West Papua Liberation Army refuses to surrender

The West Papua Liberation Army is refusing to bow to Indonesia’s ultimatum and surrender.

After the Army claimed responsibility for a massacre in Papua province earlier this month, Indonesian security forces deployed extra troops to pursue the pro-independence fighters.

The search continues for four Indonesian road construction workers missing in Papua’s Highlands region after at least 16 workers were killed by the army.

A spokesman for the Liberation Army, Sebby Sambom, presented a statement saying they would continue their war against the Indonesian state until independence is achieved.

He said Indonesia has taken over the Papua region like a thief, and that it would not be right for the homeowner to surrender to thieves.

On a video posted to youtube, Mr Sambom read an open letter to Indonesian President Joko Widodo demanding that he allow a referendum for Papuans to decide whether they want to be integrated with Indonesia.

The Army has also called for unrestricted access to Papua for foreign journalists, as well as for the UN refugee agency and the international Red Cross to help take care of civilians caught up in the conflict.

Indonesia’s Political, Legal and Security Minister Wiranto has told media that the government will not enter any discussions with the Army, who Jakarta describes as a criminal group.

He said the Army had committed inhumane crimes, and that Indonesia’s government would take appropriate actions to ensure its citizens were protected.

Earlier this week, Indonesia’s military said the Liberation Army had an ultimatum to immediately surrender or be finished.

Source: RadioNZ

Indonesia not resolving grievances in Papua – UN

The bodies of 16 people were retrieved from the Highlands region last week, after a group of Indonesian construction workers were massacred.

The West Papua Liberation Army, which has claimed responsibility for the killings, has claimed the workers were Indonesian military in disguise.

Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said the violence was unacceptable.

But she said the root causes of the simmering conflict in Papua were not understood or addressed by Jakarta.

“There are many grievances, and we’ve seen this in many parts of the world, where grievances are unaddressed, or there is a suppression of descent, and then people take the law into their own hands because they feel they are not being heard,” she said.

Ravina Shamdasani
Ravina Shamdasani Photo: OHCHR

“This is actually happening at a very low level in Papua at the moment.”

Although massive construction projects in Papua funded by Indonesia were improving well being in the region, they were not necessarily involving Papuans in consultations, she said.

“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.”

Ms Shamdasani also said the OHCHR was concerned about the large number of arrests in Indonesia during peaceful demonstrations held to commemorate West Papuan National Day on December the 1st.

More than 500 arrests took place, including hundreds detained in searches of student dormitories, as security forces prevented demonstrators from conducting peaceful rallies. All of those detained have since been released without charge.

In the city of Surabaya in East Java, where the largest demonstrations took place, security forces were reported to have used excessive force during a demonstration.

Ms Shamdasani called on Indonesian authorities to ensure that security forces exercise restraint when policing demonstrations, and that the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression are respected.

Source: RNZ

Indonesia not resolving grievances in Papua – UN

Recent violence in Papua is the result of grievances in the region that Indonesia is failing to address, the UN human rights office says.

The bodies of 16 people were retrieved from the Highlands region last week, after a group of Indonesian construction workers were massacred.

The West Papua Liberation Army, which has claimed responsibility for the killings, has claimed the workers were Indonesian military in disguise.

Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said the violence was unacceptable.

But she said the root causes of the simmering conflict in Papua were not understood or addressed by Jakarta.

“There are many grievances, and we’ve seen this in many parts of the world, where grievances are unaddressed, or there is a suppression of descent, and then people take the law into their own hands because they feel they are not being heard,” she said.

Ravina Shamdasani

Ravina Shamdasani Photo: OHCHR

“This is actually happening at a very low level in Papua at the moment.”

Although massive construction projects in Papua funded by Indonesia were improving well being in the region, they were not necessarily involving Papuans in consultations, she said.

“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.”

Ms Shamdasani also said the OHCHR was concerned about the large number of arrests in Indonesia during peaceful demonstrations held to commemorate West Papuan National Day on December the 1st.

More than 500 arrests took place, including hundreds detained in searches of student dormitories, as security forces prevented demonstrators from conducting peaceful rallies. All of those detained have since been released without charge.

In the city of Surabaya in East Java, where the largest demonstrations took place, security forces were reported to have used excessive force during a demonstration.

Ms Shamdasani called on Indonesian authorities to ensure that security forces exercise restraint when policing demonstrations, and that the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression are respected.

Source: RadioNZ

Human Rights Watch calls for end to killings in Papua

Human Rights Watch is calling on Papuan militants to stop unlawful killings, after a massacre of Indonesians took place in the Highlands region.

The West Papua Liberation Army has claimed resposibility for the murders of at least 16 construction workers and a soldier this month.

The West Papua Liberation Army has claimed resposibility for the murders of at least 16 construction workers and a soldier this month.

The Liberation Army said the workers were Indonesian military in disguise.

Military and police have deployed a joint operation in Nduga regency, calling for the fighters to surrender.

Human Rights Watch’s Australia director Elaine Pearson said the attack raised grave concerns and must be investigated.

But security forces should be transparent and not commit abuses in retaliation, Ms Pearson said.

Journalists should also be allowed to operate independently in the area, she said.

“The situation in Nduga is muddled in large part because no journalists can independently go into the area to interview witnesses and verify what happened,” Ms Pearson said.


“Having independent monitors on the ground will help deter abuses by both the militants and security forces, which would benefit all Papuans.”

Source: RadioNZ

TNI gives Papua Liberation Army ultimatum to surrender

The Liberation Army claimed responsibility for killing up to 31 Indonesians, mainly road construction workers, this month in the Highlands of Papua province.

TNI and police have retrieved 16 bodies from Nduga regency, having deployed a major joint operation there in response to the massacre.

A TNI spokesperson Mohammed Aidi said that the Liberation Army should immediately surrender or be finished.

Colonel Aidi has denied media reports that the military is using aerial bombing against Papuan communities in the Liberation Army’s stronghold area.

He said at present the joint forces have captured and occupied Nduga’s Yigi and Mbua districts, and that villagers who fled from fighting to the bush are starting to return.

The TNI’s response to the massacre has reportedly caused four fatalities among civilians, according to local media.

However, Colonel Aidi said that given the area where casualties were reported, it was unlikely they were pure civilians but rather those linked to the perpetrators of the massacre.

Colonel Aidi disputed claims by a Liberation Army spokesman that the TNI has breached an agreed combat zone in this escalating conflict.

Colonel Aidi disputed claims by a Liberation Army spokesman that the TNI has breached an agreed combat zone in this escalating conflict.

Referring to the Liberation Army as an armed criminal group, he said its style is guerilla fighting which knows no limits, accusing it of cowardice.

The TNI has also urged Papua’s provincial and district governments to not be silent about the conflict.

Colonel Aidi said it was the duty of such office holders to honour their commitment to the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia based on Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution.

Source: RadioNZ

NZ govt says it wants info on reports of Papua chemical attack

New Zealand’s government says it’s seeking information on reports the Indonesian military dropped chemical weapons in Highlands villages.

Australia’s Saturday Paper reported over the weekend on the suspected use of white phosphorus weapons, which are banned under international law, in Nduga regency.

Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry said the story is “totally baseless” and that Indonesia possesses no chemical weapons.

In a statement on Twitter, it said it will take “necessary measures” against the newspaper.

A spokesperson for New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said they were aware of the report and are following up.

“MFAT, through our Embassy in Jakarta, continues to seek information on the unverified reports of incendiary weapons use in Papua.”

Source: RadioNZ

31 people have been killed in West Papua. Why?

The construction workers were shot dead by separatist rebels in Indonesia’s Papua province, marking the region’s deadliest bout of violence in years.

What happened?

Every December 1, West Papuan separatists pay homage to what they call their ‘independence day’.

Many Papuans consider this date the anniversary of their independence from the Dutch —  the commemoration of which has been banned by Indonesia which controls West Papua as a semi-autonomous territory. 

The Papuans raise the Morning Star flag, their symbol of independence, which has also been banned by Indonesia. 

However, this year’s banned independence parade was photographed by construction workers from an Indonesian state-owned contractor. Witnesses said the action by the workers angered the separatists.

Gunmen —  allegedly rebels —  stormed the government construction site in response a day later, killing 31 construction workers and a soldier.

The rebels have led a decades-long insurgency against Jakarta’s rule. 

These events come as more than 500 Papuan activists were arrested in a nationwide police crackdown that coincided with rallies on December 1.

Efforts to retrieve more bodies from the weekend attack on a Papua construction site were halted after soldiers clashed with fighters from the separatist Free Papua Movement (OPM). December 6, 2018.

Efforts to retrieve more bodies from the weekend attack on a Papua construction site were halted after soldiers clashed with fighters from the separatist Free Papua Movement (OPM). December 6, 2018. (Reuters)

How did this start? 

It began, as many conflicts do, with colonisation. 

West Papua was under Dutch control until 1961 when it temporarily ceded the island to Indonesia. 

Under a US-brokered agreement between Indonesia and the Netherlands in 1963, the region would be under Indonesian administration until a plebiscite was held under which West Papuans could carry out their own process of self-determination. 

From 1963 onwards, life under Indonesian rule was brutal for some. 

“Indonesian administration consisted of imprisonment, torture, killing and the theft of everything on which officials and soldiers could lay hands,” George Monbiot wrote for The Guardian.

“As the US embassy noted, around 95 percent of the people of West Papua supported independence. To encourage them to change their minds they were bombed, shelled and strafed, bayoneted and beaten to death,” he said.

The plebiscite called the Act of Free Choice was eventually held in 1969 but was widely seen as anything but free. 

According to Human Rights Watch: “Some 1,022 Papuan representatives, reportedly hand-picked by Jakarta, were convened under Indonesian military supervision, and asked to choose whether or not they wanted integration with Indonesia.

“The result was unanimously in favor of integration.”

Reports say Indonesian forces bribed these hand-picked representatives and then threatened to kill them and their families if they voted contrary to Indonesia’s interests. 

Most West Papuans were not happy with this —  they call it The Act of No choice instead. 

The results of the independence vote remain contested today however, the international community recognises West Papua as part of Indonesian territory, a province. The region was granted special autonomy by Indonesia in 2001, but West Papuans are still displeased with the status quo.

Indonesia, is accused of taking the results and running with them. The use of the Morning Star flag —  a flag that was created when awaiting independence from the Dutch —  was banned, along with any attempt to commemorate West Papua’s independence, placing punitive measures for these acts under the umbrella of treason. 

There is a heavy security presence in the region that acts to stamp out protest. 


For years, a low-level insurgency has plagued mineral-rich West Papua, which is ethnically and culturally distinct from much of Indonesia. May 1, 2008. (AP)

How has this impacted West Papuans?

The conflict in Indonesia is the country’s deadliest; violence in the province occurs on a frequent basis, according to the International Crisis Group. It is estimated that over the last fifty years, 500,000 West Papuans have died at the hands of Indonesian forces. 

West Papuans are now subject to high-level surveillance and intimidation at the hands of Indonesian forces while many languish in prison where they are subject to torture. 

An independence movement and low-level insurgency have been simmering ever since the disputed 1969 vote and efforts to quash them by Indonesian forces have only strengthened opposition. West Papuans see it as the colonisation of their lands and Indonesia’s various development projects as a way to exert more control over the region.

“A common sequence of events in Indonesia is a fight or traffic accident, mob anger against the person responsible, and inappropriate responses from badly-trained police or soldiers. In other parts of Indonesia, this can lead to attacks on police stations or military posts,” said the International Crisis Group. 

“In Papua, it reinforces the image of the military and police (and many Papuans do not distinguish between the two) as oppressors and contributes to support for the independence movement.” 

However, most West Papuans campaign through peaceful means. They press for independence on social media and at mass rallies —  mainly through the umbrella group Free Papua Movement. 

West Papua's morning star flag has been used as a separatist group symbol. April 22, 2016.

West Papua’s morning star flag has been used as a separatist group symbol. April 22, 2016. (AP)

What does Indonesia say? 

Indonesia argues that the region is part of its territorial integrity but West Papua is home to natural resources that bring money to the Southeast Asian archipelago. 

The Freeport McMoran gold and copper mine in the region is one of the country’s largest taxpayers

In fact, some of the violence has been centred on protests against the Freeport McMoRan mine —  a frequent flashpoint in the local struggle for independence and a bigger share of the region’s rich resources.

Many in the national government also see the situation in West Papua as an affront to their territorial integrity.

Indonesia’s government, for decades, has a policy of sending Javanese and other Indonesians to settle in Papua,

In the past few years, President Joko Widodo has amped up development projects centred around better infrastructure and connectivity with the aim of reducing isolation in the region. 

As these infrastructure projects continue to develop they also increase dependency on the Indonesian government —  something West Papuans may not necessarily want.

“We don’t need road construction from Indonesia. When we become independent we can make our own roads that are as good as the ones in developed countries,” Free Papua Movement spokesman Sebby Sambon told Reuters.

Widodo also visits West Papua a few times a year, but as one activist put it, this approach by Jakarta is akin to “chasing away the smoke but not trying to put out the fire”

.Source: TRT W


Sixteen bodies recovered in aftermath of Papua massacre

Eyewitness accounts and the Liberation Army said at least 24 Indonesian construction workers were killed on Sunday by the separatist group.

One Indonesian soldier was also killed in a shootout later that day.

AFP reported a local military commander, Binsar Panjaitan, saying the unidentified bodies would be removed from Nduga regency.

Another 15 people were evacuated from the area, including seven workers who survived.

Source: RadioNZ

Benny Wenda says West Papua Liberation Army not criminals

The United Liberation Movement for West Papua says a separatist group which killed dozens of people earlier this week is not criminal.

The bodies of 16 people have been recovered from the Papua highlands, where a massacre of at least 24 Indonesian construction workers is believed to have taken place on Sunday.

The bodies of 16 people have been recovered from the Papua highlands, where a massacre of at least 24 Indonesian construction workers is believed to have taken place on Sunday.

The Papua Liberation Army took responsibility for the killings on Wednesday, claiming the workers were Indonesian military in disguise.

Benny Wenda, the chairman of the United Liberation Movement, said the Liberation Army doesn’t kill civilians like the Indonesian military does.

He said West Papuans have lived alongside thousands of Indonesian migrants for more than five decades without conflict.

Mr Wenda said he was concerned by reports of the killings but claimed they were unverified and no one should be blamed yet.

Source: RadioNZ

West Papua Liberation Army challenges Indonesian military

The West Papua Liberation Army says it will meet Indonesian military and police on the battlefield.

The separatist group on Tuesday claimed responsiblity for the killings of at least 24 Indonesian construction workers in Papua.

In a statement on Wednesday, Liberation Army regional commander, Egianus Kogoya, reiterated claims the workers were soldiers disguised as civilians.

He said military and police should engage the group in a “gentlemanly” manner and not attack Papuan civilians.

Source: RadioNZ