West Papua Report
This is the 119th 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
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the report directly via e-mail, send a note to
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The Report leads with
"Perspective," an analysis 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 Twitter.
PERSPECTIVE is that of the U.S.
Department of State regarding the state of human rights observance in
West Papua. The assessment is drawn from the U.S. Department of State's
annual human rights report regarding Indonesia. WPAT has extracted those
elements in the report which focus on West Papua. and added commentary
on the accuracy of the State Department's analysis.
notes a new report on the
trafficking of Papuan children for forced
conversion to Islam. Also of note is a call for Papuans
to boycott this year's Indonesia parliamentary
and presidential elections; ecological destruction and human rights
abuse at a Papuan palm oil plantations and a
seminar discussion of demographic change and
political fragmentation in West Papua. In
CHRONICLE: a report on Special Autonomy and public health in West Papua; a
consideration of demographic trends in West Papua and the latest from
Papuans Behind Bars.
U.S. Department of State
Reports on Endemic Racism and Discrimination in
This month we present the perspective of the
U.S. Department of State with regard to the state of human rights in
West Papua. To be sure, the West Papua Report did not solicit the
following analysis. Rather, we have extracted the references
to the plight of West Papuans in the State Department's
annual review of human rights in Indonesia which was released
WPAT Note: We include comments on the State
Department Report (SDR) throughout to point out where the SDR's
presentation of the situation is in our view incorrect or
misleading. In April's West Papua Report, we will identify omissions
in the SDR account. Throughout the report the State Department makes
reference to the "two provinces of "Papua" and "West Papua." We
regard the creation of the province of "Papua" as an illegal act and
continue to identify the region as "West Papua."
The State Department Report (SDR) includes references
to human rights problems in West Papua in its "Executive Summary," among
its introduction to human rights more generally in Indonesia.
WPAT Note: In some previous years, the State
Department would often seek to obscure rights problems to which the
host government was particularly sensitive by only acknowledging
those problems deep in the text of the lengthy report and not
identifying them in the summary.
The "Executive Summary" notes: "The Government applied
treason and blasphemy laws to limit freedom of expression by peaceful
independence advocates in the provinces of Papua and West Papua and by
religious minority groups." The Summary also contends that "separatist
guerrillas in Papua killed members of the security forces and injured
others in several attacks." Later writing: "Violence continued to affect
the provinces of Papua, much of it linked to the Papuan separatist
movement." The SDR notes that on February 21-22 separatists "killed
eight soldiers and several civilians in two separate attacks."
WPAT Note: Elsewhere in the report the State
Department refers to endemic racism and
discrimination as constituting the "drivers of violence and economic
inequality in the region." The SDR errs in echoing here the
Indonesian government's false contention linking violence in West
Papua to activity of pro-independence Papuans.
The SDR also reports on an incident April 30 in which
"alleged members of a pro-independence group in Sorong" were attacked by
security authorities who killed two and wounded three. The security
forces also arrested seven for "their roles" in planning a demonstration
on May 1. The SDR also notes the May 13 arrest of Victor Yiemo, a
prominent Papuan who was arrested for planning an "unauthorized
demonstration" calling for an investigation of the April 30 incident.
|Mako Tabuni. West
Papua Media Alerts.
The SDR identifies a lack of transparency
in investigations, citing the
2012 killings of
Papuans Mako Tabuni and Tejoli Weya, and the 2011 killing of
three civilians in the course of the "forced dissolution of
Papuan Peoples Congress."
Regarding trial procedures, the SDR notes "there were
reports from Papuans that defendants did not have access to
attorneys of their choosing and that authorities denied them
adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense."
The SDR cites "international NGOs" estimates of more than 70
political prisoners for all of Indonesia including from West
Papua and the Malukus. (WPAT Note: A "Papuans Behind
Bars" report cited below notes that
the number of Papuan political prisoners is at least 74. The
listed 70 political prisoners held by Indonesia at the
end of 2013.)
The SDR report adds that "A number of independence
activists from the Papua and Maluku regions, including Johan Teterissa,
were in detention or prison for peacefully expressing their political
views. As in years past, the government arrested and prosecuted citizens
in Papua and West Papua provinces for raising a banned separatist flag."
Later the State Dept. reports that "The Government
used laws against advocacy of separatism to restrict the ability of
individuals to criticize the government publicly and peacefully and
advocate for independence." In this context the SDR reports that on May
1, in Sorong and Timika, 21 Papuans were arrested for flying the morning
star flag. In another section, the SDR writes that
"authorities arrested more than 40 people for flag-related offenses."
The report points out that the Papuan Special Autonomy Law (2001)
permits a flying of a flag symbolizing Papua's cultural identity, but
that a government regulation specifically forbids the flying of the
morning star flag.
The Government continues to restrict foreign media from
travelling to West Papua by requiring them to request
permission. Advocates for press freedom alleged that an
inter-ministerial group reviewed requests by foreign journalists
and that the TNI (Indonesian military) and intelligence services
prevented international journalists visits to the region.
The SDR describes other constraints on the exercise of
freedom of expression in West Papua and acknowledges that "there were a
number of large demonstrations throughout Papua; most were conducted in
accordance with the law and remained peaceful. On May 1, however, during
protests commemorating the transfer of Papua and West Papua from the
Netherlands to Indonesia, police arrested 21 demonstrators who attempted
to raise a banned separatist flag in Sorong and Timika." It also notes
that "police in Papua routinely refused to issue receipts" for the
required written notification of planned demonstrations, effectively
denying the protests a permit. The SDR writes that the police's
rationalize this effective ban on demonstrations "on the grounds that
the demonstrations would likely involve calls for independence, an act
that is prohibited under the same law."
The SDR cites the widely condemned Indonesian practice
of restricting access to West Papua. "The Government continues to
restrict foreign media from travelling to the Provinces of Papua and
West Papua by requiring them to request travel permission from the
Foreign Ministry or an Indonesian embassy. The Government approves some
requests and denies others ostensibly for reasons regarding the safety
of foreign visitors. Advocates for press freedom alleged that an
inter-ministerial group reviewed requests by foreign journalists and
that the TNI (Indonesian military) and intelligence services prevented
international journalists visits to the region." The SDR also notes that
"UN officials were not able to travel to Papua and West Papua."
WPAT Note: In this passage as in others, the SDR voices criticism of the Government of Indonesia by citing the
critique of others, in this case that of "advocates for press
freedom." The State Department knows of the existence of an
inter-ministerial group that reviews travel requests by foreign
journalists and should state this as fact.
The SDR discusses at length the plight of "indigenous"
persons, after noting that the government has long rejected use of the
term, claiming all people living in the Indonesian archipelago are
"indigenous." It adds "Indigenous persons, most notably in Papua remain
subject to widespread discrimination and there was little improvement in
respect for their traditional land rights. Mining and logging
activities, many of them illegal, posed social, economic and logistical
problems to indigenous communities. The government failed to prevent
companies, often in collusion with local military and police, from
encroaching on indigenous peoples' land. In Papua and West Papua
tensions continued between indigenous Papuans and migrants. Melanesians
in Papua cited endemic racism and discrimination as drivers of violence
and economic inequality in the region."
WPAT Comment: This important element of the SDR
could have been stronger had it for example identified the U.S. based
Freeport McMoRan copper and gold mining company as a principle historic
culprit acting in collusion with security forces to encroach on
traditional land rights and to violate the human rights of the Papuan
ETAN and WPAT:
on the U.S. Department of State's Annual Country Report on
Human Rights for 2012 Concerning Indonesia/West Papua
Trafficking of Papuan
|Demianus and Seth Gobay are
featured in a report on the transfer of Papuan children. Photo:
Last year, Michael Bachelard authored a groundbreaking
report on the abduction of Papuan children: "They're
Taking Our Children," in the Sidney Morning Herald." In a
follow up, "Papuan
Children Taken to Jakarta to Be Converted to Islam," he reports on
the abduction of two brothers, one through subterfuge in which the boy's
family was mislead about the purpose of their son's travel to Jakarta
and the second through simple abduction. Both of these Christian
children were placed in Islamic schools.
Bachelard writes that "the religious conversion of any
young child is illegal in Indonesia, and the United Nations deems any
transfer of a minor, even for education, as trafficking."
attended an Islamic boarding schools run by Tutty Alawiyah, "a former
women's minister in the Suharto government and now a prominent preacher"
and educator. "Ibu Tutty" as she is known is well connected in
Jakarta, including to Indonesia's Economic Affairs Minister Hatta Rajasa and
Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali. Forestry Minister Zulkifli
Hasan "confirmed he had at one point fostered one of the boys at his
Bachelard reports that there are a number of pesantren, Islamic
boarding schools, in the Jakarta area and in Bogor that have hosted
Papuan children. The boys told Bachelard of being beaten and sometimes
burned for infractions. One boy was told that he would eventually return
to West Papua where he would be expected to convert his fellow Papuans
to Islam. Bachelard wrote that outside money (possibly Saudi) might
be backing the schools that receive the trafficked Papuan children.
WPAT Comment: The plight of trafficked Papuan
a sordid precedent. During the Indonesian occupation of
East Timor, Indonesian authorities
transferred East Timorese
children to Java where the children were placed in educational
institutions, almost always Islamic schools. Many of the children
fled these schools and found homes in the streets of Jakarta and
other cities. Some of the children were developed by Indonesian
security forces and intelligence services for deployment back into
East Timor. Many also populated the ranks of the "militias" which,
along with Indonesian security forces and intelligence services
sought to terrorize the people of East Timor in the months leading
up to the 1999 referendum that led to East Timor's independence.
KNPB Calls For Election
The National Committee of West Papua (KNPB) has called for the
boycott of Indonesia's coming April 9 parliamentary and July's presidential elections. Wim Roky
Medalama, spokesperson for the KNPB,
boycotting as "a form of resistance against Indonesian rule." He
said that "Papuans never acknowledge that we are part of the Indonesian
nation. Papua was an independent nation." Wim added that "If
Indonesia wants Papua to be part of Indonesia, they should have asked
the people through a referendum whether they want to be part of
Indonesia or not."
The call for a boycott has received support. Maikel Awom, an
activist of the Risen Papua Student Coalition said that they supported
it. "Our demand is for the Papuan Legislative Council (DPR Papua) to
form local regulations on the existence of the Papuan People's
Protection on Cultural Recognition, Indigenous Customary Rights to land
and the prohibition of alcohol circulation," Awom said.
Pacific Island Leaders Sets Date for
The Pacific Islands Forum leaders' summit
will convene in
July 29 to August 1, 2014. Preparatory meetings for the summit will be
held in Suva in early July.
WPAT Note: This is an important annual meeting,
though Australia and New Zealand largely influence the direction of
the event. It is not yet clear whether there will be a push at this
forum to consider West Papuan concerns. Groups in Australia and
elsewhere last year urged the forum to
take up the human
rights issues in the territory. At the 2011 meeting of the
forum UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon addressed West Papua
in response to questions during a press conference.
More Ecological Destruction and
Rights Abuse at a Palm Oil Plantations in West
|Land cleared for palm oil
production. Photo from
report summarized in awas MIFEE reveals that a company operating a palm oil plantation in Merauke is violating its
plan of work and endangering its workers. Security force personnel
associated with the project are harassing Papuans living in the area and
in at least one account engaged in torture.
The report documents a visit to PT Dongin Prabhawa's palm oil/forestry
plantation near Mam in Merauke district by JPIC (Justice, Peace and
Integrity of Creation Commission) MSC Indonesia. The group reveals that
the company had been clearing the forest and taking the wood on barges
to the Korindo Group's plywood factory in Asiki. An employee told the
monitors that the company was logging in an areas outside those assigned
in its 2012 annual work plan.
Police assigned to work for PT Dongin Prabhawa were
mistreating local Papuans. The police reportedly detained and beat
Papuans for alleged offenses such as drinking. In the most serious
incident, the military arrested a company employee in February and
tortured him while in custody.
The report also noted a "worrying disregard for worker's health and
safety." According to the report, workers stationed at one site on the
plantation drink water from holes dug close to where chemical
fertilizers are in use. From December 2013 to February 2014, PT Dongin Prabhawa had not provided either contracted nor casual workers
the food they were entitled to.
separate report, describes the consequences of oil palm plantation
development in Manokwari. On February 16-17, a massive flood destroyed
or severely damaged 139 houses in Mansaburi village, Masni District,
forcing more than 700 residents to flee. Elsewhere in the area, fields were
destroyed along with crops and livestock. Local observers said that the
unprecedented flooding was a consequence of oil palm plantation
development by PT Medco Papua Jijau Selaras. The Wariori river which
passes through the plantation has become a constant threat to locals
because forests have been cleared by Medco as far upstream as the
mountains. The deforested land acts to greatly concentrate and
accelerate the flow of rain water into the Wariori which now poses a
constant threat to villagers, especially during the monsoon season.
Demographic Change and Political
Fragmentation in West Papua
February 10 The Jakarta Post published detailed coverage of a recent
seminar on the demography of West Papua, organized by the Research
Center of Politics at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI). The
seminar highlighted the impact of transmigration and voluntary migration
to West Papua over during and after the Suharto dictatorship.
Presentations at the seminar revealed that the 2010
population census showed that migration rate into West Papua was the
highest in Indonesia.
There was general acknowledgement that the Suharto era transmigration
policy hurt the local population and the environment as new settlements
destroyed tropical forests. While the transmigration policy "had
practically ceased in the early 1990," voluntary migration has continued
with the same effect damaging the ecology of West Papua and
marginalizing its people.
The swelling population of non-Papuans in West Papua had led to increased communal tensions
and even strife. That strife has included occasional attacks by armed
Papuan militias on migrants; communal confrontations, and security force
assaults on Papuans.
At the seminar it was argued the decision to create a new Papuan
province was "originally perceived as part of Jakarta's rule and divide
policy, to weaken the potential separatist movement in Papua." But local
elites who saw the economic and political benefits pressed for more
subdivisions. This growing pressure for creation of new administrative
entities has also led to conflict among Papuans as various local elites
compete to create new districts and sub-districts in order to generate a
flow of government support into which they can tap.
This fragmentation of Papuan society, which is aggravated by the
enormous ethnic diversity among Papuans, significantly contributes "to
the divisive nature of political leadership in Papua" today.
A study presented to the seminar by Sidney Jones from the Institute
for Policy Analysis of Conflicts (IPAC) sought to link political
mobilization by the local elites who want new regencies to the political
and communal violence in several highland districts. She argued that
that divisions among Papuans were no longer a consequence of a "divide
and rule" strategy by Jakarta, because the Papuans had now divided
themselves. (WPAT Note: In reality, Jakarta itself has generated the incentives for political fragmentation
under the rubric of decentralization. Indonesian officials
conspire behind the scenes and sometimes directly with Papuan political
figures in the creation of new administrative units. The resulting
atomization of Papuan politics serves Jakarta's broader intention of
attenuating Papuan pressure for self-determination.)
Muridan Widjojo the leader of the LIPI research group, noted that no single authority represented Papuans. Muridan,
who also leads Jaringan Damai Papua (Papua Peace Network) with Father
Neles Tebay, cautioned that the future entailed a long and tedious
process to lay the initial foundations for a dialogue to resolve the
conflicts in Papua.
"Dying for Nothing" by Bobby Anderson in
Inside Indonesia argues that in "Papua’s highlands, the marriage of
special autonomy funding with elite political and clan machinations has
combined to break the healthcare system.
Indonesia 'Thanks' Freeport
|Image from The Act of Killing,
issued a mock "thank you
postcard" from the Indonesian military to the mining giant
Freeport McMoRan for its support. The military thanks Freeport for
hiring it "to torture and kill" those who protest near the mines. Other
cards were to the World Bank,
Time, which sponsored an
Indonesia investment conference soon after Suharto's bloody takeover.
Freeport was an important attendee.
Demographic Trends in West Papua
Theo Van Den Broek, a highly regarded observer.
comments on the myriad problems facing Papuan society including weak
civil society, and demographic trends which deepen the plight of the
At least 74 Political
Prisoners in Papuan Jails
According to a
Bars there were at least 74 political prisoners in jail at the end
of the January. The report reviews several notorious instances of
abusive treatment by police. West Papuans who sought to deliver messages
to members of a visiting delegation of Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG)
in West Papua were "manhandled" and "arbitrarily arrested." Their
counterparts who staged a similar demonstration when the MSG visitors
were in Jakarta were not subjected to these "repressive tactics" notes
the report (see also February 2014 Report).
Papuans Behind Bars also reviews harsh sentences proposed against five
peaceful protesters in Biak arrested in May 2013 and the torture of 12
peaceful protesters in Jayapura held in police custody following a
demonstration in November 2013. Their fate only recently came to light
after "the detainees were transferred to Abepura prison and could be
accessed by lawyers and human rights workers." The group said that
police lied "to human rights lawyers offering to represent the
detainees, stating they already had representation."
Link to the is issue: