West Papua Report
This is the 109th 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 by the East Timor
and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN). Back issues are
posted online at
regarding this report can be addressed to Edmund McWilliams
at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you
wish to receive the report directly via e-mail, send a note to
Link to this issue:
The Report leads with "Perspective," an opinion piece; followed by
"Update," a summary of some developments during the covered period; and then
"Chronicle" which lists of analyses, statements, new resources, appeals and
action alerts related to West Papua. Anyone interested in contributing a
"Perspective" or responding to one should write to
email@example.com. The opinions expressed in
Perspectives are the author's and not necessarily those of WPAT or ETAN. For additional news on West Papua see the reg.westpapua listserv
archive or on
This edition of the West
Papua Report features a PERSPECTIVE by a
longtime observer of West Papua. This is the second of a three-part series.
This part focuses on the growing crisis in Papuan society posed by decades
of neglect of essential services and a breakdown of governance. The author
also explores the causes and consequences of fundamental demographic shifts
in West Papua. In particular, he describes the destructive impact on West
Papuan society arising from central government efforts to divide existing
political structures into ever-smaller units and the accelerating
marginalization of Papuans through the government-supported migration of
non-Papuans into Papuan lands.
Activists associated with the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) face
continued persecution, as security forces threaten the organization and
others who plan on May 1 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Indonesian
annexation of West Papua. The West Papua Advocacy Team calls on the U.S.
government to monitor security force activity in West Papua associated with
the May 1 demonstrations. This edition's UPDATE
section also welcomes the launch of the website Papuans Behind Bars, which
will help human rights activists around the world monitor the plight of
Papuan political prisoners. The UPDATE also notes the collapse of central
government health care systems for Papuans, as well as the persecution of
those who seek to reveal this crisis. In addition West Papuans continue
their diplomacy aimed at membership in the Melanesia Spearhead Group. In the CHRONICLE
section, the Report notes continuing media coverage of a vast military-run
road development scheme in West Papua, a May 1 statement from imprisoned
Papuan leader Edison
Waromi, and a recent review of the plight of
Papuan political prisoners.
CHALLENGES IN WEST PAPUA:
The Governance and Demographic Challenge
The following is the second part of a three part analysis of challenges
confronting the Papuan people which was composed by a long-term observer of
the Papuan scene who chooses to remain anonymous.
Following an analysis of the impact
of militarization of West Papua that appeared in the April edition of the
West Papua Report, this portion of the analysis looks at the destruction of
traditional Papuan culture and fundamental demographic changes which are
marginalizing Papuans in their own lands.
- The presence of security forces and their role in West Papua has
led to the reality that the civic government/administration is hardly
visible. All the main decisions are made by the security forces. This
situation is also exacerbated by the fact that a relatively high number
of district heads positions and even the governor's position until
recently have been vacant and left vacant for a long time (i.e., since
August 2011, although it should be noted that a
governor did take office
in March 2013). Officially a "caretaker head of district" can only be in
place for maximum of two years. The caretaker's principal task is
organizing the election for the new head of the district. In various
districts, including Timika and neighboring Highlands districts
such as Puncak Jaya, Puncak and Paniai, the caretaker position
has been extended to between five and eight years. In Timika,
there is a virtual absence of civil administration policies and
activities. This circumstance is caused in part by pressure by
the security forces which have interests in the outcome of local
government contests and by internal power-struggles.
- Local elections have been often marked by violence and disruption
of internal social relations. This is particularly evident with
regards to the election of the districts heads (bupati).
Virtually no election proceeds smoothly as candidates (often all Papuan)
engage in recriminations and violence. In the worst case, in Ilaga
(district of Puncak), the political competition led to a massacre that
killed 68 people among groups supporting two rival candidates. A total
of 672 people supporting the rival candidates were injured. Usually,
once the election results are announced, rival candidates take the
winning party to the Constitutional Court in Jakarta, accusing them of
irregularities. Enormous amounts of energy, time, and money is spent on
these legal confrontations. In addition, the government provides
additional funds to the contesting parties to encourage reconciliation.
The whole process is thus characterized by shameless money politics.
Local people have lost the sense of being in charge of their own lives and
perceive their lives as directed by powerful outside institutions with hidden
agendas. These institutions, including especially the security forces, lead
people to feel powerless and often desperate.
- Much of the cause for this breakdown of politics and governance at
the district level lies in the Jakarta government's "decentralization
policy" (in Bahasa Indonesian: pemekaran). Under this policy,
administrative units have been divided into new units purportedly to
"bring the public governmental service within more effective reach of
the community." This official rationale is often completely disregarded
in reality as the stream of money becomes the main driver of political
and administrative activity. An official survey by the government
revealed that nationally approximately 70 percent of these newly formed
districts fail. This reality has led to what is said to be a moratorium
on the formation of such new districts. However, the policy continues. For example, recently the Provincial Parliament in Jayapura
discussed the possibility of approving 37 requests for establishing new
districts in Papua.
- Reports on the situation of new districts make clear that most of
the new districts fall far short of their targets. Infrastructure
development has been significant, but the regression of public service
has been significant as well. Once again the very simple citizens in
(remote) communities are the main victims, suffering a lack of education
service and health care and curtailing of from economic and other
opportunities. The main interest for local competition associated with
the formation of new districts is the desire to gain personally. Local
prominent figures see the possibility to compete for the position as
district authorities (bupati, parliament, head of governmental services,
etc.). These positions afford access to the budget made available by the
central and provincial government. Within the arena of competition
Papuans fight each other while creating new tensions among families,
tribes and even along religious lines. This is a new daily reality. At
the same time opportunities to profit from constructing new facilities,
are mainly claimed by outsiders. They make the money, while the Papuans
are becoming more and more marginalized. The fact that civil servants
from these new districts often remain settled in another district
precludes the stated purpose of bringing public service closer to the
community. For example, in newly formed Kerom district 80 percent of
civil servants live in another district, i.e. around Jayapura, which is
an hour drive by car. The same phenomena is visible in other urban
centers such as Nabire, Merauke, Wamena, Timika)
- Competition for position in these new administrations is marked by
which leads to extensive corruption. The central government demonstrates
broad tolerance for corrupt practices. As a result corrupt practices are
spreading fast and leading to a deterioration of internal human
relations, the rapid creation of an indigenous elite, and civil servants
generally moving away from an effective service to the people. This
tolerance of corruption also generates internal tribal conflict and
conflict . These conflicts are increasingly communal or
"horizontal." This is a huge change compared with 15 years
ago, when generally speaking Papuan civil servants still had the
interests of the community in mind, Papuans could still speak with a
united voice, and promises still had a substantial meaning.
- In the meantime constructive policies have been replaced by
provision of special subsidies. Often these subsidies, including for
rice and fertilizer, are sold by civil servants. Development money for
each village (Dana Respek) is given without sufficient guidance
to ensure it is used properly. Special subsidies for schools and "free"
healthcare are poorly managed and not effective. In election campaigns
candidates promise villages as much as one billion rupiahs each. Such
promises disrupt and confuse local communities. Local religious leaders
note that local people put their faith in promises of government support
and as a result neglect work in their garden and fail to take
initiatives to ensure steady, self-owned sources for living.
- The changes in social life and outlook have been dramatic. Once an
active population seeking to secure food sources and advancing prospects
for their families, local people increasingly have abandoned their own
efforts and have begun to rely instead on help from outside (begging).
This attitude is completely opposite to traditional values among the Mee
people (and probably other tribal entities) where traditional
values call for responsibility for securing ones own source for living
(the Mee-tribe is a dominant large part of the population in the
Highlands). Waiting for new hand-outs has become the normal pattern. It
is very sad to observe this among a people that had previously been
praised for their "primitive capitalism" based on internal competition,
individualism and hard work. Such discipline previously has ensured
community respect and success. This traditional culture ("adat")
has been abandoned in favor of "playing the game," gambling, demanding
compensation (in Bahasa Indonesia "kompensasi" and/or "denda.")
The latter has some basis in Papuan traditional culture involving the
claiming of payments for any social conflict from others for perceived
wrongs inflicted on the claimant. However, this tradition has become
much more widespread and many people are now living from "demanding
denda" and tribal conflict has become a kind of business.
- This broad scale change in the attitude of many rural people is not
only a consequence of the government's initiation of "hand-out
projects." It is also a result of the pressure on these communities
which face the societal stress posed by overwhelming change. This change
includes the opening up of the area by roads and the influx of
non-Papuan people from outside.
- Local people have lost the sense of being in charge of their own
lives and perceive their lives as directed by powerful outside
institutions with hidden agendas. These institutions, including
especially the security forces, lead people to feel powerless and often
desperate. The destabilizing competition for power and profit also
discourages the local communities enormously, and eradicates any trust
in persons in authority. Local people do not know anymore whom to turn
to for guidance and direction. No one knows anymore who can be trusted,
who will be on her/his side when coming in with right and just
- This increasing mistrust has also been connected with the
"re-division of administrative units," that has led to clear signs of "suku-ism"
(tribalism) which pits tribe against tribe and family against family in
the struggle to obtain positions or profit from the constructing of new
- The strength of the communities has also diminished because of
specific disastrous circumstances, such as the very fast spread of
HIV-AIDS, the associated high mortality rate among indigenous people,
lack of medical service, the increased number of broken homes, the
pressure to get involved in family planning practice (sometimes forced
upon people), the negative impact of a dominant male tradition/culture,
the profusion of "entertainment" establishments, including houses of
prostitution, in certain areas the use of narcotics, and the number of
unresolved crimes including mysterious killings. Activists among the
indigenous people increasingly speak of a "planned genocide" with the
aim of ridding Indonesia of the "Papuan problem." The reluctance of the
central government to control these destructive developments in Papua,
gives these activists reason to believe this.
There is a growing conclusion that they, the indigenous Papuans, have
lost, and they have reason enough to doubt whether they still have a future
as a Papuan people. The following section gives them strong
additional arguments for this paralyzing feeling.
The transition to minority Papuan status in West Papua
- A key development that will determine the fate of the Papuan people
is approaching minority status for Papuans in their own lands.
Demographically, Papuans will soon become a minority which will render
them "neglectable." In the 1970's indigenous Papuan constituted 95
percent of the population in West Papua. In 2011, this fell to a
minority of 47 percent. What makes the picture even grimmer is the
official projection of the demographic balance in 2030 that is expected
to leave Papuans with only 15 percent of the population of West Papua.
"Outsiders" will represent a dominant 85 percent. Papuans commonly
express fear that "outsiders" will hold most civil service positions and
will be empowered to "tell us Papuans what to do."
- In the same context reference is made to the Special Autonomy Law
for Papua (OTSUS) that came into force in 2001 and purportedly was
intended to create room for Papuans to control the demographic dynamics.
However, no regulations in this regard have ever been put in practice,
while on the other hand dynamics have been set in motion, such as a huge
division (administrative unit reform: pemekaran) of Papua in new
provinces, districts and subdistricts that have attracted high numbers
of people from outside, pushing (trans)migration to new levels. The "pemekaran"
has afforded many opportunities for newcomers, while at the same time
marginalizing and/or even dividing the local indigenous communities. In
fact OTSUS policies have been sabotaged by the central government from
the outset, beginning with the "illegal" proclamation (unilaterally by
Jakarta) of the creation of a second province in Papua.
- One of the key players should have been the Majelis Rakyat Papua
(MRP), a quasi-legislative body that specifically was intended to
represent the indigenous people. The body was given the task of
"protecting and assisting the Papuan People" in securing their just
future. It took the government five years to establish the MRP. Once
established, the central government moved quickly to neutralize it and
render it a powerless ceremonial institution. It is a significant
example of how the central government is intervening in local autonomy
and eliminating any opportunity for Papua to act autonomously. Not
surprisingly, the Special Autonomy Law has been
handed back by the
Papuan people (via the MRP) to the central government in 2010 as it has
proved to be a complete failure and just another trick through which the
central government cheats the Papuan people.
- Another strong factor in pushing the demographic balance in
the wrong direction is and has been the huge increase in large
investments, especially in the shape of palm oil plantations and mining,
throughout Papua. Both, plantations as well as mining, demand large
contingents of labor. After initially using local people to meet these
labor requirements, the local (Papuan) population overtime has been
sidelined and replaced by those who are purportedly more reliable
outsiders. For example the original mega-project planned by the central
government for Merauke district, called
MIFEE (Merauke Integrated Food
and Energy Estate), needs roughly 800,000 laborers, while the local
population in the related area hardly totals 125,000. The business
economy/investments have a fatal impact on the indigenous communities
who often are manipulated in giving permission to use their land
(effective misinformation or just traded by some of the community's
"representatives" who in fact have no right to represent them, and/or
under pressure by security forces); losing their land
(traditional land rights not being recognized by the central government)
and the consequent loss of food security, i.e., gardens and traditional
hunting area. Once again it is an economic policy that will favor the
few rich and denies the need for a local people centered economic
- This demographic trend has been breathtaking. The national policies
which are fundamentally changing the demographic balance reflect a
purposeful strategy aimed at eliminating the "Papuan problem." It is
simply a matter of time. Can anything be done to cope with this
On May 1, 1963, UNTEA transferred administration of the Dutch colony of
Netherlands New Guinea to Indonesia. Five decades of repression, including
direct military action against peaceful civilian protest, followed.
Security Forces Threaten Peaceful May 1
Commemorations by Papuans
Civil society organizations, including the West Papua National Committee
(KNPB), plan to hold peaceful rallies to protest the 50th anniversary of the
handover of West Papua by the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA)
to Indonesian administration. On May 1, 1963, UNTEA transferred
administration of the Dutch colony of Netherlands New Guinea to Indonesia.
Five decades of repression, including direct military action against
peaceful civilian protest, followed. Military repression and deliberate
central government neglect of even basic health, education and social
assistance has been tantamount to genocide.
The KNPB, and other organizations have called on the people of West Papua to
hold peaceful demonstrations to commemorate Indonesia's annexation of West
Papua and the five-decade long denial of Papuans right to
Statements by Indonesian security force officials
indicate their plans to crack down on peaceful protest. The
police chief said that 1000 security personal will be on duty for May 1.
"In principle we do not give permission to anyone in the community to hold a
memorial ceremony on the 1 May," he said. Officials have also warned that
there will be an increase in patrols and other preventive activities
throughout West Papua.
Joe Collins of the Australian West Papua Association (AWPA) on April 25
told media that "we are concerned that statements from the security forces
indicate they may crackdown on any peaceful rallies held to protest the
handover by the UN."
a letter to Australia's Foreign Minister Bob Carr AWPA wrote: "AWPA is
urging you to use your good offices with the Indonesian Government asking
that it control its security forces in West Papua and urging the Government
to keep the security forces in their barracks and let the West Papuan people
commemorate this tragic event in their history peacefully."
For its part, the U.S.-based West Papua Advocacy Team calls on the United
States government, through its Embassy in Jakarta and other means, to
closely monitor developments associated with peaceful Papuan demonstrations
commemorating the May 1 anniversary. WPAT also calls on the U.S. government
to convey to the Indonesian government, at the highest possible level, its
concern that security force violence and intimidation targeting peaceful
Papuan protest is unacceptable and would be inconsistent with the Indonesian
government's commitments undertaken in many international human rights
Website Tracks Plight of Papuan Political Prisoners
A new website, Papuans Behind Bars,
is an important new resource for human rights campaigners to monitor the
plight of West Papuans imprisoned by the Indonesian government for peaceful
advocacy of Papuan rights. The website is an initiative of civil society groups
within West Papua.
The website profiles many of the political detainees currently serving
time in Indonesian jails for their peaceful advocacy of West Papuan rights,
including the right to self-determination.
The website also aims to facilitate advocacy on behalf of the political
prisoners. Many of the prisoners profiled on the site have suffered
egregious abuse in custody, including beatings and torture, denial of access
to lawyer and family, and refusal by prison authorities of urgent medical care.
In conjunction with the launch of the website, TAPOL, the renowned UK-based
human rights organization established by Carmel Budiardjo, issued
political prisoners? The suppression of political protest in West Papua. TAPOL documents the cases of
the 40 prisoners in jail at the end of March 2013
and reveals there were at least 210 political arrests in 2012, including of many women. TAPOL writes "One of the main problems preventing civil society from
successfully addressing restrictions on freedom of expression in West Papua
is the stigma of ‘separatism’ and ‘treason’ which surrounds any kind of
political activity. This stigma is applied not only to political activists,
political prisoners and indigenous Papuans in general, but also to those
seeking to defend their rights."
The Chronic Failure of Government Health Services in
A report published April 23
exposes the fraud and neglect that characterizes the Indonesian government
health programs and policies in West Papua. NGO
officials say that only 50 percent of central government funds allotted to
health care are in fact directed to improving health services. In some areas, health services have been curtailed due to an
absence of personnel to staff those services. The deepening health crisis in
West Papua is exacerbated by malnutrition which affects many remote Papuan
WPAT notes that the malnutrition in some cases, particularly in the Central
Highlands, is the result of continuous "sweeping" operations by the
Indonesian military. These military campaigns destroy crops and local
infrastructure, disrupt local commerce and in some instances drive civilians
into the inhospitable mountains and forests.
The chronic failure of the Indonesian government to provide minimally
adequate health services to the Papuan people has for decades generated the
worst health and well-being statistics in the Indonesian archipelago and
prompted charges of genocide.
Indonesian authorities are reluctant to have their failures in providing
health care to Papuans revealed to the international community.
Two Arrested while Investigating Deaths
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) issued
an Urgent Appeal on April 17
highlighted the April 8 detention of two human rights advocates for their investigation
of the deaths of villagers in the Tambrauw District.
The deaths were said to be evidence of inadequate medical services (see
above). The November 2012 and March 2013 deaths were the
result of diarrhea and malnutrition.
The two researchers were subsequently released, but only after they were
interrogated about their links to other activists, their media contacts,
and sources of finance. The AHRC writes that a
principal objective of such detentions is often intimidation. The commission
notes that while Indonesian Criminal Procedure Code allows the police to
arrest, detain and summon individuals for the purpose of an investigation of
a crime; this authority should not be used to violate international covenants
protecting fundamental human rights.
The commission adds that such detentions and interrogations "are often
conducted arbitrarily. Instead of being exercised for the sake of crime
investigation, arrest and detention are performed by law enforcement
officials in many instances as a means to spread threat as well as to
intimidate individuals engaged with political activities," and in this instance,
for revealing the government's malign neglect
of the Papuan people.
An additional report on recent large scale deaths in West Papua, "61 Papuans
die in remote hamlet," can
Persecution of West Papua National Committee (KNPB)
|The KNPB Timika 6 back in their
cells, photo taken April 17, after trial hearing. (photo
KNPB/West Papua Media)
The Indonesian government's campaign of repression against
the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) continues. The campaign has
included security force brutality and intimidation targeting KNPB members
via Indonesia's notoriously corrupt courts.
On April 23, six West Papua National Committee (KNPB) activists from Timika
were sentenced to one year in prison each at the
Abepura District Court. The trial widely criticized as unfair. The six
were sentenced on charges of carrying dangerous weapons and makar
Defense lawyers are lodging an appeal.
The six, Romario Yatipai, Steven Itlay, Yakonias Womsiwor, Paulus Marsyom,
Alfred Marsyom and Yanto Awerkion, were arrested on October 24, 2012, as
part of a
security force campaign targeting KNPB activists by the U.S. and
Australian-funded counter-terror unit Detachment 88.
Recently, the prisoners made
a video appeal the prison cells that have been
their home since October 2012. They called
on the international community to do more to ensure that Indonesia ceases
its persecution of peaceful political activists.
"We hope (the) International community, Amnesty International, IPWP, ILWP
support us and pressure Indonesia government, Indonesia Police in Papua and
Timika," Yatipai told West Papua Media. "West Papua activists, and all West
Papuans need UN Observers, UN Humanitarian workers, and International
Journalists now in Papua," they said.
Growing Support for West Papua in the Melanesian
On April 26, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Gordon Darcey Lilo
officials from the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation (WPNCL) that his country supported placing West Papua on the agenda for
discussion at the next summit of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG). The
meeting is planned for next June in New Caledonia.
Indonesia has long resisted inclusion of the West Papua issue by the MSG.
Indonesia is an observer at the MSG. In February, the WPNCL
submitted a petition to the MSG for West
Papua membership in the organization.
The MSG consists of Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Fiji, and the Solomon
Islands. The group also includes New Caledonia's FLNKS (Front de
Libération Nationale Kanak et Socialiste /Front Kanak Socialist Front
for National Liberation).
FLNKS leaders have said they support full membership for West Papua in
Papuan Leader Calls for Unity
Edison Waromi published a
Reflections from behind the Iron Bars of Indonesia in time for the May 1
anniversary of the UN handover of West Papua to Indonesia. Since Indonesia
first began its incursions into West Papua in 1961, he writes that "the
people and the land of West Papua have been experiencing human calamities
resulting from a conflict without a peaceful and fair resolution. Hundreds
of thousands of the indigenous West Papuans have been murdered, slaughtered
and imprisoned by the Republic of Indonesia."
He calls for unity, urging West Papuans to
"crucify our egoisms, our faction-centered views, our primordial attitudes
in order that the pulse of the Papuan nationalism is beating freely to unite
a coordinative resolution agenda between civil revolt institutions,
guerrilla fighters, and diplomats."
Waromi is the Prime Minister of the National
Federal Republic of West Papua He is currently serving a three-year sentence
Abepura Prison for his role in organizing the Third Papuan People’s
Congress. The declaration of the Federated Republic serves as "the
bargaining position of the people of West Papua."
to Build Massive Road Network in West Papua
Survival International has a new
report on plans by the military to undertake a massive road building
project in West Papua. The report says that the roads will lead to
deployment of still more troops in an already militarized region and open up
Papuan forests to ever more illegal logging. (See also
April 2013 West Papua Report for more on
the road "development" project.)
Plight of Papuan Political
Papua Prison Island details the use of imprisonment by Indonesian
authorities to repress Papuan aspirations for self-determination. The
article describes the plight of several of West Papua's leading political
prisoners serving long sentences in West Papua's infamous prisons because of
their peaceful political advocacy. The are stories of Papuans "who have been
arrested at random or deliberately targeted as activists, who have been
tortured or beaten in detention, whose trials were a farce, who have
suffered major illnesses with no access to proper healthcare -- but who have
in many cases kept their strength, their dignity and sense of solidarity
Much of the information for this article came from
Bars (see above), which documents the plight
of West Papuan political prisoners. Papuans Behind Bars is a collective
project initiated by Papuan civil society groups working together as the
Civil Society Coalition to Uphold Law and Human Rights in Papua. The
grassroots initiative represents a collaboration between lawyers, human
rights groups, adat groups, activists, journalists and others in West
Papua, as well as Jakarta-based NGOs and international solidarity groups.
That site has profiles of current and former political prisoners and
releases monthly news updates on arrests and trials.
Link to this issue: