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West Papua Report
December 2007

This is the 43rd in a series of monthly reports that focus on developments affecting Papuans This series is produced by the non-profit West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) drawing on media accounts, other NGO assessments and analysis and reporting from sources within West Papua. This report is co-published by the East Timor and Indonesian Action Network (ETAN). Back issues are posted online at Questions regarding this report can be addressed to Edmund McWilliams at


US Member of Congress Eni Faleomavaega Visits West Papua

US Congressman Eni Faleomavaega visited West Papua November 26-27. His visit was the first by a US member of Congress. Earlier this year the Indonesian Government prevented him from visiting the area (see July 2007 West Papua Report). This visit included brief stops in Timika, Biak and Manokwari for meetings with senior officials. Indonesian security prevented hundreds of Papuans from meeting with him, detaining some of those who sought to greet him. Rep. Faleomavega, long the leading proponent in Washington of Papuan rights and welfare, is well-known and widely respected in West Papua Congressman Faleomavaega traveled with the US Ambassador and two members of his staff, Lisa Williams and Vili Lei.

Indonesian Special Forces Threaten Papuan Social Workers

The Asian Human Rights Commission on November 21 issued an "urgent action update" regarding reports that Indonesian Army Special Forces (Kopassus) were threatening social workers in an effort to learn the whereabouts of a Papuan Church official, Catholic Priest Johanes Djonga, who, has been targeted by the Indonesian military

AHRC reports that Father Djonga went into hiding following numerous threats against his life since August 2007. The Indonesian military then began pressuring his colleagues and friends in an effort to ascertain his whereabouts.

Lieutenant Agus, Military Commander of Waris District, has personally verbally threatened, among others, a religious student close to Djonga, Gaspar May, Chief of the Banda Tribe, and Theodorus Meho, a colleague of Djonga's. Specifically, the senior military figure threatened to "disappear" the latter two.

AHRC notes that people in the Waris District are becoming increasingly frightened in the face of continuing threats by Kopassus troops who demand information about the whereabouts of Father Djonga. The continuing threats to Father Djonga are strongly believed to be as a result of his involvement in human rights work in addition to the meeting with the UN Human Rights representative. Several months ago, Djonga submitted a report to the governor of Papua and the military commander in the city of Jayapura which criticized the military action in the borders of Waris and Papua New Guinea.

Papuan Perspective on Removal of Abusive Indonesian Military from West Papua

An Op-Ed appearing in the November 6 Jakarta Post offered a Papuan view on why Papuans call for the withdrawal of Indonesian military forces from West Papua. The writer, Father Neles Tebay is a lecturer at the Fajar Timur School of Theology and Philosophy in Abepura. Excerpts from the article follow. (Also, immediately following this item see a public rebuttal by a senior TNI official that contains implicit threats to Father Tebay):

In the wake of civil society's efforts to transform Papua into a land of peace, the Indonesian Military (TNI) has been growing both in strength and numbers in the province, as reported by the International Crisis Group in September last year

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Djoko Santoso has already revealed a plan to base the third infantry division of the Army's Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad) and more cavalry as well as engineering battalions in Papua to protect the country's border and conflict-prone areas (The Jakarta Post, Sept. 13, 2007).

Indigenous Papuans have repeatedly expressed their opposition to the deployment of thousands of reinforcement troops to their homeland.

The latest was voiced loudly on Oct. 19, when local people in Arso (the capital of Keerom regency, some 75 kilometers northeast of the provincial capital of Jayapura) blockaded the road connecting Keerom and Jayapura to vent their anger with military troops after a soldier assaulted a district chief.

Why do Papuans reject the sending of military reinforcements to the province?

Some cases below might be helpful in understanding the reasons behind Papuans' aversion to the military.

On Oct. 18, the head of Arso district, Charles Tafor, was beaten by a member of the Army's Special Forces (Kopassus), who was on duty at the border with Papua New Guinea. Responding to the incident, Papuans blockaded the main road in Arso and demanded the withdrawal of all Kopassus troops posted in Keerom regency. The military eventually removed the soldier.

Church leaders are among those on the front line in the fight against human rights violations in Papua, and as a result have been publicly linked to the separatist movement.

Papuans are afraid of moving around, going to their land or village because the presence of the Kopassus troops intimidates them. They live in fear.

More than eight years ago, in July 1999, four Catholic bishops from Papua highlighted, in their report to then president Abdurrahman Wahid, the heavy presence of troops in Papua. The religious leaders blamed the military's arrogance as one of the causes of anxiety among the Papuans.

The bitter experiences of the Arso district head and the parish priest confirm the situation has not improved.

The arrival of thousands of troops has failed to create peace or tranquility in Papua because the soldiers, including the Kopassus troops, serve as the central government's way of dealing with indigenous Papuans.

For the sake of peace, Papuans have called on the government and the TNI commander to pull out all Kopassus personnel from Keerom regency.

They know their request will be unheeded, as has happened since 1963, but at least they have the courage to speak up

TNI Rebuts and Implicitly Threatens Father Tebay

Father Neles Tebay's plea for respect for Papuan rights and demilitarization of West Papua provoked an official response from the TNI that implicitly threatened the priest.

Writing in the December 1 issue of the Jakarta Post, Vice Marshall Sagom Tamboen, head of the "TNI Information Center," said Tebay's op-ed "harmed the institution of the TNI and negated Indonesian integrity." The TNI spokesperson implied that Tebay was himself associated with the armed opposition, alleging that the Tebay article "serves as a juicy issue turned to the advantage of those wishing to see Indonesia's disintegration."

UN Envoy Finds Torture Widespread in West Papua and Rest of Indonesia Prisons

The Financial Times, November 26, published comments by UN envoy Manfred Nowak regarding the "widespread" use of torture in Indonesian prisons. The official described his observations to a press conference in which he reported on his two-week visit to a number of prisons in Indonesia, including in West Papua. He singled out abusive treatment in Wamena, West Papua as among the worst among various prisons, noting that prisoners there were too fearful to speak to the investigators but that they bore scars indicating abuse. He noted that in various prisons, shooting prisoners in the leg to extract confessions was common. He also called attention to the practice of locking up children as young as ten who were frequently abused. Additional excerpts of the Times report follow:

"In some cases, while we were inspecting the facilities, torture was ongoing. People who were being interrogated had been severely beaten. This is a sign of how systematic torture is," Nowak, told a press conference.

High death rates of young prisoners in Jakarta's overcrowded Cipinang prison were also highly suspicious, said Mr. Nowak. He said the team was unable to verify whether any of the 100 or so annual inmate deaths were due to abuse because prison authorities are not required to carry out autopsies...

The rapporteur called on Jakarta to outlaw torture, to limit police custody to 48 hours prior to an arrest, and to establish an independent national body which could investigate allegations of torture by police and officials in detention centres.

Transmigration to Resume in West Papua

Indonesian Forestry Minister Malam Sambat Kaban on November 27 announced that his ministry and the Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration were set to resume transmigration, a widely criticized population engineering scheme that has been in abeyance for 15 years. The Minister said that plans called for moving 150,000 families to Kalimantan, Sumatra and West Papua annually. In the past, government resettlement plans have often targeted people who were on land scheduled for development by powerful economic players in Jakarta Conflict between "transmigrants" and the indigenous inhabitants has been common leading to the death of thousands. In West Papua transmigration and more recent "spontaneous migration" supported by the central government has been a key factor in the marginalization of the Papuan People. Although "Special Autonomy" promised to Papuans by the Indonesian central government included assurances that Papuans would have authority over migration to West Papua, there is no indication that Papuan officials have been consulted regarding this new Jakarta scheme.

Indonesian Journalist Notes Rich Resources Do Not Benefit Papuan People

In a revealingly candid assessment by Indonesian journalist Arief Oka, a November 21 Sinar Harapan article (translated by TAPOL) describes the "curse" of Papua's great natural resource wealth. The article, "Papua and The Curse of Its Natural Resources," is excerpted below:

If it is true that countries with abundant natural resources are cursed, then Papua is the place in Indonesia which has suffered by far the most because of this curse. By rights, per capita income of the roughly two million Papuan natives and the 700,000 migrants should be the highest in Indonesia from their rich natural resources. Are the inhabitants enjoying the benefits from these natural resources which are being exploited in the land where they live? Clearly they are not.

The primary beneficiaries of Papua's riches are the Indonesian government in Jakarta, the foreign multinationals who have been granted concessions to exploit copper (Freeport) and oil (BP), and non Papuan inhabitants who are illegally exporting timber and various other natural resources.

Unless there is a radical change in policy, it is not difficult to predict what future awaits the Papuans. The rape of Papuan resources will proceed at an intensified rate, as a result of which, one of the richest biological and cultural territories in the world will be totally destroyed in less than a century.

The native Papuans will become nothing more than a footnote in history. Javanese, Buginese, Chinese and other 'foreigners' who have colonised Papua will start killing each other to gain control of the 100,000 hectares of remaining forest to transform them into palm oil plantations.

Four measures needed

First, to declare a 50-year moratorium which could be renewed with regard to new explorations to exploit natural resources on a major scale.

Second, to halt the influx of new migrants. There are already enough people in Papua to protect the natural resources and sell other natural resources on a continuing basis. This would also include halting missionaries from whatever sect and allowing the Papuans and non Papuans to adhere to whatever beliefs they like without external interference.

Third, to set up a Trust Fund which would receive 100 percent of the taxes, royalties and other revenues from the existing concessionaires. The trustees should be tasked with raising funds and investing the funds wisely with various international asset boards which have been globally successful. The trustees would also be charged with supporting social and cultural developments of the Papuan people, starting with a voluntary scheme of free education for all up to tertiary level. The Trust Fund would also be charged with funding security forces to protect Papua from intrusions for unlicensed natural resource exploitation

Fourth, to get rid of the two provincial structures which are at present competing with each other to exploit the natural resources in their regions, and replace this with a single government structure for Papua and West Papua.

This is not just about the fate of the Papuan people, who are cursed with living among abundant natural resources. This is a crime being perpetrated by man against man that is happening before our very eyes

The Indonesian Government's Failure to Address HIV/AIDS in West Papua

The secretary of Indonesia's National AIDS Prevention Commission (KPA), Nafsiah Mboi, has lectured Papuans regarding the explosion of HIV/AIDS infection in West Papua, insisting that they not make the problem a "political commodity." A report of her comments by the government news agency Antara (November 22) does not elaborate her meaning. But experts who have examined the HIV/AIDS crisis in West Papua in the past have noted that the central government's four decades of neglect in developing health and educational services, and the role of the security forces in introducing and promotion of prostitution in West Papua as significantly responsible for the crisis. Mboi seemed intent on blunting criticism of Jakarta.

Mboi indirectly acknowledged the Government's responsibility for the failure to develop a health service infrastructure. She noted that the high rate of HIV infection in West Papua was due to shortage of information about the disease or the fact that information had not reached the people. "The Papuan people have no access to information on what HIV/AIDS really is and how to prevent or fight it. This condition is especially to be found in mountainous regions or areas that are hard to reach," she said. She further acknowledged that many Papuans lacked even the most fundamental knowledge regarding prophylactic measures, admitting that many Papuans did not know that using condoms could minimize the risk of being infected with the lethal virus.

Nationally, Papua is a province with the third highest incidence of HIV/AIDS infection in the country after Jakarta and West Java According to data collected by KPA in Papua, as per September 30, 2007, the total number of HIV/AIDS cases reached 3,434 -- 1,382 cases in Mimika, 934 in Merauke, 342 in Biak, 307 in Nabire and 205 in Jayapura.

Mboi implicitly identified the decades of central government neglect of Papuans in her call for what was needed in West Papua, i.e., "the continuous dissemination of information on HIV/AIDS," (and adding) "all the districts/cities must have health service centers that provide blood test services and counseling to infected persons." Failure of the central government to establish such centers years into the crisis constitutes a indictment of Jakarta's neglect of West Papua.

Papuan Human Rights Defenders Tell of Their Struggle for Human Rights in West Papua

The Testimony Project - Papua, a new book now available in English and Bahasa Indonesia tells the story of Papuans' struggle for human rights and human dignity through the words of 12 leading Papuan human rights activists. These personal narratives detail the indignities and suffering of Papuans over the past two generations. Dr. Charles Farhadian, who edited the book, explains: "The goal in creating the book is two-fold. First, it is crucial that Papuans get a chance to speak for themselves, rather than being reinterpreted or silenced for any number of reasons and by any number of people. By speaking for themselves, Papuans demonstrate they are actors in their own right. Second, it is equally im[portant to provide an historical document that records the lives of Papuans at the beginning of the 21st century." (The book is available from or via ETAN.)

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