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West Papua Report

This is the 112th 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 Questions regarding this report can be addressed to Edmund McWilliams at 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 includes 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 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 Twitter.


This month's PERSPECTIVE reflects on the ongoing diplomatic struggle over West Papuans' right to self-determination currently being waged by Papuan diplomats who have sought to hold the Indonesian government accountable for its violation of fundamental political and civil rights. The author, Octavianus Mote, is a prominent Papuan engaged in this effort.

In this Report's UPDATE section, a UN human rights review focused on Indonesia's excessive use of force in dealing with dissent. Commenting on the UN review, human rights organizations highlighted security force behavior in West Papua. Excessive use of force was on display during the month with the gunning down of an 11 year old Papuan girl. In late July, Papuans who sought to gather peacefully to note the UN meeting were blocked from assembling. Five of the demonstration leaders were detained. Various voices have expressed concern over restrictions on media in West Papua, including arbitrarily enforced restrictions on foreign journalists, the recent closing of a Papuan magazine, and intimidation of Papuan media seeking to cover what the security forces consider sensitive subjects. The failure of central government provided services in West Papua is exemplified by an absence of qualified teachers in Papuan schools.

In a rare victory for the Papuan people and environmentalists, plans for an oil palm plantation in West Papua have been shelved due in part to opposition by local people backed by environmental activists. Elsewhere, new complaints have emerged from local people who have seen their forests taken without compensation by oil palm plantation developers. Indigenous peoples appeals to the companies involved in the theft and to government officials have gone unanswered.

Plans by the administration of President Yudhoyono to revamp the failed "Special Autonomy" law have sparked new critical comment by human rights advocates and local Papuans.

In this report's CHRONICLE section we note a particularly insightful article focusing on the Melanesian region, including consideration of Papuans application for membership in the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG). Inside Indonesia and Papuans Behind Bars highlight prison issues. A Global Post account describes efforts by the Papuan exile Benny Wenda to draw international attention to the Papuan struggle for self-determination. His efforts have raised the importance of West Papua in the context of UK-Indonesian relations. Cornell University has devoted an entire special issue of its journal "Indonesia" to West Papua. Finally, we link to the video and transcript of the UK's House of Lords recent debate on West Papua.


This month's "Perspective" is by Octavianus Mote, Chair of the Papua Peace Team. He is one of five Papuans designated by a 2011 "Papuan Peace Conference" as "negotiators." Until 1999, Mote was the chief of the Papuan Bureau of Kompas, Indonesia's largest daily. He fled to the U.S. in 1999 following death threats by Indonesian security services, where he was granted asylum. He is now a U.S. citizen. He is a member of the West Papua Advocacy Team.

The Emerging Papuan-Indonesian Diplomatic Struggle

In an historic development, Melanesian nations meeting recently in a summit of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) recognized the right of self-determination for West Papuans. In its communiqué released during the July 2013 MSG Summit (see West Papua Report July 2013 coverage of this summit), the MSG leaders stated emphatically that "the MSG fully supports the inalienable rights of the people of West Papua towards self-determination as provided under the preamble of the MSG constitution." In addition, the MSG leaders explicitly stated MSG concerns regarding human rights violations and atrocities carried out against the West Papuan people. MSG leaders also expressed their determination to raise these concerns with the Government of Indonesia, "both bilaterally and as a group." The question of MSG membership will be the subject of further MSG deliberation, pending a mission of MSG foreign ministers to Jakarta and Papua to be undertaken later in 2013 at the invitation of the Indonesian government. (WPAT Note: The FLNKS is an MSG member even though it is not a state.)

The Papuan struggle for self-determination in the last fifty years is based on the Papuan right of self-determination, a right denied Papuans over 40 years ago by Indonesia, the United States and the Netherlands, acting in their narrow, cold-war shadowed self interest (see Dr. John Saltford's detailed "PERSPECTIVE" on the "Act of Free Choice" carried in the December 2012 West Papua Report).

These historic developments derive in large measure from an increasingly effective Papuan diplomacy.
Papuan Resistance to Occupation

The long Papuan struggle for their human rights, notably including the right of self-determination, has continued since Indonesia first established control of Papua under the infamous 1962 New York Agreement. That control, implemented on May 1, 1963, has met with both armed resistance and determined peaceful Papuan resistance, including, increasingly, in the form of an innovative, multi-faceted Papuan diplomacy.


Indonesia applies pressure on the issue of cooperation to fight terrorism and the problem of illegal migrants to these countries. Indonesia's support and cooperation on these issues comes at a price, and a key Jakarta demand is that Australia and New Zealand (and the United States) ignore the tragedy in Papua.

Papuans have long faced the reality that there was no international state support, either in the West or the East, for Papuans' right to self-determination. This reality has not led Papuans to despair. On the contrary, it has fanned the fire of struggle, a struggle that has received the attention of others who have had to struggle for their political rights, notably in Africa and the Southern Pacific.

To maintain their existence, a number of Papuan military leaders and political leaders declared independence on July 1, 1971. Since then, the struggle of independence has taken two directions: military struggle in the form of sporadic guerrilla struggle, and international diplomacy based in Africa, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and among the Melanesian countries of South Pacific.

The positive developments in the most recent MSG summit in New Caledonia is a result of these years of peaceful, diplomatic efforts. Since West Papua was forcefully integrated into the Republic of Indonesia, Papuan intellectuals played a key role in the development and growing effectiveness of Papuan diplomacy. They helped lay a foundation for diplomatic progress in the MSG countries particularly in the areas of health and education cooperation. That progress can be seen in the support afforded Papuan aspirations in Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands national parliaments. The power of personal witness has also been an important factor in pressing the Papuan case in the region. No less than 10,000 Papuans have fled Indonesian military brutality to seek refuge in this region. This personal witness, by ordinary people, has had a powerful impact on the media, people and political leadership who increasingly support the right to self-determination for Papuans.

Indonesian Diplomacy

Indonesian embassies in Papua New Guinea and Fiji play a key role in promoting Indonesian interests in the Melanesian countries. Indonesia, in effect has bought support for its position through provision of economic aid and by providing campaign money for various politicians. This practice is common in Papua New Guinea and recently was implemented in Vanuatu under Prime Minister Kilman Sato. Sato was removed as Prime Minister earlier this year in part over his close dealings with the Indonesian government. The new Vanuatu Prime Minister, Moana Carcasses Kalosil, has called for the cancellation of Vanuatu's defense agreement with Indonesia. He also established a Papua Desk in Foreign Ministry and appointed a special envoy for the Papua issue, underscoring the importance of the issue for Vanuatu.

Fiji's Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama with Vanuatu PM Moana Carcasses Kalosil.  

Indonesian diplomacy has been ineffective in the face of Papuan diplomacy which has relied on documentary evidence, including photographic evidence, of crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Indonesian security authorities. Efforts by the Indonesian government to suppress or deny the reality of the situation has not persuaded the people of the region or their political leaders. Moreover, despite harsh Indonesian authority restrictions against foreign journalists, human rights reporters and humanitarian workers, the true story of Indonesian brutality increasingly is reaching the international community.

Indonesia, which seems to forget that it was once a colony, is predominantly Muslim while Papua is predominantly Christian. The Indonesian government, for decades, has engineered the influx of culturally distinct transmigrants into Papua. This process has profoundly marginalized the indigenous Papuan population and has been described as "creeping genocide" by a researcher from the University of Sydney who predicts that the indigenous Papuans will constitute a minority of the total population by 2020.

One of Indonesia's diplomatic strategies has been to exploit security concerns of Australia and New Zealand. This strategy is reminiscent of the approach adopted by Jakarta in the 1950's and 1960's. Indonesia applies pressure on the issue of cooperation to fight terrorism and the problem of illegal migrants to these countries. Indonesia's support and cooperation on these issues comes at a price, and a key Jakarta demand is that Australia and New Zealand (and the United States) ignore the tragedy in Papua.

It is interesting to question whether it is simply a coincidence that Papua received more attention at the MSG forum when Fiji, which severed its diplomatic ties with Australia and New Zealand, assumed leadership of the MSG forum. Of course, Indonesia can still seek the support of China, India or Russia which are assuming much of the influential role in the region previously played by Australia and New Zealand. But the reality that Indonesia misses is that the leaders of the region are from a new generation. They are fully informed about Papuan struggle particularly through social media.


In attempting to understand Indonesian diplomacy, it is important to appreciate Jakarta's use of the tactic of delay, postponing unwanted outcomes. This tactic was in evidence in the Indonesian strategy at the recent MSG summit.

Having confronted the strong support of the MSG for the right to self-determination of Papuans, Indonesia has deployed a new strategy. It has invited a delegation of the MSG foreign ministers to visit Jakarta and Papua. This is surprising inasmuch as Indonesia has long restricted access to Papua by foreigners, including diplomats, journalists and humanitarian agency personnel. Therefore the question is whether Indonesia will actually allow an MSG delegation to go to Papua? The invitation may prove to be only a tactic to further postpone the Papuan application for MSG membership. Jakarta appears to have created a dilemma for itself. It will be impossible for Jakarta to prevent the Papuan people from communicating their deepest feelings to any MSG delegation which actually goes to Papua. On the other hand, were Jakarta to renege on its invitation to the MSG Foreign Ministers to visit Papua, Indonesian dishonesty would be on display for all the world to see.
Negotiations with Third Party Mediation

In attempting to understand Indonesian diplomacy, it is important to appreciate Jakarta's use of the tactic of delay, postponing unwanted outcomes. This tactic was in evidence in the Indonesian strategy at the recent MSG summit. In this instance, President Yudhoyono appears only to require several months.

To explain this position it is important to analyze two political phenomena which transpired in Jayapura and London in late July. In Jayapura, the Papuan People's Council (MRP) undertook an evaluation of Jakarta's decade-old policy of "Special Autonomy" for Papua. The council distributed questionnaires to Papuans and invited expert views. The conclusion echoed long-standing assertions by Papuan officials and the Papuan people that "Special Autonomy" has failed. There was also consensus among Papuans for dialogue between Papuans and Jakarta, mediated by a neutral third party, to review the autonomy status. This conclusion is similar to the previous decision of the MRP to "return back" "Special Autonomy" to the national government of Indonesia.

In the meantime, in London, the UK House of Lords also held a lengthy, special discussion in regard to Papua. The members of the House of Lords questioned the commitment of the UK government towards Papua. They raised issues such as the violation of Papuan human rights, the isolation of Papua, and interestingly, Papuans right to self-determination. The House challenged the UK government by posing a strong argument regarding the manipulation of history of Papua. They also highlighted the inability of Indonesia to protect Papuans.

One member remarked that the issue of Papua would not evaporate as Indonesia expects. It persists and awaits a just solution. The Indonesian government realizes its failure to "Indonesianize" Papua in the last 50 years. That is why one policy after the other has been implemented in Papua without meaningful result. In a recent meeting between President Yudhoyono and PNG Prime Minister O'Neil, Yudhoyono said they (Papuans) are "our citizens but your people." So he asked for PNG help to solve the problem. Once again, we can ask whether this is a delaying tactic, i.e., lip service to persuade the counterpart? In any event, one thing is certain: West Papua is not an internal problem of Indonesia and it is not only about development policy. It is all about the right to self-determination.


UN Body Reviews Indonesia Rights Record

A July 10-11 UN Human Rights Committee review of Indonesia's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights drew sharp attention to the excessive use of force by central Government security forces. The UN committee published an advance version its concluding observations in late July where it expressed concern "at increased reports of excessive use of force and extra-judicial killings by the police and the military during protests, particularly in West Papua, Bima and West Nusa Tenggara," and "at undue restrictions of the freedom of assembly and expression by protesters in West Papua."


The Human Rights Committee sees re-occurrences of such violations as likely until Indonesia takes measures to develop effective complaint procedures.

In a joint July 11 release, Indonesian and International human rights monitors questioned Jakarta’s commitment to finding a peaceful resolution to the decades-long insurgency in West Papua. The groups. Franciscans International, Human Rights and Peace for Papua, Imparsial, the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) and Tapol, wrote: “Since there is no effective mechanism available to hold military members accountable, the [Human Rights] Committee sees re-occurrences of such violations as likely until Indonesia takes measures to develop effective complaint procedures."

The groups also denounced what they called the Indonesian delegation’s false claims about the openness of military tribunals for those involved in rights abuses. The statement describes Indria Fernida from London-based Tapol as being shocked to notice the “level of denial of institutional shortcomings that prolong the culture of impunity in Indonesia.” The rights groups also said that while "the Indonesian delegation claimed to the Committee that local media in Papua is free to publish any news... cases of intimidation, threats and violence against local journalists in Papua continue."

Concerns were also raised about the Indonesian delegation’s claims that expressions of Papuan secession would continue to warrant criminal charges, which Budi Tjahjono from Franciscans International warned “implies a prolongation of the detrimental security approach in Papua.”

Underscoring the cost of the continuing depredations of Indonesian security forces, the Free West Papua Campaign reported the killing of an 11 year old girl by Indonesian security forces. The girl, Arlince Tabuni, was shot July 1 in rural West Papua by security forces purportedly in search of Papuan pro-independence fighters. The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (KontraS), in a press release, urged investigation into the murder. “We deplore the violence (which) continues in Papua. ... “The actions above shows the lack of professionalism and brutality of the security forces in conducting security operations,” a KontraS spokesperson said.

Organizers of Peaceful Demonstration Detained, Participants Reportedly Beaten by Police

A July 30 Bintang Papua account, translated by TAPOL, reports that five Papuan activists were arrested while taking part in a demonstration on 29 July in Jayapura, in support of the discussion on self-determination which took place Jayapura.

The names of the five people arrested are: Usamah Yogobi, chairperson of SHDRP (the Papuan Civil Society Organization for Solidarity, Law and Human Rights) and also chairperson of the National Reconciliation Team for General Mobilization and the co-ordinator of the demonstration, as well as Alius Asso, who helped to organize the demonstration, Johannes Elegani and Benny Hisage. The arrests followed efforts by the police to block Papuans who took part in long marches towards the meeting from various regions. Those marches were disrupted, the police claimed, because the demonstrators did not have permits. Organizers had requested a permit from the police who never replied.

Jubedius Selegani, Secretary General of SHDRP called for the release of all those arrested. A similar appeal was made by the head of the district of Domberai of the WPNA (National Committee of West Papua) who also noted that during the dispersal of the demonstration, many people taking part in the demonstration were beaten by the police.

Central Government's War on Media in West Papua

A report carried by Bernama, July 15, noted that the Papua branch of the Indonesian Independent Journalists Alliance (AJI) has said foreign journalists have found difficulties in getting permits to work in West Papua.

Victor Mambor. Photo by JFCC  

Victor Mambor, chair of the Papua branch of AJI, said that foreign journalists had to wait for three months to get the required permit to enter Papua. "Even after they get into Papua some of them have to be accompanied by a government agent in doing their journalistic duty," Victor told Indonesia's Antara news agency.

Mambor pointed out the central Government was deliberately vague regarding restrictions and that in fact "there has been no government regulation restricting foreign journalists from doing journalistic work in Papua." He said the government had deliberately created a "condition of no clear regulation" so that the authorities could interpret regulations on an ad-hoc basis. When journalists are allowed into West Papua they lack the freedom to work as journalists, Mambor emphasized.

"Seven of the foreign journalists were deported from Papua and most recently an ABC reporter had to be disguised as tourist to enter Papua," he said.

Clearly, restrictions do not only target foreign journalists. The prospect of still more draconian controls on media in West Papua has been foreshadowed by the ban on the first issue of a magazine in West Papua. The Pacific Freedom Forum and the Indonesia Press Council condemned police for their actions against the magazine, Papua Pelita.

The magazine's initial issue had focused on the West Papua Freedom movement (OPM). Its cover included a picture of the Morning Star flag, banned in West Papua by the central government as a pro-independence symbol. Indonesia Press Council member Imam Wahdyudi called the police action against the magazine a violation of Press Law No. 40/1999, which precludes the "forceful or unlawful prohibition of publishing, distributing and/or broadcast of information."

An interview by Johnny Blades with Mambor offered insight regarding the repression facing Papuan journalists. Mambor, who is editor of Tabloid Jubi, told Blades that police warn journalists not to write about certain topics. Police pressure is routinely exerted on editors and journalists; both are typically called to police headquarters for interrogation over coverage. Such intimidation, he notes, resulted in a dearth of coverage of the June MSG summit (see July 2013 West Papua Report) where West Papuan self-determination was a major agenda item.

More Reporting of Failed Government Services in West Papua

Tempo provides new evidence of the failure of the central and provincial government to provide even the most basic services to Papuans living outside urban areas. The July 24 report underscores that rural schools lack teachers and that the few teachers available have large and sometimes multiple classes. This impedes effective teaching. In some instances, substitute teachers are members of the feared military.

Environmentalists Impede Destructive Palm Oil Development Plans in Papua

Reuters reports that a plan to develop a palm oil plantation in West Papua has failed, due in part to opposition by environmentalists. The venture by Wilmar International and Noble Group Ltd ultimately failed to win official approval for the project. The report explains that "hurdles" such as regulatory uncertainty, lack of infrastructure, labor shortages, and opposition from locals and environmentalists have limited efforts by corporations seeking to develop "frontier markets" like West Papua.

Oil palm plantation project in Sima village Photo: Jubi / Ones Madai.  

Meanwhile, the harsh reality of oil palm plantations that do move forward was demonstrated in Nabire where a plantation is ignoring indigenous rights. A press release by Simon Petrus Hanebora, a Yerisiam tribal leader, reported by Tabloid Jubi July 30, revealed that the Yerisiam people living in Kampung Sima are still waiting for oil palm plantation companies PT Nabire Baru and PT Sariwana Unggal Mandiri to provide clarification and compensation to local indigenous people. The release explained that "thousands of commercially-valuable trees from 32,000 hectares of the Yerisiam indigenous people's ancestral land have been logged by the oil palm company." The release notes that despite efforts for more than a year to engage the companies in dialogue and complaints to the police, no action has been taken.

WPAT Comment: Palm oil plantations have had devastating impact on the lives of local people. The plantations replace forests which have provided sustenance for many generations. Once developed, the plantations afford few jobs as neither plantation maintenance nor harvesting is labor intensive. In West Kalimantan, where palm oil plantations are extensive, local peoples have had no option but to migrate to towns where their employment prospects are limited due to inadequate education. A similar fate appears to await Papuans who live in areas targeted for plantation development.

"Special Autonomy - Plus" Plans Don't Add Up

Indonesia's central government is moving forward with plans to produce a "Special Autonomy - Plus" law for West Papua which would modify the existing, decade-old "Special Autonomy" law. Papuan institutions and the Papuan people have roundly rejected "Special Autonomy" as having failed in its primary purpose of ending their marginalization .

Papuans who gathered in Jayapura July 25-27 to review "Special Autonomy Law" strongly rejected it as a failed policy. They said that any dialogue about West Papua's future should "mediated by a neutral party and held in a neutral place." A July 27 report carried in Tabloid Jubi indicated that participants came from all seven regions of indigenous Papua territories and from 40 regencies, in both of Papua and West Papua province. The gathering was facilitated by the Papuan People's Assembly (MRP).

A July 18 Jubi report cites concerns by KontraS (Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence) that the "Special Autonomy - Plus" initiative would be no better that the Special Autonomy Law. According to KontraS, the central government is considering leaving out articles on human rights and democracy in its revision of "Special Autonomy." A July 24 media release by the Alliance of Independent Journalist in West Papua (AJI) claimed the central Government plans to alter part of the "Special Autonomy" law to broaden restrictions on media in West Papua. AJI termed the alleged plan as "unacceptable."

WPAT Comment: The June 2013 West Papua Report reported on President Yudhoyono's plans to alter the failed "Special Autonomy" plan. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the "Special Autonomy - Plus" initiative will only exacerbate problems with the original plan.


An article by Radio New Zealand's Johnny Blades in the July 23 Guardian offers a penetrating look at the status of efforts in West Papua to move toward self-determination. The article, "Mood for self-determination grows among small Pacific nations; West Papuan efforts to put self-determination on the international stage gain momentum," analyzes "the diplomatic whirlwind" surrounding efforts by West Papuans to gain support from the Melanesian Support Group.

The Global Post reviews of the activities of Papuan exile Benny Wenda and their impact of his efforts on behalf of Papuan self-determination on Indonesian-UK diplomatic relations.

Papuans Behind Bars

Inside Indonesia published a special issue on incarceration in Indonesia, It includes "Big prison, little prison" by Yap Inyerop of Papuan Behind Bars, which focuses on the experience of several West Papuan political prisoners. Papuan Behind Bars reports in their July Update that at the end of the month "there were at least 57 political prisoners in Papuan jails."

Cornell University's journal Indonesia has published a special issue on West Papua (contents are behind a pay wall). WPAT notes that academic Indonesianists are now giving significant focus to West Papua.

On 24 July, the House of Lords debated West Papua. Tapol reports that the members raised "serious concerns about the human rights situation and called on the British government to take a stronger stand." The debate lasted one hour and included a government response from Baroness Warsi, Senior Minister of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. Read the debate.
Watch the debate (start at 18:53:00)




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