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West Papua Report

May 2008

This is the 48th 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


Military and Police Block Peaceful Papuan Student Protests; Ignore Protests Outside West Papua

On April 22, 300 heavily armed military and police units blocked a student protest in Abepura. Seven demonstrators who were initially arrested were subsequently released. The security forces acted before the demonstration had even begun, seizing three trucks of would-be demonstrators near Jayapura city.

The security force action followed police refusal to issue a permit for the demonstration and, according to the police, targeted students who had "given political speeches in front of a crowd in Abepura."

The police refusal to issue a permit purportedly was on the basis of law number 9 that specifically ban protests that are deemed to "undermine the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia."

A spokesperson for the demonstrators said that the peaceful demonstration and a call for a national civil strike was intended to protest the governments of Indonesia, the Netherlands, the United States and the United Nations. The protest was to have called on these governments and the UN to restore Papuan sovereignty which was denied to Papuans by the 1969 fraudulent "Act of Free Choice" under which Indonesia annexed West Papua.

Security forces did not interfere with identical, simultaneous peaceful demonstrations in Jakarta, Yogjakarta and Bali. However, the authorities did break up a separate demonstration in Manokwari in West Papua, clearly indicating a more restrictive posture toward demonstrators in West Papua.

In the Bali demonstrations West Papuan students from the United West Papua Popular Struggle Front (Pepera) demonstrated against special autonomy for West Papua. They also called for a referendum to be held in West Papua on Papuans' political future. Some of these demonstrators also called for closure of Freeport McMoran, the giant copper and gold mine. In his speech, action coordinator Wens Papua noted that the Papuans had become the victims of capitalist exploitation.

Rio Tinto Confronts Serious Question at Annual General Meeting

On April 24 the Rio Tinto board which controls a major portion of the Freeport McMoran Gold and Cooper mine faced difficult questions at its Annual General Meeting in Brisbane. Carmel Budiarjo, a deeply respected human rights crusader of Tapol, underscored the wealth flowing to the company in contrast to the unrelenting poverty and suffering of the people who live in the mine's shadow. She noted that the Mimika Statistics Agency recently reported that 28,000 of the 45,000 families in the vicinity of the mine are living below the poverty line and lack access to basic health care. The Agency noted that 'Mimika is one of the biggest mining areas in the world but its people are still categorized as poor.'

Budiarjo also noted that HIV/AIDS is widespread in the area, largely because of the presence of workers at the mine. Papua now has the highest incidence of the disease in Indonesia.

Budiarjo demanded to know: "What has Rio Tinto done to address the serious problem of pollution affecting local rivers and water sources, and what had it done to improve medical services to deal with grave health problems afflicting local communities?

In the same April 24 meeting, Rio Tinto's Paul Skinner claimed that mine tailings dumped into the Ajqua river system from the Freeport McMoran mine were not toxic. The claim flies in the face of numerous highly regarded government studies and ignores the decision by the Norwegian Government Pension fund to disinvest in the company because of the severe environmental damage caused by the practice of riverine tailings disposal.

One study completed by the Indonesian environmental and human rights organization Walhi in partnership with Friends of The Earth noted that "Freshwater aquatic life has been largely destroyed through pollution and habitat destruction in the watercourses which receive tailings. This report is available at .

A member of the West Papua Advocacy Team who trekked across the miles wide and miles long tailings delta that had built up for decades in the Ajkwa basin found a desert in the middle of pristine rain forest. Only one type of grass grew on the beach sand-like tailings. There were no birds or insects and various stretches were made treacherous by quicksand.

Security Forces Hold Scores of Peaceful Papuan Protesters as Common Criminals

A prominent Australian Human Rights Activist, Nick Chesterfield, reports that the Indonesian security forces continue to round up and incarcerate peaceful Papuan political protesters as common criminals. Their offenses, as noted in the April West Papua Report, include raising of the Papuan "morning star flag." Chesterfield observed that treating these peaceful political protesters as common criminals exposes them to severe health and safety risks. A UN report in 2007 noted frequent use of torture and beatings in Indonesian jails, notably those in West Papua. Chesterfield also notes that in some cases families of those detained have also been singled out for intimidation and abuse.

Papuans Hold Unit Summit in Vanuatu

Papuans representing a number of West Papuan political organizations met in Vanuatu in April to participate in a convening of the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation. The spokesman for the Vanuatu-based West Papuan People’s Representative Office, John Ondawame, said the meeting was to organize a unified leadership and to begin a new diplomatic struggle for self-determination for the West Papuan people. (See following report for details on the outcome of the meeting.)

The delegates held meeting with most of the senior officials of Vanuatu. The Foreign Minister of Vanuatu assured the delegates that he planned to raise the West Papuan struggle for self-determination at the upcoming Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG). He added that it was his hope that West Papua would eventually achieve "observer status" at the MSG and at the Pacific Islands Forum.

"West Papuan National Coalition for Liberation" Formed

In an April 29 press statement, Papuan activists have announced the formation of the "West Papua National Coalition for Liberation." The announcement followed a meeting held in Port Vila, Vanuatu during April 2008, The West Papua National Coalition for Liberation elected Richard Yoweni of the National Liberation Army of West Papua (TPN PB) as Chairman, Dr. John Otto Ondawame as Vice Chairman and Mr. Rex Rumakiek as the Secretary General. The Secretariat for the WPNCL will be established at the West Papuan Peoples Representative Office in Port Vila, Vanuatu.

Spokesperson for the group Runawery commented that "Indonesian Government control over West Papua for the past 45 years and the implementation of its so-called 'Special Autonomy' package in the past 5 years has grossly failed the West Papuan people." Runawery went on to say, "Under Special Autonomy there has been very poor administration leading to the rapid deterioration of health and education of Papuan people, an ever increasing wave of the HIV/AIDS and huge profiteering from the exploitation of West Papuan natural resources and rainforests.”

He added: There is now a disastrous situation where West Papua people are on the brink of becoming a minority in their own land."

"International support for Special Autonomy has been a success for international investors, including BP at the Tangguh gas project & RTZ at the Freeport copper mine. These investments have effectively underwritten the occupation of West Papua by the Indonesian security forces.”

Indonesian is in a phase of business expansion in West Papua and that means the abuse of human rights of indigenous West Papuans, the restriction of political freedom and tightening military control. The expansion of Indonesian Government backed businesses and economic interests is at the expense of the people of West Papua."

"WPNCL is now seeking Observer Status with the Melanesian Spearhead Group and the Pacific Islands Forum as a platform for the people of West Papua within the United Nations and other international forums."

"The WPNCL will seek to reverse the so-called Act of Free Choice of 1969 and re-inscribe West Papua on UN Decolonization Committee in so that the people of West Papua are given the due process of 'self-determination'."

The WPNCL will continue to seek internationally mediated negotiation with the Republic of Indonesia as the best way of resolving the ongoing armed conflict promoted by the Indonesian security forces and reversing the disastrous human rights and spiraling health situation of the West Papuan people.”

Indonesian Military and Militias Pose Threat to Papuans

A revealing series of comments by a senior Indonesian military official and an official from one of its allied militias point to the threat posed to peaceful Papuan demonstrators.

On April 24 the website of the Indonesian daily Kompas reported that Commander of the 1703 Military District, Lieutenant Colonel Irham Waroihan, in Manokwari, West Papua stated that the OPM (the small armed resistance force fighting for Papuan independence) were "issuing orders for demonstrators" such as those detained in peaceful political demonstrations in recent months in West Papua. He claimed that the OPM used "fictitious names in order to escape being traced."

Separately, the same report cites the "Deputy Chairperson of the Red and White Indonesia Movement in Manokwari, Siti Fatimah Tahir" in comments chastising the student demonstrators, describing them inter alia as "lazy."

The unsubstantiated contention by Lt. Colonel Waroihan that the students were following OPM orders could gravely complicated their legal status placing them in far greater jeopardy. Public reference to the "Red and White Indonesian Movement in Manokwari is ominously reminiscent of the military-run "Red and White" militias that terrorized East Timorese civilians in the 1998-99 period.

Papua crackdown overshadows BP project 31 March 2008

Amid increasing concern about Indonesia’s harsh treatment of peaceful protestors in West Papua, more than 30 human rights groups and individuals worldwide, including ETAN and WPAT, are warning BP that its new $US6 billion Tangguh natural gas project is a potential source of instability in the troubled region. In a letter to the British company’s Chief Executive, Tony Hayward, the organizations highlight the pressing need for independent external scrutiny of the BP operation, highlighting reports of increased activity by the Indonesian military (TNI) in the area of the project. The TNI’s past record suggests that it is likely to adopt a highly intimidatory approach, giving rise to possible conflicts with the local and wider Papuan community,’ they say. In their letter, the organizations point out that the project is regarded by some Papuans as an obstacle to the realization of their wider political aspirations. BP is seen by them as a collaborator with Jakarta’s exploitation of West Papua’s natural resources.

The letter is prompted by BP’s decision not to extend the mandate of the Tangguh Independent Advisory Panel (TIAP). It was sent in the wake of a wave of arrests of Papuans peacefully protesting a ban on regional symbols such as the Papuan Morning Star flag. Most of the arrests took place in Manokwari, the capital of the province in which Tangguh is located. The letter also lists concerns relating to the social and environmental impacts of the project.

Two weeks ago, The Guardian newspaper reported on a letter from Papuan leaders complaining that BP has reneged on agreements and is ‘taking sides with the Indonesian government, as they are bypassed from all lasting benefits.' Earlier a large number of troops were deployed to the area to provide security for a visit to the project by Prince Andrew, the UK government’s business envoy.


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