etmnlong.gif (2291 bytes) spacer

West Papua Report

May 2009

This is the 60th 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

A WPAT member spoke before a U.S. Congressional panel about threats to the environment and to human rights in West Papua. U.S.-based human rights groups ETAN and WPAT urged the U.S. Government to move beyond the failed formula of "special autonomy" to address the growing human rights crisis in West Papua. Their appeal came in response to Secretary of State Clinton's call at a Congressional hearing for a "degree of autonomy" for Papuans. April saw a marked increase in violence and repressive action by security forces in West Papua. The report offers a brief chronology of the violence. Several U.S. human rights organizations signed a public letter to leading U.S. legislators urging an investigation of the violence and U.S. support for an internationally facilitated dialogue on West Papua. That call echoed a similar appeal for an investigation of the violence by Papuan church and civil society leaders. The Indonesian government has expelled the International Committee of The Red Cross (ICRC) from West Papua. The expulsion came following an ICRC visit to Papuan political prisoners, though the Indonesian Foreign Ministry maintained that was not the reason for the expulsion.


West Papua Advocacy Team member spoke before the U.S. Congressional human rights commission

WPAT's Octo Mote spoke before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (formerly the Congressional Human Rights Caucus) on April 28. In his remarks he emphasized the threats to the environment and to human rights in West Papua posed by Indonesian Government policies and by military-backed exploitation of Papuan resources by major corporations. He noted that logging, mining and fishing operations were particularly injurious and singled out U.S. mining giant Freeport-McMoran as among the most damaging. Mote explained that Indonesian Government polices, particularly Jakarta's "transmigration" policy had marginalized the Papuan population, bringing over 500,000 people into West Papua until the program's termination in 1999. Recently, Jakarta announced the re-establishment of the program. Under Jakarta's "Special Autonomy" approach, the government has created 24 new Districts, an approach which has generated "spontaneous migration" of non Papuans into West Papua to assume newly created bureaucratic positions and to take advantage of new "development" funding. The creation of the new districts also has increased the militarization of West Papua as military units are established in each new district.

Mote emphasized that Papuans have no means to defend themselves against government-backed encroachment on their lands and rights. He noted that two West Papuan Governors, Admiral (ret.) Numberi and current Governor Suebu both sought to limit environmental destruction by commercial "developers" only to be over-ruled by the Jakarta government. He also explained that the Jakarta government has largely ignored the Papuan People's Assembly (MRP) which it has sought to stigmatize as "separatist." The body, which was authorized in 2001 "Special Autonomy" legislation, was established after a delay of four years and immediately ran afoul of the Jakarta government after it refused to endorse the division of West Papua into several provinces.

Asked by panel chairman Congressman James McGovern (D-MA) to comment on Freeport, Mote elaborated that firm's long record of abuse and close ties to the Indonesian military. Mote urged investigation of the recently resumed payments by the firm to the military as well as the 2002 murder of two U.S. and one Indonesian citizen on property controlled by the firm and the military. Due to obstruction by then TNI territorial commander (now President) Susilo Yudhoyono, the killings were never fully investigated with initial police reports of military involvement ignored in subsequent FBI investigations and in court proceedings which led to the jailing, Mote noted, of several innocent Papuans.

Mote urged U.S. support for an internationally facilitated dialogue between Jakarta and Papuans and for opening West Papua to access by international humanitarian and human rights officials, journalists, researchers and others. He explained that West Papua is the only region In Indonesia which lacks respect for the right of freedom of expression and noted that more than 20 Papuans are currently incarcerated for the attempt to exercise this right.

see also

Joint Statement by West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) and East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) on U.S. Policy and West Papua

In an appearance before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Secretary of State Clinton spoke about the human rights crisis in West Papua, acknowledging the "many human rights abuses" there. She emphasized that West Papua was part of a "sovereign Indonesia," and said West Papua needed support "in its efforts to have a degree of autonomy within Indonesia."

In an April 26 joint statement ETAN and WPAT noted that the Indonesian Government has failed to implement the long-promised "special autonomy" for West Papua and that as a consequence Papuans have overwhelmingly rejected the concept. Instead, the statement noted, Papuans have demanded an internationally-facilitated dialogue with the central government to address key issues, including demilitarization of West Papua, an end to security-force intimidation, the release of political prisoners, and the right to self-determination.

The statement called on the U.S. government to apply meaningful pressure on the Indonesian government and its security forces to press for an internationally-facilitated, senior level dialogue between the Indonesian Government and Papuans, including Papuan civil society. They also called for the U.S. to seek an end to restrictions that prevent the international community from monitoring human rights developments and the welfare of Papuans in West Papua. Finally the statement urged the U.S. government to seek fundamental reform of the Indonesian security forces by conditioning assistance to the Indonesian military, Brimob, Indonesia's intelligence agencies on real reform, human rights accountability and demonstrated respect for people of West Papua. (see for full text of statement)

Pre-Election Violence in West Papua

In the period immediately preceding April 13 national Parliamentary elections there was an explosion of violence in West Papua. Facts associated with a number of the incidents remain obscure. There is evidence that some of the violence was provoked by elements with ties to the security forces. There follows a rough chronology of the major incidents:

(Pre-April context for violence: On 4 December 2008, police used disproportionate and excessive force against Papuan Kingmi church protestors. On 29 January 2009, police violently dispersed a demonstration calling for local elections to be held without delay in Nabire. In both cases, police kicked and beat the demonstrators with rattan sticks and rifle butts. Rubber bullets were also used, injuring at least four in the first case and five in the second. Amnesty International is not aware of any investigation into these incidents.)

Early April rally in Nabire in support of the ILWP.  

April 3 Thousands of Papuans stage a peaceful demonstrations in Jayapura and Nabire calling for a referendum on Papuans' political future; celebrating the formation of the International Lawyers for West Papua (ILWP) group and also demanding the release of Papuan political prisoners. The demonstrations are organized in part by the National Committee for West Papua which on march 30 established a tent base camp near Nabire for the purpose of organizing the demonstrations there.

April 3 Brimob raid the Dewan Adat Papua (DAP) office in Jayapura. During the raid Police destroy a computer and other equipment and seize a number of documents. The police claim to have confiscated two firearms from the office. Police hold 15 people overnight. Some are released the next day and told to report regularly to police. Facing charges are: Mako Tabuni (also known as Musa Tabuni), Serafin Diaz, and Yance Motte. The three men will face charges of makar (subversion), under Article 106 of the Penal Code, for which the maximum penalty is 20 years imprisonment, and under Article 160 for incitement. They are accused of pursing the aim of separating part of the territory of Indonesia. Police chief Bagus Ekodanto claims the men were arrested for their involvement in a demonstration at several locations in Abepura and outside the provincial assembly building (DPRP) in Jayapura on 10 March 2009. The men had reportedly called for a referendum in West Papua and urged Papuans not to vote in the April 9 Parliamentary elections.

April 3 Police arrest two political activists from Jayapura.

April 6 TNI and Brimob raid and destroy a tent base camp of the National Committee for West Papua at a site just outside Nabire. In the assault, one Papuan was shot and killed; six Papuans were arrested.

April 6 Brimob open fire on a protest demonstration by hundreds in Nabire injuring at least seven people. According to local sources, four of the wounded are taken to the hospital in critical condition, including a 10 year-old student who was shot as he was returning from school. A police officer is also injured by an arrow. The approximately 200 demonstrators had called for the boycott of upcoming parliamentary elections and investigations into past human rights violations in Papua. They also celebrated the launch of the International Lawyers for West Papua (ILWP) in Guyana in early April 2009.

Amnesty International's Isabelle Arradon noted this is not the first incident in the town and there should be an independent investigation. "It is the third demonstration since September 2008 where some demonstrators in Nabire have been shot by police," she said. "According to the eyewitnesses those six people are the militias ... from Indonesia's security forces who have used the situation to trigger conflicts between demonstrators and the police," she said. But the footage clearly shows uniformed officers working with other men dressed in civilian clothes. (ASA 21/012/2009, 7 April 2009 "Indonesia: Police Head must investigate excessive use of force by Nabire Police") AI notes "This is the third reported incident of such abuses by the Nabire police force since December 2008." WPAT notes there is eye-witness reporting that the violence was orchestrated by provocateurs employed by the Indonesian military.

April 7 Authorities arrest Markus Haluk, secretary-general of the Leadership Council of the Association of Students from the Central Highlands, on charges of spreading information and provocation for calling for a boycott of the election in Papua.

April 8 at 11pm, rumors circulate that a member of the police force had been stabbed by an unidentified person near Youfeta Market, Abepura. In response, the police conduct sweeps along the main roads.

April 8 Bombs explode near a bridge between PNG and West Papua. Subsequent police statements claimed that this bomb and one found near the Abepura police station (see below) were both composed of TNT and, the police contended, therefore indicated a common perpetrator group.

April 8 An explosion and fire at a Biak Refinery kills one person. There is speculation the incident may have been an accident.

April 8 Three migrant ojek drivers are stabbed to death in Wamena.

April 8-9 Unidentified people numbering possibly up to 100 assault the Abepura police station. Police shot one of the attackers dead and injured four. Attackers, according to police, used bows and arrows and "bombs"

April 9 at 2.30am, the Rector's Building at Cendrawasih University suffers an arson attack by unidentified people. Police conducted sweeps which result in the arrest of eight students at the Minmin Students Mess, one of whom sustains gunshot wounds. Damage in the fire is limited to one floor.

April 10 An Avia Star cargo plane carrying election materials crashes in West Papua killing six government officials.

April 11-12 Fighting erupts at PNG-West Papua border involving TNI and Papuan resistance fighters. Unconfirmed reports contended that six TNI personnel and five Papuan fighters are killed. The fighting is centered at the border town of Wutung (PNG town) and at Batas, the actual border crossing point. One report contends that Papuan fighters may have shot down a military aircraft, apparently a helicopter. Other reports claim that Papuans destroyed a bridge. The TNI torches many houses in the area, leaving hundreds homeless. The border is reportedly closed as is the Batas market.

April 12 Police claim to find "bombs" near Abepura police station.

April 12 Another migrant ojek driver in Wamena is stabbed to death.

April 14 Media report 38 prisoners escape from a Wamena detention facility, five are immediately recaptured.

April 14 At 10 PM a fire is reported at Provincial Election Committee Headquarters in Jayapura. The fire may have been caused by an electoral fault, though arson is not ruled out. Possibly due to the fire, Jayapura suffers electrical blackout for two hours. The following day, the police announce that 200 additional police personnel were being brought into West Papua.

April 15 A police convoy in Tingginambut in the Pucak Jaya is attacked. One policeman is killed and six are wounded. Police blame the attack on the OPM. Police announce that 80 Brimob personnel will be deployed to the area from outside of West Papua.

April 16 A fire at the State Junior College in Wamena destroys a lab, a warehouse and three classrooms.

U.S. Groups Call For U.S. Government Action in Context of Escalating Repression and Violence in West Papua

On April 9, in the wake of escalating repression of human rights and violence in West Papua, several U.S. groups called on the U.S. Government to act. Land Is Life, the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) and the West Papua Advocacy Team wrote to leaders of the House and Senate Foreign Affairs Committees expressing their deep concern. The groups noted in part that Indonesian government forces had targeted peaceful protesters and that the repression followed a series of arrests of dissenters under charges of "subversion" and "incitement," colonial era laws that had been widely criticized by human rights organizations. The organizations called for investigations of the repression and the increased violence, urged the U.S. government to press Indonesian officials to protect human rights and called on the U.S. government to press for an internationally facilitated dialogue between senior Indonesian officials and Papuans, including Papuan civil society leaders. (see  for text of the statement)

Papuan Church Leaders Call for Investigation of Pre-election Violence

Papuan Church land civil society leaders have called for investigations regarding the identity of perpetrators of a spate of pre-election violence in West Papua. Their call echoes concerns raised by Papuan and international observers who cite first-hand accounts of provocateurs with ties to the security forces as instigating some of the violence, such as in Nabire on April 6.

Similarly, observers were dubious of national police claims that nine bombs found at three locations were likely the work of Papuan resistance fighters. The police claimed that all the bombs were composed of TNT and ammonium nitrate but lacked detonators. It is doubtful that any of the OPM would have access to these materials in sufficient volume or be able to coordinate placement in all the locations where the bombs were reportedly discovered. The police contention that all lacked detonators similarly rang untrue to observers. Other possible explanations for the bombs include an attempt to manufacture a security crisis without causing severe death and destruction, an attempt to frame the OPM, or a combination of these motives.

The Indonesian Government Expels the International Committee of the Red Cross from West Papua

The Indonesian government on April 23 expelled the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) from West Papua. The Indonesian action followed a visit by ICRC officials to Papuan political prisoners. A Foreign Ministry spokesperson claimed, however, that the closure of the office was not because of the prisoner visit but rather was because the ICRC was operating illegally because it did not have permission to be in West Papua. Citing the ICRC's 1977 and 1987 agreements with the government, the spokesperson contended that the ICRC was only allowed to use its Jakarta office as a "regional headquarters" for its work in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Foreign Ministry spokesperson added that there was no longer any need for human rights abuse monitoring in Indonesia.

The Indonesian government in the past has worked closely with the ICRC in West Papua. The Indonesian military used the ICRC as a go-between in an attempt to secure release of hostages taken by the armed Papuan resistance in 1996. When the nearly successful effort foundered over a dispute among senior Indonesian military and political figures as to who would get credit for a release which the ICRC had brokered, the Indonesian military, under the leadership of then General Prabowo, sabotaged the deal. Several Papuans villages were killed in a botched military raid aimed at freeing the hostages. The hostages subsequently escaped, except for one who was killed.

The ICRC office in Aceh will also close.


Back issues of West Papua Report

Support ETAN's 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 |