court should prosecute a number of generals, including members Jokowi's transition team, such as the former head of the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) A. M. Hendropriyono, and Jokowi supporter former Indonesian military commander Gen. (Ret.) Wiranto, as well as Jokowi's opponent former Kopassus commander of Prabowo Subianto.

WPAT Comment: Such a court, to be credible, would need to address human rights violations extending back to the 1965-66 period. It would need also to address 40-plus years of systematic rights abuse in West Papua, including the 1969 "Act of Free Choice" which denied Papuans their fundamental right to self-determination.



AI Calls on Indonesia to End Attacks on Freedom of Expression in West Papua

In an August 29 statement, Amnesty International said called for an"end attacks on freedom of expression in [Indonesia's] Papuan region." Amnesty highlighted the apparent murder of KNPB political activist Martinus Yohame whose body was found near the Nana Islands in Sorong, after his family reported him missing on August 20; the detention and torture of two Papuan students in the Manokwari area (see above); and the the long detention of two French journalists (see above).

These and other "recent attacks highlight the repressive environment faced by political activists and journalists in the area and the ongoing impunity for human rights violations by security forces there," the group said.

HRW Urges Widodo to Address Human Rights, Including in West Papua

In a lengthy letter to President-elect Widodo, Human Rights Watch wrote that he has the "responsibility to address continuing human rights concerns in Indonesia." The group writes that "members of Indonesia's security forces -- particularly Detachment 88 and Kopassus -- continue to engage in serious abuses... particularly in the two Papuan provinces."

The letter cites three measures that Widodo can quickly take in relation to West Papua: opening the region to "independent observers, including international journalists and human rights organizations"; "the immediate and unconditional release of Filep Karma and other political prisoners"; and ending "unlawful surveillance" of Papuans by Kopassus and others. HRW also urged Widodo to "order an independent and impartial investigation into various allegations of human rights violations in Papua... Such an investigation should hold security forces accountable and bring the perpetrators of such abuses to justice."

Analysis Sees In Widodo "Best Prospects" for Progress on West Papua Issue

Pat Walsh argues in Eureka Street that "settlement of the West Papua issue can only come from Indonesia and the Jokowi presidency offers the best prospects for this in half a century. Creating the conditions in which inclusive dialogue based on mutual respect can occur will tax the political imagination and creativity of all involved. The trust and goodwill Jokowi enjoys, including in West Papua, make for an excellent start to this important enterprise."

Link to this issue: http://etan.org/issues/wpapua/2014/1409wpap.htm

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