Former president of Timor Leste Jose Ramos-Horta has expressed optimism that the Indonesian government will settle cases of human rights abuses in Papua, saying that officials should prioritize peaceful dialogue.
Despite long decades of insurgency and rebellion from Papuan separatists, the government should not regard these people as enemies, but should instead work to rebuild trust with them, Horta said.
The process will not be easy because the government has neglected Papua for too long, Horta added.
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s commitment to the Papuan people had begun to build up a sense of goodwill after a period of prolonged disappointment, Horta said.
“They are hopeful that significant steps will be taken to improve human rights in Papua,” Horta told journalists on Thursday.
The statement follows Horta’s visit to Papua from May 2 to May 4 after receiving an invitation to inspect development in the region from Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan.
During the visit, Horta reportedly met with Papuan officials including Papua Governor Lukas Enembe, Papua Legislative Council Speaker Yunus Wonda, the Papuan People’s Assembly (MRP), local teachers and medical assistants.
Horta also met with former rebels who used to be active in the Free Papua Movement, but who now agreed to develop Papua as a part of Indonesia.
The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) will cooperate with human rights NGOs to investigate cases of violence in Papua, Horta said. The government should also work closely with local churches, he added.
“Indonesia can settle the human rights cases in Papua internally without the help of foreign actors,” Horta asserted.
The government should also avoid using violence that often ended up wounding innocent civilians, Horta said.
According to Horta, the government should find the right balance between national development and understanding centuries-old Papuan values.
This will be difficult because Papua is a large region, Horta said.
The government should develop programs to create more economic opportunity for Papuans, he went on to say.
Besides developing infrastructure and reducing the disparity gap, education should also be a top priority to advance the quality of the region’s human resources, Horta said.
Indonesia should take note of Singapore, a state with minimum natural resources, but a positive reputation in the international community, Horta said.
“A nation can be minuscule, but if everybody studies and gets a degree from a reputable university, they can operate in a big industry,” Horta said. (dan)
West Papuans are the indigenous people of a region on the western half of the island shared with Papua New Guinea, formerly under Dutch rule. Indonesia took temporary control of West Papua under a UN–backed treaty in 1963. It consolidated its rule through a UN-sanctioned but discredited ballot in 1969, in which barely 1,000 West Papuan representatives selected by Indonesia cast votes under threat of violence.
“Essentially what we’re looking at is a group of people who did not enjoy their rights during a period of decolonisation, did not enjoy the rights bestowed to them by the UN charter and by the statutes on decolonisation,” Corbyn said.
“As a member of parliament I support them, as a member of this group and as a former vice-chair of the all-party human rights group.”
“I want these issues to become central to our party’s policies in the future and above all I want to see an end to environmental degradation and destruction and the right of people to be able to make their own choice on their own future.”
Corbyn, who is a cofounder of the International Parliamentarians for West Papua, described Monday’s gathering as “historic” and said the recommendations put forward were a good framework for moving towards recognition of the human rights issues, rights of representation and the right of people to choose their future in West Papua.
He noted the recommendation called for a visit by the UN special rapporteur, the reinstatement of NGOs in the region and questioning of international companies working in West Papua.
“It’s about a political strategy that brings to worldwide recognition the plight of the people of West Papua, forces it onto a political agenda, forces it to the UN, forces an exposure of it and ultimately that allows the people of West Papua to make the choice of the kind of government they want and the kind of society in which they want to live,” he said. “That is a fundamental right.”
He said the international community could continue “pretending the issue will go away” or it could “do something bold”.
“Recognise injustice when you see it,” he said. “Recognise the abuse of human rights when you see it and recognise that both sides in any conflict benefit from a peace process and benefit from recognition of human rights, law and justice.”
The Free West Papua campaign hopes to see a UN resolution within two years to send international peacekeepers to protect West Papuans as they vote on independence.
It urged international governments – particularly those of Australia and New Zealand – to support the vote.
“For 50 years Indonesia massacred my people, 500,000 people. We need international peacekeeping force in West Papua,” Wenda said. “In maybe another 10 or 20 or 50 years time I think my people will become a minority. We need this as soon as possible.”
On Friday the Indonesian embassy in Australia released a statement dismissing the meeting as a publicity stunt organised by a “small group of Papua separatists and sympathisers”.
“Papua and Papua Barat (West Papua) are parts of Indonesia. The UN and the international community recognise this,” it said in a series of tweets.
It accused the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, which Wenda leads, of making “false claims” and said West Papuans already had self-determination through special autonomy, free and fair elections, and education.
“President Jokowi is mobilising resources of the nation to deliver much needed infrastructure and public services in Papua,” it said.
“However, cases of violence are still a challenge. For example cases killed civilians, members of security authorities and separatists. Many cases are brought to court. And more to be brought to justice. President Jokowi is personally looking after human rights protections.”
• This article was amended on 19 May 2016. The recommendations that Jeremy Corbyn said he would discuss with the Labour party were made in a report by the University of Warwick’s Politics of Papua Project, not the group as a previous version said.
While abroad for a study exchange year in Melbourne, Connor Woodman discovered that Indonesia’s effort to thwart the independence movement of its troubled Papuan provinces spreads all the way to Australia’s urban heartlands.
Occupied by Indonesia since 1963, the western half of the island of New Guinea – known to advocates of independence as West Papua – has been the subject of extensive military and intelligence operations for decades.
Since the Dutch left what was then called Western New Guinea in 1962, both peaceful and armed advocates of independence have been targeted for imprisonment, extrajudicial assassination and harassment by the Indonesian police and army.
According to Papuans Behind Bars, a monitoring group, 38 West Papuan political prisoners remain in custody today.
One recent study described torture as a “mode of governance” in the provinces, and despite efforts by the Indonesian government to limit reporting, stories of killings of demonstrators still emerge.
But these abuses do not stop at Indonesia’s borders. So seriously does Indonesia take what it perceives as a threat to its territorial integrity, that its spies and diplomats target West Papuans and Australian citizens residing in Melbourne in a concerted attempt to undermine the overseas independence campaign.
“You can feel the presence of Indonesian intelligence,” says 24-year-old Ian Okoka, an indigenous West Papuan who now lives in Melbourne.
“Every time we hold a rally, there’s always an Indonesian, usually a student, that comes and take pictures of us.”
Exactly that happened on April 29 last year at a rally outside the State Library of Victoria calling for international media to be allowed to enter West Papua. Two Indonesian men photographed the rally organisers until plain-clothed Victorian police officers told them to leave, according to the organisers.
Ronny Kareni, one of the organisers of the April 29 rally, received anonymous text messages last December threatening his then-pregnant wife. The messages warned him his wife would “pay” for his “activities”.
He has since decreased his general profile within the Free West Papua movement. Victoria police, Kareni says, have been investigating the texts, although they refused my request for comment.
Professor Damien Kingsbury of Deakin University has published on Indonesia for years, and was involved in the peace negotiations that ended an insurgency in the Aceh region of the country in 2005.
His Indonesian students confide in him that they are often “required to report to the consulate” in Melbourne about West Papuan activities.
“They report on activities, what individuals say publically or privately, their interpretation of the perspective of particular individuals in relation to Indonesia, whether they’re friendly or perceived to be hostile,” Kingsbury told me.
One tool used to control West Papuan dissent is financial. Some students come to Australia on a scholarship funded by the central Indonesian state or the provincial Papuan authorities, and the threat of cancellation of the scholarship can be used to keep them in line.
Ian Okoka studied at Deakin University on a scholarship from the nominally autonomous Papuan government, which in reality is heavily under the influence of Jakarta.
After he became involved in the independence movement in 2010, he noticed he was being followed by an Indonesian man when travelling on public transport in Melbourne.
“I had to change trams a couple of times to get away from him,” he recalls.
Following this event, funding for his studies was abruptly stopped.
“Because of my involvement with the Free West Papua campaign, they just cut my scholarship,” explains Okoka. He was informed via email that his return flight had been booked, and was offered no official explanation.
The latent threat of financial retribution appears to be gaining success in silencing those West Papuan students in Melbourne who support independence for their homeland.
I interviewed three other West Papuan students studying in Melbourne for this story, all of whom requested anonymity for fear of Indonesian retribution. All three students confirmed that they have tempered their activism around the question of independence, fearful of payback from the Indonesian authorities.
Two are on scholarships from the Indonesian government, and both voiced concern that their scholarships would be cut if they became involved in campaigning for a free West Papua.
A more sinister consequence of these operations is how they impact on those living in West Papua itself.
“Living in Australia at least we have freedom to express ourselves,” says Okoka. “Once you get your picture taken they’re not targeting you. What they do is they go to West Papua and target your family; by that method they shut you down.”
His father, who lives with the rest of the family in Jayapura, the provincial capital of Papua, received calls from the Indonesian government after Okoka’s scholarship was cut.
“When they cut my scholarship… my father had to take my family to live in a remote village to escape.” His family hid in rural West Papua for six months until they felt the threat had receded.
Another target of the Indonesian operations is Jacob Rumbiak, a native West Papuan and naturalised Australian citizen. He works in Melbourne at the office of the Department for Foreign Affairs, Immigration and Trade of the Federal Republic of West Papua.
The Federal Republic of West Papua operates as a “government-in-waiting” in the event of West Papuan independence, and Jacob Rumbiak is the Foreign Minister-in-waiting.
“When I use the telephone […] Jakarta knows in advance what I’m doing,” says Rumbiak. “Every time when I fly overseas, they’ve already put intelligence to follow me: Holland, Canada, Japan.”
Academic institutions targeted
Outspoken academics and educational institutions across Australia have been targeted by Indonesia. Professor Kingsbury himself has been on the receivingend of such attention.
When he asked the Indonesian consulate in Melbourne why his request for a visa to Indonesia had been constantly rebuffed, the consulate made it clear that the problem resided with his academic work and political views.
“I’ve been banned from Indonesia for over ten years”
“The consulate did say that if I was prepared to be more sympathetic to Indonesia, to write more sympathetic articles and so on, that they would look at having the ban lifted.”
Confidential internal documents leaked from the Indonesian army list overseas figures and intellectuals that the army perceives to be supporters of West Papuan independence.
These documents have been made available by the West Papua Project, part of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney.
One PowerPoint illustrating the army’s analysis, “Anatomy of Papuan Separatists”, has an entire slide dedicated to a profile of Jacob Rumbiak – clear evidence that the Indonesian authorities are monitoring him. The powerpoint also puts University of Sydney researcher Peter King at the top of a list of Australian “FOREIGN NGO NETWORKS/FOREIGN LEADERS IN SUPPORT OF FREE PAPUA”.
‘Top of hate list’
“I got to the top of their hate list,” Dr King explains.
He is co-convener of the West Papua Project and co-author of a number of papers on Indonesia’s rule in West Papua.
Camellia Webb-Gannon, coordinator of the West Papua Project, confirms that Indonesia similarly monitors West Papua protests in Sydney.
“Whenever the West Papua Project put on a public event then [Indonesia] send along someone from the embassy or consulate,” she says.
Pressuring academic institutions is not a new tactic for Indonesia.
In 2003, the Globalism Institute at RMIT University in Melbourne received “significant pressure” from the Indonesian embassy in the run up to a forum on West Papua, hosted by the institute, according to Professor Paul James, who was head of the institute at the time.
Indonesia pressured Canberra to refuse visas to forum speakers coming from overseas, and the Indonesian Charge d’Affaires at the time, Imron Cotan, made personal representations to RMIT regarding the forum, says Professor James. RMIT eventually requested the forum be moved from University premises.
Australian government complicity
It’s not just critical academics that irk Indonesia – any moves by the Australian government to protect West Papuans are met with a vocal response.
In January 2006, the Australian government granted 42 West Papuans protection visas as they fled Indonesian persecution in the territory. The refugees were settled in Melbourne, which Jakarta considered a challenge to its sovereignty over West Papua.
Hoping to rebuild bilateral relations, in November 2006 Canberra and Jakarta signed the Lombok Treaty, an agreement between the two nations on security cooperation.
Article 2, section 3 of the treaty states that each party:
SHALL NOT IN ANY MANNER SUPPORT OR PARTICIPATE IN ACTIVITIES BY ANY PERSON OR ENTITY WHICH CONSTITUTES A THREAT TO THE STABILITY, SOVEREIGNTY OR TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY OF THE OTHER PARTY, INCLUDING BY THOSE WHO SEEK TO USE ITS TERRITORY FOR ENCOURAGING OR COMMITTING SUCH ACTIVITIES, INCLUDING SEPARATISM, IN THE TERRITORY OF THE OTHER PARTY.
Concerns have been raised that this clause could infringe on the right of activists to peacefully express their desire for West Papuan independence, given that such advocacy could be construed by Indonesia as “separatism”.
“The Lombok Treaty has given great access to Indonesian intelligence to operate here and to monitor any activism or what they call ‘separatist’ movements,” explains Kareni, the West Papuan activist who helped organise the April 29 rally.
“This is what they use to pressure Canberra.”
He says instances of harassment and surveillance by Indonesia increased after the signing of the treaty.
Human rights groups such as the Melbourne-based Human Rights Law Centre have also sounded the alarm over the Lombok Treaty. Their warnings now seem prescient.
In a Joint Press Statement during a 2013 visit to Jakarta, then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that, “the government of Australia takes a very dim view, a very dim view indeed, of anyone seeking to use our country as a platform for grand standing against Indonesia. We will do everything that we possibly can to discourage this and to prevent this.”
Echoing the language of the Lombok Treaty, he pledged to the then-President of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, “Australia’s total respect for Indonesia’s sovereignty, total respect for Indonesia’s territorial integrity”.
This was widely regarded as signalling support for Indonesia’s claims over West Papua.
Abbott was quoted in The Australian that same year as claiming that the “situation in West Papua is getting better not worse”.
DOZENS OF CASES IN WHICH POLICE, MILITARY, INTELLIGENCE OFFICERS, AND PRISON GUARDS HAVE USED UNNECESSARY OR EXCESSIVE FORCE WHEN DEALING WITH PAPUANS EXERCISING THEIR RIGHTS TO PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY AND ASSOCIATION. THE GOVERNMENT ALSO FREQUENTLY ARRESTS AND PROSECUTES PAPUAN PROTESTERS FOR PEACEFULLY ADVOCATING INDEPENDENCE OR OTHER POLITICAL CHANGE.
Since leaving office, Abbott has boasted how he “had West Papuan activists, who’d arrived in the Torres Strait claiming asylum, quietly returned to Papua New Guinea” during his premiership.
Economic interests, intimidation and resistance
Ultimately, Indonesia fears it will lose control over its West Papuan provinces, haunted by memories of the role played by the Australian movement for a free East Timor in ending the genocidal Indonesian occupation there at the turn of the millennium.
The Indonesian army reaps great economic rewards from its iron grip over Papua, and Western capitals are reluctant to pressure Jakarta on the issue. The largest open-pit gold mine in the world, Grasberg, operates in the territory.
The Australian-British company Rio Tinto will have a 40 percent stake in the mine by 2021.
“The whole reason for all this is that Indonesia is becoming quite concerned at the international focus that is being put on West Papua,” says Joe Collins of the West Papua Association in Sydney, which assists West Papuans campaigning for self-determination.
“That’s the main reason; they’ve begun to realise that the activists overseas are actually beginning to make headway in bringing attention to the human rights abuses so they are becoming quite concerned.”
The reason why Indonesia spends so much time intimidating campaigners is clear: putting pressure and keeping tabs on overseas activists keeps them afraid, and deters others from joining their efforts.
“There’s an implied threat, or a sense of threat, when people who are behaving lawfully within this country are being spied on by people from another country because of their activities here,” says Professor Kingsbury.
“If you were a pro-democracy Russian activist here in Australia […] you would be obviously concerned if you felt you were being spied on by people acting on behalf of the Russian Embassy. It’s much the same.”
Jacob Rumbiak is undeterred. After a life that has taken him from a guerrilla army in West Papua through several Indonesian prisons to his current role as Foreign Minister-in-exile, he will continue to fight for his homeland’s freedom despite Indonesia’s best efforts.
“Intelligence operations outside can’t solve the problem, but will create new problems […] They [Indonesians] show that they are colonial. They follow someone they should not follow. We do not create problems in Indonesian territory, we struggle in our own home.”
The Indonesian Embassy in London, the consulate in Melbourne, and the Embassy in Canberra were all contacted but failed to reply to a request for comment.
Connor Woodman is finishing a BA in politics, philosophy and economics at the University of Warwick, during which he did a year of study at Monash University in Melbourne, and is about to begin an MA in modern history. He is editor-in-chief of the Warwick Globalist and campaigns on environmental and higher education issues. This article was first published in Lacuna Magazine.
DailyPost – Leaders and members of the Vanuatu-Free West Papua Association (VFWPA) presented a Communiqué to the Deputy Director of the Melanesian Spearhead Group Secretariat (MSG) Mr. Molean Kalpak, requesting him to pass the Communiqué on to the MSG Chair and Leaders to allow West Papua full membership in the MSG and keep Indonesia out of the MSG.
The Vanuatu-West Papua Association Chairman, Pastor Alan Nafuki, and Vice-Chairman who is also President of the Malvatumauri National Council of Chiefs, Chief Tirsupe Seni-Mao, led the Vanuatu- Free West Papua Association delegation to the MSG Headquarters in Port Vila.
Some members of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) were also present.
The Vice-Chairman of the Vanuatu-Free West Papua Association Chief Tirsupe Seni Mao, presented the Communiqué to the Deputy Director of the MSG Secretariat Mr. Molean Kilepak, in a Vanuatu traditionally woven basket with the namele leaves which is a symbol of peace throughout Vanuatu.
“This Vanuatu Melanesian Traditional Basket symbolizes MSG.
“Placing the Communiqué in it is a call for the MSG (Basket) Leaders to bring into the MSG the West Papua full membership and remove Indonesia out of the Basket (MSG) peacefully.
“We humbly call on you (Mr. Kilepak) to convey this message together with the Communiqué to the Chairman of the MSG and all the MSG leaders before the next MSG Meeting,” said the Vanuatu-Free West Papua Association Vice-Chairman, Chief Tirsupe Seni Mao.
In receiving the Basket, the Namele leaves and the Communiqué, the Deputy Director of the MSG Secretariat Molean Kilepak, said the MSG Secretariat is here to facilitate the work for the MSG, its leaders and members but the decision is not made by the MSG Secretariat but by the MSG Chair and Leaders of the member countries. He told the leaders and members of the VFWPA that the Secretariat will pass the Petition on to the Chair and the leaders.
The Communiqué contains 5 key resolutions passed by the Association in a Communiqué called Owen Hall Communiqué which calls for the MSG to grant full MSG Membership to West Papua and remove Indonesia Membership from the MSG.
Part of the Communiqué reads: “The Meeting was convened at the right time when Melanesian Spearhead Group is considering the full membership ULMWP.
“The meeting called for the removal of Indonesia’s membership of the MSG.
“In the Spirit of solidarity and Partnership, Civil Society Leaders:
“1. RE-AFFIRM our resolve to play a complementary role with the MSG leaders to progress development and improve the lives and wellbeing of Melanesian People.
“2. EXPRESS SOLIDARITY with the MSG of its commitments under the preamble of the MSG Constitution, the 2013 Noumea Communiqué to support the inalienable rights of the people of West Papua towards self-determination and the inclusion of West Papua as an Observer in the MSG at the 2015 MSG Summit.
“3. CALL UPON THE MSG to accept and endorse the full membership of the ULMWP at the 2016 MSG Summit.
“4. FURTHER CALL on the MSG and the Melanesian countries to denounce the ongoing genocide of West Papua Melanesians and colonial rule by Indonesia.
“5. APPEAL TO Pacific Island governments and the International Community for;
“External international intervention into the West Papua emergency situation;recognition and confirmation of ULMWP as rightful leaders of the struggles of West Papua; challenging the Netherlands and the United Nations on legality of Indonesian powers over West Papua; sponsoring of a resolution for the re-unification of West Papua into the United Nations Decolonization list; sponsoring the case of West Papua in the International Court of Justice seeking a judgment on the legality of the 1969 “Act of Free Choice” and supporting the Self-determination and independence of West Papua.”
The Communiqué was dated May 3, 2016 on behalf of participants of the Owen Hall Meeting and signed by; Pastor Alan Nafuki, Chairman Vanuatu Free West Papua Association, Moli Seni Mao Tirsupe, President Malvatumauri Council of Chiefs, Vanuatu, Ms Emele Duituturaga, Executive Director Pacific Islands Association of Non-Government Organizations and Mr. Peter Amdt, Coordinating Team Leader, Australia West Papua Solidarity Movement.
Papua New Guinea’s government is reviewing asylum claims by over 1,000 West Papuans and beginning a registration of all West Papuans living in PNG, many of whom have been there for decades without full refugee status or citizenship.
Papua New Guinea’s Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato has indicated the government is reviewing asylum claims by over 1,000 West Papuans.
It’s also beginning a registration of all West Papuans living in PNG, many of whom have been there for decades without full refugee status or citizenship.
Johnny Blades reports
The claims reviewed by PNG Immigration and Citizenship Service Authority reportedly relate to West Papuans staying in parts of Western Province. Western is located along the border with Indonesia from where many West papuans have fled over the years.It’s estimated there are around ten thousand West Papuans in PNG seeking refuge, although due to the flow of traditional border crossers across the porous land border with Indonesia, the true figure could be much higher. However while around 2-thousand of these Papuans residing in East Awin of Western Province are granted free Permissive Residency Permits, the remaining seven to eight thousand in other parts of the country have long lived in a kind of limbo as stateless people. A Catholic Health Coordinator in Western Province, Sister Anna Sanginawa says hundreds at the East Awin camp last year signed documents for citizenship but are still waiting to hear about the outcome.
ANNA SANGINAWA: “Yes uncertainty and they have been going coming and struggling. But where they are they were given a place to stay which they make their small gardens. They make their business out from that soil. It is not like they are in the fence or the whatever that we see from different refugee camps but now we don’t call them anymore refugees here.”
JOHNNY BLADES: “They just blend into the general populace yeah?”
ANNA SANGINAWA: “That is right so they are kind of living a normal life like the rest of us Papua New Guineans.”
Fred Mambrasar is an advocate of West Papuan independence, who fled into PNG from Indonesian military aggression in the mid-1980s. He is among around 1500 West Papuans living in Port Moresby without citizenship, who he says successive PNG governments have ignored the plight of.
FRED MAMBRASAR: “Rimbink Pato speak but must action. Not just speak but em must action. Because sometime the government tok yes we grantem citizenship but only for some people. but like me and other West Papua, not yet.”
The government’s new moves to register West Papuans in the country and review their asylum claims comes as the Foreign Minister indicated that most of those asylum seekers in the Manus processing centre, who mainly come from the Middle East and Asia, have had their claims determined. Mr Pato said so far 361 asylum seekers had been granted refugee status in PNG, although it remains to be seen where they may be resettled. The PNG government only recently set up a refugee division and appears to still be formulating its resettlement policy. However for many PNG citizens, the resettlement of these refugees is controversial given the festering backlog of West Papuan refugee claims that have been ignored for decades.
RadioNZ – Indonesia’s National Commission on Human Rights is to visit Indonesia’s Papua region this month to investigate the deaths of two Papuans allegedly shot by soldiers last week.
The Jakarta Post reports the commissioner Natalius Pigai has deplored the incident in Timika in which the civilians were killed and a number of ethnic Kamoro injured during a traditional ceremony at a church complex in Timika.
The commissioner also questioned President Joko Widodo’s commitments to immediately resolve human rights violations that continue to occur in Papua.
The victims were buried on Sunday and the paper reports they were shot dead when two soldiers arrived intoxicated at a party to honour a local tribesman.
The paper reports the Regional Military Command has apologised for the incident and says military tribunals will be organised to hear the charges against the perpetrators.