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West Papua Report

December 2008

This is the 55th 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 with the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) Back issues are posted online at Questions regarding this report can be addressed to Edmund McWilliams at


As thousands of Papuans demonstrate peacefully, calling for an end to Jakarta rule, the Papuan Governor decried the failure of Jakarta to implement "special autonomy," which he described as initially introduced as an alternative to independence. He noted the cost in human terms of Jakarta's failure to implement the legislation including failure to provide basic services for Papuans. This he indicated bore grave consequences for the Papuan population now confronting an explosion of HIV/AIDS infection.

Separately, Papuan academics have called for a human rights court and national reconciliation commission another unfulfilled pledge of the six year old special autonomy legislation. A national seminar convened in Jakarta echoed these concerns concluding that Papuans had been marginalized in their own land. One non-Papuan speaker noted the role of racist attitudes in Jakarta's dealings with Papuans. Passage of a new Sharia-based anti-pornography law reflecting exclusively Islamic values has prompted calls for secession by some Papuans and in other communities within the Indonesian archipelago where Islam is not the dominant religious confession.
Comment: These developments reflect the observation of a prominent Papuan academic who when asked if he considered himself an "Indonesian," responded, "that is the wrong question: the simple fact is that Indonesians do not consider me to be an Indonesian."

Thousands of Papuans Demonstrate Peacefully for Independence
On December 1, the day Papuans set aside to commemorate the interlude of Papuan independence between the end of Dutch colonialism and the Indonesian annexation. In Manokwari, AFP reports, approximately 2000 demonstrators marched carrying banners calling for independence. The demonstrators were peaceful, although police detained and beat one man who reportedly was carrying a banned "Morning Star" flag. In Nabire approximately 10,000 gathered peacefully for a prayer meeting under the watchful eyes of several hundred police and military personnel. A smaller group of approximately 700 Papuans demonstrated without incident near Jayapura. They gathered near the grave of Papua Presidium Council (PDP) head Theys Eluay who was strangled to death by TNI (special forces or "Kopassus") personnel in 2001. Speaking there (PDP) Secretary General Taha Alhamid, a Papuan Muslim, told the crowd: "We are poor and suffering on top of a land of wealth." "We are going to keep holding on until Papua is free." Papuans at this meeting concluded the demonstration with a call for independence and for closure of the Freeport mining complex and the BP oil and gas development at Bintuni Bay.

Approximately 300 Papuans also rallied in Jakarta.

Papuan Academics Call for Human Rights Court and Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Papua
According to a November 19 Cenderawasih Pos report, several Papuan academics have spoken out regarding the failure of the government to fulfill its obligations under the almost six-year-old "special autonomy" law to establish a human rights court or a "truth and reconciliation commission" in West Papua

Ferry Kareth SH said these two bodies were very important and warranted an immediate response to the demands of many people. Speaking specifically of the need for a commission, he drew attention in particular to the issue of West Papua's forced annexation by Indonesia under the guise of the 1969 fraudulent ‘Act of Free Choice.' "This is a question that must be understood in particular by the powers-that-be who all too frequently use authoritarian methods to handle issues in Papua," he said.

With regard to a human rights court he added, "a Human Rights Court should also be set up because, like it or not, the fact is that there have been many human rights violations in the past. The Court is needed in view of the practice of genocide, the disappearance of a number of groups or communities and the commission of crimes against humanity." He pointed out that the only trials to have been held so far took place in Makassar in South Sulawesi whereas the violations occurred in Papua.
Peaceful Demonstration Against Militarization of West Papua
The November 4 Cenderawasih Pos reports that scores of Papuans from the Coalition for Human Rights in Papua demonstrated in Jayapura in early November calling for removal of the Indonesian military (TNI) from West Papua. They demonstrated under the banner "End Militarism in Papua." They also called for space for democracy in West Papua and protested in particular against the actions taken by the military and police against their action on 20 October (see the October West Papua Report). The group also marched to the regional assembly (DPRP) offices demanding to know whether it supported the recent arrival of additional troops in West Papua. Among several speakers was Buchtar Tabuni who had helped organize the October 16 demonstrations welcoming the launch of the International Parliamentarians for West Papua, which was held in London October 15.

The Chairman of the DPRP, John Ibo spoke to the crowd and said that it was his intention to hold a forum for about the question of the troops now in Papua to which he would invite the commander of the XVII Military Command.

A statement that was read out during the demonstration made the following six demands:

1. End security force arrests and repressive actions which target peaceful actions by the Papuan people

2. Stop armed forces intervention into the university campus.

3. Take action against those responsible for the August 9 shooting of Opinus Tabuni and the October 20 beatings of Buchtar Tabuni and his colleagues.

4. Stop ongoing legal processes against Dewan Adat Papua Chair Forkorus Yaboisembut and other members of the board of the Dewan Adat.

5. Immediately halt the sending of both organic and non-organic troops to West Papua.

6. Launch a UN peace-keeping force to help solve the conflict in West Papua.

Papuan Threats to Secede Over Implementation of Sharia-based Law

Senior Papuan political leaders are among those Papuans who have threatened secession from Indonesia if the Muslim-dominated national government moves to implement an anti-pornography law that is based on Sharia law. The bill was approved by a large parliamentary majority October 30 although members of two parties walked out.

The predominantly Christian/Animist Papuan population with a culture distinct from that of the rest of the peoples in the Indonesian archipelago have long resisted as racist Jakarta-led efforts to reform Papuan culture, style of dress and artistic expression.

The law defines "pornography" broadly raising fears among Papuans and others that it could be abuse by law enforcement officials and Islamic militias such as the "Islamic Defenders Front" who operate in coordination with and under the patronage of the Indonesian military.

For many non-Muslims the new law has ominous implications. Time magazine (November 17 edition) cited Theophilus Bela, chairman of the Christian Communication Forum (not a Papuan), on the meaning of the legislation: "The law imposes the will of the majority that embrace Islam, is a form of religious discrimination and against the spirit of tolerance taught by the country's founders," says "It is an effort to divide the country."

In addition to Papuan protest, the leadership of three other provinces with significant non-Muslim populations, Bali, Yogyakarta and North Sulawesi, have announced that they will not enforce the law. Jakarta has yet to react to these challenges.

President Yudhoyono has 30 days in which to sign or veto the legislation after which it automatically becomes law. He must also issue implementing regulations to make the law effective.
Governor Suebu To Launch Anti-HIV/AIDS Campaign

According to the Cenderawasih Pos, November 19 November, governor of Papua, Barnabas Suebu believes that HIV/AIDS now poses a serious threat to the very existence of the Papuan people. Speaking at a meeting of Stake-Holders to Accelerate Efforts to Combat HIV/AIDS, the governor said that he was not dramatizing the problem and proposed that Papuans "declare war" on the disease,' he said. He said that would declare December 1 (World AIDS Day) he would declare a day to launch a massive movement among all Papuan people to combat AIDS and other diseases.

He said that the problem was largely the result of uninhibited sex, caused in the first place by the consumption of alcohol. He had therefore decided to prohibit the distribution of alcohol everywhere, except in hotels. "There must be no selling of alcohol in stalls or shops and the police have been instructed to ensure that this is implemented," he said. He also called for a crackdown on prostitution.

Suebu reported that the incidence of HIV in the Land of Papua in 2006 was 2.4 percent of the population of three million. The disease first appeared in Sorong where so far 700 people have died, in a population of 723,000.

Chairman of the committee, Constant Karma said that the disease accounts for 42 percent of the HIV and AIDS cases in Indonesia.

Governor Suebu Describes Implementation of Special Autonomy as "Chaotic"

Speaking at a seminar to review six years of Special Autonomy (OTSUS) at a seminar at Cenderawasih University in November, Governor Barnabas Suebu said that despite the passage of six years implementation of the law remains "very chaotic." He added that and not being used according to the objectives of the law. The Governor noted that OTSUS was introduced at a time when Papuan people were calling for independence. In response, the government introduced OTSUS "in an attempt to quell these aspirations."

The Governor acknowledged that in the wake of the failure to implement OTSUS many Papuans now favor independence, with some favoring special autonomy only as a preparatory path to full independence.

Substantiating his assertions the Governor noted that at a recent meeting of the Provincial Parliament (DPR) regarding the 2009 OTSUS budget, there were moves to cut back the Rp1 trillion allocation. In the end, the DPR agreed to reinstate the allocation. Nevertheless, the funds were not in fact effectively utilized. He explained that district-level administrations arrogate special autonomy money to themselves. A mid-2006 audit revealed that Rp 2 trillion was unaccounted for. "Papuans should not be living in poverty in the midst of the wealth of their surroundings. The fact is that very little of the OTSUS money is going down to the villages because most of it is being used by the bureaucracy."

The Governor sought to underscore the cost of the failure of Special Autonomy in human terms. A 2006 tour of districts he said revealed "widespread poverty and poor nutrition everywhere, especially among indigenous Papuans. Children of school age are not able to read or write. He described the situation as partly the result of the failure to implement key regulations or to establish controls on the expenditure of funds.

Separately a November 18 Kompas report quotes Governor Suebu as decrying standards of education in primary and secondary schools in Papua. He noted that particularly in the more remote regions as a consequence of an absence of teachers "education at primary and secondary level is in a state of collapse."

Suebu was specific about the failure of Jakarta to delegate authority need to implement Special Autonomy. He noted that, such as for instance the national forestry department had failed to delegate authority to stop illegal logging. Without the necessary regulations, forest products are now being auctioned off. "This is because the central authorities are unwilling to hand over these powers as stipulated in Special Autonomy law' he said.

Seminar Looks at Marginalization of Papuans; Racism Cited as One of Many Reasons For Failure to Enforce Human Rights in West Papua

A seminar which concluded November 26 in Jakarta concluded that the special autonomy law has made little difference to the socio-economic and political conditions of its indigenous people. The seminar which was titled, Building a National Support Constituency for the Fulfillment of Papuan Women's Rights was organized by the National Commission on Violence Against Women. Speakers cited the influx of migrants from outside West Papua as leading to the marginalization of the indigenous Papuan population.

Quoting a 2007 study by an Australian researcher, Lea Kanisia Mekiuw, of the Merauke Archbishop's Justice and Peace Secretariat, said the growth of the native Papuan population has fallen compared to that of the newcomers, sparking concerns that the indigenous people could lose their homeland to the latter. The study, conducted by University of Sydney’s Center for Peace and Conflict Studies said that the annual growth rate of native Papuans is only 1.67 percent, much slower than that of the non-native Papuans, which is 10.5 percent.

In 1971, the indigenous Papuans constituted 96 percent of the province's total population of 923,000 people. But in 2005, the proportion changed significantly to 59 percent of 2.65 million people. If the growth rates of the two groups continue at the same pace, Elmslie projected that in 2020, the ratio of native to non-native Papuans would stand at 30:70, and in 2030 the gap could be at 15:85.

Frederika Korain of Jayapura Bishopric's Justice and Peace Secretariat, speaking at the same event, said notwithstanding the figures cited above based on independent research, there were no official data on the proportion of native to non-native Papuans.

This could be an attempt by the local and central governments to conceal the real conditions of the native Papuans, she added.

She said the special autonomy law, enacted in 2001, also had failed to improve the social and cultural lives of indigenous Papuans. Eighty percent of native Papuans are living below the poverty line, with most local jobs granted to migrants instead of the typically poorly educated indigenous people, Frederika said. "Freeport (the U.S.-based copper and gold mine company operating in Papua) has been the country's biggest taxpayer since 1967, but 80 percent of native

Papuans still live in absolute poverty. Poverty pockets are evenly spread throughout almost all Papua regencies," she said at the seminar.

Mekiuw warned that millions of hectares of forests have been and more would soon be destroyed due to the operations of large mining, forestry and plantation firms. She also said that the 2007 split of the region into Papua and West Papua provinces had brought more negative impacts than benefits to the native Papuans, with many locals
being forced to compete with one another to find food to eat instead of sharing an area.

A November 27 Tempo Interactive cited Yenny Rosa Damayanti from the Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI) as noting at the gathering the role of race in policy making and implementation and popular attitudes towards Papuans:

"Because they (Papuans) have different skin color and hair, we feel that they are 'the others,' not family."

She added also that "people apply double standards regarding the military. Everyone rejects the military (being) in civilian areas, yet that are not serious about ending militarism in (West) Papua."

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