West Papua Report
This is the 84th 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. If you wish to receive the report via e-mail, send a note to email@example.com.
Indonesia’s Vice President Boediono has begun implementation of a Presidential decree calling for the establishment of an inter-governmental agency to examine problems in West Papua. The initiative falls far short of widespread Papuan calls for a senior-level, internationally mediated dialogue between Indonesian officials and Papuans. A senior Papuan civil society leader has spoken out against this continued failure of Jakarta to engage in serious dialogue. Papuan church leaders have charged the Indonesian government with “genocide” in West Papua. The Melanesian Spearhead Group again failed to invite representatives from West Papua to its annual summit, instead inviting the Indonesian government to send observers. Indonesian officials violated the labor rights of Papuans by jailing nurses who called a peaceful, legal strike. A leading Papuan NGO chief has called for elimination of provisions in the Indonesian criminal code that violate Indonesia’s obligations under international conventions to which it is party.
- The Indonesia Government Continues to Ignore Papuan Calls for Dialogue
- Senior Papuan Faults Government Failure to Pursue Dialogue
- Papuan Church Leaders Charge Indonesian with “Genocide”
- Melanesian Spearhead Group Invites Indonesia as Observer, Continues to Bar Papuan Participation
- Nurses Jailed in Labor Dispute
- Demand for Elimination of Repressive Provisions in Indonesia’s Criminal Code
The Government of Indonesia Continues to Ignore Papuan Calls for Dialogue
The Jakarta Post reported that Indonesian Vice President Boediono planned to convene a meeting on West Papua on March 28 in Jakarta. The meeting was to be the initial step in formulating a draft of a presidential decree to address issues regarding Papua. The regulation also aims to establish a special unit to accelerate development in Papua. According to the decree, the government will form a “delivery unit,” the Unit Percepatan Pembangunan Papua dan Papua Barat (UP4B/ Special Unit for the Acceleration of Development in Papua and West Papua). Significant aspects of the draft include the promotion of a cluster-based approach to development, and an increased integration of the activities of the central and regional administrations. The planned regulation follows a presentation made by Papua Governor Barnabas Suebu and West Papua Governor Abraham Ocktavianus Atnuri to the national Cabinet in January.
The late March meeting was to have included Coordinating Economic Minister Hatta Rajasa and Finance Minister Agus Martowardojo, as well as unnamed Papuan representatives.
A March 9 interview by the Sydney Morning Herald’s Tom Allard revealed the Vice President’s intentions. Boediono told Allard that he rejected a bilateral dialogue, as called for by many Papuans, contending instead that his agency would assist multiparty communications. Boediono said he would welcome international donor aid money for West Papua but rejected any possible mediation role such as occurred in Aceh in 2005 when a peace accord mediated by internationally ended years of central government abuses carried out by security forces. Boediono told Allard that his new effort would aim at better communications, affirmative action for indigenous Papuans, and “more openness.” (The Jakarta government has long placed severe restrictions on journalists, UN and foreign government or NGO personnel seeking to visit West Papua.) Boediono offered no assurances that he would press for allowing Papuans the right to fly the Morning Star flag or that the heavy military presence in West Papua might be reduced.
Vice President Boediono made clear that this undertaking would not constitute a “dialogue.” There is no indication that this new body will address outstanding issue of human rights violations, impunity for those committing those abuses, notably in the military and police. This body will almost certainly not consider the civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights, especially the right of self determination.
WPAT Comment: Boediono’s “agency” falls far short of persistent appeals by Papuan officials, civil society leaders as well as Papuan, Indonesian and international NGOs for a senior level, internationally-mediated dialogue between the Indonesian government and Papuan leaders. Indeed, Boediono, in his Sydney Morning Herald interview, made clear that this undertaking would not constitute a “dialogue.” There is no indication that this new body will address outstanding issue of human rights violations, impunity for those committing those abuses, notably in the military and police. This body will almost certainly not consider the civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights, especially the right of self determination, which the central government has long denied Papuans.
Senior Papuan Faults Government Failure to Pursue Dialogue
Participation of Papuan provincial level officials in Vice Boediono’s meeting regarding West Papua (see report above) reflects the unwillingness of Papuan government officials to support the widespread call of their Papuan constituents for an internationally-mediated dialogue with the Jakarta government. Pastor Neles Tebay, coordinator of the Papua Peace Network – JDP discussed this failure of Papuan leadership candidly in a March 25 interview with JUBI.
Tebay noted frankly that neither of the provincial governments (Papua and West Papua) have reached agreement about the agenda of such a dialogue. Nor have either of the Papuan administrations issued statements officially supporting Jakarta-Papua dialogue. Tebay candidly assessed that the Papuan officials’ failure to endorse the popular calls for dialogue was because dialogue “is seen as being a separatist move and in opposition to what the Indonesian state is working for.” “Any individual who works for the government who expresses support for the idea of a Jakarta-Papua dialogue is in danger of losing his job because he is likely to be seen as a separatist. Anyone working for the government who expresses support for a dialogue places himself in danger and could lose his job,’ he said.
For his part, Father Tebay continues to pursue dialogue as a means of finding solutions to problems besetting Papuans. Tebay stressed that dialogue was not in itself a solution but rather would bring together the Papuan people and the Indonesian government to discuss the problems. The aim would be to discuss the problems and agree to the best possible solution.
Pastor Tebay said that so far, he has visited twelve districts in Papua to hold consultations. The districts he has visited so far include Merauke, Biak Enarotali, Timika, Wamena and Sorong.
He has also visited some other countries to discuss the question of dialogue including PNG, Vanuatu and Australia where he met Papuans in a number of cities. Everywhere he went, he encountered enthusiasm for the idea of finding a peaceful solution by means of dialogue between Jakarta and Papua.
Papuan Church leaders in late March issued a “Theological Declaration of Churches in Papua.” The declaration includes one of the most forthright Papuan statements regarding genocide targeting Papuans. The statement which was forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission (see full document at A Statement from a Group of Papuan Church Leaders) contends:
Transmigration policy and unrelenting military operations are, in our view well-planned programs to eventually annihilate indigenous Papuans. Papuans are positioned as “the other” and as such warrant surveillance, control, and civilization. Papuans are not equal citizens of Indonesia. Some observers in Jakarta view this as an internal colonialism or disguised slavery against Papuans.
- Papuans have undergone a ‘silent history of suffering’ or memmoria passsionis leading to genocide. … The term genocide perhaps does not meet the criteria set forth by the UN, or other nations, or by Indonesia. But from our own view as victims, genocide is indeed taking place through the conditioning staged by Jakarta in the forms of ideology and development policies that are against the indigenous Papuans. Transmigration policy and unrelenting military operations are, in our view well-planned programs to eventually annihilate indigenous Papuans. Papuans are positioned as “the other” and as such warrant surveillance, control, and civilization. Papuans are not equal citizens of Indonesia. Some observers in Jakarta view this as an internal colonialism or disguised slavery against Papuans.
The Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), comprising Vanuatu, the Solomon Island, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and the Kanaky peoples of New Caledonia, invited Indonesia (and Timor-Leste) to join their annual meeting. MSG leaders met March 31 in Suva, Fiji, for the annual summit which followed a meeting of foreign ministers March 29. The MSG did not invite any representation from West Papua.
A conference of solidarity groups supporting West Papua that convened in Sydney in February had called on the MSG not to offer observer status to Indonesia and instead to offer that status to representatives of the Papuan people of West Papua.
For its part, the Australian West Papua Association (AWPA) welcomed a statement from the Chairman of the MSG meeting, Ratu Inoke Kubuabol who said that “The Melanesia Spearhead Group feels for their brothers and sisters in West Papua.” Joe Collins of AWPA said “we urge the MSG to grant West Papua membership at the leaders summit. They would have the support of the Melanesian people across the region in granting West Papua membership.”
Collins noted that 42% included West Papua as part of the Melanesian family in the first ever telephone poll conducted by the Pacific Institute of Public Policy (PiPP) across Melanesia.. An overwhelming majority (75.4%) of respondents said yes to the question “Do you support independence for West Papua.” PiPP in a press release reported that when asked who they considered part of the Melanesian family, clear majorities included the established members (PNG, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji and New Caledonia) while 42% also included West Papua, 17.1% included Australia, 14.9% included Indonesia and 14.1% included Timor-Leste. PiPP also reported that when asked “Do you support independence for West Papua?” there was very high support in PNG (89.3%) and Vanuatu (88.2%).
Collins underscored that these numbers suggest a “disconnect between popular support and the position taken by governments in the region, except Vanuatu, which has long championed the West Papuan cause at the political level. He concluded, “we see that in the poll only 14.9% of respondents considered Indonesia to be part of the Melanesian family yet Indonesia has observer status but not West Papua. For the sake of the long term stability of the region we hope West Papua will be discussed at the leaders meeting.”
The meeting in Suva was controversial because Fiji is currently under military dictatorship.
WPAT Comment: West Papua is the largest Melanesian populated entity not represented within the MSG and the second largest Melanesian entity, after Papua New Guinea. Its continued exclusion from the MSG calls into question the legitimacy of the organization. Moreover, the MSG’s failure address the plight of Papuans, including ethnic cleansing under the rubric of “transmigration” and charges of “genocide” by credible organizations (see statement by Papuan church leaders above) exposes the lack of commitment among Melanesian leaders to the rights and welfare of Melanesian peoples. Vanuatu’s repeated and public expressions of concern about the plight of Papuans is a singular but noteworthy exception in this regard.
Mounting public pressure, including from members of the Papuan Provincial Assembly (DPRP), compelled the police to announce they would release eight nurses who had been jailed on charges of incitement (article 335 of the criminal code). However, purportedly because of the absence of a key police official required to sign the release order, it appears the nurses had not yet been released at the end of March.
These West Papuan nurses were pursuing their legitimate rights and it is obscene to think they are languishing in jail.
The eight had been jailed over their call for a strike by nurses at the DokII General Hospital. That strike, a peaceful, lawful labor action, was over promised but unpaid compensation. Letters have been sent to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, as well as to Vice-President Boediono protesting the arrest of five nurses and midwives who work at the general hospital for organizing a strike.
The detention of the nurses violates their rights notably as set forth in International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize), which was ratified by Indonesia in June 1998.
The issue of the unpaid compensation remains unresolved. The local daily Bintang Papua reported on March 23 that nurses and midwives had taken the issue to the DPRD and the provincial governor where hundreds demonstrated. They charged that the provincial secretary Constan Karmadi had deceived the public when he promised in December 2010 that incentives would be paid.
The medical staff are planning to make a formal complaint against the provincial secretary to the Administrative Court, pointing out that Instruction 125/2010 has been issued for the payment of the incentives, only to be cancelled by a later instruction that withdrew any such payments.
There is growing international attention to the arrests and the failure of the Indonesian government to meet is contract obligations to the nurses. Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) President Ged Kearney has described the detention of the nurses as “outrageous” and called for their immediate release. She noted as well that “the arrests of the nurses, including two officials of the National Union of Indonesian nurses, was a heavy handed response to nurses pursuing a legitimate industrial campaign in support of their contracted entitlements. ”
“These West Papuan nurses were pursuing their legitimate rights and it is obscene to think they are languishing in jail,” added Kearney.
The Papuan publication JUBI published an appeal on March 31 by the executive director of the Institute of Research, Analysis and Development for Legal Aid (LP3BH) Yan Christian Warinussy to the Dewan Adat Papua (DAP, Papuan Customary Council) to submit articles 106 and 107 of the criminal code on subversion and incitement (the ‘makar’ or subversion articles) of the Indonesian Criminal Code (KUHP) to the Constitutional Court for a judicial review.
“I call on DAP together with the Papuan people to seek a judicial review of the makar article before the Constitutional Court because it is no longer appropriate for such a law to remain in force in a democratic country like Indonesia. Other democratic states around the world don’t have such a law,” he said.
Many international organizations, including WPAT and ETAN have long called for the removal of these provisions from the Indonesian criminal code. The provisions date to the colonial era and were frequently used during the Suharto dictatorship to repress peaceful opposition. Indonesian officials continue to employ them to repress popular, peaceful dissent, particularly in West Papua where Suharto era practices, including unjust prosecution, persist.
The provisions violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights to which Indonesia is signatory.