June 13, 2000
President Abdurrahman Wahid
c/o Mission of the Republic of Indonesia to the United Nations
By fax to 1-212-972-9780
Dear Mr. President:
We are writing you to express our concern about developments in West Papua. Although we appreciate the increase in democratic space that has allowed the Papuan people to express their opinions more openly, we are worried about the escalating activities of pro- Indonesia militia groups, many of whom are linked to the Indonesian Armed Forces.
In the months leading up to last years August 30 vote, the International Federation for East Timor sent 140 non-partisan observers to East Timor to observe the popular consultation process. Our teams, in every district of East Timor, witnessed pro- integration militias killing and terrorizing the people of East Timor in an attempt to sabotage their vote. And after 78.5% of the East Timorese people expressed their pro-independence views in that U.N.-conducted act of self-determination, we were evacuated from East Timor while these militias were destroying East Timor and forcibly displacing its population. It is widely acknowledged that these militias were created, financed, armed and directed by significant elements of the TNI, Polri, and other branches of the Indonesian government.
It is to your predecessor's credit that he began the process to allow the East Timorese people to exercise their legal and moral right to self-determination. It is to his shame that he was unable or unwilling to bring the TNI and its puppet militias under control.
Over the last few weeks, a similar pattern has been emerging in Papua. We urge you, in the strongest possible terms, to stop militia terror while it can still be controlled. In Papua, as in East Timor, the militias operate with the logistical and political support of the Indonesian military. We know that you do not condone illegal violence perpetrated by these militias, but the fact that such violence continues indicates that your government has not done enough to end it. Please use every nonviolent means at your disposal to assert authority over the military and police in Papua, and to terminate violations of human rights perpetrated with the cooperation or complicity of your government's armed forces.
Last week, the Second Papuan People's Congress reiterated West Papua's 1961 declaration of independence and expressed the desire to separate from Indonesia. The International Federation of East Timor neither endorses nor opposes this wish, but believes that the people of West Papua, like those of East Timor and everywhere else in the world, have the legal and moral right to self-determination. We watched the East Timorese people exercise that right last August, but, although the UN acknowledged the Papuan people's right to self-determination, the Papuan people have never had that opportunity. The 1969 "Act of Free Choice" is a blot on Indonesian and United Nations history, a fraudulent, unrepresentative charade which should be discarded in the new era of Indonesian democracy, along with other totalitarian policies of the Suharto regime.
The International Federation for East Timor encourages you to meet with Papuan leaders when you return to Jakarta, and to continue the peaceful discussion of Papua's political future. We hope you will do everything in your power to allow nonviolent political expression and activities to continue in Papua, and to resolve the issues there peacefully, in the best interests of everyone concerned. Violent acts against civilians, whether they be committed by pro-independence forces, pro-Indonesia militia, or the TNI itself, will only undercut this process.
In closing, we welcome your government's interest in good relations with East Timor, and encourage you to continue to work with their leaders to be good neighbors, and to resist those elements trying to disrupt that friendship. Finally, we urge you to arrest militia leaders and remove them from the refugee camps in West Timor, and thereby allow the 100,000 East Timorese people there to freely choose their future homeland.
As a New Yorker, I welcome you to my city and country, hope your visit is enjoyable and productive, and wish you the best of health. And as concerned citizens from countries all over the world, the International Federation for East Timor wishes you success in your efforts to restore human rights and democracy for all people in Indonesia. Although the people of East Timor are no longer under Indonesian jurisdiction, we continue to watch and encourage the growth of freedom for those who are. Thank you for your concern and attention.
Charles A. Scheiner