etmnlong.gif (2291 bytes) spacer



Donate to ETAN!

West Papua Report

This is the 133rd 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 Questions regarding this report can be addressed to Edmund McWilliams at If you wish to receive the report directly via e-mail, write to Link to this issue:

The Report leads with PERSPECTIVE, an analysis piece; followed by UPDATE, a summary of some recent news and developments; 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 We also welcome suggestions of resources and analysis to for listing in the CHRONICLE section. The opinions expressed in Perspectives are the author's and not necessarily those of WPAT or ETAN. For ongoing news on West Papua subscribe to the reg.westpapua listserv or visit its archive; the list is also available on Twitter.


This edition's PERSPECTIVE examines Indonesia President Widodo's failure to follow through on his election promises concerning West Papua, as his policy changes are regularly contradicted by those charged with implementing them.

In UPDATE: Five political prisoners in Papua were released as the fate of the rest remains in question. Jokowi's opening of West Papua to foreign journalists will only be meaningful with explicit rules governing access. A Papuan charged with treason over his assistance to journalists in West Papua has been acquitted. New reports tell of torture of Papuan civilians and of security force assaults and mass arrests at peaceful Papuan demonstrations. Plans to establish a new military command in West Papua has met with opposition. A prominent human rights advocate has been threatened with prosecution over his reports of security force excesses. U.S. authorities have inexplicably revoked the visa of prominent Papuan leader Benny Wenda. Jokowi goes to PNG, as the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) summit nears. Fiji groups attack their government's stance on West Papua.

In CHRONICLE: President Widodo is backing a major transformation of Papuan land through food plantations. which has prompted loud objections from local people for years. A palm oil supplier continues to destroy of Papu
an forests. Morning star flags for sale. Global Day of Action's free expression demands remain unfulfilled.


What to Make of President Widodo
by Ed McWilliams
Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo is expected soon to be making his first official visit to Washington. Discussions will likely include expanding bilateral military cooperation, pumping up commercial ties and reviewing joint efforts to counter "international terrorism." U.S. officials are not likely to seriously address the many human rights problems that plague Indonesia. The Obama administration, like its predecessor, has ignored serious human rights violations by an unreformed and unaccountable Indonesian military and instead continues to expand military-to-military ties.


Days later, Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu told the media that if access to Papua were granted to journalists, it would be with an obligation to produce "good reports."

Any review of human rights concerns in Indonesia under the new Widodo administration would reveal the continuing violation of Papuan human rights, especially by Indonesian security forces.

In his 2014 campaign for president, and since his election, Widodo appeared to recognize that a truly democratic Indonesia could no longer pursue a "security approach" in West Papua. During the campaign and in the early days of his Presidential tenure, Widodo seemed intent genuine reform of Indonesian policy.

On May 9, President Widodo, during a trip to West Papua, announced an end to restrictions on access to West Papua for journalists (see below). For decades, Indonesia has imposed repressive restrictions on international observers visiting West Papua, especially journalists. Days later, Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu told the media that if access to Papua were granted to journalists, it would be with an obligation to produce "good reports."

President Jokowi Widodo with President Obama at Apec 2014.


President Joko Widodo and Iriana Widodo with President Obama at APEC Summit 2014 in Beijing. Photo from

He also explicitly equated foreign journalists' negative Papua reporting with "sedition."

Also contradicting the President, Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno defended the government's intimidating following of journalists claiming that "We aren't spying on them [the journalists]. We're simply monitoring their activities."

President Widodo later announced that he was ending the widely criticized "transmigration program" under which hundreds of thousands of non-Papuans have been re-located to West Papua. The program, in place since Indonesia occupied West Papua in 1969, amounts to a policy of ethnic cleansing as migrants, with government assistance, marginalize Papuans, displacing them economically, politically and socially and destroying Papuans' great natural resources.

But Minister for Transmigration Marwan Jafar quickly announced that the controversial program would continue. He said that, if anything, it will be expanded. He told media on June 7 that the program would be ramped up in support of the government's plan to develop 1.2 million hectares of rice fields in the region, under the Merauke Integrated Rice Estate project (see below). To support the anticipated surge in newcomers, Marwan said his ministry planned to build more settlements. This can only lead to greater conflict as indigenous West Papuans are crowded off their own lands. Indigenous protest of the Merauke project in particular has been particularly strong for years.

President Widodo also has been frustrated on another issue of central importance to Papuans. During his campaign he pledged to free the dozens of Papuan political prisoners, most held for peaceful opposition to Jakarta's repression. However, in May he only released five Papuan prisoners (see below). The rest had refused to apply for clemency, which requires an admission of guilt. Amnesties required Parliamentary acquiescence which Widodo, apparently, was not yet prepared to spend the political capital to obtain.


It is becoming ever more clear that on critical concerns related to repression in West Papua, Indonesian president Widodo's pledges of reform are meaningless.

It is becoming ever more clear that on critical concerns related to repression in West Papua, Indonesian president Widodo's pledges of reform are meaningless.

In addition to the failure of all of Widodo's reform promises to the Papuan people, there is one additional harsh reality. Since the inauguration of the new administration, Indonesia's security forces have deliberately escalated tensions in West Papua. The killing of Papuan students in Paniai in early December by security forces has yet to be investigated. "Sweeping operations" which displace highland villagers continue. Numerous peaceful protests have been violently broken up.

In keeping up the pressure, the security forces are creating an environment in which their repressive "security approach" continues to dominate strategic and tactical responses to the myriad problems afflicting the Papuan people. Moreover, decades of ruinous exploitation of Papuan natural resources by the Indonesian government operating in league with Indonesian and foreign corporations (with security personnel acting as enforcers) continues apace.

While this deeply disappointing collapse of President Widodo's pre-election promises to open a new chapter in relations between Jakarta and West Papua is manifest, it remains unclear whether this collapse reflects the new President's duplicity or whether the new President is simply unable to hold his own against the security and corporate bureaucracy that has long dominated policy toward West Papua. Whether the failure of Widodo's new approach to West Papua is due to the sabotage or the president's own duplicity is important in assessing prospects for the president's other reform pledges. But for the Papuan people, the meaning and reality of this failure is clear: Suharto era policies and approaches will continue and the reform promises of another Indonesian president have proven once again to be empty.


Five Political Prisoners Released

During his May visit to Papua, Indonesia President Joko Widodo freed five West Papuan political prisoners and announced an end to restrictions on foreign journalists (see below).

According to Tapol,  the "five men who were released each spent 12 years in prison for their alleged role in a weapons arsenal raid in Wamena in the Papuan highlands in 2003. Apotnalogolik Lokobal Numbungga Telenggen, Kimanus Wenda, Linus Hiluka, and Jefrai Murib experienced torture and ill-treatment in detention, and as a result have suffered serious and long-term damage to their health." Another 38 Papuans and 29 Moluccans remain imprisoned for their political activities.

The other Papuan political prisoners reportedly refused clemency (as they had in 2013) demanding that they be released unconditionally, saying they would not admit guilt as they had not done anything wrong. Clemency requires an admission of guilt. but the "president can also grant convicted prisoners an amnesty and grant prisoners whose legal process is not yet exhausted abolition. Neither abolitions nor amnesties require a prisoner's request or admission of guilt, but the president must consult the House of Representatives prior to issuing either abolition or an amnesty,"  according to Human Rights Watch.

Filep Karma, chairman of West Papua Political Prisoners' Forum, told Jubi that "If he [Jokowi] wanted to grant an amnesty, thank you then. But we [will] never ask or beg for it, moreover write a letter of request for exemption...." Karma is currently serving a 15 year sentence for raising the banned morning star flag in 2004. In 2011, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) said that Karma's detention was arbitrary because he was imprisoned for the exercise of his rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

WPAT comment: Most of Indonesia's political prisoners are imprisoned for makar (rebellion) and/or raising banned Papuan Morning Star or the rainbow flag of the Republic of the South Moluccas. Even if all political prisoners are released, the Indonesian government has no plans to amend these laws. Arrests of peaceful protesters in West Papua have escalated in recent months. Will they lead to a new set of political prisoners?

see also
Human Rights Watch: Indonesia: Free All Political Prisoners, Clemency for 5 Papuan Leaves Dozens Behind Bars

Amnesty International: Indonesia: Ten years behind bars for peaceful expression 

Tapol:  Are Jokowi's Papua moves merely savvy media stunts?

President Lifts Media Restrictions, Maybe

On May 9, during a visit to West Papua, Widodo announced  "Starting tomorrow, (Sunday 10/5) for foreign journalists (to) have us open, No problem." Several of his senior ministers quickly contradicted the President. 


Protester at April 29 Global Day of Action on Access to Papua. Photo by Tapol.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) Deputy Director for Asia Phelim Kine has urged President Joko Widodo to issue explicit rules governing access to West Papua.  Kine in a commentary in the Jakarta Globe wrote that "Joko's initiative to allow foreign media to freely report from Papua indicates that he sees media freedom as part of the solution to Papua's toxic combination of political repression and impunity. The willful ignorance or outright hostility of key ministers such as Tedjo and Ryamizard will doom that plan unless Joko addresses their obstructionism head-on."

Under the guise of 'protecting' journalists, Coordinating Political, Legal & Security Affairs Minister Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno said the government would continue with its Monitoring Team for Foreign Journalists. The team is made up of representatives from government ministries and agencies, including the Indonesian military (TNI) and the National Police, scrutinizes (and mostly denies) foreign journalist applications to visit West Papua.

What the team does is "monitor the journalists' movements. If for instance, they enter dangerous territory, we'd be able to watch over them so no one ends up missing," Tedjo told The Jakarta Post, a few weeks after the President's announcement.  

At the same time, Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu tied the policy to the content of the journalists' report.  "We will support them if they produce good reports, but we can easily expel them if they are found committing sedition," said Ryamizard.

"Ryacudu didn't precisely define 'good reports'," noted HRW's Kine. "Ryacudu's solution for foreign media whose reporting displeases the government: 'We can easily expel them,'" he added, quoting the minister.

WPAT Comment: All the ministerial comments indicate that even if advance permission should no longer be required, reporters who go to West Papua will continue to be followed, harassed and intimidated. And that the Papuans they meet with will continue to face risks of questioning, arrest or worse.

Papuan Acquitted

Areko Wanimbo

Areki Wanimbo. Photo from Papuans Behind Bars.

Tapol reports that on May 8 Papuan political detainee Areki Wanimbo was acquitted of conspiracy to commit treason and released from prison on May 9. He had spent over nine months in detention in West Papua following his arrest on August 6, 2014,  along with two French journalists in Wamena in the Central Highlands of West Papua. (see West Papua Reports for September 2015  and October 2015). Wanimbo, an indigenous tribal leader and local teacher, was arrested after the journalists attracted the attention of intelligence agents.  Unlike the trial of the two French journalists, which lasted a few days, Wanimbo's trial was subject to lengthy delays.

"In the history of political trials in Papua, this the first time in 14 years that a treason suspect has been acquitted; the last time was the case of Theys Eluay. This verdict is a real step forward," said Latifah Anum Siregar of Wanimbo's defense team. Last September, Siregar was attacked with a knife by an unknown assailant.

New Reports of Torture of Papuans by Security Forces

Human rights groups in West Papua reported two new cases of torture in Pirime and Lanny Jaya in the Central Highlands in April. Papuans Behind Bars  wrote that in Lanny Jaya, two men were tortured in when they had attempted to hand over to authorities a pistol belonging to a deceased relative in response to a weapons amnesty. In Pirime, two teenagers were arrested and then tortured  after a military raid on a village church. The victims received inadequate medical care a the Bhayangkara Hospital. One of the Lanny Jaya victims, Kamori Murib was tortured at the hospital.

Nineteen-year-old Cabang Tabuni, arrested in Puncak Jaya, died after more than six months in detention after suffering from serious gunshot wounds without receiving medical treatment. Oktovianus Tabuni, a 15-year-old boy, arrested at the same time was smuggled out of the hospital for treatment in PNG. Doctors there found a pair of surgical clamps in his abdomen.
Mass Arrests of Peaceful Papuan Demonstrators
May saw continued security force assaults on peaceful Papuan assemblies and demonstrations.

On May 1, security forces detained over 250 demonstrators who rallied in protest on the anniversary of Indonesia's coercive annexation of West Papua (see also West Papua Report for May 2015)

Later in May, security forces detained and assaulted some 80 demonstrators supporting the application of the United Movement for the Liberation of West Papua ( ULMWP) for membership in the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG).  

The next week, on May 28 additional rallies in support of the ULMWP's application took place. Rocks were thrown at police at some of these events, but rally organizers claimed that the rock throwers were provocateurs

(WPAT note:  Security forces in Indonesia periodically resort to provocative actions to justify crackdowns. This, for example was standard operating procedure in security force efforts to disrupt peaceful rallies against the Suharto regime in 1998.)
New Military Command in West Papua Criticized

The Jakarta Post reported noted strong opposition to the launch of a new military command in West Papua. The new command, the Kasuari/XVIII is set to be constructed in Arfai village in South Manokwari.

Yan Warinussy, Executive-Director of the LB3BH, the Institution of Research, Analyzing and Development for Legal Aid, said the new command contradicts Articles 48 and 49 of the Special Autonomy Law. That  law he said put security in the hands of the police, not military.

Human Rights Advocate Threatened

Yan Christian Warinussy, a human rights advocate in Manokwari, recently reported on two incidents involving rights violations by security forces, one involving the tear-gassing and  detention of young protesters on May 20 and a detailed report involving a Brimob assault on the house of a religious leader. 

After sharing these reports with others, Warinussy was threatened. He wrote that he "was subjected to 'terror' and the threat of being criminalized by the head of 'reskrim', the Criminal Reserve of the Police Force in Manokwari, AKP Tommy Helmy Pontororing, who said that he would be looking closely at a statement I made in a local media outlet in Manokwari."

Warinussy reported that on  May 16, about 20 members of Brimob (the Indonesian police's special forces) destroyed the home of Rev. M.L. Marthen Luther Wanma in Sowi Gunung, Manokwari, "apparently acting in solidarity with one of their colleagues who had been drinking heavily." Warinussy said that those involved in the attack "could face the strongest possible sanctions in accordance with Law 2/2002 regarding the Indonesian Police Force" and other laws.

U.S. Officials Revoke Benny Wenda's Visa

On May 13, U.S. officials revoked the ten-year multiple entry visa of Benny Wenda, a leading Papuan activist in exile in England. The visa was revoked when checked in at Heathrow airport for a flight to the U.S. for a planned speaking tour of California sponsored by Pacific islander groups. U.S. officials did not explain why they revoked his visa

Wenda has travelled to the U.S. several times, including earlier this year, for meetings with political representatives, groups, churches and government officials.
PNG Prime Minister Meets Indonesian President

During a two-day visit by Indonesia President Joko Widodo to Papua New Guinea (PNG), Prime Minister  Peter O'Neill said that the ULMWP application to join the MSG "must be with the endorsement of the Indonesian Government."

O'Neill said his nation had "no visibility of what is happening in West Papua," so the Indonesian application to join the Melanesian Spearhead Group was "very important." O'Neill's formula appears to ignore the ULMWP application for membership which has received extensive public support within West Papua.

NG PM O'Neill welcome Indonesia President Joko Widodo in Port Moresby.


PNG PM O'Neill welcome Indonesia President Joko Widodo in Port Moresby in May.

He also said that elected leaders -- the governors of West Papuan provinces and beyond -- should be represented at the Melanesian Spearhead Group. "This application is now in the hands of our Melanesian nations to decide. If this application is accepted, MSG will welcome a delegation agreed by the Governors of the five Melanesian provinces in Indonesia to attend Melanesian Spearhead Group meetings." Indonesia argues that in addition to the provinces of Papua and West Papua, nearby provinces with traces of Melanesian heritage (Maluku, North Maluku and East Nusa Tenggara) should also be considered as Melanesian.

Governor of Oro Province Gary Juffa MP said he has no confidence that the Melanesian Spearhead Group will act in the interests of the region's people as it considers West Papua's MSG membership. He said that "If it's going to be there to be dictated to by Indonesia, what's the point? MSG was set up to fight for Melanesian views and issues, not just be a trade agreement conduit, and not just be a muppet and puppet to the will and whim of say Indonesia."  If the MSG is not promoting the interest of Melanesians then it must be disbanded. His statements come after PNG has supported Indonesia's bid to be an associate member of the MSG. 


"MSG was set up to fight for Melanesian views and issues, not just be a trade agreement conduit, and not just be a muppet and puppet to the will and whim of say Indonesia."
- PNG Governor Gary Juffa

It is becoming ever more clear that on critical concerns
Police broke up a protest  in Port Moresby as Jokowi's visit began led by the PNG Union for a Free West Papua. Juffa said that the group had a court order allowing the protest. Several people were detained for hours. "We can't allow Indonesia to extend their authoritarian rule into Papua New Guinea which is what seems to be happening. And in instances when Indonesians visit or when Indonesian officials are here then there's a gag on the media, there's all the military persons, the people are controlled, it's as if we are a province of Indonesia."

WPAT Comment:  It appears that Indonesian and the MSG are seeking a formula that finesses Papuan "membership" in the MSG in a manner that does not challenge Indonesian sovereignty over West Papua.  Indonesia already holds "observer" status in the MSG, a reality which may complicate efforts to devise a formula for Papuan membership that does not result in Indonesians holding both observer and member status.

Fiji Civil Society Criticize Government Stance

Civil society groups in Fiji "expressed concerns concerns over the recent announcement of support by Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama for Indonesia's bid to become an associate member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG).  NGO coalition chair Shamima Ali, Director of the Fiji's Women's Crisis Center (FWCC) and  a former Fiji Human Rights Commissioner, said that the Prime Minister's downplayed 50 years of violent occupation by Indonesia of West Papua.

"The government of Indonesia remains unable to address serious human rights violations in terms of civil, political, cultural, economic and environmental rights," she said.

The Fijian groups supported the bid of the ULMWP to join the MSG and they urged their government "to exercise real leadership on this issue by respecting the decisions and wishes of the people of West Papua about who represents them."


Jokowi Relaunches MIFEE

Awas MIFEE analyzes Jokowi's recent launch of plans to convert 1.2 million hectares of indigenous land to rice fields within three years. He  flew to Merauke to make the announcement during his June visit to West Papua.

The group called the president's announcement "much more extreme" than his predecessor's Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE) plan that allocated 1.2 million hectares for food plantation development by 2030. Jokowi's plan could eventually encompass 4.6 million hectares (an area larger than Switzerland). Calling the announcement "a bit spontaneous," it said that "the government has not yet published any official plans, we only have journalists' reports of what was said at the event to go on."

Palm Oil Supplier Violates Pledge Not to Clear Rainforest

Last summer, an Indonesian NGO published research showing that palm oil developer, Austindo Nusantara Jaya (ANJ) Agri, was clearing rainforest in West Papua despite promises by its biggest customers not to buy the oil from suppliers engaged in deforestation. In a follow up to its initial report, Greenomics-Indonesia reports that the company's bulldozers are still at work. Responding to the allegations, Golden Agri-Resources (GAR), ANJ Agri's biggest buyer this year, suspended dealings with the company. Earlier Wilmar "put its business with the company... on hold in April, though it waited nine months from the release of Greenomics' first report to freeze the relationship," according to Mongabay.

picture-8West Papua Flags

The UK-based Free West Papua Campaign has West Papuan Morning Star/Bintang Kejora flags for sale. They are available in three sizes. Order from

 Global Day of Action Demands Remain Unfulfilled

A month after the Global Day of Action on Access to Papua (see May 2015 West Papua Report), Tapol, its coordinator, called the day's demands unfulfilled. In addition to protests in over 20 cities, TAPOL issued a joint letter signed by 52 NGOs and parliamentarians, urging President Jokowi to remove restrictions on visits by foreign journalists, human rights observers and humanitarian organizations to Papua and to take steps to end violence and intimidation against journalists in Papua. A few weeks later, the President of Indonesia announced the release of five political prisoners and an end to restriction on foreign journalists. The later announcement was soon contradicted by other officials.

Tapol urged Indonesia to end the "mixed messages." If President Jokowi is serious about change," the group wrote, "he needs to send a clear and consistent message. He should grant immediate presidential amnesty to all political prisoners in Papua, while those still facing legal process should have their charges abolished. Indonesia should also issue an invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, David Kaye to visit Papua, as was pledged during the Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in 2012. While Jokowi's initial moves are steps in the right direction, they must be followed with concrete policies to end the criminalization of free speech."

This issue can be found at

Back issues of West Papua Report

Sign ETAN's Petition: Release the Records, Acknowledge the Crimes of 1965/66 Mass Violence in Indonesia

Subscribe to indonesia-act listserv

 This issue can be found at

Back issues of West Papua Report


ETAN on Facebook


ETAN's other twitter accounts:

ETAN on LinkedIn

ETAN on Linked In
ETAN on Pinterest  ETAN on Pinterest

 ETAN's Blog

ETAN on Google+

ETAN on Google+

ETAN's Key Contact List
Action alerts, media releases, key news and other resources on East Timor (Timor-Leste) and Indonesia selected by ETAN, focused on ETAN's program and priorities

ETAN listservs

Subscribe to ETAN's e-mail Listservs
on Timor, West Papua
and Indonesia human rights



Donate to ETAN!

Become an ETAN Sustainer, make a pledge via credit card here

Bookmark and Share

Background | Take Action | News | Links | What You Can Do | Resources  | Contact

ETAN Store | Estafeta | ImagesHome | Timor Postings | Search | Site Index |

Follow ETAN:

Like ETAN on Facebook Follow ETAN on Twitter ETAN on Google+ ETAN email listservs ETAN blog ETAN on LinkedIn ETAN on Pinterest Donate to ETAN!

Donate to ETAN!

Become an ETAN Sustainer, make a pledge via credit card here

Bookmark and Share

Background | Take Action | News | Links | What You Can Do | Resources  | Contact

ETAN Store | Estafeta | ImagesHome | Timor Postings | Search | Site Index |

Follow ETAN:

Like ETAN on Facebook Follow ETAN on Twitter ETAN on Google+ ETAN email listservs ETAN blog ETAN on LinkedIn ETAN on Pinterest Donate to ETAN!

Donate to ETAN!

Become an ETAN Sustainer, make a pledge via credit card here

Bookmark and Share

Background | Take Action | News | Links | What You Can Do | Resources  | Contact

ETAN Store | Estafeta | ImagesHome | Timor Postings | Search | Site Index |

Follow ETAN:

Like ETAN on Facebook Follow ETAN on Twitter ETAN on Google+ ETAN email listservs ETAN blog ETAN on LinkedIn ETAN on Pinterest Donate to ETAN!




Donate to ETAN!

Become an ETAN Sustainer, make a pledge via credit card here

Bookmark and Share

Background | Take Action | News | Links | What You Can Do | Resources  | Contact

ETAN Store | Estafeta | ImagesHome | Timor Postings | Search | Site Index |

Follow ETAN
Like ETAN on Facebook Follow ETAN on Twitter ETAN on Google+ ETAN email listservs ETAN blog ETAN on LinkedIn ETAN on Pinterest ETAN on Instagram Donate to ETAN!