Papuans plan to boycott Indonesian elections, say independence activists

Indonesian People’s Front for West Papua spokesperson Surya Anta (centre) speaking at LBH Jakarta last week. Image: CNN Indonesia

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

West Papuan people will not take part in Indonesia’s 2019 presidential and legislative elections, say the Indonesian People’s Front for West Papua (FRI-WP) and the Papuan Student Alliance (AMP).

This is because they accuse the Indonesian government of illegal political practices in Papua, of failing to uphold the rights of the Papuan people and because both presidential candidates have a bad track record on Papua.

“Indonesia is a state which since the declaration of the Trikora operation on December 19, 1961, has conducted illegal political activities in the territory”, said FRI-WP spokesperson Surya Anta at the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Jakarta) offices in Central Jakarta last week.

READ MORE: Surprise at no mention of Papua in presidential hopefuls’ speeches

“Because of this we are taking a position and declaring that we will not take part in the 2019 presidential or legislative elections,” he said.

Anta explained that what they mean by the territory of West Papua was an area extending from Numbai to Merauke, Raja Ampat to Baliem and Biak Island to Adi Island.

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The groups also believe that the contestants in the 2019 election on April 17 are the same as those in previous elections where candidates are only interested in gathering votes from the Papuan people.

However, there has been no effort by the legislative, presidential or vice-presidential candidates to uphold the rights of the West Papuan people, they say.

Maintaining colonialism
Speaking in the same vein, Student Struggle Center for National Liberation (Pembebasan) national collective secretary-general Samsi Mahmud said that the Papuan people were not interested in the 2019 elections.

Aside from Indonesia’s illegal political activities, according to Mahmud none of the political parties are articulating the wishes of the Papuan people and the elections are only aimed at maintaining the practice of colonialism.

“[The elections] are a tool for the colonial government to put local power holders in place to safeguard their interests”, said Mahmud.

AMP member Erepul Sama said there was no difference between the two presidential candidates, incumbent President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and Prabowo Subianto, particularly in their handling of human rights violations.

“Prabowo himself has a bad track record in Papua such as the Mapenduma incident. But this doesn’t mean that Jokowi is any better”, said Sama.

“Jokowi has allowed human rights violations to occur again and again, for example in the bloody Paniai case which has still not been resolved”, he added.

Aside from declaring that they will not take part in the 2019 elections, the FRP-WP and the AMP made three other demands:

  • West Papuans be given the right to self-determination,
  • All organic and non-organic troops be withdrawn from Papua, and
  • Journalists be given free access to Papua.

Background
Operation Trikora was declared by Indonesian founding President Sukarno in the Central Java city of Yogyakarta on December 19, 1961.

It was an Indonesian military operation aimed at harassing and forcing the Dutch out of Netherlands New Guinea in 1961-62 rather than one intended to suppress a nascent independence movement.

The Mapenduma operation was a botched rescue operation in the remote Mapenduma area of West Papua led by then Kopassus commander Prabowo Subianto in 1996 to secure the release of World Wildlife Fund researches taken hostage by the Free Papua Movement.

The attempt ended in a military attack on Geselema village resulting in the death of up to eight civilians.

On December 8, 2014, barely two months after Widodo was sworn in as president, five students were killed and 17 others seriously injured when police and military opened fire on a group of protesters and local residents in the town of Enarotali, Paniai regency.

Shortly after the incident, Widodo personally pledged to resolve the case but four years into his presidency no one has been held accountable for the shootings.

Translated by James Balowski for the Indo-Left News Service. The original title of the article was “Golput, Aktivis West Papua Tuding Jokowi Prabowo Sama Saja”.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

West Papua film exposes plight of ‘ignored’ local journalists

By RNZ Pacific

A short documentary which highlights the risks of being a journalist in Indonesian-ruled Papua region (West Papua) has won an international film award.

Aprila, directed by Rohan Radheya, took out the best short film award at the 16th Pacific FIFO Documentary Film Festival in French Polynesia.

The Dutch journalist and film-maker’s documentary tells the story of a young local journalist who stopped doing her job after receiving death threats.

READ MORE: FIFO 2019 – the winners

According to FIFO’s website, audience members in Tahiti expressed interest in the insight the film offered into a region and freedom struggle largely unknown to the world.

Radheya said while international attention on Papua often focused on restrictions that Jakarta placed on access for foreign journalists, the plight of local journalists was ignored.

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“What we endure as foreign journalists is nothing compared to what local indigenous journalists in Papua are facing,” he said.

Papuan journalist turned novelist Aprila Waya, the main character in the documentary, said on Facebook: “This is a new thing for me where the process of making this film (more than three years) has taken more energy than writing a novel.

“Anyway, this is not my victory – it’s the victory of all the Papua people.”

This article is republished under the Pacific Media Centre’s content partnership with Radio New Zealand.

#journalismisnotacrime

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Police use snake to interrogate Papuan, apologise for ‘racist’ torture

A still from a video showing Indonesian police interrogating a man suspected of theft in Wamena, Papua. Image: Jakarta Post

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

Indonesian police have apologised for wrapping a snake around an indigenous Papuan they suspected of theft, reports The Jakarta Post.

A video of the incident, which took place while the police were interrogating the suspect, has been circulating on social media.

The officers involved in the incident are currently being investigated for ethical violations, said police spokesman Ahmad Mustofa Kamal.

“We apologise for that incident,” he said in a statement on Friday quoted by kompas.com.

Jannus P. Siregar, who heads the Papua Police’s internal affairs division (Propam), said the officers were using the snake to intimidate the suspect so that he would confess to the crime.

The incident reportedly took place in Wamena, Jayawijaya.

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Jayawijaya Police chief Adjutant Senior Commander Tonny Ananda Swadaya promised that his men would work professionally.

Netizen criticism
“We have taken action against the officers who did the misconduct. We are moving them to other places,” he said.

The video has sparked criticism from netizens.

Human rights lawyer Veronica Koman wrote on her Twitter account @VeronicaKoman that the suspect should be presumed innocent until proven otherwise and should not be tortured to force an admission to a crime, regardless of whether the charges leveled against him were true.

“Given the context of the persecution in Papua, this torture has features of racism,” she wrote.

Some locals, however, appeared to support the police’s actions.

Hengki Heselo, a leader in Jayawijaya regency, said the community supported the police’s stern measures to curb crime, including the use of snakes to threaten suspected criminals.

“We have felt the effects of recent police actions. The number of drunk people who carry machetes is decreasing,” he said quoted by kompas.com.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

‘Don’t be afraid’ – give Bougainville, West Papua freedom, says Parkop

Port Moresby’s Governor Powes Parkop with the West Papuan Morning Star flag … strong backing for Bougainville and West Papuan self-determination and independence. Image: Filbert Simeon

By Clifford Faiparik in Port Moresby

National Capital District Governor Powes Parkop is pushing for Bougainville and West Papua to gain independence from Papua New Guinea and Indonesia respectively.

Parkop said this in no uncertain terms during a West Papua forum in Port Moresby yesterday.

Northern Governor Gary Juffa, who was also present, expressed similar sentiments.

READ MORE: Campaign for West Papuan independence

“The government must give political independence to Bougainville,” Parkop said. “Likewise, the Indonesian government should also give political independence to the West Papua provinces.

“Both of these people have struggled bitterly for independence for a long time, resulting in widespread deaths. The governments of both countries should not deny these respective people’s rights.”

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Parkop said Bougainvilleans would be given the opportunity to determine whether they wanted to remain as part of PNG, or go separate.

“We are not afraid and I’m not afraid,” he said. “If Bougainville chooses independence, they will not move the island of Bougainville to Europe or another place in the world.

‘Still be there’
“They will still be there. We are all inter-married now. There are family and tribal relationships been bonded already.

“We might have a better future because if you look at the history of PNG, because of Bougainville, we were political and economically shaped.”

Parkop said the same message must be told to Indonesia.

“Indonesia must know that if West Papua becomes independent, they will not move the land to the United States,” he said.

“They will still stay there. The people speak Bahasa. Intermarriages have already been forged and established with people from other parts of Indonesia.

“Economically, they can be integrated. Socially, they can still move around in Indonesia. I don’t think the West Papua freedom movement will remove Indonesian investments.

The Indonesians must overcome their fear.”

Clifford Faiparik is a journalist with The National daily newspaper.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Time for US, Australia to change policy on West Papua or risk major setback

By Ben Bohane

Reports of the Indonesian military using white phosphorous munitions on West Papuan civilians last month are only the latest horror in a decades-old jungle war forgotten by the world. But new geopolitical maneuvering may soon change the balance of power here, prompting regional concern about an intensifying battle for this rich remote province of Indonesia.

It is time for the United States and Australia to change policy, complementing Pacific island diplomacy, or risk a major strategic setback at the crossroads of Asia and the Pacific.

Once again, Papuan highlanders have fled their villages into the bush where they are starving and being hunted by Indonesian security forces.

Fighting between OPM (Free Papua Movement) guerrillas and the Indonesian military has increased in recent months, creating a fresh humanitarian crisis in a region cut off from the world: Indonesia prevents all foreign media and NGOs from operating here.

This makes West Papua perhaps the only territory besides North Korea that is so inaccessible to the international community.

For years West Papuans have claimed that Jakarta has been building up its forces, including local militias, ready to unleash just as they did in East Timor before its bloody birth in 1999. Different to East Timor however, is the presence of jihadi groups too, something the OPM has warned about for some time.

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Alarming quote
Recent comments reported by Associated Press by Indonesia’s Security Minister General Wiranto, who oversaw the death and destruction during East Timor’s transition to independence in 1999, are alarming:

Earlier this week, security minister Wiranto, who uses one name, said there would be no compromise with an organization the government has labeled a criminal group.

“They are not a country, but a group of people who are heretical,” he said.”

Heretical?

This is significant – by using the word “heretical” rather than “treasonous” is Wiranto signalling a coming jihad against the West Papuans?

A low level insurgency waged by the OPM guerrillas has for decades sought independence for the mostly Christian, Melanesian population. Church groups and NGOs claim more than 300,000 Papuans have perished under Indonesian occupation since Indonesia formally annexed “Dutch New Guinea” via a UN referendum in 1969 known as the “Act of Free Choice”.

Farcical vote
It was the UN’s first decolonisation mission and it was a farce – the UN allowed a handpicked group of 1025 Papuans to vote from a population estimated at the time to be close to one million. Just in case they didn’t get the message, Indonesia’s Brig General Ali Murtopo flew in and warned:

“This is what will happen to anyone who votes against Indonesia. Their accursed tongues will be torn out. Their full mouths will be wrenched open. Upon them will fall the vengeance of the Indonesian people. I will myself shoot them on the spot.”

The UN’s own envoy overseeing the plebicite, Chakravarty Narasimihan, former UN Under secretary general in charge of the “Act of free Choice” said:

“It was just a whitewash. The mood at the United Nations was to get rid of this problem as quickly as possible. Nobody gave a thought to the fact that there were a million people there who had their fundamental human rights trampled. Suharto was a terrible dictator. How could anyone have seriously believed that all voters unanimously decided to join his regime? Unanimity like that is unknown in democracies.”

The fix was in and had US blessing; Washington arm-twisted Australia and Holland to back Indonesia’s annexation of West Papua, despite the position of both nations to have West Papua prepared for independence by 1970.

Australia would go on to deliver independence to the eastern half of New Guinea island, known as Papua New Guinea (PNG) in 1975.

For decades Australia’s first line of defence was considered to be the rugged 800 km border that separates PNG from Indonesia. Long before the recent rise of China, Australia’s chief strategic concern was Indonesia, especially during times of direct conflict such as the Konfrontasi period of the 1960s and more recently when Australia led an international intervention force that secured East Timor’s independence in 1999.

Pushing east
Since the 1960s Indonesia has been pushing east, with then President Sukarno taking “West Irian” (West Papua) by force while at the same time calling PNG “East Irian” and Australia “South Irian”.

It remains one of the great “what ifs” of Australian strategic history – if Australia and Holland had ignored US pressure and continued to support West Papuan independence, it would have prevented the long running civil war there and may well have stopped Indonesia’s subsequent invasion of East Timor in 1975.

Instead, Australia reluctantly agreed to the US “New York Agreement” of 1962 and found itself being dragged into the US war in Vietnam.

It fought the wrong war.

In the decades since, Australia has sought to manage its often turbulent relationship with Indonesia, recognising its size and importance within southeast Asia, by studiously ignoring the ongoing “slow-genocide” happening in West Papua.

Not only has Australia never provided material support for its rebels or refugees, it continues to arm and train Indonesia’s elite anti-terrorism unit Densus 88, which has been accused of “mission creep” in extending its operations to take out not just Islamic terrorists post 9/11, post Bali attacks, but Papuan nationalists too.

This has resulted in a lose-lose policy for Australia; after East Timor, no amount of Australian assurances of Indonesian sovereignty will ever convince Jakarta’s generals that Australia does not have designs on West Papua; at the same time Australia has lost much moral and strategic credibility among its Pacific island neighbours who all support West Papuan independence and question why their two big brothers in the Pacific – the US and Australia – continue to “throw the West Papuans to the wolves”.

But while they may have been able to ignore West Papua’s independence movement for decades, new geopolitical manouverings have emerged in the past year which signal a need to re-assess long running policy.

Social media explosion
The explosion of social media in recent years has taken this hidden war out of the shadows for good. Pacific diplomacy is isolating ANZUS policy and the West Papuan struggle will not remain a bow-and-arrow affair for much longer.

It is only a matter of time before China begins offering substantial material support and training – they are already in discussions with the West Papuan leadership. Nor are they the only player getting involved.

In December 2017, Russian Tu-95 nuclear bombers made sorties from bases on Biak island in West Papua probing the air space between Australia and Papua. It was the first time Russian nuclear bombers have operated in the South Pacific, prompting Australia to scramble fighter jets from RAAF Tindal for the first time in many years.

Jakarta has likely invited Russia to display a show of force as a warning to Australian and US forces stationed in Darwin – as well as China – lest they show any inclination to support West Papuan independence.

But can Jakarta trust Russia? Although there is considerable military co-operation between the two, Russia may have its own agenda in West Papua, recognising its resource wealth and strategic position due south of Vladivostok.

West Papuan leaders speak of Russia’s sense of having been betrayed by Indonesia in the 1960s. After Khrushchev met with Sukarno at their historic Bali summit in 1960, a time when Indonesia’s communist party the PKI was the third largest in the world, Moscow believed it had done a deal to become Indonesia’s partner in helping annex West Papua and thus gain access to the known mineral riches of West Papua, not to mention its strategic position as a gateway between Asia and the Pacific.

Instead, US President Kennedy was able to woo Sukarno (both were young, charismatic “ladies men” who hit it off together) sufficiently to broker a deal where the US would recognise Indonesian sovereignty over West Papua in an attempt to temper both Sukarno’s leftist leanings and the growing PKI.

Coup ‘re-orientation’
The deal signed in 1962 was called the New York Agreement and signalled America would not support Holland’s defence of an independent West Papua. By 1965 Kennedy was dead and Sukarno had been overthrown in a coup that led to a “re-orientation” of Indonesia.

Newly installed General Suharto purged Indonesia of communists and granted the first foreign mining licence to US company Freeport to establish a gold mine in the Puncak Jaya mountain range of West Papua, soon to become (and remain) the biggest gold mine in the world.

Russia was furious, but could do little then. China’s support for the PKI was also checked and Suharto’s 30 year dictatorship, backed by the US and allies, ensured both Russia and China lost their influence in Indonesia.

Today it is a different story.

While Russia influence in the Pacific is small but growing, Chinese influence has surged to become a major force in Pacific politics and security. Part of its engagement with Pacific island nations is to support those nations such as Vanuatu which back West Papuan independence in the face of Indonesian threats.

China’s relationship with Indonesia continues to deteriorate over issues such as rival claims in the South China Sea, nationwide demonstrations across Indonesia in support of persecuted Uighers in China, and concerns about the growing Islamification of Indonesia threatening the local Chinese (often Christian) communities.

Last year, the (Christian) Chinese Governor of Jakarta was hounded out of office by hardline Islamist groups accusing him of blasphemy.

Periodic pogroms
Indonesia’s Chinese community has long been subject to periodic pogroms (such as during the PKI crackdown in the 1960s and during the fall of Suharto in 1998) and as they watch the growing Islamification of Indonesia, they are all preparing Plan B exits, with Singapore, Malaysia and Australia top of their list.

In the past, Beijing could do little to protect the Chinese diaspora here, but today that has changed. West Papuan leaders suggest that China may have a plan to help liberate West Papua and thus provide a sanctuary for Indonesia’s persecuted Chinese community.

Were China to support West Papuan independence it would have the backing of the vast majority of Papuans and give China not just access to its huge mineral wealth, but also a strategic foothold in the south, south China Sea and a major gateway between the Indian and Pacific Ocean.

It would also win the kudos of many Pacific island nations who feel the US and Australia have not defended Pacific island interests all because of the avarice of one US company.

China is also taking note of the recent decision by neighbouring PNG to allow a major new military base on Manus island for US and Australian forces. Manus island, a naval base since WW2, would allow US and Australian naval and air force projection into the South China Sea and beyond, once again amplifying the strategic position of West Papua next door to thwart such allied projections if China got a foothold there.

China is also anticipating a Prabowo presidency in Indonesia this year, which they regard as a CIA asset, ironically backed by hardline Islamic groups, and who will be hostile to the Chinese community there. And not just hostile to China, but Australia and the Pacific too.

Australia has had a good run with amenable leaders such as SBY and Jokowi in recent years, but a Prabowo presidency would see a Duterte-like strongman likely to cause friction.

Reflexive stance
The answer in such circumstances is not to take a reflexive pro-Indonesia stance against Chinese moves, but to check both Indonesian and Chinese expansion by helping the Christian Melanesians of West Papua secure their freedom as part of the Pacific family.

Doing so is not just the right moral thing to do (correcting a previous injustice) but the right strategic thing to do: it prevents a Chinese foothold in the South Pacific, prevents Indonesian jihadis and territorial expansion east into the Pacific, secures an “air-sea gap” for Australia, properly secures a border between Muslim Asia and the Christian Pacific, and in so doing wins the admiration and loyalty of the rest of the Pacific island community precisely at a time when they are being aggressively courted by China.

This year Vanuatu, backed by dozens of countries in the ACP block (Africa, Caribbean, Pacific) is expected to introduce a motion before the UN General Assembly calling for a proper referendum on independence for West Papua and its inclusion on the United Nations De-Colonisation list.

Unless this long-running struggle is resolved soon, West Papua may soon become a major battleground between Indonesian forces including jihadis and Papuan guerrillas backed by China.

US policy has long been guided by Freeport’s commercial interests (helped by such prominent board members as Henry Kissinger and ex-President Ford), but that now pales in comparison to the strategic calculus as China moves in.

Besides, Freeport is now losing its grip – in December it finally accepted a new deal with Jakarta losing its majority ownership of the mine and the Carstenz deposit. Freeport now has been reduced to 49 percent ownership.

Of course, China is playing both sides of the fence – guess who provided funds for Jakarta to increase its equity?

Right side of history
It is time for the US to get on the right side of history. It should go back to supporting Australia and Holland’s original policy – and the rest of the Pacific’s today – by supporting a process towards West Papuan independence to halt growing Islamic and Chinese influence in the Pacific.

As one West Papuan leader told me recently:

“We have suffered for decades. If the democratic west continues to ignore our struggle we have no choice but to look east for our liberation”.

Ben Bohane is a Vanuatu-based photojournalist covering the Pacific who has reported on West Papua for the past 25 years. He is the only foreigner to have been in the three most active Command areas of the OPM operating in West Papua. This article was first published in the Journal of Political Risk and is republished by Asia Pacific Report with the permission of the author.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Sincha Dimara: My mother, a West Papuan survivor of many hardships, spurred along by her faith

Dominguis and Dolfintje Dimara pictured on the day they were married. Image: #InspirationalPapuaNewGuineans

PROFILE: By Sincha Dimara in Port Moresby

I once asked my mother how was it that she married at the tender age of 16 and left home in West Papua for a foreign land – neighbouring Papua New Guinea – never to see family again for more than three decades.

She told me: “When your father left for work and I was left alone, it dawned on me that I may never see my family again.

“Silent tears flowed in those quiet moments, tanta (aunty) Wanma noticed. She asked me if papa was not nice to me. I shook my head, ‘no’… it was only after the birth of my first child, that my whole world changed.”

READ MORE: Inspirational Papua New Guineans

My mother, Dolfintje Imbab, was born on 4 December 1949, four years after World World Two ended. She was 70 last week (on 4 December 2018).

She was born somewhere on the banks of the Warfor River on Supiori Island, part of the Biak Islands in West Papua at a time when villagers had been forced to move inland to escape the horrors of war.

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She completed her primary education in 1960, in what was then a Dutch colony. She was not considered for further studies because most women back then were told to return home to assist the family male members of the family to continue their education.

This meant gardening, fishing and other daily chores to sustain the family.

Against Indonesian takeover
My father, Domingus Dimara (that’s a story on its own), came to Papua New Guinea as a young man in 1963. He was against Indonesia’s takeover of West Papua then and decided to make PNG home.

Family snapshots … Dominguis and Dolfintje Dimara. Right: Dolfintje Dimara and with their first child. Image:
#InspirationalPapuaNewGuineans

He returned in 1965 in search for a bride; my mother was chosen.

My late father was a disciplinarian and always believed in doing the right thing. Initially there was resistance from my maternal grandparents upon hearing that their daughter would marry and move far from home.

My maternal grandmother placed locally made bracelets (gelang biak) on both her arms. The bracelets identify a woman or man as a Biak person.

They were married in May 1965 in Biak town and after meeting legal and customary obligations they travelled to the capital Hollandia, now Jayapura. From there, they travelled by plane to Lae, then on to Port Moresby.

My parents lived with Om and Tanta Marjen (late Aunty and Uncle Marjen) who had earlier moved to Port Moresby after Indonesia gained control of West Papua.

My parents were also accommodated by the Wanma family. This was in the 1960s. One of mum’s early memories is witnessing the 1969 South Pacific Games in Port Moresby and the basketball matches played at the Hohola Courts.

New suburbs sprouted
A few years later when Port Moresby was beginning to expand and new suburbs sprouted, my father was able to secure a house from the National Housing Commission in 1970.

Dolfintje Imbab Dimara with her sister and grand niece in Jayapura. Image:
#InspirationalPapuaNewGuineans

In 1990, more than 30 years since her arrival in PNG, mum first crossed the border as a PNG citizen into Indonesian territory. She did so after communicating with family members through letters for more than 20 years.

Her father had passed on but her mother – my grandmother – was still alive then. She would meet family members again over the years.

In 1979, both of my parents were granted PNG citizenship along with other West Papuans. Among them were the Marjens, Sarwoms, Wanmas.

Sadly, my father passed on in 1994. My mother’s strength and love for the family has kept her going this far.

She lost three of her seven children. Edward our youngest died of heart failure in 1992. Robin was murdered by criminals in 1999 and my sister Salomina died of breast cancer in 2013.

Throughout all the hardships, I believe her faith in God has kept her going. She has mastered the Motu language, speaks a little English and Tok Pisin and made many friends in PNG.

She is also a survivor of breast cancer having gone through treatment in 2011. In a few weeks’ time she will travel home to visit her place of birth and meet her siblings again.

I jokingly asked if it was time to return for good. But I guess she’d rather spend time with the family she created – her children and grandchildren.

Sincha Dimara has been an #EMTV producer for 30 years. She is manager, news and current affairs of the television network in Papua New Guinea.

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Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

UN official defends West Papuan rights – free speech, peaceful assembly

UN’s OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani … “there are many West Papuan grievances, and we’ve seen this in many parts of the world where grievances are unaddressed, or there’s a suppression of dissent.” Image: UN interview screenshot

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

West Papuan rights to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly have been defended by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in a response to the mass arrests of Papuan protesters during flag raising ceremonies earlier this month.

“These are indigenous people at the end of the day,” says spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani.

“So they are trying to defend their rights to be able to pray and to be able to retain their culture, their links to their land, but also the Papua region of Indonesia has not benefitted from all the economic development that the rest of the country has had.

LISTEN HERE: The full interview with OHCHR’s Ravina Shamdasani

“The rates of malnutrition are quite high.”

Shamdasani said in a radio interview with UN News that while President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo had been initiating development projects, “the problem here is that the people haven’t really been consulted.

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“There haven’t been meaningful consultations [with] the people who are actually affected by this.”

In the interview, Shamdasani put into context the recent arrests of nearly 600 citizens who were detained for participating in West Papua’s national day, December 1, a global event for commemorating the first raising the Morning Star flag – banned by Indonesian authorities.

She also answered questions about development, armed conflict, and trying to gain access to the region.

Behind the West Papuan protests
The UN interview transcript:

[UN NEWS] The mass arrest of demonstrators in Indonesia who were attempting to mark a national day for indigenous people in the east of the archipelago, has been condemned by the UN human rights office, OHCHR.

More than 500 activists were detained at the start of the month – though they’ve since been released.

Spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani explained to UN News’ Daniel Johnson what’s behind these latest developments.

Ravina Shamdasani (RS): Last weekend there were peaceful protesters in the Papuan region of Indonesia who were celebrating what they call the “West Papua National Day,” and some 500 of them were arrested, detained. They were all subsequently released within 24 to 48 hours, but this does not take away from the fact that they should not have been arrested in the first place, and that this is not the first time this has happened.

It happens year after year and on several occasions during the year as well.

Daniel Johnson, UN News – Geneva (UN): What exactly are they protesting for apart from the fact that it’s their national day?

RS: Quite often these protests are protests for independence from Indonesia and of course we understand that the situation is complex. The Indonesian government is certainly not happy with these protests, but these people have their right to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression. So there was really no reason to arbitrarily detain them.

UN: As a minority what particular rights are they trying to defend and what are they trying to say is being threatened?

RS: Well, these are indigenous people at the end of the day. So they are trying to defend their rights to be able to pray and to be able to retain their culture, their links to their land, but also the Papua region of Indonesia has not benefited from all the economic development that the rest of the country has had. The rates of malnutrition are quite high. Now the current president of Indonesia has been initiating development projects. The problem here is that the people haven’t really been consulted. There haven’t been meaningful consultations of the people who are actually affected by this.

UN: Why is that? What structures are there in Papua, in Indonesia, to do this or not?

RS:The president has his analysis that the problem is one of economic development, um so he is trying to tackle that. But what we have emphasised, and what our previous High Commissioner during a visit to Jakarta in February of this year emphasised, was that development can of course bring with it access to many fundamental goods and services that can vastly improve people’s well beings, but if they cannot voice their concerns, and if they can’t participate in these decisions, the resulting development may not really increase their welfare, because it doesn’t really address the problems that they have.

UN: Ok, and what is your presence on the ground in this part of Indonesia given that it’s a huge country archipelago?

RS: We do not have a presence in Indonesia but we have a regional office in Bangkok that covers Southeast Asia – So we are, you know, in close contact with human rights defenders, civil society, government officials as well.

We have actually been seeking access to this region for quite awhile now. In February the High Commissioner was promised access, and we are still in discussions with the government of Indonesia to make that happen.

UN: This issue is not one that I’ve seen very often having been here what four years now. What’s your hope for the follow up and how many other similar cases are there that go really beneath the radar of international mainstream media?

RS: Too many international mainstream media tend to focus on the big conflicts. However there are many places like Papua, which are quite small, which have historic kind of long standing structural issues and unfortunately may not come up to the radar until there is an outbreak of conflict

What our office tries to do is try to ring the alarm bells early on, before the situation rises to the level of an armed conflict.

UN: You’re not suggesting it’s at that level now? Of course.

RS: No we’re not suggesting it’s at that level now, but there are many grievances, and we’ve seen this in many parts of the world where grievances are unaddressed, or there’s a suppression of dissent. And then people take the law into their own hands because they feel they are not being heard.

This is actually happening at a very low level in Papua at the moment. There are armed groups that are operating. In fact, just this week I believe a number of people were killed. These were government contractors who were there doing a development project.

They were killed by armed groups which of course is unacceptable, but you have to understand the root causes and you have to address the root causes.

UN Office of Human Rights defends Papuans right to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression

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Widodo wants security forces to guard all development projects in Papua

Sixteen bodies have been retrieved from the killings of workers on a Papuan infrastructure project claimed by pro-independence militants to be Indonesian soldiers. Image: Hark Arena

By Ray Jordan in Lampung, Indonesia

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo insists that work on the Trans-Papua road project will continue despite this week’s shooting of construction workers in the Papua regency of Nduga.

Widodo is asking that all infrastructure projects and Trans-Papua construction workers always be accompanied by security personnel.

For the moment, Widodo said that the government would prioritise the evacuation of the victims of the shooting by the West Papuan Liberation Army that is regularly branded by the authorities as armed criminal “separatists”.

READ MORE: West Papua independence leader urges calm after killings

“Yes this is because there is still a process there that isn’t finished yet, we will prioritise the evacuation as quickly as possible. After that construction will continue”, Widodo told journalists at the Mahligai Agung Convention Hall at the Bandar Lampung University in Lampung City, North Sumatra.

According to The Jakarta Post, the casualties include 19 workers of state-owned construction company PT Istaka Karya, who had been assigned to build a 275 km section to connect Wamena and Mamugu as part of President Widodo’s flagship trans-Papua road project.

-Partners-

One Indonesian Military (TNI) soldier was also killed.

But the West Papua National Liberation Army (WPNLA), which claimed responsibility for the attack and said 24 people had been killed, alleged the workers were in fact soldiers in disguise, according to RNZ Pacific.

Independence rallies
Last Saturday, as members of the Liberation Army held a ceremony to commemorate Papua’s independence from Dutch colonial rule on December 1, 1961, as part of many rallies across Papua, Indonesia and internationally, a worker was said to have snapped a photo of the scene.

This enraged the militants.

In Sumatra, President Widodo said that wherever construction work was being carried out in Papua, workers must be accompanied by security forces in order to provide a sense of safety.

A Papuan freelance journalist John Pakage, who was reportedly beaten by members of the Indonesian Mobile Brigade Corps and his family threatened. Image: Wenslaus

“I want to convey that wherever construction work is going on it is always accompanied by security personnel in order to truly provide security guarantees for workers who are working in the field, in the jungles, in preparing infrastructure, particularly roads in the land of Papua which will never stop, but will continue regardless,” he said.

Widodo said the government’s goal was to continue development in Papua in order to create a sense of social justice in eastern Indonesia. Widodo said he wanted all of Indonesian society to experience this development.

“This is to provide infrastructure in the land of Papua and secondly also social justice for all Indonesian people to address the discrepancies in infrastructure between Java and Papua, between the east and west, that is what we can truly pursue”, said Widodo.

Earlier, national police chief General Tito Karnavian claimed that the West Papua Liberation Army led by Egianus Kogoya numbered no more than 50 people who had around 20 firearms.

‘Diplomatic’ resolution
The Guardian reports that Benny Wenda, the chair of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), said it was hard to know exactly what happened at Nduga, amid conflicting reports on the long-running tensions, and without free access for media or human rights groups.

Indonesian authorities had not responded to requests for comment from The Guardian.

Wenda told The Guardian he could not stop the liberation army but wanted to tell them the UMLWP wanted to solve the issue “diplomatically”.

“We don’t want any bloodshed, we want Indonesia to come to the international table to discuss and we can agree to a referendum That’s what our campaign is about,” he said.

Sebby Sambom, spokesman for the WPNLA, the military wing of the Free Papua Movement (OPM), said in a telephone interview that they attacked a government construction site last weekend because they believe the project is conducted by the military, according to Jawa Pos TV.

“Trans-Papua road projects are being carried out by Indonesian military and that is a risk they must bear,” Sambom said.

“We want them to know that we don’t need development, what we want is independence.”

According to Wenslaus, John Pakage, a freelance journalist who was also a former Reuters and Tabloid Jubi journalist, was beaten by members of the Indonesian Mobile Brigade Corps and his family threatened.

Detik News translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the article was “Jokowi Minta Pekerja Trans Papua Selalu Didampingi Aparat Keamanan“.

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Indonesian police arrest more than 500 over West Papua flag demos

Hundreds of Papuan Students Alliance (AMP) in march in Surabaya to commemorate December 1, a day they consider to be West Papua liberation day, on Saturday. Image: Wahyoe Boediwardhana/jakarta Post

By Arnold Belau in Jayapura and Wahyoe Boediwardhana in Surabaya

More than 500 Papuans in several cities across Indonesia and West Papua were arrested following rallies at the weekend marking December 1 to commemorate what many Papuans claim to be the birth of West Papua nation in 1961.

The lawyer of the arrested Papuans, Veronica Koman, said in a statement on Saturday that 537 people were arrested in Kupang in East Nusa Tenggara, Ternate in North Maluku, Manado in North Sulawesi, Makassar in South Sulawesi, Jayapura, Asmat and Waropen in Papua and Surabaya in East Java.

Among the total, 322 were arrested in Surabaya.

READ MORE: Nationalist militia attack Papuan rally in Surabaya

In Papua, 90 people were arrested in separate places and times.

On Friday, a day before the rallies, joint forces of the Indonesian Military and the National Police searched the headquarters of the National Committee for West Papua (KNPB) in Kampung Vietnam in Jayapura.

-Partners-

The joint force also arrested Larius Heluka on Friday.

The following day, the joint force arrested 89 people in Abepura in Jayapura municipality, in separate places in Jayapura regency and in Yapen regency. As of Sunday, all 90 had been released by the police.

Kupang arrests
In Kupang, the police arrested 18 people early Saturday morning.

East Nusa Tenggara Police chief Inspector General Raja Erizman said the Papuans were not arrested but “secured and questioned”.

“I have ordered [Kupang Police chief] to treat them well,” Raja said Saturday.

In Surabaya, which saw one of the biggest December 1 rallies, a clash occurred between about 300 people grouped under the Papuan Student Alliance (AMP) and other groups that accused the Papuans of “committing treason”.

Seventeen Papuans were injured, with some sustaining head wounds.

The Papuan students in Surabaya made a public speech, calling on Papuans to not remain silent when it came to discrimination and restrictions on their freedom of speech. They also campaigned for self-determination for Papuans’ future.

However, the situation became tense when a group consisting of around 200 people from several mass organisations, including the Communication Forum of Indonesian Veterans Children (FKPPI) and Pancasila Youth (PP), arrived on the scene to stage a protest against AMP.

Clashing camps
The two camps launched verbal attacks at each other, which escalated into a physical altercation.

“At first, this rally ran peacefully, until we were blocked in front of the Grahadi building and then came the Pancasila Youth mass organization, which intimidated us and turned the situation into an [altercation],” AMP human rights lawyer Veronica Koman said after the incident on Saturday.

The East Java Police and Surabaya Police deployed 1055 police personnel, aided by two Army groups and the Surabaya Public Order Agency (Satpol PP), to disperse the two clashing camps.

Koman said the AMP had respected the aspirations of the mass organisations, but the counterprotesters should not have incited the riot by throwing bottles and sharpened bamboo at the students.

AMP spokesperson Dorlince Iyowau said the Papuans only demanded the right to decide their own fate.

“Our main demand is the right to decide our own fate, as a democratic solution for West Papua. We want Papuans to have their own political rights,” Dolince said.

‘Committing treason’
Meanwhile, PP Surabaya Secretary Baso Juherman accused the alliance of committing treason.

“The rally [by the alliance] was clearly a treasonous act. The PP took to the streets to prevent them [from committing treason], because the rally hurt Surabaya residents,” Juherman said.

The coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) in Surabaya, Fatkhul Khoir, called on the release of the 322 people in a statement on Sunday.

Arnold Belau and Wahyoe Boediwardhana were reporting for The Jakarta Post.

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Nationalist thugs attack Papuan pro-independence rally in Surabaya

By Tony Firman of Tirto in Surabaya

A protest action by the Papuan Student Alliance (AMP) in Indonesia’s East Java provincial capital of Surabaya yesterday demanding self-determination for West Papua has been attacked by a group of ormas (social or mass organisations).

Police later raided Papuan student dormitories in the evening and detained 233 students in a day of human rights violations as Indonesian authorities cracked down on demonstrations marking December 1 – “independence day”, according to protesters.

The group, who came from a number of different ormas, including the Community Forum for Sons and Daughters of the Police and Armed Forces (FKPPI), the Association of Sons and Daughters of Army Families (Hipakad) and the Pancasila Youth (PP), were calling for the Papuan student demonstration to be forcibly broken up.

READ MORE: Surabaya counterprotest, 300 arrested in West Papua flag demonstrations

“This city is a city of [national] heroes. Please leave, the [state ideology of] Pancasila is non-negotiable, the NKRI [Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia] is non-negotiable”, shouted one of the speakers from the PP.

At 8.33am, a number of PP members on the eastern side of Jl. Pemuda began attacking the AMP by throwing rocks and beating them with clubs. Police quickly moved in to block the PP members then dragged them back.

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The AMP protesters had began gathering at the Submarine Monument at 6am before moving off to the Grahadi building where the East Java governor’s office is located.

However they were only able to get as far as the Surabaya Radio Republic Indonesia (RRI) building before they were intercepted by police from the Surabaya metropolitan district police (Polrestabes) and the East Java district police (Polda).

‘Independence’ day
The AMP demonstration was held to mark December 1, 1961, as the day West Papua became “independent” from the Dutch. For the Papuan people, December 1 is an important date on the calendar in the Papuan struggle which is commemorated every year.

The historical moment in 1961 was when, for the first time, the West Papuan parliament, under the administration of the Dutch, flew the Morning Star (Bintang Kejora) flag, symbolising the establishment of the state of West Papua.

Since then the Bintang Kejora was flown alongside the Dutch flag throughout West Papua until the Dutch handed administrative authority of West Papua over to the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA) on October 1, 1962, then to the Indonesian government on May 1, 1963.

The UNTEA was an international mechanism involving the UN to prepare a referendum on whether or not the Papuan people wanted to separate or integrate with Indonesia.

The referendum, referred to as the Act of Free Choice (Pepera), resulted in the Papuan people choosing to be integrated into Indonesia.

Since then, the administration of West Papua has been controlled by the Indonesian government and the flying of the Bintang Kejora illegal – as it is deemed an act of subversion (maker) – and have responded to protests with violence and arrests.


A video of the arrests in Ternate, North Maluku. Video: Arnold Belau/Suara Papua

Police arrest 99 Papuan activists at pro-independence rally in Ternate
Arnold Belau of Suara Papua reports from Jayapura that at least 96 activists from the Indonesian People’s Front for West Papua (FRI-WP) were arrested by police in Ternate, North Maluku, after they forcibly broke up a rally in front of the Barito Market.

A Suara Papua source from Ternate said that the FRI-WP action was closed down by police and intel (intelligence) officers and the demonstrators forced into trucks as they were about to begin protesting in front of the Barito Market.

The source said that several activists were dragged and assaulted as they were forced into the truck.

“Several comrades who were at the action were dragged and forced to get into a truck by police and intel in Ternate,” they said.

The source said that as many as 99 people were arrested, 12 of them from West Papua and the rest activists from FRI-WP. One of the protesters had to be rushed home because because of breathing difficulties.

“One of the people had difficulty breathing and was rushed home. Twelve people were from Papua and the rest from Ternate. Currently they are being taken to Polres [district police station]”, they said.

Ternate district police Tactical Police Unit head (kasat sabhara) Aninab was quoted by semarak.news.com as saying that the protesters would be taken to the Ternate district police station.

‘Given guidance’
“We will take them to Polres, question them. If in the process of delving into the matter it is discovered that they committed a violation then they will be charged, but we will bear in mind that are still young and [they should be] given guidance,” he said.

Earlier, the protesters sent a written notification of the action to the Ternate district police but it was rejected with police saying that the planned action was subversive (maker).

Upon arriving at the Ternate district police station they will be registered and those who originate from Papua will be separated from those from North Maluku.

FRI-WP is demanding that the Indonesian government must resolve human rights violations in Papua and that the Papuan people be given the freedom to hold a referendum to determine their own future.

Background
Although it is widely held that West Papua declared independence from Indonesia on December 1, 1961, this actually marks the date when the Morning Star (Bintang Kejora) flag was first raised alongside the Dutch flag in an officially sanctioned ceremony in Jayapura, then called Hollandia.

The first declaration of independence actually took place on July 1, 1971 at the Victoria Headquarters in Waris Village, Jayapura.

Known as the “Act of Free Choice”, in 1969 a referendum was held to decide whether West Papua, a former Dutch colony annexed by Indonesia in 1963, would be become independent or join Indonesia. The UN sanction plebiscite, in which 1,025 handpicked tribal leaders allegedly expressed their desire for integration, has been widely dismissed as a sham.

Critics claim that that the selected voters were coerced, threatened and closely scrutinised by the military to unanimously vote for integration.

Both of these articles were translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the Surabaya article was “Peringatan 1 Desember Papua, Demo AMP Surabaya Diadang PP & FKPPI” and the Jayapura one “Peringati Hari Lahirnya Embrio Negara Papua Barat, Polisi Tangkap 99 Orang di Ternate”.

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