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West Papua Report

September 2009

This is the 64th 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

There were Indonesian security force attacks on Papuan civilians in August with reports of continuing assaults in Puncak Jaya and a new report from Yapen island where security forces terrorized villagers following security force murder of a tribal leader and former political prisoner. Amnesty -recognized prisoner of conscience Filep Karma has been hospitalized after a week's delay in medical attention at the notorious Abepura prison. The Australian Senate has called for a return of the Committee of the Red Cross to West Papua after Indonesian officials closed its offices there in the wake of an ICRC visit to Abepura prison this Spring. Despite the jailing of several Papuans alleged to have been behind July attacks in the area of the Freeport mining concession, attacks continued in August. Amnesty has issued a public statement decrying the lack of progress in the investigation of the murder of Papuan activist Opinus Tabuni. Officials of the Home Affairs Ministry have met with Papuans in a rare dialogue. The discussion falls far short of the senior-level, ly mediated dialogue that Papuans have been seeking for several years. More than a dozen organizations meeting in Dili have urged an end to impunity for Indonesian security forces operating in West Papua and for a positive Jakarta response to Papuan calls for dialogue. Senior Papuans, in a late August conference, have emphasized the failure of "special autonomy" to address Papuan needs. Conservation groups have joined together to create a protected region in the waters off West Papua's "bird's head" region.


Indonesian Military Forces Burn Homes and Churches in Puncak Jaya Region and in Yapen Island

Papuan sources are reporting Indonesian military attacks on civilians in remote regions of West Papua. These include continued attacks in the long-troubled Puncak Jaya region and reports of new attacks on Yapen island. The remoteness of these regions and Indonesian government restrictions on access by journalists and human rights officials generally in West Papua delays and limits the flow of information on these incidents. The following is known:

Indonesian military forces (TNI) on August 28 conducted a joint operation in Kalome village, Tingginambut district, Puncak Jaya regency. The Indonesian troops burned all the villages honay (traditional round houses) and two churches. The civilian casualty count resulting from this action is as yet not known. (See the June issue of the West Papua report for additional reporting regarding marauding Indonesian-military led "sweep" operations now ongoing in West Papua's central highlands region of Puncak Jaya.)


The remoteness of these regions and Indonesian government restrictions on access by journalists and human rights officials generally in West Papua delays and limits the flow of information on these incidents.

In recent months various sources have reported on tension in the area. Much of the tension arises from a rivalry between TNI personnel and the police which run or extort local businesses. Kopassus (Indonesian special forces), Kodim (regional command) and Brimob (the militarized police) are behind most of businesses in Tingginambut. Local people must pay high fees imposed by local security forces for essentials. In addition, there are huge illegal mining activities in the region which are run by or in collaboration with government security forces. Earlier this year a Brimob officer was shot to death in Tingginambut. Many observers doubted the official version that the armed Papuan opposition was responsible for the killing, suspecting instead that the killers were Brimob rivals from Kopassus.

In a second report, two sources on Yapen Island have reported that following the murder of Yawan Wayeni, a tribal leader and nine-year political prisoner during the Suharto dictatorship, in his house in Mantembu village. Following the August 2 murder of Wayeni by Brimob forces, Indonesian forces, on August 3, conducted what the troops described as a "shooting practice" in Mantembu, terrorizing villagers, mostly farmers. Reports claimed that soldiers arrived aboard two trucks several jeeps and dozens of motorcycles.

Yapen police chief Imam Setiawan said that his men had to shoot Yawan Wayeni because he was armed. "We had to shoot first after which we evacuated him to the hospital. He died during the trip to a local hospital. He was shot in the thigh and stomach," said Setiawan as quoted by the Cenderawasih Pos daily. Setiawan claimed that his men had seized a hand-made gun.

Travel to Yapen entails an eight-hour ferry ride from Biak Island. Biak itself is about one hour by air from Jayapura, the capital of Papua.

Inadequate Medical Response to Illness of Papuan Prisoner of Conscience
Filep Karma who is serving his sentence in the Abepura Prison in August was placed in the intensive care ward at the Dok Dua Hospital in Jayapura. After suffering intense abdominal pain for over one week he was finally transferred from the Abepura prison to the hospital on August 18. The transfer took place only after local a facebook and SMS campaign regarding his serious and deteriorating condition.
Karma, a West Papuan, was sentenced in 2008 to 15 years in prison for participation in a rally where the West Papuan national flag, the Morning Star was raised. That ceremony was a peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression. Amnesty and other human rights organizations regard Karma among the dozens of Papuan prisoners of conscience now in Indonesian custody. His case, and that of fellow prisoner of conscience Yusuf Pakage, was the subject of a U.S. Congressional letter to President Yudhoyono that was signed by 40 members of the U.S. Congress in 2008.
A Human Rights Watch report in June (see West Papua Report for July) reported on the abuse of prisoners in the Abepura Prison in West Papua. Its June 5 report, "Indonesia: Stop Prison Brutality in Papua," called on the Indonesian Government to "investigate and hold accountable abusive guards and officials at the Abepura prison in Papua." According to the report, "sources report that torture, beatings, and mistreatment by guards are rampant." HRW also noted that among the approximately 230 prisoners at the facility, "more than a dozen are imprisoned for peaceful political acts." In 2007, a United Nations special report also focused on abuse in Indonesian detention and noted particular serious abuse in facilities located in West Papua. In early 2009, Indonesian authorities ordered the Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to close its office in West Papua. The order followed an ICRC visit to prisoners in the Abepura prison.
Indonesian authorities resistance to concern about conditions in detention facilities in West Papua continues. On August 21 the Indonesian Foreign Affairs Ministry issued a statement that rejected calls for a restoration of the West Papua office of the Committee of the Red Cross. The previous Red Cross office was forced to shut and leave West Papua earlier this year after its staff members visited prisoners in jail in West Papua.

Australian Government Voices Concern Over Banning of ICRC in West Papua

An August 21 Radio Australia report noted that Australia's government has sent a quiet signal to Indonesia about mounting concern over human rights conditions in West Papua. The Rudd government -- facing accusations it's too quite on the issue - has allowed its Senators to support a motion in Parliament's upper house that calls for pressure from Canberra on Indonesia to allow the return of the Red Cross to West Papua.

The motion calls on the Australian government to urge Indonesia to allow the Red Cross full and unfettered access in West Papua. The Red Cross was forced to leave Papua in April after it made visits to jailed Papuan separatists. Indonesia claims the Red Cross operation in Papua breached its agreement with Jakarta. The Red Cross claims discussions with the Indonesian government are ongoing.
Attacks on Freeport Vehicles Continue in August Despite July Arrests
Despite the arrest of seven Papuans alleged to be behind the mid July attacks on Freeport personnel traveling on the Timika-Tembagapura road, attacks along that road have continued. (The 79 mile route connects the seaport town of Timika to Freeport's Grassberg mine complex.) On August 12 an employee bus was attacked. No one was injured or died as a result of this incident. On August 16 a convoy of Freeport's buses was attacked despite a police/military escort. Six employees were injured in this incident. On August 26, unknown persons cut the Freeport mine pipe at Mile 63 on the route. On August 28, a gun battle took place between Brimob personnel and an unknown group at Mile 41. Military and police personnel exchanged fire for about five to ten minutes at mile 42 -- 42 along the main road connecting Timika and Tembagapura. The shooting was sparked by gunfire at a bus carrying workers from security post at mile 50 to Timika.


The four-decade old Freeport mining complex has long been the source of protest among Papuans who have seen mine-related devastation
of their environment and displacement of Papuans from their homes. Indonesian security forces paid by Freeport have regularly violated the human rights of local Papuans.

On August 27 a Tempo Interactive report noted that Freeport would henceforth provide an armored vehicle accompaniment for convoys operating within the mine concession territory and that Freeport drivers would be provided with bullet proof vests and helmets. The Freeport action came in response to demands by drivers for better protection.
The August developments have added mystery to the tense environment surrounding the U.S.-based Freeport operation, the largest copper and gold mine in the world. The four-decade old mining complex has long been the source of protest among Papuans who have seen mine-related devastation
of their environment and displacement of Papuans from their homes. Indonesian security forces paid by Freeport have regularly violated the human rights of local Papuans.
The August attacks also raise a fundamental question of justice regarding those Papuans jailed for the July attacks. Charges against them in July appear to be refuted by the continuing attacks in August.

In late August, the TNI announced that 600 military personnel would take up security duties for the Freeport facility beginning September 2. Many analysts had speculated that the July-August shootings in the vicinity of the Freeport concession may have had the goal of creating instability with the ultimate intention of re-establishing TNI's lead role for provision of security in the area, a role that had been highly lucrative for the TNI over several decades.
Amnesty Statement Decries Lack of Progress in Investigation of Murdered Peaceful Papuan Protester

An August 11 Public statement by Amnesty decried the failure of Indonesian officials to make progress in the investigation of the killing of Papuan protester Opinus Tabuni, one year after the incident. The statement noted that the absence of progress in the investigation underscored the continued lack of accountability in cases involving the lethal use of firearms by law enforcement officials.

Opinus Tabuni, aged 35, was part of a peaceful rally celebrating United Nations Indigenous People's Day on 9 August 2008 in Wamena, West Papua. Also present was the Indonesian police and other security forces. At the end of the rally some members of the crowd raised the United Nations flag, the Indonesian flag, an SOS flag saying Papuan people are in danger and the banned 'Morning Star' flag, regarded by Indonesian authorities as a symbol of the Papuan separatist movement.

Low-Level Dialogue Between Papuans and Indonesian Government Officials

At an August 20 meeting between Papuan leaders and Indonesian government officials Papuans sought to explain Papuans' continuing quest for independence in the face of years of inadequately implemented "special autonomy."

Papuans urged the central government officials to cease simply "stigmatizing" Papuans as "separatists" and instead begin to seek out "the root of the problem."

Papuans described the growing social gap between state officials and Papuans at the grassroots level since the implementation of special autonomy. One Papuan leader explained that "Special autonomy funds have been distributed to Papuans, but officials are the only ones who have benefited from them. We don't know where the funds have gone to, but we can see that officials are getting richer, their homes are becoming more lavish and some own three private cars."

The central government officials were mid-level officials included Home Ministry's Sociopolitical Affairs Director General, Ahmad Tanribali Lamo, deputy at the Coordinating Ministry for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, Maj. Gen. Karseno, and director of conflict mitigation at the Sociopolitical Affairs Directorate General, Sr. Comr. Widiyanto. The officials pledged to convey the Papuans' concerns to the Home Minister.

The meeting was an unusual, positive example of dialogue between the central government and Papuans. It represented at best a small step in the direction of the growing Papuan demand, backed by the community, for a senior level, ly mediated dialogue between the Indonesian Government and Papuans.

Call for End to Impunity in West Papua at Conference in Dili

At an conference in Dili to mark the tenth anniversary of Timor-Leste's independence referendum from Indonesia, organizations from 18 countries called for an end to impunity for the perpetrators of the killings of Papuan political leaders and human rights activists. The more than 200 people from solidarity groups, including a majority of Timorese from civil society organizations, sought to develop proposals to address issues of concern in West Papua and elsewhere.

The conference highlighted the need for accountability for security forces involved in the killings of Papuan leaders and activists - including Arnold Ap, Opinus Tabuni and Theys Eluay. The participants urged a peaceful dialogue between the government of Indonesia and representatives of the people of Papua. The conferees also urged Jakarta to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the implementation of Special Autonomy in Papua region and open its results to public. The conference also demanded the release of all Papuan political prisoners.

See also

Addressing the Moribund "Special Autonomy" Policy

An August 29-30 conference convened in West Papua to discuss growing instability and protest in West Papua. At the conference Yusak Yaluwo, a West Papua District chief who led President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's campaign team in Papua for the July presidential election urged the government to pay more attention to West Papua where he said conditions were becoming "more and more precarious."

Yaluwo noted that for Papuans "special autonomy" has not improved economic livelihood, health and education, because a large portion of the program's funding had gone into the pockets of local elites and the bureaucracy, He added that "special autonomy" had generated a "growing social disparity between elites and the common people at grassroots levels.," He concluded that secessionism remained because poverty and marginalization were still major issues. Yaluwo urged President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono form a joint board, composed of representatives of the central government, the two provincial administrations, churches, civil society groups and informal leaders from the Papuan Customary Council (DAP). He proposed that the board over a five year period would seek to "revitalize" special autonomy and evaluate the special autonomy program each year with a focus on "obstacles in its implementation."

He said government representatives on the board would provide feedback to the central government and provincial administrations on what should be done. Yusak also urged provincial authorities to speed up the issuance of special and provincial bylaws to boost development in all sectors in the two provinces.

Meanwhile, Reverend Neles Tebay, a senior official of the Jayapura Archdiocese, spoke against the proposed board noting that West Papua did not lack institutions or agencies and that the key problem was that the government had no political commitment to special autonomy in Papua. "Funding is not the only factor. The government has not shown political commitment to issuing special and provincial bylaws to bring about special autonomy," he said. No grand designs have been made on what should be achieved in the short, middle and long terms under special autonomy. With the lack of supervision, local elites have been free to enrich themselves and their groups, he said.
Prominent NGO's Join Forces to Protect "Bird's Head" Region
Conservation -Indonesia, The Nature Conservancy and WWF-Indonesia have joined forces to establish a "joint-secretariat" for the "Bird's Head Seascape." The collaboration is meant to protect a region which spans the area from Cenderawasih Bay in the east, Raja Ampat in the west to Fakfak in the south. According to a recent study by Conservation Indonesia, the area has 1,511 species of fish and 600 types of reefs and newly discovered endemic reefs.

For many years reefs and fish populations in Papuan waters have been severely damaged by unlicensed fishing operations which operate despite or in collusion with Indonesian security forces in the area charged with protecting those waters.

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