The Chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment, Rep. Eni Faleomavaega (D-AS), along with the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health, Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ) sent a joint letter to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono November 9 calling on him to create an internationally-mediated commission to establish a dialogue between the national government of Indonesia and the leaders of West Papua.
In the letter, the Congressmen noted that dozens of prominent leaders and organizations in West Papua, as well as key Indonesian leaders and intellectuals support such a dialogue, which would be analogous to one successfully held in Aceh province. The letter urges the Indonesian President "to seize the opportunity provided by these developments to establish a similar process for West Papua."
"We believe that such a process would build on important steps Indonesia has taken in recent years, such as [Indonesia's] accession to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In becoming a signatory to that agreement, Indonesia clearly expressed its commitment to establishing legal protections for indigenous citizens, including Papuans." the letter states.
"A national dialogue initiated by an internationally-mediated commission could work to improve enforcement of that law and better the daily lives of average Papuans by, for example, increasing the availability of electricity and fresh water, enhancing public health programs to prevent malaria and other treatable diseases, and upgrading the public education system to levels found in most of the rest of Indonesia," the letter continues.
"A national dialogue would also present an opportunity to resolve other important issues in West Papua long viewed with concern by Members of Congress and the international community. These include human rights abuses, demographic shifts leaving many Papuans as minorities in their own land, limits on freedom of speech and peaceful assembly, restrictions on the free movement of Papuans within Indonesia, and constraints on international journalists, researchers, and those in nongovernmental organizations seeking to visit or work in West Papua."
"It is our sincere hope that you will establish an internationally-mediated commission to initiate a dialogue bringing together nationally-respected leaders of your government and of West Papua. We believe this is the moment to begin such a process. A serious national dialogue will enhance the welfare of the people of West Papua, demonstrate Indonesia's commitment to democracy and justice for all its citizens, and enhance your country's growing stature on the global stage," the letter concludes.
Plans to Expand TNI Forces in West Papua Meets Resistance
The Jakarta Post, November 12, 2009, reported that the Indonesian military (TNI) has announced that new military commands are to be established in West Papua and Kalimantan. The report explained that the step was intended to "revitalize the much-criticized territorial function." Over many decades the TNI has utilized the concept of the "territorial function" to exert influence over local political and economic matters.
There are currently 12 regional military commands across the country. A military command covers one or more provinces, oversees military offices in regencies and municipalities, districts and subdistricts and into remote areas. West Papua is currently is part of the Trikora Military Command
Following the popular overthrow of the dictator Suharto, a key element of reform of the military, the dictator's power base, was to reduce the number of "military commands" from 20 to 12. The commands exercised their "territorial authority," as the Jakarta Post notes "to abuse human rights and curtail democracy during the New Order era."
The announcement of the new commands has drawn strong criticism: A November 26 Jakarta Globe report noted that an assembly of West Papua's cultural leaders on November 24 rejected plans for a new military command. Yance Kayame, a member of the Papuan Peoples’ Assembly (MRP), said “Papua does not need two military commands,” Kayame said. “What the Armed Forces could do is optimize the one currently in place.” Two other members of the MRP, a group of Papuan tribal leaders also opposed the plan. Hana Hikoyabi, the assembly’s deputy chairman, said adding that an additional military command was not urgently needed in Papua and that programs addressing social issues of poverty and the overall development of the province were much more relevant. Jhon Rustan, another MRP member, said the military command in Jayapura was already suffering from a budget shortfall. “That problem has affected the way the military command has functioned in Papua,” Jhon said.
Meanwhile, outside West Papua there other dissenters. The executive director of the Indonesian Institute for Strategic and Defense Studies (Lesperssi), Rizal Darma Putra, said the expansion was not necessary because the country was not facing any serious external threat. Darma Putra, quoted in the Jakarta Post noted that “(T)he expansion will require the Defense Ministry to spend more money out of its already limited budget,” he said. He continued: “The Defense Ministry will be required to invest in unnecessary personnel, equipment, weapons, buildings and vehicles for the territorial expansion. I don’t think they are necessary. Why don’t they spend the money on improving soldiers’ social welfare?” he said.
The research coordinator of the Indonesian Human Rights Monitor (Imparsial), Al Araf, also was critical of the step noting said the expansion was not necessary because it would create a functional overlap with the police.
There was no indication that either Papuan officials or Papuan civil society leaders were consulted about the expansion of TNI forces in West Papua. For over a decade Papuans have urged the demilitarization of West Papua as a means of ending TNI human rights abuse, corruption and impunity before the law. In the past expansion of the TNI force presence in West Papua has been funded by tapping "Special Autonomy" funds supposedly intended for development in West Papua.
Activists Press for Action on Stalled Human Rights Abuse Crimes
On November 17, the Jakarta Globe reported growing pressure from rights activists on the Indonesian government to act on long-overdue human rights abuses cases. Specifically, the activists called on the government to push the police regarding long-stalled investigations of a number of human rights violations in Papua, particularly the murder of Opinus Tabuni, who was killed in August 2008 in Wamena, West Papua as he participated in a peaceful political ceremony which celebrated the United Nations International Day of the World's Indigenous people.
The Globe reported that Haris Azhar, deputy chairman of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), said that nothing significant had been turned up in police investigations into the murder of Opinus, an investigation that is nearly one year old. “The government should take a stance in terms of legal enforcement in this case, and other human rights violations," Haris said. Though an internal police inquiry is being conducted into the case, Haris said a criminal investigation was necessary.
An investigation team from the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas-HAM) found that local military and intelligence officers were present at the incident. Ridha Saleh, deputy chairman of Komnas-HAM, said Komnas-HAM had already handed over results of its investigation into the Tabuni murder, along with the commission’s recommendations, to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the National Police.
Haris also said the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) had received reports of violence perpetrated by police officers against people holding peaceful demonstrations in Papua including a police attack on a peaceful demonstration of taxi operators and a local Legal Aid Institute in Bau Bau city, Papua. The October attack injured six protesters.
Making a broader point regarding impunity for security force abuse, Haris argued that “Papuans will always be targeted through such violent acts if the attacks are not seriously investigated by security agencies.”
Jonathan Pearlman, writing November 21 in the Sydney Morning Herald, has revealed new insights into the detention of Papuans purportedly involved in the shooting of Drew Grant, an Australian, national near the Freeport-McMoran mine in West Papua. The report underscores how closely the case parallels the 2002 killings of U.S. and Indonesian citizens in the same area. As in the 2002 case, local Papuans have been rounded up, severely mistreated in police custody and made scapegoats in what increasingly appears to have been a security force operation.
Pearlman offers new details and updates the plight of the Papuan scapegoats following the July murder of the Australian (the following is an abbreviated version of the original report which can be read in full at http://www.smh.com.au/world/death-in-papua-political-intrigue-clouds-miners-murder-20091120-iqud.html.
Human Rights Watch (HRW), in a November 18 news release, called on the Indonesian Government to release from custody three Papuans convicted on November 12 for a peaceful political protest during which the Papuan morning star flag was raised. On November 12, a Manokwari district court convicted Roni Ruben Iba, Isak Iba, and Piter Iba, members of the Iba clan of makar (rebellion), for raising a pro-independence flag on January 1 outside the Bintuni Bay district government office near Manokwari, in West Papua province.
At their trial, HRW noted, the defendants said they had been mistreated during the arrest and at the Bintuni Bay police station. They said that police at the station kicked them, beat them, and used a rifle butt to strike them on their heads and bodies. The court sentenced Roni Ruben Iba, a hotel security officer, to three years in prison, while Isak Iba, a civil servant, and Piter Iba, a farmer, received two years each.
The HRW statement, which specifically called for President Yudhoyono to uphold free expression, noted that Indonesian courts have long treated the raising of flags associated with pro-independence sentiment as a symbol of sovereignty and, as such, a banned form of expression. Human Rights Watch said that the prosecutions violate internationally protected rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly codified in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Indonesia ratified in 2006.
Human Rights Watch said such arrests are likely to intensify around December 1. In 1961, under Dutch rule, an elected council consisting mostly of indigenous Papuans commissioned the creation of a national anthem and flag. On December 1, 1961, the Morning Star flag was flown beside the Dutch tricolor for the first time. Indonesia took control over Papua with United Nations recognition in 1969.
Indonesian Military Reported Abducting Papuan Children
News of a program to remove Papuan children from West Papua to Java is beginning to receive limited media attention. According to Okezione.com, approximately 200 children may have been removed from the central highlands town of Wamena.
One case cites a 12 year old boy, who was placed in an orphanage in Bintaro, a Jakarta suburb, by police in November 2009.
He reportedly was taken from Wamena in 2002 aboard a military cargo plane and now works as a beggar-street child in Bintaro area in Tangerang. Police arrested him for stealing.
According to Fauzan, he was initially sent to an Islamic boarding school in Bogor, but later transferred to one in Jombang, near Bintaro. He ran away from the school in 2007. Fauzan is currently one of nine Papuan children now living on the street. Reportedly, seven of them ran away from school.
Similar accounts have surfaced from time to time, notably by reliable sources associated with the Papuan "Kingmi" church. These reports often portrayed the Indonesian military as involved with several Muslim clerics who have sought to send these children to Java for "education."
The Indonesian military routinely abducted Timorese children from East Timor during the military's long bloody rule there. Some of these abducted children were trained to serve military intelligence interests and subsequently reinserted into East Timor.
New Mistreatment of Papuan Prisoners
Reliable sources have provided information regarding new violence directed at detained political prisoners. In Jayapura, four prisoners beat Buchtar Tabuni, a political prisoner, on November 26. Tabuni reportedly bled from wounds to face, head and mouth. Tabuni was not afforded medical treatment for his wounds. Buchtar Tabuni told international media that the four prisoners who attacked him included Samsul Bactri, Yansen Korwa and Robby. They are incarcerated soldiers. The other prisoner is a police officer named David Ongge. The four prisoners are “tampin” or “prisoners assigned to help prison guards.” The security officers are jailed for petty crimes.
In a separate incident, a November 24 protest outside of the Doyo Baru prison in West Papua by local people demanded compensation for land purportedly taken from them by prison officials. During the protest, three prisoners escaped.
This prompted prison guards to lock all gates in the building. In addition, Angki Madou, a prison guard, beat three prisoners from Papua New Guinea. He used a chair to beat John Kris, John Alfons and Raimon Moses. He also smashed their heads into a wall.