Daily Archives: August 17, 2010

Vanuatu's sellout to Indonesia disappoints West Papua at PIF

Opinion

August 17, 2010

Peter Woods

The conclusion of the Pacific Islands Forum has left a great sense of disappointment. There was every reason to think that Vanuatu would be the prominent voice in the forum for the West Papuan demand for a seat at the table. As recent as June 19 the Vanuatu Parliament passed a motion to bring the matter of West Papua to the UN this year.

All the public reports leading up to the forum, and the private assurances to the lobbying being done by the Vanuatu Free West Papua Association even up to the Prime Minister, gave every indication that West Papua  would be high on the agenda, and even that the representative West Papua delegates would at least be given observer status.

In his opening speech, incoming forum chairman Vanuatu Prime Minister Edward Nipake Natapei, said: ‘‘We need to be talking much more about how we can bring hope to the Pacific citizens who are struggling to find employment; who are without political freedom . . .’’

What happened? Nothing. Silence. No delegate raised any matter publicly concerning West Papua. All the talk was that politically, the matter of Fiji dominated, and that this shut down any further debate about West Papua. Three questions arise from this: Is this the real reason why West Papua was not promoted? If not what was the reason? Does this failure mean that Vanuatu’s sponsorship is now a lost cause for the West Papuan independence movement?

The real reason West Papua became the elephant in the room at the forum is that Natapei is obviously under great pressure from foreign powers — especially Australia, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. Australia continues to advocate the territorial integrity of the Indonesian republic and the necessity of Special Autonomy working for West Papua. Australia is also the major development donor for the country, and that must come with some loyalty tag.

PNG, together with Solomon Islands, supports Fiji, contrary to Vanuatu who is taking the Australian/New Zealand stance. Indonesia, for its part, is increasingly muscling into the Pacific – it just supplied Vanuatu with new uniforms for its police force, and increased its presence from the usual six to 48 members at the most recent forum. These came in two waves, on August 1 and August 5, the last delegation including a West Papuan, Dr Felix Wainggai, an adviser to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang  Yudhoyono on development on East Indonesia.

This probably proved too much fire-power for the Vanuatu PM, who afterwards on radio claimed that his silence on West Papua was due to procedural matters to do with the Melanesian Spearhead Group.

Another angle on Vanuatu’s silence may have to do with the internal or external manifestations of the West Papuan independence groups themselves. A delegate to the PIF told Jacob Rumbiak, foreign affairs spokesman for the West Papuan National Authority (WPNA) and myself that the perception from inside the Vanuatu Foreign Office is that the West Papuan independence movement is still divided.

The reality on the ground, however, is that there is a growing consensus from among the majority of activist groups, and more importantly between the Presidium and the WPNA — the transitional government increasingly recognised across West Papua as a credible political next-step to the current frameworks within West Papua.

The ire has been raised, however, of the pro-West Papua council of chiefs and various members of the coalition. They see this as a cave-in and Natapei and his government may not last.

All may not be lost then regarding Vanuatu’s advocacy role for its Melanesian fellow countrymen in West Papua. PIF 2010 may prove a Pyrhhic victory for the countries leaning on Vanuatu. The groundswell of opposition is rising within Vanuatu.  This will either galvanise the Natapei government or replace it with a coalition really dedicated to proceed on the West Papuan issue. Vanuatu’s reluctant neighbours could indeed end up with a little mouse that is roaring in the Pacific.

Peter Woods spent five years in West Papua from 1978 to 1983.

Open Letter to President of Indonesia on Papuan Political Prisoners

*c/o PO Box 21873
Brooklyn, NY 11202 USA
*etan@etan.org

August 16, 2010

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
President
Republic of Indonesia
Istana Merdeka
Jakarta Pusat 10110 Indonesia
Via Fax, E-mail

Dear President Yudhoyono:

As Indonesia’s National Day on 17 August approaches, we the undersigned non-governmental organizations engaged in the defense of human rights in Indonesia are deeply concerned that dozens of Papuans are incarcerated in prisons in Papua and West Papua simply for having been involved in non-violent demonstrations or expressions of opinion.

In most cases, these prisoners have been sentenced under Criminal Code Articles 106 and 110 regarding “rebellion.” These articles are a legacy from the Dutch colonial era and are in violation of the Indonesian Constitution, Articles 28(e) and 28(f) which respectively afford “the right to the freedom of association and expression of opinion,” and “the right to communicate and obtain information for the development of his/her personal life and his/her social environment, and shall have the right to seek, acquire, possess, keep, process and convey information by using all available channels.”

Moreover, Articles 106 and 110 are inconsistent with your country’s
international obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights (ICCPR) which Indonesia ratified in 2006. While the
ICCPR (article 19) notes that these rights are subject to certain
restrictions “for the protection of national security and of public
order or public health or morals,” the 1995 Johannesburg Principles on
National Security, Freedom of Expression, and Access to Information
identify clear standards for application of national security
restrictions. These Principles provide that persons should not be
restrained for expressing their opinions. Governments should only take
action against such expression of views on the grounds of national
security if they can demonstrate that they would incite acts of imminent violence. The prosecution of the aforementioned Papuan political prisoners has offered no evidence of any such threat of imminent violence in association with their physical or verbal actions.

While we strongly believe that none of these prisoners should have been prosecuted in the first place, we are also deeply concerned about the disproportionately harsh sentences imposed on these political prisoners given their non-violent acts. One prisoner arrested in 2004 and charged under these articles is serving a 15-year sentence while others have been given sentences of three or four years. Moreover, there have been alarming reports of maltreatment of the prisoners by prison warders and the lack of essential medical facilities. In one case, a prisoner with a serious prostate disorder had to wait eight months before being allowed to travel to Jakarta for essential treatment recommended by the local doctor. Severe Beatings of prisoners and detainees are frequently and credibly reported.

We the undersigned have on a number of occasions welcomed the democratic progress in Indonesian since the fall of the Suharto dictatorship, inspired by the Indonesian people. We recognize that this progress had been achieved despite frequent threats by the as yet unreformed Indonesian security forces.

In view of the tradition to mark Indonesia’s National Day on 17 August
by announcing the release of prisoners and bearing in mind the
restriction on essential freedoms such as those contained in Articles
106 and 110 of the Criminal Code we respectfully call on you to mark
this year’s celebrations by:

* releasing all Papuan political prisoners, including those already
convicted and those waiting trial;

* securing the deletion of Articles 106 and 110 of the Criminal Code;

* ordering an immediate investigation into conditions in the prisons
where the prisoners are being held and ensure the punishment of all
prison personnel held responsible for maltreatment.

We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Aliansi Nasional Timor Leste Ba Tribunal Internasional (ANTI)/
Timor-Leste National Alliance for an International Tribunal
Australia West Papua Association Adelaide
Australia West Papua Association Brisbane
Australia West Papua Association Melbourne
Australia West Papua Association Newcastle
Australia West Papua Association Sydney
East Timor and Indonesia /Action/ Network (ETAN) (U.S.)
Foundation Akar (The Netherlands)
Foundation Manusia Papua (The Netherlands)
Foundation of Papuan Women (The Netherlands)
Foundation Pro Papua (The Netherlands)
Free West Papua Campaign UK
Freunde der Naturvölker e.V./FdN (fPcN) (Germany)
Human Rights Watch
KontraS (Indonesia)
Land is Life (U.S.)
La?o Hamutuk (Timor-Leste)
Perkumpulan HAK (HAK Association) (Timor Leste)
Tapol (Britain)
West Papua Advocacy Team (U.S.)
West Papua Network Germany