Daily Archives: December 22, 2010

Wikileaks – US Government blames Jakarta for unrest in West Papua

Article by Philip Dorling and Nick McKenzie
Link to article in The Age

THE United States fears that Indonesian government neglect, rampant corruption and human rights abuses are stoking unrest in its troubled province of West Papua.

Leaked embassy cables reveal that US diplomats privately blame Jakarta for instability and “chronic underdevelopment” in West Papua, where military commanders have been accused of drug smuggling and illegal logging rackets across the border with Papua New Guinea.

A September 2009 cable from the US embassy in Jakarta says “the region is politically marginalized and many Papuans harbor separatist aspirations”. An earlier cable, from October 2007, details claims by an Indonesian foreign affairs official about military influence in West Papua.

“The Indonesian official] claims that the Indonesian Military (TNI) has far more troops in Papua than it is willing to admit to, chiefly to protect and facilitate TNI’s interests in illegal logging operations,” says the cable, obtained by WikiLeaks and made available exclusively to The Age.

“The governor … had to move cautiously so as not to upset the TNI, which he said operates as a virtually autonomous governmental entity within the province,” the cable says.

It notes that because the allegations are coming from an Indonesian official rather than a non-government organisation, they “take on an even more serious cast”.

A 2006 cable details a briefing from a Papua New Guinea government official who said that the armed forces were ”involved in both illegal logging and drug smuggling in PNG”.

In another cable from 2006, the US embassy records the reaction of Indonesian authorities to a riot in West Papua that left four officials dead. “While the gruesome murder of three unarmed policemen and an air force officer at the hands of angry mob is unconscionable, the authorities’ handling of the aftermath has merely added a new chapter to the history of miscarriages of justice in Papua,” it says.

“It is clear that the police rounded up a miscellany of perceived trouble-makers and random individuals and that the prosecutors and judges then railroaded them in a farcical show trial.”

Cables from throughout 2009 blame the Indonesian government’s neglect of West Papua – including the failure to ensure revenue generated by mining is distributed fairly – for continuing unrest. “Most money transferred to the province remains unspent although some has gone into ill-conceived projects or disappeared into the pockets of corrupt officials,” a September 2009 cable says.

”Many central government ministries have been reluctant to cede power to the province. As a result, implementation of the [Special Autonomy] law has lagged and Papuans increasingly view the law as a failure.”

The Special Autonomy Law was introduced by Jakarta in 2001 in a bid to dampen the push in Papua for independence, to address past abuses in the region, including by the Indonesian military, and to empower local government entities.

While the US embassy cables detail some improvements in the conduct of the Indonesian military and police in the region in recent years, several cables also detail serious misconduct.

The US cables also record allegations of corruption involving local officials.

After NGO Human Rights Watch released a report last year alleging that military officers had abused Papuans in the town of Merauke, the US embassy in Jakarta wrote that the incident was isolated and may have involved soldiers following orders from local official Johanes Gluba Gebze.

“An ethnic Papuan, Gebze presides over a regional government where allegations of corruption and brutality are rife,” the 2009 cable says. It quotes advisers to Papua Governor Barnabas Suebu saying Gebze is ”out of control” and has made numerous illegal forestry deals with Chinese and Korean companies.

In early 2006, a senior manager of the Papuan mining operation run by US minerals giant Freeport-McMoRan privately told the embassy that “rampant corruption among provincial and regency officials has stoked Papuans’ disenchantment”.

Freeport is the biggest taxpayer in Indonesia and its mine is frequently and, according to the US embassy, unfairly accused of acting unethically. According to a March 2006 cable, a senior mine official said that “average Papuans see few benefits from the royalty and tax payments by Freeport and other extractive industries that should go to the province under the Special Autonomy law … This corruption hurts Freeport’s image with Papuans as well.”

The documents also reveal candid disclosures by senior Freeport executives about how the company pays members of the Indonesian military and police officers who help secure its operations. The payments caused controversy after they were detailed in a 2006 article in The New York Times.

A January 2006 cable states that Dan Bowman, Freeport Indonesia’s senior vice-president, said the “main allegations about direct payments by the company to military and police officials are true but misleading … the military and police did not have institutional bank accounts into which Freeport could deposit funds, so they were forced to make payments directly to the commanding officers responsible for security at the mine.”

An April 2007 cable says that Freeport continues to pay “voluntary support allowances” to police who help protect the mine, although does so using safeguards to prevent the money being corruptly diverted.

In October 2007, Freeport officials told the embassy that police who guarded the company’s mine were being bribed by illegal miners, who the company says are responsible for environmental damage.

“Freeport officials allege that the illegal miners have bribed Mobile Brigade officers to allow their activities. They also charge that Mobile Brigade personnel sell food and other supplies to the miners.”

KontraS Papua: Press release on Recent Problems in Abepura Prison

KontraS (Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence) Papua, SKPHP (Solidarity of Victims of Human Rights Violations in Papua) and the Lawyers Team

The Department of Law and Human Rights and Abepura Prison must take responsibility Legal Processes will not solve the problems in Abepura Prison.

The clarification made to the media by the public relations department of the Police Force in Papua, Police Commissioner Wahchyono, that Buchtar Tabuni, Filep Karma, Dominggus Pulalo, Alex Elopere and Danny Lopez Karubaba are now suspects is incorrect because their status should be as witnesses in a criminal case in which acts of violence were perpetrated against certain individuals and material goods, as stipulated in Article 170 of the Criminal Code.

The Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS) Papua and their lawyers believe that the legal procedures now being taken by the Provincial Police Force in Papua regarding Buchtar Tabuni and his associates reflect a failure of the Department of Law and Human Rights and the Abepura Prison to create feelings of tranquillity among prisoners being held in Abepura Prison.

It should be noted that on 3 December 2010, five inmates escaped from the prison, as a result of which one of the inmates, Wiron Wetiipo was shot and fatally wounded but we have not yet received any information about the legal procedures that are now in progress.

This is not the first time that inmates are reported to have escaped from the prison. This should be the focus of attention revealing as it does that conditions in the prison are not in order as they have resulted in the prisoners making an escape from the prison.

It is not right for the Department of Law and Human Rights and the
prison authorities to take account only of the consequences but they should also consider the causes of these developments. In our opinion, the legal process will not be able to solve the problems
in the prison because, as stated by FORDEM in its statement of 14
December 2010 which was reported in the daily newspaper, Bintang Papua, the Director of Abepura Prsion along with fourteen members of his staff should face charges for committing acts of violence against the prisoners as this would uphold the principle of equality before the law. If legal procedures are only to be taken against Buchtar and his
associates, this is unfair and could have unfortunate consequences.

Therefore KontraS Papua and the team of lawyers make the following demands:

1. The Indonesian Minister of Law and Human Rights and the District Head of the Department of Law and Human Rights should take measures that are more appropriate in order to provide an atmosphere of tranquillity for the prisoners and should not focus primarily on legal procedures to resolve these problems.
2. The District Head of the Department of Law and Human Rights and the prison authorities should be transparent in explaining what actually happened so as to avoid creating a variety of perceptions in the community.
3. The Provincial Legislative Assembly of the Province of Papua
should also get involved in solving the problems in the prison, for the sake of accountability towards the community as a whole.

The five persons facing charges are:

Filep Jacob S Karma
Buchtar Tabuni
Alex Elopere
Dominggus Pulalo
Danny Lopez Karubaba

The charges against them are all as stipulated in Article 170 of the Criminal Code.

[Translated by TAPOL]

British Deputy Prime Minister raised ‘grave concerns’ over human rights and restricted press access to West Papua during meeting with Indonesian Government officials

It has emerged that the British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has raised concerns to the highest levels of the Indonesian Government about the ongoing human rights abuses being committed in West Papua, and the restricted access granted to foreign journalists to the region.

The Deputy Prime Minister made representations to Indonesian ministers during the Asia-EU summit in October.

During an exchange in the House of Lords in the British Parliament on 16th December, a prolonged exchange took place between several Lords regarding reported human rights abuses by the Indonesian military in West Papua and the denial of access to the region for foreign journalists. Many of them urging the British Government to take a stronger line against Indonesia. (view exchange here)

The situation in West Papua and human rights abuses in the region have steadily risen in the public consciousness in the UK in the past few years, part due to the campaigning efforts of exiled independence leader Benny Wenda. Earlier this year the British Prime Minister David Cameron described the Papuan peoples plight under Indonesian colonial rule as a ‘terrible situation’ leading to celebrations throughout West Papua that a Western leader had recognised their situation publicly. More recently, footage was broadcast on national news broadcaster Channel 4, showing Indonesian troops torturing Papuans, leading to pubic outrage in the UK and further representations from the UK Government.