Indonesian forces & protestors fill West Papuan Parliament

Article in The Australian

MORE than 300 Indonesian police and soldiers, together with armoured vehicles, were occupying the West Papuan parliament last night.

West Papuan analyst Camellia Webb said as many as 20,000 people took part in an initial rally in Jayapura on Thursday, making it the biggest rally since the fall of Suharto in 1998. About 4000 continued to occupy the parliament building last night.

Radio New Zealand reported that up to 50,000 people had taken part in the initial protest.

An upper house of tribal leaders, the Papuan People’s Assembly (MRP), voted last month to reject Papua’s autonomy status, introduced in 2001 after the fall of the Suharto military dictatorship in Jakarta.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian government’s military campaign to control the rebellious province may have been inadvertently aided by a report from the International Crisis Group, which blamed the resistance movement for a spate of violent incidents, according to a Sydney University study.

The authoritative report by the Brussells-based ICG was followed by punitive operations by the Indonesian military in the Papuan highlands, which brought “grave consequences” for civilians in those areas.

“The ICG report strengthens the Indonesian government’s position that they are fighting violent guerillas in West Papua rather than a legitimate, popularly backed resistance movement, and the ICG’s views have been echoed in international reporting on the conflict,” says a paper by the university’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies.

The Sydney University study, written by Jim Elmslie and Camellia Webb, a PhD candidate, says evidence relied on by the ICG included selective quoting from Indonesian tabloid press reports, hearsay and discredited interrogation testimonies.

The authors did not interview the person they identified as the main actor in these events, Victor Yeimo.

The ICG report characterises the resistance movement, the West Papua National Committee and Mr Yeimo as militantly radical, promoting the use of violence for achieving the political goal of a referendum on Papuan independence.

The authors said they found the WPNC to be “primarily a media and information clearing house that expresses mainstream views held by a wide spectrum of Papuan civil society and political organisations”.

The ICG’s Jakarta analyst, Sidney Jones, said last night the Sydney University report was “more political polemic than serious criticism”.

“For all its efforts to discredit our findings, its sources are limited to pro-independence voices,” Ms Jones said.

“We interviewed all sides, including members of the KNPB, the OPM, the police, church leaders, pro-independence activists, adat (customary) leaders, NGOs, detained student leaders and government officials.

Ms Jones added: “We know the report was controversial, in part because many, including the Sydney researchers, believe that all of Papua’s problems are attributable to outsiders and it is heresy to suggest that any responsibility be attributed to Papuan groups themselves. The reality is far more complex.”

The ICG report held the WPNC responsible for several recent acts of violence in West Papua.

These include an attack on the police station in Abepura in April last year, arson at the Cenderawasih University in Abepura in the same month and killings around the Freeport mine since June last year through to January.

Dialogue Is A Must For Papua


Papua is in a state of heightened tension following a series of events that culminated in a mass rally yesterday by thousands of Papuans at the provincial parliament, the DPRP, in Jayapura.

The demonstration and similar actions in other locations across the territory were intended to increase pressure on the DPRP to support a recommendation by the Papuan People’s Assembly, the MRP, to ‘return’ Papua’s 2001 special autonomy law to the central government in Jakarta.

A large number of Papuans continued the peaceful protest by staying outside the DPRP overnight.  They intended to remain until a plenary meeting of the DPRP is convened to consider the MRP recommendation, but reports today indicate they have been forced by the police to disperse.  So far there has been no formal response by the DPRP.

TAPOL believes that this political crisis can be resolved only by genuine dialogue between the Indonesian government and Papuan representatives that addresses all the Papuan grievances and aspirations.  Unless a meaningful process is instigated without delay, serious unrest could ensue.

The authorities should also respond seriously to the MRP’s specific demands to demilitarise the territory, release political prisoners, halt transmigration policies, and impose strict limits on the inflow of migrants from outside Papua, says TAPOL.

It urges the security forces to exercise restraint in responding to actions in support of the MRP initiative.

At a landmark two-day meeting from 9-10 June to evaluate special autonomy, the MRP, in consultation with indigenous community groups, concluded that the implementation of special autonomy had failed and that the law should be ‘returned’ to the Indonesian government.  The MRP called for dialogue with neutral international mediation.

Also included in the 11 recommendations issued by the MRP were demands for a referendum on independence, an embargo on international aid for special autonomy, the postponement of forthcoming local elections, and the closure of the Freeport copper-and-gold mine.

The outcome of the meeting reflected widespread frustration that the living conditions and human rights of the Papuans have not improved since the introduction of special autonomy and that their situation is worsening as a result of the economic exploitation of their land and resources aligned with a process of marginalisation that will soon leave them a minority in their own homeland.

The MRP recommendations were delivered to the DPRP on 18 June following a mass march from the MRP assembly building in nearby Kotaraja.


Contact Carmel Budiardjo on +44 208 771 2904 or Paul Barber on +44 1420 80153 or +44 774 730 1739

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: