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West Papua Report

May 2011

This is the 85th 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


Thousands of Papuans, on May 2, began peaceful rallies demanding a referendum on West Papua's political future, an end to "Special Autonomy," and international intervention in to end decades of human rights abuse and injustice at the hands of the Indonesian government. The date coincides with Indonesian forced annexation of West Papua over four decades ago. Security personnel are out in force in many West Papua towns and cities and some arrests have already been reported. The annual U.S. Department of State report on human rights in Indonesia accurately and in some detail describes the extensive human rights violations in West Papua, correctly assigning blame for the abuse principally to Indonesian security forces. The report also notes that those perpetrating the abuse are largely unaccountable for their crimes. The report, as in the past, largely fails to address violations of cultural, economic and social rights. Indonesian security forces have run amok in Dogiyai district driving many from their homes following a violent protest by Papuans over the police killing of two unarmed Papuans. Papuans have urged the suspension of disbursement of special autonomy funds following findings by the Supreme Audit Agency that the funds intended to benefit Papuans have been embezzled. Yale University hosted a seminar to review of developments in and affecting West Papua. The Forestry Minister has pledged not to issue permits that would entail the destruction of pristine Papuan forests. The massive Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE) appears to be an exception to this policy.


Thousands of Papuans Rally to Demand Referendum

May 2 protest in West Papua. Photo via reported on May 2 that thousands of Papuans launched nationwide rallies, coordinated by the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), to demand that Indonesian authorities agree to a referendum on the political future of West Papua. The peaceful demonstrations commemorated the anniversary of Indonesia's coerced annexation of West Papua over four decades ago. The demonstrations called for rejection of "Special Autonomy" and for international intervention in West Papua to end decades of human rights violations and injustice.

Rallies were reported in Sentani, Abepura and Jayapura, as well as Manokwari, Wamena and other West Papua towns and cities. In Abepura, there was a mass sit-in, where open platform speeches were made by participants, and a joint petition was signed. According to Victor Yeimo, International Spokesperson for KNPB, the rally was held to demonstrate to the Indonesian and international community that the people of West Papua want self-determination thought a referendum. Benny Wenda, a West Papuan leader in exile, spoke directly from London via mobile to the thousands of people at the rally.

Meanwhile, Indonesian security forces reportedly ramped up security in many West Papua population centers. Reliable accounts claim that six Papuans, including a ten year old boy were arrested by security personnel in Wamena before the protest.

Critique of U.S. State Department's latest annual Human Rights Report for Indonesia Regarding West Papua

The U.S. State Department's 2010 Human Rights Report on Indonesia presents a detailed compilation of the extensive civil, political and worker rights abuse in Indonesia in 2010 and an impressive description of the Indonesian government's poor record of holding accountable before the law those who perpetrated those abuses. The report also usefully includes outstanding cases of human rights abuse from previous years for which there has been inadequate investigation and/or no judicial accounting. The report devotes significant attention to West Papua.


Indonesia has failed to control the destruction of natural resources that are vital to local populations. This assault on forests, fishing grounds, and river systems by Indonesian and international corporations, often aided and abetted by Indonesian security forces, has left many indigenous peoples, particularly Papuans, destitute.

The State Department writes that the reports "cover internationally recognized civil, political and worker rights as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights." This reporting series remains seriously flawed insofar as it ignores social, economic and cultural rights which are also a central part of the Universal Declaration and have equal standing along with civil, political and worker rights in the declaration. The Indonesian government's performance in these areas, particularly in West Papua, clearly warrants international scrutiny. For decades, the Indonesian government's systematic failure to provide essential health and educational services (addressed in Articles 25 and 26 of the Universal Declaration) to Papuans has contributed directly to their marginalization. Health indices for Papuans, along with educational achievement measurements, consistently rank as the poorest in the archipelago. Moreover, Indonesia's failure to ensure protection of cultural rights (Article 27) or make provision for employment (Article 23) have led to the destruction of indigenous ways of life and destitution afflicting a significant portion of West Papua. The Indonesian government's malfeasance in this regard has been the basis of growing charges that the Indonesian government's policies towards the Papuans in particular, amounts to genocide. The failure of the U.S. State Department human rights report to examine in detail the violation of social, economic and cultural rights in Indonesia renders the report incomplete and inadequate.

Indonesia has failed to control the destruction of natural resources that are vital to local populations. This assault on forests, fishing grounds, and river systems by Indonesian and international corporations, often aided and abetted by Indonesian security forces, has left many indigenous peoples, particularly Papuans, destitute. The 2010 report commendably addresses what amounts to Indonesian collusion with local and international cooperation's in the destruction of natural resources vital to the survival of indigenous peoples in West Papua. The report notes:

"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 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."

Such explicit U.S. government criticism is unfortunately rare. The 2010 report shirks direct criticism in most cases of human rights violations by security forces and the concomitant failure of the Indonesian government to hold abusers accountable. For example, the report avoids direct criticism of the infamous "transmigration" program, an approach to population engineering through government-organized migration that amounts to ethnic cleansing in impact and perhaps intent. The program, developed under the Suharto dictatorship with international financial backing, was formally abandoned after the World Bank, citing human rights concerns, ended support for the program in the late 1980's. It was reintroduced under the Yudhoyono administration and continues. Rather than criticize the transmigration program in its own voice, the report only notes that "(h)uman rights activists asserted 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." The 2010 report only alludes to the dangerous inter-communal tensions created by transmigration, observing only that "(i)n some areas, such as parts of Sulawesi, the Malukus, Kalimantan, Aceh, and Papua, relations between transmigrants and indigenous people were poor."

The 2010 report similarly evades direct criticism of the Indonesian government with regard to the rare instances in which Indonesian security officials have been brought before courts for violations of human rights. Invariably they receive sentences which are not commensurate with the crimes they have committed. This lack of accountability is particularly extensive in West Papua. Rather than offer criticism of this widely condemned practice in its own voice, the 2010 report simply notes weakly that "(s)ome civilians criticized the short length of prison sentences imposed by military courts."


The report evades direct criticism of the Indonesian government with regard to the rare instances in which Indonesian security officials have been brought before courts for violations of human rights. Invariably they receive sentences which are not commensurate with the crimes they have committed. Rather than offer criticism of this widely condemned practice in its own voice, the report simply notes weakly that "(s)ome civilians criticized the short length of prison sentences imposed by military courts."

The report notes that "(v)iolence affected the provinces of Papua and West Papua during the year, but adds that "(d)ue to the remoteness of the area it was difficult to confirm reports villages were burned and scores of civilians killed." Indonesian security force "sweeping operations" have for decades forced villagers from their homes and into the forests in West Papua's central highlands. As a direct consequence of this forced flight, many of these civilians have died due to inadequate access to food, shelter and medical care. The security forces routinely declare off limits the areas affected by these military "sweeps." As a result the affected areas are cut off from humanitarian relief operations and efforts aimed at monitoring the welfare of those forced from their villages. Lack of detailed reporting on these murderous security force "sweeps" is due not to the "remoteness" of the targeted areas but rather to deliberate measures taken by the Indonesian military and police to block effective monitoring by denying access to these areas. The State Department report's failure to describe these sweeping operations more candidly is particularly inexcusable as both the UN Committee against Torture and the Special Rapporteur on Torture have both expressed deep concern over allegations of excessive force, widespread torture, and abuse by members of the armed forces and paramilitary groups in such military "sweep" operations in Papua.

Similarly, the report speaks only vaguely of "confusion around events in the provinces of Papua and West Papua" to explain the failure of efforts to document the killing in West Papua's Puncak Jaya Regency of Pastor Kindeman Gire. Again, Indonesian government's restrictions on access to and movement within West Papua (acknowledged in an unrelated, separate section of the 2010 report) obstructs international efforts to document the facts in this or similar cases. Indonesian security force intimidation of local human rights investigations by NGOs and journalists also limits the ability of Indonesian monitors. The "confusion" is in fact a product of successful Indonesian government efforts to obfuscate and cover up.

The 2010 report describes the horrific, videoed May 2009 death of Papuan Yawan Wayeni while in custody: "In August 2009 members of Brimob killed tribal leader and former political prisoner Yawan Wayeni at his house in Mantembu village, Yapen Island, Papua." The State Department report accurately notes that the video "showed the police taunting and providing no assistance to Wayeni as he was dying," but then contends that video did not "show events leading up to his death," adding that "(p)olice sources claimed Wayeni was armed with a home-made weapon, while Papuan activists claimed that he was unarmed." The contention that Wayeni may or may not have been armed in no way exculpates the Brimob forces involved. They had a responsibility to provide medical assistance to the clearly unarmed and critically wounded Wayeni. The report also fails to note that no disciplinary action was taken against those Brimob personnel who killed Wayeni. The case is similar in this regard to the December 2009 death of OPM leader Kelly Kwalik in Brimob custody. He bled to death from a thigh wound inflicted by Brimob forces while in their custody.

The 2010 report fails to criticize the Indonesian government's repeated targeting for arrest and assault those who peacefully demonstrate. In particular, the report simply notes the arrest of Moluccans and Papuans who displayed what the Indonesian government labels as "separatist symbols." While noting that Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have identified over 83 citizens incarcerated for such peaceful protest (in West Papua and elsewhere), the report does not criticize the practice. Nor does it note that in punishing such peaceful protest, Indonesia is in violation of its obligations as a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Rather than cite Indonesia for its violations of its citizens right to free speech and freedom of assembly the report misleadingly claims that "(t)he law provides for freedom of assembly, and the government generally respected this right." The report does acknowledge, but without criticism, that "(d)uring the year police arrested participants in peaceful demonstrations that included the display of illegal separatist symbols."

Indonesian Security Forces Kill Four Papuans, Drive Civilians from Their Homes

Reports from Tapol and from a local WPAT Papuan source have provided detail on a brutal assault on Papuans in Dogiyai District. As of May 1, many Papuans living in Dogiyai district remain displaced from their homes following the security force killing of two local men on April 13.

On 13 April, troops from the Indonesian army and the police killed four civilians: Dominikus Auwe, Pinsen Tigi, Matias Iyagi and Alosius Waine. Auwe and Waine had gone to the Moanemani sub-district police station to complain that money derived from a gambling operation had been seized from them by police. The other two Papuans were killed subsequently. Public protest of these two killings followed. A crowd attacked and burned the Moanemani police station, prompting joint forces of the army and the police to launch "searches" in several kampungs in the district. Homes, gardens and livestock were destroyed in the "searches." According to information received from the area at least ten homes were destroyed in the initial sweeps staged on April 15.


The brutal operation prompted most of the people in Dogiyai, the district capital, to flee to the forests or to neighboring villages. Since mid-April, heavily-armed troops have deployed to the area, arriving daily from the neighboring districts

The brutal operation prompted most of the people in Dogiyai, the district capital, to flee to the forests or to neighboring villages. Since mid-April, heavily-armed troops have deployed to the area, arriving daily from the neighboring districts of Deiyai, Nabire, Paniai and Timika. These troops have joined in the ongoing "searches" which are now extending into outlying villages around Dogiyai and extending into adjoining districts.

The disruption caused by the security force operation, in addition to forcing people from their homes has also disrupted commerce leading to food shortages. At least two Papuans, an eight-year old boy named Detianus Goo and a forty-year old woman, Rosia Goo have died as a consequence of their being forced from their homes. (It is unclear if the two are related.)

Amnesty International issued a statement regarding developments in Dogiyai which described the security force action as entailing an "unnecessary and excessive use of force." (See the AI statement here.)

Papuans Press for Suspension of Special Autonomy Disbursements Pending Audit

The Jakarta Post reported on April 19, 2011 that Papuans are pressing for the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) to probe allegations by the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) that Special Autonomy funds intended for West Papua have been misused. The BPK charged that Rp 4.12 trillion of Rp 19.12 trillion (US$2.2 billion) in special autonomy funds disbursed between 2000 and 2010 had been embezzled.

The Indonesian government has long pointed to its expenditure of funds for West Papua under Special Autonomy as demonstrating the Indonesian governments commitment to address the decades-old impoverishment and marginalization of Papuans. Papuans have long complained that most of those funds have been siphoned off by civilian and military bureaucrats with little money left for improving the plight of Papuans.

The Jakarta Post quoted Markus Haluk, Secretary General of the Pegunungan Tengah Student Association (AMPTPI):

“The KPK should find the courage to thoroughly investigate the reported misuse of the funds and legally process everyone involved in the case, including officials from the central government and those from the provincial, regency and mayoralty administrations... If [the BPK report] is only regarded as a finding without pursuing legal action, it is the same as neglect and giving the chance for officials to continue committing corruption."

Markus added that Papua's special autonomy has been poorly implemented from its inception. He explained that the provision of vast sums by central government to local administrations has created new problems instead of mitigating existing ones, citing as an example the corruption of local officials. He urged that all disbursements under the program, including from international donors, should be suspended pending completion of the audit.

A Tempo Interactive report indicates that President Yudhoyono himself recognizes that special autonomy funds have been embezzled, although the President's office was less candid. On April 19 the President’s special staff for regional development and autonomy, Velix Wanggai, told the media "the President realizes that the special autonomy funds have not been optimally and effectively managed."

Yale University Seminar Focuses on West Papua

Yale Seminar  
Yale Seminar. Octo Mote on right. Photo by John M. Miller/ETAN  

On April 16 more than 20 academics, human rights activists, and journalists from the U.S., Canada, Australia and West Papua engaged in a detailed review of developments in and affecting West Papua at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. A representative of the Indonesian Embassy in Washington observed.

Participants presented papers on human rights, HIV/AIDS, the MIFEE project, Freeport, and militarization among other topics. Among the presenters were Dr. Abigail Abrash, Octo Mote (co-organizer of the seminar) and Dr. Eben Kirksey from the West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT). John M. Miller from East Timor and Indonesia Network (ETAN) also presented a paper.

The seminar, "Current Perspectives on Papua," was organized by the Yale Indonesia Forum (YIF), an interdisciplinary group. The seminar was in part a follow-up to a 2004 Yale seminar sponsored by the Allard Lowenstein Center at Yale which produced a paper that concluded that crimes against humanity and possibly genocide were transpiring in West Papua Lowenstein Clinic/Schell Center Report on Genocide in Papua.

The proceedings will be compiled in a book to be released publicly.

Following the seminar, several participants met with UN and U.S. officials in New York and Washington, DC.

Forest Minister Limits "Development" of Pristine Forests in West Papua, But Makes an Exception for the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE)

Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan conveyed the impression that the Minister is "committed to keeping Papua`s primary forest regions intact and not letting them be exploited by forest concession holders." (He put the size at 7.3 million hectares).

According to Antara, Minister Hasan claimed that his Ministry is denying requests that to open these forested areas to non-forestry activities, notably agriculture. He explained that developers would not be allowed to exploit within thickly forested areas, but rather could only work in already logged areas. "We intend to keep this as it is, there will be no expansion of the forest concession area," he said. If developers wished to sue the government for not issuing new permits, they were "free to do so," he added.

Minister Hasan noted this "non-expansion" policy was being implemented nationwide including in Papua. He acknowledged however, that his Ministry had given the go-ahead for appropriation of 600,000 hectares of forest area in support of the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE) in Papua emphasizing that developers had first sought 1.3 million hectares.

In addition to MIFEE, he said, there are 19 other proposals in West Papua to pursue exploitation of industrial forest and forest areas for non-forestry activities. However, many have withdrawn their proposals after having been given explanation that such activities could not be carried out in primary forest areas. "They can`t use the thickly forested areas, they instead can use the logged over areas but then they chose to withdraw," Hasan explained.

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