Since his arrest, Karma has been offered and refused clemency a number of times because he insists that raising a flag at a peaceful ceremony is not a crime. He also insists on an unconditional release. The latest offer came in August 2015 with great fanfare. As possible release dates have come and gone, it is apparent that freeing Karma is a complicated process for both the government in Jakarta and for Karma himself. Karma recently told Fairfax Media:
"My point is that Indonesia must realise that it must free me unconditionally, restore my good name. It should also free other political prisoners in Papua and elsewhere in Indonesia and stop chasing those who are on wanted list for expressing their freedom of speech."
The question remains, if Karma were to receive release and then immediately raise the Morning Star Flag, would the government arrest him again?
Political Prisoners in Indonesia
Karma's insistence on an unconditional release places the current President of Indonesia, Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, in a difficult position. He has said that he seeks to improve human rights conditions in Papua by expanding access to foreign media as well as releasing political prisoners. Earlier this summer Indonesia's House of Representatives rejected the President's plan to release up to 90 political prisoners. As an inexperienced president, Jokowi does not have the political standing or mandate to defy the DPR and unconditionally release Karma and the others.
A Leader of Political Prisoners
Since his arrest, Karma has gradually become the face of political prisoners in Papua. Many human rights organizations have led campaigns for his release. Over the past 11 years, Indonesian government officials have received tens of thousands of letters, emails, and petitions on Karma's behalf.
As a testament to his character, Karma has consistently responded to efforts on his behalf by reminding his defenders that many people in Papua are suffering the same treatment and prison sentences in the name of free speech. From the time he entered prison, he has aligned his fate with the scores of other Papuan political prisoners. Karma was nominated for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.
The recent maneuvering regarding Karma's status is about much more than his freedom. The discussion can only be fruitful if he and others are guaranteed freedom of speech and expression that are now outlawed by the Indonesian government.
Claudia Vandermade is a human rights activist based in the Washington, DC area.
Future for Papuan Political Prisoners Uncertain
Whether prominent Papuan political prisoner Filep Karma will be released from prison after a decade of incarceration remains uncertain. Karma has
rejected release under terms proposed by Jakarta insofar as those terms would entail acknowledging guilt. (See Perspective above for more on Karma.)
Karma's decision, based on principle, has influenced other political prisoners offered similar terms for release in connection with the Indonesian August 17 National Day remissions and reductions of sentences.
President Widodo has proposed amnesty for Papuan political prisoners to the Parliament but parliamentarians in Commission I (which oversees defense and foreign affairs) were unwilling to approve the proposal absent a "road map" that would address the myriad problems associated with West Papua and Indonesia's continuing occupation. Parliament's Commission III (responsible for legal affairs, human rights and security) have yet to deliberate on the amnesty proposal.
Theys Eluay's Killer Gets Promoted
by Made Supriatma
Hartomo is familiar name for West Papuans. In 2001, he was commander of the 10th Tribuana Task Force (Satgas Tribuana 10), a Kopassus unit posted in West Papua . This unit was responsible in the killing of West Papuan leader, Theys Hiyo Eluay, chair of the Papuan Presidium Council. (See report of killing by ELSHAM Papua.) Eluay was found dead in his car just hours after attending a Kopassus dinner at the Kopassus Tribuana near Jayapura.
Hartomo graduated from military academy in 1986. He is a rising star among his academy class. He is the second officer in his class to achieve the rank of Brigadier General, following Hinsa Siburian, the top graduate in the class. Siburian recently became commander of Kodam XVII/Cendrawasih which controls West Papua. Both Hartomo and Siburian spent most of their military careers in Kopassus.
Hartomo was tried and convicted in 2003 in a military tribunal for his involvement in the killing of Eluay. He was sentenced to three years and six months in jail. According to the verdict, he was also dismissed from the military service. We don't know whether Hartomo served his jail time. We also do not know whether his sentence was overturned by a higher court. But we do know, based on evidence presented in court that the killing of Theys Eluay happened under his command.
We also know that Hartomo's military career has generally gone smoothly. He continued his career at Kopassus. In 2009, his name appeared on the press as the commander of Group I/Parako, a unit within Kopassus. He was already colonel at that time. In 2011, he was again promoted and became a commander in the Army's Infantry Training unit. That same year he was transferred to a higher position: commander of the Army Intelligence Center (Pusat Intel TNI-AD).
As governor of the military academy, his military rank will rise to the level of Major General. His current assignment places him as an important educator for the next generation of Indonesian military officers. His career will serve as a benchmark, a standard of excellence, for young officers. It is an unfortunate that this benchmark is so tainted with human rights violations. Needless to say Hartomo is a criminal for his in involvement of the killing of Theys. Hartomo's rise shows that that impunity is always at work within Indonesian military. It sends a strong message to West Papuans that the Indonesian military is unlikely ever to be held accountable for their conduct.
Made Supriatma is a researcher and free lance journalist based in New Jersey.
Confusion Over Military Murder in Koperaoka
In what is all too common a tragedy in West Papua, Indonesian military (TNI) personnel fired at Papuan civilians killing two and wounding at least four. While two soldiers were arrested on August 28, the TNI has offered conflicting accounts of what transpired. The shooting took place in Koperaoka village in Timika.
First Sergeant Arshar and Sergeant Head Makher from the Timika Military Command were detained for the killings. The Merauke Regional Military Commander Brig. Gen. Supartodi speaking about the shooting told The Jakarta Post that the soldiers were drunk when they fired on a crowd of people and that "They were both guilty and they should be held responsible for their behavior."
A later Jakarta Globe report offered a different account based on non-military witnesses. It reported that the shooting occurred after an argument in the early morning hours of August 28 at a graduation party. Two soldiers tried to enter the party. This led to an argument as people surrounded the soldiers. "Not long afterwards three other TNI members arrived on black motorcycles, carrying guns and shooting at the local people," a witness told the Globe.
Cenderawasih military command spokesman Lt. Col. Teguh Pudhi Rahardjo said First Sgt. Ashar fired the shots: "Ashar was swarmed by local people. He fell and was covered in blood. As Ashar was pushed, he loaded his gun and shot upward twice.Then some of the people backed out and some came close to get his gun. Ashar told us that he shot toward at the people but aimed for their legs," he said.
Several senior TNI figures attended the funeral of Mairimau and Okoware. Kodam XVII/Cenderawasih commander Maj. Gen. Hinsa Siburian reportedly "apologized to the families of the victims, the Kamoro and all Timika residents for the incident."
The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) team plans to investigate the shooting.
Komnas HAM commissioner Natalius Pigai said "We condemn the incident. Military approaches to solve the problems facing Papuans and the use of state institutions to kill people could not be justified."
He also criticized President Widodo's commitment to human rights saying "We never heard that President Jokowi expressed his strong commitments, which were followed by concrete policies, to resolve root problems in Papua. In fact, Papuan people have long waited for such commitments so that security attacks that have killed civilians in Papua will not occur again in the future."
Catholic Bishop John Philip Saklil of Timika called security personnel "protectors of immoral criminals" that lacked the "good will" to perform a transparent investigations.
"Based on our record, there are a number of violent incidents being brutally committed by members of the Indonesian military and police in our ecclesiastical area," the bishop said in a statement sent to ucanews.com on Sept. 2. He said five acts of violence had occurred between December and August, including the Koperaoka shooting None of them had been properly investigated.
Papuans Behind Bars Warns of Threats to Human Rights Defenders Are Increasing
Papuan Behind Bars monthly update reports that as of July there were at least 51 political prisoners in West Papua.
Papuans Behind Bars also reports "an increasing climate of intimidation and harassment against human rights defenders and lawyers in Wamena." The Central Papuan Highlands Coalition for Peace, Law and Human Rights (Koalisi untuk Kedamaian, Hukum dan HAM Pegunungan Tengah Papua) says that coalition members providing accompaniment to Roby Erik Pekey, a victim of arbitrary police violence in Wamena, faced harassment. Pekey was harassed by Jayawijaya police as he sought medical treatment in Wamena Hospital.
"Papuans Behind Bars has called on the Indonesian government to take "urgent measures to ensure the protection" of human rights defenders.
Other incidents highlighted in the report include, the shootings in Tolikara (see July 2015 West Papua Report ) where a teenager was killed and at least 11 others injured by security forces and the arrest of at least 40 members of the United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP) while for participating in a prayer session. Papuans Behind Bars writes that last May, "264 people have been arrested for expressing their support or being involved with the ULMWP. The targeting of ULMWP members and its supporters for arbitrary arrest demonstrates Indonesia's zero-tolerance policy towards peaceful aspirations of West Papuan independence."
See full update here. http://www.papuansbehindbars.org/?p=3546
(WPAT Comment: The Papuans Behind Bars project is a valuable tool for the international solidarity community monitoring of the plight of Papuans. The project, inaugurated in 2013, offers a comprehensive focus not only on arrests and prosecutions but also, as in this July report, the plight of human rights defenders.)
Effort to Further Restrain Foreign Journalists Activity in Indonesia Beaten Back
In the face of public outrage, Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo quickly withdrew proposed regulations aimed at increasing government control over foreign journalists operating in Indonesia.
Echoing regulations long in place for West Papua, the proposed national regulation would have required foreign journalists and their local crew to apply for permits issued by the Foreign Affairs and the Home Affairs Ministries. Foreign journalists would have also had to acquire permits from all relevant levels of government, down to the the municipal or district level. The new rule also called for foreign journalists to give details about their assignments to the National Intelligence Agency (BIN).
The withdrawal of the regulation was reportedly ordered by the President, who has also moved to lessen restrictions on access to West Papua, with unclear results.
The Alliance of Independence Journalists (AJI) chairperson Suwarjono praised President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's move to revoke the new regulation: "It is clear that Jokowi wants this to be an open country."
For foreign journalists seeking to operate in Indonesia, government restrictions and hindrances continue to abound. A statement by the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club (JFCC), issued prior to the withdrawal of the latest regulations, noted that the new restrictions were "particularly troubling given that the Indonesian government already takes weeks if not months to issue approvals for foreign journalists and film crews to visit Indonesia to work - if at all."
JFCC called the proposed regulations "a sad reminder of the authoritarian 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."
Meanwhile, two British journalists have been held since May 28 in Batam. They are accused of violating immigration laws while making making a documentary on piracy. The journalists, Neil Bonner and Becky Prosser - are said to have entered Indonesia using tourist visas.
WPAT Comment: Notwithstanding President Widodo's pledge in May 2015 to make foreign journalists access to West Papua easier, senior officials in his administration continue to further complicate what is already an intimidating gauntlet of restrictions and monitoring. As noted in a Jakarta Post August 28 editorial, it appears that that policymakers and implementers are not in step with the wishes of their President. The Post wrote that there is a "gap in attitudes between him and his subordinates in dealing with the press."
Regional Support for
is our sincere hope that our fellow brothers are exhibiting to our fellow
neighbors in the Region. Vanuatu has been very vocal in these sensitive
issues, and we are hoping that overtime, we will eventually join hands
in addressing the in-humane treatment received by the Melanesians in
In early September, Fijian Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke
Kubuabola asked ULMWP Octo Mote to leave a meeting of the Pacific
Islands Development Forum held September 2-4 in Suva, Fiji.
Jakarta Continues to
Ignore Critical Needs in West Papua
WPAT Comment: Air safety in West Papua remains a concern.
The seriousness of the problem is underscored by the August 68 crash
of an Indonesian aircraft on its way to Oksibil near the Papua New Guinea
Border. Fifty-four passengers and crew were killed. See details
of this tragedy at
Pastor Neles Tebay: Papua Cannot Be Built Through Violence
Father Neles Tebay in Tabloid Jubi called for "constructive communication to avoid conflicts" in West Papua. Tebay is Chair of the of Papua Network (JPD) .
Tebay speaking at a public discussion held by the Indonesian Journalism Network (IJN) said that Papua's future "could not be built upon the violence, but communication could involved many parties in the efforts to manage the future of Papua."
We Agree to Achieve Peace Through Customary Law, Ustad Ali Muhktar Says
Also in Jubi, Tolikara Muslim leader Ali Mukhtar urged the police to respect a joint agreement to resolve the Tolikara conflict through customary laws and to stop the questioning of GIDI leaders by police. (See August West Papua Report.)
"We have agreed to solve our problem through customary laws. As an ustad (Muslim religious teacher) in Tolikara, I am consistent with seven points of peace agreement signed on 29 July 2015. I am asking the police to be wise in solving this issue, forcing is possibly raising another problem. Tolikara incident wasn't an interfaith conflict," Ustad Ali Muhktar told Jubi in Jayapura on Sunday (23/8/2015).
Book Excerpt Describes Papuan MSG Campaign
An excerpt of a forthcoming book by Jason MacLeod describes the West Papuan campaign for membership in the Melanesian Spearhead Group. In West Papua itself supporters gathered tens of thousands of physical signatures in support of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua's application to join the MSG. (see July West Papua Report ) Hundreds were arrested or beaten and at least one killed during the signature collection campaign. The petition which was brought to the Solomon Islands for the MSG meeting consisted of "five large 60 pound packages [one for each MSG leader] encased in hessian. Inside each parcel are two large A4-sized books, parts of a massive paper petition. Each book is around 16 inches thick - they make a dictionary look like a comic book," writes MacLeod. The 55,555 signers also provided a copy of their state-issued identification cards.
Link to this issue: http://etan.org/issues/wpapua/2015/1509wpap.htm
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