West Papua Report
This is the 126th 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
Network (ETAN). Back issues are posted online at
Questions 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
email@example.com. Link to this issue:
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
firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed
in Perspectives are the author's and not necessarily those of WPAT or
For additional news on West Papua see the reg.westpapua listserv
archive or on Twitter.
PERSPECTIVE by WPAT's Edmund McWilliams looks
at the challenges facing incoming President Joko Widodo, including those
posed by West Papua.
This edition's UPDATE groups urge police to
provide security to West Papua human rights
defenders and reviews growing Indonesian
and international calls for an end to repression in
West Papua with particular focus on demands for an end to restrictions
on access by journalists and others to West Papua. The surge in concern
is prompted in large measure by the continued detention of two French
journalists whose has been the focus of numerous appeals for their
prompt release (see September 2014
West Papua Report). A local Papuan official drew attention to the
release of greenhouse gases associate with the
MIFEE project. A West Papuan conference hosted by Vanuatu has been
postponed to December. Attacks on Indonesian
security forces in the Papuan highlands continued
in September. Indonesia's national Human Rights Commission is holding a
series of hearings on the land rights of indigenous
peoples, including in West Papua, The U.S. military has begun training
for Indonesian military personnel with the AH-64 Apache helicopters
which will enhance TNI capacity to conduct "sweep" operations in West
CHRONICLE notes an analysis
by Al Jazeera America of the targeting of journalists in West Papua.
Fijian NGO urges government to support West Papua,
The September referendum which afforded Scotland
a vote on their political status prompted several analyses that
highlighted the continuing denial of the right to self-determination in
Widodo Faces Many Challenges
by Ed McWilliams
President-elect Joko "Jokowi" Widodo
faces serious challenges prepares to take office. In the Indonesian
parliament (DPR), the parties that he defeated in the presidential
election are moving to counter his reform agenda. And the old elites,
who have long sought to restore their control over the political
process, have recently made significant headway in rolling back the
democratic reforms of the past 16 years.
During an early morning session of the national parliament (DPR), losing
Presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto's "Red and White" coalition
ending direct election of local officials on September 26. The vote
restores the practice of Regional Representative Councils (DPRD)
selecting governors and mayors. The Red and White Coalition currently
controls at least 31 provincial legislatures, and should the
coalition remain stable, it could easily pick nearly all of the nation's
governors. The national Parliament also changed its own rules such that
Widodo's PDI-P - the party with the most representatives - and its
partner parties are frozen out of all legislative leadership posts.
The Prabowo-led coalition is now seeking to
end to the direct election of the President. If it succeeds the
Suharto-era practice of parliament selecting the president
would be restored.
A large majority of Indonesian voters are opposed to these changes,
which pose a fundamental challenge to the democratic progress made since
the dictator Suharto was overthrown. A number of
demonstrations and online protests were held prior to and after the
vote, and a number of legal challenges to the change in elections are in
The threat posed to this assertion of parliamentary power to Widodo's
own tenure should not be dismissed. A draft plan to revise the
regulations of Indonesia's upper house, the People's Consultative
Assembly (MPR), would
make it easier to remove a President. Parliament could exploit or
create a crisis to provide a basis to remove the President.
President Abdurrahman Wahid.
In practical terms, such a bold move
could only be done with the consent, or conceivably at the behest of the
Indonesian military (TNI).
This happened in 2001, when President Abdurrahman Wahid, popularly
known as Gus Dur, a reformer on many fronts, notably regarding the
military and policy toward West Papua, found himself at loggerheads with
parliament. In July 2001, during a tense political struggle, Wahid
sought to suspend the Parliament, a power which he arguably was entitled
to exercise. Crucially, however, current President Yudhoyono, then the
Coordinating Minister for Politics and Security, supported by the
military, refused to obey President Wahid's order to implement a state
of emergency. Instead,
the military brought 40,000 troops and police into Jakarta. The
military's insubordination amounted to a coup, in which the Parliament
subsequently elevated Wahid's Vice President, Megawati Sukarnoputri, to
the presidency. Wahid's reforms stalled and the Indonesian security
forces launched brutal crackdowns on Aceh and West Papua.
President-elect Widodo intends to press forward with reforms,
notably to attack corruption. (Indonesia's effective anti-corruption
is another target of parliament. ) During his campaign for
President, he pledged to
investigate the disappearance of 13 political activists in the late
He also has signaled a willingness to take a new approach toward the
rights of indigenous peoples, and more specifically to pursue new
policies toward West Papua (see September
2104 West Papua Report). The recently ended parliament, meanwhile,
failed to pass legislation protecting customary land rights of the
archipelago's indigenous people and other ways empower them within the
confines of Indonesian law.
The President-elect has said little
regarding the need to reform the military or to make it accountable for
its criminal actions, corruption and notably its long history of human
rights abuse and lack of accountability. During the campaign he spoke of
his desire to
increase the military budget. The Indonesian military can expect a
harmonious relationship with the new President. There is at least one
area, however, where a reform-oriented Widodo administration could wind
up at cross purposes with the TNI. Notwithstanding the legislative
requirement to dismantle its empire of legal and illegal businesses by
2009, the TNI remains deeply involved in all manner of
enterprises. If President Widodo were determined to attack the
systemic corruption that pervades the Indonesian economy, he would
inevitably run-up against powers within and allied to the TNI elite.
A key platform for TNI financial and commercial interest is West Papua
where it has long been deeply engaged in the exploitation of the vast
natural resources. Logging and other forest operations, rent-taking from
major international corporate operations such as Freeport-McMoran and
BP, and diversion of state funds intended for "development"
have long assured the flow of wealth into TNI coffers.
President-elect Widodo has also signaled
an openness to dialogue with West Papuans and even spoken publicly of
his intention to end the restrictions which severely limit access to or
travel within West Papua for international journalists, UN personnel and
human rights and humanitarian NGOs. He has spoken of creating a special
Presidential office there to facilitate communications with Papuans.
(See September 2014 West Papua Report)
These changes in the way a Widodo administration wants to deal with West
Papua harken back to reforms pursued by President Wahid, who made
symbolic gestures such as allowing Papuans to fly their own morning star
flag, while he engaged in dialogue about substantive issues. It is
likely that such new thinking toward West Papua has not gone down well
with the TNI. In any discussions, Papuans will certainly convey their
long-standing concern over the militarization of West Papua, the
continuing violations of human rights there by the security and
intelligence forces, and the systematic lack of accountability for that
The TNI would likely oppose any lifting of the veil behind which it and
police abuse and intimidate the Papuan population. Open access to West
Papua by international journalists and other observers would expose TNI
brutality and criminality.
The recent arrest and continued detention of two French journalists
could well be a message from the military to Widodo that his good
intentions vis-a-vis Papuans are unwelcome and unacceptable. The fate of
an earlier reform-oriented Indonesian President will presumably weigh on
this new one.
Rights Groups Urge Police
to Provide Security to West Papua Human Rights Defenders
Prominent rights groups have urged the police to provide better security
and protection for human rights defenders working in West Papua. In a
joint statement, the groups, said in part: "We deplore the attitude of
the police force in handling cases related to human rights defenders."
Nasional Papua Solidaritas (Napas), Aliansi Mahasiswa Papua (Papuan
Student Alliance, AMP). the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims
of Violence (KontraS), the Komite Persiapan Federasi Mahasiswa
Kerakyatan (Preparatory Committee of the Federation of Student
Democracy, KP-FMK) issued the statement.
NAPAS's Elias Petege, told SuaraPapua that NGOs in Jakarta had received
information concerning police pressure targeting
Gustaf Kawer, and acts of violence by unknown people against
Latifah Anum Siregar. Petege noted that both had been "defending the
oppressed people of Papua."
Petege noted that the international community has been precluded from
monitoring developments in West Papua, efforts to silence those active
in West Papua's "democratic space" had continued.
Hariz Azhar, coordinator of KontraS contended that law enforcement
officials need to comply with Law No. 18/2003 dealing with lawyers, in
particular Articles 14, 15 and 16. Azhar asserted that Gustaf's conduct
in defending his client was clearly within the law.
The groups called on the Indonesian government to protect human rights
defenders in West Papua, as recommended in the
Universal Periodic Review in
2012. They urged the government to conduct a full and independent
investigation of violence against human rights defenders.
The groups said that the police must end the prosecution of Kawer
and to investigate violence committed against Anum Siregar.
Latifah Anum Siregar
NGO's Raise West Papua
Access at UN
Indonesian and international NGOs
jointly addressed the UN Human Rights Council to demand the
Indonesian government improve freedom of expression in the provinces of
Papua and West Papua. They also called for release of the detained
In mid-September Franciscans International, joined with 21 other
groups, to urge the government of Indonesia to improve access for
foreign journalists to West Papua and allow the long-postponed visit of
UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression to take place. The appeal
called for the immediate release of the imprisoned French journalists
Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat. The journalists have been held
since early August.
Poengky Indarti, Executive director of Imparsial,
told the Jakarta Globe that "the tight restrictions around foreign
media access to Papua were unhelpful." She said "It creates the
impression that Papua is closed for international reporting."
Correspondents Club Likens Detention of French Journalists to
The Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club (JFCC)
expressed concern over the continued detention without charge of two
French journalists. The JFCC wrote that in previous visa violation cases
foreign journalists were simply deported. The JFCC calls "he
continuation of restrictive state policies on journalists reporting in
the Papua region, which are a sad reminder of the Suharto regime, and a
stain on Indonesia's transition to democracy and claims by its
government that it supports a free press and human rights."
The statement concludes with an appeal to President-elect Widodo "to
immediately lift all restrictions on foreign journalists travelling to
the Papua region. These restrictions only harm Indonesia's international
reputation as a country that values press freedom, and encourage
inaccurate and simplistic reporting of the issues in the region." (See
full statement at
More Calls for Media Access
in West Papua
New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (NZCTU) has called on New
Zealand Prime Minister John Key to pressure Indonesian President Joko
Widodo to release two French journalists and a West Papuan indigenous
leader from prison.
vigil in Auckland for West Papuan leader Areki
Wanimbo and French journalists Valentine Bourrat and
Thomas Dandois. Photo: PMW
The NZCTU joined others, including West
Papua Action Auckland, representatives of the Melanesian community, and
the Green Party, in demanding that the National Party government act on
behalf of journalists Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat and West
Papuan indigenous leader Areki Wanimbo, who was arrested after giving
journalists an interview.
Pacific Freedom Forum (PFF) called on President-elect Joko Widodo to
keep his campaign promise to open up access to West Papua. The PFF
Co-Chair Monica Miller said that Widodo's failure to take action would
raise questions about who really controls West Papua.
New Zealand's West Papua Action Auckland
organized a vigil on September 23 to call attention to the absence
of press freedoms and other human rights issues in West Papua. The vigil
urged the New Zealand government and the French Embassy in Wellington to
press Indonesia to free the French journalists and their sources. Maire
Leadbeater of West Papua Action Auckland said "the only way journalists
could get stories out of West Papua was by bending the rules." She spoke
against the "intense interrogation" by the Indonesian military of West
Papuan activists who met with Dandois and Bourrat.
Plantation in Papua Source of
Tangke Mangi, an official from Merauke, has
told the local daily Bintang Papua that the area's alarmingly high
greenhouse gas emissions rate results from deforestation with the
Merauke Regency's contributing nearly half of the Papua province's
emissions. Mangi told Bintang that the high rate results from rapid
forest degradation caused by the huge agro-development project known as
the Merauke Integrated Food and
Energy Estate (MIFEE) . Unless action is taken, emissions are
expected to increase as more companies take up permits at the estate.
(WPAT Note: see below)
Papuan Conference in Vanuatu
The West Papua Reunification Committee announced that the Papuan
conference scheduled to open at the end of September in Vanuatu has been
postponed until December 1-4. Many of the expected 80 Papuan
participants reportedly encountered travel difficulties. The conference
is intended to formalize a unified bid for
membership in the Melanesian
Spearhead Group (MSG).
The MSG deferred action on an application by the West Papua National
Coalition for Liberation in 2013, urging instead a more representative
bid from a broader representation of Papuans.
New Violence in West Papuan
The Jakarta Globe reported on September 25 that an Indonesian
soldier was killed during an armed attack on four soldiers at an Ilaga
market in the Central Highlands Puncak regency. The other soldiers were
not hurt. According to military sources cited by the Globe, 10 people
were involved in the attack, which followed a July attack on a military
post in Tingginambut, also in Puncak Jaya District. The Globe reports
notes that the OPM is active in the area. As noted in
West Papua Report coverage of the July
incident , the OPM activity in the past has prompted a heavy response by
Indonesian security forces
Komnas HAM Holds Inquiry on Land
The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM)
launched a series of public meetings in September that will focus on
land disputes. The hearings will include public sessions in West Papua
as well as in North Sumatra, Banten, West Kalimantan, and Maluku. Land
disputes have long been a point of tension in Indonesia, often pitting
major corporations or wealthy Indonesians against local landowners.
Frequently, the major corporate interests enjoy the support of security
In West Papua, there is a long history of businesses ignoring
indigenous communities' customary land rights or breaking deals
struck between the communities and the businesses.
Further complicating the issue, as noted
by AMAN secretary-general Abdon Nababan, are conflicts of interest
within the Forestry Ministry, which now handles almost all aspects of
forest management, including forest production, forestry planning, and
forest protection and conservation. This accounts for the government's
lack of initiative in settling the country's customary land disputes, he
explained. To avoid a further conflicts of interest, Abdon said that the
new administration of president-elect Widodo dissolve the Forestry
Ministry and split its current duties among other ministries.
"The absence of formal procedure to settle disputes over customary land
has forced businesses and indigenous communities to rely on informal
agreements to prevent further conflicts. In West Papua, there is a long
history of businesses ignoring indigenous communities' customary land
rights or breaking deals struck between the communities and the
writes the Jakarta Post.
Lawmakers and the government
were deliberating a bill on the Recognition and Protection of the
Rights of Indigenous People (PPHMA) to create a means for indigenous
people to register their communities and to map their customary areas.
This would have implemented a court ruling that restricted the state's
authority over customary forests. But the DPR ended its session without
acting on a bill.
In May 2013, the Constitutional Court ruled in a review filed by the
Indigenous People's Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN) that articles in
the existing 1999 Forestry Law contradicted the constitution. The
provisions prevented indigenous people from collectively using natural
resources in their territories The court restricted the authority of the
state over customary forests located in the territories of indigenous
"Our hopes now lie in the hands of the president- and vice
president-elect since they promised that they will commit to protecting
and empowering the rights of indigenous people," said environmental
policy expert Noer Fauzi Rachman .
U.S. Military Apache
Helicopter Joint-Training Exercise Enhances TNI Capacity to Strike
AH-64 Apache familiarization briefing during Garuda
Shield 2014. Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Brooks
Fletcher, 16th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
Garuda Shield 2014, a joint Indonesian-US
training operations included
familiarization for TNI units that will deploy with the
U.S.-supplied AH-64 Apache helicopters. As has been
noted in previous WPAT commentary,
these helicopters significantly enhance TNI capability to conduct
"sweep" operations in West Papua. Such "sweep" operations have had
devastating impact on Papuan civilians, who repeatedly have been driven
from their villages by attacking Indonesian security forces, purportedly
pursuing armed pro-independence fighters.
The Garuda Shield 2014 exercise "is a
bilateral, tactical military exercise sponsored by U.S. Army Pacific
Command and hosted by the Indonesian armed forces. Approximately 1,200
personnel from U.S. Army and Indonesian Armed Forces will conduct a
series of training events focused on what the US military
euphemistically describes as peace support operations."
Jazeera on Media Freedom in West Papua
Al Jazeera America
published a lengthy commentary and analysis about media freedom in
West Papua that includes a detailed account of the intimidation of
journalists including the French journalists now in Indonesian custody
in West Papua. The anonymous author writes: "While the government says
journalists can travel freely in some parts of West Papua, as tourists
can, reporters inquiring about political and human rights issues are
routinely denied the permit required to enter. The policy amounts to a
de facto ban on real reporting and is condemned by the United Nations,
Western governments and human-rights organizations."
NGO Urge Support for West Papuans
Fiji's Coalition of Human Rights
pledged to lobby its government to "take a stand on behalf of our
Papuan brothers" who are "suffering human rights violations,
discrimination and abuse." Rights activist Ms. Shamima Ali told the
media that it was important for Fiji, as a Pacific brother, to join the
fight against torture and human rights violations in West Papua.
The Scottish Precedent
Globe Graphics/Josep Tri Ronggot.
A September 24 article in
The Interpreter, discusses self-determination in West Papua in the
context of the recent vote on Scottish independence. The article,
"Scotland: Indonesia is Watching" cites Papuan activist Benny Wenda as
telling Scots that he hopes one day Papuans would some day get the same
chance at self-determination.
For its part, the
Jakarta Post noted in an editorial comment: Scotland's peaceful
referendum showed Indonesia that in a democracy, "There are civilized
ways of dealing with independence aspirations other than treating them
as a security threat," including respecting cultural differences,
engaging in meaningful dialogue, and devolving certain powers to the
regions to give them more direct control over their assets and
development. (WPAT Comment: Interestingly, the Jakarta Post did not go
so far as advocating the "civilized way" of a "peaceful referendum" for
writing in the Jakarta Globe on September 19, offers a different,
thoughtful assessment of Jakarta's handling of the challenges it faces
in West Papua:
"The best Indonesian leader to deal
with the Papuans was perhaps President Abdurrahman Wahid, who had
enough sensitivity to recognize that a change of name was in order
for Papua, previously called Irian Jaya. He even allowed the Papuans
to fly their 'Bintang Kejora' flag, an act that is considered
treason nowadays. The same sensitivity, regrettably, is lacking
today in Jakarta, where the conventional wisdom has it that Papuan
separatism is rooted in economics. Indeed, there is a widespread
belief among our bureaucrats that when these easternmost provinces
are brought to the same levels of development, education and
prosperity as the rest of the country, the desire for separatism
"Unfortunately, this hypothesis fails to take into account the
crucial questions of ethnohistorical identity and culture. The
people of Papua, racially as well as culturally, have less in common
with the largest ethnic group in the country, the Javanese, than the
people of Aceh. Therefore, Jakarta's attempts to 'Indonesianize,' or
rather, in most cases, 'Javanize' the two provinces, will only store
up trouble for the future.
"As the Scottish case has demonstrated, more than economics is
needed to make a political union relevant to minority groups like
the Papuans. Greater sensitivity is overdue in the way Jakarta seeks
to discourage Papuans from separatism. Perhaps the best way to keep
them in our unitary state is to protect their right to be Papuan,
unique in their own history and traditions, rather than try to make
them more like the rest of the country."