Monthly Archives: August 2010

News from Papua: Filep Karma refuses offer of remission; Census time: huge increase in population of Papua

Articles from Bintang Papua, 17 August 2010
Abridged in translation

While prisoners everywhere will await anxiously for the moment when they
may receive remission of their sentence, this is not the case with a
prisoner charged with ‘makar’ (treason).

Filep Karma (who is serving a 15-year sentence) has once again rejected
the government’s offer of a remission. He made his decision known in a
two-page letter addressed to the minister for law and human rights,
Patrialis Akhar.

At a place in the prison where he was able to make contact with
journalists, he said that he rejects all offers of remission.

‘I consider that I am not guilty of anything. The mere expression of my
democratic rights is not allowed. Yet, in Jakarta, when someone sticks a
photo of the president on the backside of a buffalo, this is not
considered to be a crime.’

He said he would also refuse any offer of clemency.

In the opening paragraph of his letter copies of which are addressed to
26 other addressees including the Indonesian president and Amnesty
International, he said:

‘I, the undersigned, declare in full consciousness of what I am doing
and free from any pressure from any quarter, that I have rejected the
efforts by the government since 2005 to grant me remission by the
department of law and human rights and I shall do so into the
foreseeable future for as long as I continue to have the status of
political prisoner conferred by the Republic of Indonesia.’

He went on to say that this was being done as an act of protect against
all manner of actions by the authoritiesof the Republic of Indonesia in
violation of the Pancasila philosophy and the 1945 Constitution.

As is known, the national day 17 August is always an occasion for the
authorities to grant remission, and on this occasion, it included the
release of fourteen convicted prisoners being held in Abepura Prison
while 115 prisoners were granted remissions of between two and six months.

The remissions were granted in a ceremony led by the law and human
rights minister and the deputy governor of Papua, Alex Hasegam when the
remission letter was given to each of the prisoners in question.

On the same occasion, one prisoner, Filep Karma, who was neatly
dressed, managed to come forward holding a morning star flag in his
hand. But this had nothing to do with being granted remission; it was to
move a sack of garbage to a truck.


Huge increase in population of Papua

The population of the province of Papua has now reached 2,851,999, which
represents a far greater percentage increase than the national increase
of 1.49 percent.

[The report in BPapua refers throughout to the ‘province of Papua’,
presumably meaning this this does not include what is now the province
of West Papua.]

This was announced by the head of the Statistics Bureau of the province
of Papua who said that this was still a provisional announcement
because there would be further announcements about the composition of
the population including ethnicity, migration as well as the number of
births and deaths.

Another official of the bureau said that the huge increase was partly
due to having started from a low base, so the percentage increase
appears to be very high. In addition, he said, the census in 2000 was
far from being complete because the political situation at the time was
very tense, with on-going demands for a referendum and independence for
Papua, with the result that some districts were unable to carry out the

He said that the number of males was in excess of the number of females,
with a recorded difference of 13 percent.

The place with the greatest densisty is Jayapura with 278 persons per
square kilometre followed by Biak with 58 persons per square kilometre..
Mamberamo has the lowest density of all, with only one person per square

[Comment: We can only await the promise of more detailed information
about the ethnic composition of the population, bearing in mind the
reported regular arrival of in-migrants from other parts of Indonesia.
It could very well be that the point has been reached at which Papuans
now account for a minority of the inhabitants, a trend that can only
increase with the recent launch of the MIFEE project in Merauke. TAPOL]

AIIA ACCESS 'West Papua's Search for Self-Determination' – Dr Scott Burchill and Herman Wainggai

Enjoy the viewing of parts 1 & 2 of the AIIA ACCESS ‘West Papua’s Search for Self-Determination’

Many thanks again to Dr Scott Burchill and Herman Wainggai for speaking, and of course the AIIA Victoria for hosting this event amid the diplomatic controversy.

Dr Scott Burchill

Herman Wainggai, WPNA

Part 1 | Part 2
At this Australian Institute of International Affairs event – which Indonesian Government officials tried to stop – political commentator and academic Dr Scott Burchill and West Papuan organiser Herman Wanggai talk about West Papua’s fight for self-determination.
The Indonesian province of West Papua has witnessed a struggle between Indonesian security forces and West Papuan resistance fighters since the 1960s. Tensions remain high today because of the cultural distinctiveness of the Melanesian Papuans, repression by the Indonesian military which observers have likened to the force once used against the East Timorese, and the richness of the province’s resources base. Burchill argues that Australia’s lack of concern is an ongoing effect of the Jakarta lobby’s discredited argument about the fragility of Indonesian territorial integrity, which continues to trump human rights concerns.
Melbourne, August 2010

Vanuatu's sellout to Indonesia disappoints West Papua at PIF


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

August 16, 2010

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
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.


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

West Papua is Indonesia’s Palestine.

West Papua is Indonesia’s Palestine.

August 16, 2010

John Ondawame is right. West Papua is on the verge of a “total intifada” (Ben Bohane, ‘West Papua warns of intifada against Jakarta’, Sydney Morning Herald, August 7 2010). Intifada means to “shake off” in Arabic. It has become a word used to describe the desire by Palestinians to free themselves from foreign occupation. The question is what kind of intifada is and will take place in West Papua? Will it be like the recent Palestinian intifada, led by a resurgent Hamas? An uprising of fury waged through political terror. Or will it be like the 1987 Palestinian intifada, a largely unarmed insurrection?

West Papua is the Indonesia’s Palestine. Papuans consider that their land has been occupied without their consent. Freedom of expression is prohibited, foreign journalists banned, migrants continue to pour into the country, and the police and military keep a repressive lid on boiling Papuan anger. It is also a modern day Avatar. Papuans are defending their land form the exploitative practices of resource extractive industries. For the Papuans theirs is a struggle for survival.

However, unlike Palestine and the film Avatar, resistance to the Indonesian government’s rule has overwhelmingly been through civilian based movements. Only last month, for instance, 20,000 plus people – students, women, young people, religious leaders, NGO activists, traditional chiefs, farmers and even members of the Majelis Rakyat Papua, West Papua’s indigenous senate – all converged on the capital and occupied the provincial parliament for two days to pressure the Papuan political elite to hand back Special Autonomy, a package or policy, finance, and legislation designed to give Papuans a measure of self-rule. After ten years of broken promises and still born hopes, Papuans concluded Special Autonomy had failed. It is a news story that should have been covered by every major media outlet. But here in Australia we heard next to nothing.

Now, as Bohane writes, Papuans are feeling abandoned by their Melanesian kin. At the recent Pacific Island Forum, Vanuatu tried to raise the West Papua issue but Papua New Guinea’s political leaders blocked the discussion. Again. The Australia and New Zealand governments also failed to raise their voice for on behalf of Papuan rights. Again.

Some Papuan leaders are now talking about making the territory ungovernable through mass civilian based non-cooperation with Jakarta. How long civil resistance continues depends not only on the tactical and strategic choices made by Papuan leaders. In part it also depends on whether solidarity movements in the region, including inside Indonesia, can raise the political and economic costs so that political leaders and foreign companies feel compelled to agree to what Papuans have been demanding for years: political dialogue with Jakarta and the international community about their grievances.

Will the international community support the Papuan’s right to rise up for freedom? Or will they send the same message they sent to the Kosovo Albanians? That international intervention and the goal of independence will only come about when there is armed struggle and mass violence. Surely we can all do better than that.

Jason MacLeod

(The writer lectures in political science at the University of Queensland.)