Dozens of Indonesian military and police personnel raided a student dormitory in Surabaya on July 6 to stop the screening of a documentary about security force atrocities in Papua. It’s the latest example of the government’s determination not to deal with past abuses in the country’s easternmost province.
Authorities Cite ‘Hidden Activities’ to Cancel Screening of Papuan Film
Security forces carried out the raid following social media postings about the planned screening of “Bloody Biak.” The film documents the security forces opening fire on a peaceful pro-Papuan independence flag-raising ceremony in the town of Biak in July 1998, killing dozens. They said the dorm raid was necessary to prevent unspecified “hidden activities” by Papuan students.
The raid is emblematic of both the Indonesian government’s failure to deliver on promises of accountability for past human rights abuses in Papua and its willingness to take heavy-handed measures to stifle public discussion about those violations. The government of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has not fulfilled a commitment made in 2016 to seek resolution of longstanding human rights abuses, including the Biak massacre and the military crackdown on Papuans in Wasior in 2001 and Wamena in 2003 that killed dozens and displaced thousands. Meanwhile, police and other security forces that kill Papuans do so with impunity.
Media coverage of rights abuses in Papua are hobbled by the Indonesian government’s decades-old access restrictions to the region, despite Jokowi’s 2015 pledge to lift them. Domestic journalists are vulnerable to intimidation and harassment from officials, local mobs, and security forces. The government is also hostile to foreign human rights observers seeking access to Papua. Last month, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said he is “concerned that despite positive engagement by the authorities in many respects, the Government’s invitation to my Office to visit Papua – which was made during my visit in February – has still not been honoured.”
The raid in Surabaya signals the government’s determination to maintain its chokehold on public discussion of human rights violations across Indonesia. This suggests that the government’s objective is to maintain Papua as a ”forbidden island” rather than provide transparency and accountability for human rights abuses there.
The United Liberation Movement for West Papua will soon have seven new offices in West Papua, its chairman says.
Benny Wenda said three offices had already opened in the region and four more would follow shortly.
Mr Wenda told the Vanuatu Daily Post their was a danger the new offices could be targeted by Indonesia’s military, which had reportedly been exchanging gunfire with the West Papua Liberation Army in recent weeks.
The Movement’s two other offices in Wamena and Fak Fak had been targeted in the past, he said.
The Movement also has offices in Vanuatu and Solomon Islands.
Today is the fifth anniversary of the implementation of the policy under which all people who travel by boat to Australia to seek asylum are detained indefinitely on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island and Nauru.
About 1600 refugees and asylum seekers remain on the islands, including 123 children.
Human Rights Watch Australia’s director Elaine Pearson said it had been five years of too much suffering and the policy has had a devastating human cost.
“Certainly the mental health condition of the refugees has gotten a lot worst. Many of these people came to Manus and Nauru fit and healthy. Now they are suffering from depression, anxiety, in some cases PTSD. You have children as young as ten years old committing suicide, people setting themselves on fire.”
Elaine Pearson said Australia should immediately transfer the refugees to Australia or safe third countries.
She said it was a crisis.
“It’s been five years of depositing people in misery and suffering on isolated Pacific islands.”
Meanwhile, twelve refugee deaths in Australian offshore detention is proof of the policy’s abject failure, according to the the Refugee Council of Australia.
The council said in the last five years, at a cost of more than five billion Australian dollars, families had been torn apart and over 3000 children and adults had endured enormous mental and physical harm.
Other countries should not implement this policy of extreme cruelty which the Australian government celebrates as a “success”, the council said.
Of the 12 people who died, Iranian refugee Reza Barati was the first, beaten to death on Manus Island in 2014 allegedly by prison guards. Others died because of inadequate healthcare or suicide.
These were brave, resilient people who had escaped conflict and persecution only to be broken by Australia, the council said.
Many who are still alive have self-harmed or attempted to suicide where health professionals have declared a mental health crisis.
Paul Stevenson, a psychologist with more than 40 years of experience working with trauma victims, described the situations of those on Nauru and Manus Island as the worst he had ever seen.
Australia had made children suffer terribly with countless reports of assaults, and sexual abuse, the council said.
In just the past six months, courts had ordered eight children suffering life-threatening psychological or physical illnesses to be brought to Australia, over the protests of the Australian government.
Those court orders had to be made because the Australian Government repeatedly ignored the advice of doctors calling for medical transfers.
The most senior medical official deployed on Nauru to speak out, Nick Martin, said that diabetics were at risk of going blind and pregnant women faced delays in dealing with serious complications.
Other pregnant women who needed to terminate their pregnancies, including those who became pregnant after being raped on the island, had not received appropriate care, the council said.
The Australian government even attempted to transfer a woman to Papua New Guinea to terminate her pregnancy, even though abortion is illegal in that country.
Offshore processing also tears families apart. While the separation of children from their parents had rightly caused widespread outrage in the United States, Australia’s offshore processing policies had been keeping families apart for years.
Many families are separated between Australia, Nauru and PNG. There are fathers who have never met their children.
Five years on, more than 80 percent of people on Manus Island and Nauru are still in limbo. They cannot work, study, live in safety, or hold hopes for the future.
It is even worse for those from countries like Iran and Somalia, as it is very unlikely they will be resettled by the US.
The policy had undermined Australia’s credibility as a leader in human rights, as a leader in our region, and as a leading multicultural country, the council said.
Thousands of West Papuan villagers have reportedly fled from their homes in a remote regency due to conflict between Indonesian military forces and pro-independence fighters.
This follows a string of deaths in Nduga regency where Indonesian security forces and the West Papua National Liberation Army have exchanged gunfire in recent weeks.
Three people were killed in an attack on police at the local airport two weeks ago during regional elections. A faction of the Liberation Army claimed responsibility.
Following the attack, about a thousand extra police and military personnel deployed to the remote regency as part of a joint operation.
They have been conducting an aerial campaign over the Alguru area in pursuit of the Liberation Army, with unconfirmed reports saying at least two Papuans have been shot dead and others injured in recent days.
A police helicopter was reportedly fired on by a faction of the Liberation Army last week, although it is unclear whether it was in response to rounds of aerial artillery fired by the military over Alguru.
“Bombing, burning houses, and shooting into villages from helicopters are acts of terrorism,” the Liberation Movement’s chairman Benny Wenda said.
“The Indonesian government’s horrific acts of violence against the Melanesian people of West Papua are causing great harm and trauma.”
The Nduga regent, Yarius Gwijangge, last week made a plea to the security forces not to shoot from the air because he feared this could lead to civilian casualties.
With the situation in Nduga remaining tense, a local Liberation Army Field Operations Commander, Egianus Kogoya, confirmed a number of Alguru villagers had fled from their homes.
“All the (Liberation Army) soldiers scattered back into the forest with 50 heads of family from Alguru village without possessing or not carrying their possessions, in order to save themselves from the death threats of Indonesian military and police bombs,” Mr Kogoya said.
“The Indonesian military helicopters fired the bombs, four times with huge explosion through air strikes at Alguru village. As a result of this attack, the gardens and houses of the people in Alguru’s village are flattened with the ground”.
However, Indonesia’s military published a statement saying reports that security forces were conducting airstrikes or dropping bombs were a hoax.
It said military forces were working with police in “law enforcement activities” in Alguru which is considered a stronghold of the Liberation Army and the OPM Free West Papua Movement.
Indonesian authorities have described the Liberation Army as armed criminals rather than by their pro-independence moniker.
Meanwhile, Responding to the attacks, the largest organisation of Christian Churches in Indonesia called for the country’s human rights commission to open offices in Papua region.
The Communion of Churches (PGI) urged Indonesian authorities to stop repressive action and adopt a strategy of persuasion.
It said the National Commission on Human Rights should open an office in Papua, citing a government mandate under Papua’s special autonomy laws.
PGI spokesman Irma Riana Simanjuntak said Indonesia’s government should establish a fact-finding team to verify deaths in recent attacks and guarantee the public’s safety.
Human rights workers, journalists and medical workers should also be able to access Papua, Mr Simanjuntak said.
Indonesia officially ended restrictions on access to Papua in 2015 but human rights groups and journalists continue to face hurdles when trying to travel there.
Young people in Nduga are tired of violence triggered by politics, a West Papuan from the regency said.
Speaking from the Papua provincial capital Jayapura, Samuel Tabuni said he had been in contact with friends and family in Nduga.
Thousands of Nduga villagers had fled from the regency since the violence surged during last month’s elections, Mr Tabuni said.
The villagers were terrified by recent developments which echoed shootings and killings that took place in previous Indonesian military deployments to the remote region, he said.
The recent influx of Indonesian military had brought back memories from 1996 in particular, when Indonesian military commander Prabowo Subianto led special forces into the same area on a campaign to save hostages held by the Free Papua movement commander Kelly Kwalik.
“That’s why when a lot of troops… army and police coming in to Nduga, Kenyam, most of our people are afraid, you know, that the same thing is going to happen,” Mr Tabuni said.
“So we are deeply traumatised. That’s why when a lot of troops… army and police coming in to Nduga, Kenyam (the regency’s capital), most of our people are afraid, you know, that the same thing is going to happen. ”
Special Autonomy Status was granted to Papua by Jakarta in 2001 with the promise of developing its human potential but in Mr Tabuni’s view this had not transpired.
“Conflicts in Special Autonomy is more than in the past because of this politics,” he said.
“The regional politics as well as the politics in terms of campaigning (for) being head of regency and governors. So these two politics kill many Papuans, honestly, especially those that are young.”
West Papuan demonstrators tightly monitored by Indonesian police. Photo: Whens Tebay
Mr Tabuni said many young Papuans wanted dialogue between Indonesia’s government and those pursuing independence to find a peaceful solution.
“We don’t want to be invoved in all this politics and conflict and war. We have to have open dialogue to solve all the problems.”
Meanwhile, human rights activists urged the security forces to withdraw their join operation in Nduga, saying it was having a major impact on the lives of local villagers.
“We are ready and we want the world to know that we are not separatists as Indonesia calls us, we have our Executive, our Judiciary and our Legislative Arms in place.”
The Executive Committee of the United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP) makes the above statement also to the Government and people of Vanuatu that they are ready to officially operate from their West Papua International Headquarters in Port Vila.
Speaking from Grand Hotel yesterday, ULMWP London-based Chairman Benny Wenda says the last six months have been transitional. In his latest announcement, the Chairman confirms the opening of three new ULMWP Offices in West Papua to be followed by four more shortly also in West Papua.
“I wish to confirm that what is happening within West Papua now regarding the opening of our offices in our home country goes to confirm that ULMWP is both an international and national organisational structure for the eventual freedom of the people of West Papua.
“It goes to prove that the claim by Indonesia that ULMWP is only for exiles is false,” he says.
Asked if those who operate the new offices should be fearful of reprisals by the Indonesian Military, the Chairman replies, “Our offices are owned and operated by our own people. Last year, our offices in Wamena and Fak Fak were targeted and it remains to be seen with the new openings.”
He says the Executive Director of ULMWP on the ground in West Papua is Marcus Haluk. He will be responsible for the seven offices when they all operate in the seven regents of West Papua.
Asked if it is a risk, he replies, “What is happening in West Papua now is as a result of what are taking place in other parts of the world. Look at what is happening in Palestine. People are not afraid anymore.
“It has come to a stage where if I have to die, I die but the cause will never die.”
Asked to comment on reports of the killing of three West Papuans, shooting at civilians by the Indonesian military from a helicopter gunship, and burning of houses, the ULMWP Chairman emphasises the importance for the world to sit up to the hypocrisy where Indonesia has been appointed a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, while its military has increased its presence in Nduga by 1,000 soldiers and police since last month, to hunt down members of the West Papua Liberation Army. The Chairman says history is repeating itself in the same regent after the present candidate for the next President of Indonesian, General Wiranto, allegedly led a massive operation in the area involving scores of West Papuans killed in the 1980s. ULMWP says the tactic currently deployed by Indonesia in West Papua reflects a nervousness on its own part that at long last, it is losing its historical stranglehold on West Papua.
“They even want to blame OPM guerrillas for the killing of the three civilians which is truly absurd as they cannot kill their own people in pursuit of freedom,” Chairman Wenda says.
“The fact of the matter is that Indonesia has been appointed to become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council and we ULMWP, oppose a terrorist state to become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. Using a military gunship to shoot into villages, burning homes and chasing people into the bush defeats logic to allow Indonesia to sit as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.”
Leaked information from West Papua to Port Vila claims Indonesia is also nervous that a forty-kilo heavy booklet comprising 1,800,000 West Papuan signatures complete with individual IDs, which was presented to the UN General Assembly last year calling for freedom, will be debated by UN General Assembly in September this year.
“We are also relisting West Papua to the UN Decolonisation Committee and we hope that Vanuatu will also endorse our stand. This is why Indonesia has adopted a terror and trauma strategy with a shooting spree into any gathering of West Papuans in West Papua”, ULMWP alleged.
In conclusion the ULMWP Chairman is appealing to the people of West Papua to care for their organisation like “an egg” saying, it was hatched in Port Vila through the help of the Malvatumauri Council of Chiefs and people of Vanuatu.
For this reason it is vital for all independence factions and all affiliates to speak with one voice, sing the same song and walk the same talk for freedom which is coming soon.
“We have struggled and so many of us have died for the last 50 years for us to arrive where we are today. This unity must stand and stand strong. We have only one united organisation – ULMWP to take us to freedom,” says Wenda.
West Papua currently has a population of about 2.5 million people compared to Papua New Guinea’s 7 million. In 1970 PNG and West Papua were reported to be 50-50 in terms of population.
The United Liberation Movement for West Papua supports the idea of dialogue with Indonesia as long as it is mediated internationally, the movement’s secretary says.
Indonesia’s government of Joko Widodo has recently made overtures to West Papuan customary and civil society leaders for dialogue over a range of issues in Papua region.
Secretary Rex Rumakiek said the push for dialogue was not a bad thing.
“But dialogue internationally, not Indonesian type of dialogue that resulted in 1969’s Act of Free Choice. That’s the type of dialogue Indonesia wants. We are not going to go back to that approach,” Mr Rumakiek said.
“We want an international dialogue and the best place to dialogue is the United Nations general assembly. Let us vote on the issue.”
The movement hoped to have questions over the legitimacy of the self-determination act under which West Papua was incorporated into Indonesia debated by the UN General Assembly in the next year or two, Mr Rumakiek said.
Since being admitted to the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) in 2015 with observer status in the regional grouping, the movement has had more opportunities to engage with Indonesia, which enjoys associate member status in the MSG.
The dynamic between the two parties, however, is clearly strained, as Indonesia’s government has characterised the movement as a separatist group that does not represent Papuans.
The full MSG members – Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia’s Kanaks – have been working to facilitate dialogue between the movement and Indonesia
“We can talk direct to them with the MSG members as witnesses. That is what we call a third party” Mr Rumakiek explained.
“We cannot talk direct to Indonesia by ourselves, but with the MSG facilitating. We try to avoid other people speaking on our behalf. The MSG is trying to arrange for meetings (between the West Papuans and Indonesia’s government).”
Meanwhile, the Australia-based Mr Rumakiek said the movement was disturbed by the reports from Papua’s remote Nduga regency that Indonesian security forces and the West Papua National Liberation Army had exchanged gunfire in recent weeks.
Three people were killed in an attack on police at the local airport two weeks ago during regional elections. A faction of the Liberation Army – which is not directly linked to the United Liberation Movement for West Papua – claimed responsibility.
Following the attack, about a thousand extra police and military personnel deployed to Nduga as part of a joint operation.
They have been conducting an aerial campaign over the Alguru area in pursuit of the Liberation Army, with unconfirmed reports saying at least two Papuans have been shot dead and others injured in recent days.
The Indonesian aerial operations over Alguru echoed previous military operations in the area, which devastated the livelihoods of Papuan villagers, Mr Rumakiek said.
“They are applying the same strategy that they bomb villages and chasing the people who live in the bush, so the after effects are much more serious than the actual destruction itself,” he said.
“Those people, when they come back to their village there will be nothing left for them to return to because the schools and clinics are destroyed and the churches are destroyed.”
But in a statement, Indonesia’s military said reports that security forces were conducting airstrikes or dropping bombs in Nduga were a hoax.
Military forces were working with police in “law enforcement activities” in Alguru, it said.
PEOPLE of Ulawa Island, Makira/Ulawa province will today commence a three days celebration to commemorate the 140th anniversary of the arrival of the first missionary that brought Christianity to Ulawa.
The three days program will begin this Wednesday 18th July and concludes on the 20th July.
This historical occasion will mark the arrival of, Clement Marau, a Vanuatu missionary who first brought Christianity to Ulawa Island in 1878.
The three day event will include the historical story-telling of the events of 1878 and the celebration of the lives and work of the Anglican priests in Ulawa.
The 4th generation descendants of Clement Marau will also organise a ceremony in honour of their great grandfather.
History of Clement Marau
Born about 1855 on Merelava Island in the Banks Group of Vanuatu, Clement Marau was the youngest son of Qoqoe, a Ni-Vanuatu chief.
In 1869, Marau, like two of his brothers before him, went to the Melanesia Mission School on Norfolk Island and was baptised and confirmed in 1875.
He travelled to Ulawa with Walter Wa’aro from that island in 1877 to begin the first school, initially for only three months.
Marau returned to Ulawa in 1878 for another year. He battled very difficult conditions and after three years little progress had been made.
When he wanted to marry Susie, a local woman, her family requested an exorbitant £50 for the bride wealth payment.
He learned to carve shell inlayed bowls and sold them to raise the money, and they married later married Susie in 1883.
Marau became a deacon in 1890 and a priest in 1903, by which about four hundred Ulawans had been baptised.
He became very influential, and supervised the building of a beautiful church from sawn coral rock, which still stands and was considered the most substantial building in the Protectorate until the Catholics built their stone church at Visale on Guadalcanal in 1909.
Unfortunately, Marau was suspended for some years for faithlessness and returned to Merelava, but he was later restored to the Mission and returned to Ulawa.
In 1918, his son Martin Marau was put in charge of the Ulawa church, a position he held for twenty-four years.
Clement Marau lived quietly nearby at Su’u Taluhia until his death in 1920.
Vanuatu Daily Post – An exclusive peek into the mouth of Ambae’s volcano. This image, exclusive to the Daily Post, was taken last week when a team trekked up to the summit of mount Lombenben and flew a drone directly over the smoking crater.
The team reported that the landscape on the summit and its approaches had been completely transformed by month’s of ashfall. All roads to west Ambae are cut. Massive mud flows have utterly erased the roads in two locations, the team reported. The entire west side of the island is now accessible only by sea or by air.
The team trekked eight hours to the summit, through a landscape made desolate by the volcano. They report widespread damage and massive disruption to the local population.
They will be presenting their findings to the National Disaster Management Unit later today. The Daily Post will be following up with extensive coverage of the disaster.
Vanuatu could benefit from an e-government system that will connect everyone online and cost less.
The Ambassador of Estonia, Andres Unga, President’s Special Diplomatic Representative in Estonia’s campaign for UNSC 2020-2021, made a presentation on an e-Estonia system that is used in Estonia that connects everyone and everything is done online.
“Everything including government services are online in Estonia and why the government decided to connect everyone was because Estonia has more than 2,000 islands and it was important to connect everyone to save the cost of having to travel from one place to another,” he said.
“And we’re here to show this sample to Vanuatu as it also share same geographical features such as Estonia and connecting everything online is easier.”
Mr Unga stated that back in ‘90s the government saw the importance to connect all schools around the country because it was vital for their education sector and in 1996, the country launched its first e-banking system.
“Service delivery back then was difficult back then thus the government provided internet connection for all schools even all the villages in Estonia are connected to the internet and they access all services online,” he said.
“We’ve had innovations from e-banking to 2005 when we have the i-voting system that allows citizens to vote online on internet or mobile phones and Estonia is the only country in the world that allows its people to vote online.”
On the question of how secure the system was, Mr Unga reiterated that Estonia also has a Data Embassy which simply means that information of all Estonians online are also kept in a secure server in a foreign country.
“In the case where information in accidentally deleted there is a back up system in a foreign country that is why its called a Data Embassy, and Luxembourg is the first country hosting our first data embassy, the government is looking into signing agreement with other countries in the future as Data Embassy,” he said.
“This is a really a good system because every detailed information is online in Estonia, these details are public and anyone can see when they search for any information online- it’s best because the ownership of the information is given back to the citizens which means they can always see who is accessing their data online and take actions if the access made was relevant or irrelevant.”
Mr Unga conveyed that the e-system has cost less expenditure for the government and people of Estonia.
“The government has saved 2% of the GDP from the e-system and that percentage is used to run the country’s military,’’ he said.
“This is a sample of what this system can do for Vanuatu and the benefits it has in store.”
The presentation was made for Director Generals, Directors and media who were present at the Prime Minister’s Office Multi-purpose hall earlier this week.