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West Papua Report

November 2008

This is the 54th 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


International Parliamentarians for West Papua Organization Launched in London

On the October 15, the "International Parliamentarians for West Papua" was officially launched by the Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on West Papua in the UK House of Commons, Rt Hon Andrew Smith MP.

The launch took place in the British parliament and was attended by Hon Moana Carcasses Kalosil MP, representing the Vanuatu Parliament; Lembit Öpik MP (UK Parliament); Jeremy Corbyn MP (UK Parliament); and Mr. Benny Wenda, West Papuan independence leader in the United Kingdom. This event was witnessed by West Papuan representatives from the Netherlands, university students (from Oxford, Exeter, Reading, and London), and representatives of UK based human rights and environmental groups.

Melinda Janki (international human rights law expert) presented a paper on West Papua's legal rights to self determination. Speakers from International Parliamentarians for West Papua included Andrew Smith MP (UK), Lord Harries (UK), Lembit Öpik MP (UK) and Hon Moana Carcasses Kalosil MP (Vanuatu). U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) was among those sending congratulatory messages. Other supportive messages came from Australian Senators and MPs from  New Zealand, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and Guyana.
Peaceful Papuans Beaten, Detained for Welcoming Formation of IPWP; Indonesian Parliamentarians Protest Launch
October 14 - 16 saw widespread rallies and demonstrations throughout the Indonesian archipelago intended to welcome the creation of an international parliamentarian caucus for West Papua (IPWP) in London October 15 (see report above). A major rally in Jayapura drew thousands of Papuans. Additional demonstrations and meetings took place in the West Papuan cities of Sorong and Manokwari, Papuan students outside of West Papua rallied in Makassar, Manado, Jogjakarta, Jakarta, Surabaya, and Bali. Papuans also demonstrated at the Indonesian embassy in Canberra.

In Jayapura,  Buchtar Tabuni, chairperson of the Committee for International Parliamentarians for West Papua, was among many Papuans subjected to police scrutiny. He and 17 other Papuans were taken into custody for questioning by Jayapura city police. Lawyer Latifah Anum Siregar told the Jakarta Post that those detained were "beaten in public and then forced at gunpoint to enter police cars." 

One of the key organizers of the rally in Jayapura was brutally murdered on or about October 17. An autopsy conducted by the Jayapura District Public Hospital DOK II on the body of Yosias Syet of Sentani concluded he had died of torture. Another Papuan demonstrator, Martinus Grewas, was killed in Sorong, reportedly by security forces.

Tabuni has been interrogated on "suspicion of subversion" for his participation in the demonstration. The interrogation was based on Articles 106, 107 and 110 of  the Criminal Code regarding subversion, as well as Article 212 of the Criminal Code related to "obstructing state officials in the performance of their duties."

Two other prominent Papuans, chairman of Dewan Adat Papua (DAP) Forkorus Yoboisembut and DAP secretary general Leonard Imbiri also responded to summons for interrogation by the police regarding the October 16 demonstration.  Imbiri also faced questioning as a witness to the October 16 demonstration and as a witness in connection with the event in Wamena on August 9, 2008, during which the Morning Star was unfurled. Opinus Tabuni reportedly was shot by security forces for no apparent reason at that event (see October 2008 West Papua Report).

The Jawa Pos reports that the local deputy police chief in Jayapura prohibited journalists from reporting about investigations into the subversion case related to the October 16 demonstration. The police officer warned that if journalists pursue the case, they could be the victims of an accident on their way home ("bisa mengalami kecelakaan saat pulang"). The warning came while TV journalists were in the office of the director of criminal investigation of the Papua police. The journalists wanted to follow the questioning of  several persons as witnesses in the case of DAP head Forkorus Yoboisembut, the DAP general secretary, Leonard Imbiri, and Buchtar Tabuni.  "Don't investigate this question in the area of Polda (local police force). Your motorcycle could end up having a crash," said Borent, the deputy director.  The head of public relations of the police, Agus Rianto expressed his apologies in advance "if anything untoward happens" to any journalists.

Reacting to the developments in London, a member of the Indonesian Parliament announced his intention to protest the formation of the IPWP to the British government, claiming the UK parliamentarians were supporting "separatism." Theo L. Sambuaga, chairman of the House's Commission I overseeing defense, information, foreign and political affairs, said the protest would be sent to the British Embassy in Jakarta.  Sambuaga added: "We can't accept any efforts to support such a separatist movement, because it indicates foreign intervention in our country's affairs," he said. The House will also bring the case to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, which has stated it will not tolerate any separatist movement."

Papuan Church Leaders Urge Dialogue Regarding 1969 Annexation

The Jakarta Post reported on October 20 that Papuan church leaders are calling for peaceful talks to consider the 1969 annexation of West Papua, conducted through the "Act of Free Choice," which is widely viewed as a fraudulent exercise. The leaders noted that police had rejected a proposal to hold a massive rally on Oct. 20.  The aim of the planned demonstration was to make Papuan views known to the Papuan legislative council. The leaders criticized the police, backed by the military, for detaining the activists who planned the mass demonstration.
Greenpeace Calls for Logging Moratorium in West Papua

Logging in Papua.  
Nabire, Papua province, Indonesia. Logs being loaded onto log barge for shipment. Greenpeace released evidence of continued illegal logging activities in a suspended logging concession area in Kaimana, West Papua province. © Greenpeace / Ardiles Rante  

The international environmental organization Greenpeace has called on the Indonesian government to declare a moratorium on logging in West Papua.  Greenpeace argued that only a moratorium could save what is left of the Papuan rainforest.  Underscoring the urgency of the current situation, Greenpeace spokesperson Bustar Maitar reported that Greenpeace, which is currently monitoring the situation in West Papua, has observed accelerating illegal deforestation.  Greenpeace also noted that West Papua's forests are under threats posed by illegal logging and the expansion of palm oil plantations.

TNI "Reform"
The unreformed Indonesian military (TNI) for decades has been the principal agent for violence against the Papuan people and others throughout the Indonesian archipelago. Despite reformist rhetoric, the TNI remains a largely unreconstructed, rogue institution, unaccountable and beyond the control of Indonesia's democratizing civilian government.

That reality is elaborated in an analysis prepared by Kontras, the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence, one of Indonesia's most effective and respected human rights organizations. Kontras was founded and led by Munir Said Thalib who was assassinated in 2004. The organizers of his killing, widely believed to be from the ranks of senior retired TNI, have not yet been successfully prosecuted. 
Key judgments of that analysis follow:

The success of eliminating the TNI's political role should not be measured by the revocation of the TNI's seats in the  parliament (DPR). Although the TNI's presence in the parliament ceased in 2004, the stipulations in certain legal instruments such as the Law on the TNI and Law on the Truth and Reconciliation Committee show the strong influence the armed forces continue to wield.

In the Law on the TNI, for example, several of the TNI's old positions, such as the presence of territorial command (koter) and the "functionality" function, are still justified. The Law on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which was expected to be a medium to resolve past human right violations within the framework of TNI's institutional reform, was found to be an example of a problematic political product and revoked by the Constitutional Court.

The TNI still maintains the Army's territorial command structure, such as Kodam (military regional command), Korem (military regiment command), Kodim (the military district command) and Babinsa (village guidance), whereas the 1998 reform demands the retraction of the military "dual function" and the removal of territorial command structure. The Armed Forces Faction in the parliament was abolished in 2004 but the territorial command remained.

The state has neglected to take  action against ongoing business practices, and even failed to stop the transfer of the TNI's assets to private parties. There appears to  be a large amount of the state's assets used by the TNI that have been misused for illegal objectives.

The delay in amending the Law on the Military Tribunal has caused the low public accountability of the TNI before the law. TNI members and the former officers of the military still have access to special treatment when they are brought before the court. This culture of impunity is hard to eliminate, and one of the causes is that the Law on Military Tribunal has never been revised. The process of promotion to strategic positions in the TNI does not give enough consideration to a person's human rights record. Thus impunity and military violence endure, which demonstrates the strong influence of the TNI on the national political stage.

Soldiers' welfare only serves as a political commodity to ask for an increase in the defense budget, even to legitimize illegal practices. The welfare of the soldiers has never been achieved because, since the beginning, there has never been any serious effort exerted on behalf of the government to achieve it. The argument that TNI businesses would increase the capacity and welfare of the soldiers is a bifurcation of truth, because the profit has always been enjoyed by a few elites in the TNI.

Senate Testimony Regarding Freeport's Impact on The Lives of Papuans

Abi Abrash Walton -- assistant to the President of Antioch University of New England for sustainability and social justice and associate core faculty in the Environmental Advocacy and Organizing Program -- provided testimony which was read into the record of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law for its September 24, 2008, hearing on "Extracting Natural Resources: Corporate Responsibility and the Rule of Law." Her research about the human rights and environmental impacts of mining in West Papua and the need for greater corporate accountability formed the basis for her testimony.

Read the full text of testimony here

Read ETAN and WPAT's joint submission to the committee at

A webcast of the full hearing is available on the Senate's website.

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