The West Papua Report
The following is the tenth in a series of regular reports prepared
by the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights-Indonesia Support
Group providing updates on developments in West Papua. The RFK Center has
monitored and reported on the human rights situation in West Papua since
1993 when Bambang Widjojanto received the annual RFK Human Rights Award.
- ANALYSIS: -- West Papua is a "Ticking Time Bomb"
- Indonesian Military Kills Pastor and Other Civilians, Closes
Churches and Causes Civilian Internal Displacement and Starvation
- Indonesian President Reacts to New Indonesian Military Violence;
Asks Former West Papua Governor to Help Resolve Tensions
- Unresolved Killings of Freeport Schoolteachers Continues as Major
Obstacle in U.S.-Indonesian Relationship
- Support Grows Among U.K. Parliamentarians for U.N. Review of
Discredited 1969 Act of Free Choice
- Indonesian Authorities Deny West Papuans the Right to Commemorate
December 1 Independence Day; Indonesian Police Shoot and Beat Peaceful
Demonstrators and Human Rights Defender
- Police Reportedly Involved in Illegal Logging
ANALYSIS: John Rumbiak -- West Papua is a "Ticking Time Bomb"
During a speaking tour in Australia in early November, John Rumbiak,
international advocacy coordinator for the West Papua-based human rights
group ELSHAM, told Australian media that West Papua is now a "ticking time
bomb." He reports that increasing militarization, coupled with human rights
abuses and unmet demands for independence are gravely destabilizing the
Rumbiak, who spoke with various governmental and non-governmental
audiences, noted that 25,000 troops had been dispatched to the mineral and
timber-rich province in recent years. Also contributing to growing tensions,
he explained, more than one million migrants had moved into West Papua from
elsewhere in Indonesia, threatening to make native Papuans a minority in
their own land, as happened to the Dayaks of Kalimantan in recent decades.
Rumbiak noted that militia groups added to the explosive mix and that
there had been a recruitment surge in December 2003 during a visit to the Freeport mining
area by Eurico Guterres, a former East Timor militia leader convicted by an
Indonesian court of war crimes in East Timor and facing at least 10 years'
imprisonment for the havoc wreaked by his militia there in 1999 (see RFK
Papua Report, ìJakarta Appoints War Criminal from East Timor to Head Police
in Papuaî and "TNI Establishes and Supports Militia Groups in Papua;
Continues Campaign in Central Highlands," January 2004, available online at:
Rumbiak described Papuans as possibly ready to turn their
frustrations against the migrants (as has happened repeatedly in Kalimantan,
where indigenous Dayaks have attacked Madurese and other immigrants).
Noting that newly elected Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
has expressed interest in resolving the conflict in West Papua, Rumbiak
urged the international community to press Yudhoyono to establish the
"necessary pre-conditions" for peaceful dialogue, including withdrawal of
troops from West Papua, dismantling of militia groups and cessation of
government attempts to divide West Papua into three separate provinces,
absent the will of the Papuan people.
Indonesian Military Kills Pastor and Other Civilians, Closes Churches and
Causes Civilian Internal Displacement and Starvation
New details are emerging regarding a major operation launched by the
Indonesian military (TNI) in West Papuaís Central Highlands. A statement by
Jayapura-based Christian church leaders and prominent human rights groups
ELSHAM, Kontras and the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute, reports killings and
attacks in the area that have been underway since Indonesiaís August 17
Independence Day. At least eight people, including a pastor and a police
officer, have been killed, while a reported 5,000 civilians have been
displaced from their villages.
Indonesian police and military claim that the Free Papua Movement (OPM)
separatist fighters are responsible for the killings that have opened the
door for the military operation now underway. Religious and tribal leaders
and human rights defenders in West Papua contend that the TNI is behind the
shootings. These claims are backed by the Jakarta Post, according to which
reliable sources told its reporter that the Army's Special Forces (Kopassus)
were involved in the initial killings that prompted the military offensive.
Pastor Socrates Sofyan Yoman, President of the Fellowship of Baptist
Churches in West Papua, who recently visited the affected area, states that
TNI personnel killed the Reverend Elisa Tabuni, a clergywoman in the Puncak
Jaya town of Mulia on September 14.
According to Yoman, shortly after killing the pastor, troops in a
helicopter fired on Papuans who were gathering food in a garden, killing two
of them. The reported military attack prompted local villagers to flee their
homes for refuge in the forest, where they are starving, because the TNI has
destroyed their food crops and blocked humanitarian relief organizations
from entering the area. In addition, the military operations have forced the
closure of many churches in the area. Subsequent reporting claims that 147
villages have now been affected by the operation.
The Queensland Courier-Mailís Greg
Poulgrain cites Tom Beanal, acting executive director of the mass political
organization Papua Presidium Council and a prominent leader within West
Papuaís Dewan Adat, as raising grave concerns about the Papuan villagers
displaced by the Indonesian military offensive.
The military, numbering a reported 2,800 personnel, are based near
Tingginambut, 13 miles from Mulia in Puncak Jaya where a purported OPM
attack in which five people were killed was the pretext for these latest
military operations in the region (see October 2004 RFK West Papua Report,
ìIndonesian Military Launches Major Destabilizing OperationÖ,î, available
online at: http://www.rfkmemorial.org/human_rights/1993.htm. Beanal
and others charge that the military, following a widely recognized TNI modus
operandi in West Papua and elsewhere, has resorted to provocative acts
carried out by TNI-organized and directed militia. The TNI reportedly has
relied on these staged incidents as a pretext for initiating overwhelming
TNI force into the area. TNI seeks to maintain a pretext for its presence
and operations in West Papua (and in Aceh) so as to facilitate its often
illegal exploitation of vast natural riches and extortion of foreign and
domestic firms operating there.
An investigative team (see next item) has not been allowed into the area,
nor have church groups wishing to provide aid and emotional support to the
displaced and frightened villagers.
Indonesian President Reacts to New Indonesian Military Violence; Asks
Former West Papua Governor to Help Resolve Tensions
Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has backed a move by
members of the Papuan parliament to set up an investigation into the raids
in the Central Highlands.
Yudhoyono also reportedly has told senior Papuans leaders that he would
ensure that military operations in Puncak Jaya would not result in more
civilian casualties. In a presidential instruction to Coordinating Minister
for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Admiral (retired) A.S. Widodo and
TNI Chief Endriartono Sutarto, Yudhoyono said the military operation should
be conducted wisely and carefully and that the local people " should not
suffer from excesses during the operation" according to former governor of
West Papua, Barnabas Suebu.
Suebu urged that the government involve traditional and religious leaders
or local traditional institutions. "Don't just [rely on] a security
approach," he said.
Yudhoyono also has asked the former governor of West Papua, Freddy
Numberi, to assist in resolving tensions in West Papua.
Numberi, a Papuan who holds the post of Minister for Fisheries and Marine
Affairs in Yudhoyono's cabinet, has been asked to work with Coordinating
Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Widodo, who is leading
government efforts to resolve the West Papua question.
Numberi has stated that the Law on Papuan Special Autonomy should become
the basic pillar by which to resolve the West Papua issue. He also
reportedly has urged that the government issue a regulation implementing the
special autonomy law.
Unresolved Killings of Freeport Schoolteachers Continues as Major
Obstacle in U.S.-Indonesian Relationship
According to Indonesian and international media accounts, newly named
Indonesian Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono has rejected publicly
conditions set down by the U.S. government
as a quid pro quo for
restoration of ties between the Indonesian and U.S. militaries. Among the
conditions was one that focused on the August 2002 ambush within the
Freeport copper and gold mining operations area of the companyís entire
international school teaching staff. An Indonesian teacher and two American
colleagues were killed in the attack, and eight other American citizens were
injured, including a six-year-old girl.
Initial police reports as well as NGO and media reporting pointed to the
Indonesian military as culpable, but the military has denied its
involvement. A U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation inquiry is continuing.
In the meantime, Indonesian police have yet to apprehend an Indonesian named
by a U.S. grand jury as one of the perpetrators of the attack. On November
21, during a regional trade conference in Santiago, Chile, Indonesian
President Yudhoyono pledged to U.S. President George W. Bush that the
Indonesian Government would continue to search for the alleged perpetrator.
However, he reportedly made no mention of continuing the investigation to
identify others responsible for the attack.
Sudarsono has announced that he will visit the U.S. in March or April
2005 to push for resumption of U.S.-Indonesian military ties and to discuss
human rights concerns with members of the U.S. Congress and U.S.-based human
Support Grows Among U.K. Parliamentarians for U.N. Review of Discredited
1969 Act of Free Choice
Three former U.K. Cabinet ministers have joined the international
campaign urging U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to authorize a U.N. review
of the U.N.' s 1969 action in supervising and accepting the results of the
Act of Free Choice, through which Indonesia formally incorporated West
Papua. The Act, dubbed the Act of No Choice by West Papuans, was
controversial among U.N. member states at the time and has been discredited
as failing to meet the requirements of an act of self determination by the
The three are the Right Honorable Michael Meacher, Member of Parliament
(MP) and former U.K. Environment Secretary (1997-2003), the Rt. Hon. Clare
Short who served as Secretary of State for International Development
(1997-2003), and the Rt. Hon. Andrew Smith MP, who had been a member of
Prime Minister Tony Blair's Cabinet for five years prior to his resignation
Smith, who was Chief Secretary to the Treasury between 1999 and 2002 and
Secretary of State for Work & Pensions from 2002 to 2004, in a letter to
Secretary Annan, wrote, "...it is clear that the Act of Free Choice was
certainly not a free democratic choice, and that the people of West Papua
have been denied their right democratically to determine their own future."
Smith called on Kofi Annan to respond "... both on the question of a
review of the Act of Free Choice, and any other initiatives the U.N. can
take to promote a peaceful settlement
consistent with the human rights and self-determination of the people of
The Rt Hon. Lord Frank Judd, a Member of the House of Lords and former
Foreign Office Minister and Director of Oxfam, also has joined the review
The four join 17 other Members of Parliament who are backing the
campaign. They are the Rt. Hon. Andrew George, Lynne Jones, Betty Williams,
John McDonnell, Martin Smyth, Sue Doughty, Kevin McNamara, Rob Marris, David
Taylor, Julia Drown, Bill Etherington, Ronnie Campbell, Phil Sawford, Marsha
Singh, Roger Berry, Ann Cryer, and Mike Hancock.
Indonesian Authorities Deny West Papuans the Right to Commemorate
December 1 Independence Day; Indonesian Police Shoot and Beat Peaceful
Demonstrators and Human Rights Defender
According to Indonesian media sources, the Indonesian government forbid
Papuans from commemorating West Papuaís December 1 Independence Day. The ban
extends to raising the West Papuan Morning Star flag, adopted in 1961 by
members of the New Guinea Council, the legislative body established by the
Dutch colonial administration there to prepare the territory for self rule.
The ban was signed by the regional military commander and police chief as
well as by West Papuaís governor.
Notwithstanding the ban on demonstrations to mark West Papuaís
independence day, Papuans gathered peacefully in large numbers near
Jayapura, the West Papua capital on December 1. Indonesian authorities
responded with force, with police shooting five of the participants and
The incident was reported by John Rumbiak, international advocacy
coordinator for ELSHAM.
The Indonesian Government recently banned international journalists from
visiting West Papua.
Mr. Rumbiak said that police beat an ELSHAM human rights worker who tried
to photograph the police attack on demonstrators. Police also reportedly
beat Filep Yopi Karma, one of the event organizers, as they took him away on
a police truck for interrogation. Karma and theological student Yusak
Pakage, also accused by police of organizing the flag raising, remain in
police detention. Karma, an adherent to the principle of nonviolence and the
nonviolent direct action tactics championed by Martin Luther King, Jr., and
Mohandas K. Gandhi, was a lead organizer of a 1998 peaceful flag-raising
demonstration in Biak and was beaten and shot by Indonesian armed forces who
brutally attacked sleeping demonstrators in the early morning hours.
Among the five people wounded by police were 20-year-old Marselina Gobay,
who was shot in the leg, and 24-year-old Yermia Kayame, who was shot in the
"The concern is that this is a peaceful demonstration and from a human
rights perspective it has to be allowed to take place," Rumbiak told the
international media. "It is freedom of expression." Rumbiak said the
demonstration had been calling on President Yuhoyono to initiate a peaceful
dialogue between the government and independence supporters.
(Sources include: Kompas
Cyber Media, November 26, and Sinar
Harapan, November 26)
Police Reportedly Involved in Illegal Logging
According to the Jakarta Post (November 23), senior police officers may
be involved in rampant illegal logging in West Papua. According to the
report, Indonesian police are investigating the possible involvement
following the confession of a low-ranking officer.
The Jakarta Post article notes that many observers have long claimed that
police officers are actively and directly involved in illegal logging
activities, which have contributed to
massive deforestation in the country.
A separate Jakarta Post report noted that the former Sorong police chief
and subordinates are expected to face trial in the near future for their
alleged involvement in the illegal logging.