West Papua Report
This is the 127th 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
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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
For additional news on West Papua see the reg.westpapua listserv
archive or on Twitter.
PERSPECTIVE looks at the controversial
appointment of retired General Ryamizard Ryacudu as Defense Minister by
President Joko Widodo. UPDATE reports on Widodo's
initial comments on West Papua. He has pledged to pursue a more benign
approach to the multiple economic, education and heath problems facing
Papuans, but critics note his failure to acknowledge ongoing human rights
problems there. Two
French journalists who had been detained for alleged immigration
violations were finally freed. Their arrest prompted
widespread protest internationally and within Indonesia over efforts by Jakarta to
limit international awareness of the
repression in West Papua. The U.S. plans to expand cooperation with
the Indonesian navy notwithstanding its role in the
1998 Biak massacre. The arrest of six Papuans and wounding of one has
prompted armed rebel threats of new hostilities in the Central
Highlands. A new project employs
mapping to advance land rights protections. President Widodo has
named the first Papuan woman to be an Indonesian
minister. The new Home Minister has pledged to pursue solutions to
problems affecting minorities, but supports further division of Papua
provinces. Legislation to end local voting for governors, mayors and
district heads is stalled for now. In
the report notes an outstanding analysis by Inside Indonesia which explores the
devastating impact of HIV-AIDS in West Papua.
Department Thinks Appointment of Ryacudu as Defense Minister Is No Big
The appointment of General Ryamizard Ryacudu to the key
post of Defense Minister has caused dismay among human rights advocates,
including those supporting rights in West Papua. The U.S.
Department of State, however, says it is no big deal.
Ryacudu is an uncompromising
ultra-nationalist who has repeatedly demonstrated in word and deed that
he is prepared to use the power of the military to silence critics of
the military or those he perceives to be "separatists."
Indonesian human rights activists,
academics and solidarity groups have all
expressed concern that Ryacudu's appointment will increase tensions in
Ryacudu is an uncompromising ultra-nationalist who has
repeatedly demonstrated in word and deed that he is prepared to
use the power of the military to silence critics of the military
or those he perceives to be "separatists."
John M. Miller from the East Timor and
Indonesia Action Network
called Ryacudu "a relic of the past with a history of excusing
rights violations by soldiers, threatening human rights critics, and
asserting the military's right to meddle in civilian affairs." His
appointment "tells us that President Widodo is not serious about
promoting human rights or reaching out to Papua."
Haris Azhar, coordinator of the Commission for Missing
Persons and Victims of Violence (KontraS)
said “A Cabinet with human rights violators is an obstacle for your
administration’s performance.... How can you solve human rights
violations if there is a perpetrator inside [your administration]?”
Joe Collins of the Australia West Papua Association (AWPA)
said: "The people of West Papua live in fear of security operations
in the territory and the appointment of Ryamizard Ryacudu as Defense
Minister can only add to this fear. There was some hope that the
election of Jokowi would bring an easing of tension in West Papua, but
with Ryamizard Ryacudu's appointment it looks like there could be a
continuation of solving issues of concern in West Papua by the security
approach, not by dialogue."
As chief of the Army's strategic command
(Kostrad) from 2000 to 2002, and then as Army Chief of Staff from 2002
to 2005, he prosecuted brutal campaigns against the Free Aceh Movement (GAM)
and the Free West Papua Movement (OPM). Those campaigns deliberately
blurred the lines between armed rebels and civilians who were -- or who
were perceived by the military to be -- rebel sympathizers. After the
tsunami that devastated Aceh, Ryacudu worked to undermine the peace
Nic Maclellan writes in Crikey that "Ryacudu also
played an important role in the crushing of the 'Papuan Spring', the
period between 1998 and 2001 when West Papuans met to propose new
options for self-determination." A West Papua-wide congress launched the
Papua Presidium Council. Its chair Theys Eluay was murdered by members
of the Kopassus special forces on November 10, 2001. Reacting to the
soldiers' conviction for this deliberate murder, Ryacudu showed his
unwillingness to distinguish between military targets and civilian
critics. He said of those military who killed Eluay: "I don't know,
people say they did wrong, they broke the law. What law? Okay, we are a
state based on the rule of law, so they have been punished. But for me,
they are heroes because the person they killed was a rebel leader."
Widodo (right) with Retired
General Ryamizard Ryacudu (left)
is known for his hardline
The Indonesian military has a notorious
reputation for assaults on civilian villages in the course of its
unending "sweep operations" purportedly targeting armed rebels in the
highlands of West Papua. The Indonesian military remain largely
unaccountable for such past and ongoing criminal violations of human
rights and its deep corruption. Given his past, it is also unlikely that
the Indonesian military will become any more accountable under Defense
The U.S. government -- which by virtue of its extensive assistance
programs to the Indonesian military has significant potential influence
over its direction --
reacted disingenuously to the naming of Ryacudu as
"We are certainly aware of the allegations of human rights violations
committed by the Indonesian army while the general served as army chief
of staff," said State Department spokesperson Jen
Psaki. "We are not, however, aware of any allegation that ties the
defense minister explicitly to a specific human rights violation."
The appointment of civilians to this post has been an
important indication of support for the democratic principle of
civilian control of the military.
She added that the military had changed "in significant ways,"
since the overthrow of the dictator Suharto.
The State Department's remarks ignore the
role of Ryacudu in the brutal military campaigns in West Papua and Aceh
and appear deaf to the concerns of human rights organizations who have
sounded alarms over the appointment. The State Department comment, by
contending that Ryacudu is not tied "explicitly to a human ignores his
command responsibility for brutalities and human rights violations by
troops under his authority. The State Department doesn't mention that
for the first time in over a decade, Indonesia's Ministry of Defense
will be headed by someone with a military background rather than a civilian.
The appointment of civilians to this post has been an important indication
of support for the democratic principle of civilian control of the
Moreover, the U.S. State Department
spokesperson's contention that the Indonesian military has transformed
"in significant ways" perpetuates the U.S. government's efforts to obscure
the reality that the military remains the greatest threat to
democratization and respect for human rights in Indonesia.
President Widodo Offers
Assurances on West Papua
"The core problem in West Papua is political," Rev. Yoman said.
"Before you talk about economic development, the first part has
to be to have genuine and peaceful dialogue."
"I want to give special
attention to West Papua," President Widodo told
Australia's Fairfax Media on
October 19, the eve of his inauguration. Widodo
said that he planned to the region's social and economic disadvantages first.
Widodo's predecessor, President Susilo Bambang
Yudhoyono, made a similar pledge to put emphasis
on problems with Indonesian policy in West Papua a decade ago but those
efforts failed largely as a consequence of "corruption, cronyism and
bureaucratic dysfunction," according to Fairfax. (WPAT Note: As an
example of Yudhoyono's failure, his
Special Autonomy Plus plan to replace the failed "Special Autonomy"
never got off the ground and has raised a
over funds expended to bring it to life.)
Widodo, who appointed the first Papuan woman as a Cabinet Member (see
below), sought to assure that he was on top of
the problem: "Every day groups from Papua come here and I explain about
the problem, they complain about the problem, so now I know 100 per cent
of the problem in Papua," he said.
He wants to attack
"the causes of economic discrimination," saying that a bag of cement that
sells for $US6 in Jakarta is priced as height as $US150 in Papua
hindering basic development.
"I think the most important
thing is education, yes, and then health care, and then infrastructure,"
he told the Fairfax journalists. "If we can deliver as soon as possible
the education program, and health program, I'm sure, the political
tension will drop."
Responses to President Widodo by Papuan activists are mixed. Reverend
Socratez Yoman, the head of the Baptist church in Papua, said "The core
problem in West Papua is political. Before you talk about
economic development, the first part has to be to have genuine and
Frederika Korain told Fairfax that "In the last
two weeks the tension has already reduced in Papua; I think the military
troops there understand what kind of president he'll be." She added
group of Papuan activists proposed that the "Indonesian government set
up an agency under presidential authority to focus solely on Papua with
three parts to its charter: political dialogue, human rights and
However, plans by Widodo's
Minister of Rural Development of Disadvantaged Regions, and
Transmigration Marwan Jafar
calling for greater migration to West Papua could undermine the
president's efforts. Papua province's Governor
Lucas Enembe warned that transmigration
could lead to greater marginalization of
indigenous Papuans and increased conflict with non-Papuans.
Journalists Finally Freed
Two journalists jailed by Indonesian authorities for their
attempts to report on developments in West Papua
are back in France. They were freed on October 27 after conviction
of immigration violations.
Journalists Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat in
court in Jayapura on October 20. Photo iTélé Twitter
Thomas Dandois, 40, and
Valentine Bourrat, 29, were each given a two and a half month jail term,
but were soon freed because they had already served most of the time in
custody awaiting trial. The arrest of the French journalists drew broad criticism from within
Indonesia and internationally (see West Papua Report for
Their incarceration was unprecedented. Previously, foreign journalists
accused of reporting "illegally" from Papua were
simply and quickly deported. The pair
could have faced up to five years in jail, but in the end prosecutors
recommended a four-month sentence, which was reduced by the judge.
According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), one of their sources,
the tribal leader of the Lanny Jaya district Areki Wanimbo, remains in
prison and "may be tried on a charge of 'rebellion.'"
While advocates for freedom of the press
welcomed the release of the two journalists many underscored that
the issue of access to West Papua by journalists and others with
legitimate interest in visiting and working in West Papua remains.
Andreas Harsono, a
researcher for Human Rights Watch,
explained that while foreign journalists can apply for visas to
report from Papua, "in reality they are rarely granted. Under the
current system, 18 different government agencies have to give their
They did not commit any crime by courageously undertaking their
investigative reporting in Indonesia.
RSF welcomed the
said they should never have been convicted for doing legitimate
“It is a big relief to know
that Dandois and Bourrat will soon be released,” the group’s
secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “Any other outcome would have
set a terrible precedent for media freedom in Indonesia. We stress that,
according to the principles of international law, they did not commit
any crime by courageously undertaking their investigative reporting in
In early October, the
Australian Senate passed
a resolution calling for the release of the journalists saying it
would be "a sign of [President Widodo's] commitment to a more open Papuan
provinces." Sponsored by Green Party
Senator Richard Di Natale, the motion was backed by Australia's major
parties, which traditionally have thwarted any legislative criticism of
“I had no expectation this
government would support it so it was a big surprise…. This is the first
time in my experience that any motion on the topic of West Papua has
passed. And what makes it more interesting is that the motion calls on
the Australian government to raise the issue with Indonesia,” Senator Di
told New Matilda.
US Seeks to Improve
Maritime Cooperation with Indonesia
Jakarta Post reports that the U.S. government wants to improve
maritime cooperation with Indonesia, following the President Widodo
plans to emphasize Indonesia’s maritime sector.
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus speaks with sailors
from guided-missile frigate USS Rodney M. Davis in
U.S. Navy, Chief Mass Communication
Specialist Sam Shavers.
"We are very interested in the commitment of President Joko Widodo’s
administration. That is why we hope to improve the cooperation with
Indonesia in the maritime sector,” U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus
told a press briefing in Medan, North Sumatra, over the October 25-26
weekend. He said that Indonesia's vast maritime territory and coastline
make illegal activities such as smuggling and piracy difficult to
Indonesia's navy chief of staff Adm. Marsetio said the relationship
between the U.S. and Indonesian navies continued to get closer as shown in
their frequent participation in joint exercises.
Mabus was in Medan to meet the crew of the frigate USS Rodney M. Davis,
a guided-missile frigate that had recently participated in a joint exercise with
the Indonesian Navy. In August, the ship
took part in the “Sail Raja Ampat” event organized by Indonesia in the waters of West Papua.
WPAT Comment: The U.S. endorsement of President Widodo's apparent
interest in boosting Indonesia's navy could quickly become
controversial. The Indonesian army will likely resist any shift of
resources, responsibility, or policy focus worried that this would
diminish the army's own dominance in the Indonesian security sector.
Also, while the Indonesian navy has a less notorious human rights record
than does the army, no navy officials have ever been held accountable
for the 1998
Biak Massacre which entailed the slaughter of scores of Papuan
In its military-to-military policies, the Obama administration is
continuing the approach of the predecessor Bush administration in
de-linking human rights concerns and perceived geo-political interests.
Escalation of Tensions in the Central Highlands
Police officials in Jayapura, October 26,
arrested six suspected members of the Free Papua Movement (OPM),
shooting the unit's leader, Pinus "Rambo" Wenda in the leg. Rambo is
accused of more than a dozen attacks on police stations and convoys
since 2005 in Puncak Jaya and Lanny Jaya districts, and the deaths of at
least six police officers since 2011.
At the time of their
arrest, the six were believed to be buying
weapons from serving members of the Indonesian army. The arrest of
the Papuans prompted threats of retaliation by the OPM. Puron Wenda,
commander of the OPM in Lanny Jaya District, which is home to those
arrested, told the Jakarta Globe: “We demand that the police immediately
release our comrade, Rambo Wenda, or else we and all Papuan people will
declare war and will target all non-Papuans in Papua.” Puron said he had
also phoned Yotje, the local police chief, to make the demand. Yotje
confirmed the call, but added that the police chief added that he had
refused to communicate with the OPM members "because they’re criminals.”
WPAT Comment: The prospect of communal violence, entailed in this
reported threat by OPM to target non-Papuans, poses one of the darkest
scenarios for the non-Papuan and long-suffering Papuan people in West
Plans for Mapping to
Protect Indigenous Papuans Land’s Rights
The tabloid Jubi
efforts to protect Papuan land rights through a "village participatory
Zadrak Wamebu, Executive
Director of the Assessment and Empowerment of Indigenous Papuans, said
that many indigenous people frequently lose their rights due to state
policies, prompting them to rebel. “Most of indigenous Papuans have been
fighting for their rights. For example, they took the option of armed
resistance. So, we try to give an explanation to the public to not fight
against the state. Because the state is always equipped with the
military, the police, judges and everything."
The mapping is meant to
protect the customary rights of indigenous peoples and is intended to
inform further efforts to generate regulations that will protect
indigenous rights. In September, the National Commission on Human Rights
(Komnas HAM) launched a series of public
meetings focused on land disputes.
New Widodo Cabinet
Includes First Papuan Woman Minister
Susana Yembise. Photo:
Yohana S. Yambise from West
Papua, is the new Minister for Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection.
told media that she plans to focus on several laws regarding child
protection and gender issues.
The Yudhoyono government
had promised that it would expedite amendments to the 2002 Child
Protection Law. The revision was to have included harsher punishments
for child abusers and changes in children’s rights to bring them in line
with the International Convention on Children’s Rights. Yambise said
that passage of these changes would be a priority.
Born in Manokwari, Papua, Yohana was a professor at Cenderawasih
University and active in promoting women’s empowerment in the province
and children’s education.
New Home Minister
Delve into Minority Issues
Tjahjo Kumolo. Photo:
the Jakarta Post, newly appointed Home Minister Tjahjo Kumolo plans
"to scrutinize problems faced by minority groups over the past decade."
Some hope that he will be a change from the Yudhoyono administration,
whose members often endorsed attacks on minority religions.
Other reports indicate that
wants to further divide Papua province into additional provinces. A
move repeatedly rejected within Papua.
Kumolo is a career
politician from Widodo's PDI-P party. One critic
called him "the party's unscrupulous general secretary and all-round
fixer." This is his first administrative post.
Robert Endi Jaweng, executive director of the Regional Autonomy Watch
(KPPOD), urged the new minister to keep a close watch on developments in
Aceh and Papua.
“I was hoping that the new home minister would be someone who has
experience in governing. But now, we have Tjahjo, a politician. He may
face challenges in building communication with special regions,
particularly Aceh and Papua, and coordinating with respective ministries
to ensure that sufficient funds and the right policies are in place to
propel these regions’ development,” he told The Jakarta Post.
Efforts by Rightist Parliamentarians to
Block Local Elections Stymied for Now
The Indonesia Constitutional Court
rejected judicial review of the
controversial regional elections law, citing a presidential decree
rushed out by former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The Perppu or
regulation in lieu of law can be overturned by the legislature.
The request for judicial review against the law passed in September by
the House of Representatives (DPR) ending direct elections for most
mayors, district heads and provincial governors. Local leaders would
instead be appointed by the Regional Representatives Council (DPRD).
Constitutional Court Justice Patrialias Akbar said the Perppu had
invalidated the law, and that there were therefore no grounds for a
review of a law that no longer existed.
Refly Harun, another legal expert, told
Jakarta Globe that President Widodo
could issue another presidential decree to replace Yudhoyono's should
the House overturn it.
HIV-AIDS Epidemic in West Papua, an Indictment of
Inside Indonesia presents a brilliant critique of the HIV-AIDS
epidemic in West Papua. The analysis notes that HIV-AIDS infection in
West Papua is 15 times higher than in Indonesia and that 30 percent of
all infections recorded in Indonesia occur in West Papua. Indigenous
Papuans have twice the rate of infection among transmigrants. The
analysis describes the Indonesian government policies and
mal-administration which have led to marginalization of and
discrimination against West Papuans, which account in significant measure for
the epidemic among Papuans.
Link to this issue