The Indonesian President, Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, is desperate to keep hidden Indonesia’s dark, dirty secret – its brutal 50-year war in its easternmost provinces. Here are five things you should know about Indonesian rule in West Papua:
1. It is one of the world’s longest-running military occupations Indonesia seized West Papua, the western half of the island of New Guinea, in 1963, shortly after the Dutch colonists pulled out. Political parties were immediately banned, nascent Papuan nationalism crushed, and tens of thousands of troops, police and special forces flooded in. In 1969 a UN-supervised sham referendum was held, and just over a thousand hand-picked representatives were bribed, cajoled and threatened into voting in favour of Indonesian rule.
A police state has shackled the vast region ever since, battling a low-level tribal insurgency and suppressing independence aspirations with such vigour that raising the Papuan national flag, Morning Star, can land you 15 years in prison.
2. It’s possible that Indonesian rule constitutes a genocide Although international media and NGOs have been nearly uniformly banned from the territory for decades, most observers estimate that over 100,000 native Papuans have been killed since the 1960s – at least 10 percent of the population. With echoes of Indonesia’s rule in East Timor, which eliminated around one third of the population, a 2004 report from Yale Law School concluded: “[There is] a strong indication that the Indonesian government has committed genocide against the West Papuans.” Several other scholars have reached a similar conclusion.
Reports of barbarous killings regularly emerge, and one study recently described torture as a “mode of governance” in the two provinces of Papua and West Papua. The abuse tends to be intertwined with projects of resource extraction and “transmigration” – the effort (formerly supported by the World Bank) to shuttle hundreds of thousands of landless Indonesian peasants from the rest of Indonesia into West Papua.
During a military campaign in the early 1980s, the Indonesian army ran under the slogan, “Let the rats run into the jungle so that the chickens can breed in the coop”. In practice, this meant wiping out Papuan villages and bringing in ethnic Indonesians to work on economic projects like Freeport’s giant Grasberg gold and copper mine, which has been accused of “ecocide” and dumps over 200,000 tonnes of tailings in the local river system every day. The influx of Indonesians has left the original inhabitants a near-minority in the land, struggling to maintain their culture and often nomadic way of life. An Indonesian minister once in charge of the transmigration programme has stated: “The different ethnic groups will in the long run disappear because of integration, and there will be one kind of man.”
3. West Papuans overwhelmingly want independence Even the pro-Indonesian US ambassador admitted in the late 1960s that “possibly 85 to 90 percent” of West Papuans “are in sympathy with the Free Papua cause”. Paul Kingsnorth, an investigative reporter who travelled to the region in the early 2000s, described the independence campaign as a “broad-based social movement, which almost everyone in West Papua, if you get them alone, will admit to belonging”.
Nothing speaks to this more than the long campaign of armed resistance and civil disobedience against the Indonesian state. In 2011, documents leaked from the Indonesian army detailed a “longstanding guerrilla network that is relatively well organised and which operates across the whole country”. A recent book describes the non-violent wing of the movement as “savvy and sophisticated”, and notes that “Papuans in 2015 desire freedom as much, if not more, than Papuans who desired freedom in 1963”.
Most West Papuans consider themselves Melanesian, with more in common with darker-skinned Pacific populations than the Indonesians who often treat them as racially inferior. Culturally, linguistically, ethnically – Papuans have little in common with Indonesians. For the overwhelming majority, nothing short of independence will suffice.
4. The Indonesian state is terrified of international exposure Alongside barring international media from West Papua, Indonesia runs counter-intelligence operations overseas to neutralise the international independence movement, surveilling and harassing campaigners based in Australia and elsewhere. Leaked military documents bemoan the success activists have had in “propagating the issue of severe human rights violations in Papua”, and Indonesia has been working hard to ensure exiled Papuan representatives are barred from regional Pacific organisations. Foreign visitors in the provinces are placed under routine surveillance, and Indonesian concern at the opening of the Free West Papua campaign office in Oxford even prompted the British ambassador in Jakarta to publicly distance himself from independence aspirations.
5. Britain & the West have supported Indonesia’s occupation for decades Britain’s historic alliance with the Indonesian state dates primarily to General Suharto’s bloody coup in 1965-6. In the midst of the slaughter of at least 500,000 suspected members of the Indonesian Communist Party – which British officials gleefully described as a “ruthless terror” – the Foreign Office argued that “the generals are going to need all the help they can get”, releasing £1m in aid and granting the export of military equipment. The Indonesian Left was duly decimated – never to recover – and the pro-Western Suharto was firmly in control.
Since then, Britain’s support for Indonesian rule in West Papua has been unwavering. Privately recognising the “savage” nature of Indonesian rule, publicly officials have voted to legitimate Indonesian rule at the UN and pledged support for Indonesia’s “territorial integrity”. Until the late 1990s, the UK was one of Indonesia’s primary arms suppliers. Kopassus, the Indonesian special forces, have been trained and armed by the UK, US and Australia, despite a well-documented record of horrific human rights abuse in Papua. Britain funds and trains Detachment 88, the Indonesian counter-terrorism unit accused of massacres in Papua’s central highlands.
While in opposition, David Cameron described the situation in Papua as “terrible”; once in power, he headed to Jakarta with representatives from BAE Systems in tow. By contrast, opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is a long-time supporter of the Papuan struggle – another example of his “direct and open challenge to the British system of government of international alliances”, as Peter Oborne described it. It remains to be seen whether or not he will be able to dislodge the British establishment’s ossified support for the Indonesian state if he comes to power.
Connor Woodman is with the Politics of Papua Project, University of Warwick, UK. This article is republished from the Peter Tatchell Foundation for Human Rights and is republished under a Creative Commons licence.
Honiara, Jubi – Perdana Menteri Kepulauan Solomon Manasseh Sogavare terpaksa memotong pendek perjalanannya ke ibukota Samoa Apia pekan lalu untuk Forum Kepulauan Pasifik ke-48 minggu lalu “karena situasi politik dalam negeri terkait penyingkirannya dari jabatan”.
Hal ini dijealskan oleh Perdana Menteri Samoa, Tuilaepa Sailele Maliegagoe, pada sebuah konferensi pers Kamis lalu ketika ditanya mengapa rekannya dari Kepulauan Solomon, Sogavare, dan Presiden Negara Federasi Mikronesia Peter Christian meninggalkan forum lebih awal.
“Di Kepulauan Solomon bila Perdana Menteri pergi untuk waktu yang lama, akan selalu ada upaya untuk menyingkirkannya,” kata Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoe dengan nada mengejek.
Akibat kepulangan PM Sogavare, Menteri Hubungan Luar Negeri dan Perdagangan yang mewakili negara tersebut dalam pertemuan PIF lainnya termasuk Retreat Para Pemimpin.
Solomon Star telah mengirimkan email seperti yang disarankan dan Menteri Akwai membalas dengan mengirimkan kembali sebuah memo yang sudah dia sebarkan bulan Agustus.
Di memo tersebut tertulis: ”OPMC (Kantor Perdana Menteri dan Kabinet) tidak akan menanggapi permintaan yang tidak terverifikasi dan tidak berdasar meskipun ada korespondensi tertulis, khususnya ke media yang menunjukkan standar ganda, memanipulasi informasi secara tidak etis untuk memutarbalikkan fakta, tidak menghadiri konferensi pers saat diundang, dan menolak menerbitkan pernyataan yang dikirim oleh OPMC.”
Sejak menjabat, Akwai telah menunjukkan ketidakprofesionalan melalui caranya berurusan dengan media.
Alih-alih mengirimkan siaran media ke semua media di negara dan organisasi berita Pacific, dia hanya mengirim mereka ke jurnalis tertentu di Kepulauan Solomon.
Pernyataan pers terakhir yang secara resmi diterima oleh Solomon Star dari Akwai terkait kunjungan kenegaraan Perdana Menteri selama ke Australia bulan lalu (Agustus).
Pernyataan media tersebut tidak berisi tanggal serta tidak mengungkapkan semua pertemuan PM dan merangkum pokok pertemuan yang terjadi.
Akwai juga turut menemani PM Sogavare ke PIF namun dia tidak mengeluarkan pengumuman apapun ke media mengenai partisipasi delegasi Pemerintah Kepulauan Solomon.(Solomon Star/Elisabeth C. Giay)
Vanuatu’s Prime Minister, Charlot Salwai Tabimasmas, says some South Pacific leaders at this month’s Forum in Samoa backed off making a decision about West Papua because it was a “sensitive issue”.
This was in spite of it being a Forum agenda item.
However, Tabimasmas labelled the efforts of Vanuatu “developing” as several countries in the region had recently joined Vanuatu in supporting West Papuan self-determination.
Nauru, Marshall Islands, Palau, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Tuvalu were determined to continue the work towards taking the issue to the UN Human Rights Committee and were taking the issue up in the corridors of the UN General Assembly in New York, Tabimasmas added.
“So far, Vanuatu continues to commit itself to spearheading the West Papua cause, through the government, the civil society, and the churches. And this year we took the matter up to the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of countries,” Tabimasmas said.
The council of ministers has appointed the former Ambassador to Brussels, Roy Micky Joy, as the special envoy for the issue of West Papua.
“These are some of the things the Vanuatu government has undertaken to show its commitment to the West Papua cause.
“I think the lobby effort has developed because before only Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands were taking up the struggle for West Papua, but now there are six other countries from Polynesia and Micronesia supporting them, advocating for West Papuan self-determination and against violation of human rights.”
Progress beyond region
The Parliamentary Secretary for the Prime Minister’s Office, Johnny Koanapo, echoed Tabimasmas’ comments in a meeting with media, the Vanuatu Daily Post reports.
Koanapo said the issue of West Papua’s self-determination and violations of human rights by Indonesia had progressed beyond the South Pacific islands region.
“The issue has now moved beyond the jurisdiction of the Melanesian Spearhead Group,” he said.
“It has moved to the level of the Forum and has become a regional issue. And if you see how the issue was listed in the South Pacific Islands Forum meeting to deal with out of 14 issues, one of them was West Papua.”
“The issue now has progressed to the international stage and I say this with a lot of confidence — the issue has never taken so much international attention as it is today, simply because the government is serious about it, there is no second opinion on it as to whether the government will take up the issue or not.
“The government has taken on this role because it is a global country and we are global citizens with obligations to defend such things as human rights, which are parts of the rights of a human being,” Koanapo said.
Pacific Island solidarity
The Vanuatu Daily Post also reports the prime ministers of Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands are organising a side event at the UN General Assembly in New York this week to continue to lobby for West Papua, so that when leaders make their political statements at the General Assembly these would reflect the Pacific’s efforts.
West Papua’s plight and struggle for independence from Indonesia was raised at the UN General Assembly in September last year, which the Free West Papua Campaign called an “incredible show of Pacific Island solidarity” and a “landmark moment”.
The 72nd session of the UN General Assembly is currently underway in New York and will conclude next Monday, September 25.
Jonas Cullwick is a reporter with the Vanuatu Daily Post. VDP news items are republished by Asia Pacific Report with permission.
Radio NZ International – About two hundred men held at the Australian-run detention centre on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea are to be moved to a new facility within weeks.
The Australian immigration minister, Peter Dutton, says those who have failed to win refugee status and who are from countries such as Iran which precludes forced deportations, will be transferred to a new detention facility within PNG after October 31.
Australia’s security contract with Spanish company Ferrovial will expire at the end of October, forcing the closure of the camp that has been subject to violence from locals.
Canberra’s hardline immigration policy requires asylum seekers who try to reach Australia by sea to be sent for processing at camps on Manus Island and on Nauru.
They are told they will never be settled in Australia.
Meanwhile questions remain about the fate of the remaining men on Manus as a refugee swap deal with the United States appears to have stalled.
A former New Caledonian president Harold Martin has been tried in the criminal court in Noumea over an alleged conflict of interest in a land sale.
Four years ago, judges had put Mr Martin under formal investigation over the 2008 rezoning of land, which he and his siblings had sold in Paita a year earlier.
The rezoning to clear the land for a commercial development was approved by Mr Martin in his capacity as mayor of Paita.
The court heard that Mr Martin could face up to five years in prison but the prosecution called for him to be given a suspended jail sentence of two months, a $US50,000 fine and be declared ineligible for public office for two years.
Mr Martin has rejected claims of any wrongdoing.
Earlier he said it was his right to sell the land, which had been in the family since 1860.
A small, but vocal, group of protesters gathered this morning outside the Sheraton Aggies Resort in Apia, venue of the 48th Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting, to raise awareness about the plight of West Papua and its people.
Protest organiser Jerome Mika said the protest was to ensure Pacific leaders did not ignore the issue of West Papua.
Mika, who is with the local Samoa First Union, said this was also a call on some Pacific leaders to join the seven Pacific countries pushing to resist West Papua with the United Nations Decolonisation committee.
The seven countries are Nauru, Marshall Islands, Solomons, Vanuatu, Tuvalu and Tonga.
Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia
Forum General Secretary Dame Meg Taylor visited the protest and reaffirmed their right to protest but did not speak on the issue of West Papua.
Radio NZ International – The Pacific Conference of Churches says it is unimpressed by comments made by Indonesian officials at the recent Pacific Island Forum Leaders’ Summit in Apia.
The General Secretary, Reverend Francois Pihaatae, said a protest that took place during the forum supporting West Papua‘s independence was nothing new.
Mr Pihaatae said it illustrated the strong support from some. But he urged all Pacific nations to express their concern as seen in Samoa.
Indonesia’s Ambassador to New Zealand, Samoa and Tonga, Tantowi Yahya, was at the meeting and condemned the protest and accused Pacific Islanders of being misled on a human rights situation that had largely improved.
“Whatever the Indonesian said, I will never, never believe that something is fine in West Papua because we have evidence that [they are] living out everyday, the killing of the people,” Reverend Francois Pihaatae said.
Radio NZ International – There’s more fallout from a confrontation between media and Indonesian officials at the Pacific Island Forum Leaders summit in Samoa’s capital last week after the topic of West Papua was brought up.
A protest supporting West Papua’s independence was staged during the summit outside the Forum’s venue which upset Jakarta.
Sela Jane Hopgood reports.
The co-ordinator of the Samoa First union, Jerome Mika was the person who led the West Papua protest during the Forum summit in Apia. Mr Mika disagreed with comments that followed from the Indonesian government representative, Franzalbert Joku, that the forum was not the place for the Papua issue to be raised.
“The theme of the whole Pacific Leaders Forum was about looking at leadership and being able to find ways to be able to help and prosper our Pacific region, so I think it’s important for us to be dealing with issues of West Papua especially when in Samoa we had our independence in 1962 and West Papua’s been colonised since 1960s and I think it’s important for us to stand up for our Pacific brothers and sisters and we ask as a Pacific Leaders Forum that they consider working through putting West Papua on the decolonisation list.”
Indonesia’s Ambassador to New Zealand, Samoa and Tonga, Tantowi Yahya, was alongside Mr Joku at the heated press conference where local journalists were taken to task. He was later asked if it was reasonable to expect Samoan and Pacific journalists not to ask questions about West Papua.
“No, it’s not our authority to say that, but our concern was only that we are afraid that those quote unquote additional issues would overshadow the main objective of the conference.”
He told ABC that Indonesia sees reporting from international media in regards to West Papua as unbalanced.
“In many ways what happens lately, many that speak of Papua do not really know what happens in Papua today. In other words, they are not well equipped about the information in a balance manner. They have been pampered with informations, which sometimes are fabricated news, twisted news and even hoax and we from Indonesia don’t really get the right chance to tell the people about what happened.”
The General Secretary for the Pacific Conference of Churches felt the comments made by Mr Joku about West Papua ‘doing fine’ did not make sense. Reverened Francois Pihaatae was not impressed.
“Whatever the Indonesian say, I will never, never believe that something is fine in West Papua because we have evidences that that the living out everyday, the killing of the people.”
Mr Mika found Mr Joku’s remarks about the state of West Papua disgusting.
“I think it’s arrogant and we won’t be bullied by people like the Indonesian representative and I think that it also shows just the sort of behaviour and the condescending behaviour that we are getting as Pacific when we should be standing together for our West Papua brothers and sisters. We should also be speaking out as a collective rather than as an individual.”
The West Papua independence issue was not advanced at the Forum summit as hoped by supporters. But several Pacific countries plan to raise their concern about Papua to the United Nations.
Redui BZ International – A confrontation between media and Indonesian officials in Samoa last week has highlighted the depth of feelings in the region about West Papua.
Pacific Islanders are increasingly speaking out over their concern about reports of human rights abuses in Indonesia’s Papua region, and the cause of West Papuan self-determination aspirations.
A protest supporting West Papua’s independence was staged during the summit outside the Forum’s venue in Samoa’s capital Apia, which upset Jakarta.
Following the protest, Indonesia government representatives held a press conference. One of the representatives, Franzalbert Joku, told reporters in a rowdy exchange that the Forum summit was not the place for the Papua issue to be discussed. The sound of raised voices briefly drew local police to the venue of the press conference.
The co-ordinator of the Samoa First union who had organised the protest, Jerome Mika, later said he disagreed with Mr Joku’s comments.
“The theme of the whole Pacific Leaders Forum was about looking at leadership and being able to find ways to be able to help and prosper our Pacific region.” he said.
“I think it’s appropriate for us to be dealing with issues of West Papua at the Forum. Samoa’s independence was in 1962 and West Papua’s been colonised since the 1960s.
“It’s important for us to stand up for our Pacific brothers and sisters and we ask as a Pacific Leaders Forum that they consider working through putting West Papua on the decolonisation list,” he said.
Indonesia’s Ambassador to New Zealand, Samoa and Tonga, Tantowi Yahya, was alongside Mr Joku at the heated press conference where local journalists were taken to task. The ambassador was later asked by the ABC if it was reasonable to expect Pacific journalists not to ask questions about West Papua.
“No, it’s not our authority to say that, but our concern was only that we are afraid that those quote unquote additional issues would overshadow the main objective of the conference,” he explained.
Mr Yahya indicated that Indonesia sees much of the reporting by international media in regards to West Papua as unbalanced.
“In many ways what happens lately, many that speak of Papua do not really know what happens in Papua today. In other words, they are not well equipped about the information in a balance manner,” he said.
“They [media] have been pampered with information, which sometimes are fabricated news, twisted news and even hoax and we from Indonesia don’t really get the right chance to tell the people about what happened.”
The General Secretary for the Pacific Conference of Churches felt the comments made by Mr Joku about West Papua ‘doing fine’ did not make sense. Reverend Francois Pihaatae was not impressed.
“Whatever the Indonesians say, I will never, never believe that something is fine in West Papua, because we have evidences that are going out every day that the living of these people is rough, the killing of these people is real.”
At the heated Apia press conference, Mr Joku – an indigenous West Papuan – accused Pacific Islanders of being misled on a human rights situation that had largely improved.
“It’s regrettable that Pacific Islanders all of the sudden want to address the Papua issue, now,” he said.
“The Papua issue has been at the forefront since the late 50s and early 60s. We have seen our worst. Where the hell were the Pacific Island nations when we really needed that kind of expression and that kind of concern coming from them?”
Mr Mika was appalled by Mr Joku’s remarks about Pacific Islanders raising concern about the state of West Papua.
“I think it’s arrogant and we won’t be bullied by people like the Indonesian representative,” he said.
“I think that it also shows just the sort of behaviour and the condescending behaviour that we are getting as Pacific when we should be standing together for our West Papua brothers and sisters.”
The West Papua independence issue was not advanced at the Forum summit as hoped by supporters, but a number of Pacific countries plan to raise their concern about Papua to within the United Nations.
Pacific concerns are due top be heard at the annual session of the UN General Assembly which got underway this week.