What are the difficulties in raising public awareness in Indonesia around human rights in Papua?
The Indonesian public is very blind towards Papua. The issues of Aceh and Timor were very much on the table, people talked about it. But not with Papua. It's only been the government version, and the alternative version has only been the human rights issue. This is good, but it's not enough. There is also the nationalism issue.
One colleague from Solidamor [Solidarity for Timor-Leste Peace Settlement] in Yogyakarta told me that for him, they saw Timor-Leste under Indonesian occupation as more obvious because it was a "real" invasion in 1975. They saw it different for Papua, even if the events in the 1960s are very contested by Papuans.
What do you see as an acceptable solution to the conflict in Papua?
We don't have any prejudice on the independence issue. A common response with students or with activists is that they hope Papua will not separate from Indonesia, but we don't really care about that. We haven't had a discussion on what we see as an acceptable solution, but what comes out of our discussions is that there is no individual inside PIK who says that they hope Papua will not separate from Indonesia.
At this time we are just raising public awareness, we don't have a view on the future for Papua at the moment. We are united in our view that there needs to be change in policy, in terms of military, natural resources, to open political space. But we're not allergic to the political issue so we can continue looking at this.
Are there any prospects for changing Indonesia's policy on self-determination in the region?
Not from above. It's very unfortunate for Papua. This issue so far has only been brought up at the national level through Muridan S. Widojo and his team [of LIPI, who passed away in March 2014] through the Road Map for Papua. That is the only "respectable", the highest policy process that has addressed it; no other national figures do that. With Aceh and Timor there were many academics and others who would present it, but with Papua it's only Papuans.
Change needs to come from below. This can happen from Indonesia or from Papua -- either way. We want to create the atmosphere to talk about these things. Our first step is to mock NKRI Harga Mati, to say we love our country, but we don't need to do it in such a hard way. We want it so people can speak freely about their national identity, because there is a problem with their national identity. We want to make nationalism into a simple discourse.
For me personally, I look at what Joshua Oppenheimer did, to open the discourse on 1965. There were over 400 screenings nationwide of The Look of Silence. I want to do the same thing with Papua. Whatever term we want to use, the discourse needs to be opened. It's very dangerous the way it is now.
If there's nothing we can do in the next five years, Papuans will become like the Aborigines in Australia. The [indigenous] population has decreased so much already.
I don't have any authority to talk about this precisely because I don't observe it that closely. But you can see what [West Papuan journalist] Victor Mambo says in any forum that the key to any Papua policy is to have control in Papua. The government can say anything, but they have their own way of operating in Papua itself. All the government bodies act differently there, separated from Jakarta.
But from what I see now, it is very obvious that Jokowi doesn't have any control. With the Paniai killings, he gave a speech saying there shouldn't be any violence, and right after that there was more violence. We can't say whether it was done on purpose, but at the least it shows he has no control.
Also, look at the discourse on establishing a Kodam in Manokwari and Brimob in Wamena. He didn't have a say on this. I don't think he has an understanding of how to deal with the problems differently than the previous government. He still approaches it as if there is a change in people's economic welfare the problems will be overcome but this won't work. On the [access for foreign] journalists it's the same issue. It's like there's no control, and it's a pity.
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West Papua Report MSG Special
ULMWP Scores Diplomatic Victory at MSG Summit
The leaders of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) meeting in Honiara, Solomon Islands, on June 26 summit responded to a West Papua application for membership by granting the United Movement for the Liberation of West Papua (ULMWP) observer status.
The decision constituted a significant diplomatic victory for West Papua, although the observer status fell short of the full member status that Papuans have been seeking since 2014. The victory was also shadowed by the MSG summit's decision to accord "associate" status to Indonesia. The MSG also described the ULMWP as representing only Papuans living outside of West Papua under the "regional and international organizations category." The MSG also stipulated that Indonesia is to be represented by the governors of five provinces said to have Melanesian populations: Papua, West Papua, Maluku, North Maluku and East Nusa Tenggara (which includes West Timor). (See MSG communique here.
ULMWP Secretary General Octo Mote was invited to speak to the plenary MSG meeting June 26. (See below for an exclusive interview with Mote.) He told the plenary that the ULMWP welcomed the decision to accord observer status to the West Papua group. He said that while the decision fell short of full membership status, "a door has opened to us. We will sit across a table from Indonesia as equal." Mote also noted subsequently that the new diplomatic status would enable the ULMWP to focus international attention on the continuing human rights abuse in West Papua.
Indonesia ReactsThe chief of the Indonesian delegation at the MSG summit reacted furiously to ULMWP Secretary General's speech before the June 26 MSG plenary.
In his speech, Mote told the assembled delegates that the people of West Papua were united under the ULMWP leadership and that many of the ULMWP supporters had been tortured, imprisoned and even killed for their peaceful advocacy. Mote stated that the Papuan nation has been struggling for 53 years against Indonesian "colonial rulers" and added that in the struggle "at least 500,000 have been killed." He noted that Indonesian crimes against the indigenous peoples of West Papua had been widely recognized in various international and regional fora including at the European Union, the UN Human Rights Council. the Pacific Forum and the MSG itself.
"Ten years ago, Juan Mendes, UN special rapporteur for the Prevention of Genocide, mentioned that West Papua was one of ten countries around the world that could be extinct unless there were international attention.... In the next 5 years, Papuans will be less than 29 percent of the population in our own land. Our Melanesian identity, our Christian identity is under threat of a large wave of migrants from Indonesia and Muslim-dominated Asia," Mote added.
The Indonesian delegation released a statement denouncing the speech, saying:
"We reject all accusations that are unfounded and false submitted by an organization calling themselves ULMWP. We have absolutely no interest in taking advantage of this forum in things that are not productive and constructive."
In a media conference following the meeting, the ULMWP questioned the process by which Indonesia received associate membership status."We want to know whether Indonesia government has followed the same process to apply for MSG membership or not?" Mote asked.
Benny Wenda, spokesperson for the ULMWP, thanked the people of Melanesia for their solidarity and support:
“The people of Melanesia have made our cause for self-determination now your cause. I would like to thank our Pacific family, especially our Melanesian people, the solidarity groups, civil society groups, young people, university student movements, churches, women’s groups, traditional chiefs, and parliamentarians, political leaders and the media who stood with us to get this recognition,” said Wenda.
He added that that the people of West Papua, had signed petitions of support despite the risks: "your signatures clearly speak the volume of support."Veteran journalist David Robie wrote that the "MSG failed the test with a betrayal of the people of West Papua by the two largest members. Although ultimately it is a decision by consensus," singling out Fiji and Papua New Guinea. He added, "the truth is the West Papuans have been betrayed, especially by the Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill and Fiji leader Voreqe Bainimarama. For the Fiji and PNG delegations, Indonesian-funded aid is more important than human rights for their Melanesian brothers."
Gregory B. Poling of the Washington, DC think tank CSIS, while positive about the MSG decisions, speculates that "Jakarta might balk at the conditions placed on its membership" where governors and not the president will represent Indonesia.
WPAT Comment: Mote's uncompromising speech before the MSG assembled delegates is, for Indonesia, is only a foretaste of Papuan criticism and public shaming in the MSG forum. On the other hand, the MSG forum could also be a venue for the serious, senior level, dialogue that Papuans have long sought with Indonesia. Papuans call for a international intermediary for this dialogue could be fulfilled by the MSG.
West Papua Report Interview with Octo Mote, Secretary-General, ULMWP
The Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), at its June 26 summit in Honiara, Solomon Islands, decided to grant the United Movement for the Liberation of West Papua (ULMWP) observer status. Simultaneously, it raised Indonesia's status from observer to associate member. Below is an interview with ULMWP Secretary-General Octo Mote conducted by WPAT's Ed McWilliams, followed by a more detailed report of the decision and reactions from the region. The MSG consists of Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and the Front de Liberation Nationale Kanak et Socialiste (FLNKS). Links to previous articles in the West Papua Report on the Papuans membership drive can be found here:
Mote: This is great victory for West Papua. This complements 2013 MSG Communique, which recognized West Papuan's inalienable rights of self-determination and respect for human rights violations. With this recognition, West Papua henceforth will be a nation in waiting.
What do you see as the likely consequences of the MSG decision? How will it change Papuan's relations with the MSG countries and the international community more broadly?
West Papua is no longer an outsider. On the basis of this "observer" status, as Secretary General of ULMWP I can meet with leaders and the Director General of MSG to discuss West Papua. I will be able to propose agenda items and to explore peaceful strategies with the MSG chair and other members. I can build a human rights and political rights file in the MSG Secretariat for future meetings. I will be able to expose and present the profile of Indonesia's colonization policy in West Papua.
How strong was Jakarta's opposition to any MSG recognition for West Papua? What tactics did Jakarta employ and how did you counter them?
Indonesia was unable to block West Papua. While Jakarta may continue with its checkbook policy with some leaders , they can not buy the people. More than 80 percent of the media in MSG countries support West Papua. Once this kind of diplomacy was exposed, the media revealed it. Another way to counter Jakarta's efforts is to continue lobbying and update the MSG peoples and governments about the current situation in West Papua.
While some MSG officials were wary of granting West Papua any status at all, there was generally strong community and NGO support for West Papua in all the countries. How important was this for your victory?
Yes, Fiji and Papua New Guinea never publicly rejected our applications. We do not know for sure if these two countries actually rejected it. Three other member, FLNKS, Vanuatu and Solomon Island publicly supported our application. So, we knew certainly that ULMWP would be accepted. What we did not know was the category of membership we would be accorded: i.e., full, associate or observer status.
As a consequence of this MSG action do you think the MSG or at least various member states might emerge as interlocutors between Jakarta and West Papua? Could the MSG become an intermediary in a senior level dialogue?
Yes, that will happen. MSG is a forum where Indonesia and West Papua can conduct talks equally. This is not a post office, where one files complaints and the MSG chair and Secretariat then send them to the other.
Inasmuch as Indonesia has also achieved status in the MSG, do you expect Jakarta to use the MSG as a venue to discuss key issues with the ULMWP?
What role do you see for the International solidarity community in the wake of this victory? Should supporters of West Papua outside of Melanesia learn lessons from the involvement of Melanesian support groups and activities?
Indonesian hard liners are likely to play the Papuan victory at the MSG as a defeat for the Widodo administration. Will this further impede Widodo's already struggling initiatives to reform policy toward West Papua (e.g., expanding journalists access, release of political prisoners, ending transmigration)?
That is Indonesians business. We will fight for our right of self-determination at any cost until we got our freedom. As leader, President Widodo knows what is best to sort out this 53 year old issue peacefully. Now, President Widodo understands that the ULMWP is the only representative of West Papua's political leadership. An internationally-mediated negotiation can be launched. We are ready for that at any time.
How does the MSG decision affect the role of the ULMWP within the West Papuan political world. Will this victory serve to unite Papuans behind the ULMWP?
Before we were accepted as observers at the MSG, we united under the organization of the ULMWP. There is no doubt about it. In last two months alone (May and June), thousands have rallied in support of the ULMWP in all of Tanah Papua and many parts of Indonesia to support the ULMWP and our application to the MSG. When Indonesian President Widodo released five political prisoners, the Indonesian military and police arrested hundreds of people (see below). Many were tortured, and some killed. A total of 55.000 people signed the petition supporting membership. ULMWP was formed by three leading political groups (Federal Republic of West Papua, National Parliament, WPNCL) in West Papua and is support by all smaller groups.
How will the ULMWP consolidate this win and what is on your agenda to build upon this development?
We are working on this now. More than 30 people from inside West Papua, mostly political leaders, joined us in Honiara. We met many times to discuss next steps. We will have meetings over the next two months; there is no time for waiting.
State Department Rights Report Tempers Criticism of Indonesia over West Papua
The report, however, misses several instances of serous human rights violations in West Papua. For example, there is no reference to the December 7-8, 2014 killing by police and military personnel of four (first reported as five) Papuan civilians and the wounding of 22 civilians in Paniai. Notwithstanding a pledge by President Widodo and a call from Indonesia's human rights commission, Komnas HAM ', there has been no investigation by the state of this atrocity.
As in the past, the report attributes some well-verified security force assaults on civilians as "alleged" or simply as "reported." Similarly, it notes that "[a]dvocates for press freedom alleged that an inter-ministerial group reviewed requests by foreign journalists and that TNI and intelligence services prevented international journalists visitation to the region." These restrictions on press freedom are well known and should have been identified as facts and not as "allegations."
The report identifies "separatist guerillas in Papua" as having killed members of security forces and injuring others in several attacks" and details one such attack. But the report generally fails to accurately note the imbalance between killings by "guerillas" and the far more numerous routine and unaccountable killings, torture, arbitrary detentions and other abuses by security forces against Papuan civilians. The report, for example, notes that "[t]here were multiple reports of police temporarily detaining individuals in Papua for participation in peaceful demonstrations or for distributing materials calling for an election boycott." The report does not offer comprehensive coverage of these security force violations of human rights.
The report also notes that "[i]n Papua and West Papua, tensions continued between indigenous Papuans and migrants from other provinces. Melanesians in Papua cited endemic racism and discrimination as drivers of violence and economic inequality in the region." The report ignores, however, the fact that the inflow of migrants into West Papua is in large measure a direct consequence of the Indonesian government's "transmigration" program which organizes the flow of non-Papuans from Indonesia into West Papua. Through this policy, in effect for decades, the Indonesian government directly subsidizes non-Papuan migrants' movement and resettlement, affording them economic and other advantages that enable them to out-compete the indigenous Papuans. The resultant marginalization of Papuans in their own homeland constitutes ethnic cleansing. The failure of the State Department in this report, and in previous reports, to identify and condemn transmigration is unacceptable.
The report's gravest failure is to ignore the growing evidence that the Indonesian military, particularly the Indonesian Army (TNI) is assuming power within Indonesia that it has not had since the overthrow of the dictator Suharto in 1998. This has particularly important and ominous implications for human rights particularly in West Papua where military financial interests and long record of human rights abuse, and impunity have severely impacted Papuan human rights.
Arrests in West Papua Reach New High
Papuans Behind Bars reports that arbitrary arrests in West Papua reached a record high with 487 people arrested in May alone. From May 20 to 28, security forces clamped down on peaceful demonstrations supporting the bid by the United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP) to become a member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), arresting 223 Papuans. Pre-emptive arrests deliberately targeted people who planned to take part in peaceful protest, particularly those organized by the West Papua National Committee (Komite Nasional Papua Barat, KNPB). These arrests were on top of those associated with demonstrations associated with the May 1 commemorating the 52nd anniversary of Indonesia's annexation of West Papua.
Out of those arrested in May, at least 11 men remain detention in Manokwari, Biak, Nabire and Kaimana. At least seven "are facing vague and broad charges of incitement under Article 160 of the Indonesian Criminal Code," Papuans Behind Bars writes.
The organization also reported that at the end of May 2015, there were at least 47 political prisoners in Papua.
Amnesty International (AI), on June 23, called for the release of seven Papuan activists detained since May. AI's Urgent Action said that all of those held had been engaged in peaceful protest and that they had been mistreated while in detention. All have been charged with "incitement" and face up to six years imprisonment.
Six were arrested in two separate incidents on May 20. Nopinus Humawak, Alex Nekenem, Maikel Asso and Yoram Magai were arrested at a peaceful rally in Manokwari. In Biak, Apolos Sroyer and Dorteus Bonsapia were detained when they went to inform police of a planned protest. Wamoka Yudas Kossay also from Biak was charged on 22 May for taking part in a peaceful protest. He was not provided a lawyer during his interrogation.
Indonesian House Blocks Release of Papuan Political Prisoners
The Jakarta Post reports that the House of Representatives rejected a proposal by the Widodo administration to offer a pardon to political prisoners in West Papua. Under Indonesian law, the president must consult with the legislature on any pardons. In May, Jokowi released five long-time prisoners through a grant of clemency. Clemencies, which require an admission of guilt, are purely a presidential power. Amnesties or pardons do not require an admission of guilt.
Most of the Papuan political prisoners have 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.
In rejecting the pardons, the parliamentarians claimed that prisoner releases would inflame separatism.
According to The Jakarta Post, Commission 1 deputy chairman Tantowi Yahya said "There are, as yet, no comprehensive programs by the government in Papua [to develop the region]. It's clear that the government institutions dealing with the matter have so far carried out only individual, ad hoc initiatives." Commission 1 oversees defense and foreign affairs.
Indonesia Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi said her ministry had approved only eight applications for foreign journalist trips to West Papua in the past six months. Last year, 22 reporting requests were granted, with five turned down. She did not say what kinds of coverage received approval or why the five were rejected. Many journalist do not ask permission and those wishing to write travel articles or business-oriented coverage of Freeport or BP activities have received permission. In May, President said that he was lifting all restrictions on journalists going to West Papua, but Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno, has said that foreign journalists must still obtain permits and be screened.
Retired General Says TNI Violating Human Rights in West Papua
A retired TNI general contends that the Indonesian army should not be the Indonesian security
agency engaging the armed resistance in West Papua. In a book written by the former head of TNI's Strategic Intelligence Body (BAIS), General Laksada Soleman B. Ponto analyzes the overall military presence in terms of international humanitarian and human rights law. Ponto argues that under international standards for a military to be actively operating in a separatist conflict the separatist group must meet several criteria. These include having a clear command structure, being in command of a defined geographic region and a significantly-high level of attacks. He concludes that OPM does not meet these standards, therefore any military operations by the TNI in West Papua should be viewed as human rights violations by the international community. He further argues that the military should cease carrying out further operations in West Papua or else the continued human rights violations will give justification for the separation of the region from Indonesia. While the book goes into more detail about the actual military operations in Aceh than in West Papua, it is significant that a high-ranking retired military officer has admitted that the TNI operations in and of themselves are human rights violations that need to end.
Jangan Lepas Papua: Mencermati Pelaksanaan Operasi Militer di Papua Sebuah Kajian Hukum Humaniter dan Hukum HAM [Don't Let Papua Go: A Humanitarian and Human Rights Law Analysis for Observing Military Operations in Papua], Laksda (Purn) Soleman B. Ponto, ST, MH, published by Rayyana Komunikasindo (ISBN: 978-602-70792-1-2).
NGO Attacks Plans for A New Military Command in West Papua
A special issue of the magazine ASASI, published by the Jakarta-based human rights NGO ELSAM, criticizes President Widodo's plans for a new military command post (Kodam) in Papua, arguing that a reduction in military forces and a de-securitization approach are needed to reduce the human rights violations. A guest editorial by Amiruddin al Rahab calls for the resources in Papua to be used for the indigenous people and for an end to all development projects that displace the indigenous population from their land. Another article in Bahasa language publication goes further into the "Face of Violent 'Development' in Papua," finding that the 2001 autonomy law and subsequent government efforts have failed to alleviate the high levels of poverty for indigenous people, and says that the separation of Papua into two provinces has been an obstacle to addressing poverty. (SASI January - February 2015 Edition: Meretas Jalan Baru Papua (Paving New Roads in Papua))
Series on West Papua
West Papuans face ignorance, corruption and racism writes Michael Bachelard. In the final article in a six-part series, The former Fairfax Media Indonesia correspondent reveals the confusion and worse in the Widodo administration in its efforts to develop policy on West Papua. introduction, part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5 and part 6. Other articles in the series describe local journalists' efforts to expose rights violations and cronyism and the poor state of public education.
Presidential Visit and an Agenda for Dialogue
In a reflection on Jokowi's second presidential visit to West Papua in May, Theo van den Broek highlighted the "incredibly disproportional security arrangements," which portrayed Papuans as a threat. Van den Broek is an is an independent aid worker who has lived for four decades in West Papua The truth was that "Papuans only showed minor interest in the visit." This "might reflect the already decreasing trust in the steps taken by the President to solve the problems in Papua," van den Broek wrote. While announcements of prisoner releases and opening to journalists were initially well received, the main announcement was confirmation "that the central government would go full speed ahead and accelerate the implementation of a huge mega-project, i.e. the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE), that relates to industrial investment and developing of (in the original version) 4.6 million ha of land (including virgin forestry)." Given the great suffering that large-scale development projects have caused in West Papua, it was evident that "the President didn't show that he has ever listened well to these very sad human stories or acknowledged the increasing marginalisation of the indigenous community in Papua." In conclusion van den Broek recommends an "Agenda for Dialogue" to address pressing problems in the region.
This issue can be found at http://etan.org/issues/wpapua/2015/1507.htm
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