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West Papua Report
March 2007

This is the 34th 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.


Police and Military Exchange Fire in West Papua

The Associated Press reported that Indonesian police and military personnel fired on each other on February 13. The incident, which transpired in West Papua, left one police officer dead. The incident took place near Mulia, close to where the killing of two soldiers December 8, 2006 led to extensive military operations that have displaced thousands of Papuan civilians. Clashes between the ill-disciplined police and military occur regularly throughout the Indonesian archipelago, often over competition between illegal businesses operated by the two security forces including drug running, prostitution and people trafficking.

This incident raises doubts about military claims that the two soldiers killed in the December 8 incident were shot by the armed Papuan resistance. Weapons used in that incident, M-16's, are much more commonly found in police arsenals than the poorly equipped Papuan resistance.

Humanitarian Crisis Deepens in the Papuan Central Highlands 

The World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission (WEARLC) is the source of a special update regarding the ongoing crisis affecting thousands of Papuans driven from their home by Indonesian military operations in the central highland Puncak Jaya District in West Papua.

According to the reporting by Elizabeth Kendal, carried in the Australian News Service (ANS), "an estimated 5000 Papuan villagers have been forced to flee their homes, gardens and livestock" since the military offensive began in December 2006. The report continues: "The military (TNI) has since occupied some 20 vacated villages. It is the wet season and the displaced, terrorized Papuan families are walking over mountainous terrain and through jungles without food, shelter or medical care. Some are reported to have died. There is great concern another TNI-engineered humanitarian crisis is unfolding in the highlands of Papua."

The report also notes as background that the incident that triggered the latest TNI offensive in Puncak Jaya is "highly suspicious." On December 8, 2006 two Indonesian soldiers were killed after a banned Papuan Morning Star flag was raised on Kumipaga Hill in Puncak Jaya. The ANS-carried report notes that "exactly what transpired is not clear, but there are several signs pointing to manipulation." It adds that "many experienced observers consider that the flag may have been set up by the TNI itself" in order to create a provocation.

Expanding on this perspective, the report continues, "for at least a decade the TNI has been known to create fake OPM forces. The OPM is the poorly armed Papuan resistance movement. TNI soldiers entice illiterate, uneducated village men to be proud 'OPM' warriors. They arm these fake OPM and send them off to commit crimes and provocation that then give grounds for the military to retaliate against the 'separatist and terrorist threat'. The flag raised on Kumipaga Hill was not a small hand-made one but a full-sized flag, and the soldiers who interrupted the event were not speared but shot with a TNI-issue M16 semi-automatic rifle. The TNI, the mobile brigade police and intelligence operatives were deployed to Puncak Jaya on December 24, 2006."

The Institute for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (ELSHAM), West Papua's leading human rights NGO, reports that the displaced Papuans have been forced to build shelters using foliage and wood, somewhere near the Yomu river, an area two days' walk from the nearest town, difficult to reach, and infested with mosquitoes carrying malaria and dengue fever. The displaced Papuans, fearing the Indonesian military now occupying the area, reportedly have cut most of the rope bridges that link the area to the outside world. The ELSHAM report claims that deaths among the displaced villagers from hunger and disease have already begun. The plight of the displaced civilians has been confirmed by local religious leaders, but denied by the security forces, who publicly describe the reports as "lies."

Human Rights Watch Documents Plight of Papuan Political Prisoners 

A 42-page February 21 report by Human Rights Watch called on the government of Indonesia to release 18 Papuans imprisoned for what the prominent NGO described as "peaceful acts of freedom of expression and opinion." The report (available in full at noted that the detention violates international law and Indonesia’s international legal obligations.

The report, entitled “Protest and Punishment: Political Prisoners in Papua," details the Indonesian government's use of criminal law to punish individuals who peacefully advocate for independence for West Papua. All of the 18 imprisoned Papuans have been convicted for "treason" or "spreading hatred against the government." The report emphasizes that the Papuan prisoners were engaged in nonviolent activities such as flag-raising, or attendance at peaceful meetings on self-determination options for Papua.

“Indonesia claims to have become a democracy, but democracies don’t put people in prison for peaceful expression,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Real freedom of expression, assembly and association are still in short supply for political activists in Papua.”

The report cites several examples of persecution of Papuans. In June 2000, Linus Hiluka was charged with treason against the state and spreading hatred for his association with an independence organization, the Baliem Papua Panel, which is accused of being a separatist organization trying to destroy Indonesia’s territorial integrity and commit crimes against the security of the state. At no point was Hiluka accused of any violent or criminal activity. But he was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

On May 26, 2005, Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage were found guilty of rebellion and spreading hatred against the government for the organization of peaceful celebrations on December 1, 2004 to mark Papua’s national day. For these acts, they were sentenced to 15 years and 10 years imprisonment, respectively.

Human Rights Watch also pointed out that severe government-imposed restrictions on access to Papua by foreign human rights monitors, researchers, U.N. personnel and journalists mean that it is difficult to identify all such cases or to ascertain the full extent of the human rights situation in Papua.

“Until Papua is opened fully to scrutiny there will be doubt and confusion about the extent of abuse there,” said Adams. “As we saw in Aceh, closed conditions create breeding grounds for unchecked abuse. If the government has nothing to hide, it should open Papua to the outside world.”

The report also notes that Indonesian courts in Papua have played a negative role in decisions regarding cases of treason or spreading hatred. In almost every single case documented in the report, the courts handed down sentences harsher than those sought by the prosecution, notwithstanding that the “offenses” of the defendants were acts of legitimate peaceful political expression.

“The judiciary isn’t acting independently and isn’t throwing out cases that are clearly political in nature,” said Adams. “Instead of upholding individual rights, the courts are being used as a tool in political repression.”

Human Rights Watch called on the Indonesian government to immediately release all political prisoners in Papua and to drop any outstanding charges against individuals awaiting trial. Human Rights Watch also urged the government to repeal the vague and broad laws criminalizing the spreading of “hatred” and treason to ensure that no further prosecutions can take place in violation of international law. For many years, Human Rights Watch has called for the amendment of the Indonesian Criminal Code to conform with international law in order to protect basic freedoms of expression, assembly and association.

In 2006, Indonesia secured membership in both the United Nations Human Rights Council and the UN Security Council. It also acceded to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. These are signs that Indonesia wants to be accepted as a rights-respecting member of the international community.

“The repression detailed in this report shows Indonesia still has a long way to go in guaranteeing real protections for basic human rights,” said Adams. “There is a clear gap between Indonesia’s international commitments and rhetoric and the reality on the ground.”

Reporters Sans Frontieres Criticizes Restrictions on Reporting in West Papua 

A February 1, 2007 report by the international press freedom advocacy NGO Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters Without Borders) was sharply critical of the Indonesian government's restrictions on press freedom. In addition to condemning a broad new anti-terror law which gives security forces broad powers, it also addressed longstanding barriers to monitoring and reporting on developments in West Papua.

It said in part: "The authorities have refused to lift a ban on the foreign press from working in Papua, scene of a crackdown on an independence movement. An Australian TV crew was expelled form the island and a score of Indonesian journalists have been assaulted by police in the province."

Senior Papuan Leaders Predict Growing Papuan Separatist Sentiment 

The two most senior Papuan elected officials told an Indonesian Parliamentary (DPD) Panel on February 9 that the separatist movement in West Papua is likely to grow because of the extreme poverty afflicting Papuans. Papuan Governor Barnebus Suebu and Council (DPRD) Chairman John Ibo pointed to poverty levels of over 83 percent as they warned the Regional Representatives Council (DPD)'s Papua Committee of the implications of these figures in the February 9 public session.

Governor Suebu described as "ironic" the fact that Papuans live in such abject poverty in the midst of tremendous natural wealth - much of which is exploited by foreign firms. The chairman of the Council's Committee III, Marhaby Pua, was openly critical of the central government, commenting that "an overall improvement is urgently needed in Papua." he added that it was "very important to accelerate development there to make it a secure, peaceful and prosperous province."

Failure of Special Autonomy for West Papua 

A forum of intellectuals and representatives of the Papuan community recently was strongly critical of the 2001 "Special Autonomy" law that was to have given substantial autonomy to the Papuan people. A February 23 report carried in the Jakarta Post covered the public forum extensively.

A member of the Jakarta Community for Papua (Pokja), Frans Maniagasi, observed that the implementation of special autonomy law was a "mess" since the supporting legal components were yet to be issued.

A researcher from the Center for Political Studies at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), Muridan S. Widjojo, said there was nothing wrong with the special autonomy law but that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, like his predecessors, has not acted to implement the law. "It's not the law but the implementation of the law. A lot of the funding actually went to activities that would not increase the welfare of the people," he said.

Legislator Simon P. Morin, a Papuan from the Golkar Party faction in the House of Representatives, said that special autonomy needed a special instrument for its execution. "These instruments should be established by the central government to empower special autonomy," Simon said. He added that the Papuan people's welfare and education have not measurably improved since the special autonomy law was enacted. "People's empowerment is important. Without empowerment and enforcement from the central government to local offices, the special autonomy law will not be effective," he added.

Another DPD member, Muridan, added that most of the funding went to local administration offices and the bureaucracy. "Where is the funding to improve health clinics and schools or to send teachers to remote areas? There is just no data to prove that substantial allocation has happened," he said.

Indonesian President Acknowledges Inadequate Development in West Papua 

According to a Reuters report, President Susilo Bambang Yuhoyono at a February 16 press conference, acknowledged that government-sponsored development efforts in West Papua are inadequate. He also admitted that "Special Autonomy" has been poorly implemented and the improvements in prosperity levels were slow. The president promised to issue a "presidential decree" to accelerate development with funds to flow from both West Papua and the central government. He said that transport infrastructure would be given priority but added that significant results were likely only in "three to five years."

U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia Calls for Action on West Papua 

The Jakarta Post, February 17, reported that outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia B. Lynn Pascoe publicly called on Indonesia to respond to the international demands for a resolution to the Munir case and Papua's problems.

Pascoe, who is about to become the UN's political chief, told a farewell press briefing in Jakarta that "The issue is really what you are doing today to resolve these problems."

The Jakarta Post report noted that the assumption of Democratic Party control in the U.S. Congress as a result of the November 2006 elections empowered leaders in both the House and Senate who wanted to see Papuans given the right of self-determination.

The Jakarta Post noted in particular that new chairman of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and the Global Environment, Representative Eni Faleomavaega, recently said that "If you want to talk about fairness, give the people of West Papua the right of self-determination."

Pascoe said that the U.S. Congress often looked at issues across the world, and commented on those it thought were not moving or being fixed fast enough.  "Of course, the foreign policy is made by the president but it doesn't mean that Congress can't push. They hold money, and they can do serious things on our divided government. So, I think that the question here really is response," he said

Australian Businessman to Fund TV Southeast Asia-Wide Campaign Backing Rights for Papuans

Radio Australia Asia/Pacific on February 16 broadcast an interview with an Australian businessman who is funding television advertisements that will appear throughout Southeast urging Jakarta to let human rights monitors into West Papua. Interviewed by Papuan human rights activist Clemens Runawery, the Australian businessman, Ian Melrose, said that the ads would call on the Australian government to amend a security treaty signed late in 2006 by the governments of Australia and Indonesia so that it would include a human rights clause specifically addressing human rights abuse in West Papua. The treaty has yet to be ratified by the Australian parliament.

The ad campaign was announced at a press conference in Parliament House in Canberra that was hosted by four Members of Parliament who were from four different political parties. Melrose noted in particular that human rights monitoring in West Papua as well as journalist access to the region were severely restricted by the Indonesian government. He assessed that with more effective monitoring and journalist access "the Indonesian military won't want to be caught out doing the things that it does so well."

Runawery described a "slow process of genocide" as a consequence of decades of government-sponsored transmigration of non-Papuans to West Papua. He described the in-migration, whether as a result of "transmigration policies" or what is purported to be "spontaneous migration" as being "devastating" to Papuan culture and dignity.

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