Opening Statement of Chairman Eni Faleomavaega at West Papua hearing




“Crimes Against Humanity: When Will Indonesia’s Military Be Held
Accountable for Deliberate and Systematic Abuses in West Papua?”

September 22, 2010

To my knowledge, today’s hearing is historic.  This hearing is the
first hearing ever held in the U.S. Congress that gives voice to the
people of West Papua.

Since 1969, the people of West Papua have been deliberately and
systematically subjected to slow-motion genocide by Indonesian
military forces yet Indonesia declares that the issue is an internal
matter while the U.S. Department of State “recognizes and respects the
territorial integrity of Indonesia.”  The truth is, this is no issue
of territorial integrity or an internal matter, and the record is
clear on this point.

West Papua was a former Dutch colony for some 100 years just as East
Timor was a former Portuguese colony just as Indonesia was a former
colony of the Netherlands.  Because of its status as a former colony,
East Timor achieved its independence from Indonesia in 2002 through a
referendum sanctioned by the United Nations (UN), despite Indonesia’s
serious objections over East Timor’s right to self-determination.

In contrast, in 1962 the United States pressured the Dutch to turn
over control of West Papua to the United Nations.  Under the
U.S.-brokered deal, Indonesia was to “make arrangements with the
assistance and participation of the United Nations” to give Papuans an
opportunity to determine whether they wished to become part of
Indonesia or not.

In what became known as the Act of No Choice carried out in 1969, 1025
West Papua elders under heavy military surveillance were selected to
vote on behalf of 809,327 West Papuans regarding the territory’s
political status.  In spite of serious violations of the UN Charter
and no broad-based referendum, West Papua was forced to become a part
of Indonesia by the barrel of a gun.
According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), “declassified
documents released in July 2004 indicate that the United States
supported Indonesia’s take-over of Papua in the lead up to the 1969
Act of Free Choice even as it was understood that such a move was
likely unpopular with Papuans. The documents reportedly indicate that
the United States estimated that between 85% and 90% of Papuans were
opposed to Indonesian rule and that as a result the Indonesians were
incapable of winning an open referendum at the time of Papua’s
transition from Dutch colonial rule. Such steps were evidently
considered necessary to maintain the support of Suharto’s Indonesia
during the Cold War.”

Bluntly put, in exchange for Suharto’s anti-communist stance, the
United States expended the hopes and dreams and lives of some 100,000
Papuans who consequently died as a result of Indonesian military rule.
 Although some challenge this estimate it is an indisputable fact that
Indonesia has deliberately and systematically committed crimes against
humanity and has yet to be held accountable.

While I have expressed my concern that there is strong indication that
the Indonesian government has committed genocide against the Papuans,
I am disappointed that the U.S. Department of State requested that I
omit the word ‘genocide’ in the initial title I put forward for this
hearing.  The State Department requested a change in title based on
the assertion that ‘genocide’ is a legal term.

Article 2 of the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and
Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG) defines genocide as "any
of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in
part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group: killing members
of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the
group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life
calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in
part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

This definition of genocide under international law accurately
describes the crimes against humanity perpetrated by Indonesia’s
military, whether the U.S. State Department agrees or not.  But given
U.S. complicity, it is little wonder that every Administration wishes
to distance itself from this ugliness.

As Joseph Conrad wrote in his book The Heart of Darkness, “The
conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from
those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than
ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much.”

When you look into it too much, nothing about Indonesia’s ruthless
brutality or U.S. complicity is a pretty thing.  In 2007, I led a
Congressional Delegation (CODEL) to Indonesia on the personal promise
of President SBY and Vice President Kalla that I would be granted 5
days to visit Biak, Manokwari, and, most importantly, Jayapura, in
support of efforts to implement special autonomy that was approved by
the government of Indonesia since 2001.

However, while enroute to Jakarta, I received word that the Indonesian
government would only grant 3 days for my visit.  Upon my arrival on
November 25, 2007, I was informed that I would be granted only 1 day
and that I would not be allowed to visit Jayapura.  As it played out,
I was granted 2 hours in Biak and 10 minutes in Manokwari.

In Biak, I met with Governor Suebu, and other traditional, religious
and local leaders hand-selected by the government.  Other Papuans,
like Chief Tom Beanal and Mr. Willie Mandowen were detained by the
military until my office interceded.  U.S. Ambassador Cameron Hume and
I also had to make our way through a military barricade because
Indonesia military forces (TNI) had blocked Papuans from meeting with
me.  For the record, I am submitting photos showing the excessive
presence of military force.

       In Manokwari, the military presence was even worse.  Prior to my
arrival in Manokwari, I was told that I would be meeting with the
Governor only to learn upon my arrival that he was in China and had
been there for the past 5 days.  Ten minutes later, I was put on a
plane while the TNI, in full riot gear, forcefully kept the Papuans
from meaningful dialogue.  At this time, I would like to share with my
colleagues some video tape of my visit in 2007.

       After this experience and upon my return to Washington, I wrote to
President SBY expressing my disappointment but Jakarta never responded
to my letter of December 12, 2007.  On March 5, 2008, Chairman Donald
Payne of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa joined with me in
sending another letter to President SBY which expressed our deep
concern about Indonesia’s misuse of military force.  We included
photographs and a DVD of my experience while in Biak and Manokwari.
Again, Jakarta did not bother to reply.

       On March 5, 2008, Chairman Payne and I also wrote to U.S. Secretary
of Defense Robert Gates and included a copy of our letter to President
SBY as well as the DVD and photographs.  Despite the serious concerns
we raised about Indonesia’s failure to live up to its promises to
allow Members of Congress access to Jayapura and our request to
restrict funding to train Indonesia’s military forces, his reply of
April 2, 2008 was trite and indifferent, as if West Papua is of no
consequence.  He concluded his letter by erroneously stating, “TNI
performance on human rights has improved dramatically.”  Copies of
these letters as well as the photographs and DVD are included for the

Copies of our materials which we sent on March 6, 2008 to the House
Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Senate Committee on Foreign
Relations, the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on State
and Foreign Operations, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on
Defense, and the Congressional Black Caucus are also included.

       In March 2005, Chairman Payne and I wrote to Secretary General Kofi
Annan asking for a review of the United Nations’ conduct in West
Papua.  35 other Members of Congress from the Congressional Black
Caucus signed the joint letter and I am also submitting this letter
for the record.

       This year, Chairman Payne and I once more spearheaded an effort
calling upon President Obama to deal fairly with the people of West
Papua and to meet with the Team of 100 indigenous Papuan leaders
during his upcoming visit to Indonesia.  Although our letter of June
9, 2010 was signed by 50 Members of the U.S. Congress, the U.S.
Department of State could not be bothered to send us a thoughtful
reply.  Instead, we received a dismissive letter of August 11, 2010
signed by the Assistant Secretary of Legislative Affairs rather than
the U.S. Secretary of State which sends a clear signal that this
Administration may not be any different than any other in its response
to addressing our grave concerns about West Papua.  As a matter of
record, I am including these letters.

Also, I am including a video that due to its sensitive subject matter
I cannot and will not show.  The video depicts the violent murder of a
Papuan who was killed and gutted by the Indonesian Special Police
Corp, or Brigade Mobil (BRIMOB), while the victim was still alive and
pleading for someone to kill him in order to put him out of his
misery.  This isn’t the only murder.  The late Papuan leader Theys
Hiyo Eluay was also savagely murdered, and the list of lost lives goes
on and on.

As Chairman of this Subcommittee, I have been very, very patient.
Yes, I realize the importance of the U.S.-Indonesia relationship.
Indonesia is the most populous Muslim-majority nation in the world and
the U.S. has a strong interest in reaching out to the Islamic world.
But our own struggle against Islamist militancy should not come at the
expense of the pain and killing and suffering of the people of West
Papua.  This is not the America I know.

       We can and must do better.  In his statement before the UN against
Apartheid, Nelson Mandela said, “It will forever remain an accusation
and challenge to all men and women of conscience that it took so long
as it has before all of us stood up to say enough is enough.”  This is
how I feel about West Papua.

It is my sincere hope that today’s hearing will help us find a way
forward.  So far, Indonesia has failed miserably to implement Special
Autonomy and, as a result, there is a sense of growing frustration
among the Papuans, and rightfully so.  According to CRS, “migration by
non-Melanesian Indonesians from elsewhere in the nation appears to be
a critical part of the mounting tensions.  By some accounts Melanesian
Papuans will be in the minority in their homeland by 2015.”

       While there is so much more I want to say about the commercial
exploitation of West Papua’s renowned mineral wealth which includes
vast reserves of gold, copper, nickel, oil and gas and Freeport USA’s
own shameful role in this exploitation, I will address these issues in
my questioning of our witnesses.

       In conclusion, I want to thank Edmund McWilliams, a retired U.S.
Senior Foreign Service Officer, who has been a long-time advocate for
the people of West Papua.  Mr. McWilliams was unable to be with us
today but he has submitted testimony for the record which will be

       I also want to welcome our Papuan leaders who have flown at
considerable expense to testify before this Subcommittee.  I presume
none flew at the expense of the Indonesian government but we will find
out during these proceedings.  Most of the Papuan leaders who are with
us today have lived the struggle.  Others have only recently returned
after living in Sweden for some 38 years.  They have since returned
home and reclaimed Indonesian citizenship but I am unclear as to their
role in a struggle they have given up or never fully lived.  I hope we
will be provided an explanation.

       For now, I recognize my good friend, the Ranking Member, for any
opening statement he may wish to make.

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