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West Papua Report
February 2008

This is the 45th 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


Suharto's Legacy Lives on in West Papua

The passing of Dictator General Suharto has prompted a torrent of commentary, much of it focused on the fact that he escaped earthly justice for his vast human rights crimes and corruption.

Carmel Budiardjo, founder of TAPOL and herself a prisoner under Suharto, took special note of his crimes in West Papua, writing:

"It was under Suharto that Indonesia compelled the people of West Papua by force of arms to become a part of the Republic of Indonesia, following the fraudulent Act of Free Choice in 1969. Since then, the West Papuan people have suffered from massive human rights abuses, helpless to halt the unbridled plunder of their natural resources. While the West Papuan people live in abject poverty, the Indonesian state has reaped huge benefits from revenues, royalties and taxes from foreign enterprises such as Freeport which was granted a concession by Suharto to extract copper and gold in 1967, and it will soon start profiting massively from British Petroleum, now renamed Beyond Petroleum, as it starts to exploit West Papua's natural gas."

The Suharto legacy lives on most clearly in West Papua. Behind a screen of restricted access and travel that obscures ongoing abuse from international scrutiny Indonesian security forces continue to kidnap, torture and kill. Moreover, as in the past throughout the archipelago, the corrupt military continues to godfather corrupt logging and other illegal operations that devastate the Papuan environment. And like Suharto, those military and civilian officials who perpetrated such crimes and who currently abuse human rights continue to evade accountability.

In a letter to U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia Cameron R. Hume, ETAN and WPAT strongly criticized his failure to acknowledge Suharto's human rights crimes. "It is his military which continues to repress civilian populations in West Papua and elsewhere. And it is his military which the current U.S. administration plans to continue to train and arm," they wrote. (see

Yudhoyono Salutes Suharto's Brutal Subjugation of West Papua

Indonesian President Yudhoyono, in a January 28 eulogy for deceased General Suharto, praised the dictator for the brutal military operation in Papua which killed thousands.

The current president commended Suharto for leading Operation Mandala, the military operation in the early 1960's that repressed popular opposition among Papuans to their forced annexation by Indonesia. SBY said in part: "In 1962, he led the forces which bravely struggled for West Irian (Papua)."

U.S. Embassy documents at the time (since declassified and released) acknowledged U.S. awareness of Indonesian forces' human rights abuses and Indonesian violation of the terms under which it was given a UN mandate to administer West Papua. The documents also reveal the U.S. decision to ignore the Indonesian actions.

The U.S. had determined to block Dutch plans to give the colonial areas in the western half of New Guinea independence, in preference for a course that would acquiesce to Indonesian demands that control of the vast, resource rich area fall to Jakarta.

Following a blatantly fraudulent 1069 act of self-determination (described the Indonesian in Orwellian language as the "Act of Free Choice") the US quietly aided Suharto's military in its brutal repression of Papuan protest, inter alia, providing the military with US A-10 Broncos which were used, as in East Timor, to attack villages. Human rights observers claim scores of thousands of Papuans died.

Yudhoyono's decision to highlight this aspect of Suharto's long, brutal reign appears intended to remind Papuans and the international community that West Papua, annexed and subdued by the Indonesian military at great human cost among Papuans, will remain under Jakarta's control.

see Suharto: A Declassified Documentary Obit from the National Security Archive

Indonesian Government Admits Extensive Lack of Development in West Papua, and Implicitly Failure of "Special Autonomy" Policies

West Papua is one of Indonesia's most impoverished provinces, with 40 per cent of the 2.5 million people living on less than 50 US cents a day, according to the World Bank.

A January 3 Cendrawasih Pos article (translated by Tapol) reports that according to an Indonesian Government study West Papua is among the most "backward" of Indonesian provinces The report notes that conditions in some parts of West Papua have deteriorated over the past three years. The admission is stark evidence that the Indonesian Governments "Special Autonomy" approach to West Papua has failed.

Excerpts of the Cendrawasih Pos report follows:

The State Department for Backward Regions yesterday released its evaluation regarding 199 backward regions. During the three years of the SBY-Kalla government, only 28 regions have been lifted out of the condition of backwardness. Conditions in eastern Indonesia are particularly bad.

There are five stages of backwardness: extremely backward, very backward, backward, rather backward and no longer backward.

"The term extremely backward means that no infrastructure development has taken place, there has been no economic development, the health situation is very poor indeed and education facilities are very inadequate," said Lukman Edy. All the regions classified as being in the worst category are in eastern Indonesia, primarily in Papua and Maluku. They include Paniai, Puncak Jaya, Yahukimo, Asmat, Star Mountains, Mamasa, and Alor. When the backwardness classification was first drawn up, nine regions were included in the 'extremely backward' category but three years later, two more regions have been added, Maluku Tenggara Barat and Tolikara.

Within West Papua several regions, including Meauke, conditions have worsened over the period measured.

Indonesian Central Government Pursues Further Illegal Division of Papuan Homeland

A January 24 Jakarta Post article reports that the Indonesian Regional Representatives Council (DPD) on January 22 unanimously endorsed an initiative to create eight new provinces and 13 new regencies (districts). The proposal includes four new Papuan provinces. The Papuan people have not been consulted about this division of their land as required by the Special Autonomy Law of 2002

Timing for the project is unclear. President Yudhoyono supports the plan but has urged that action be delayed a few months. "We need to formulate a master plan, including determining the exact timeframe to allow the formation of new regions, also by synchronizing with the schedule of the 2009 general election," he explained. DPD (Parliament) chairman Ginanjar Kartasasmita favors a longer delay, urging that new provinces and regencies should not be established before the 2009 election was completed. He added that results of an ongoing evaluation of several newly formed regions had revealed that some regions had failed to improve their conditions.

Septer Manufandu, the executive secretary of the Cooperation Forum of Non-Governmental Organizations, told the Post that the Papuan people did not need new provinces but rather better public services. He said the Special Autonomy measure of 2002 had not improved public services despite the huge funds channeled to the natural resources-rich province "About 90 percent of the special autonomy fund has gone to the bureaucracy, which means Papua does not need new provinces but access to basic services. Regional division will only create little kings who only seek money," he said. To improve public services, Papua needs new districts and subdistricts, Septer added.

The January 26 South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported that The Reverend Socrates Sofyan Yoman, general chairman of the West Papuan Baptist Church, called the move to split Papua further a divide-and-rule tactic by Jakarta. "There is no rationale behind it. The only aim is to divide Papuans and gain favours with some of the local elite," he said. He added: "Dividing Papua will not bring prosperity. It will bring more problems and corruption. What we need is an honest and balanced discussion with Jakarta on how to solve Papua's problems."

The SCMP reported that an assessment report, Concord Review, a risk-assessment firm, said: "It flies in the face of reason and will do little more than accentuate primordial politics in the country."

Calls for division of the Papuan homeland is not unprecedented The central government divided the Papuan homeland in 2003 without approval from the Papua People's Council as mandated by the 2002 law on Special Autonomy for the province The most recent proposal for new provinces in Papua has never received the council's endorsement either. The Indonesian Supreme Court declared formation of the provinces illegal, in clear violation of the special autonomy law, but in a contradictory move declared the new provinces a fait accompli.

The new proposed Papuan provinces include: Central Papua; South Papua; Southwest Papua and West Papua The proposal also includes new Papuan regencies (districts): Arfak Mountains; Grime Nawa and South Manokwari.

Book Banning in West Papua

The January 18 Jakarta Post carried an op-ed by prominent Papuan and religious figure Neles Tebay regarding the "shackling" of Papuan intellectuals in which he notes the most recent banning of a book by a Papuan author. Here is a synopsis of his commentary:

Indonesian citizens have found space to exercise their rights and duties without fear, pressure and intimidation from the state.

Indigenous Papuans, for their part, have taken advantage of the democratic atmosphere to express their opinions by writing books on some aspects of Papua.

However, the central government has not always regarded the new developments as good news. Instead of being proud to see Papuans, who were once illiterate and relied on oral tradition to tell their stories, expressing their ideas in written form, the government considers the exercise of Papuans' intellectual creativity something suspicious if not dangerous.

Many books on Papua, particularly those authored by indigenous Papuans, are censored under certain criteria set by the government or are banned entirely.

The latest book to be outlawed by the government is Tenggelamnya Rumpun Melanesia: Pertarungan Politik NKRI di Papua Barat (The Sinking of the Melanesian Race: The Unitary State of Indonesia's Political Struggle in West Papua), written by young author Papuan Sendius Wonda, and published by Deiyai, a Jayapura-based publishing house

According to the chief of Jayapura prosecutor's office, Sri Agung Putra, Wonda's 247-page book contains some elements that "discredit the government", "disturb public order", and "endanger national unity".

Wonda's work is the second book on Papua on which the government has slapped a ban, after Peristiwa penculikan dan pembunuhan Theys H Eluay 10 November 2001 (The Abduction and Assassination of Theys H Eluay on November 10, 2001) by Benny Giay, a Papuan anthropologist, in 2002.

However, everyone knows the Attorney General's Office has never clearly explained how the books endanger national unity, discredit the government, or disrupt public order.

By banning Papuan books based on unclear criteria, the central government shows its undemocratic face, despite its persistent self-promotion as a champion of democracy.

After decades nothing has changed in the way the government ignores Papuans' freedom of expression and their intellectual freedom. It remains restrictive in determining which books are appropriate or not for Papuans to read.

Papuan Governor Seeks New Papuan Symbol to Replace "Morning Star"

The January 11 Cenderawasih Pos reported that West Papua Governor Barnabas Suebu announced on January 17 that the province would uphold a newly issued government regulation that bans the use of separatist attributes as regional symbols, a move in line with the province's status as part of the unitary state of Indonesia. The decision focuses on the "Morning Star" which has both cultural and political implication for Papuans. A number of Papuans, including Filep Karma and Yusuf Pakage, recognized by Amnesty International and others as prisoners of conscience, are jailed specifically for their employment of this symbol during peaceful protests.

According to the Cenderawasoh Pos, the West Papua government and legislature will discuss "a more suitable regional symbol than the Morning Star." The current central government has associated the Morning Star with those fighting for West Papua independence. Previous Indonesian Governments, including that of Abdurrahman Wahid, had permitted display of the Morning Star flag, so long as it was presented in conjunction with the Indonesian national flag.

UK Government Supports Papuan-Indonesian Government Dialogue

In response to a petition to the UK Government regarding repression of human rights, including political freedom in West Papua, the British Government noted, in passing that it supported a key, longstanding appeal by Papuans that the Indonesian Government engage with Papuan political and civic leaders in a serious dialogue

The UK Government's January statement read in part: "The Government believes that the best way to resolve the issues in Papua is through peaceful dialogue between Papuan groups and the Indonesian government. The Government are in contact with Papuan activist groups in the UK, and encourage dialogue between them and the Government of Indonesia"

Papuans, recalling the effective involvement of international monitors in advancing the cause of peace and political rights through political dialogue between the central government and Acehnese leaders, have urged that any dialogue regarding West Papua similarly be supported by international mediation

Great Poverty and Great Wealth In Freeport's Realm

A January 16 Jakarta Post report claims that various government and non-governmental agencies have 2008 plans to address the extensive poverty of the Mimika Baru district located adjacent to the vast Freeport gold and copper mining concession While the plans are encouraging, the profound poverty among the Amungme and Kamoro people in the districts 80 villages reveals the decades of neglect by both Freeport and the Indonesian government for those form whose lands vast riches have been taken.

The Jakarta Post's Markus Makur makes the point powerfully: "With its vast gold and mining resources, the world may look at Mimika regency in Papua as rich, but the indigenous people who live there don't see it that way. Outside of the infrastructure supporting the operations of PT Freeport Indonesia's massive mining operation and development concentrated in Mimika Baru district and Timika City, little progress of any sort can be seen in the regency, home to some of Papua's least rich. They live in huts made of palm fronds, have no paved roads or public transport and schools are small and far between, not to mention the dearth of health facilities. The indigenous Amungme and Kamoro people from mountain villages and other remote areas of the regency are among the poorest. They have no jobs They eke out a subsistence living scavenging for gold among PT Freeport Indonesia tailings

This account describes conditions a WPAT team member observed over a decade ago in villages 20 minutes by helicopter from the Freeport operated airport in Timika - indicating no improvement in conditions over the past decade.

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