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West Papua Report
January 2008

This is the 44th 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


Congress Requires Reports on Access to Papua, Military Promotions, Human Rights Accountability

The recently passed FY2008 Consolidated Appropriations bill (HR 2764) contains several provisions relevant to West Papua. The bill withholds $2.7 million in Foreign Military Financing for Indonesia until the U.S. Department of State reports on, among other issues, steps by the Government of Indonesia to implement "plans to effectively allow public access to Papua" and to prosecute and punish "members of the Armed Forces... who have been credibly alleged to have committed gross violations of human rights in Timor-Leste and elsewhere." The law also requires a separate report on steps taken by Indonesia "to deny promotion, suspend from active service, and pursue prosecution of military officers indicted for serious crimes" and "by the Indonesian military to divest itself of illegal businesses." Among the current military officers who are in a sensitive assignment is Col. Burhanuddin Siagian, senior commander in Jayapura. He faces two indictments for crimes against humanity by the UN-backed Serious Crimes Process in Timor-Leste. The law also sets aside at least $250,000 for capacity-building grants to Indonesian human rights organizations, including in Papua. [see for more information.]

Congressman Faleomavaega Expresses Concerns About TNI "Intimidation, Harassment and Abuse of Papuans"
In a public letter to Indonesian President Yudhoyono, US Congressman Eni Faleomavaega (D-AS) candidly discussed restrictions the Indonesian Government imposed on his recent travel to West Papua and actions of the Indonesian military there. His December 13 letter recalled that he had originally intended to visit West Papua in July, but that the Indonesian government rejected that plan over what it described as security concerns.  In good faith, the Congressman altered his trip, in support of President SBY's efforts to implement the provisions of the Special Autonomy Law, to coincide with the December UN conference in Bali . It was Faleomavaega's understanding that he would visit the towns of Biak and Manokwari and, most importantly, the capital, Jayapura.
In his letter, the Rep. Faleomavaega spoke frankly of his disappointment: "Having already been denied entry in July of this year and having accommodated your request to postpone my August visit to the last week of November, I was deeply disappointed that upon my arrival I was again denied entry into Jayapura and that my time was reduced from 5 days to only two hours of actual meetings with the leaders and people of Biak and Manokwari due to supposedly security concerns." He also described other constraints on his meetings:  "In Biak, I met with Governor Barnabas Suebu and other legislators, traditional and religious leaders selected by the government. During the course of our meeting, a highly respected traditional leader, Chief Tom Beanal, was detained by the military, as was Mr Willie Mandowen."  He noted also that "Papuans who had gathered in the streets in Biak were denied the opportunity to meet with us, and U.S. Ambassador Cameron Hume and I had to force our way through a military barricade just to meet with the Papuan people who had to walk several miles from the airport and wait in the hot sun because Indonesian military forces (TNI) barred them from meeting with Ambassador Hume and me."  Faleomavaega noted that the TNI only allowed him to meet with the people in the street for five minutes and that he was "deeply disturbed by the overpowering military presence," which he said he believed was "completely unnecessary." 
Rep. Faleomavaega described as "even worse" the military presence in Manokwari. "Ambassador Hume and I were put in a car, without any escort and with only a single traffic police unit in front. While we do not require special privileges, we were very aware that our delegation was not given the necessary escort because the TNI was intent on deceiving the Papuans who had gathered on the streets waiting for us."  After being driven along a circuitous back road route which, he noted, posed risks of "acts of sabotage" the U.S. party was allowed to meet with the acting Governor for only ten minutes.  The meeting was terminated abruptly due to purported weather and security concerns.  Faleomavaega wrote that "I was told by the TNI military leaders that Ambassador Hume and I were not welcome in Manokwari."  The TNI's hasty transport of the U.S. party to the airport, again along back roads raised Faleomavaega's concerns though he stressed, that he "felt no danger whatsoever from the Papuans who were unarmed and only wanted to meet with us." He concluded that "when I saw how heavily armed that the TNI military was, I knew that the military had no intention of honoring the commitment that President SBY and I had made in Jakarta in July of this year."
The Representative described his departure from the airport:  "From the window of the plane, I saw pushing and shoving between the heavily armed military and the unarmed Papuans. Banners were also raised. Whether or not anyone was hurt or arrested, I do not know but I have requested that the Indonesian government provide me with assurances that no arrests were made and that no one was harmed."
Congressman Faleomavaega told the media that he has asked President SBY if he were still committed to working together to implement the Special Autonomy Law, noting that he has earlier told the President that he would support the Special Autonomy Law and "work in the U.S. Congress to make sure the Indonesian government is given every opportunity to make good on its promises to the Papuan people based on the understanding that this is also the consensus of the traditional, religious and political leaders of both provinces." He then added: "However, as long as the TNI military forces of Indonesia continue to deny Members of Congress real access to the provinces of Papua and West Papua, especially Jayapura, it will be difficult for me to support the goals of Special Autonomy when clearly the Papuans in these two provinces are still being intimidated, harassed and abused by the TNI."
"Likewise, he added, I do not consider two hours in Biak and 10 minutes in Manokwari as access. Until I am allowed to visit Jayapura, as I have been promised, and until I am allowed to meet with the people of Papua, as President SBY and I agreed, I cannot in good conscience inform my colleagues in Congress that progress is being made to implement the Special Autonomy Law which has mostly remained dormant since 2001 and, since for the past 60 years, until President SBY's leadership, the government of Indonesia has done absolutely nothing to help the Papuan people who only want to be treated humanely."
The Congressman commended the Indonesian President "for his efforts to implement the Special Autonomy Law, but added:  "whether or not we move forward is entirely up to President SBY and those who control the activities of Indonesia's TNI military forces."
(Note:  Representative Faleomavaega was accompanied on his trip by staff members Lisa Williams and Vili Lei.)

Rep. Faleomavaega's complete letter to SBY can be read at
At Least Four Papuans Arrested For Attempting to Meet with US Congressman
Reliable sources in West Papua report that Indonesian Authorities arrested four Papuans on November 27 in Manokwari for attempting to meet with Congressman Eni Faleomavaega during his visit to that town.  Those arrested were:  Niko Asaribab, Wellem Mambbo, Abraham Ramandey and Piter Kewati.  It is not known if the four were charged or whether they remain in custody.

International Support for Papuan Self-Determination
In late November, Solomon Islands Prime Minister told international media that the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), an international group of governments among Melanesian states, can do more to advance consideration of the self-determination aspirations of Papuans in West Papua. Sogavare recalled that the MSG guiding principles require member countries to assist fellow Melanesian peoples realize statehood where possible. With the opening of the new MSG secretariat building in Vanuatu, Melanesian media speculates that the sub-regional grouping will step up efforts to grant observer status to West Papuans who live under Indonesian rule. Mr Sogavare reportedly said that the MSG could do more to push for dialogue with Jakarta on self-determination for West Papuans. "We've made it very very plain and clear that if we have to push their agenda of course we take it up and discuss it formally with the relevant authorities. That is open and our charter clearly mandates us to do that."

The Failure of Special Autonomy:  Papuans Seek An Alternative
Octavianus Mote, a fellow at Yale University's Genocide Studies Program, recently completed a briefing paper titled "The Failure of Special Autonomy."  The paper notes that the Papuan Traditional Council (Dewan Adat Papua), the Papuan Peoples Council (PDP),  Papuan Governor Barnebus Suebu and the Association of Central Highland University Students (AMP) have all concluded that Special Autonomy has failed. Throughout 2006 and 2007, Papuans, sometimes numbering in the thousands have demonstrated to renounce Special Autonomy and petitioned their representatives to inform the central government that Papuans formally reject it.
Special Autonomy was conceived in 1999 by the Peoples Consultative Assembly, the supreme law-making body in Indonesia, as a means to grant broad powers to local government officials in West Papua. Initial drafts called for Papuans to be given authority in all aspects of governance, except with respect to foreign policy, external defense, financial matters and the judiciary.  The autonomy bill that was eventually passed by the Parliament in 2001 eliminated much of the initial reforms.  Police and military forces continued to operate beyond the purview of the Governor with troop deployments strictly under Jakarta's control. The final version eliminated key provisions related to the independence of a regional human rights body with powers to investigate human rights crimes and present its findings to a Provincial Human Rights Court.  Under the legislation passed in 2001, the jurisdiction of the Human Rights Court was extremely limited.  The court lacked the ability to prosecute abuses by security forces and government officials.  According to the initial drafts, a bicameral system of provincial government and an indigenous council, the Papuan People's Consultative Council (MRP) was to be established alongside the existing People's Parliamentary Representative Council (DPRP).  When the MRP was finally established in 2005, its role was limited to cultural affairs with no decision-making authority. 
While some provisions of Special Autonomy as passed in 2001 and signed by then President Sukarnoputri in 2002 contained economic reforms entailing some return of funds flowing from West Papua's lucrative extractive industries back to West Papua, those funds have been mismanaged. Much of that funding has gone to support creation of new Provincial and District entities within West Papua which were created by the central government despite the opposition of Papuan officials and civil society.
In addressing the failure of Special Autonomy, Papuans have sought direct talks with the central government to be mediated by international officials. The model is the mediation effort employed to address years of abuse and repression in Aceh.  The Papuan Traditional Council, which represents 253 indigenous groups (tribes) has called for such a dialogue, as has the Papuan People's Council.  To date, these calls have drawn no response from Jakarta.  Rather, Jakarta officials have announced plans to send additional troops to West Papua and to re-launch the widely condemned "transmigration" policies which many observers regard as population engineering.  The program, conducted under the Suharto dictatorship, ethnically cleansed valuable parts of West Papua by forcing the relocation of Papuans to make way for migrants organized by the Government to populate areas with non-Papuans.

[The full briefing can be found at here. ]
Violations of Papua autonomy law distress interfaith leaders (UCAN)
Religious leaders in West Papua have discussed violations of the six-year-old autonomy law for their province and sent recommendations to various levels of government to rectify the situation The concerns of nearly 50 Buddhist, Catholic, Hindu, Muslim and Protestant representatives were articulated during a workshop on Developing Dialogues to Create a Peaceful Papua, held Dec. 3-7 in Sentani, capital of Jayapura district, 3770 kilometers east of Jakarta. After discussing violations of the law that gave Indonesia's easternmost province a degree of autonomy, the religious representatives prepared their recommendations for local and central government authorities.
Catholic Bishop Leo Laba Ladjar of Jayapura, a participant, read aloud the concerns and recommendations at the workshop's close. The text presented by the Franciscan prelate says: "We religious leaders in Papua have attentively watched developments in our society, particularly the social and political dynamics. As part of society, we have seen several practices that violate articles of Law Number 21/2001 on Special Autonomy for Papua province."  The law, ratified by then-president Megawati Soekarnoputri on Nov. 21, 2001, has 24 chapters and 79 articles that stipulates safeguard and empower native Papuans in the civil, cultural, political and social spheres. It also puts a focus on redressing inequality and injustice in the province.
According to the religious leaders, the law has been violated in development programs and land rights, and by the police. They said development programs in the province have split local ethnic groups and marginalized Papuan workers.  By dividing districts into territories, Bishop Ladjar explained, development efforts have reduced the people's share of ulayat (communal land) and this has triggered quarrels among local people. The participants also charged that possession of ulayat rights has also been given to non-Papuans. For instance, they said, several district heads have allowed companies run by non-Papuans to use communal land for plantations.
The religious leaders stressed that, according to Article 76 of the law, development work should be based on socio-cultural unity, the availability of human resources and the local economic situation, and that Article 43 obliges the government to recognize, respect, protect, promote and improve Papuan people's land rights, including ulayat rights.  They also said Papuans are uncomfortable with so many police stations and non-Papuan policemen in their midst. According to one Protestant pastor at the workshop, non-Papuans account for 70 percent of the police in Papua.  Participants said Papuans complain that the police do not understand their culture and cited Article 49, which says the national police chief who assigns non-Papuan police must take account of local culture, customs and laws.
The religious leaders concluded that local and central governments, legislative members and the Papuan Assembly (MRP, Indonesian acronym) have improperly implemented the law on special autonomy. MRP is a cultural body empowered to protect Papuan people's culture, customs and religion. The recommendations of the religious leaders were sent on Dec. 10 to local and central governments, local and central legislative councils, and MRP. They demand a halt to development programs at town, district and provincial levels and insist that MRP must consider local culture properly before undertaking development programs.  The workshop participants also called on governments, legislative members and MRP to draft and then ratify a special regional regulation on the assignment of police, especially the commando force, and to reduce the number of police personnel and police stations in the province.  The religious leaders insisted that Papuans be assured a proper livelihood on their own land and be the "subject" of all development programs.
Note:  The above report is derived from the Australia and West Papua Association (Sidney) Newsletter for December 2007 (

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 important to provide an historical document that records the lives of Papuans at the beginning of the 21st century."

[The book is available through, ETAN or directly from ]

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