etmnlong.gif (2291 bytes) spacer Joint Press Release

Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights
East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)

Members of Congress Urge President Yudhoyono of Indonesia to Open up Access to West Papua; Ongoing Human Rights Abuses Condemned

S. Eben Kirksey, RFK West Papua Advocacy Team (831) 429-8276/(831) 227-4347
Edmund McWilliams, RFK West Papua Advocacy Team (703) 237-3913/(703) 899-5287
John M. Miller, Spokesperson, ETAN (718) 596-7668/(917) 690-4391
Ann Vaughan, Office of Sam Farr (CA-17) (202) 225-2861


September 16, 2005—Members of the U.S. House of Representatives today called on Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to rescind policies that restrict international access to West Papua.

In a letter to President Yudhoyono, Representatives wrote that “the travel permit (surat jalan) system, requiring travelers to report their own movements to local intelligence agencies, is contrary to the freedom of movement that is essential to a functional democracy.” The letter calls on Yudhoyono to suspend the travel permit system, as well as visa policies “that restrict access of international journalists, researchers, and NGO workers to West Papua.”

The letter, sponsored by Representatives Sam Farr (D-CA) and Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), also calls for an end to “new military operations and . . . the military build-up in West Papua as a whole.” Today Rep. Farr said “I commend President Yudhoyono for seizing the opportunity in the aftermath of last year's tsunami to make positive progress towards peace in the Aceh Province. I encourage the Indonesian government to make similar efforts to return to the negotiation table with the Papuans and work toward the demilitarization of that area.”

Lawmakers highlighted the detention of political prisoners Yusak Pakage and Filep Karma, who were recently sentenced to 10 years in prison for raising a flag.

“Scholars who would not normally be concerned with politics – botanists, zoologists, and anthropologists – are being denied visas to do basic research in West Papua,” said Eben Kirksey, a Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of California, Santa Cruz. “Indonesia’s policy of prohibiting research in West Papua has backfired; it is turning academics into activists,” he added.

“Access is a problem of long standing and even as a US diplomat, I had to seek special Indonesian government permission to visit West Papua,” said Edmund McWilliams, formerly the Political Councilor to the U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia.

“While international access does not guarantee an end to human rights violations, as we saw in East Timor, it is vital in giving the victims hope and in generating international pressure for genuine change,” said John M. Miller, spokesperson for the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN).

President Yudhoyono, who is currently touring the United States, will address world leaders today who have convened in New York City for the United Nations Summit.

The letter was signed by 35 members of Congress.


West Papua, the half of New Guinea controlled by Indonesia, is the site of unparalleled natural and cultural diversity. With over 250 local languages as well as a high number of plant and animal species found nowhere else on earth, it is a sought-after location for academic research.

The Indonesian government is trying to hide ongoing human rights abuses in West Papua from the world. A report documenting extensive crimes against humanity by Indonesian troops in West Papua was released last year by the Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at Yale University. The report found “a strong indication that the Indonesian government has committed genocide against the Papuans.”1

In March, 2005, 37 members of the Congressional Black Caucus wrote to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan asking them to support West Papua’s right to self-determination. On 9 June 2005, the House International Relations Committee passed H.R. 2601, the State Department Authorization Act for FY2006, which contained historic language about West Papua and would require that the Secretary of State submit a report about the Act of Free Choice—the 1969 plebiscite that led to West Papua’s incorporation into Indonesia. Many historians regard the Act of Free Choice as a sham. The State Department Authorization Act for FY2006 must still be approved by the Senate.

In August over 10,000 Papuans held a peaceful demonstration asking the Indonesian government to end ongoing kidnappings, torture, and assassinations. No international correspondents were given permission to travel to West Papua to cover this demonstration. As a result, the event went unreported in the global media.

September 15, 2005

Office of the President
Istana Merdeka
Jakarta 10110 Indonesia

Dear President Yudhoyono:

We, the undersigned members of Congress, commend you for changing visa policies that allowed journalists and international organizations access to Aceh following the tsunami disaster. Countless lives have been saved because of this change. We write to encourage you to continue with these positive steps by opening up access to West Papua and by addressing the following issues:

*Military Operations in West Papua*

We note that recently announced plans to establish a new Strategic Army Reserve (Kostrad) post in West Papua's Mimika District with plans to station up to 15,000 new military troops in West Papua, are further threatening to undermine peace initiatives. We also are deeply concerned about ongoing Indonesian military (TNI) operations in Mimika District itself. For example, we understand that a TNI patrol near the Coffee River (Kali Kopi) reportedly shot dead two Papuans in mid-March and that four other Papuans recently were killed in this area.

Despite efforts to impede access by international journalists and human rights and humanitarian workers, we are aware that operations in the highlands have resulted in numerous human rights violations since August 2004. Churches, human rights organizations, and regional parliamentarians (DPRD Papua) are reporting that thousands of villagers have been forced to flee these military operations.

We call on you to immediately end the new military operations and to halt the military build-up in West Papua as a whole.

Press reports indicate that these military operations are being financed in part by funds from international donors that were designated to help Papuans develop local governance. These reports further suggest the TNI is diverting these funds to create militia, a situation gravely reminiscent of TNI sponsorship of militia to ravage East Timor in 1999.

We urge you to promptly investigate this reported misuse of funds. We urge you to order the immediate disbanding of the militia, criminally prosecute those culpable, and repay illicitly-spent funds.

*Peace Process and Human Rights*

We recognize that many prominent leaders of West Papua are seeking solutions to the pressing problems in the region through dialogue and negotiation. We are aware of recent reports about the formation of a special Presidential Commission on West Papua. We believe this to be a positive development deserving of your government's full cooperation and support. However, detaining non-violent leaders - such as Yusak Pakage and Filep Karma - is clearly limiting the possibilities for political compromise. We urge you to immediately release Pakage, Karma, and other political prisoners who are working for peace.

*Restriction on Travel*

The travel permit (surat jalan) system, requiring travelers to report their own movements to local intelligence agencies, is contrary to the freedom of movement that is essential to a functional democracy. In all areas of West Papua outside of major urban centers, foreigners are required to carry surat jalan travel permits. In some localities Indonesian citizens of Papuan descent are even required to carry similar permits.

We call on you to abolish the travel permit system and allow for the freedom of movement throughout Indonesia.

Visa policies are in place that restrict access of international journalists, researchers, and NGO workers to West Papua. We urge you to abolish these visa restrictions.

Moving towards a democratic system of government with respect for human rights is the key to a sustainable peace in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic Indonesia. We respect the fledging efforts you have made towards building democratic institutions and encourage your continued efforts to institute respect for human rights and rule of law as you lead your country on a path towards democracy.


Sam Farr
Chris Smith
Donald M. Payne
Frank Wolf
Patrick J. Kennedy
Trent Franks
Peter DeFazio
Jim Gerlach
Eni F. H. Faleomavaega
Gregory Meeks
Lois Capps
Nita Lowey
Diane Watson
Stephen F. Lynch
Michael Honda
Jose E. Serrano
Maurice Hinchey
Tim Bishop 
Carolyn Maloney
Dennis Kucinich
Lane Evans
Raul M. Grijalva
Tammy Baldwin
Mark Udall
Henry A. Waxman
Zoe Lofgren
David Wu
James P. McGovern
James Oberstar
Michael Capuano
Pete Stark
Dennis Cardoza
Steve Rothman
Maxine Waters
Jan Schakowsky

Cc:  U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia, B. Lynn Pascoe
Indonesian Ambassador to the United States, Soemadi Djoko Moerjono Brotodiningrat
Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific, Chris Hill

1 E. Brundige, et al.  “Indonesian Human Rights Abuses in West Papua: Application of the Law of Genocide to the History of Indonesian Control,” available on-line: /westpapuahrights.pdf





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