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West Papua Report

April 2010

This is the 71st 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

The lightly-armed Papuan resistance organization (OPM) expressed public support for a internationally mediated dialogue between Papuans and the Indonesian government. The announcement indicates broad unity among Papuans for a peaceful approach to resolving Papuans' myriad problems with Jakarta. In late March, Papuan demonstrators in various Papuan cities met a mixed response from police who at times used repression against the uniformly peaceful protests. The trial of Victor Yiemo began. The activist stands accused of "rebellion" under Indonesia's infamous Article 106. The Indonesian military announced plans, not yet approved by the civilian government, to significantly augment its presence in West Papua. The plan stands in stark contrast to broad Papuan calls for demilitarizing their homeland. Environmentalists have pointed to new problems with government plans to develop a massive food estate in the area of Merauke. In its annual assessment of human rights in Indonesia in 2009, the U.S. Department of State chronicles many of the cases of rights abuse, usually at the hands of the security forces, but inexplicably ignores a key June 2009 Human Rights Watch report which detailed extensive Kopassus abuse of Papuans, as well as decades of Indonesian government failure to extend health, education and other basic services to Papuans. The International Crisis Group (ICG) issued a report on West Papua which seeks to assign blame for growing violence to individual Papuan groups rather than acknowledge deteriorating human rights and humanitarian conditions. Some media reports of the analysis, abetted by an ICG official's comments, mischaracterize the report's assessment of who is to blame for recent violence in the area of the Freeport-McMoran mine. A recent violent incident in the Puncak Jaya region has local people on edge.



If such a dialogue takes place, the most important problem to discuss is the flawed integration - not special autonomy - development, money or formation of new regions which will create new conflicts.

OPM Calls for Internationally Mediated Dialogue between Papuans and Indonesian Government

The military wing of the Free Papua Movement (TPN-OPM) announced on March 13 that it would support internationally mediated dialogue(preferably by the UN) between Papuans and the Indonesian central government. The statement specifically offered support for plans proposed separately by Papuan Catholic Priest Neles Tebay and the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI).

In commenting on the new position, the leader of the military wing, General Thadius Jhoni Kimema Jopari Magai Yogi, explained that Papuan leader Theys Eluay had always supported peaceful resolution of outstanding issues between Jakarta and Papuans. The rebels only again took up arms after the 2001 torture murder of Theys Eluay by Indonesian special forces (Kopassus), after a "conducive period" during the tenure of late president Abdurrahman Wahid.

In the statement the rebels said: "We will magnanimously accept any outcome of such a dialogue. If such a dialogue takes place, the most important problem to discuss is the flawed integration, not special autonomy, development, money or formation of new regions which will create new conflicts. TPN-OPM members who have long resided in the jungles, valleys, coasts and mountains, affirm that if any Papuan participates in talks when the mediator is [former Indonesian Vice President] Jusuf Kalla they will be deemed traitors to our cause."

(Comment:  Kalla who has been rumored for a role in a dialogue was a central player in the 2005 agreement between GAM, the Aceh independence movement, and the Indonesian Government. That agreement, which was internationally mediated, has been incompletely implemented with the Indonesian Government failing to set up a human rights court or a truth and reconciliation commission as required by the 2005 final agreement.)
Police Interfere with One Demonstration, Allow Others to Proceed 

Indonesia police arrested 26 of West Papua on peaceful rally.


Indonesia police arrested 26 people of West Papua on peaceful rally to demand referendum.


On March 22 the Indonesian police used force to break up a rally in Jayapura sponsored by the West Papua National Committee (KNPB). It was the second protest KNPB had organized within a week and was aimed at communicating Papuan concerns to President Obama before his visit to Indonesia, now set for June. Demonstrations were also held in several other cities, including Sorong, Manokwari, Wamena and Serui. All the demonstrations were peaceful. Organizers in Jayapura had obtained a permit but police there fired their weapons to disperse the crowd and arrested 15 Papuans.

All but two of the peaceful demonstrators detained by the police in Jayapura were released. Mara Koyoga and Linus Pagawe were formally charged for alleged possession of "sharp implements." The two will face charges under Law 12/1951 regarding possession of weapons. They face a maximum of 20 years in prison.

All the demonstrations were coordinated by the KNPB. Buchtar Tabuni, chair of the KNPB, is serving a three-and-a-half year sentence in Abepura Prison. He reportedly said that the peaceful demonstration had taken place according to the organization's intentions. "They are taking place according to my directives. If the police need any clarifications, they should ask me," he said.

At least one Papuan official, the deputy chairman of the provincial legislative assembly (DPRP) Yehuda Gobay S.Th, condemned the detentions and arrests in Jayapura. He noted that security officials frequently round people up during peaceful demonstrations and fire shots in the midst of demonstrators. He described this as unacceptable in an era of democracy and called for the unconditional release of all those arrested.


At least one Papuan officialnoted that security officials frequently round people up during peaceful demonstrations and fire shots in the midst of demonstrators. He described this as unacceptable in an era of democracy and called for the unconditional release of all those arrested.

Also on March 22, hundreds of Papuans demonstrated peacefully without police interference in Manokwari . The coordinator of this action, Zeth Wambrauw, welcomed the prospective visit of President Obama and urged local officials to arrange a meeting of Papuans with him. This demonstration, as did the others, called on the Indonesian Government to withdraw organic and non-organic troops from Papua. The demonstrators, including students from the University of Papua (UNIPA), rejected calls for a Papua-Jakarta dialogue unless there is an international mediator, especially the UN. The demonstrators also called for closing of the massive Freeport McMoran copper and gold mine and for a review of the so called "Act of Free Choice."

Although some of the demonstrators tried and failed to meet members of the local Parliament (DPRP), some did meet the secretary of Commission A, Yulius Moniaga, and someone from Commission B. Moniaga urged the police not to use violence towards those arrested. He was also quoted as saying that when people are arrested and put onto trucks, what usually happened was that they were immediately beaten.

A demonstrator named Mako Tabuni was quoted as saying that similar demonstrations had been held in other parts of the territory since 18 March where the demonstrators had been calling for proper legal procedures to be used. "These are not anarchistic actions but people calling for the principle of democracy to be respected," he said. One of their demands was for Memorandum of Understanding to be reached regarding the way people can struggle for their aspirations.

The harsh police action against the demonstrators in Jayapura coincided with publicity surrounding a flawed report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) which alleged that the KNPB (which organized these demonstrations) was a separatist organization which was prepared to employ violence to advance its aims. (WPAT among others has criticized the report, see item below for summary of the ICG report and WPAT's critique.)

Victor Yeimo Trial Begins


December 12009 protest at Dutch parliament. Photo from


The respected UK-based Indonesian human rights organization Tapol has translated a report about the opening of the trial of Papuan activist Victor F. Yeimo on March 11. Yeimo, a leading figure in the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) is charged with rebellion (makar) under Article 106 of the Criminal Code for allegedly seeking secession. The prosecutors charge that in a speech at a peaceful rally on March 10, 2009, Yeimo "demanded independence for West Papua, rejected special autonomy, and called for a referendum, and a review of the 1969 Act of Free Choice He also called for the release of all political prisoners, both those tried as well as those not yet tried."

Outside the court house after the hearing, witness Marcho Tabuni, told journalists on behalf of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) that Yeimo's arrest and "detention had taken place without any proof.... He said that Article 28 of the Indonesian Constitution upholds the right to freedom of expression. He called for greater space in West Papua for basic freedoms, for the withdrawal of the military," and the unconditional release of all Papuan political prisoners.

Article 106 of the Indonesian criminal code which criminalizes peaceful political speech is regularly employed by prosecutors to target dissenters. Article 106 is fundamentally inconsistent with Indonesian obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Articles 19 and 21) which Indonesia signed in 2006 as well as the under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Articles 19 and 20).

TNI Announces Plan to Augment Troops in West Papua


Papuan officials, echoing public calls by demonstrating students and other Papuans, have repeatedly called for the removal of TNI personnel from West Papua.

The Indonesian military (TNI) March 23 announced plans to deploy thousands of additional troops to West Papua. Papuan officials, echoing public calls by demonstrating students and other Papuans, have repeatedly called for the removal of TNI personnel from West Papua. There is no indication that the central government has discussed the troop increase with Papuan officials.

Rear Marshal Sagom Tamboen said up to four battalions, approximately 4000 troops, from a "Rapid Reaction Strike Force" division based in Jakarta could be sent to the province to "maintain the territory's unity within eastern Indonesia." Experts assess that there are already at least 10,000 troops in West Papua plus addition unknown numbers of military personnel associated with the special forces (Kopassus), military intelligence personnel and other special units.

Rear Marshal Tamboen said the planned deployment, which has not yet been approved by the government, had nothing to do with recent shootings targeting police and employees of U.S. mining giant Freeport McMoRan. Despite deployment of additional security personnel to the region in 2009, violence there has continued.

The proposed deployment appears unrelated to any conceivable foreign threat and the lightly armed, small-in-number armed resistance poses no significant military threat. It appears that the principal purpose of the proposed deployment would be to intimidate Papuans who are increasingly vocal in peacefully advocating for their human and political rights. The troops would also be in position to increase the flow of cash into TNI coffers through extortion of local businesses, enforcement for "developers" attempting to push Papuans off their lands, human trafficking, and illegal logging.

New Complications for Food Estate Project in Merauke

Greenomics Indonesia, an environmental NGO, has expressed concern about the Government's agricultural estate development plan for Merauke (see WPAT reports for February and March regarding this plan). According to the March 24 Jakarta Post, Greenomics Indonesia predicted most of the planned 1.6 million of hectares to be transformed into food estates would consume virgin forested areas. An assessment of forestry data by Greenomics said there were only 300,000 hectares of production forest (i.e., non-virgin forest). This area of production forest is too scattered and not large enough to accommodate so vast an area of food estates.

"The area is not large scale; they are scattered and the permit should be issued by the Forestry Ministry," Greenomics Executive Director Elfian Effendi said. He also said that developers should also seek approval from the House of Representatives.

The Indonesian environmental group Walhi called the project a land grab and warned that the estate would threaten the ecosystem. "Large-scale land conversions in Merauke, which consists of predominantly low-lying land and marshes, could cause it to lose its land areas," Walhi said in a statement. "The decrease in forest and water catchment areas could result in a faster intrusion of sea water to the land."

The issues raised by Greenomics and Walhi add to previously voiced concerns over land tenure rights and the impact of a large influx of non-Papuans into the region to be employed in the agricultural development.

(WPAT Comment: A similar government plan to convert a massive area in South Kalimantan to agricultural use in the latter years of the Suharto dictatorship led to disastrous results when brackish water inundated the area being prepared for agriculture rendering it useless for any purpose.)

U.S. State Department Finds Extensive Human Rights Abuse in West Papua

The annual U.S. Department of State annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, included a detailed account of human rights abuse in West Papua, especially by Indonesian security forces (see Indonesia report at

There were important omissions despite the extensive coverage. The report completely ignored the widely cited June 2009 report by Human Rights Watch, "What Did I Do Wrong?" which documented in great detail abuse of Papuans by Indonesian Special Forces (Kopassus) personnel. Observers speculate that the omission might have been intentional with the purpose of diverting attention from the notorious unit which is under consideration for U.S. training and other assistance for the first time in 12 years. The U.S. Congress has long barred assistance to units like Kopassus because of their exceptionally notorious record of human rights violations, many of them committed in West Papua, East Timor, Aceh, and elsewhere.


As in past years the State Department report fails to note the failure over many decades of the Indonesian Government to provide minimally adequate services to Papuans, especially those in rural areas. The infrastructure for health care and education are insufficient and account for some of the worst rates of infant mortality and other health indices in Asia.

The Report also fails to note the fundamental inconsistency between Indonesia's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (signed by Indonesia in 2006) and the persistence of Article 106 in the Indonesian criminal code, which criminalizes as treason or rebellion peaceful, political speech. Article 106 is a common weapon used by Indonesian authorities to punish peaceful dissent, especially in West Papua.

As in past years the State Department report fails to note the failure over many decades of the Indonesian Government to provide minimally adequate services to Papuans, especially those in rural areas. The infrastructure for health care and education are insufficient and account for some of the worst rates of infant mortality and other health indices in Asia. The report errs in not acknowledging the Indonesian Governments utter failure to address such basic human needs as required by the International Covenants on Social, Cultural and Economic rights to which Indonesia is party.

The following highlights key description in the State Department report for the year 2009 regarding government policies and practices which have negative implications for human rights protection in West Papua. The report also contains specific reports of human rights violations:

In some parts of the country, particularly in Kalimantan and Papua, residents believed that government-sponsored transmigration programs, which move households from more densely populated areas to less populated regions, interfered with their traditional ways of life, land usage, and economic opportunities. Although the number of new persons in transmigration was significantly less than in previous years, the government continued to support financially approximately 6,756 households moved in 2008 from overpopulated areas to isolated and less-developed areas in 21 provinces.

The government used its authority, and at times intimidation, to expropriate land for development projects, often without fair compensation. In other cases state-owned companies were accused of endangering resources upon which citizens' livelihood depended. A presidential decree on land acquisition for public use allows the government to acquire land for private development projects even if landowners have not agreed on the amount of compensation. A number of NGOs argued that the decree served the interests of wealthy developers at the expense of the poor.


Human rights activists asserted that the government-sponsored transmigration program transplanting poor families from overcrowded Java and Madura to less populated islands violated the rights of indigenous people, bred social resentment, and encouraged the exploitation and degradation of natural resources on which many indigenous persons relied. In some areas, such as parts of Sulawesi, the Malukus, Kalimantan, Aceh, and Papua, relations between transmigrants and indigenous people were poor.


Based on recent statistics the authorities arrested at least 30 persons for raising separatist flags in Papua. Although the Papua Special Autonomy Law permits flying a flag symbolizing Papua's cultural identity, a government regulation prohibits the display of the Morning Star flag in Papua, the RMS flag in Maluku, and the Crescent Moon flag in Aceh.


The government continued to restrict foreign journalists, NGOs, and government officials from traveling to the provinces of Papua and West Papua by requiring them to request permission to travel through the Foreign Ministry or an Indonesian embassy. The government approved some requests and denied others. Some journalists traveled to Papua without permission....


NGOs in Papua continued to report widespread monitoring of their activities by intelligence officials as well as threats and intimidation. Activists reported that intelligence officers took their pictures surreptitiously and sometimes questioned their friends and family members regarding their whereabouts and activities.


During the year indigenous persons, most notably in Papua, remained subject to widespread discrimination, and there was little improvement in respect for their traditional land rights. Mining and logging activities, many of them illegal, posed significant social, economic, and logistical problems to indigenous communities. The government failed to prevent domestic and multinational companies, often in collusion with the local military and police, from encroaching on indigenous peoples' land. In Papua tensions continued between indigenous Papuans and migrants from other provinces, between residents of coastal and inland communities, and among indigenous tribes.

A more detailed critique of the State Department report by WPAT and the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) will be released shortly (check

International Crisis Group Accused of Misrepresenting Causes of Violence in West Papua

A March 11 report by the International Crisis Group (ICG), "Indonesia: Radicalization and Dialogue in Papua, claimed that several Papuan groups were behind rising tension and violence in West Papua. Some media and senior ICG officials misrepresented elements of the report to suggest, incorrectly, that it had assigned blame to Papuan rebels for recent violence in the area of the Freeport McMoran mine. The Report had described the rebels as more likely to be responsible, but said "there are no conclusive answers." The ICG report usefully criticized the Indonesian government for its restrictions on access to West Papua by journalists, researchers and others and also urged the Indonesian Government to desist from attempting to portray all Papuan critics and dissenters as "separatist."  ICG also usefully encouraged efforts supported by Papuans and some Indonesians to launch a dialogue between Jakarta and West Papua.

The West Papua Advocacy Team, among others, expressed serious objections to the report's analysis, methodology and conclusions (see WPAT noted, in part, that Indonesian actions in West Papua, including its "security approach" to problems and its assault on human rights there were the leading causes of tension and violence.

Incident in the Puncak Jaya

The Antara news agency reported on March 23 that Indonesian troops and a group it labeled "separatist" were involved in an exchange of gunfire in the troubled Mulia District in the central highlands regency of Puncak Jaya. The incident reportedly began when an armed group fired on a military vehicle as it was returning to its base in the Puncak Senyum area.

Local officials said that no civilians were hurt and there appear to have been no casualties among the 13 TNI personnel in the vehicle or their alleged attackers .

WPAT sources in the area report that some villagers have already fled their homes fearing onset of military operations.

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