West Papua Report
This is the 125th 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
Network (ETAN). Back issues are posted online at
Questions regarding this report can be addressed to Edmund McWilliams at
firstname.lastname@example.org. If you wish to receive
the report directly via e-mail, send a note to
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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
firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed
in Perspectives are the author's and not necessarily those of WPAT or
For additional news on West Papua see the reg.westpapua listserv
archive or on Twitter.
PERSPECTIVE is by ETAN's John M. Miller. It
looks at differences and similarities in the historical experience
of Timor-Leste (East Timor) and West Papua.
UPDATE examines the potential impact a Joko Widodo
administration may have on West Papua, noting high expectations for a
new focus on the "neglected region." Two
French journalists have been detained by security
authorities in West Papua; this action
may be intended to challenge President-elect Widodo who has spoken of
his intention to open West Papua to international media scrutiny.
"Development" plans in the Bintuni Bay area appear to be ignoring
the voices and interests of local Papuans. Security forces have
and beaten two Papuans in Manokwari. Widodo plans to establish
a human rights court are encouraging, but it is not clear
whether the court
will address the extraordinary abuses of the 1965-66 period or the
systematic abuse of human rights in West Papua extending back even
CHRONICLE highlights appeals to President-elect
Widodo by Amnesty International and
Human Rights Watch regarding the
need to make human rights a priority. Both appeals include a focus on
West Papua. A comment by Pat Walsh offers the view that the Widodo
administration may offer the "best prospect" for progress on the
decades-old "Papua problem."
Timor's Success, Papua's Struggle
by John M. Miller
Fifteen years ago, on August 30, 1999, thousands of East Timorese voters lined up to exercise their long-denied right to self-determination, a
process that had been interrupted by Indonesia's U.S.-backed invasion
and occupation in 1975. By noon of that day,
most had chosen
independence (in preference to an "enhanced autonomy"). As the United
Nations announced the result, the Indonesian military and its
militia proxies began their long-threatened wave of destruction and
violence. This was meant both to punish the East Timorese for their choice and to send
a message to other rebellious areas, especially West Papua and Aceh.
After a short period of UN administration, East Timor finally became the
independent Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste on May 20, 2002. Timor's
successful referendum inspired hopes for many in West Papua that they
might also be able to choose their political status.
Indonesia's elite reacted to the "loss" of Timor-Leste by vowing never
to let anything similar happen again. Many in the military were upset
about the loss of opportunities for promotion and side income. In
response, Indonesia combined grants of "special autonomy" with harsh crackdowns in Aceh and West Papua.
There are many parallels between West Papua and Timor-Leste and, as
tellingly, substantial differences. First some of the parallels:
On the periphery of the archipelago, neither territory was part of
Indonesia as it was established on independence. The colonizers
of both had said that they would help them exercise their own rights to
self-determination. Initially, the United Nations also agreed. In both
cases, when Indonesia acted to annex the territories, major powers --
especially the United States -- actively supported Indonesia.
(Indonesia's takeovers serve as bookends to
Henry Kissinger's career at
the highest levels of the U.S. government. The annexation of West Papua
was completed soon after he began serving as Nixon's National Security
Advisor; Indonesia's invasion of Portuguese Timor was notoriously given
the green light by President Ford and Secretary of State Kissinger a
little more than a year before Ford's term ended.)
The populations of both territories suffered massive human rights
violations, from arbitrary arrests and systematic rape and torture to
discrimination. Indonesian security forces engaged in mass murder,
deliberate starvation, and massacres -- some well-known, others little
documented. Indonesia stands accused of genocide in both regions. Where the
number of pre-invasion colonizers was relatively small, both places saw
an influx of people from Indonesia under formal and informal
transmigration programs. Children, orphaned by war or otherwise, were
permanently removed to other islands. Underlying this was a
paternalistic and racist attitude holding that the mostly darker-skinned
peoples of Timor and Papua were too stupid or primitive to govern themselves.
Demonstrators at the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili,
November 12, 1991, just prior to Indonesian
troops opening fire killing hundreds. Photo by Steve
No Indonesian generals or political leaders have been
held accountable for war crimes
and crimes against humanity committed in occupied Timor-Leste. The same
is true for West Papua. This impunity contributes to ongoing human
rights violation in West Papua.
After a time, both territories were opened to tourism, but the
Indonesian government worked to keep journalists, diplomats, and others
from freely visiting to investigate conditions.
Importantly, as many insisted their causes were lost, both populations
continued to insist on their right to self-determination. In the face of
Indonesia's overwhelming force, aided by weapons and training from the
United States and others, the armed opposition became less prominent and
resistance tactics shifted to emphasize nonviolent opposition in the
towns and cities and stepped up outreach and diplomatic efforts abroad.
Indonesia's violent reaction to peaceful protest crucially highlighted
the real nature of its rule over its unwilling subjects.
Now some major differences:
Importantly, as many insisted their causes were lost, both
populations continued to insist on their right to
While Portuguese Timor was sometimes
included in Indonesia's leaders' conception of a greater Indonesia, they
never argued for any historic claim to the territory, instead they said
that they were protecting their neighbor from civil conflict. On the
other hand, West Papua -- with its Dutch colonial heritage and
its place in "the
Indonesian nationalist imagination as 'the martyr place of the struggle
for independence,' in the words of Sukarno"
- was always seen as an important piece of a unified Indonesian state.
Timor's petroleum and other limited resources are mere drops in
Indonesia's bucket compared to the great mineral and other natural
resource wealth of West Papua.
Critically, while Timor's self-determination was never considered fully
settled until it gained independence, the United Nations views the issue
as closed for West Papua. Despite its well-documented flaws, the 1969
"Act of Free Choice" was accepted as valid and West Papua was taken off
the UN agenda. (The Indonesians tried a similar gambit after invading
Portuguese Timor. In November 1975, representatives of four Timorese
political parties signed the Balibo Declaration, supposedly inviting
Indonesia annexation. The declaration was written hastily in Bali, not
the Timorese border town notorious for the pre-invasion murder of five
Australian based journalists. )
Unlike West Papua, Timor remained on the UN agenda, even after
Indonesia formally annexed Timor as its 27th province in 1976. The UN
Security Council quickly, though ineffectually, condemned the invasion
in two resolutions (on December 22 1975, and April 22, 1976) and the
General Assembly passed annual resolutions supporting Timor-Leste's
right to self-determination, beginning on December 12, 1975, through to
November 1982, when the issue was placed under the good offices of the
Secretary-General. The Committee of 24 on decolonization held annual
hearings on Timor up until it was
removed from the UN's list of non-self
governing territories on independence in 2002.
Even some staunch Suharto supporters like the U.S. government were
not ready to unconditionally endorse how Timor became part of Indonesia. State
Department officials were always careful to say "We accept Indonesia's
incorporation of East Timor without maintaining that a valid act of
self-determination has taken place." When asked about West Papua, the
response has no such nuance. It is usually some variation of these
remarks by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from September 2012: "Regarding the
very important question on the situation in Papua, we support the
territorial integrity [of Indonesia] and that includes Papua and West
Papua provinces. We believe strongly that dialogue between Papuan
representatives [and] the Indonesian Government would help address
concerns that the Papuans have and assist in resolving conflict
peacefully, improving governance and development." This is usually
followed by support for the "special autonomy" many in West Papua
rejected and a statement deploring violence without identifying
Indonesia's security forces as the main perpetrators.
To reinforce its diplomatic efforts, the Timorese resistance had the
support of Portugal and the Portuguese-speaking African countries.
Portugal as an EU member vetoed certain forms of cooperation with
Indonesia and acted for the Timorese resistance in UN-sponsored
negotiations. The Dutch government has shown no interest in advocating
for West Papua, and Vanuatu has been its only consistently supportive
Once Suharto fell, there were many -- inside and outside governments and
the United Nations -- poised to seize the opportunity to press for
Timor's self-determination. And seize it they did. Building on past
activism and advocacy, U.S. policy changed to an explicit call for "a
valid act of self-determination." (For an overview of how U.S.
policy toward East Timor shifted during the 1990s see
The above is history and government policies. What about movements for
Aboriginal Australians show their support for West
Papua during September 2013's
Awareness of West Papua is certainly growing, as is the number of people
acting as advocates. West Papuans, often at great risk, continue to
resist and demonstrate within the territory and Indonesia proper. And
Papuans are traveling the globe to advocate for themselves. Grassroots
global support is important, but outside of Portugal support for Timor
was never a mass movement except for a few weeks in September 1999.
Changes in U.S. policy were the result of targeted advocacy mostly aimed
at ending U.S. support for the Indonesian military in response to growing
congressional concern about the violations of human rights.
In the 1990s, the Timorese resistance was clearly unified, both within the
country and abroad, under the umbrella of the National Council of
Timorese Resistance (CNRT). Its positions were clear, as was its main
request to international solidarity
activists: change your own government's policies to end support for
Suharto and the occupation. The multiple messages and lack of unified
leadership from West Papua is difficult for supporters to navigate.
Post-Suharto Indonesia is now a member of the international community in
good standing, despite its ongoing rights violations in West Papua.
Indonesia is seen as a democratic example to the Muslim world, a bulwark
against China, and important front in the "war on terrorism."
Overcoming the many disadvantages relative to Timor's struggle,
international efforts for West Papua will need to generate greater
public support and more targeted campaigning to ensure an effective international
response to Indonesia's 50-year rule
over West Papua.
John M. Miller is National Coordinator of the
East Timor and Indonesia Action Network
(ETAN). In 2012, ETAN received the Timor-Leste's highest honor,
the Ordem de Timor, for its
role in liberation of the country.
President-elect Widodo Pledges
Signals Greater Presidential Attention to Neglected Region
victorious President-elect Joko "Jokowi" Widodo. Photo:
President-elect Joko "Jokowi" Widodo
pledged to construct a "presidential palace" in West Papua; a
gesture apparently meant to convey the expectation of greater
Presidential attention to the region. His predecessor had visited the
region only three times in ten years. Widodo also pledged his
administration would meet quarterly for "dialogue" with Papuan leaders. These meeting would
involve either himself or key members of his administration.
These pledges are among a series of steps and statements which suggest a
new direction from the Widodo administration regarding West Papua.
Widodo visited West Papua during
the parliamentary campaign and then while campaigning for president. He
also made a public pledge to open West Papua to foreign journalists and
In early August, Widodo met with about 30 Papuan politicians and
religious leaders to describe his plan to increase contact
between the Jakarta and Papua. The step was reminiscent of a meeting
called by President Habibie
with 100 prominent Papuans in
February 1999. In that meeting, the Papuans told the stunned Habibie that
they wanted independence.
reportedly raised several issues
with Widodo related to the Freeport
gold and copper mine, including demands for a greater share of
money and for the company to move its headquarters to Jayapura from
Jakarta. They also asked for investigations of killings allegedly
related to the mine's operations.
Reaction to the President-elect's
has been skeptical: "My experience of Indonesian politicians is that
any program made for Papua makes no difference - that is, it creates
more suffering," Reverend John Djonga of Wamena said. Rev. Socratez
Yoman, who was not at the August meeting. said the
President-elect "will not solve the West Papua case in the short term if
he spends two or three days there." He called for withdrawing Jakarta's
troops and police, stopping migration from other parts of Indonesia,
freedom for political prisoners and inviting exiled activists home.
Jailed in West Papua
Valentine Bourrat and
Thomas Dandois. Photo: AFP
International journalist groups and
others have called for the release of two French journalist detained in
West Papua. Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat were arrested in Wamena
on August 6 while working on a documentary for Arte, a French-German TV
network. They had entered the region with only a tourist visa. Indonesia
rarely grants foreign journalists permission to go to West Papua.
An action alert from
Tapol and the International Coalition for Papua
calls on people to contact Indonesia officials demanding the
journalists release, "access for international journalists and
institutions to conduct journalistic or human rights related works
without restriction, in accordance with international human rights
standards." And an end to "intimidation and legal threat" to
providing assistance to the journalists. Police are holding Areki
Wanimbo, an indigenous leader from Lanny, who the journalists had met. The
police also want to question Theo Hesegem, a human rights defender seen with the journalists.
Sulistyo Pudjo Hartono, a provincial
said "We were concerned that [the French journalists] activities
were part of a plan to create insecurity and instability in Papua." The
journalists "video footage, audio recordings and the journalists' phones
had been seized," said Hartono.
Southeast Asian Press Alliance said "the detention of Dandois and
Bourrat and the ongoing ban on foreign journalists in Papua as blatant
violations of Indonesia's own Press Law (U.U. 40, 1999)."
Reporters without Borders called the arrest of the journalists "illegal," and
called for their "immediate release."
The Association of Indonesian Journalists' president Eko Maryadi
said that "The arrest of foreign journalists in Papua is not new,
but the government's repressive stance is increasing the desire of the
international media to go to Papua." "We are hopeful that new
President will be more open to the outside world. Becoming more
transparent and accommodating to foreign journalists who wish to cover
the Papua region."
Phelim Kine, a former Jakarta-based foreign correspondent now with Human
wrote that the two journalists, "are just the latest victims of the
Indonesian government's Papua censorship obsession."
Indonesian authorities have long sought to hinder
international scrutiny of conditions in West Papua, including
the widespread human rights violations by security and
The two journalists are
currently being held on immigration violations, but may face
"subversion" charges for allegedly filming members of the Free Papua
Movement (OPM). A Papua police spokesman
Sulistyo Pudjo accused the journalists of being "part of an effort to
Successive Indonesian administrations have long sought
to hinder international scrutiny of conditions in West Papua, including
the widespread human rights violations by security and intelligence
Applications by foreign reporters to visit West Papua are rarely
approved. "Journalists who do get official permission are invariably
shadowed by official minders, who strictly control their movements and
access to interviewees," writes Kine,
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, like his predecessors, persisted in
maintaining restrictions on journalists' access to West Papua. However,
President-elect Widodo during the election campaign indicated he might
change course. When asked if as president he would open access to Papua
for foreign journalists and international organizations, he
replied "There's nothing to hide."
In mid-August, Papuan
demonstrated in Yogyakarta demanding the French journalists release.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, "Foreign
journalists who are detained in the region without a journalist visa or
official permits are usually
WPAT Comment: The journalists should be immediately released and
allowed to resume reporting from West Papua. Their harsh treatment is a
stark contradiction to the Widodo pledge to allow international
journalists greater access to West Papua. The detention of the French
journalists should be viewed as a message from Indonesia's security
forces to the President-elect that notwithstanding his intention to
allow greater access, they still call the shots in West Papua.
at West Papuans' Expense
August 23 report from AwasMIFEE provides a detailed account of plans
by the Indonesian government to significantly expand the
industrialization of the area around Bintuni Bay in the Bird's Head
region of West Papua. AwasMIFEE reports that "key decisions
expected soon will give several multinational companies the green light
to build petrochemical factories" in the area. BP's Tangguh Liquefied
Natural Gas project begun in 2005 currently operates there, and several international corporations
are interested in building methanol plants which would
source Tangguh gas. Companies are also interested in developing ethanol
and fertilizer factories .
Not surprisingly, the concerns of local Papuans regarding these
developments have not been sought and are unknown. Failure to seek the
involvement, opinions, much less the consent of local people before major
projects affecting them is not new in West Papua. Local Papuans
were not involved in the decision to launch the Tangguh project.
LNG plant at Bintuni Bay, West Papua. Photo: Tempo.
Moreover, from the outset there have been and continue to be problems
associated with a lack of accountability by Tangguh project
authorities. The August 23 article points out, that problems
between the Tangguh project and local people are likely "only get worse as Genting oil commences exploration activities -- for example there have
been cases of intimidation from soldiers employed by the company."
Malaysia's Genting is operating in an exploration block, south of
Tangguh that extends into Fakfak regency.
The breadth of the challenges posed to Papuans in the area derives not
only from the development of energy projects and subsequent downstream
industrial development. According to AwasMIFEE: "To make things
worse, PT Varita Majutama has recently obtained permission for a 35.371
hectare expansion of its oil palm estate and PT Rimbun Sawit Papua has
also just got permission for another 30.596 hectares. The forest will
soon be gone too, leaving an industrial landscape where local indigenous
people little choice but to become dependent on handouts from the
WPAT Comment: Corporations sourcing workers from outside West Papua
is another major impact seen in earlier major projects in West Papua
undertaken in collaboration with the central government . This is a
harsh reality that exacerbates the ethnic cleansing of West Papua and
the marginalization of Papuans in their own land.
Indonesian Military and
Police Beat Two Papuan Peaceful Dissenters
A West Papuan daily
reports that on August 8 Manokwari District police detained and
severely beat two members of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB).
The Papuans had written graffiti calling for a boycott of Indonesian
National Day (August 17) activities. According to a source who visited
the two victims in detention, Oni Wea, a 21-year old university student, was beaten by a rifle butt and
repeatedly kicked in the chest. His lip was split and swollen and his
eyes were swollen and he was unable see. Sixteen-year old high school
student Robert Yelemaken's lip was also split,
his face swollen, and his chest hurt after he was also kicked and
beaten by rifle butts.
President-elect Widodo to Set Up Human
Any such court should prosecute a number of generals, among others those on Jokowi's transition
team, such as former head of intelligence Agency AM
Hendropriyono and Jokowi supporter Gen. (Ret.) Wiranto, as well
as former commander of
the Special Forces (Kopassus) Prabowo Subianto."
President-elect Widodo intends to establish an ad hoc human rights
court to deal with past rights violations, according to Andi
Widjajanto, a member of Widodo's transition team. He told
the Jakarta Post that "regulations which are being drafted by Jokowi's
transition team include a presidential decree to hear cases of human
rights violations that took place during the 1998 May riots and a
government regulation in-lieu-of law (Perppu) to address the
establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (KKR) to bring
about solutions to a number of past human rights abuses."
Law on human rights states that ad hoc human rights courts can be set up
by a recommendation from the House of Representatives and a decree by
KontraS, the Indonesian human rights group,
doubted Jokowi's commitment, saying that if he were serious the
President-elect should have announced the step himself. KontraS
Coordinator Haris Azar said that any such court should prosecute a
number of generals, including members Jokowi's
transition team, such as the former head of the National
Intelligence Agency (BIN)
A. M. Hendropriyono, and Jokowi supporter former Indonesian
military commander Gen.
(Ret.) Wiranto, as well as Jokowi's opponent former Kopassus
commander of Prabowo Subianto.
Comment: Such a court, to be credible, would need to address human
rights violations extending back to the 1965-66 period. It would need
also to address 40-plus years of systematic rights abuse in West Papua,
including the 1969 "Act of Free Choice" which denied Papuans their
fundamental right to self-determination.
AI Calls on Indonesia to End
Attacks on Freedom of Expression in West Papua
In an August 29 statement,
Amnesty International said called for an"end attacks on
freedom of expression in [Indonesia's] Papuan region." Amnesty
highlighted the apparent murder of KNPB political activist
Yohame whose body was found near the Nana Islands in Sorong, after
his family reported him missing on August 20; the detention and torture of two
Papuan students in the Manokwari area (see above);
and the the long detention of two French journalists (see
These and other "recent attacks highlight the repressive
environment faced by political activists and journalists in the area and
the ongoing impunity for human rights violations by security forces
there," the group said.
HRW Urges Widodo to Address
Human Rights, Including in West Papua
a lengthy letter to President-elect Widodo, Human Rights Watch wrote
that he has the "responsibility to address continuing human rights concerns
in Indonesia." The group writes that "members of Indonesia's security
forces -- particularly Detachment 88 and Kopassus -- continue to engage
in serious abuses... particularly in the two Papuan provinces."
The letter cites three measures that Widodo can quickly take in relation
to West Papua: opening the region to "independent
observers, including international journalists and human rights
organizations"; "the immediate and unconditional release of Filep Karma
and other political prisoners"; and ending "unlawful surveillance" of
Papuans by Kopassus and others. HRW also urged Widodo to "order an
independent and impartial investigation into various allegations of
human rights violations in Papua... Such an investigation should hold
security forces accountable and bring the perpetrators of such abuses to
Analysis Sees In Widodo "Best
Prospects" for Progress on West Papua Issue
argues in Eureka Street that "settlement of the West Papua issue can
only come from Indonesia and the Jokowi presidency offers the best
prospects for this in half a century. Creating the conditions in which
inclusive dialogue based on mutual respect can occur will tax the
political imagination and creativity of all involved. The trust and
goodwill Jokowi enjoys, including in West Papua, make for an excellent
start to this important enterprise."