East Timor & Indonesia ACTION Network ALERT
Signatures Needed on House Letter Calling for Access to West Papua
Call your Representative today!
A congressional letter to Indonesian President Yudhoyono is circulating in the U.S. House of Representatives. The letter asks the President to end ongoing military operations in West Papua and open up the province to international observers. We need to get as many signatures as possible to send a strong message to Indonesia. We need YOUR help to do that!
West Papua, the half of New Guinea controlled by Indonesia, is the site of an ongoing genocide. Since Indonesia invaded in 1961, an estimated 100,000 people have been killed as a result of military operations.
Last week over 10,000 Papuans held a peaceful demonstration in West Papua. The demonstrators asked that the Indonesian government end kidnappings, torture and assassinations. No major international newspapers reported on this demonstration because current Indonesian government policies tightly restrict the travel of foreign journalists to West Papua. Your Representative’s signature on this letter will send an important and timely message to Indonesian officials: they can no longer hide their abuses in West Papua from the international community.
Please call your Congress member today. Ask to speak with the Foreign Affairs Legislative Assistant.
Every call makes a difference, so please contact your Representative. Please let us know the results of your efforts by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
Representatives signed on so far (as of August 18): Kucinich (D-OH), Baldwin (D-WI), Evans (D-IL), Maloney (D-NY), Faleomavaega (D-AS), Franks (R-NJ), Serrano (D-NY).
The Dear Colleague Congressional letter follows.
Support Human Rights in West Papua
We invite you to sign the attached letter to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia urging his intervention to end broad scale human rights violations in West Papua, a province virtually closed off to the outside world. Since August 2004, the Indonesian military has been conducting an under-reported brutal operation that has displaced thousands.
In addition, the letter asks that the President investigate the alleged misuse of funds - intended for local development - to support these military operations and further calls for the release of political prisoners and the lifting of travel restrictions to and within West Papua. Finally, the letter supports concrete steps to advance the prospects for peace specifically by entering into dialogue with Papuan civil society and officials.
If you would like to sign onto the attached letter or have any questions please contact Ann Vaughan in Rep Farr's office.
September X, 2005
Office of the President
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.
Cc: U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia, B. Lynn Pascoe