The West Papua Report
The following is the 13th in a series of regular reports
prepared by the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights (CHR)-West
Papua Advocacy Team providing updates on developments in West Papua.
The CHR has monitored and reported on the human rights situation in
West Papua since 1993 when Indonesian lawyer Bambang Widjojanto
received the annual RFK Human Rights Award.
- Members of U.S. Congress Call for U.N. Review of "Act of
Free Choice"; Cite Ongoing Human Rights Abuses in West Papua as
Reason for Opposing Resumption of U.S. Training to Indonesian
- RFK Advocacy Team Member testifies at Congressional Hearing
on Human Rights in Indonesia
- West Papuan Religious Leaders Press "Land of Peace"
Designation for West Papua
- TNI"s Destabilizing Actions in West Papua Continue with
Announcement of Major Troop Build-up
- TNI Misusing International Development Assistance to Conduct
Military Operations in West Papua
- Scholars See Tensions Rising in West Papua; Offer
Recommendations for Achieving Peace and Progress
- Amnesty International Renews Calls for Release of Prisoners
of Conscience; End to Indonesian Abuse of West Papua People's
- World Council of Churches and Franciscans International
Press for Papuan Human Rights at U.N. Commission on Human Rights
- Necessary Preparations for Regional Elections in West Papua
Members of U.S. Congress Call for U.N. Review of "Act of Free
Choice"; Cite Ongoing Human Rights Abuses in West Papua as Reason
for Opposing Resumption of U.S. Training to Indonesian Military
In March, members of the Congressional Black Caucus, at the
initiative of Congressman Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa), took
action calling on the U.S. government and the UN to address the
human rights situation in West Papua and to support Papuans" right
to self determination. In a March 17 letter to U.N.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan, 36 Caucus members urged the U.N. to
review its role in the "Act of Free Choice." That procedure, by
which Indonesia formally annexed West Papua in 1969, is seen by many
observers, including the U.N. officials charged with overseeing it,
as fraudulent. The 36 Congress members join more than 170
parliamentarians worldwide in urging the U.N. to review the Act.
The Caucus members also wrote to U.S. Secretary of State
Condoleeza Rice opposing her decision to resume provision of the
International Military Education and Training (IMET) program to the
Indonesian military (TNI). Members noted continuing human rights
abuse in West Papua and urged that the U.S. government support
Papuans" right to self-determination.
RFK Advocacy Team Member testifies at Congressional Hearing on
Human Rights in Indonesia
The U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Asia Pacific
Affairs held a March 10 hearing on human rights concerns in
Indonesia. The TNI"s record of human rights abuse and impunity was
the focus of speakers" testimonies, and some lawmakers attacked
Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice's
decision to resume IMET for the TNI.
Subcommittee Chairman, Rep. Jim Leach, cited Indonesia's
record in holding elections as evidence that the country is
successfully transitioning from corrupt to democratic governance.
However, he also noted the importance of improving Indonesia"s human
rights record and the accountability of its security forces and of
resolving peacefully separatist conflicts such as the decades" old
situation in West Papua.
The U.S. government was represented at the hearing by Deputy
Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Marie Huhtala. She stated
that "Indonesia's human rights record is mixed and there is much to
be done. That said, there has been progress, including an increased
willingness among the Indonesian army to hold their own service
members accountable for human rights violations.î
Rep. Eni Faleomavega spoke out eloquently against the decision to
resume IMET for the Indonesian military. "Even in the aftermath of
the devastation caused by the recent tsunami, the media has reported
that the Indonesian military has withheld food and humanitarian
assistance from those believed to be pro-independence. The U.S. must
not and cannot turn a blind eye to these abuses or Indonesia's
repression of the people of Aceh and West Papua," he declared.
RFK West Papua Advocacy Team member Edmund McWilliams testified
concerning the major challenges to resolving the human rights
situation in West Papua and elsewhere throughout the archipelago.
McWilliams, a retired U.S. Foreign Service Officer who headed the
U.S. Embassy"s political section in Jakarta from 1996 to 1999,
stated that "We have in Indonesia a new government, a fragile,
fledgling government, that unfortunately is not prepared or not
capable of defending fully the fundamental human rights of their own
people. The principal menace to those fundamental human rights and
also to this government is posed by essentially the Indonesian
military." (Testimony available online at: www.rfkmemorial.org).
Also testifying was former U.S. Ambassador Alphonse La Porta, who
now heads the corporate-funded U.S.-Indonesia Society (USINDO).
West Papuan Religious Leaders Press "Land of Peace"
Designation for West Papua
During a March visit to Washington, D.C., Reverend Herman Saud,
President of Synod for the largest Protestant church in West Papua,
told the RFK West Papua Advocacy Team that he has joined with
Catholic and Islamic leaders in West Papua to resume efforts to
secure Indonesian government designation of West Papua as a "Land of
Peace." The plan, which will be announced formally in Geneva during
the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, prioritizes the
demilitarization of West Papua. This effort by religious leaders
runs counter to the TNI"s plans to base thousands more troops in
West Papua (see following report).
TNI"s Destabilizing Actions in West Papua Continue with
Announcement of Major Troop Build-up
Lt. General Hadi Waluyo, commander of the military"s strategic
forces (KOSTRAD) announced on March 16 that KOSTRAD would construct
a new division built around the existing 3rd Brigade, now based in
Makassar, South Sulawesi. The new 3rd Division, he said, will be
based in West Papua. The KOSTRAD commander said the creation of a
new division and its deployment to West Papua was based on
Indonesia's "defense needs." Earlier in March, a TNI spokesman
claimed the armed opposition in West Papua (Free Papua Movement, or
OPM) consisted of 650 fighters possessing 150 weapons.
In a statement on March 19, Indonesian Army spokesperson Brig.
General Hotmagaradja Panjaitan added that the first deployment of
5,000 troops would be to the Sorong area from their current base in
Makassar. Panjaitan then said that the deployment would secure
Indonesia's border with Papua New Guinea, 750 miles to the east.
(Sources: Kompas, March 17 Cyber Media website; Jakarta Post,
March 19; and BBC Worldwide Monitoring Service, March 19)
TNI Misusing International Development Assistance to Conduct
Military Operations in West Papua
Papuan religious leaders in contact with the RFK Memorial
Center's West Papua Advocacy Team have confirmed reports from West
Papuan officials and others that the TNI is using international aid
funds designated for humanitarian purposes and development within
West Papua to fund its ongoing military operations in West Papua"s
central highlands. The military reportedly is also utilizing the
funds to create militias along the lines of the thug groups it
created and employed in East Timor in 1999 to devastating effect.
The military has also continued its ban on travel to the area,
even by church officials seeking to deliver humanitarian assistance
to thousands of people who have sought refuge in the forests to
escape the TNI"s violent assaults on local population centers.
A senior religious figure in West Papua has told the West Papua
Advocacy Team that financial interests, particularly gold
exploration and extraction, are one factor motivating TNI interest
and activity in the area. A March 22 report in the Queensland,
Australia, Courier Mail noted that within the central highlands
"there are 10,000 non-Papuans mining alluvial gold which is [then]
flown out by helicopter to Jayapura and then sent to Jakarta."
Scholars See Tensions Rising in West Papua; Offer
Recommendations for Achieving Peace and Progress
Irian News (March 7) provided summaries of four papers recently
published as part of the East-West Center"s project, "Management of
Internal Conflicts in Asia - Policy Papers on Papua." One paper
commenting on Jakarta's control over West Papua observed that " . .
. the fragility of Jakarta's authority and the lack of Papuan
consent for Indonesian rule are both the cart and the horse of the
reliance on force to sustain central control." (http://www.eastwestcenter.org/res-rp-publicationdetails.asp?pub_ID=1458&;Search
A second study explored whether special autonomy could resolve
the secessionist challenges in West Papua. The analysis noted that
Jakarta had "backslid" on special autonomy offers and instead
adopted more coercive measures to respond to separatist demands. The
paper concludes that the coercive approach failed to address the
underlying causes of injustice fueling the conflict and assessed
that "it is not conceivable, therefore, that the government may once
again turn to special autonomy as a means to address separatism."
The paper encourages Jakarta to consider instead linking concessions
offered in the original special autonomy legislation and genuine
dialogue. Failure to pursue the course of concessions and dialogue,
the paper concludes, would mean West Papua would likely remain "a
continuing source of conflict and secessionism for the Indonesian
A third study examined the ways in which large-scale migration
and rapid economic change have fueled separatism and ethnic conflict
in West Papua. This research notes that three quarters of a million
migrants from other parts of Indonesia have resettled in West Papua
since 1970. Rrapid modernization and demographic change have
resulted in the displacement and dislocation of West Papua's
indigenous population, provoking Papuan resentment and demands for
independence. The report adds that these dynamics have led to
growing competition for land and resources between settlers and
Papuans. The research foresees the threat that this social dynamic
could trigger a larger outbreak of communal and ethnic violence as
occurred recently in neighboring areas such as the Malukus and
Central Sulawesi. It concludes that unless the Indonesian government
reverses many of its divisive policies and brings woefully lacking
services to remote indigenous communities, the "continuing inflows
of migrants into the province may well overwhelm the mechanisms for
social management that have so far kept conflict from spiraling out
of control." (http://www.eastwestcenter.org/res-rp-publicationdetails.asp?pub_ID=1567&;Search
The fourth paper examines the development of Papuan nationalism.
It contends that a pan-Papuan identity has been forged from a mosaic
of tribal groups. It explores the possibility that the Special
Autonomy Law of 2001, if fully implemented, might provide a
framework in which Papuan national aspirations could be realized. (http://www.eastwestcenter.org/res-rp-publicationdetails.asp?pub_ID=1458&;Search
Amnesty International Renews Calls or Release of Prisoners of
Conscience; End to Indonesian Abuse of west Papua People's Political
In a February 1 statement, Amnesty International (AI) charged
that "... [S]ince early 2001, repressive legislation has once again
been used with increasing frequency against government critics,
including labour and political activists, journalists, and
independence activists in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam (NAD) and Papua
The statement also underscored that "Amnesty International
believes that the right to freedom of expression includes the right
to peacefully advocate referenda, independence, or other political
solutions and that these rights must be upheld."
AI noted that many Papuans have been convicted for just such
peaceful political appeals and called on the Indonesian government
to "immediately and unconditionally release Filep Karma and Yusak
Pakage, and all other prisoners of conscience in Indonesia." Karma
and Pakage were detained in December 2004 for their role in a
peaceful political demonstration in Abepura, near the West Papuan
provincial capital of Jayapura (see the February 2005 West Papua
AI also called on the Indonesian government to "conduct effective
and independent investigations into the allegations of human rights
violations by members of the security forces in Abepura in relation
to the events of 1 December 2004, including the unnecessary use of
force against peaceful demonstrators, and the ill-treatment of
detainees; and to prosecute those found to be responsible. "
World Council of Churches and Franciscans International Press
for Papuan Human Rights at U.N. Commission on Human Rights
The World Council of Churches (WCC), in a statement at the
convening of the 61st session of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights
(UNCHR), stated that "the economic, social, and cultural rights of
the Papuan people will be the main focus of the WCC's
involvement in this year's 61st session." The WCC has called on the
UNCHR to inform the government of Indonesia that "its present
measures to divide the province [of West Papua] against the wishes
of the people can only lead. to further denial of their
socio-economic and cultural rights." More information on WCC work is
available at: http://wcc-coe.org/wcc/what/international/chr2005.html
Meanwhile, Franciscans International, together with other NGOs
with Special Consultative Status with ECOSOC, submitted a document
to the UNCHR that expressed deep concern over the "ongoing practice
of torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, and displacement
reportedly committed by the security apparatus . . ."
It emphasized that "cases of extra-judicial killings reported in
the villages of Mariedi, Bintuni District where BP Tangguh Gas
project is located, and in Mulia, District of Punjak Jaya cause us
deep concern." It added that the situation in Punjak Jaya, scene of
military operations since late summer, "exemplifies the gravity of
the general situation." It also concluded that the Indonesian
judicial system had proved its "inability to convene fair trials
owing to the pervasive influence of the security apparatus."
Necessary Preparations for Regional Elections in West Papua
According to the Jakarta Post (March 8), provincial offices of
the General Elections Commission (KPUD) in West Papua claim to be
unprepared for the direct elections for regional heads set
nationwide for June. Local administrations have not finished
compiling data on eligible voters, despite a February 28 deadline.
Moreover, election materials remain unavailable. One solution under
consideration is to delay the elections until November when they can
be held in conjunction with the gubernatorial elections.
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