West Papua Report
This is the 78th in a series of monthly reports that focus on developments affecting Papuans. This series is produced by the non-profit West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) drawing on media accounts, other NGO assessments, and analysis and reporting from sources within West Papua. This report is co-published with the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) Back issues are posted online at http://etan.org/issues/wpapua/default.htm Questions regarding this report can be addressed to Edmund McWilliams at email@example.com. If you wish to receive the report via e-mail, send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
An historic U.S. Congressional hearing regarding West Papua revealed ongoing human rights abuse by the Indonesian military and continued impunity for those abuses and broad Papuan rejection of Jakarta’s failed policy of “special autonomy.” The hearing also cast light on a U.S. policy that appeared not to have evolved to address the deteriorating conditions in West Papua or an unreformed Indonesian military intent on resisting accountability and civilian control. Subcommittee Chairman’s Faleomavaega’s description of “slow motion genocide” set the tone of urgency that enveloped the hearing. A senior State Department’s prediction that migration and demographic trends would soon make Papuans a minority in their own land underscored that tone of urgency. A Pentagon representative cited reforms scored a decade ago to justify recent expansion of U.S. military assistance to the Indonesian military. The hearing heard a Papuan call for a Jakarta-Papuan dialogue about Papua’s political future and an end to U.S. support for an unreformed Indonesian military.
In other developments, Indonesian security forces killed two Papuans and wounded a third in Manokwari. The victims were a religious leader, his son and his wife. Non-judicial, administrative sanctions against those responsible were shockingly light. A prominent Papuan academic has welcomed the presidential decision to undertake an audit of “special autonomy” fund flow to West Papua, but lamented the reality that the funds have been unaudited over the past decade.
- Synopsis of “Historic” U.S. Congressional Hearing on West Papua
- Chairman Faleomavaega Describes “Slow Motion Genocide in West Papua”
- Senior State Department Official Acknowledges Looming Minority Status for Papuan; Senior Defense Department Official Ignores TNI Unaccountability to Civilian Authorities and the Courts
- Papuans and Experts Attest to Ongoing Human Rights Violations by The Military, Reject Special Autonomy
- Brutal Security Force Action in Manokwari; Responsible Officials Receive Minor Sanctions
- Leading Papuan Academic Welcomes Special Autonomy Funding Audit, Noting The Effort Is Ten Years Overdue
On September 22, a key U.S. Congressional subcommittee held what the body’s chairman described as an historical hearing, the first ever to be devoted to the subject of West Papua. The hearing, before the Asia, The Pacific and the Global Environment Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was chaired by Representative Eni Faleomavaega, a House member whose record of concern for the plight of Papuans has long made him the leading member of Congress regarding developments in West Papua.
The lengthy September 22 hearing is summarized below in three sections: the first focuses on Chairman Faleomavaega’s opening statement, followed by a review of statements by senior representatives of the Departments of State and Defense and concludes with reporting on statements by a panel of witnesses that included Papuan and human rights and academic experts.
In his opening statement Chairman Eni Faleomavaega, noting the historic nature of the first congressional hearing that “gives voice to the people of West Papua,” spoke bluntly about the plight of Papuans that had prompted the hearing. He described Papuans as facing “slow motion genocide.” He observed that the definition of genocide under international law “accurately describes the crimes against humanity perpetuated by Indonesia’s military.” While complimentary regarding the intentions of Indonesian President Yudhoyono, he recounted in detail his own effort to visit West Papua at the invitation of the Yudhoyono administration. That visit was repeatedly impeded by action of the military.
Faleomavaega was equally blunt in his description of the U.S. role in critical diplomatic initiatives in the early 1960’s and its calculated acceptance of the 1969 annexation of West Papua by Indonesia through the “Act of Free Choice” which Chairman Faleomavaega termed the “Act of No Choice.” Faleomavaega cited declassified official U.S. documents that revealed the cynicism that shaped the U.S. approach: “documents reportedly indicate that the United States estimated that between 85 and 90 percent of Papuans were opposed to Indonesian rule and that as a result the Indonesians were incapable of winning an open referendum.” Faleomavaega said of the U.S. course: “the United States expended the hopes and dreams and the lives of some 100,000 West Papuans who consequently died as a result of Indonesian military rule.” Regarding the Indonesian annexation he added: “Although some challenge this estimate, it is indisputable fact that Indonesia has deliberately and systematically committed crimes against humanity and has yet to be held accountable.”
Faleomavaega placed current U.S. policy in the context of U.S. policy choices made in the 1960’s when the U.S. endorsed Indonesian action “in exchange for Suharto’s anti-Communist stance.” He warned that the Obama Administration’s search for allies in its “war against Islamic militancy,” should not come at the expense of the pain and killing and suffering of the people of West Papua.” The Chairman that he had yet to receive a substantive response to a June 2010 letter to the Administration signed by 50 members of Congress which urged that the Obama administration assign its highest priority to West Papua.
In describing the urgency of the situation in West Papua, Chairman Faleomavaega drew attention to demographic changes: “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 own homeland by the year 2015.” He also noted the role of international corporations such as U.S.-based Freeport McMoran in bringing “shameful woe” to West Papua.
The Administration was represented at the Hearing by senior officials from the Departments of State and Defense: Joseph Yun, Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) in the Bureau of East Asian Affairs and Pacific Affairs in the U.S. Department of State and Robert Scher, Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) for Defense for South and Southeast Asia. DAS Yun, after stating standing U.S. policy asserting respect for Indonesia’s territorial integrity and support for “special autonomy,” proceeded then to break new ground in his blunt assessment of trends and conditions in West Papua.
Responding to penetrating questions from Faleomavaega, Yun acknowledged that Papuans were on a course to become a minority in their own homeland. Yun said: “(m)y observation is that they are not yet a minority. I think the numbers show that about a 60-40 at the moment … (h)owever, clearly if this trend continues, they will be minority and probably in quite a short time.” He added that he thought Special Autonomy offered “some protection for Papuans, a lot of protections for Papuans and this is why it is important to implement those laws.” (WPAT Note: Special Autonomy does not in fact address natural migration or government-organized migration into West Papua in any meaningful way.)
Yun also expressed public U.S. concern over denial of access for journalists, international NGOs and others to West Papua and called specifically for the return of the International Committee of the Red Cross which has been banned from West Papua since 2009. In discussion with Chairman Faleomavaega following his formal statement Yun appeared to acknowledge the widely held view that the 1969 “Act of Free Choice” did not represent a genuine act of self determination. He noted: “So we do have to recognize integrity of Indonesia, its territorial integrity. But that does not mean that we should ignore history. But at the same time we cannot correct history.”
DAS Scher, speaking for the Pentagon, largely stuck closely to standard U.S. Defense Department talking points focusing less on West Papua and more on a defense of the Indonesian military. Scher sought to portray a reformed TNI but was able to cite only reforms made in the immediate wake of the 1998 overthrow of the Suharto regime and now nearly a decade old: (i.e., “formally removing the military from political affairs, establishing a clear delineation between the responsibilities of the civilian police forces and the TNI and enhancing the authority of the civilian minister of defense.”). He failed to acknowledge that the TNI retains its territorial structure through which it influences politics down to the village level; that the TNI is publicly seeking to assume anti-terror role which would intrude on police responsibility in this area or that the newly named Deputy Minister of Defense is a uniformed military official with a record of human rights violations. Scher’s assertions related to human rights training for TNI personnel and provision of human rights handbooks to TNI personnel are not new and have no proven to be effective. Such measures were in place in the 1990’s and did not prevent TNI atrocities in East Timor in 1999.
Scher also failed to address TNI unaccountability before the law for past or ongoing human rights violations or its failure to comply with Indonesian law to divest itself of its vast business empire which provides a stream of financing which enables it to remain independent of civilian control. Much of that empire is represented by legal and illegal operations in West Papua including logging, prostitution rings and extortion targeting domestic and foreign firms.
The Hearing also heard from a panel of expert witnesses that included Papuans, a Human Rights Watch official and two leading academics specializing in Papuan affairs (see here for a list of panel members and the the transcript of their remarks).
The Papuan witnesses reflected a broad range of views. They articulated, often in personal ways, the human rights violations they, their families and Papuans more broadly have endured over four decades of Indonesian control of West Papua. Most of the Papuans told the hearing that Papuans broadly rejected “special autonomy.” In the words of one Papuan witness: “Special autonomy policy is considered by most Papuan people that it does not become Papuans policy but on the contrary it has marginalized more of Papuan people and left them deeper in the cycle of poverty.” Papuans also called for a Jakarta-Papuan dialogue in light of the failure and Papuan rejection of the “special autonomy” policy. They also urged that the U.S. suspend assistance to the Indonesian military unless and until it ended its violations of human rights in West Papua. The Human Rights Watch official notes specifically that impunity for ongoing and past human rights abuse itself constituted an abuse of human rights.
Participants noted that over decades Papuans have been denied effective political control of their own destiny and that participation in elections where candidates are selected by Jakarta-based national parties perpetuated “remote control” by Jakarta. Chairman Faleomavaega acknowledged Papuans fundamental disenfranchisement noting “(t)here’s no question as a matter of principle. Your people were denied that privilege of self- determination.” He admonished, however, that resort to arms to assert this “privilege” (sic … right) was impractical given the disparity in military power between poorly armed Papuan fighters and the TNI.
Indonesian security forces in fired on a large group of Papuans killing two on September 15. On September 16, the security forces, personnel from Indonesia’s militarized police (Brimob), were supplemented by the Indonesian military and the U.S. and Australian-funded Detachment 88 who were brought in to secure the city as thousands of protesters remained in the street.
According to reports from local sources and media, the Brimob firing on the civilians transpired after a traffic accident. According to the local police commander, dozens of townspeople became angry when the alleged driver of the vehicle fled the scene and sought refuge in Brimob headquarters. Brimob personnel fired live ammunition at the agitated crowd, killing the two Papuans and wounding another woman severely. The authorities reported only one injury among the security forces.
Following the Brimob assault on the crowd other Brimob personnel conducted raids throughout the area, allegedly in pursuit of those involved in the melee following the traffic accident. Brimob personnel, according to the authorities, continued live weapons fire during these raids.
A distinctly different version of the violence has been provided by local Papuan sources. According to these sources, the Papuan victims of the violence was a local religious leader, his son and his wife. According to these reports, Reverend Naftali Kuan, from the GPKAI church was shot by Brimob as he sought to calm the crowd. Naftali Kuan’s son Septinus was also killed but how he died is unclear. One account claimed that he was shot roughly at the time his father was killed. A separate account claims that Septinu’s badly beaten body was found in a ravine near the Brimob headquarters on September 16. Kuan’s wife, Antomina, was badly injured by Brimob fire.
On September 25 the Senior Commander Wachyono, Papua police spokesperson, announced the outcome of an internal investigation of the incident. Wachyono revealed that those responsible for the killing of two and serious wounding of a third would receive remarkably minor sanctions: “Four of the 11 were sentenced to 21 days in custody and have had their promotions suspended, and the other seven received 14 days in custody and promotion suspensions.”
WPAT Comment: This violent episode underscores the explosive atmosphere in Manokwari. Dispatch of TNI personnel, and especially troops from the notorious Detachment 88 to Manokwari, is unlikely to defuse tensions significantly. Moreover, the Indonesian government failure to bring those Brimob personnel responsible for the killing of Papuan civilians before a court and the extraordinarily light administrative punishments lodged against the perpetrators can only add to Papuan’s sense of resentment. That resentment is stoked by the reality that Papuans engaging lawful, peaceful protest routinely are hauled before courts and assessed prison terms of ten to fifteen years.
see also: ETAN/WPAT: Suspend Training and Funding of Indonesian Police Unit Detachment 88
On September 16, the Jakarta Post published an an op-ed by Father Neles Tebay, lecturer at the Fajar Timur School of Philosophy and Theology in Abepura, Papua, endorsing an initiative by President Yudhoyono to conduct an audit of Special Autonomy funds. The audit, to be completed in 2011 would, cover the entire ten year period for which the Special Autonomy policy has been in effect.
Tebay notes the importance of the audit, observing that despite the expenditure of significant funds many Papuans live below the poverty line. Other observers have also noted the dearth of basic government services in the area of health, education, job-creation and sustainable development in West Papua.
While welcoming the audit, Tebay asks pointedly why over the ten years of Special Autonomy policy, this is the first public audit of where the billions of rupiah have gone. Tebay noted the apparent corrupt mis-channeling of funds by local administrations which have proliferated in the wake of the advent of Special Autonomy. Other credible reporting in the past has noted that some Special Autonomy funding was diverted into military coffers to finance military operation such as the widely condemned “sweeping operations” which have led to the displacement and even killing of many Papuans.
Tebay explains that among Papuans there are doubts, “based on past experiences where the government was unable to fulfill all of its promises.” He adds that these doubts have fed “a strong suspicion that the (audit) initiative was publicly announced in efforts to show that the government is responsive to the political crisis taking place in Papua.” He warns that “the government’s failure to eradicate corruption will, in turn, encourage more Papuans to raise the call for a referendum.”
The failure of the Special Autonomy to address fundamental needs for Papuans over the past decade was repeatedly noted in testimony before a September 22 hearing of the U.S. Congress’s Subcommittee on Asian, Pacific and Global affairs (see separate report above). Notwithstanding this failure and ignoring the reality that Papuans have overwhelmingly rejected the policy, U.S. Government officials testifying at the hearing continued to defer concrete action to address problems in West Papua in favor of steps aimed at improving the moribund policy.