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West Papua Report
February 2007


This is the 33rd in a series of monthly reports that focuses 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.


Military Operations in West Papua's Highlands Displace Thousands of Civilians

An Indonesian military campaign targeting the Goliat Tabuni faction of the Papuan armed resistance in the remote Punjak Jaya region in central West Papua has displaced thousands of Papuan civilians who have fled to the nearby forests and mountains. Others have fled to neighboring villages where very crowded conditions have led to increased incidence of diarrhea, hepatitis and malaria. A reliable church source reports that over 200 children are ill. According to multiple sources on the ground, these internally displaced persons are now cut off from their gardens as well as inter- and intra-village commerce as well as access to adequate shelter or medical care. These local sources report deaths among these civilians including a mother and her two children who drowned trying to flee across a stream on January 4. Brimob (Police Mobile Brigade) forces killed a 71-year-old man on January 4 and four persons were reported to have died due to inadequate food, shelter and medicine on Jan 17.

The most affected people are from the Lani tribal group. After the military destroyed the local district office, an elementary school and a polyclinic in Yamo, between 3,000 and 5,000 people fled in the direction of Wano and then on to Guyage. Local officials have tried to arrange a ceasefire between the Indonesian security forces and the armed Papuan resistance but without success. Church leaders who have raised the humanitarian crisis with government officials in Jayapura, the provincial capital, have found them unresponsive. Local government medical officials have refused to provide medical assistance to Lani medical workers alleging that the aid might wind up with the resistance.

As reported in the previous month's West Papua Report, the grave human consequences of past Indonesian military operations in the West Papuan highlands gave rise to urgent concerns about the plight of civilians trapped by the latest offensive. Beginning in the fall of 2004 and extending into early 2006, Indonesian military operations destroyed villages and forced flight of thousands of civilians into the jungles to escape marauding Indonesian soldiers who burned churches and leveled houses. The military's refusal to permit access to this besieged population, even for provision of humanitarian relief by local church leaders and aid workers gravely exacerbated the crisis. Following the same disastrous policy, local sources contend that the military has once again placed tight restrictions on civilian travel in the affected region.

Restrictions on access also apply to local and foreign journalists, human rights monitors or humanitarian assistance providers. These restrictions afford the security forces carte blanche powers to violate fundamental human rights norms and even Indonesian law.

Local sources have identified specific units involved in the current operations. Observers note that these are among the most brutal and unaccountable of Indonesian security forces including TNI Battalion 753 from Nabire, Kopassus (notorious special forces troops), Brimob and intelligence units.

Local Papuan civil society leaders have appealed to the European Union and the United Nations Human Rights Commission to press Jakarta to halt the operations and to send observer missions. The West Papua Advocacy Team's appeals to the U.S. Department of State, National Security Council and the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia as of the date of publication have gone unanswered. Various offices in the U.S. Congress have been apprised of the growing humanitarian crisis.

Security Personnel Torture 14 Papuans, One Killed

A January 26 Agence France Press (AFP) item reports that Indonesian security forces, working for a Chinese fishing company, detained and tortured 14 Papuans trying to protect their traditional fishing area.

The report cites the Institute for Papuan Advocacy and Human Rights, noting that 14 fisherman from the Yawasir tribe were beaten and tortured when they asserted their customary fishing rights by removing fishing nets belonging to fish-processing firm PT Minatama Mutiara. One of the victims, Titus Yun, reportedly died. The incident occurred on December 21, 2006 near the southern end of the border with Papua New Guinea.

An Indonesian employee of the Chinese-owned company and three local men acting as police deputies detained and abused the 14 from the Mariana Strait, it said, citing church sources in the coastal town of Merauke.

Sources at the Institute told AFP: "The abuses appear to be a retaliation by the Indonesian military and the fish processing company PT Minatama Mutiara," adding that the attackers tried to make the incident look like a tribal clash. In fact, the Institute spokesperson noted, "The Yawasir people were making efforts to protect their marine resources from impacts of the commercial fishing companies."

Major Indonesian Naval Exercise Frightens Papuan Villagers

Sources in West Papua claim that Indonesian naval exercise off the shore of West Papua have disrupted the lives of Papuans living in coastal areas near the exercise.

In the early morning of January 7, Papuans in Kaimana, a small town on West Papua's southern coast, were awakened by deafening explosions from amphibious tanks and warships conducting unannounced operations. The operations, which lasted until January 23, frightened and disrupted the lives of nearby residents.

Reporting by TEMPO interaktif indicated that the exercise was carried out by Armada Jaya Fleet XXVI whose base is in Surabaya, East Java. The navy allegedly deployed 7,500 personnel and the full range of the Indonesian navy's war machine including submarines, aircraft warships, and the latest weaponry, including testing of the RM-Grat, their newest missile.

According to TEMPO, the exercise simulated an operation aimed at relieving West Papua from foreign occupation. The landing point chosen "to liberate West Papua" was Kaimana, situated near the major town of Timika. According to comments of Indonesian Naval Chief of staff Admiral Slamet Soebijanto, the exercise was intended in part as a message to the Papuan armed resistance and to the international community that the Indonesian navy was prepared to protect the territory of the "Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI)." Its principal impact appears to have been the intimidation of local Papuan civilians living near the operation.

Jakarta Plans Further Destruction of Papuan Rainforests

In late January, Agence France Press reported international protests against plans by the Indonesian central government to auction permits to log old growth forests in West Papua and elsewhere in the archipelago. The report noted that in early February old growth forest in West Papua and other locations would be offered up for biding. The other sites, notably in Maluku and Kalimantan, like West Papua, constitute areas where local non-Javanese indigenous peoples have long protested the destructive exploitation of their lands.

Greenpeace led the international protest, noting that more than one million hectares of forest lands were affected. "Instead of taking drastic measures to reverse the destruction of our remaining forests, the forest ministry is hell-bent on issuing new permits to the highest bidders," Greenpeace Southeast Asia campaigner Hapsoro said in a statement.

AFP noted that Indonesia loses about 2.8 million hectares (6.0 million acres) of forests each year, one of the highest rates of deforestation  in the world. West Papua has some of the last areas rainforests in Indonesia, which are home to a rich variety of plant and animal life. New species are discovered in West Papua regularly.

Police Take Sides in Papuan Church Dispute

Local sources have told the West Papua Advocacy Team that Papuan church leaders seeking to set up a church synod separate from the central Indonesian synod (CAMA) face growing pressure from their police-backed opponents. The independent Papuan synod of the KINGMI church in Jayapura has been forced by police to abandon some church properties, forcing the church to conduct Sunday services in a gymnasium. Police have also forced Papuans out of their church in nearby Sentani.

In Jakarta, Papuans peacefully occupied the offices of the Indonesia Synod to demand that the Jakarta synod stop alleging that the Papuan synod supports the Papuan armed resistance.

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