Election of New President Raises Hopes in West Papua
The overwhelming mandate secured by President-elect former Lt. General Susilo
Bambang Yudhoyono in Indonesiaís September 20 run-off election has raised hopes
for a more enlightened Jakarta approach to West Papua, stressing peaceful
conflict resolution strategies instead of repressive military force directed at
Papuan analysts and other observers note that Yudhoyono was a proponent of
dialogue with Papuan civil society during his tenure in the cabinet of President
Abdurrahman Wahid. The Wahid administration fostered the convening of a Papuan
assembly and held direct dialogue with Papuan civil society leaders about their
aspirations. During the Megawati Administration, these
hopeful initiatives were replaced with policies that ignored Papuan interests,
including division of West Papua into three separate provinces absent
consultations with the people of the territory. Under President Megawati, the
military has had a much freer hand in West Papua, engaging in severely
repressive operations, notably in West Papuaís Central Highlands.
While Yudhoyono was Coordinating Minister for Security and Political Affairs
under Megawati, analysts suspect that he was regularly over-ruled by the
hard-line military on policy regarding Aceh and possibly Papua. It remains to be
seen if as president, Yudhoyono will have the power and inclination to return to
the more progressive policies vis-a-vis West Papua that were developed under
The Carter Center Observations on Elections in West Papua
The Carter Center observed the run-off presidential election on September 20
with a 57 member team observing the voting in 21 provinces. Four members of the
delegation were deployed in Manokwari and Timika in West Papua. Reports from
these observers make clear that the administration of the election in West Papua
was far weaker than in the rest of Indonesia. From the September 22nd press
release of the The Carter Center:
"Carter Center observers in the provinces of Papua
and West Irian Jaya noted a lack of funding and administrative failures that
exceeded those observed elsewhere. In addition, while the participation of
ethnic Papuans increased significantly from the 1999 elections, there continues
to be a lack of informed engagement in the democratic process."
Observers found stark differences between villages that were mainly
indigenous Papuan and those with mixed Papuan/non-Papuan populations, in terms
of both election officialsí and votersí degree of knowledge about the process.
Report on Crimes Against Humanity in Wasior and Wamena Submitted to Attorney
The report recently completed by the National Commission on Human Rights
(Komnas HAM) has been submitted to the Attorney Generalís office.[see The West
Papua Report-August] The investigation and its ensuing report, was carried out
under Law No.26/2000. The law governs only two types of crimes ñ crimes against
humanity and genocide, and governs the establishment of Human Rights Courts to
try those accused of such crimes. A separate office with full time staff focused
on human rights violations has been created within the Attorney Generalís
No time limit is specified in Law No. 26 by which the AG must take action.
Indonesiaís new president is likely to appoint a new Attorney General, whom it
is hoped will take the necessary follow up action to issue indictments against
those named responsible for the crimes.
Plans to open a branch office of Komnas HAM in Jayapura have been completed
and are awaiting approval by the full Commission.
Government of Vanuatu Calls for Strong UN Action To Address West Papuans'
Struggle for Self-Determination
At the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 28, Vanuatu's
foreign affairs minister Barak Sope made an impassioned speech calling on the UN
to establish a Special Commission of Inquiry to review the UN's conduct in
relation to the now-discredited 1969 UN-supervised Act of Free Choice through
which West Papua formally integrated into the Republic of Indonesia. He also
called on the UN to send a fact-finding mission to examine the situation in West
Papua and to re-instate West Papua on the UN's List of Non-Self-Governing
According to Vanuatu-based press and the West Papuan People's Representative
Office in Port Vila, Vanuatu, Sope told the General Assembly that, "The United
Nations must be consistent in its decisions for the recognition and respect of
the fundamental rights to self determination for the people of West Papua. The
truth surrounding the so-called Act of Free Choice must be exposed to the
Melanesian sisters and brothers of West Papua, and the rest of the international
community. The saddest of all is the UN General Assembly resolution on West
Papua in 1969. How can the UN continue to ignore the cries of over 3 million
people for justice?
"As world leaders, we have time and time again, expressed serious concerns
and dissatisfaction that certain decisions and actions by the United Nations or
its organs were not consistent with the purposes and intentions of the Charter.
However, with the case of West Papua, absolutely nothing has been done to
rectify the gross violation of internationally accepted practice. It is
therefore our joint responsibility to address this grey area in history."
Refering to the UN's role in brokering transfer of sovereignty over West
Papua from the Dutch colonial administration to Indonesia and in supervising the
Indonesian military government's 1969 "Act of Free Choice" in West Papua, Sope
stated that, "In our opinion, the UN-conducted exercises were a total farce
conditioned only to suit the geo-political climate of that period. The United
Nations cannot and must not continue to turn a blind eye on its own past
failures. It is morally, politically and legally wrong to do so." He added that
"The Netherlands, which was the former colonial authority, in particular, should
also recognize that they should shoulder some responsibility in helping to
resolve the unfortunate situation of West Papua in a peaceful and transparent
manner. Why is no one accountable for those unjust decisions affecting the lives
of millions today?"
The government of Vanuatu also is lobbying to put the issue of West Papua on
the Pacific Forum's agenda.
U.S. Administration Portrayal of Indonesian Navy as Respecter of Human Rights
Disproved by Navy Role in West Papua
In pushing for resumption to the Indonesian military of the International
Military Education and Training (IMET) program, the Bush Administration is
attempting to depict the Indonesian Navy as not culpable of human rights abuses.
The move to extend U.S. military assistance would end years of congressionally
imposed barriers to such cooperation.
The depiction of the Navy as not culpable for the many crimes committed by
the Indonesian military for decades, or for the endemic corruption of that
institution, is incorrect. It is contradicted, for example, by the Indonesian
Navy's principal role in the bloody suppression of a peaceful pro-independence
rally staged over several days on the West Papuan island of Biak in July 1998.
Eyewitness accounts by an American citizen and subsequent U.S. Embassy
reporting revealed that the Indonesian Navy played the lead role in a brutal
armed assault on the demonstrators. The Navy, operating from its base in Biak,
dumped at sea the bodies of those killed at the demonstration site, and of
detainees killed subsequently in Navy custody. The crime was revealed days later
as bodies of those killed began to wash up on the shores of Biak. Indonesian
Government claims that the dead bodies were victims of a tsunami that struck 375
miles to the east were discredited by the fact that some of the bodies had their
hands tied and others bore bullet wounds. Embassy and other accounts point to
scores killed. No Indonesian military personnel have been prosecuted for this
Declaring Itself "Exonerated" in Timika Killings by U.S.G. Report, the
Indonesian Military Pressures Its Domestic Critics and Launches Troop Buildup
The Indonesian military (TNI) has publicly claimed that the June U.S.
Department of Justice report on the killing of Americans in Timika in August
2002 has "exonerated" it of broad accusations of involvement in the murders.
The exoneration claim, which the U.S. Government has not challenged publicly,
appears to have emboldened the TNI which has launched legal and reportedly
extra-legal pressures on its domestic critics. The TNI has sued human rights
defenders for libel and appears to be behind acts of intimidation against those
who have investigated the TNI's role in the attacks and who have assisted the
FBI in its investigation of the incident. Contacts in Timika have reported
break-ins and other acts of intimidation.
Meanwhile, sources in the Timika area including recent observers report an
ongoing TNI build up in the area that local residents fear is in preparation for
violent military operations. In addition to a police search for the Papuan named
in the U.S. indictment for the August 2002 murders, military personnel have been
collecting intelligence apparently in preparation for operations targeting local
independence fighters, particularly a local leader named Kelly Kwalik. In the
1996-98 period, Indonesian military operations targeting this faction led to
widespread human rights abuse by the military including the dislocation of
thousands of civilians and the deaths of scores and possibly hundreds of
Indonesian Parliament Passes Legislation Undermining Police Authority and
Civilian Government's Control Over Military
In its final day, the Indonesian parliament passed a bill that significantly
reinforces the power of the Indonesian military (TNI) and poses threats to
Indonesian democracy. Many voices within Indonesian civil society, including
democratic reformers, human rights organizations, the media, students, and
academics, lobbied against the bill and until the final hours of the legislative
session, it appeared that legislators would let the proposal die.
Most importantly, the legislation retains the TNI's "territorial structure,"
the bureaucratic mechanism that amounts to a shadow government with military
offices at every level of government stretching from the national to village
level. For decades, that system has given the military virtual veto power over
civilian government initiatives and appointments and has ensured the military's
vast and often corrupt system of "businesses." By ensuring the TNI's continuing
presence throughout the archipelago -- and by allowing the TNI to engage in
business activities for another five years -- the legislation, in effect, gives
a green light for the military to continue its illegal profit-generating
activities, which include drug running in Aceh, prostitution rings in West
Papua, and extortion targeted against domestic and foreign businesses such as
New Orleans-based Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold.
The legislation also deals a direct blow to efforts to subordinate the
military to civilian rule by making the commander in chief of the armed forces
answerable only to the president. Under the new law, the TNI commander outranks
the minister of defense. The prospect of increased TNI interference in civilian
government is enhanced by a reversal of a reform dating to 1999 that barred
active duty military officers from holding civilian government positions. The
new legislation permits active duty military officers to hold key government
positions, including within the Defense Ministry, the Narcotics Control Agency
and on the Supreme Court. These positions would, for example, potentially give
TNI senior personnel crucial authority in effectively blocking investigation or
prosecution of TNI involvement in drug trafficking. It is unclear whether other
ministries such as Mining and Energy are included.
The new legislation also meets a TNI demand that it be given authority to
engage in military operations other than actual war, to include fighting armed
independence movements and terrorists. Heretofore, the national police had won
recognition for their effective investigation and apprehension of terrorists
such as those responsible for the 2002 Bali bombing. The TNI was known to have
chafed at having lost this responsibility to the police and, along with it, the
opportunity to receive significant foreign anti-terror assistance from the
United States Government.
The legislation completes the long-expected removal of the 38 un-elected TNI
members of parliament. However, this is not seen as weakening the TNI as TNI
political power has long-rested in the executive branch. Moreover, TNI influence
over legislators remains extensive, as demonstrated by securing passage of the
TNI bill itself.
*Note: The RFK Center's Indonesia Support Group use West Papua to refer to
the western half of New Guinea. In 1961 the West New Guinea Council, a
democratic body of Papuan representatives, adopted the name "West Papua" to
refer to the territory, which the Dutch colonial administration intended to
transition to self rule. Papuan leaders continue to use the name West Papua, as
do prominent international NGOs. During the past 50 years, the territory has
been known by many other names: West New Guinea or Netherlands New Guinea (under
Dutch colonial administration); West Irian (under initial Indonesian rule);
Irian Jaya (the official Indonesian name from 1973 until January 7, 2002); and
Papua (the official Indonesian name until the 2004 partition of the territory by
executive order of Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri).