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West Papua Report
July 2006


The July 2006 "West Papua Report" is the 29th in a series of monthly reports that focus on developments affecting Papuans. This reporting series is produced by the West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) drawing on media accounts, other NGO assessments and analysis and reporting from sources within West Papua. The West Papua Advocacy Team is a non-profit organization.


Popular New Governor Barnebus Suebu Inaugurated in West Papua

Barnabas Suebu was inaugurated governor of West Papua in a ceremony in July 24 in Jayapura. Suebu brings broad experience to the job, having served as governor for West Papua from 1988 to 1993. He was also served as Indonesian Ambassador to Mexico. During his previous tour as governor he successfully restricted the Indonesian government's "transmigration" policies under which the central government  moved large numbers of non-Papuans into Papuan territory for resettlement. The policy marginalized Papuans who were often pushed off their lands to make way for the government sponsored immigrants. Observers have likened the policy to colonial era practices. In recent years, central government-supported migration has continued though government support has been informal.

The inauguration was delayed from Suebu's March election victory due to a court case by one of his defeated rivals. In the end, those rivals participated in his inauguration, indicating their support for the new governor. Initial evidence suggests that Suebu will not be the pliant bureaucrat that some Papuan governors were. Suebu has already been publicly critical of Jakarta's division of West Papua into "Papua" and "West Irian Jaya," formalized by the inauguration of a "West Irian Jaya" administration on July 23 based at Manokwari. Governor Suebu's criticism of the imposed division of the province echoes that of the Papuan People's Council, the provincial legislature, and Papuan civil society leaders. On July 22, the new governor of "West Irian Jaya" , a former military general, was also inaugurated.

Papuan Independence Proponents Unify

In late July the commanders of all six commands within the West Papuan National Army (Biak, Sorong, Manokwari, Paniai, Fak Fak, Wamena and the northern and southern border commands) met met in Madang, Papua New Guinea to unify their efforts. Meeting coordinator Jonah Wenda told the media on July 23 that the commanders had jointly agreed to pursue non-violent means to advance their cause of a free and independent West Papua. They also affirmed their commitment to West Papua as a "land of peace". The meeting was the latest effort by the "West Papua Coalition for National Liberation" to consolidate all Papuan resistance elements into a single organization with a common agenda and agreed upon (non-violent) methods.

Wenda told the media covering the meeting's press conference that the commanders signed an agreement to create a coordinating organization in October. While pledging that the commanders would rely on peaceful means to liberate West Papua, Wenda added that if the Indonesian military attacked Papuan civilians, the commanders are ready to defend the Papuan people.

Indonesian Court Convicts Papuan Demonstrators

On July 23, the Jayapura District Court sentenced 11 protesters involved in the deadly March 16 protest with police near the Cenderawasih University campus in Abepura to jail terms ranging from five to six years. The heaviest sentence was handed to Nelson Rumbiak, who was jailed for six years, two more than the four years demanded by prosecutors. The defendants, all students, were charged with offenses ranging from disobeying a police officer's order to disperse as well as violent offenses. Five security officials were killed in the melee that followed a police assault on what had been a peaceful protest. Another group of men is on trial for the deaths of the security officials.

The demonstrators had called for the closure of operations of the U.S.-run Freeport-McMoRan gold and copper mine which is widely viewed as having severely polluted the environment, colluded with the Indonesian military in the abuse of Papuan human rights, and conspired with the central government to rob Papuans of their natural patrimony.

Security officials went on a rampage following the March 16 melee, targeting students, facilities at Cenderawasih University which many of the demonstrators attended, forcing many students to flee the University with some seeking refuge abroad.

The defense lawyer for the 16 demonstrators announced intentions to appeal the verdicts for those sentenced thus far.

Papuans Refuse to Participate in Trial for Timika Killings

Seven Papuans accused of involvement in the August 31, 2002 attack on U.S. schoolteachers have refused to participate in their trial which was to have begun in July. One of the defendants, Antonious Wamang, has admitted involvement in the killings but has implicated the Indonesian military as complicit in the crime. Prosecutors have not pursued this connection to the Indonesian military.

President Yudhoyono Visits West Papua

At the close of the July reporting period, President Susilo BambangYudhoyono has begun a visit to West Papua. While full results of this visit are still unknown, the official news agency, Antara, reported that President Yudhoyono, in meeting with Papuan officials, agreed to evaluate the Papua Special Autonomy law (Law No.21/2001).

Papuan officials, notably the chairperson of the Papuan People's Council (MRP), Agus Alue Alua, cited the need to amend Article 76 of the Law which stipulates that the establishment of new provinces must get the approval of the MRP and the Regional Legislative Council (DPRD). He stressed that "Article 76 must become the core of the regulation on the establishment of new provinces and regencies in Papua, instead of merely made effective as an additional regulation." He noted that the new West Irian Jaya province had been established despite the opposition of the MRP. "We have asked the President to delay the implementation of the plan on the establishment of new provinces and regencies in Papua pending a clarification on the legal status of the plan," the MRP chairman said.

Antara also announced that Yudhoyono was expected to announce a presidential instruction on the acceleration of development in the province which would focus on health, vocational education, acceleration of basic infrastructure development, food security and affirmative action measures to give more locals the opportunity to hold posts within the administration, the police and military forces.

Tribal Conflict Near Timika

A deadly inter-tribal conflict that has killed ten Papuans was continuing at the end of July. Two warring tribes in the Mimika District near the U.S.-run Freeport McMoran gold and cooper mine engaged over the death of a child by drowning who had been in the care of rival tribesman. Hundreds of tribesmen from the Dani and Damal peoples in Kwamki Lama hamlet reportedly are observing traditional rules of tribal warfare. Unwritten codes of honor require that women cannot fight wars and it is forbidden for men to rape or physically abuse women and children during a war. Looting during a war is also forbidden, as is killing women, children and the elderly. A tribal war can last months, even years, and generally ends when the number of casualties is equal on both sides.

Suspicious Activities at Freeport McMoRan Mine

Indonesian authorities have arrested three men after they allegedly surreptitiously entered a secure site inside the Freeport-McMoRan's mine at Tembagapura, police authorities announced on July 27. Media reports citing a senior official of the U.S.-funded Detachment 88 said two of the three were Freeport employees, including one with responsibility for handling explosives. The third was identified as an Islamic teacher. The teacher had at least once entered the complex using a visitor's ID pass made by one of the other two. The Detachment 88 official said that security officials had confiscated several documents including bomb-making instructions, a map of the Freeport mine area and videos of anti-Western propaganda.

As of August 1, the detainees have been released but are purportedly being watched.

The involvement of an Islamic teacher and confiscation of anti-western propaganda appeared to rule out the possibility of Papua's small armed independence movement.

Jakarta Concern Over International Support for an Independent West Papua

The concern of the Indonesian central government over growing concern about the plight of Papuans and support for Papuan self-determination manifested itself in several ways in July. On July 25, Indonesia convened a Southwest Pacific dialog on the sidelines of the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting (AMM) and ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in Kuala Lumpur. Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda hosted the session which was attended by Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters, Papua New Guinea's Petroleum and Energy Minister Sir Moi Avei, the Philippines Foreign Minister Alberto G. Romulo and Timor Leste Foreign Minister Jose Luis Guterres.

A senior Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesperson explained that the dialogue was necessary because the dialogue partners were "very influential on our eastern territory, such as Papua." He also noted that the majority of people living in eastern areas of the country were ethnic Melanesians, who constitute the majority in many Pacific islands. He added bluntly that "failing to pay adequate attention to our eastern neighbors and the situation in our eastern territories can cause our eastern areas to fall under the influence of outside forces." Earlier, a senior retired Indonesian military officer called publicly for Indonesian intelligence to be employed abroad against those who advocate on behalf of Papuan human rights, including the right of self-determination.

New Research Underscores Failure of "Special Autonomy" for West Papua

New Indonesian research conducted by a respected non-governmental organization has concluded that West Papua's "special autonomy" status has not brought significant progress to the people because it has failed to address their fundamental needs. The research is based on a survey conducted by National Solidarity for Papua (SNUP) in cooperation with Partnership for Governance Reform in Indonesia. The survey interviewed hundreds of Papuans the majority of whom told researchers that their welfare has not improved under special autonomy because the local political elite, the bureaucracy and non-governmental organizations were out of touch with the common people. Three quarters of respondents stated that special autonomy has not strengthened basic services in the areas of health care, education and the economy. They related the failure to rampant corruption and nepotism.

SNUP executive director Bonar Tigor Naipospos, a prominent human rights advocate for over a decade, said a majority of Papua's 2.5 million people still lived in poverty. (A separate government study conducted by the State Ministry for the Development of Disadvantaged Regions indicated that 19 of 20 regencies across Papua were classified in 2005 as underdeveloped). Forty-six percent of respondents said that the newly-established Papuan People's Assembly (MRP) and political parties had not paid serious attention to their fundamental problems, and that the increasing number of security personnel did not improve their sense of security. Instead, respondents felt their freedom of expression has been hampered.

The Destruction of West Papua's Rainforest

The Washington Post, July 14, published a revealing account by Post correspondent Ellen Nakashima of the continuing devastation of West Papua's rainforest. Her detailed account underscored the abject failure of the Indonesian courts to address the destruction which directly impacts the welfare of millions of Papuans who depend on the forests for their livelihood. Specifically, she described endemic corruption and incompetence among prosecutors and within the Indonesian justice system which have long rendered the Indonesian military, police and senior political figures immune from effective prosecution.

The report, based on Nakashima's unusual access to West Papua where most journalists are routinely restricted, was an all-too-rare example of effective scrutiny of conditions in West Papua.

As of the end of the July reporting period, efforts were underway to establish a Papuan organization dedicated to the protection of Papuan forests.

Killings and Wounding of Papuans Continue

Human rights advocates in West Papua continue to forward to the West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) the names of Papuans killed or wounded by security officials. Many of these killings go unreported in the media and perpetrators typically evade justice. Beginning with this issue the West Papua Report will note these reports, providing what context is available for these accounts. Because of security force intimidation of Papuan human rights advocates follow-up reporting on these incidents is often limited.

On July 6, six Indonesian military personnel were involved in the murder of Inoi (aka Zakeus) Wanggai at Sorong airport. The U.S. Embassy has confirmed that these killings took place. Additional details are lacking. On July 14 in Sorong Frengkay Iha and Onisimus Ginoni were shot by a senior police official while returning home from a church meeting. They were seriously wounded and hospitalized. The police official, reportedly drunk at the time of the shooting, was arrested though there is no indication that he will be prosecuted. Also in early July in Wamena, a woman named Selvy Kugoya was shot and killed by security officials. No additional details are available at this time regarding the incident.

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