etmnlong.gif (2291 bytes) spacer

West Papua Report

January 2011

This is the 81st 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 If you wish to receive the report via e-mail, send a note to


Wikileaked U.S. Embassy cables reveal the U.S. government, in private, is far more critical of Indonesian military abuses in West Papua and thoroughly understands that Indonesian policies there, including acknowledging that "special autonomy" has failed. The cables contradict in substance and tone testimony to the U.S. Congress offered by a senior State Department official in September 2010. The Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights has condemned and is investigating increasing state violence against Papuans. Leaders of Papuan civil society have presented renowned human rights advocate Carmel Budiardjo with the first award declaring a foreign national as a citizen of Papua. She will henceforth be regarded as the "Eldest Daughter of Papua. The recently retired U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia has been hired by the Sinar Mas Conglomerate. Sinar Mas, like Freeport McMoRan which also provided a sinecure for a retired U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia, has a notorious reputation for environmental destruction. A prominent Papuan civil society figure has issued a powerful indictment of Indonesian policy in West Papua and called for fundamental changes. The TNI Commander, in remarks to media, has sought to spin the torture and beatings of Papuans, videoed and widely viewed on the internet, as not constituting human rights violations but rather only violations of orders. The TNI Inspector General tells the media that the TNI is working with the police to identify those responsible for exposing these TNI crimes via the internet. Many international human rights organizations have condemned the continued juridical persecution of prisoners of conscience Filep Karma and Buchtar Tabuni. Papuan civil society leaders and senior Papuan officials have called for an end to crimes against Papuan women. A WPAT commentary looks back over the history of impunity for such abuses. Various Papuan sources have remarked that again in 2010, as in past years, security forces have ratcheted up efforts to intimidate Papuans as Papuans commemorated Papuan independence day and Christmas.


Wikileaks Reveals U.S. Embassy Assessments of West Papua Are Far More Critical of Indonesian Authorities than Offered to U.S. Congressional Committee

On December 23, 2010, Australia's The Age reported that the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, in classified reporting to Washington, confirmed longstanding Papuan and NGO contentions regarding the devastating role of the Indonesian military (TNI) in West Papua. The article ("Jakarta accused over Papua") is based on U.S. Embassy cables revealed through Wikileaks. (The cables the story is based on have not yet been published online.)


The [Indonesian official] told the Embassy that the Indonesian military (TNI) has far more troops in Papua than it is willing to admit to, chiefly to protect and facilitate TNI's interests in illegal logging operations.

The detailed and remarkably candid U.S. Embassy report is far more explicit regarding TNI corruption and abuses and Indonesian government malfeasance than the assessment offered by a senior U.S. Department of State official who testified before Congress in September 2010.

The Embassy describes Indonesian government neglect, rampant corruption, and human rights abuses leading to instability and ''chronic underdevelopment'' in West Papua. The article cites a September 2009 cable from the U.S. embassy which assesses that ''the region is politically marginalized and many Papuans harbor separatist aspirations." An October 2007 Embassy message quotes claims by an Indonesian foreign affairs official about military influence in Papua: "The [Indonesian official] told the Embassy that the Indonesian military (TNI) has far more troops in Papua than it is willing to admit to, chiefly to protect and facilitate TNI's interests in illegal logging operations.'' The official adds that Papuan Governor Barnabus Suebu "had to move cautiously so as not to upset the TNI, which operates as a virtually autonomous governmental entity within the province.''

A 2006 message cites a briefing from a briefing offered by a government official of neighboring Papua New Guinea who contends that the TNI also was ''involved in both illegal logging and drug smuggling in PNG." A second 2006 embassy report offered an example of the "history of miscarriages of justice in Papua." Describing Indonesian security authorities reaction to the killing of Indonesian officials by an angry mob the report observes: ''It is clear that the police rounded up a miscellany of perceived troublemakers and random individuals and that the prosecutors and judges then railroaded them in a farcical show trial.'' The Embassy's blunt reports to Washington also focused on Jakarta's unfair treatment of West Papua including the failure to ensure revenue generated by mining is distributed fairly. This malfeasance contributes to unrest in West Papua. A September 2009 cable says that ''Most money transferred to the province remains unspent although some has gone into ill-conceived projects or disappeared into the pockets of corrupt officials."

A March 2006 cable cites a senior official of the U.S. owned Freeport McMoran mine as telling the Embassy that ''average Papuans see few benefits from the royalty and tax payments by Freeport and other extractive industries that should go to the province under the Special Autonomy Law." "Many central government ministries have been reluctant to cede power to the province. As a result, implementation of the Special Autonomy law has lagged and Papuans increasingly view the law as a failure,'' a September 2009 cable says.

(WPAT Comment: This accurate account of the failings of Special Autonomy by U.S. officials renders persistent U.S. government trumpeting of special autonomy as the solution to myriad problems in West Papua as misleading at best and deceitful at worst.)

After Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report in 2009 alleging that military officers had abused Papuans in the town of Merauke, the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta wrote that the incident was isolated and may have involved soldiers following the orders of a local official, Johanes Gluba Gebze. Separately, WPAT has learned that State Department officials sought to downplay the HRW report which was highly critical of Indonesian Special Forces (Kopassus) which the U.S. administration was anxious to begin training. However, a 2009 Embassy report appeared to validate the HRW report noting that the local chief, Gebze ''presides over a regional government where allegations of corruption and brutality are rife. Advisers to Papua Governor Barnabas Suebu told an embassy official that Gebze is 'out of control' and has made numerous illegal forestry deals with Chinese and Korean companies,'' the 2009 cable says.

In early 2006 a senior manager from the mining operation run by the Freeport-McMoRan told the Embassy the company pays the Indonesian military and police officers who help secure its operations. Such payments were first revealed by Global Witness in 2006. Freeport later admitted that "t pays towards 'government-provided security' at its mine in Indonesia but refused to say where the money goes," according to Global Witness. (See also WPAT/ETAN: Statement on the operations of the Freeport McMoran Mine in West Papua, Indonesia) An April 2007 cable reports that Freeport continues to pay ''voluntary support allowances'' to police. This report has drawn complaints from at least one Indonesian legislator who has pledged to question Defense officials about private company payments to the security forces - a practice he claims would render the security forces as agents of those corporations interests.

Indonesian National Commission for Human Rights Reports Increasing State Violence Targeting Papuans in West Papua


The highest number of cases were recorded in 2010. Most of the perpetrators were reportedly TNI and police officers." He told the media that the increasing violence dated back to 2004 when the authorities accused the Papuan resistance of attacking security officers in and around the Puncak Jaya region.

A December 7 Jakarta Post report cites the Papuan chapter of the National Commission for Human Rights (Komnas HAM) as contending that over 2009-2010 there has been a 70 percent increase in the number of cases of violence in Papua. Komnas HAM adds that most of that violence has been the work of the Indonesian security forces. Komnas HAM Jayapura chapter deputy Matius Murib told the press December 7 that increasing violence from 2009 to 2010 mostly involved security officers in the Papuan regency of Puncak Jaya.

The Jakarta Post report quotes Murib "The highest number of cases were recorded in 2010. Most of the perpetrators were reportedly TNI [Indonesian military] and police officers." He told the media that the increasing violence dated back to 2004 when the authorities accused Papuan resistance figure Goliat Tabuni of involvement in attacks on security officers in and around the Puncak Jaya region. Based on these accusations, Murib explained, security officers launched a continuous series of raids that caused civilian deaths. The raids and exchanges of gunfire have forced some 5,000 Papuans to flee to the forests, where many people have died because of illness or hunger, Murib added. "We ask the XVII Trikora Military Command and the Papua Police to cease all operations and attempts to add to the number of troops, which would only worsen the civilian trauma and exert further tolls upon them, especially people living in Puncak Jaya and its surrounding areas," he said.

Carmel Budiardjo Honored as "Eldest Daughter of Papua"

West Papuan leaders honor Carmel Budiardjo as "Eldest Daughter of Papua" at ceremony in Bali.

Leaders of Papuan civil society, including Fordem (Forum Demokrasi), senior Papuan clergy and others, honored Carmel Budiardjo, founder of the U.K.-based and highly regarded TAPOL on December 28. She is the first awardee of the title of "Eldest Daughter of Papua," that symbolically confers Papuan citizenship to Budiardjo whose advocacy on behalf of human rights in Indonesia and especially in West Papua extends over four decades.

Senior members of Papuan civil society attended the award ceremony in Bali. The decision to hold the ceremony in Bali was due in part to continuing difficulties in obtaining official permission to travel to West Papua. Attending were Dr. Benny Giay (Dean of STT Walter Post), Yosepha Alomang (a leading women's rights defender), Salmon Yumame of the Forum Demokrasi Rakyat Papua Bersatu (Democracy Forum for the United People of Papua), and Federika Koraia, a former human rights researcher. Ms. Budiardjo was accompanied by her two children and her grandchildren.

The award announcement notes in part: "Through your work we know ourselves. We know the suffering of our brothers and compatriots from Biak, Serui, Amungme, Muyu, Puncak Jaya, Merauke, Jayapura, Land Tabi, Manokwari and Sorong.... You helped us understand that in this world there is human solidarity, there is still an understanding of democracy and human rights..." The title of "Eldest Daughter" was presented in three Papuan languages: Papuaumau (bahasa Mee), Venia Ati (bahasa Maybrat) and Bin Syowi (bahasa Biak).

Carmel Budiardjo, in 2008, was the first recipient of the West Papua Advocacy Team's "John Rumbiak Human Rights Defender Award."

The Revolving Door: U.S. Officials Retire to Sinecures in Firms with Bad Reputations

Sinar Mas Group, a huge Indonesian conglomerate with interests in coal mining, logging and wood-pulp production, oil plantations, real estate, and other industries, has hired Cameron Hume, the former U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, as an adviser, according to Sinar Mas is notorious for the environmental practices of some of its holdings, notably Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) and PT Sinar Mas Agro Resources & Technology (SMART), a palm oil company.

Sinar Mas is involved in illegal land clearing in many parts of Indonesia including in West Papua. Greenpeace has revealed Sinar Mas destruction of sago and nipah trees in the Lereh area near Jayapura. Sago is an essential food source and nipah key to construction of homes for local people. Sinar Mas's wholesale destruction of these natural fauna severely impacts the local communities that depend on them. Sinar Mas is also involved in the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate project (MIFEE) which envisions destruction of vast areas of virgin forest. The Indonesian military, notably the Kopassus, is heavily involved with Sinar Mas in the MIFEE project and elsewhere, acting as enforcers and protectors for the company's often illegal logging and plantation development.

Hume's role in Sinar Mas has yet to be announced but would appear to be intended to help the conglomerate with with international firms which have cut ties with Sinar Mas over its environmental practices. Another former U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia, J. Stapleton Roy, became a member of the board of Freeport McMoran upon retirement. Freeport McMoran has long relied on the U.S. Government to protect it from critics of its human rights and environmental policies.

Prominent Papuan Civil Society Leader Indicts Indonesian Policy on West Papua, Calls for Fundamental Change

Neles Tebay, a highly regarded member of the clergy and a lecturer at the Fajar Timur School of Philosophy and Theology in Abepura, published a provocative article in the Jakarta Post calling for a fundamental change of approach after nearly 50 years of mal-administration by Jakarta in West Papua.

Tebay recalls that thousands of Papuans demonstrated on June 18, 2010, to demand an end to Jakarta's policy of "special autonomy" which according to most observers Jakarta has failed to implement over nearly a decade since the policy was first announced. Tebay notes in particular that the key elements providing affirmative action for Papuans have never been implemented. "The government has shown little respect for the human dignity of Papuans. The Papuans were not involved in the decision-making process. Development policies are determined by the government without participation of the indigenous Papuans."

Moreover, Tebay observes, Papuans continue to suffer the lowest standard of living in the archipelago and have been marginalized by government-organized and supported migration of non-Papuans into West Papua. He also notes decades of abuse meted out against Papuans by unaccountable security forces.

Tebay maintains that a crisis point has been reached where 'Papuans? survival as human beings in their ancestral lands constitutes a fundamental problem." Tebay couples his indictment of Indonesian policy with a call for specific reforms:

  • The protection and continuation of indigenous Papuan society should be the criteria used to examine any policy adopted by any institution for Papua.

  • The government should realize that military operations, as is clear from the past, will bring about more human rights violations and therefore put the survival of Papuans in danger.

  • The government should not issue licenses to timber or palm oil industries to exploit Papua's forests, which have sustained the lives of indigenous Papuans. Instead, the government should revoke existing licenses.

  • Papua's forests should be under protection of an international body to prevent them from being deforested as such attempts threaten not only the survival of the Papuans but also all of the people in the world.

  • The government should cancel its Merauke Integrated Food and Energy (MIFE) project, which has nothing to do with the survival of indigenous Papuans and will only speed up their marginalization.

  • Needless to say that the government should abandon its approach to security that for more than 40 years has brought about gross human rights violations against indigenous Papuans. Instead the government should take a welfare approach. Consequently, the Papua Desk at the Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister's Office should be transferred to the Coordinating Public Welfare Minister's Office. Without this transfer, no one will believe that the government has changed its approach to Papua.

  • Any affirmative policy for Papua should be determined by the government of Indonesia and indigenous Papuans. The Papuans should be invited to contribute to the decision-making process.

  •  A constructive dialogue between the government of Indonesia and the Papuans, then, will be the most dignified means for both to jointly determine affirmative policies appropriate for Papua.

TNI Commander Denies Video-Taped Military Abuses against Papuans Are Human Rights Violations; Indicates Leaker of Footage Is Target


Missing is any U.S. recognition of the growing challenges to democratization and stability that beset Indonesia. Indonesian democracy is increasingly hostage to an ambitious, corrupt and unaccountable military and police.

The Jakarta daily Rakyat Merdeka, has published comments by TNI Commander Rear Admiral Agus Suhartono who contends that the abuse of Papuans by military personnel, which was video-taped and circulated last fall on the internet, did not constitute gross human rights violations. The commander argued that "What must be understood, the situation is tense there, unlike in Jakarta. There is no order from superiors to torture. It can not be said to be gross human rights violations." He noted that the November 4, 2010 court verdict against the personnel is being appealed. He also indicated no specific progress on a second case also videoed where two Papuans suffered extreme torture at the hands of their uniformed assailants. Meanwhile, the TNI's Inspector General Lt. Gen. M. Noer Muis has claimed that the charged TNI personnel were not guilty of any human rights violation but only "a violation of an order."

The military appears far more concerned with pursuing whoever leaked the footage which went viral on the internet. Muis said the TNI was still investigating the perpetrators responsible for bringing the footage of the torture and beatings to the attention of the international community. "We asked to immediately look for people who distributed it, because it is very detrimental to us. We are cooperating with the police to uncover the person who issued this," he said.

TAPOL: Contends "Continued Detention of Papuan Prisoners Violates Basic Rights"

The highly regarded U.K.-based TAPOL, an organization that promotes human rights, peace and democracy in Indonesia, issued a press release on December 23 that pointed out that the continued detention of Papuan prisoners of conscience Filep Karma and Buchtar Tabuni (among others) violates basic human rights.

Freedom Now, a Washington, DC-based human rights group that represents Papuan political prisoner Filep Karma, also has reacted to latest developments in Filep Karma's case. It sent a letter to the Justice and Human Rights Minister Patrialis Akbar to appeal for Filep's release. Freedom Now voiced concern that since Karma's recent transfer from Abepura Prison to Jayapura Prison he has been denied legal counsel. The group asked the minister to restore Karma's Filep's rights as stipulated in "Principle 18 of the UN Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment." Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International continue to petition on behalf of the rights of Karma and other political prisoners. ETAN and WPAT also called publicly for their release in a December statement, see )

Filep Karma, 51, is serving a 15-year sentence for taking part in a 2004 peaceful protest where demonstrators raised the Papuan national flag, the Morning Star. He was charged with makar or treason, an offence used over the years against scores of Papuans involved in raising the flag. Buchtar Tabuni, 31, is serving a three-year sentence for his involvement in a public event to welcome the launch in October 2008 of International Parliamentarians for West Papua.

The Tapol release noted that the two prisoners while imprisoned for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression now face criminal charges arising from a riot at Abepura prison on 3 December. Tapol wrote that since that incident, the two prisoners (and three other prisoners) were transferred from prison to police custody, where they have had limited or no contact with their lawyers and families in contravention of international standards on the treatment of prisoners and persons in detention. Tabuni was due to be conditionally released at the time of the December 3, 2010 arrest on criminal charges.

The three other men in police detention facing charges arising from the disturbances on 3 December are Alex Elopere, Dominggus Pulalo and Danny Lopez Karubaba.

Note: A late December report based on direct contact with Karma indicates that the police, recognizing the weakness of accusations against him, are equivocal about pressing charges against him for the December 3 riot. However, the authorities may employ threats or bribes to induce other prisoners to testify falsely against Karma and Tabuni. The prospect of new charges against the pair precluded their being granted remissions traditionally offered to prisoners on religious holidays and on Indonesian independence day. According to senior officials such remissions for the two were in the cards.

The TAPOL release said in part:

"TAPOL calls for the release of the two men and all others jailed for peacefully expressing their political views. It urges the Indonesian authorities to investigate the disturbances at Abepura prison and for the prisoners to be given proper access to their lawyers to contest their transfer to police detention and prepare a defence to any charges against them. The investigation should include a consideration of the conditions at the prison and the events leading up to the disturbances on 3 December.

"The disturbances followed the fatal shooting of Miron Wetipo, who had escaped from the prison. Reliable reports indicate that Filep Karma and Buchtar Tabuni, alarmed at the consequences of the disturbances for all the prisoners, tried hard to calm down their fellow prisoners. According to a report in the local daily, 'Bintang Papua', on 14 December, the director of the prison, Berthy Sitinjak, and 14 of his staff were responsible for acts of violence and abuse of prisoners.

"'Anyone in authority responsible for violence against the prisoners and other offences, including the killing of Miron Wetipo, should be vigorously prosecuted if the evidence indicates that crimes were committed,' said (TAPOL's) Carmel Budiardjo."

KontraS Papua, the Commission for the Disappeared and the Victims of Violence and a team of lawyers representing the prisoners suggest that the conditions at the prison may have led to the prison escape and earlier ones. (WPAT Note: With regard to the KontraS claim, a 2007 UN report by UN Special Rapporteur Dr. Manfred Novak described horrendous conditions in Indonesian prisons.)

Papuan Women Note Continuing Prevalence of Crimes against Women and Decry Impunity for Perpetrators

A Bintang Papua report from 10 December 2010 (translated by TAPOL) noted a December 10 ceremony in Jayapura organized around the theme of "The Day to Combat Violence against Women." The ceremony was convened by a number of civil society organizations, as well as by the government's Institute to Empower Women and a number of religious bodies. Agus Alua, chair of the MRP keynoted the affair.


Everywhere, we are being raped and subjected to sexual molestation, in prisons, out in the fields, whenever seeking refuge, whenever the army and the police conduct operations in the name of security, and even in our own homes. We are victims of violence. And when we scream for help, they reply that it's a family matter.

The deputy chair of the MRP, Hana Hikoyabi, noted that marking the day of violence against women was closely associated with the history of the Papuan people during which women have been the persistent victims of military acts of violence "Everywhere, we are being raped and subjected to sexual molestation, in prisons, out in the fields, whenever seeking refuge, whenever the army and the police conduct operations in the name of security, and even in our own homes. We are victims of violence. And when we scream for help, they reply that it's a family matter." She added there was no place where women can find protection against violence. "Everywhere, we are increasingly facing the danger of HIV/AIDS and our lives are being lost. For how much longer will this situation continue?"

Recently a book was published by MRP titled It Must Stop!, which documents 261 cases of violence. The book identified three types of violence: violence by members of the security forces which made up 138 cases of women who experienced sexual violence; violence within the family with 98 cases, and cases of physical violence or serial violence.

Another speaker was Lucia Erni who said that even the chief of police in Papua had expressed his astonishment about the large number of cases of violence against women perpetrated by members of the security forces.

WPAT Comment: the late human rights champion Asmara Nababan once told a WPAT member that crimes against women in West Papua were systematically ignored. He cited the failure to pursue multiple charges of rape committed by security force personnel in 1995 landmark investigations of human rights violations in West Papua conducted by the Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights. The Komnas Ham investigation had drawn on evidence from research carried out by John Rumbiak and the Catholic Church in West Papua, among others. Military authorities refused to allow charges against their personnel presenting the racially biased argument, according to Nababan, that the Indonesian troops would not be interested in Papuan women.

End of Year Security Force Intimidation Again Ratchets up at End of Year

Another 10 December 2010 Bintang Papua report reports a pledge by KOMNAS HAM's (Indonesia's Commission on Human Rights) West Papua office to investigate a shooting in Bolakme said to have been carried out by members of the security forces on the anniversary of West Papua's independence from the Netherlands (1 December). The shootings took place at the office of the TPN/OPM in Yagum, Bolakme, Jayawijaya. The representative of Komnas HAM in Papua, Mathius Murib, said that the shooting occurred at 1 pm on 1 December when members of the army and the police shot two persons Atili Wenda, 35 years old, and Melius Tabuni 46. The two victims of the shooting are now critically ill in the local hospital in Bolakme. According to current information, the two men are only receiving treatment by traditional methods and not from a medical team.

These shootings are part of a pattern of violence meted out against Papuans by security forces in the November-December period each year. In November 2001 the Papuan political leader Theys Eluay was kidnapped and strangled to death by Indonesian Special Forces (Kopassus) personnel. In December 2009, Papuan nationalist Kelly Kwalik was allowed to bleed to death from a leg wound while in the custody of Detachment 88 and Police personnel. Papuan analysts and others believe that security force deliberately ramp up efforts to intimidate Papuans at the end of the year because Papuans traditionally celebrate both their independence day and Christmas at this time. Many Papuans are Christians. One prominent prisoner of conscience has also explained to observers that security force action aimed at generating tensions also provide the forces a pretext for demanding additional funds from the Jakarta government.

Google   WWW


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 |