Subject: Sunday Age: Mysterious killings seek to silence Papuan voices

The Sunday Age (Melbourne, Australia) Sunday, August 26, 2007

Mysterious killings seek to silence Papuan voices

By Tom Hyland

Indonesian security is suspected for a steady trickle of Papuan killings, writes Tom Hyland.

MATIUS Bunai was last seen alive three weeks ago today when he left a church service in the town of Nabire in the Indonesian province of Papua. His body, beaten and lacerated, was found dumped in the street the following morning.

His neighbour, Ones Keiya, was still alive, just, when he was found with similar wounds, in similar circumstances, two weeks before. He died in hospital two hours later.

A report by a church worker in Nabire said both men had similar wounds: smashed foreheads and deep knife cuts.

Mr Bunai, 29, was a civil servant employed by the Indonesian police and a youth worker with the Kingmi Protestant church.

Mr Keiya, 31, a farmer, was in the same congregation. Like Mr Bunai, he was single and a member of the indigenous Mee tribal group.

No one saw who killed them, and the church report obtained by The Sunday Age described their deaths as "mysterious killings" - a term with a particular meaning in Indonesia. It suggests there's no mystery at all.

The term emerged in the mid-1980s, when Indonesian soldiers and police killed about 5000 criminal suspects, mostly in Java. The killings remained unexplained until 1989, when then president Soeharto admitted ordering them in a campaign of "shock therapy".

Church workers who investigated the Nabire killings believe they, too, were carried out by Indonesian security forces - part of a largely hidden but steady trickle of murders, designed to intimidate Papuans seeking independence.

With churches stepping into the void left by a crackdown that has effectively silenced Papuan nationalists, clergy and church workers are increasingly targeted for harassment, intimidation and worse. The targets include the Reverend Socratez Yoman, head of the Baptist churches in Papua and an outspoken critic of human rights abuses. He alleges Indonesian police and army intelligence officers last month threatened him with a pistol outside his church in Jayapura, the Papuan provincial capital.

"Absolutely, I know about the pressure, the intimidation, the threats," he told The Sunday Age. "They are spying on us, following us, stopping us all the time."

The number of recent killings in the campaign to suppress independence activism is disputed, but evidence from human rights monitors suggest the figure, by past standards, is relatively small.

A report last month by Human Rights Watch listed eight killings, mostly by police, in the Central Highlands over the past two years.

Human Rights Watch said the fall of Soeharto and the introduction of "Special Autonomy" giving Papuans greater self-government have helped ease tensions between Papuans and the Jakarta government. There had also been "some decrease" in military crackdowns and "sweeping" operations, due mainly to reduced resistance by pro-independence guerillas.

But at the same time, Human Rights Watch complained that "endemic" abuses were "deepening mistrust of the national government in Jakarta and potentially inflaming separatist tensions".

Melbourne academic Richard Chauvel, an expert on Papua who has recently visited the territory, characterises the anti-Papuan violence as systemic and strategic.

"It is systemic in the sense that it is an integral part of how the security forces interact with many sections of Papuan society," he said. It is strategic in that it is calculated "to create a certain atmosphere ... of varying degrees of intimidation".

The behaviour of the security forces reflected the military culture that pervaded the Soeharto regime, "where violence against unarmed Indonesian citizens was legitimate", said Dr Chauvel, director of the Australia Asia Pacific Institute at Victoria University.

The fall of Soeharto in 1998 heralded a brief spring for Papuan nationalists, who could fly their flag and openly advocate independence. But freedom faded with the detention of leading nationalists in late 2000, and the murder by Indonesian troops of Papuan leader Theys Eluay in 2001.

"The democratic space for political activity and the free expression of political opinion in Papua itself, that's been closed down," said Dr Chauvel.

"I'm not suggesting pro-independence sentiment has disappeared. What I'm suggesting is that its public expression and the public mobilisation for that objective has been closed down."

In this environment, church leaders play a critical and risky role. With their own communications networks inside the territory, as well as international links, then can gather and release information that the military would prefer not to come out.

But they risk being accused of promoting independence by security officers suspicious of churches, paranoid about outside interference, and fearful that Papua could follow East Timor and break away.

Pastor Yoman said the clergy had no choice but to speak out. "They will never stop us, because we are talking about our dignity, our life," he said. "We're talking about peace and justice and equality. These are universal values."

He has no doubt who killed Mr Bunai and Mr Keiya: "Our experience for 44 years is that the Indonesian security attack and kill the Papuan people, everywhere."

In an attempt to ease tensions, the Jakarta Government has granted Papua a degree of autonomy, with control over funds and local administration. But implementing autonomy has been half-hearted and complicated by the division of the territory into two provinces, Papua and West Papua, with plans for a third.

Even with the carrot of autonomy, the stick of repression remains.

Regardless of what Jakarta politicians say, security agencies remain the real power in Papua.

Last month, a senior army officer in Papua, Colonel Burhanuddin Siagian, issued a blunt warning ahead of a meeting of a traditional Papuan council.

"What is absolutely certain," he said, "is that anyone who tends towards separatism will be crushed by TNI (the Indonesian military).

"In the interests of the Republic of Indonesia, we are not afraid of human rights."

Colonel Siagian knows how to carry out such threats. In 2003 he was indicted by UN investigators for murder and torture when he was based in East Timor in the run-up to the 1999 independence referendum.

Jakarta refused to extradite him. Instead he was promoted and sent to Papua.

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Terjemahan (atas jasa "Kataku"): http://66.114.70.144/

------------------------------------------ Joyo Indonesia News Service


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