West Papua Advocacy Team Urges
Unrestricted Visit by UN Special Rapporteur
This edition's PERSPECTIVE discusses Indonesian
presidential aspirant Lt. General (ret) Prabowo dark role in West Papua's
past. In the UPDATE section, we review the Indonesian
security forces' expanding campaign of violence targeting self-determination
advocates associated with the West Papua National Committee (KNPB). We also
summarize the implications for human rights of the proposed new
"anti-terrorism" law and describe the continuing destruction of pristine
forests throughout the Indonesian archipelago. In
CHRONICLE: a new Asian Human Rights Commission "alert" about police
violence in West Papua, a report by the Alliance of Independent Journalists
regarding the rise of threats and violence against journalists, and the
Australia West Papua Association Sydney's review of human rights
developments in West Papua. This edition also highlights a critique of the
Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate project (MIFEE) by Indigenous
Peoples Organization of Bian Enim.
Prabowo and Papua
by Edmund McWilliams
WPAT's Edmund McWilliams is a retired U.S. Foreign Service Officer who
served as the Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta. 1996-1999.
He worked closely with sources cited in the following account.
The list of likely candidates in the Indonesia's 2014 Presidential
election includes Lt. General (ret) Prabowo Subianto, leader of the "Great
Indonesian Movement Party" (Gerinda). His candidacy has generated concern
over the future of democracy in Indonesia, because of the retired General's
record of human rights violations and his
admitted role in a coup attempt.
was forced out of the Indonesian army in August 1998 following revelations
of his role in the kidnapping, torture and murder of peaceful democratic
activists in 1997-98 and due to his apparent central role in sparking May
14, 1998 anti-Chinese riots in Jakarta and several other major urban areas.
Prabowo has confessed his role in the kidnappings,
foreign journalists that his "conscience is clear." In 2000, Prabowo
first person to be denied entry into the United States under the UN
Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment
Robert Gelbard, former United States Ambassador to Indonesia,
as "somebody who is perhaps the greatest violator of human rights in
contemporary times among the Indonesian military. His deeds in the late 90s
before democracy took hold, were shocking, even by TNI standards."
Prabowo's rapid rise to power was based on nepotism. He married the dictator
Suharto's youngest daughter, Titiek Suharto. Prabowo's father, Sumitro
Djojohadikusumo, was a cabinet minister under both President Sukarno and
Suharto. Although, he financed an armed rebellion against President Sukarno
in 1957-58. His son's career also benefited from close ties to the United
States military, which trained him in the U.S. and provided the forces he
commanded special training and access to U.S. military technology.
Prabowo's military record, early on, demonstrated a disregard for human
rights. In 1976, Prabowo was a commander of Group 1 Komando Pasukan Sandhi
Yudha and took part in the Indonesian army's Nanggala Operation in East
Timor. He led the mission to track down Nicolau dos Reis Lobato, a founder
and vice president of Fretilin, who became the first Prime Minister of East
Timor after the declaration of independence in November 1975. Lobato - who
had become East Timor's second President - was shot in the stomach and
killed after Prabowo's company found him on 31 December 1977. The Indonesian
military reportedly decapitated the body and sent Lobato's head to Jakarta.
Prabowo was appointed vice commander of Kopassus's Detachment 81 in 1983
before receiving commando training at Fort Benning, GA, in the U.S. As
commander of Kopassus Group 3, Prabowo attempted to crush the East Timorese
independence movement. To terrorize the population, he employed militias
trained and directed by Kopassus commanders and hooded "ninja" gangs, who
operated at night dressed in black. In East Timor, Prabowo "developed his
reputation as the military's most ruthless field commander. 
Prabowo is "somebody who is perhaps the greatest violator of human rights in
contemporary times among the Indonesian military."
While Prabowo's notorious reputation is based, to a significant extent, on
his 1998 anti-democratic and inhumane exploits and his role as a butcher in
East Timor, less is known of the key role he played in West Papua. In 1996,
Prabowo led the Mapenduma Operation to secure the release of 12 researchers
from the World Wildlife Fund's Lorentz expedition taken hostage by the OPM
several months earlier. While five of the researchers were Indonesian, the
others were English, Dutch and German. The presence of Europeans among those
abducted drew international attention to the obscure struggle for
self-determination in West Papua.
Prabowo seized upon the crisis as a means to enhance his reputation
domestically and with the international community. He devised a plan whereby
the hostages would be released via negotiations between himself and their
captors. After lengthy negotiations mediated by the local office of the
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the OPM commander Kelly
Kwalik agreed to turn over all hostages in exchange for a military promise
of no reprisals and an ICRC pledge to establish a network of health clinics
in the remote Mapenduma area. The deal fell through at the last minute.
The Indonesian military's version of events, quickly accepted by
Jakarta-based embassies which were monitoring developments, was that Kwalik
had had an inexplicable "change of heart" and had fled the village of
Geselema where the transfer of hostages was to take place. There followed a
clumsy Indonesian military attack on the village (already evacuated by
Kwalik) which killed up to eight civilians. The foreign hostages eventually
escaped their captors and reached Indonesian military encampments.
However, in separate interviews with the author of this article, the two
most senior ICRC officials provided an entirely different account of events.
On the eve of the transfer, the senior ICRC official involved in the
negotiations was summoned by Prabowo to his military headquarters in West
Papua. There, an enraged Prabowo told the ICRC official that Suharto's elder
daughter, "Tutut," was planning to fly to West Papua the following day to
officiate at the hostage transfer in her capacity as Indonesian Red Crescent
chairperson. This, Prabowo told the ICRC official, would rob him of the
credit for the hostage rescue. Prabowo pressed the ICRC official to
telephone Jakarta and press for Tutut to abort her mission. The ICRC
official made the call but learned that Tutut was already enroute. Prabowo,
according the two ICRC senior officials who spoke with this author, then
moved to scuttle the transfer. This was done by conveying to Kwalik through
a source Kwalik trusted that the Indonesian military had been acting in bad
faith all along and would immediately target Kwalik and his personnel once
the transfer had taken place. This, the ICRC officials claimed, was the
reason for Kwalik's last minute "change of heart."
The aborted hostage transfer led to a brutal campaign of reprisal attacks by the
Indonesian military (largely Kopassus) against highland villages thought to be
sympathetic to the OPM.
The aborted hostage transfer led to a brutal campaign of reprisal attacks by
the Indonesian military (largely Kopassus) against highland villages thought
to be sympathetic to the OPM. The campaign began with the assault on
tGeselema using an Indonesian military helicopter disguised to look like the
helicopter that ICRC mediators had been using for several months. The ICRC
officials told the author that the disguised helicopter and the use of the
Red Cross insignia constituted a "perfidy" about which the ICRC could have
protested, but did not. The consequence was to so damage the reputation of
the ICRC with Papuans as to limit its effectiveness in West Papua for many
years. (The Indonesian government subsequently forced the ICRC to close its
office in Jayapura, an action unrelated to the Geselema affair.)
The reprisal campaign executed by Prabowo and Kopassus represents only a
portion of Prabowo's long record of involvement in West Papua, but is
perhaps among the most important considerations for Papuans as they consider
the prospect of a Prabowo presidency.
 Joseph Nevins,
A Not-So Distant Horror, Mass Violence in East Timor, Cornell University
Press, 2005. p. 61
Indonesian Security Forces Broaden Campaign Targeting Peaceful Papuan
December 17 Sydney Morning Herald reports that as 2012 drew to a close
at least 22 Papuans associated with the West Papua National Committee (KNPB)
had been murdered by Indonesian state security forces. Indonesian military
and the so-called "anti-terrorist"
Detachment 88 are
leading perpetrators of this violence. Three KNPB members are missing and
seven are detained. Over 200 Papuans with ties to the organization have been
detained but later released, often after brutal treatment. The
detain-and-release tactic is part of a broader strategy to intimidate
Papuans who speak out in defense of their rights. The KNPB has drawn special
attention by security forces because of its growing appeal and its blunt
call for Papuan self determination.
J. Ruben Magay,
Chairman of Committee A of the Papuan Legislative Council (DPRP),
told Papuan media
on December 20 that it is incorrect to link the activities of the West Papua
National Committee (KNPB) to terrorism. "For quite some time now, some
parties have referred to the KNPB as a terrorist organization but I wish to
reiterate that KNPB is not a terrorist group. On the contrary they are an
organization which promotes democracy in Papua and that is part of the
controlling function and the ability to evaluate the performance of the
government in the region," Magay said.
"If it is said that there are terrorists in Papua, I think we should turn
our attention to the level of performance of the security apparatus. It
would be wrong to address one issue with another issue. There are terrorists
that are known to be implicated in explosions. The question is now to what
extent is the police able to ascertain them and subsequently how many
further threats can be identified. This is what is important," he said.
It would appear that the national police (POLRI) concur that the KNPB does
not constitute a "terrorist threat. Responding to concern that the police
would employ anti-terror legislation broadly against peaceful dissidents
such as the KNPB. Papua Police chief Insp. Gen. Tito Karnavian
told media in late December that he could "ensure that we have no cases of criminals hiding behind
the [Papuan] freedom movement."
National Police Join Military in More Militant Approach in West Papua
National Police Criminal Investigation Division chief Commander Gen.
told media on December 18 that the police would employ the Antiterrorism
Law No.15/2003 to deal with individuals or groups which he contended were
"terrorizing" people in Papua, including those attacking police stations.
Sutarman said the decision to use the law has nothing to do with the
burgeoning separatist movement.
"We, Papuans, are not terrorists. I regret the decision to even think of using
that law to respond to local violence. Even without that law, the police already
treat Papuans as terrorists. Can you imagine what they would do with the
Catholic priest John Jonga
warned that security personnel would take use of the law as license to
use violence against Papuans in the name of counterterrorism. "We, Papuans,
are not terrorists. I regret the decision to even think of using that law to
respond to local violence. Even without that law, the police already treat
Papuans as terrorists. Can you imagine what they would do with the law?"
Poengky Indarti of Imparsial suggested that the plan for the Antiterrorism
Law in Papua, could heighten the already tense atmosphere in the province.
"The law doesn't provide a clear definition of terrorism. The police could
interpret it subjectively and use it for their own purposes."
Indonesian Military Shoot Seven Civilians, Killing Four
The Indonesian military shot seven Papuan fisherman near Pulau Papan
District in West Papua, killing four,
according to a December 28, 2012 report in Bintang Papua (translated by
TAPOL). It is unclear why the men were shot and one solider is being
questioned by the military police. The bodies of the four were under water
for almost a week.
The South Sulawesi Families Association called on the military command to
make a statement, but the military have as yet failed to clarify what
happened. A spokesman of the association said that they were trying find
other victims of the shooting.
Deforestation Continues at Rapid Pace
Latest Indonesian Forestry Ministry figures put the area of remaining
primary rainforest in the Indonesian archipelago at less than half of the
130 million hectares of land the ministry currently defines as forest, with
most of the remaining pristine rainforests in West Papua. Very little is
left in Sumatra and Kalimantan. More than a third of Sumatra's forests have
been destroyed over the last 20 years. Recent expansion in Kalimantan has
pushed deforestation rates to rival those recorded in Sumatra. Extractive
industries are now targeting the largest remaining tracts of pristine
rainforests in Papua.
Indonesian Security Forces Have Killed A Peaceful Activist in Custody
The Asian Human Rights Commission on December 21 issued an "urgent
appeal" regarding the killing of a pro-independence Papuan activist
while in custody and the wounding of a second. Reportedly, members of the
infamous Detachment 88 shot both Hubertus Mabel and Natalis Alua, in Milima,
Kurulu District on December 16. Hubertus Mabel was killed and Natalis Alua
injured. The killing followed the arrest and interrogation at gun point of
three other members of West Papua National Committee (Komite Nasional Papua
Barat, KNPB) named Simeon Daby, Meki Kogoya and Wene Helakombo on December
15, 2012. Security officials forced the three KNPB members to lure Mabel and
Alua to a fatal meeting at which Detachment 88 personnel fired on Mabel and
Alua after they had been detained and were lying on the ground. Mabel was
also stabbed in the chest.
Locals Critique MIFEE Project
The Indigenous Peoples Organization of Bian Enim on December 21
released a powerful
indictment of the impact of the Indonesian government's MIFEE (the
Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate) project. The report highlights
the environmental pollution and the failure to involve clan leaders in the
planning. The organization demands include and end to the usurpation of
private land and compensation for damage already caused.
The Alliance of Independent Journalists Reports Violence and Intimidation
of Journalists on The Rise in Papua