INDONESIA and Papua New Guinea are not fully independent if they do not address allegations of human rights abuses against Melanesians in Papua and West Papua province, National Capital District Governor Powes Parkop says.
“These two countries need to tell the truth of how West Papuans are now under the Indonesians government,” he said.
“Indonesia is not free unless West Papuans are free. And PNG is not free unless we are brave enough to tell the Indonesians that they must give independence to the West Papuans”.
Parkop said that yesterday during a protest march against allegations of humans rights abuse of Melanesians in Papua and West Papua Province
“It is time both countries speak the truth and not approach each other with false impression that the West Papuans are Indonesians. Papua New Guineans must know the truth that the West Papuans and Papua New Guineans are one people living on the island of New Guinea for thousands of years before the European colonisers came. In the 1800s, the Dutch colonised the West Papuans and the Indonesian islands like Java, Sulawesi and Sumatra while the British colonised PNG and later gave us to Australians and we became independent in 1975.”
Indonesians were advised to keep away from the marching routes. Police monitored the march organised by PNG Union for Free West Papua, PNG Council of Churches and Parkop and it was trouble free. Northern Governor Gary Juffa, addressing the protesters at Sir John Guise Stadium, said that Papua New Guineans should celebrate the 44th independence anniversary with guilt because “our fellow Melanesians brothers and sisters in Papua and West Papua were being suppressed by the Indonesian government.
“They are suffering and the world is watching and doing nothing. The world is not busy. So we the Melanesians must not keep quiet. We have to rise up and let the world know about their sufferings.
“The Western world like the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Britain and France will not go against Indonesia because they have multibillion dollar project investments like the giant Freeport copper mining in Papua province.
Prime Minster James Marape said the Government would not stop Papua New Guineans from participating in any legal protest marches as long as there was no disturbance of peace.
“We have our own security issues that deal with sovereignty and maintaining united approach and I don’t have the luxury to make public utterance at this moment,” hesaid.
“Our people have every right to lawfully conduct in public gatherings like this that’s not sanctioned by the government. “They have every right to make whatever concerns they feel not only in West Papua but any issue in the country.”
Marape said he was aware of certain MPs participating which he said was their freedom.
“We may share individual concerns but our public outlook as we speak today is that our first and foremost priority goes to our own internal borders we have.”
Thank you to the PNG Council of Churches for coming out to support this noble course. The right to self determination is not just a universal declaration provide in Article 1 of the United Nation Charter, it’s also a right promulgated by God when he got Moses to tell Pharaoh – Let my people go!
Thank you Governor Gary Juffa for your continuous support for our people of West Papua. You have never withered and I salute you. You are a champion of our people.
I thank Prime Minister Hon. James Marape for the brave stand he has made. We are a manifestation of that stand that we won’t stand by and allow our people to be killed and oppressed.
I am proud and salute you all our people. For 57 years they have been fighting on their own. For 57 years they have been alone because we allowed fear to dictate our decisions and action. Today we made and are making a big statement- that our people are not alone. That we are all Papuans, East and West Papuans
In these 57 years Governments of PNG, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Solomons, Fiji, Europe and the America’s have failed our people because we have left it to our Governments! Today we the people must stand up and speak about what is in our hearts and mind and not leave to just Governments to decide.
I salute you all our people, we are here to stand in solidarity with our people of West Papua and to assure them that they are not alone. That we hear their cries and feel their pain. That we will amplify their cries to the Government and people of the world so that the world can shift and help them to realize their aspirations.
People have asked me many times, Governor how will you be able to take on this mighty challenge and help our people realize their freedom. Today I say only the truth will set our people free and I am here to speak the truth without fear! This is what will see our people free!
THE INDISPUTABLE PERTINENT FACTS
Indonesia or what it is now, had a Hindu Buddhist Empire around 375 AD to the 13 century. The fact is West Papua was never part of such empire.
In the 13 Century, there were a number of Muslim sultanate or empires in the area including Majapahit, Malacca and Tidore. Again the fact is, West Papua was NEVER part of these sultanates or empire.
Portugal and Netherlands started colonizing Indonesia around the 16 Century. Initially Netherlands started with the Dutch East Indies Company and then the Government of Holland took over what was then called the Dutch East Indies. West Papua was never part of that colony!
West Papua only become a colony of Holland or Netherlands in the 1800s like PNG, towards the end of 1800s towards 19th Century. A difference of over 250 years. So Indonesia and West Papua do not have the same colonial history!
To say or use the colonial history as basis for incorporating West Papua into the Indonesian Republic is to suggest that Kenya and Zimbabwe should be one country or Laos and Vietnam should be one country or Argentina and Chile should be one country. This is a ridiculous and very weak basis for justifying incorporation or take over of West Papua by Indonesia.
SELF DETERMINATION HISTORY
During the Second World War Indonesian Independence Leaders collaborated with the Japanese and when the war was over they fought a war of independence against Holland/Netherlands and gained independence in 1947.
West Papua never fought a war against Holland and was never part of the war of liberation against Holland. It was never part of the Declaration of Independence by Indonesia in 1947.
West Papuans were collaborating with Holland and preparing for Independence when they were invaded in 1962. It already had a coat of arms, flag, National anthem, military and police. It already had its own Parliament by the time Indonesia invaded in 1962. West Papua was by fraud incorporated into Indonesia in 1969 some 20 years after Indonesia had already declared Independence.
We all know the fraud that happened in 1969. The requirement of the law is very clear – ONE PERSON, ONE VOTE. That was the law in 1969 and it remains the law now! That’s the law we will apply next month in Bougainville’s Referendum. That’s the law United Nations applied in East Timor in 1999.
The West Papuan’s preparation to independence is not unusual. We in PNG were being prepared for and got independence the same way. In 1964 we elected the first house of Assembly. Some Members were appointed by the colonial Government. In 1968 we had the first fully elected House of Assembly. That is when Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare and Sir Julius Chan were voted into Parliament and the rest is history.
I saw my parents vote in 1968. I was about 7 years old and in Standard 1 in Primary School. They voted for independence because they voted for the late Sir Paliau Maloat who stood for Independence and nothing else. I know this because in my village, the vote was unanimous in favour of Sir Paliau.
INDONESIA GOT IT WRONG FROM THE START
By assembling only 1025 people to vote in 1969, Indonesia was not only breaching the law, it was also insulting the people of West Papua and had no confidence in them from the beginning. This is the general attitude of the Indonesian Government and it’s people then and today. They believed West Papuans can’t think for themselves, and that they don’t have same or better mental capacities. That they were incapable of deciding their future in 1969. And they cannot run their own country and decide their own future today. It’s not unusual they are calling West Papuans as monkeys today. It’s always been Indonesian attitude from 1961 till today!
FINAL GLARING FACT
In 1969 when Indonesia conducted its fake vote, the population of West Papua was about 1million. Today, some 57 years later, the West Papuan population is just about 2 million. In the same period the population of PNG has gone from 1.5million in 1969 to almost 10 million now! This shows that West Papuans have been systematically by design, neglected, killed and oppressed. This in itself says a lot about the incorporation. It has failed!
INDONESIA WILL BE FREE WHEN WEST PAPUA IS FREE
Indonesia must come to terms with these facts and begin the process of self determination. Indonesia will be free of guilt, shame and free of discrimination and state violence when it frees West Papua. Our regions will, and can live in peace and harmony when we solve and cure this sore in our relationship.
We are capable of living peacefully and harmoniously with our neighbor Indonesia. We do not hate Indonesia and the Indonesian people but we will never be good neighbors and have a prosperous future when you continue to suppress our people and treat them as animals.
Stand up for peace and dignity Indonesia. Show the world that you can overcome your demons and mistakes, and help us to have a greater future. Show us that you are a great nation and champion of Self determination! Show us that you are a law abiding nation, by allowing the Papuans to determine their own future in accordance with the law.
LETS ALL BE BRAVE FOR PEACE AND A GREATER FUTURE
Fear of the future will only limit us to remaining in a poor past. Let us all rise above our fear and insecurity, to be brave and forge a greater future that is peaceful and prosperous. Indonesia overcome your fears and insecurities. A great future awaits you if you choose to be brave and resolve this crisis honorably, by allowing the Papuans their rights.
To the Governments of the region and the world, fear has not solved any crisis and will never solve this crisis. It is only through being brave and fearless that we can solve this problem, by telling the Indonesian Government honestly and sincerely what we know and feel. Otherwise we will continue to live in fear and insecurity forever and we all will miss the opportunity for a greater future together.
Let us just tell the truth and the truth will set our people of West Papua, Indonesia and our region free!
Video footage being shared on social media showing protest by hundreds in #PNG capital Port Moresby today with protesters condemning #Indonesia and calling for indigenous #Westpapua to be given freedom. Looking at the footage, I must say I am impressed with the numbers.
It’s estimated that over two thousand people took part in today’s rally in Moresby.
At least 10 people have been killed and dozens arrested amid an Indonesian secyurity forces crackdown in the two Papuan provinces.
The PNG prime minister James Marape has condemned the violence, saying “no human beings deserve to be killed, especially on their own land,” in a televised press conference.
Mr Marape has reiterated PNG government support for Indonesian sovereignty in West Papua.
But his government supports calls for the office of the UN Human Rights Commissioner to have access to the remote territory, which Indonesia applies tight restrictions on.
“We could not catch three aggressive snakes because they were moving towards the gutter in the dormitory, while the snake in the plastic bag [we] managed to catch it because the snake had not come out of the bag,” Giyai said.
Videos sent to the Guardian, purporting to be of the incident, show a large python curled inside an open sack.
Giyai,an organiser for the Papuan Student Alliance Central Committee, said the motorcyclists fled as students hurried out of their rooms. He said a group of people they suspected to be Indonesian authorities were watching the building through binoculars, and were “running around”.
An East Java police spokesperson, Frans Barung Mangera, told the Guardian the police were investigating the incident to determine who was “deliberately spreading terror” and confirmed the dormitory was being guarded by police.
It was not clear if police were guarding the building when the motorcyclists came by.
Students have told the Guardian they feel the police presence is a form of intimidation.
News of the dawn intimidation comes days after reports emerged that an Indonesian student activist, Surya Anta, was being detained in an isolated cell at the Mako Brimob detention centre where nationalist songs, including the national anthem, were played throughout the day.
The pro-Papuan activist was arrested with seven Papuan students for allegedly raising the Morning Star flag, a symbol of Papuan independence, at a protest in front of the state palace in Jakarta. Police say they are now facing charges of treason.
n recent days activists have also claimed that security forces in the Papuan capital of Jayapura have conducted nightly raids on student dormitories, leaving students frightened and traumatised, while other Papuan students have complained of being subject to heavy surveillance and intimidation by authorities.
At least six people are believed to have been killed and dozens arrested in clashes between protesters and police in Papuan towns in recent weeks.
A number of students were reportedly shot by militia groups, and footage of soldiers firing on protesters emerged last month.
Footage of protests seen by the Guardian also appeared to show pro-Indonesian militia marching, carrying Indonesian flags and weapons. Indonesian military personnel are seen in some clips, walking among the militia.
The chief of the East Java regional police Insp Gen Luki Hermawan, told Antara news police had visited her family’s house, and were working with state intelligence, government ministries and the immigration department.
Allow Access to UN, Foreign Journalists, Rights Monitors
(Sydney) – Indonesian authorities should impartially investigate the deaths of at least 10 Papuans during recent unrest in the easternmost provinces of Papua and West Papua, Human Rights Watch said today. Restrictions on access to Papua for foreign journalists and rights monitors and a partial internet shutdown have hindered reporting on the situation.
The Indonesian government should immediately allow unfettered access to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to travel to Papua to investigate the situation.
After video circulated of Indonesian militias racially abusing indigenous Papuan students outside their dormitory in Surabaya on August 17, 2019, Papuans demonstrated in at least 30 cities across Indonesia, including Jakarta. Rioting Papuans burned down the local parliament building in Manokwari and prisons in Sorong, West Papua province, and in Jayapura, Papua province.
“Indonesian police have a duty to avoid the use of force in response to Papuans who take their grievances to the streets,” said Elaine Pearson. “Any wrongful use of force needs to be investigated and those responsible held to account.”
The media have reported that Indonesian authorities have detained at least seven people in connection with raising the pro-Papuan independence Morning Star flag in Jakarta and Manokwari. Another 60 have been reportedly detained for allegedly damaging property during unrest in Papua. Those held for the peaceful expression of their political views should be released and any charges dropped, Human Rights Watch said. The rest of those detained should be promptly brought before a judge, charged with a recognizable offense, and have access to lawyers and family members.
Human Rights Watch urged prompt and impartial investigations into the following alleged incidents:
In Deiyai on August 28, video footage shows uniformed police shooting live ammunition into a crowd of Papuan protesters inside the Deiyai Regency office. The Secretariat of Peace and Justice, a Catholic human rights organization located in Paniai, Papua, reported that eight Papuans and one Indonesian soldier were killed and 39 Papuans were injured. The Deiyai regent, Ateng Edowai, said that “people in civilian clothes” were responsible for the shooting. No independent or foreign journalists have access to Deiyai to investigate the incident.
A video taken in Fakfak, West Papua on August 20, shows a Papuan man who had been disemboweled and others were reportedly wounded.
On August 22, the Indonesian government shut down the internet in Papua and West Papua. On September 4, internet services were partially restored. Several places including Deiyai are still partially blocked, meaning it is not possible to share videos or photographs.
Local media reported that Indonesian militias in Jayapura attacked Papuans who had occupied the Papuan governor’s office and replaced the Indonesian flag with the Morning Star. The militia Paguyuban Nusantara(“Archipelago Community”) is a new alliance formed from several Indonesian ethnic groups, mostly from Java Island, who had settled in Papua and West Papua since the late 1970s under the government-sponsored transmigration program.
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has condemned racist statements against Papuans and authorities have suspended four army officers for their racist remarks in Surabaya pending investigations. Authorities have charged one militia leader in Surabaya for spreading hate speech.
Since the demonstrations began, the government has granted limited access to several foreign journalists to visit specific Papuan cities, but they have been monitored and unable to travel beyond the cities where they were given entry permits. The Indonesian government has restricted access to foreign journalists since the 1960s because of suspicion of the motives of foreign nationals in a region racked by corruption, environmental degradation, public dissatisfaction with Jakarta, and a small pro-independence insurgency.
On August 31, police arrested six activists, including five Papuan students in Jakarta and Surya Anta Ginting, the coordinator of the Front Rakyat Indonesia on West Papua, a solidarity group among Indonesian activists. They were charged with treason for flying the Morning Star flag outside the State Palace.
On September 4, Surabaya police issued an arrest warrant for Veronica Koman, an Indonesian human rights lawyer with “spreading fake news and provoking unrest.” Koman has shared videos on her Twitter account of the recent unrest.
On September 4, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, expressed concern about the violence in Papua and urged the Indonesian government “to engage in dialogue with the people of Papua and West Papua on their aspirations and concerns.” Despite President Jokowi’s invitation to the UN human rights chief to visit Papua in February 2018, government officials have continued to delay the visit.
Concerned governments should call on the Indonesian government to:
Promptly and impartially investigate unrest-related deaths and injuries and appropriately prosecute those responsible for wrongdoing.
Immediately restore full access to the internet, which is vital for emergency communications and basic information in times of crisis.
Lift restrictions on access for foreign journalists and rights monitors in line with previous statements by the Indonesian president.
Allow the UN human rights office immediate unfettered access to Papua.
Drop charges and release all those detained for peaceful acts of free expression including Sayang Mandabayan. Drop the case against Veronica Koman.
Police should cease using unnecessary or excessive force against the protesters, Human Rights Watch said. While some protester action may warrant police use of force, the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials provide that all security forces shall, as far as possible, apply nonviolent means before resorting to force. Whenever the lawful use of force is unavoidable, the authorities must use restraint and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offense. Law enforcement officials should not use firearms against people except in self-defense or defense of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury.
A rally supporting the Papuan protesters has been held in Sydney’s Indonesian heartland.
Rallies are being held across Australia on Saturday in solidarity with the mass protests underway in Papua.
Indonesia’s eastern Papua provinces have been marred by weeks of protests, sparked by anger over racism and fresh calls for self-rule, countered by a military crackdown.
Under the tagline of “Papua merdeka“, or “independent Papua”, rallies are being held in most Australian capital cities throughout Saturday.
A rally was held in Sydney’s Kingsford on Saturday morning.Supplied
Dozens of people gathered in Sydney’s Indonesian heartland of Kingsford to condemn a recent spike in “violence and discrimination” against Papuans in Indonesia and call for self-determination.
The group also slammed the media and internet blackouts imposed by the Indonesian government on the area.
The rally in Sydney on Saturday.Supplied
Bridget Harilaou, an activist from the Anti-Colonial Asian Alliance, voiced concern about the “ongoing occupation” of the provinces by Indonesia.
“The Indonesian government refuses to allow a referendum for independence, [it] continues to have transmigration programs moving other Indonesians into the area and there’s a constant military and police presence,” they said.
A few dozen people gathered in Sydney’s Kingsford on Saturday.Supplied
The activist is Indonesian-Australian and said, “most of the organisers for this action are Indonesian diaspora”.
“We thought it was really important to show there are Indonesians who support independence and freedom for West Papua and who condemn the violence from the Indonesian government.”
“We’re trying to make a statement to the Indonesian community here … as well as the Australian government.”
Australians have rallied in support of the Papuan protesters.Supplied
The protests come as advocacy groups around the world ratchet up pressure on Indonesia.
On Saturday, Human Rights Watch said Indonesia must “impartially investigate” the deaths of Papuans killed during the recent unrest.
Officially, five civilians and a soldier have been killed in the chaos, but activists say the death toll is higher.READ MORE
Australia director at Human Rights Watch Elaine Pearson said, “Indonesian police have a duty to avoid the use of force in response to Papuans who take their grievances to the streets”.
“Any wrongful use of force needs to be investigated and those responsible held to account,” she said in a statement.
“Governments concerned about the unrest and violence in Papua should press the Indonesian government to take prompt action to end the bloodshed, protect the rights of all, and allow full and open reporting of the situation.”
A protester march turns violent in Jayapura, Papua.AAP
On Friday, the exiled leader of Papua’s independence movement again called for “a free and democratic referendum” backed by the UN.
“We need the UN to intervene,” Benny Wenda, chairman of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, told AFP from Britain.READ MORE
“What’s happening right now is worrying. It’s the next East Timor,” Mr Wenda, a former rebel granted asylum in Britain after a 2002 escape from jail in Indonesia where he faced murder and arson charges linked to an attack on a police post, said.
“We don’t want to see a massacre and then the world reacts … We won’t win a war with the Indonesian military.”
“Our weapon is a peaceful one – a referendum.”
Papuan activists shout slogans during a rally in Jakarta, Indonesia, 22 August 2019.EPA
A low-level separatist insurgency has simmered for decades in Papua, a former Dutch colony after Jakarta took over the mineral-rich region in the 1960s. A vote to stay within the archipelago was widely viewed as rigged.
This week, Indonesia repeated its position that a new independence vote was a non-starter, and pointed its finger at Mr Wenda for stoking unrest.
A firestorm of riots and protests broke across the Southeast Asian archipelago nation after the arrest last month of dozens of Papuan students – who were also pelted with racial abuse – in Indonesia’s second-biggest city Surabaya.
Human Rights Watch is demanding Indonesia urgently investigate the deaths of Papuans killed during protests across the country.
At least 10 people have been killed in the worst unrest to hit Papua in years, as thousands have taken part in anti-racism rallies.
Human Rights Watch’s Australia Director, Elaine Pearson, says the deaths need to be investigated, including a bloody clash in Deiyai regency.
Indonesian police said at least five people and a soldier were killed in Deiyai when security forces were attacked during a riot on August 28.
A former Deiyai resident, John Pakage, said he and hundreds of others have fled the regency.
“The situation in Deiyai until now [is] tense. And then many military Indonesians come to West Papua, also Deiyai and many violence.”
John Pakage said eight civilians were killed in Deiyai when soldiers opened fire on what he says was a peaceful demonstration. The claims are consistent with how the incident has been described by rights groups and activists.
A government-imposed internet blackout across Papua which has only been gradually lifted has made verifying information difficult.
A police spokesperson, Ahmad Mustofa Kamal, was quoted by local media as saying 14 people have been named suspects in connection with the Deiyai riot for crimes including unlawfully possessing firearms, opposing authorities and incitement.
News outlet Suara Papua reported on Thursday the West Papuan suspects are still undergoing treatment at a local hospital after they were injured in the clash.
The UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet says her office has so far been unable to secure a trip to Indonesia’s West Papua.
In January, Indonesia agreed in principle to allow a visit by the rights chief, but this has not yet eventuated, despite international backing for it.
Amid violent unrest which has rocked Papua since mid-August, Ms Bachelet last week urged Jakarta to enter a dialogue with Papuans.
Her statement on Wednesday didn’t directly address a visit by her office to the region.
But in previously unreported comments made after a public talk in Geneva, Ms Bachelet said it hadn’t moved forward.
“We have been working with the authorities, but we haven’t been able to progress it. But we will continue to talk to them because they promised to my predecessor the visit to West Papua but afterward we try to make it work and it hasn’t worked yet but I hope it will work.”
“The [Indonesian government] have told me that they’re looking forward to it,” she added.
West Papuans involved in deadly clash named
Meanwhile, Indonesian police have reportedly named more than a dozen West Papuans as suspects in a deadly clash in the central highlands.
Authorities said at least five people and a soldier were killed when security forces were attacked during a riot in Deiyai regency on 28 August.
But rights groups, activists and witnesses said eight civilians were shot dead by soldiers during a peaceful demonstration.
A police spokesperson, Ahmad Mustofa Kamal, said 14 people have been named suspects in connection with the riot in Deiyai.
He told local media the people are suspected of unlawfully possessing firearms, opposing authorities and incitement.
News outlet Suara Papua reported the Papuan suspects are still undergoing treatment at a local hospital after they were injured in the clash.
Unrest is nothing new in the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua, just 500 kilometres to our north, but recent protests have erupted on a huge scale. What do Papuans want? And are they likely to get it?
low-level insurgency has bubbled away in the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua since the early 1960s, when Dutch colonialists withdrew from the territory and Indonesia moved in as temporary administrators.
A referendum on independence was agreed under a UN-brokered deal but the vote, held in 1969 and widely regarded as a sham (some have nicknamed it the “act of no choice”), allowed just 1026 locals chosen by Indonesia to vote – and they voted unanimously for incorporation into Indonesia.
The most recent protests have seen several people killed, buildings set on fire and violence on the streets. Thousands of people have taken part in protests all over the country, flying the banned Morning Star flag and demanding independence.
Indonesian authorities deported four Australians from West Papua. It was alleged they had participated in pro-independence protests.
So what is behind all the tension in Papua? Why are these protests happening now? And what will Indonesia do about them?
The current unrest is diplomatically sensitive for Australia and Indonesia – memories of Australia’s key role in East Timor’s independence have not faded. Some in the Jakarta political and military establishment fear Australia could one day come out in support of Papuan independence but successive governments have stressed that Australia respects Indonesia’s territorial integrity.
Where is Papua?
Papua, formerly known as Irian Jaya, is on Australia’s doorstep – it’s only about 500 kilometres away as the crow flies – and Australia is home to many Papuan activists who advocate for an independent Papua.
West Papua and Papua are on the same island as Papua New Guinea, which occupies the eastern side of the land mass. PNG has never been part of Indonesia.
What’s behind the tensions?
About 3.5 million people live in Indonesian Papua, a tiny fraction of Indonesia’s population of about 260 million people. It was only in 2003 that West Papua was hived off and a second province created. Together, the provinces were once known as Irian Jaya, but the name Papua was adopted (in line with local preferences) soon after former president Megawati Sukarnoputri granted limited autonomy to the province in 2002.
This autonomy allowed the provinces to retain most of the revenue generated from the extraction of natural resources such as oil and gas – deposits of gold, copper, silver, petroleum, natural gas and coal are also still largely untapped. It was also designed to head off the desire for Papuan independence.
And it was hoped that additional autonomy would help lift Papuans out of grinding poverty. Papua and West Papua are two of the poorest, most corrupt provinces in Indonesia. The poverty rate is more than 20 per cent compared to a national rate of 9.4 per cent.
The World Bank notes that, although the provinces are rich in resources, economic development is “unusually challenging” because of geography – “steep mountains, swampy lowlands, fragile soils and heavy seasonal rainfall” – and due to low population density and extreme cultural fragmentation.
On average, people earn less and don’t live as long. The two provinces lack access to basic services such as health and education. They also lack crucial infrastructure compared to much of the rest of the country.
Providing some autonomy hasn’t really worked to head off trouble. Deadly clashes between armed rebels and Indonesian security forces are a regular occurrence, as are attacks on workers building a new trans-Papua highway and on resources projects such as the huge Grasberg gold and copper mine (in which Indonesia last year took a majority stake).
What sparked the current protests?
The most recent protests began soon after August 17, Indonesia’s national independence day, when 43 Papuan students in Surabaya, East Java, were arrested for allegedly damaging the Indonesian flag.
Video of security forces who arrested the Papuan students emerged soon after, and they could clearly be heard calling the Papuans “monkeys” and “dogs”.
The violent protests and deadly riots began soon afterwards in the regional capitals of Jayapura and Manokwari, and in smaller cities such as Timika, Sorong, Fakfak and in regencies such as Deiyai.
What has happened so far?
As is often the case with Papua, it’s difficult to verify many of the claims and counter-claims that are made by the government and independence supporters.
Between four and seven civilians and one soldier died during clashes in Deiyai regency on August 28 (the government has disputed the number of civilians killed and it’s not clear what the final number is).
Another man died during a gun battle on August 23, and four civilians died during clashes in Jayapura, the capital of Papua, on September 1.
By September 5, the situation seemed to quieten down, though that could change at a moment’s notice. The government has estimated that repairs to government buildings damaged in the riots will cost at least $7 million.
How did Jakarta respond?
During this bout of trouble, President Joko Widodo has called for calm in the two provinces, condemned the racist attacks in Surabaya and, in a recent meeting with the editors of major newspapers, talked up a “prosperity approach” to addressing the provinces’ grievances, according to the Jakarta Post.
Joko’s approach, essentially, means more investment in infrastructure and development to tackle poverty and disadvantage. He has spent more time in Papua, and invested more money in sorely needed infrastructure, than any previous Indonesian leader.
One of his signature projects is the 4325-kilometre trans-Papua highway, a road network that will link cities including Jayapura and the West Papuan capital, Manokwari. (Critics have raised concerns about the environmental damage caused by the project, and have argued it is being constructed so that more of the country’s resources can be exploited.)
But Joko is coming off a very low base and critics argue he has not done enough to improve the human rights situation, or addressed demands for a referendum.
Meanwhile, Jakarta has sent in about 6000 extra police and soldiers, and Army commander Hadi Tjahjanto and national Police Chief General Tito Karnavian have both flown to Papua.
Internet services were slowed down, and then mostly shut off, with the government arguing this would stop the spread of hoaxes and slow down the organisation of protests. The internet blackout had ended in most parts of Papua by September 5.
More than 50 people have been named as suspects for participating in various protests, and arrests of protesters have been made. Two members of the military are being investigated. Indonesian police have vowed to hunt down separatists blamed for the violent protests.
Jakarta blames Benny Wenda, the leader of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua who lives in exile in the UK, for helping stir up the trouble. It has also charged human rights lawyer Veronica Koman with “incitement” for tweets they claim were hoax news.
Could Papua be granted an independence referendum?
After meeting Joko, the Governor of Papua, Lukas Enembe, told reporters last week that the President was willing to discuss an independence referendum.
But it’s difficult to see that happening. The Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, Wiranto, has dismissed a referendum out of hand. He is a former military general who was a key figure in the events that led up to the 1999 referendum on East Timor’s independence, and he opposed that independence movement too.
Joko has spoken about the need for dialogue between supporters of independence and the government. Allowing an independence referendum would cause him huge problems in Jakarta and damage him politically at the start of his second and final term.