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West Papua Report

March 2008

This is the 46th 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


Senior US Congress Members Call for UN-mediated Dialogue on West Papua

Two senior members of the US Congress have called on UN Secretary General to take action to address human rights abuse in West Papua. The February 14 letter expressed "deep and growing concern regarding rising reports of human rights violations in West Papua."

The two Congressional leaders, East Asia and Pacific Subcommittee Chairman Eni Faleomavaega and third ranking International Relations Committee member Donald Payne noted that the rights violations came "against a backdrop of decades of abuse by Indonesian security forces targeting the Papuan people."

Excerpts of the letter follow: (for full text of letter, see "The upsurge in violence has come on the heels of the June 5 -12, 2007 visit to

West Papua by Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Ms. Hina Jilani. These threats and harassment appear to be specifically focused on Papuans who met with Special Representative Jilani. In her report to you, Ms. Jilani noted "harassment and intimidation" of human rights defenders. Moreover, as noted by Ms. Jilani, security forces in West Papua enjoy impunity from prosecution for human rights abuse and corruption. Juan Mendez, UN Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide, described, in 2006, West Papua as being among those countries whose populations were 'at risk of extinction'."

"We are also concerned about the tight restrictions placed upon journalists, human rights activists and diplomats trying to obtain access to West Papua. As you know, nongovernmental organizations, the media and foreign officials can act as witnesses to and bulwarks against human rights abuses as well as agents of change. So, the failure of these individuals to gain unobstructed access to the country hinders Papuans' stories of human rights abuse, quashing of civil liberties and inability to express their right to self-determination from coming to the fore....

"We are also concerned that notwithstanding assurances by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono that his administration would address long standing Papuan grievances and implement Law No. 21/2001 on Special Autonomy, security and other Indonesian central government officials in West Papua have failed to carry out reforms.

"Understandably, Papuan officials, civil society leaders and Papuans overwhelmingly have rejected the failed Special Autonomy policy of the central government. They have instead rightly called for an internationally mediated dialogue between Papuan officials and civil society and senior Indonesian government officials to discuss such concerns as the demilitarization of West Papua, Papuan self-determination and transmigration of Javanese into Papua.

"We welcome the recent adoption of the United Nations' Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which calls for the elimination of human rights violations and for combating discrimination and marginalization against indigenous peoples. In that spirit, we urge that the Security Council appoint a senior official with responsibility to pursue the creation of a senior level dialogue between the government of President Yudhoyono and Papuan government and civil society leaders to be mediated by a UN Security Council representative."

Senior UN Human Rights Officials Describes Conditions in West Papua

In a 28 January Report to the Human Rights Council, Senior UN Special Representative Hina Jilani reported on her "Mission to Indonesia."  The official devoted a significant portion of her report to describing security force intimidation targeting Papuan human rights defenders.  The report is available at .  A portion of that reporting follows (paras 64 through 74):

The Special Representative visited Jayapura, capital of the West Papua province, on 8 and 9 June 2007.

A climate of fear undeniably prevails in West Papua, especially for defenders engaged with the rights of the Papuan communities to participation in governance, control over natural resources and demilitarization of the province. The situation of these defenders does not seem to have eased, and despite the adoption of the Special Autonomy Law in 2001, their legitimate activities for the protection of human rights continue to be targeted. The Special Representative heard credible reports of incidents involving arbitrary detention, torture, and harassment through surveillance. She was also informed of cases where human rights defenders had been threatened with prosecution by members of the police and the military. It was alleged that when defenders had attempted to register their complaints, that had been denied and they had been threatened. Instances of excessive and disproportionate use of force when policing peaceful demonstrations were also brought to her attention.

The Special Representative is particularly disturbed by allegations that when defenders expose abuse of authority or other forms of human rights violations committed by the security apparatus, they are labeled as separatists in order to undermine their credibility. The Special Representative believes that this trend places human rights defenders at greater risk and must be discouraged by the concerned authorities.

The Special Representative is also concerned about complaints that defenders from West Papua working for the preservation of the environment and the right over land and natural resources (deforestation and illegal logging) frequently receive threats from private actors with powerful economic interests but are granted no protection by the police. Some old and recent cases concern direct involvement of the police and military. Complaints were made to the police, but no action was reportedly taken. Sometimes, the police did not even make the effort to examine the facts. The Special Representative reminds the Government that it has a responsibility to protect its citizens against the harmful activities of non-State actors.

This climate of fear has reportedly worsened since the incident of Abepura in March 2006, where five members of the security forces were killed after clashes with protesters demanding the closure of the gold and copper mine, PT Freeport. Lawyers and human rights defenders involved with the trial received death threats. The harassment of these lawyers and defenders around the trial was interpreted as a warning to the community of human rights defenders, who have decreased their activities out of fear of harsh treatment.

Interference with freedom of movement and with defenders' efforts to monitor and investigate human rights violations was also reported. The Special Representative was perturbed to hear that Komnas HAM is prevented by law enforcement authorities from carrying out its official duties. She was particularly disconcerted by reports that Mr. Albert Rumbekwan, Director of the branch of Komnas HAM in West Papua, was intimidated and threatened on several occasions by the police and unidentified persons in the course of his fact-finding activities. For instance, in March 2006, following the Abepura incident, Komnas HAM tried to conduct an investigation into the incident but the Chief of the local police reportedly warned Mr. Rumbekwan and his colleagues that "if they continue the investigation, the police will kill them". Mr. Rumbekwan tried to explain the mandate of Komnas HAM to the officer, but this latter threw away the documents Mr. Rumbekwan was handing to him. Mr. Rumbekwan reported all the cases to Komnas HAM in Jakarta, but according to him, no assistance was provided.

The Special Representative was disturbed by reports that international human rights monitors and journalists entering West Papua are subject to tight restrictions and only a few are permitted to operate, resulting in a scarcity of information on the human rights situation in West Papua, mostly with regard to allegations of human rights abuses occurring in remote areas.  It is worth noting that, despite guarantees given by the capital to allow visits to West Papua, local authorities often deny access.

The concerns of the Special Representative regarding the situation of human rights defenders in West Papua persist, despite the assurance to her by the Military Commander and the Chief of Police in Papua that there was no institutional policy to target defenders. According to various credible sources, an increase of military presence has been witnessed on the island, despite an official statement alleging the opposite.

According to reliable sources, a number of human rights defenders with whom the Special Representative met during her visit in West Papua were threatened and intimidated during and after the end of the mission. On 8 June, shortly after the arrival of the Special Representative in Jayapura, the vehicle in which Ms. Frederika Korain and Rev. Perinus Kogoya, and Mr. Barthol Yomen, members of the Peace and Justice Commission for the Diocese of Jayapura (SKP Jayapura), were driving was hit by a car driven by intelligence officers. The Special Representative sent a communication about this incident on 11 July 2007. The Government however responded that "this incident was evidently a misunderstanding that led to no injuries of those involved. However, the perpetrators fled the scene with only a weak excuse to exonerate culpability, but apparently not before one of them had given his name and his telephone number".11 The Government later gave a detailed account of the incident, concluding that "the exact details of the incident [had] been changed and the events dramatized to politicize them".

On 9 June 2007, Mr. Yan Christian Warinussy, Director of LP3BH (Lembaga Penelitian, Pengkajian dan Pengembangan Bantuan Hukum or Institute of Research, Analysis and Development of Legal Aid) of Manokwari, was subjected to surveillance, and on 29 July he received threatening text messages on his mobile phone linking his human rights work to the separatist movement. The Special Representative alerted the Government about this situation in two communications sent on 11 July and 28 August 2007. The Government replied that "nothing malefic came of this incident and investigations thereafter have not thus far been able to establish either a clear description or the whereabouts of the alleged perpetrators".

The most worrying case is that of Mr Albert Rumbekwan, who on 11 June 2007 received death threats on his mobile reportedly stating: "You who are reporting about the human rights situation in Papua are trying to destroy the people. You want evidence of people being killed, I will kill your tribe, your family and your children will become only bones to show that there is only a zone of peace in Papua". The Special Representative expressed her grave concern in two communications addressed to the Government on 11 July and 10 August 2007. The Government responded that "[w]hile it is most unfortunate that these incidents should occur during the official visit of the Special Representative [.], it must be stressed that such incidents are not the norm . over the years, [Mr. Rumbekwan] has undertaken an increasingly high profile role as a campaigner for peace, justice and human rights in his region of West Papua . [t]his is something he continues to do to date as head of Komnas HAM in Papua and it should be noted that he has in fact received police protection and escort since he reported he was being harassed".14 While the Special Representative welcomes the granting of police protection following these threats, she remains concerned at reports that threats against Mr. Rumbekwan and his family persist, indicating that the measures taken by the police are ineffective and should be reinforced.

Papuan Religious Leaders Describe Special Autonomy a Failure, Decry The Role of the Military and Call for Dialogue

On February 7 seven prominent Papuan religious leaders including Catholic Bishop Leo Laba as well as Protestant, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu leaders have called for declaration of West Papua as a Land of Peace and appealed for an internationally mediated dialogue between the Indonesian central government and Papuans.  The leaders described the Special Autonomy Law of 2001 as a "total failure that has brought disaster and the destruction of the native West Papuans future."  The religious leaders also described central government division of West Papua into new provinces and districts as illegal, specifically, in violation of the Special Autonomy Law.  These actions have, they contended, divided tribes, failed to create new employment opportunities and failed to advance human resource development.  Instead, they described these externally driven efforts as "money-oriented."

Much of the religious leaders statement focused on the role and activities of the Indonesian military. They contended: "the policy of establishing military posts and the stationing of Indonesian military personnel in West Papua has violated Law No 34 year 2004 about the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI). The presence of military armed force posts, Indonesian Navy posts & Indonesian Air Force posts in all regions of Papua has disturbed the people's peace. The decision to establish and station military personnel was made only from one side. In addition, the personnel appointed do not understand the native West Papuan culture and use militaristic approach in dealing with the Papuans. The military personnel used separatist issues [as an excuse] to deal with any Papuans who are critical of the military.  Militarism has entered and destroyed the civilian's ways of life by forming militias such as the "Red and White front."

The leaders also complained about environmental destruction of Papuan resources as a consequence of illegal logging, illegal fishing, illegal hunting "and illegal distribution of alcoholic beverage which is assumed to be backed by police and military personnel."  Because the actors are military or police personnel, the religious leaders said, "the criminal actions were allowed to happen and there is no legal action to punish the actors." The leaders also condemned "the labeling of the Papuans as OPM or separatists by the government, the military and the police has created conflicts between the Papuans and the government." The leaders asserted that in fact "there is no separatism in Papua. The "OPM (Free Papua Movement) issue" is kept and maintained and used by the government for their own interests. In fact, there is a strong assumption that those who claimed themselves as members of OPM were trained and prepared by the Indonesian military and police."

Two Prominent Papuan Intellectuals Oppose National Parliament Bill to Divide-up West Papua

Papuan intellectuals have expressed strong opposition to a bill in the national Parliament that would create four new provinces in Papua (West Papua, Southeast Papua, South Papua and Central Papua).

Don A. Flassy, a senior researcher at the provincial administration, contended  that the Bill was opposed by a majority of Papuans (who have not been consulted about the action).  He added that the proposal was in contravention of Law No. 21/2001 on Papua's special autonomy and the 2004 regional administration law, which recognized the province's uniqueness in terms of ethnicity, culture and territory.

Focusing on the proposed province of "Central Papua", Flassy warned in an interview with the Jakarta Post that its creation "would likely incite horizontal conflicts among numerous tribes and local cultures in the future." He explained that the presence of three separate ethnic groups in the province could pose a serious threat to harmony, offering as proof the prolonged conflict between two tribes in Mimika district, part of the proposed new province.  The proposed Central Papua would be home to about 605,000 people, 60 percent of them indigenous Papuans. It has great potential in mining, agriculture, forestry and tourism The proposed new province would also be home to U.S. copper and gold mining company PT Freeport McMoran Indonesia.

The Papuan People's Assembly (MRP) opposes the proposed formation of the four new provinces, which it said violated the 2001 special autonomy law for Papua. That law requires the MRP's consent to any new province formation. For his part, Deputy head of the assembly, Frans Wospakrik, said the MRP and the provincial administration had their own ideas on how Papua should be developed into several new provinces, but Jakarta had ignored its suggestions. Frans, also a former rector of Cenderawasih University in Papua, said the assembly was deeply concerned that Jakarta continued looking down on Papuans and ignoring their desire to build a better future.

Five Papuan District Leaders Call for Creation of a New Papuan Province

Five District leaders in West Papua on February 18 announced their intent to form a separate province.  Their call came in the context of Provincial district-municipality working meeting (see immediately following item) which they walked out of.  The five were leaders from the Districts of Yahukimo, Tolikara Puncak Jaya, Pegunungan Bintang and Jayawijaya.  The districts are located in the center of West Papua which is among the least developed parts of the province and the scene of repeated assaults on civilians by the Indonesian military. Declaring that they had lost patience with central and provincial authorities the District chiefs said they would choose Wamena as their capital.

The leaders assessed that Indonesia's "special autonomy" policy had not made any difference in the lives of the people in the districts which they said remained poor and disadvantaged in every aspect of life.   They also claimed that the Provincial level government had also largely ignored these districts.

The five District leaders left for Jakarta on February 16  to meet President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Home Minister Mardiyanto and Commission II members of the House of Representatives.

According to a  February 20 Jakarta Post article some residents of one of the Districts, (Pegunungan Bintang district) have protested the formation of a new province.

Papuan Governor Convenes Donors

West Papua Governor Barnabas Suebu hosted a February 15-21 meeting of Papua development partners in Jayapura under the title "Coordination and Synchronization for People Driven Development".  Participants included several ambassadors and representatives of the World Bank, the United Nations and a number of donor agencies.  In addition Vice President Jusuf Kalla gave a keynote address.  Five Cabinet national ministers as well as Papuan District leaders, mayors and heads of ministerial representative offices were also present.

A February 16 Jakarta Post op-ed by Marcellus Rantetana, a staff member at Partnership for Governance Reform in Indonesia, noted that notwithstanding years of pledges by Jakarta officials and the experience of six years of "special autonomy," there remained "a deep wealth gap" between Papuans and residents of other province and regions.  Rantetana also noted that violations of basic rights persisted. He added, "it has been six years since the (special autonomy) law was passed, but the welfare and living standards in Papua, especially for native Papuans, have not significantly changed. Papua still tops the list of poverty incidence, school dropouts, illiteracy, malnutrition and many others."

The op-ed faulted the central government's failure to meet even the most basic of human needs as being not simply a consequence of a shortage of funds.  Funds allocated to West Papua have increased significantly in recent years. The author asks however," how much of these funds have been and will directly benefit Papuans, especially native Papuans, and how much are used for overhead."  Papuan Governor Suebu has publicly noted the imbalance between official expenditures and public expenditures He has explained that most of the local government funds are still used to finance official-related activities, with only a small proportion used for people-related expenditures.

Rantetana called on donor groups and agencies to "take the people along," explaining that "local people need to be empowered, their institutions need to be strengthened, so whenever we all leave Papua in the future, the Papuans will be able to manage their own resources."

He further assessed the capacity of government officials at all levels as "far from adequate to properly assume their roles and functions, which in turn has resulted in poor service delivery."  He continued, "planning is based on the subjective creativity of the planners instead of the real needs of the people. Fund management is characterized by lack of transparency and accountability. And the people are yet to be involved in the decision-making process."

Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Pledges Dutch Embassy Will Monitor Papuan Court Hearing

The Netherlands-based Inter Faith Network on Papua reports that during a recent meeting of the Dutch Parliament several members expressed concern regarding the ongoing threats targeting human rights defenders in West Papua. During a special session focused on Indonesia, they raised several individual cases including those of human rights defenders Albert Rumbekwan who has been the target of intimidation and Sabar Olif who has been detained.

In reply to their questions, the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs promised that the Dutch Embassy in Indonesia would attend future hearings. The Netherlands recently announced a new human rights policy, in which the protection of human rights defenders is a priority. The EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders also specifically mention attending court cases as one of the instruments available to European Embassies to actively contribute to the protection of human rights defenders.

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