In 1965-1966, up to a million Indonesians were massacred. Hundreds of thousands more were injured, disappeared, raped and imprisoned without trial. The United States and the United Kingdom secretly welcomed and supported the killings.
This is the 114th 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
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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
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
In this month's
PERSPECTIVE, David Webster, Associate Professor of
History at Bishops University, Quebec and WPAT member describes the competing
historical narratives that shape the perceptions of the Indonesian government
and West Papuans. The Indonesian side views Papuan lands as historically part of
the Indonesia while Papuans maintain that West Papua was annexed by Indonesia
absent a genuine act of self-determination. These competing narratives have thus
far frustrated efforts to pursue meaningful dialogue.
UPDATE notes the
mission of a "freedom flotilla" which focused international attention on the
plight of Papuans. The peaceful initiative prompted a massive security response
by Indonesia that included arrests of Papuans seeking to celebrate and welcome
the mission and an Australian refusal to grant asylum to Papuans fleeing the
crackdown. Security forces continue sweep operations in Paniai. The Indonesian
Human Rights Commission has admitted its inability to pursue cases of security
force violations of human rights, notably in West Papua. An
expansion of TNI
authority to address purported "terrorist" challenges could exacerbate military
pressure on Papuan civilians. The Prime Minister of Vanuatu in an address to the
United Nations urged that body to investigate the human rights and political
status of West Papua.
In its CHRONICLE section, the report notes that
reviewed mounting criticism of the complex and non-transparent programs through
which the U.S. government funnels security assistance.a press
release by the Australian West Papua Association (Sydney) regarding
a ban on
peaceful Papuan efforts to celebrate the UN's "International Day of Democracy"
and a critical examination of U.S. Security Assistance policy. A regional
observer notes warming ties between Indonesia and Melanesian states would be
undercut by further Indonesian security force violations of Papuan human rights.
Two reports examine fundamental services in West Papua: One looks at the
of education in the Papuan highlands and the other notes that the rates of death
for mothers and children are the highest Indonesia.
From the interior of Asia's largest remaining rainforest, lightly-armed
guerillas fight back against the army of the world's fourth-largest country,
with thousands killed in a long-running insurgency. This conflict pits West
Papuan nationalist forces against an Indonesian army that sees itself as the
guardian of a near-sacred national unity. Today the conflict has mostly shifted
to the political arena, but smaller-scale violence still flares suddenly -- a
clash between Papuan "tribal" people and Indonesian "newcomers"; an army
helicopter reportedly sent plummeting to earth; an independence leader killed by
soldiers. The conflict has endured for five decades.
One of the major issues in the conflict has been that the two sides understand
the history very differently. The clashing views are actually a cause of
conflict themselves: Papuans often see themselves denied their right to
self-determination, while Indonesian nationalists (especially in the army) see
any Papuan dissent as an attack on their own country. Peace is a tough target to
get to if each side sees what happened in the past as a live issue. Historical
dialogue is needed as part of conflict resolution.
While Sukarno's Indonesia was building a
nationalism oriented to a glorious future global role, it also looked back to a
The Indonesian nationalist narrative about West
Papua is a story of dispossession, Dutch colonialism and the ultimate victory of
Indonesian anti-colonial struggle. The territory entered the Indonesian
nationalist imagination as "the martyr place of the struggle for independence,"
in the words of Sukarno, Indonesia's first president. The
reason was the Tanah Merah (Digul) prison camp, so remote and inhospitable that
it required no walls to contain its prisoners: The landscape of Papua itself was
The Dutch decision to cling to "Netherlands New Guinea" rather than allow it to
become part of Indonesia in 1949 was seen by all stripes of Indonesian
nationalism as a betrayal. One government publication called West Papua "a
pistol pointing at Indonesia's chest." While Sukarno's
Indonesia was building a nationalism oriented to a glorious future global role,
it also looked back to a glorious past. In one version, inspired by the work of
nationalist historian Mohammad Yamin, many nationalists read Indonesia back in
time to equate with the territories of the 14th century Majapahit empire as laid
out in one poem, with these territories said (dubiously) to include West Papua.
The Indonesian campaign to "regain" control of West Papua served as a mobilizing
focus to unite the new Indonesian state in the 1950s and early 1960s. Government
and non-government groups produced a vast array of books and pamphlets to back
the campaign to regain the last bit of Dutch colonial debris. These themes
developed in the 1950s and 60s echoed in Indonesian government rhetoric on Papua
thereafter. Centralizing nationalist histories left little space for local
tellings: "The history classroom functioned to suppress knowledge of
difference," as historian Jean Taylor has written. The key problem, in the words
of historian Asvi Warman Adam, is that "Indonesian history was written uniformly
by men in uniform."
So the 1969 "act of free choice" was less referendum -- a word never used --
than a display of respect for legal norms, designed for international
consumption. The only reason that the act was being held, officials said, was to
show that Indonesia kept its treaty promises. General Suharto, who had by this
point replaced Sukarno as president, announced that the act "in no way mean[s]
that we shall sacrifice that population [or that] we shall abandon the fruits of
our struggle for the liberation of West Irian." The
Indonesian struggle to add West Papua to "the fold of the motherland" erased
Papuans from their own story. The land and the struggle were what mattered.
The Papuan nationalist version of history, by contrast, argues that justice has
been denied and holds that self-determination can only be exercised by the
Papuan people. Instead of being decolonized, the narrative sees West Papua as
being recolonized by Indonesia. Indonesian images abound showing the New Guinea
border as if there was nothing to the east of it -- as if it were the edge of
the world, almost. Papuan nationalist images use the map to ignore Indonesia and
locate their country in a Pacific geographical and a Melanesian ethnic context,
rather than in Asia.
The Papuan nationalist version of
history, by contrast, argues that justice has been denied and holds that
self-determination can only be exercised by the Papuan people.
The formative period of this narrative was the
time when West Papua had a separate existence from Indonesia, as a separate
Dutch colony between 1949 and 1962. A key text is Voice of the Negroids of
the Pacific to the Negroids Throughout the World, a document produced by
Papuan nationalist leaders in 1961. This short publication, as its title makes
clear, aimed at a global pan-African audience and made a bid to be placed among
the African colonies gaining their independence around this time. It declared:
"Many, many times you have heard about us from the Dutch and the Indonesians.
Now we will take the floor ourselves. We are living in the Pacific, our people
are called Papuans, our ethnic origin is the Negroid Race". We do not want to be
slaves any more."
The Papuan nationalist narrative stresses dates like December 1, 1961, when the
Papuan flag was inaugurated. In 1999, the new Papuan National Congress issued a
declaration saying: "The Papuan people have been sovereign as a people and as a
state since December 1, 1961." In this version, Indonesian
rule is invalid because it did not take into account the views of the people in
Papua itself. The 1969 "act of free choice" becomes, not a joyful embrace of
Indonesian unity, but proof that Papuans were forced at gunpoint to accept a new
colonial ruler. There is a widespread perception that Papuans were robbed of
their right to self-determination. In the words of one human rights worker:
"There is the problem of the annexation of Papua. The people believe it was not
fair. That is the source of the problems between the people and the Indonesian
government, why conflict continues to happen."
This theme of self-determination denied persists, and continues to be one of the
issues at the root of conflict. The democratic governments that emerged in
Indonesia after the fall of President Suharto in 1998 offered special autonomy
for Papua, a move with potential to resolve the conflict. In avoiding the
symbolic aspects and refusing to engage in a dialogue of historical narratives,
however, the "autonomy" package failed to solve anything. Conflict continues in
part because the historical facts are so disputed. Historical narratives are not
stories told in classrooms and on the campaign trail; they also justify acts of
violence and fuel conflict. As a 2005 protest pointed out, there is still
Indonesian state violence committed against West Papuans "merely because they
have a different understanding of history."
"Special autonomy" has done nothing to address this problem. The Papuan call for
historical dialogue, in the final autonomy package, became a commission
empowered to "provide clarification of Papua's history in order to strengthen
the people's unity in the State of the Republic of Indonesia."
Other tensions, over land, uneven development, and so on, contribute to
conflict. Yet no proposed solution grounded in these disputes has been able to
move the conflict closer to resolution. Clashing historical understandings
remain one of the major barriers to conflict resolution.
In the dialogue that achieved a peace deal in Aceh, both sides agreed to lay
aside their historical grievances and start fresh. Such an approach is more
challenging in West Papua, where the perception of historical betrayal fuels
nationalist sentiment. An acknowledgement of historical grievances should be
included in any dialogue, as a key starting point, or else dialogue will ignore
key causes of conflict. This has been accepted in the "Papua Road Map" from the
Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), but not as yet by the Indonesian
government. As road map coordinating author Muridan Widodo wrote: "History
should not be treated as a fixed position involving absolute truth and
determining collective identity. Rather, history should be treated as a
negotiable construction involving acceptance and compromise, and providing
benefits for both parties rather than being the monopoly of just one side.
Otherwise, history in Papua will perpetuate an endless cycle of violence."
Perceptions of the past often inform conflict. A dialogue in which clashing
historical narratives engage can, in turn, be an important tool in resolving
 Sukarno interview, Report on Indonesia, Nov.
1957-Jan. 1958, p. 21.
 Subversive Activities in Indonesia: The Jungschleager and
Schmidt Affairs (Jakarta: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, n.d. ), p. 76.
 Jean Gelman Taylor, Indonesia: Peoples and Histories
(New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), 362; Adam cited in Armando Siahaan,
"Setting History Straight,"Jakarta Globe, 30 April 2009.
 "Papuans at
U.N. Score Indonesia," New York Times, Oct. 20, 1968.
 Voice of the Negroids of the Pacific to the Negroids
Throughout the World (Hollandia, 1961).
 "Bangsa Papua telah berdaulat sebagai sebuah bangsa dan
negara sejak 1 Desember 1961." Second Papuan Congress resolution, 4 June 2000.
The official English version adopts the name West Papua for international
consumption: "The People of West Papua has been Independent as a Sovereign
Nation and State since 1 December 1961."
 Dewan Adat Papua protest demands, 12 Aug. 2005.
 Sekretariat Keadilan dan Perdamaian, Keuskupan Jayapura,
Catatan Perkembangan Terkini di Papua : Otonomi Khusus, proses dan hasil
akhirnya [Social-Political note on recent developments in Papua: the special
autonomy process and final results] (Jayapura, 2001).
Freedom Flotilla Challenges Indonesian Perceptions
of Papuans' Political Status
A small ship, The Pog, has challenged Indonesia's assertion of sovereignty over.
In early September, the vessel sailed from Australia bound for West Papua
carrying sacred water and campfire ash provided by Australian Aborigines. The
gifts were offered to celebrate the millennia of connection between the
Australian Aboriginal population and the Papuans.
The Indonesian authorities
never responded to repeated requests from the "flotilla" for dialogue.
Instead, the small craft faced an intensive mobilization of land and sea
security forces intended to keep it out of Indonesian waters and to prevent
Papuans from welcoming the visitors. Ultimately, members of the flotilla sailed
a small dinghy on which they were able to meet secretly with a small group who
sailed from West Papua to receive the sacred gifts.
The Indonesian security forces staged a brutal crackdown targeting thousands of
Papuans who organized peaceful welcoming ceremonies for the visitors. Four West
Papuans were charged with treason for organizing prayer gathering in support of
the flotilla. The treason charge carries a maximum sentence of life
Amnesty International noted that the four were "arrested and charged solely
for their peaceful political activism, which remains highly restricted in
A group of Papuans, some of whom had met the flotilla at sea,
fled to Australia to escape pursuing Indonesian security forces, where they
appealed for political asylum. Instead, Australia quickly transferred the group
to Papua New Guinea, in apparent violation of their internationally recognized
right to asylum. The group included a ten year old child. Canberra's decision to
deny asylum has prompted protest and criticism within Australia.
Continuing Brimob Persecution in Papuan Central
West Papua Media (WPM) reported September 25 that Indonesian police
assaulted Papuans in Waghete near Paniai in the Papuan Central Highlands,
killing one and injuring three. According to the report the police attack on
peaceful civilians was part of a crackdown staged by police as part of a
"sweeping operation" inaugurated in 2011.
Local witnesses described the September 23 operations in Waghete as
including house sweeps by hundreds of Brimob personnel (heavily-armed Indonesian
police) looking for supporters of Papuan independence. The police confiscated
mobile phones searching for Papuan pro-independence songs and music and searched
for nukens (dillybags) with any image of the banned Morning Star Flag.
During the evening raids, Papuan men with long hair, long beards or dreadlocks
were ordered at gunpoint by Brimob officers to cut their hair or beards on the
spot or they would be shot dead. Long hair or beards are seen as symbols of
pro-independence sentiment, and "offenders" are regularly punished, according to
local human rights activists and
previous investigations by WPM.
West Papua Media notes that these sweeps have been a weekly
occurrence since late 2011.
West Papua Media
reported in December 2011 on Operation Matoa. That operation resulted in the displacement of more than14,000 people and the destruction of some 150
WPAT Comment: Indonesian restrictions on foreign journalists and
intimidation of Indonesian journalists have not prevented the international
community form learning of abuses such as those described above thanks in large
measure to the timely and accurate accounts relayed by West Papua Media based on
its network of courageous reporters in West Papua.
Indonesian Commission on
Human Rights Admits Constraints
The Papuan nationalist version of
history, by contrast, argues that justice has been denied and holds that
self-determination can only be exercised by the Papuan people.
A member of the Indonesian National Human Rights
Commission (Komnas HAM) has acknowledged severe constraints on the body in
addressing human rights violations in West Papua. Decky Natalius Pigai
explained to JUBI that Komnas HAM was dealing with eleven cases of
grave human rights violations perpetrated by the security forces in West Papua,
including the Wamena and Wasior cases (which occurred during the 1980s). He
noted that these were not difficult cases to resolve, but that nevertheless
"strong pressure was needed from the community in order to resolve them."
Decky also mentioned other unsolved cases, such
as the murder of Papuan cultural and political leader Arnold Ap in 1984, most
likely by Indonesia's Kopassus special forces. The murder has never been
prosecuted nor has Komnas HAM addressed the killing. Decky said that more recent
cases such as the murder of Mako Tabuni (chairman of the KNPB) who was killed
earlier this year, were even more difficult to deal with. 'Maybe, a cooling off
period is needed before this can happen. Let's hope that this will occur in 2016
or 2017 while those who were responsible for these cases are still active.," he
he said that "there were as many as five or six thousand violations of human
rights each year in the two provinces of Papua and West Papua."
WPAT COMMENT: This candor by a Komnas HAM member is revealing with regards to
the weakness of the official Indonesian Human Rights Commission in addressing
human rights violations committed by Indonesian security forces. Security force
crimes against civilians, particularly in West Papua, continue in part because
perpetrators remain unaccountable due to corrupt prosecutors, incompetent courts
and a Indonesian Human Rights Commission that lacks the courage and the power to
The Indonesian military (TNI) has
it is returning to the Suharto era doctrine of "dual function" which enables
it to exert substantial influence over political, economic and security affairs
throughout the Indonesian archipelago, down to sub-district and even village
level. The broad expansion of TNI power and authority was framed as a response
to the purported changing nature of the terror threat in the archipelago posed
by a terrorist change in tactics wherein they increasingly operate in smaller
units that are more difficult to track.
"The Army holds a territorial function that reaches even to the furthest
village," BNPT Deputy Director
Agus Surya Bakti said. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed on
September 5 calls for district-level military personnel, known as Babinsa
(village development officers) to watch out for suspicious activities, working
with local police and local community leaders.
WPAT Comment: The implication of this expansion of the TNI's role is especially
ominous for the Papuan people. Indonesian security forces are already
extensively deployed in West Papua, rendering it one of the most heavily
militarized areas in Southeast Asia, with military, police and intelligence
agents operating at nearly all levels. Expanding TNI authority to address
"terrorist" challenges could exacerbate already severe military pressure on
Papuans seeking to exercise their rights. The Indonesian government has in the
past portrayed such peaceful efforts as "separatist" and has linked "separatism"
Vanuatu Calls for UN to Support
West Papuans' Rights
Moana Kalosil Carcasses, Prime Minister of the
Republic of Vanuatu. UN Photo.
Moana Kalosil Carcasses, Prime Minister
of the Republic of Vanuatu, blasted the UN for ignoring the rights of the people
of West Papua.
a speech, he told the UN General Assembly that "We can talk all about good
governance and rule of law and
respect for human rights. But when it comes to the issue of the rights of the
people of West Papua, our voices are muted even in this podium." He asked how
can we "ignore hundreds of thousands of West Papuans who have been brutally
beaten and murdered?"
He said "It is time for the
United Nation to move beyond its periphery and address and rectify some
historical error.” And he urged the UN "to appoint
a Special Representative to investigate alleged human rights violations in West
Papua Indonesia and their political status in light of the controversies
surrounding the UN Temporary Executive Authority Administration in the 1960s."
He added “It is clear from many historical records that the Melanesian people
of West Papua were the scapegoat of Cold war politics and were sacrificed to
gratify the appetite for the natural resources which this country possess. Today
they are still the victims of ignorance of the UN.”
A September 17
ProPublica article by Cora Currier reviewed mounting criticism of the
complex and non-transparent programs through which the U.S. government funnels
security assistance. Efforts are underway in Congress to legislate greater
transparency and monitoring of these and other foreign aid programs. WPAT
notes that security assistance increasingly has flowed to the rogue,
unaccountable Indonesian security forces through just such programs.
AWPA Note Ban On Papuan
Demo Attempting to Celebrate Democracy
September 13 press release by the Australia West Papua Association (Sydney)
noted that Manokwari District Police banned a peaceful rally by the KNPB
intended to celebrate democracy. The planned September 16 rally would have
commemorated a UN General Assembly resolution in 2007 which declared September
15 the "International Day of Democracy."
Ties Jeopardized by Human Rights
Abuse in West Papua
A September 28 article by
Straits Timessenior writer Bruce Gale reviews warming ties between
Melanesian states and Indonesia. The Melanesian governments are said to be
interested in balancing existing ties with Australia, the U.S. and China through
increasing contacts with Indonesia and ASEAN. The writer notes, however, that
the development runs counter to strong Melanesian sympathy for the plight of
West Papuans under Indonesian control. He observes, "it may only take a few more
reports of human rights violations by the Indonesian military towards Papuans to
undermine the entire fence- mending process." At its recent summit, MSG leaders,
for the first time, publicly supported West Papua's right to self-determination
(see July 2013 West Papua Report).
The Failure of
Education in West Papua's Highlands
Bobby Anderson has written
a devastating critique of education in West Papua's highlands for Inside
Indonesia. Limited education services in the region have been a serious
problem well back into the Dutch colonial era, but under Indonesian control
Papuan youths have been largely abandoned. Anderson blames the post-Suharto
decentralization as having been particularly ineffective. Anderson offers
solutions to the ongoing crisis. He concludes that "Anyone who continues to
blame Papuan children for their lack of education must simply be ignored.
Teachers who do this should be fired." Death Rates for Mothers and Children
Highest in Indonesia
A September 24 report carried in
Bintang Papua, notes that the death rates for women and children in the
provinces of Papua and West Papua are the highest in Indonesia. The report is
sourced to the Dr. Paulina Watofa, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at