etmnlong.gif (2291 bytes) spacer


West Papua Report

June 2008

This is the 49th 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 Sweeps Target Papuan Civilians

According to a report Papuan media, the Indonesian military (TNI) is conducting sweeps in the central highlands which are specifically targeting civilians.  The Cenderawasih Post reported on May 9 that AKBP Marolop Manik, head of the police in the central highlands region of Jayawijaya, announced that the Indonesian military would stage a month-long sweep of villages in the region in search of "separtist symols."  Leading the operation dubbed "Mambruk" would be the notorious Indonesian Intelligence Service (BIN) which is widely believed to have played a central role in the murder of Said Thalib Munir, Inodnesias leading human rights advocate, in 2004.

Unconfirmed reports from the region claim that security forces are operating with great brutality and that some villagers have been forced to flee to the surrounding forests and mountains.

In the past, the Indonesian military has launched such sweeps purporting to be targeting armed resistance fighters.  Such sweeps create enormous suffering among civilians who are driven from their villages by soldiers who destroy homes of local villagers as well as their sources of livelihood.  This operation is different in so far as the civilians are the express targets of the operation.

Papuan Christian Leaders Describe Serious Human Rights Abuse in West Papua
The Catholic News Service carries an account by Indonesian clerics that points to systematic human rights abuse in West Papua.  The report is excerpted below:
Indigenous residents of Indonesias Irian Jaya region suffer a multitude of injustices, from rape and murder to the pilfering of riches extracted from their island, said representatives of an Indonesian Catholic diocese.   Unsettled disputes and violent conflicts between the Indonesian government and the indigenous residents have resulted in the killing of at least 100,000 people by Indonesian security forces, said Father Cayetanus Johanes Tarong, superior of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart in West Papua.
"There is murder, intimidation, terror and rapes," Father Tarong said. "Welfare meant for the people mostly goes to build the infrastructure of the corrupt governmental bureaucracy. They still dont feel safe in their own land."

The Catholic delegation met with officials of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops May 19. The delegation included members of the justice and peace office of the Diocese of Jayapura and Franciscans International, a Catholic international lobby group. The delegation visited Washington to seek support from U.S. Catholics and members of the U.S. Congress to help ease what they call a humanitarian crisis in the region.  The delegation also met with State Department officials.
The increase in identified cases of HIV/AIDS is rampant among indigenous Papuans, because educational information about the virus and how it is spread is limited and the lack of educational facilities is tragic, said Chris Duckett, a Franciscans International advocacy officer based in West Papua.

The delegation planned to spend several days meeting with members of Congress to educate them about the plight of West Papuas indigenous people and to urge them to provide the region with financial aid and mediation between the Papuans and Indonesian government. The delegation also seeks U.S. advocacy for peace in their region and the threat to cut off military assistance to the Indonesian government if it does not address the humanitarian problems.

The UN Committee on Torture Expresses Concern about West Papua

On May 16, the UNs Committee against Torture concluded its fortieth session and made observations and recommendations on a report regarding Indonesia which it reviewed during the session.

The Committee said it was "deeply concerned about the numerous ongoing credible and consistent allegations, corroborated by the report of the Special Rapporteur on Torture and other sources, concerning routine and widespread use of torture and ill-treatment of suspects in police custody, especially to extract confessions or information to be used in criminal proceedings, as well as by members of the security and police forces, including by members of the armed forces, mobile police units, and paramilitary groups, during military and ?sweep? operations, especially in Papua, Aceh and in other provinces where there had been armed conflicts." 

The Committee further noted that it was concerned with Indonesias "lack of international judicial cooperation in investigating, prosecuting or extraditing perpetrators of acts of gross human rights violations, especially with regard to acts that occurred in East Timor in 1999, the Committee was deeply troubled at evidence that alleged perpetrators of war crimes wanted by Interpol, such as Colonel Siagian Burhanddhin, for whom Interpol had raised a red notice, were currently serving in the Indonesian military forces."  Colonel Siagian is Commander of the Indonesian Military (TNI) in Jayapura, the capital of West Papua.

Amnesty International Notes Increasing Targeting of Papuan Human Rights Defenders
On May 28, Amnesty International issued its annual report for 2008, including a report on human rights tredns and developments in Indonesia that focused in part on West Papua.  The report noted continued "Torture, excessive use of force and unlawful killings by police and security forces " and that "most perpetrators of gross human rights violations in the past ... continued to enjoy impunity."  The report emphasized that "the situation in Papua remained tense with increasing targeted attacks and threats against human rights activists and church leaders."  It also noted that "the number of possible prisoners of conscience increased sharply with up to 76 people detained for peacefully expressing their political or religious views."
The report added that "freedom of expression continued to be severely restricted" with "a sharp increase in attacks and threats against human rights defenders following the visit in June of Hina Jilani, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General on Human Rights Defenders."  The report further pointed out that Jilani had "highlighted the continuing harassment and intimidation of defenders by the police, military and other security and intelligence agencies and the restrictions on access to victims and sites of human rights violations, particularly in Papua."
In a special section devoted to West Papua, Amnesty International noted the following:  "The low-level conflict between the security forces and pro-independence militants in Papua continued. The military repeatedly threatened local community members who supported independence through peaceful means. An army official who had been indicted for crimes against humanity in Timor-Leste, but had yet to face trial, was nominated as military commander in the Papuan capital, Jayapura. Reported human rights violations by security forces included extrajudicial executions, torture and excessive use of force."
Amnesty International also drew attention to the fact that "prisoners of conscience" Filep Karma sentenced to 15 years, and Yusak Pakage sentenced to 10 years, remained in jail. Both were convicted partly under these articles in May 2005 for raising the Papuan flag. It also highlighted the case of Albert Rumbekwan, director of the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) in Papua, who it noted has received death threats and was kept under surveillance following the visit by the UN Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders.

Indonesian Intelligence Terrorize Family of Pastor after He Reveals Nickel Mining Conflict

According to Biak News (May 28), Indonesian security and intelligence personnel have targeted for intimidation the Reverend Esron Abisay who is the Head of Evangelical Christian Chuch in North Biak.  The intimidation, which has extended to his family and is on a 24 hour per day basis, followed release of report the Pastor had written regarding security force-supported efforts to open a  Nickel Mine in Tablasupa villages.

Pastor Abisays report concluded that the proposed nickel mine in the Tablasupa area had caused conflict as local people strongly who had peacefully resisted plans to open the mine even in the face of police and eventually military support for the developers.

The dispute followed June 29, 2007 action by the Jayapura Regency Government which gave the right to mine nickel in the area to Tablasupa Nickel Mining Inc. (The company is the property of the Indonesian State.)

On July 1, 2007, Tablasupa Nickel Mining Inc held a meeting with local people to present a profile of the company plan, but local people rejected the proposal.  Shortly later, several local people stepped forward to claim ownership of the prorposed mine site.  Police responded by seizing the claimants and taking them to Jakarta where they were accused of being part of a separatist group.

Local people continued to resist opening of the mine and on February 24, 2008, protested in front of the Parliament of Jayapura Regency Government.  They later blocked the road in their villages to oppose the mines opening.  Finally, on March 8, the Jayapura District Government supported the local peoples call to prohibit the opening of the mine.

The Nickel company then sought to exert pressure on the local citizens by labeling them "separtists" and calling in the police to "monitor" the situation. On April 2, 2008, two Indonesia Army intelligence agents launched interrogations of local people.

Growing Doubts about BP Natural Gas Project

Despite promises by British Petroleum (BP), there are growing doubts that the major BP natural gas extraction project in Bintuni Bay known as Tangguh will escape the tragic fate of other major exploitation projects in West Papua.  Like the notorious Freeport-McMoran Cooper and Gold mine in Tembagapura which has a record of chronic human rights abuse and environmental destruction, the Tangguh project is coming under growing military pressure and raising basic environmental concerns.  Despite BP promises to limit the role of the Indonesian military in the project area, there is a growing military presence in the neighboring towns, including Bintuni itself and Babo.  There is also a growing population of non-Papuans attracted by the prospect of employment. 

BP has failed to address the issue of carbon capture from the Tangguh site, which is due to begin production by the end of 2008.  BP also has failed to offer any plan to address the pollution associated with the massive increase of sea transport to and from the Tangguh site which threatens to pollute waterways and disrupt traditional fishing.

Papua New Guinea Reportedly Blocks Melanesian Consensus to Give West Papua "Observer Status" at Regional Meeting
Human Rights defenders monitoring diplomatic developments report that the Government of Papua New Guinea is blocking efforts to grant observer status at the South Pacific regional "Melanesian Spearhead Group" meeting convening in the next week.

The effort to grant observer status reportedly is led by the Government of Vanuatu and supported by  delegates from the Solomon Islands, Fiji and New Caledonia.  Papua New Guinea, which borders Indonesia, has traditionally been sensitive to the interests and desires of its giant neighbor.

The National PNG, on May 30 strongly editorialized against its Governments stand.  Excerpts of that editorial follow:

"(W)e are of the opinion that pretending the Papua issue doesn?t exist will achieve nothing for PNG and could even be counter-productive for our relations with Indonesia. That nation pursued an aggressive policy of trans-migration in past decades that saw thousands of Muslim Indonesians transplanted into a territory where the main religious inroads had been made by Christianity.

"When PNG gained independence, it was natural for our governments to seek to maintain the closest possible relationships between our country and our Indonesian neighbours. Today it is much harder to justify a narrow-minded foreign policy that simply ignores the outcry from our immediate neighbours.  The outcome of the Melanesian struggle for autonomy or independence in that Indonesian province may well be years away, but we predict that in the end, full or part independence will come to the province.  And if it does, PNG?s relationship over the years with those fighting for a measure of freedom over the border will come under close scrutiny.

"It may well be that we would be better off to at least listen to the representatives of those people at the current MSG meeting and show some humanity towards their cause.

"Does our government fear some form of invasion from Indonesia?"


Back issues of West Papua Report

Support ETANs Work for Justice!

"I’ve long admired ETAN’s work. For well over a decade, ETAN has conducted some of the most effective grassroots campaigns I know. With limited resources, they helped free a nation and fundamentally changed policy toward one of the U.S.’s closest and most repressive allies, Indonesia." —Amy Goodman, host of “Democracy Now!

Make a monthly pledge via credit card

 click here






make a pledge via credit card here

Bookmark and Share

Background | Take Action | News | Links | What You Can Do | Resources  | Contact

ETAN Store | Estafeta | ImagesHome | Timor Postings | Search | Site Index |