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West Papua Report

This is the 124th 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, send a note to Link to this issue:

The Report leads with "Perspective," an analysis piece; followed by "Update," a summary of some developments during the covered period; 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 The opinions expressed in Perspectives are the author's and not necessarily those of WPAT or ETAN. For additional news on West Papua see the reg.westpapua listserv archive or on Twitter.

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This month's PERSPECTIVE takes the form of West Papua Advocacy Team's (WPAT) open letter to President-elect Joko "Jokowi" Widodo urging him to address fundamental problems in West Papua.

Human Rights are not optional for West PapuaUPDATE notes that Widodo won substantial majorities in West Papua, but that many Papuans boycotted the election. A prominent Papuan activist fled West Papua to Australia following attempts to abduct her. The Asian Human Rights Commission called the President-elect's attention to outstanding human rights problems in West Papua and elsewhere. Leaders of the "Federal State of West Papua" were released after serving nearly three years in prison for their roles in the Third Papuan People's Congress. Planning is under way for a meeting of Papuan groups in Vanuatu. President-elect Widodo has criticized a deal with Freeport McMoRan signed by outgoing president Yudhoyono. West Papuan students staged coordinated protests in Java over the denial of Papuan rights, including the right to self-determination. Recent shootings have raised concerns over a possible "sweeping operation" as a retaliatory "collective punishment" response. The new Army Chief of Staff has a record of provocative statements which point to an intent to defame and persecute rights advocates.

CHRONICLE highlights a motion by the Green Party's Catherine Delahunty in the New Zealand Parliament concerning the absence of media freedom in West Papua. A new documentary reveals repression in West Papua. Amnesty International urged Widodo to address human rights abuses and security force impunity. A new article focuses on institutional racism in West Papua. Groups write urging Indonesia to implement the UN's Universal Periodic Review recommendations concerning West Papua.


The following "perspective" comprises an open letter to President-elect Joko Widodo from the West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT).

Dear President-elect Joko Widodo:


Presidential candidate Joko “Jokowi” Widodo at campaign rally in Jayapura in June. Photo: AP/Djefri Pattirajawane


Congratulations on your victory in Indonesia's presidential election. The triumph of your campaign gives strong evidence that Indonesia is on a democratic path.

Your administration will face many daunting challenges, among them those associated with violations of human rights, most committed by Indonesian security and intelligence forces, and the broad impunity enjoyed by those accused of perpetrating these abuses.

Nowhere in the archipelago have human rights violations and impunity been more numerous or more flagrant than in West Papua. (We use here the preferred term those in the region encompassing Indonesia's easternmost provinces of Papua and West Papua.)

We note with concern that some of your own former-military supporters face serious charges for violating human rights, including crimes committed in West Papua.We also are concerned that during the presidency of your party's leader,, Megawati Sukarnoputri, the Papuan leader Theys Eluay was assassinated by Kopassus and the broadly rejected "Special Autonomy" plan was imposed.

We welcome your decision to visit Jayapura early in your campaign. In April, you campaigned there during the parliamentary election and you returned to West Papua in June while campaigning for president. At that time you, made welcome pledges to improve both education and healthcare for Papuans. You also promised support for development of economic infrastructure, especially in the east. In your campaign Action Program, ("A Path for Change for an Indonesia That Is Sovereign, Self-Sufficient and Full of Character") you also pledged to address deep-seated environmental and resource extraction problems throughout the archipelago, problems that especially burden the Papuan people.


As President you must move definitively to end the security approach as a means of addressing peaceful, legal dissent in West Papua. We urge you to order a demilitarization of West Papua, a demand long voiced by Papuans.

While West Papua ranks very poorly in health, education, employment and other critical indices, we urge you not to consider such "development" concerns at the cost of more pressing ones. In the past "development" schemes originated in Jakarta have failed to address the plight of Papuans who have been systematically disadvantaged by central government programs primarily designed to assist non-Papuan migrants and transmigrants. Such "development" programs only deepen the marginalization of the Papuan population.

Moreover, your welcome pledges to improve health services and education and to end the destructive exploitation of West Papua's environment fail to address more fundamental issues confronting West Papua. For decades, Indonesian security forces and intelligence agents have employed a genocidal security approach involving systematic repression and intimidation. As a consequence, Papuans face unrelenting marginalization and humiliation within their homeland. They have suffered torture and assassination. They have endured displacement by the thousands and the destruction of homes, churches and schools in "sweeping operations." Previous Indonesian administrations have been complicit in this abuse by either ordering such policies or because they have failed to end the abuses or to prosecute the perpetrators. We urge you to bring to justice those responsible for these crimes.

As President you must move definitively to end the security approach as a means of addressing peaceful, legal dissent in West Papua. We urge you to order a demilitarization of West Papua, a demand long voiced by Papuans.

We also urge immediate reforms to the Indonesian criminal code to remove penalties for "subversion," a holdover from the period of Dutch colonial rule, often used to punish those exercising rights guaranteed under Indonesian and international law. We also call on you to release the scores of Papuan political prisoners currently imprisoned under these and similar laws which have criminalized peaceful protest.


It is high time that the Indonesian government accepted long-standing Papuan pleas for a direct, high level, internationally-mediated dialogue with West Papua involving leaders of Papuan civil society. These talks should address long-denied Papuan fundamental civil and political rights, including their fundamental right to self-determination.

We commend your June 5 public pledge to allow foreign journalists and international organizations to enter West Papua. In this context, we condemn the policies of previous Indonesian administrations which sought to conceal the human rights tragedy of the Papuan people by preventing access to travel, or work within West Papua by journalists, the UN, and other international and humanitarian organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross. We urge you to take action to end these restrictions upon entering office. Scheduling the long-delayed visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to West Papua would be a clear indicator of your intention to open the region. The concerns detailed above are certainly important, but it is more vital that your administration address as its first priority the fundamental, historical political problem at the root of the Papuan tragedy.

With the exception of former President Abdul Rahman Wahid, no Indonesian President has given serious consideration to Papuans' fundamental civil and political rights including the right to self-determination. The "Act of Free Choice," through which Indonesia annexed West Papua in 1969, is widely recognized as a grotesque violation of Indonesia's commitment to the United Nations to afford Papuans their right to self-determination. Scholars such as John Saltford and Peter Drooglever. as well as UN officials involved in this fake plebiscite, have detailed the deeply fraudulent nature of the "Act of Free Choice." It is high time that the Indonesian government accepted long-standing Papuan pleas for a direct, high level, internationally-mediated dialogue with West Papua involving leaders of Papuan civil society. These talks should address long-denied Papuan fundamental civil and political rights, including their fundamental right to self-determination.

During your campaign you said that you plan to hear the voice of the people. For decades succeeding administrations in Jakarta have ignored the voice of the Papuan people, who have cried out for justice and recognition of their fundamental rights.

We urge you to listen to the voices of West Papuans and seize the initiative: Engage with them, so that the tragedy that has afflicted the Papuan people for over a half century can finally end.


Widodo Does Well with Papuans But Many Boycott

Presidential candidate Joko Widodo received majorities in major Papuan districts and both Indonesian provinces, although the number of Papuans boycotting the July 9 election appeared to be significant.

According to the Indonesia's election commission, in Papua province, 26.84% of voters supported Prabowo Subianto compared to 73.16% for Widodo; in West Papua province, Widodo received 67.63% versus 32.37 for Prabowo.

In Jayapura, Widodo picked up 96,780 votes, compared to the 69,220 votes for Prabowo. Yeremias Numberi, who was responsible for the vote count, told media on July 10 "The presidential election in Jayapura has been peaceful since the beginning of the campaign period. However, the number of voters decreased by 40 to 50 percent."

In Yahukimo, Widodo won 189,076 votes compared to Prabowo's 72,537. Widodo also led in Nabire with 90,541 votes to Prabowo 41,061 votes. In Paniai, Widodo had 82,970 to  Prabowo's 7,662. Widodo also prevailed Jayapura regency with 61,353 votes in comparison to Prabowo's 30,378 votes.

Papuan Activist Flees to Australia after "Abduction" Attempt

Tineke Rumkabu speaks 2014 commemoration of Biak massacre in Jayapura.  

In an exclusive report for Crikey, the Australian online news site, Sally Whyte writes that a West Papuan activist fled to Australia fearing for her safety. Tineke Rumkabu said that members of the Indonesian military attempted to abduct her earlier in July after she participated in an NGO commemoration of the 1998 Biak massacre.

Rumkabu has been especially outspoken as a witness to the 1998 massacre On July 6, 1998, hundreds of peaceful demonstrators gathered on a prominent hill in the town of Biak were deliberately attacked by members of the Indonesian military and police. The Papuans were asserting their right to self-determination after more than three decades of Indonesian military occupation of West Papua. Bodies of many of those slaughtered were dumped at sea.

A 2013 civilian tribunal found that "On July 6, 1998 a peaceful demonstration in Biak was attacked by military and police forces under the control of the Government of Indonesia which resulted in the deaths and injuries of scores of people and the detention of a further group of the demonstrators by the military forces, police and members of the Indonesian Naval forces," and that the Indonesian government has attempted to "downplay the seriousness of the actions perpetrated by" its forces." Rumkabu testified before the tribunal.
see also July 2013 West Papua Report:
Recalling the 1998 Massacre in Biak

Asian Human Rights Commission Highlights Rights Challenges for Widodo


We are calling for the end of the militaristic  approach, and for the new administration to prioritize a constructive dialogue with the people of West Papua. The AHRC further demands the upcoming administration  put an end to the isolation of West Papua and give access for international journalists to the region.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), in a July 23 statement, welcomed the formal announcement of President-elect Widodo election victory but noted that the new President's commitment is "yet to be tested." The AHRC observed that some in Widodo's circle have been tied to major human rights abuse cases, including former General Wiranto, pointing out that AHRC pointing out that Wiranto "was named by the citizen's tribunal as the person responsible" for the 1998 Biak.

Also in Widodo's circle is Hendropriyono, former Chief of the State Intelligence Agency (BIN). AHRC pointed out Hendropriyono's involvement in the assassination of a prominent human rights activist Munir, who was poisoned to death in 2004. (WPAT notes that Hendropriyono is also linked to numerous major human rights violations in West Papua, including the assassination of Papuan political leader Theys Eluay.

The AHRC statement concluded with a lengthy focus on the human rights challenges posed by the situation in West Papua:

"An important human rights issue, the abuses in West Papua, appears to have been left out of the campaign of Joko Widodo and Jusuf Kalla. The AHRC is hoping that the failure of the President-elect to discuss the matter does not reflect his intention to continue Indonesia's current policy on West Papua, which is mainly the use of militaristic approach to respond to the ongoing conflict in the region. We are calling for the end of this approach, and for the new administration of Jokowi-Jusuf Kalla to prioritise a constructive dialogue with the people of West Papua. The AHRC further demands the upcoming administration of Jokowi-Jusuf Kalla to put an end to the isolation of West Papua, and to give access for international journalists to the region."

Retired General Ryamizard Ryacudu (left) with Presidential candidate Widodo. Photo via New Mandala.  

In a post-election statement ETAN noted several other rights violators on Jokowi's campaign team: Former BIN deputy chief retired Major General Muchdi Purwoprandjono is also accused in the murder of Munir. Former Jakarta Military Commander Lieutenant General Sutiyoso is accused of torture in Timor-Leste. Sutiyoso was Jakarta military commander when thugs backed by troops and police attacked the headquarters of the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) in 1996. Retired General Ryamizard Ryacudu is a hardliner known for his xenophobic remarks and criticism of rights activists. As army chief of staff, he oversaw the implementation of martial law in Aceh beginning in May 2003. After the conviction of several Kopassus members for the murder of Theys Eluay, Ryamizard said that “the law says they are guilty. They are punished. But for me they are heroes.”

Forkorus Yaboisembut, and Edison Waromi. Photo West Papua Media.  

Leaders of the "Federal State of West Papua" Released

The "President of the Federal State of West Papua" Forkorus Yaboisembut, and "Prime Minister of the Federal State" Edison Waromi were released from Jayapura Prison on July 21. Also released were three other senior Federal State officials Selfius Bobii, Dominikus Disebut and Agus Learn. Thousands of Papuans reportedly welcomed the release with a "long march." The five were arrested and imprisoned in October 2011 following the Third Papuan People's Congress in Jayapura where they were elected as leaders of the "Federal Republic."

Papuans To Meet in Vanuatu to Discuss West Papua Application to Join MSG

Jubi reports that Pastor Alain Nafuki, a member of Vanuatu Church Council, has been appointed as the chair of the committee organizing the "Conference of Papua Liberation Groups" which will be held in Port Villa, Vanuatu, later this year. Nafuki told Jubi "The purpose of this meeting is to facilitate various groups of Papuan Liberation in order to discuss and set West Papua's membership application at the Melanesian Spearhead Group."

Andy Ayamiseba, representatives of West Papua National Coalition for Liberation (WPNCL) in Vanuatu said that the Government of Vanuatu "will invite three major factions, WPNCL, NRFPB [Negara Republik Federal Papua Barat/Federal Republic of West Papua], and KNPB/Free West Papua Campaign, to form an organization umbrella to submit a new application to MSG.

In June, the Melanesian Spearhead Groups (MSG) rejected the membership application submitted by WPNCL and called on Papuans to submit a "fresh application" from "an inclusive and united umbrella group."

Papuans Behind Bars

Outgoing SBY Cuts Last Minute Deal with Freeport

The Jakarta Post reports that the lame duck Yudhoyono administration has concluded a "strategic deal" with Freeport McMoRan that will allow the U.S. mining giant to continue operations after its license expires in 2021. The deal violates a pledge by Yudhoyono to consult with the president-elect before approving a deal. The new memorandum of understanding (MoU) will serve as the basis for amending the miner's contract of work (CoW).

Widodo reacted to the MoU signing by noting that Yudhoyono had not consulted him. "The Freeport contract will expire in 2021. The current administration should not have sealed the deal," Widodo said. Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry director general for minerals and coal R. Sukhyar said that if Freeport meets its commitments under the MoU, “the government will not unreasonably withhold or delay the continuation of its operations.”

The MoU will not only constrain incoming President Widodo in his dealings with Freeport, but could form a template in dealings with other mining companies.

Among the key provisions of the MoU:

  • Freeport will have its "taxes eased when it exports semi-finished products once it agrees to provide US$115 million in surety bonds as part of its commitment to build a local smelter."

  • The company's export tax will be 7.5 percent, significantly lower than the industry average.

  • However, Freeport will pay slightly higher royalties for copper -- 4 percent up from 3.75 percent -- and 3.5 percent for gold up from 1 percent.

  • Freeport will also "gradually sell a further 21 percent stake to the government," and the company's "concession area will decrease to 122,000 hectares from 212,000 ha."

WPAT Comment: Special Treatment for Freeport by Indonesian administrations is nothing new. Neither is the common practice of not engaging Papuans in the negotiations with Freeport.

Papuan Students Protest 1969 Annexation of West Papua in Java

West Papuan students, under the leadership of the Papuan Students Alliance (AMP) staged protests on July 15 in Semarang, Yogyakarta and Bandung. The main theme of the coordinated demonstrations was rejection of the "Act of Free Choice," the fraudulent plebiscite through which Indonesia annexed West Papua in 1969. The demonstrations called the act undemocratic and a gross human rights violation.

The AMP demonstrators demanded:

  • a referendum of the Papuan people, because the 1969 "Act of Free Choice" (Pepera) was undemocratic;

  • the withdrawal of all organic and non-organic military and police (TNI-POLRI) from West Papua in order to end crimes by the Indonesian state against the Papuan people;

  • an end to all exploitative activities by multinational corporations throughout Papua, including those of Freeport McMoRan and BP, which runs an LNG plant at Tangguh, as well as companies like Medco and Korindo that are involved in the MIFEE food and energy plantation project in Merauke.

Unknown Gunmen Kill Police; Sweeping Operation Feared

A group of armed men, alleged to be part of a Papuan separatist group, shot at eight police officers in Indawa village in mountainous Lanny Jaya district on July 28, Two died and six were injured. A police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Pudjo Sulistyo said the officers were training residents of Indawa village when they were attacked. The assault came on the same day an unidentified armed group attacked a military post in the Tinggi Nambut area of Papua's Puncak Jaya district.

The police said that they would take the lead in pursuing the attackers, but it appears that the military will also be involved. Major General Christian Zebua head of the Papua Regional Military Command, said the military was ready to assist the police. "We are ready to offer our services in overcoming the armed groups that have recently attacked civilians as well as security personnel," he told ANTARA.
At the beginning of August, the Indonesian military reported killing five "separatists" in Lanny Jaya. Zebu told the press: "We have shot five OPM members, and two of our personnel were also grazed by bullets," said Pa.

(WPAT Comment: The formation of "special teams" presumably incorporating military personnel into police units could be a precursor to launching of "sweeping operations" purportedly to target the shooters. However, past such operations have taken a heavy toll on local villagers, destroying civilian homes, churches, and displacing civilians into surrounding forests where people have no access to food, shelter or medical support. These operations appear to constitute collective punishment meted out against civilians, a specific war crime under international law.)

New Anti-Reform Army Chief of Staff

Lt. Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo. Photo: TEMPO/Subekt  

The anti-reform Lt. Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo became Indonesia's Chief of Staff of the Army on July 25,. He will likely continue in that position for two years notwithstanding the transition to a new President in October. Nurmantyo was previously Chief of the Army Strategic Command. He has served as Brawijaya Military Command in East Java, as well as governor of the National Military Academy.

Nurmantyo's promotion appears to represents a further blow to hopes for reform of the Indonesian military, an idea that has withered under the presidency of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Nurmantyo's public comments suggest a reversion to attitudes that challenge the principle of civilian supremacy over the military. He has called Indonesia's democracy "empty" and said that "popular will expressed through elections is not always right." These comments, made last October at a Pancasila Youth (PP) rally, reflect the strength of TNI hardliners who oppose reform, including current restrictions on military involvement in politics.

Last May Kompas quoted Nurmantyo warning against "proxy wars" in which foreign interests would seek to use third parties within Indonesia to endanger national unity. Such third parties, he said, could include "separatist movements," workers or students. In an August 30 public lecture  on "The Role of Youth in Confronting the Proxy War," he warned that "enemies will utilize and control non-state actors such as non-government organizations, mass organizations or individuals." He cited "the loss of East Timor" as an indication of such proxy wars.

WPAT Comment: Nurmantyo, for some time, has sought to create a context for retribution against those seeking to assert their civil and political rights in Indonesian public space. By asserting unsubstantiated nefarious ties to foreign agents, he has sought to create a mind set that would countenance such repression. Presumably rights campaigners in West Papua and elsewhere would be targets for such repression.


NZ Green MP Catherine Delahunty and Maire Leadbeater (West Papua Action Auckland) receive the John Rumbiak Human Rights Defenders Award, given annually by the West Papua Advocacy Team. Photo by AWPA.  

Motion in New Zealand Parliament on Media Freedom in West Papua

Recent John Rumbiak Human Rights Award recipient New Zealand MP Catherine Delahunty submitted a motion supporting media freedom in West Papua to parliament. The July 30 motion passed unanimously on voice vote. The motion said:

"I move that this House call upon the new President of Indonesia to commit to genuine media freedom in West Papua including the right of local and international journalists to report on the political situation there without risk of imprisonment or harassment by the Indonesian state."

See video here:

New Documentary Exposes Abuses in West Papua

A new film, "Isolated," documents human rights abuse in West Papua. The film was initially intended to focus on surfing. but the filmmakers unexpectedly encountered the human rights violations that are common in West Papua, especially in isolated areas beyond the scrutiny of foreign visitors. The film also exposes unethical mining operations. The filmmakers Ryan Phillippe and Geoffrey James Clark have encouraged people to sign their White House petition. The award-winning film is in theaters, iTunes, Xbox, Vudu, Playstation and on DVD. The new PIVOT network will premiere the documentary in September. For more information

Amnesty International Urges Widodo to Make Good on Rights Pledges

Amnesty International on July 22 called on President-elect Joko Widodo to keep his "promises to improve Indonesia's dire human rights situation." Amnesty specifically mentioned his pledges to address "serious past human rights abuses, protecting freedom of religion, reforming the police and opening up access to Papua for international observers."

"Institutionalized Racism" in West Papua

An July 21 article in The International (now Record) describes the "institutionalized racism" as lying at the heart of Indonesian policy in West Papua. The report also notes the round up, torture, and continued imprisonment of KNPB activists who campaigned for a boycott of Indonesia's presidential election.

Groups Write on Rights Violations in West Papua

A number of international and other organizations expressed concern "about the serious and ongoing violations of human rights that are taking place with impunity in the easternmost provinces of Indonesia Papua and West Papua. The letter urged Indonesia "to implement the recommendations that Indonesia accepted at its Periodic Review with regard to respecting human rights in Papua and West Papua, and to also reconsider the recommendations that Indonesia rejected." The letter, organized by VIVAT International, was supported by 25 other organizations, including ETAN.

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