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West Papua Advocacy Team to Secretary of State Clinton on Indonesian military operation in Puncak Jaya, West Papua

The Honorable Hillary Clinton
Secretary of State
Department of State
Washington, D.C.

July 20, 2011

Secretary Clinton:
 
The West Papua Advocacy Team is writing to you on the eve of your visit to Indonesia to request that you use this opportunity to raise with senior Indonesians the Indonesian military operation that is occurring in the Puncak Jaya regency of West Papua.

Media reports have indicated that up to 600 Indonesian military (TNI) personal are involved in "sweeping" operations in the region. This operation is only the latest in a series of such operations which the Indonesian military has conducted in the Puncak Jaya region over many years. These operations have had a devastating human toll including civilian casualties, destruction of civilian homes, churches, public buildings gardens and livestock as well as broad displacement of civilians from towns and villages, often to nearby mountains and jungle. Due in part to routine military closure of these zones of conflict to humanitarian operations, displaced civilians suffer and die as a result of lack of food, shelter and access to medical care.

  These operations have had a devastating human toll including civilian casualties, destruction of civilian homes, churches, public buildings gardens and livestock as well as broad displacement of civilians from towns and villages, often to nearby mountains and jungle. Due in part to routine military closure of these zones of conflict to humanitarian operations, displaced civilians suffer and die as a result of lack of food, shelter and access to medical care.

Typically, military forces, including forces which benefit from U.S. government equipment and training, fail to distinguish between those they are targeting, the lightly armed Free Papua Movement (the OPM), and the general public. While the OPM is committed to peaceful dialogue, it retains the right to self defense and protecting the local people if attacked. Although the security forces blame all incidents in the area on the OPM, many attacks on the TNI are by unknown attackers. Some of these arise as a result of disputes related to commercial interests among military units and/or with police units which compete over exploitation of natural resources and extortion of local and international commercial operations.

In the current sweep operation media reports indicate four civilians, including one women and 3 children, were wounded on July 12 when Indonesian troops from the Infantry Battalion 753, who are based in Nabire, fired into huts in the village of Kalome while searching for members of the Free Papua Movement (OPM). Thus far, the military has refused to acknowledge this incident.

In May the military began a "socializing program" in Puncak Jaya involving up to 300 Army, Air Force and Navy personnel . The program is proposed to include the renovating of homes, churches and markets. The military personnel, as part of the program, also lecture local Papuans at Papuans Sunday church gatherings. Local people, according to media and other accounts, have described the program as in reality only a shield and a cover-up of the military and police's violation of human rights abuses that have transpired in the region for many years.

Papuan civil society leaders, non-governmental organizations, churches and ordinary civilians have long called for transformation of Papua into a "Land of Peace," a concept that would demilitarize West Papua and end the Indonesian government's reliance on a "security approach" to address peaceful, political dissent. Currently, many Papuans are incarcerated in prisons due to their peaceful exercise of freedoms of speech and assembly which are denied them by the Indonesian government.

We urge you to use the opportunity of your visit to Indonesia to call on the Indonesian President to halt all military operations in West Papua and return all military personal to their barracks as a way of easing tension and saving lives. We also urge you to raise with senior Indonesians, the plight of dozens of Papuan prisoners of conscience who were jailed as result of peaceful dissent and who now face health and even life-threatening conditions in Indonesian notorious prisons.

Yours respectfully,

The West Papua Advocacy Team
 
Edmund McWilliams, Acting Secretary

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