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West Papua Report

April 2008

This is the 47th 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


U.S. NGO's Call on Secretary Rice to Act on Arrests of Papuans

The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) and the West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) have urged Secretary of State Rice to act on behalf of Papuans detained by Indonesian Security Forces in March arrests. Those arrests were made under the "subversion" law which the Indonesian Constitutional Court declared unconstitutional on July 17, 2007.

An abbreviated version of that letter follows:

On March 13, Indonesian police arrested twelve people in Manokwari, West Papua, during a demonstration against a 2007 law banning the display of separatist symbols, including the Morning Star Flag. The demonstrations also called for a referendum regarding the political status of West Papua and expressed opposition to the 2001 Special Autonomy Law that they claim has failed to bring improvement to the lives of Papuan people. As Human Right Watch has reported, one of the twelve arrested in Manokwari is reported to be a 16-year-old boy. As of March 25 there were reports that he had been released from custody but he may still face charges On March 19, Indonesian security officials in Jayapura arrested four more Papuans in a similarly peaceful demonstration that opposed the same 2007 law. On March 25, security authorities arrested Eli Kaiway in connection with the peaceful demonstrations of March 13 and 19.

The 17 individuals appear likely to face trial for breaching Regulation 77/2007 and may also be charged with makar, which translates into English as "rebellion." In the past, Papuan activists openly supporting separatism have been sentenced to a 20-year prison term for the peaceful expression of their political views.

Indonesia's arrest and detention of peaceful activists violates the internationally recognized rights to freedom of expression and assembly as set forth in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Indonesia ratified in February 2006.

The West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) and the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) condemn Indonesia's violation of the right of peaceful self-expression and urges the U.S. Government to press the Indonesian government to drop all charges against these peaceful demonstrators. WPAT and ETAN, recalling the recent UN reporting regarding severe mistreatment of those detained by Indonesian security officials, also urge that the U.S.. Government communicate to the Indonesian government its concern for the welfare of these detainees pending their release

According to credible reporting by international monitors, Papuan and other journalists who have sought to monitor developments associated with these demonstrations and other recent peaceful demonstrations have faced intimidation and interference from security forces. This security force conduct violates Indonesia's commitments under international human rights instruments to which it is party. WPAT and ETAN urge the U.S. Government to remind the Indonesian Government of its obligations in this regard as well.

The full text of the letter can be found here.

UK Government Calls on Jakarta to Begin Dialogue with Papuans

Radio New Zealand International on March 28 reported that the UK government had called on the Indonesian Government to launch a dialogue with Papuans. In its Human Rights Report 2007 launched this week, the Foreign Office stated that while peace was being maintained in Aceh, Indonesia continues to experience low level conflict in Papua.

The report, like the U.S. annual human rights reporting on Indonesia (see report below), expressed concern about the human rights situation in Papua. The brief text on Papua reads as follows:

"Nevertheless, low-level conflict in the province of Papua continues. We believe that the full implementation of the special autonomy legislation (passed in 2001) would be an important step in resolving the complex issues in Papua. However, there are still obstacles, and progress is slow. We continue to encourage peaceful dialogue, and to urge all Papuan groups and the Indonesian government to engage constructively on this.

"Although the human rights situation in Indonesia has improved significantly over the past few years, we continue to have concerns, which we raise, about the situation in Papua, in particular restrictions on access to Papua by NGOs and journalists, allegations of violations by the Indonesian armed forces, and regular reports of threats against human rights defenders."

United Kingdom Foreign & Commonwealth Office Human Rights Annual Report 2007 is available at 

Annual State Department Human Rights Reporting on West Papua Lacks Crucial Context

The State Department's annual human rights reporting on West Papua, contained within reporting on Indonesia commendably notes some major abuses but ignores context of Jakarta polices that marginalize Papuans.

The report correctly observes that travel restrictions and intimidation of human rights advocates are common in Papua. The report fails to note, however, that when visits are allowed, they are frequently sharply curtailed or suffer direct security force interference. Failure to report this fact is particularly surprising in so far as a U.S. congressman and the U.S. Ambassador experience such interference personally in late 2007 (see following report.)

Moreover, the report frequently fails to observe in the Papuan context that security force violations of rights, many documented within the report, rarely result in criminal prosecution of the perpetrators.

The report does address a fundamental Papuan human rights concern, the ongoing policy of "transmigration" whereby "settlers" from other islands in the archipelago are sent by the Indonesia government to West Papua where they compete with and frequently displace existing Papuan populations. The policy, developed and implemented most aggressively during the Suharto dictatorship, has had the effect of ethnically cleansing most Papuan towns and many valuable rural Papuan lands. However, the condemnation of the policy is presented as having been voiced by "local residents" rather than by numerous international human rights organizations or by the report itself. The report's failure to highlight and specifically condemn this policy ignores the cautionary reality that transmigration elsewhere, notably in West Kalimantan, has led to widespread civil conflict

The report acknowledges that security forces have played the lead role in restricting legitimate, peaceful political activity by Papuans. Nevertheless, it offers a summary judgment that "the law provides citizens with the right to change their government peacefully, and citizens exercised this right in practice (through elections)." This characterization ignores both the undermining by the central government of the autonomy law to undermine the authority of the locally-elected government, as well as persistent actions by the central government's security forces to preclude Papuan self-determination. Those actions have constituted the basis for much of the violations of human rights by the security force in the Papuan context.

The report acknowledges that Papuan religious leaders have been the target of security force abuse but fails to note that historically the brutal repression of all Papuan political dissent, has led to the emergence of clergy as the principal avenue for the expression of Papuan rights.

Finally, the State Department's annual human rights global reporting exercise, by focusing on civil and political rights, has consistently failed to address the abuse of human rights in the social, cultural and economic spheres as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This inadequate focus on this broad category of rights is particularly consequential in West Papua where decades of central government neglect has deprived Papuans of their fundamental rights to education, health care, employment and self-realization through cultural development. It is in part because of such neglect that charges of genocide against Papuans have been raised by international human rights observers.

A longer critique of the Indonesia chapter of the Country Reports on Human Rights by WPAT and ETAN can be found at

Senior U.S. Members of Congress Call on Indonesian President to End "unreasonable restrictions on International Access to West Papua"

In a letter dated March 5, 2008 to Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Congressman Eni Faleomavaega, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs' Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and the Global Environment, and Congressman Donald Payne, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health, joined forces in calling upon Indonesia to end unreasonable restrictions on international access to West Papua. The complete text of their letter follows:

Dear Mr. President:

In 2005, at your request, we suspended our support for West Papua's right to self-determination in order to give you time to implement the Special Autonomy legislation passed by the Indonesian Parliament in 2001. We welcomed the promise of this legislation and your personal assurances that your government would finally accord the Papuan people a fair share of the great wealth derived from Papuan resources. However, after three years, we note that the people of Papua, through the voices of Papuan religious and civil society leaders as well in broad public demonstrations, have declared Special Autonomy a failure.

We are also disappointed that your government has not made substantial progress in implementing Special Autonomy While your administration has designated Special Autonomy funds for Papuan development, these funds have not reached the Papuan people who, after over four decades, still lack even rudimentary health and educational services. As you will agree, effective distribution and utilization of these funds require trained Papuan cadre and an infrastructure with the capacity to disburse these funds efficiently and honestly, and this means there is a critical need to develop Papuan cadre and infrastructure. This need can only be met by a concerted effort involving your government and international agencies such as USAID.

This is why we have repeatedly asked that you work with the U.S. Congress and the United Nations, to develop a plan that assures effective implementation of Special Autonomy In no way do we believe that throwing money at the people of Papua for the next 15 or 20 years relieves Jakarta of its responsibility to educate the people of Papua and help them build the capacity they need to effectively manage their affairs.

In fact, to leave an uneducated populace without the tools it needs to rebuild itself is to promote social and cultural genocide, and this is not right, especially if Indonesia is intent on the United States supporting its territorial integrity. If Indonesia is intent on the U.S. supporting its territorial integrity, in turn, Indonesia must be intent on doing right by the people of Papua Doing right by Papua means: a) implementing a plan of success; b) opening your doors to allow Members of the U.S. Congress, United Nations personnel, and non-government agencies access to Jayapura and the rest of the province; and c) demilitarizing your approach. Indonesia's reliance on force for the maintenance of control is counterproductive, and long-standing abuses by security forces have galvanized independence sentiments among majority Papuans.

In this latter regard, the January 28 UN report by UN Special Representative Hina Jilani documents continuing intimidation and abuse of human rights advocates by an Indonesian military that remains largely unaccountable before Indonesian courts. Our letter to you on December 13, 2007, which is enclosed for your information, also specifically addressed the Indonesian military's use of undue force. Because you never replied to the letter, we can only assume that you did not receive it or that the concerns expressed were of no interest to you at the time of your receipt. However, given that Congress is now contemplating increasing funding to train your security forces, including KOPASSUS and BRIMOB, we are hopeful that you will now address the concerns expressed in that letter.

Also, we are enclosing photographs and a DVD which show one Member's experience with your military while in Biak and Manokwari. Prior to Congress taking further action to increase funding for your military, we are sending copies of these photos and this DVD to U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, House and Senate appropriators, Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Members of the House and Senate Foreign Affairs' Committees. We are also enclosing our December 13, 2007 letter because we believe it is important for our Administration and colleagues to know that your government denied a Member of the U.S. Congress access to Jayapura.

While the photos and DVD do not fully capture your military's overuse of force during Congressman Faleomavaega's visit, we believe that they clearly show a pattern of your military's misuse of force. Although your military stated that this use of force was for the Congressman's protection, we believe you will agree that no Member of Congress should need hundreds of military personnel in full riot gear to protect him or her in provinces you say are safe Ultimately, Papuans are no threat to Members of Congress. Papuans are the same as you. They want to be heard. They want to be educated. They want to live freely and happily. They do not want to be herded like animals, kept behind police barricades, and silenced at gunpoint.

Therefore, we are hopeful that you will work with us to make the situation for Papuans more tolerable. We are also hopeful that given our goodwill and your past assurances that you will grant us immediate access to Jayapura.

Congressmen Faleomavaega and Payne concluded their letter by stating, "Continued refusal by your military to allow our access to Jayapura and other parts of Indonesia will inevitably call into question the seriousness of your government's assurances to us regarding your intent to implement Special Autonomy and to end unreasonable restrictions on international access to West Papua."

Papuan Governor Resists Jakarta Pressure to Relent on Green Initiative

The March 27 Jakarta Post reported that Papuan Governor Barnebus Suebu will not revise his decree on sustainable forest management that bans export of unprocessed logs. The determination to maintain the decree, which has been praised by Greenpeace and other environmental organizations, ignores an appeal by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to void the decree.

For its part, Greenpeace observed that "The central government should support the regulation to keep Papua's forests breathing as one of the world's lungs. The deforestation rate in Papua should be decreased gradually down to zero in a well-planned program with consideration for Papuan people's welfare."

A Suebu deputy noted that in addition to its pro-environment impact, the new policy banning export of unprocessed logs was made to accelerate the development of the forestry industry and empower local communities. "With the new policy, all logs are required to be processed locally to create added value for the province's economy and generate jobs for locals," he said. Governor Suebu has invited national investors to build processing plants in West Papua.

In the past, hundreds of thousands of cubic meters of logs were believed to have been stolen every month from the provinces, allegedly smuggled to Singapore and Malaysia with the help of local security authorities. Several local police and military officers have been jailed for their involvement in illegal logging and smuggling.

Indonesian Navy Constructing Base Near BP Gas Complex

A respected Papuan human rights NGO has reported construction is underway for a new naval base in Bintuni Bay, site of the BP gas complex known as Tangguh.

The new base will be called Naval Base of the Republic of Indonesia - Eastern Zone - Naval Operation Base in Bintuni Bay, Hadi Kemon Street, No 4, Bintuni

The base covers an area of more than one hectare and is located about three kilometers from the town of Bintuni. The project includes a number of houses which have been under construction since 2004.

The new military presence will provide a basis for military influence in the area and could facilitate military extortion of the BP complex along the lines of the military's extortion of funds from the Freeport McMoran complex in Timika-Tembagapura.


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