Daily Archives: July 18, 2011

Faleomavaega receives Humanitarian Award for Defense of Human Rights in West Papua


Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that the West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) has named him the 2011 recipient of the John Rumbiak Human Rights Defenders Award.  Faleomavaega was presented the award on Thursday July 7, 2011.

In honoring Faleomavaega, WPAT stated:

The West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) is pleased to announce that it is awarding the 2011 “John Rumbiak Human Rights Defenders Award” to the Honorable Eni F.H. Faleomavaega (D-AS), a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Congressmember Faleomavaega has been an articulate and effective advocate for the defense of human rights in West Papua, and has long worked for a peaceful resolution of the serious problems confronting Papuans.

His extensive knowledge regarding West Papua and his manifest sincerity and good will have enabled him to draw on the respect accorded him by his Congressional colleagues and members of successive Administrations to alert them and the U.S. public more broadly to justice, good governance and development concerns in West Papua.

On September 22, 2010, in his capacity as the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment, Congressmember Faleomavaega convened the first hearing in the history of the U.S. Congress to include testimony from West Papua’s traditional and religious leaders. The hearing, Crimes Against Humanity: When Will Indonesia’s Military Be Held Accountable for Deliberate and Systematic Abuses in West Papua, also included testimony from scholars and administration officials from the U.S. Departments of State and Defense.

Driven by a sense of personal responsibility to carry forward the work of his Samoan relatives who are buried in West Papua and in honor of all those who have lived the struggle, Congressmember Faleomavaega continues to do all he can to hold the Indonesian government accountable so that a better way forward may be found for and on behalf of the people of West Papua.

Past recipients of the award include Carmel Budiardjo (UK) and TAPOL (2008); John M. Miller (U.S.) and the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) (2009), and Andreas Harsono (Indonesia) of Human Rights Watch (2010).

The award includes a plaque and a financial prize which Congressmember Faleomavaega has directed be donated to a charity selected by him. The award is named in honor of Papuan John Rumbiak, a renowned champion of human rights and founder of WPAT.

“I am humbled by this award,” Faleomavaega said.  “I do not feel worthy of it, and this is why I have donated the prize money to the Papuan Customary Council (Dewan Adat Papua) in honor of the men, women and children of West Papua who are the true heroes.”

“Over the years, the men, women and children of West Papua have suffered at the hands of Indonesia’s brutal military and police forces.  In fact, Indonesia’s military has committed indisputable crimes against humanity through the murder, torture and rape of more than 100,000 West Papuans.”

“It should also be noted that Freeport Mining company, now located in Phoenix, Arizona, USA, was the first foreign company to do business with Indonesian President Suharto, one of the most brutal dictators of the 20th century.  Freeport’s association with Suharto led to Freeport operating the Grasberg mine in West Papua — one of the biggest gold and copper mines in the world.”

“With little regard for the people of West Papua, Freeport has callously stripped West Papua of its natural resources and pays Papuan workers less than $1.80 per day, or about $0.20 cents per hour.  Papuan workers went on strike in protest saying their counterparts working for other units of Freeport operations around the world are paid approximately $15 per hour.  All Papuan workers are asking is to be paid at about $3 per hour.”

“To put this in perspective, the CEO of Freeport was paid almost $40 million in 2010 alone.  In my opinion, this kind of disparity is shameful.  An American company should know better, and do better.  And until Freeport makes it right and stops exploiting Papuan workers, I will make my views known on the House floor for the sake of history and for the sake of the American public in hopes that Freeport will one day be held accountable for the environmental and economic horrors it has wrought in West Papua.”

“For history’s sake, I also want to commend past winners of the John Rumbiak Human Rights Defenders Award, including Carmel Budiardjo, the 2008 winner, who founded and has chaired TAPOL since the 1970s.  TAPOL (which means political prisoner in Indonesian) is a small UK-based NGO that campaigns for political prisoners and for human rights in general in Indonesia and East Timor.  Carmel Budiardjo was herself a political prisoner, in the late 1960’s at the time that the dictator Suharto came to power.  She was imprisoned for three years and then founded TAPOL upon returning to the UK in 1971.  She won the ‘Right Livelihood Award’ in 1995 and has several times been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.  Carmel is now 86 but still very active.”

“John Miller and the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network, the 2009 winner, has long been involved in human rights advocacy in East Timor and Indonesia.  John Miller is the National Coordinator for ETAN.”

“Andreas Harsono, the 2010 winner, is an Indonesian journalist and human rights advocate who in 2010 worked closely with Human Rights Watch, particularly on West Papua.  He is still associated with HRW but also is an independent journalist and human rights advocate.”

“I also commend my good friend, John Rumbiak, a West Papuan human rights advocate, who has worn out his life in the service of his fellowman.  I wish John a speedy recovery, and my thoughts and prayers are with him.”

“Once more, I thank WPAT for the work it is doing to champion the cause of West Papua, and I share this honor with all those engaged in the struggle,” Faleomavaega concluded.

Indonesian Army shoot mother and 3 children in “crossfire” in Kalome, West Papua, as offensive escalates

Map of Puncak Jaya, Papua, Indonesia.
Image via Wikipedia

by Nick Chesterfield, with local sources and agencies

WestPapuaMedia.Info – Indonesian Army (TNI) troops have shot 3 young children and a mother in Puncak Jaya, West Papua, in the latest atrocities carried out during a two-week military offensive aimed at ending armed resistance to Indonesian Rule over the occupied colony.

Ny Dekimira, 50, was hit on the right foot, and the three children – Jitoban Wenda 4, and their neighbors Dekimin Wenda, 3, and Dimison Wenda, 8 – all had bullets hit their left legs after Indonesian troops fired indiscriminately into the honai (huts) just before dawn on July 14, according to local witnesses.

Credible reports about the scale of the offensive are beginning to filter through from the remote and inaccessible area about the scale of the offensive  The Indonesian government has closed off access to the Tingginambut district to both Indonesian and foreign human rights and media observers, and local activists have had to march for days across rugged terrain to get out verified information.   Local human rights observers and Papuan activists have independently reported to West Papua Media that TNI headquarters staff have threatened their safety if they alert journalists to abuses carried out by Indonesian security forces against West Papuan people.

Undeterred, the mass based Papuan activist network West Papua National Committee (KNPB) have accused the Indonesian Military “under the regime of General Susilo Bambang Yudhoyhono”

General SBY - Military approach will not solve Papua's problems

of manipulating the situation in Puncak Jaya to conduct military domination and control of the local population, despite the recent public relations offensive that it was engaged in “bakti” social service campaigns to help the people.  According the KNPB, the TNI should not cover up their mistakes and militarism by engaging in social activities – they should cease military activities on civilians altogether.

“Their reasons make no sense, because it’s so funny that the military themselves who set fire to the houses of citizens in almost all settlements, Indonesian military who burned alive the people’s animals, burned residents’ gardens; and now the TNI and Police are trying to justify themselves as heroes by playing a cheap propaganda in the media, ” said a KNPB spokesperson on Saturday.

Activists from the area have provided photographs to West Papua Media

showing the fully armed troops previously working on the Bakti projects suddenly boarding Puma helicopters in transit to the combat zone around Kalome.

TribuneNews.com quoted the TPN Secretary General for the Highlands Area, General Anthony Wenda, saying that villagers reported the shooting in Kalome on July 7 happened before dawn when residents were still asleep. “At that time, we’re on guard night and day in Kalome, and a barrage of bullets from the TNI were directed into a house of children and the elderly,” said Wenda to Tribunnews.com. “We always will be ready to make contact with TNI weapons until we are free, because this is the struggle of our people of West Papua.”

After this shootout, the force reportedly involving over 600 soldiers from the notorious 753 Battalion based in Nabire, have sought to enforce their control over the rugged and remote district.  753 Battlalion’s operations in the Kalome area reached international infamy in 2010 when troops tortured and killed Rev Kindeman Gire, and also with the torture of Tunaliwor Kiwo.  Kiwo’s torture, captured on video and uploaded to Youtube, created outrage that shone an international spotlight on the TNI’s behaviour against civilians in Papua.  The Indonesian government was later caught red-handed as it switched the defendants in the torture trial widely seen as farcical, and ran a military trial on issues of discipline instead of human rights abuses. Since this time, TPN fighters been permanently around the village for protection.  However, the TPN are poorly armed and their hardware is no match for a fully equipped modern military.

The current offensive comes as the Indonesian military is attempting to convince international observers that it is improving its human rights practice.  Last week, as troops were engaging both civilians and fighters from the National Liberation Army (TPN-PB), the commander of the TNI in West Papua,

Erfi Triassunu - duplicitous

Major General Erfi Triassunu, was duplicitous in speaking about ending impunity and abuses by its soldiers at the Jakarta-sponsored Papua Peace Network (Jaringan Damai Papua or JDP) conference in Jayapura.  Dr Neles Tebay and the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), the organisers of the conference, were apparently unaware of the contradiction at this time, a contributing factor in the boycott or skepticism of the Peace Talks by the majority of Papuan representative organisations.

Yet according to the KNPB, one of the several sectors suspicious of the JDP, this peace process is illegitimate.  “Do not imagine Peace (will be brought) by the JDP, Indonesian Government through Governor, DPRP, TNI or the police in Papua.  Because in reality, Papua is a military zone by their physical and systematic actions done to destroy the Papuans and to control this region for the glory of foreign investors.”

According to Tribunnews.com, Maj-Gen Triassunu conceded that troops may have shot the Kalome villagers.  “The possibility exists, but we have not received a report from our post in Puncak Jaya”. Triassunu denied the incident in Kalome was proof that civilians were targeted.  “We just pursued the TPN OPM in mountainous regions, because Papua is part of the Unitary Republic of Indonesia,” he told Tribune News.

However, the Head of Information Department of the Army (Kadispenad) Brigadier General Wiryantoro would not comment on this allegation.  “It’s related to operations of TNI forces deployment. When it comes to coaching the Army personnel, or related to the pure strength of the army, I can not answer” (Tribunnews.com)

When contacted by West Papua Media, no spokespeople for either the Indonesian military or Police made themselves available for comment on the allegations of the offensive, nor were replies made to telephone voice and text messages, or emailed questions.

West Papua Media also has made a decision to protect the identity of its sources*, as they have reported significant threats to their safety.  Political activists reporting on the events have also come under significant threat.  Victor Yeimo from the KNPB reports that when the Press Conference for local and national journalists to report on the Puncak Jaya incidents was called, phone and physical threats were received from persons claiming to be Pangdam (Indonesian Army Regional Commander), and Police.  Yeimo reports that these callers forced KNPB to cancel the press conference about the case in Puncak Jaya.   “Many journalists did not come after they terrorized by the Indonesian Military,” said Yeimo.

Siege Conditions may create humanitarian crisis

Credible local clandestine activists have relayed reports to West Papua Media of the TNI laying siege to several villages in the immediate area of Kalome, but they cannot get close enough to verify any casualties, displacement or destruction.  With village sieges and actions on other villages in the past having caused significant displacement, local human rights observers fully expect the civilian death toll to rise significantly.

Hundreds of people have reportedly fled to neighbouring villages or to the hills, and observers have expressed concern that in the depths of winter, with their food crops destroyed, locally people internally displaced who may have no alternative to seek refuge in higher ground, may succumb to starvation or exposure.  The areas high in the cloud forests and above the treeline are not suitable for sheltering large numbers of people, as they have been denuded by countless thousands of internally displaced refugees from previous military offensives.

Since the first aerial bombing campaigns by the Indonesian Air Force in 1978 in Puncak Jaya, almost every year from July to August, the TNI has launched offensives against civilians across the highlands.  An identical offensive in 2003 was investigated by Komnas HAM (Indonesian National Human Rights Commission), which found that the Australian-trained Kopassus special forces committed gross human rights abuses and crimes against humanity. Similar offensives occurred in 2005, 2006, and 2007, which forced several thousand people into famine conditions high in the mountains, above the treeline.  Last year also marked a particularly brutal operation, only noted by foreign media due to the inescapable viral distribution of the torture videos.

In light of the allegations of brutality by the TNI in Kalome, independence activists are also challenging the notion that the armed resistance practiced by Tabuni’s forces is terrorism.  According to a KNPB spokesman, “The TPN under the Goliat Tabuni continues to struggle, not for a personal profit nor to legitimise the habit of TNI and POLRI to obtain security protection payments. The struggle is resistance to colonial occupation by  Indonesia of West Papua, especially in Puncak Jaya … the reason the TPN was formed”

The recent deaths of TNI and Police.in Puncak Jaya is the fault of the generals in the view of the KNPB, who say that their policies and command structure sacrifice the members of it security apparatus.  “Victims will continue to fall if SBY and (TNI Command) prioritize militaristic ways to solve West Papua’s problems, by dropping hundreds of soldiers everyday to Puncak Jaya”.

“If SBY does not take  political will to solve the problem of West Papua immediately (by allowing an) act of self determination via a referendum then human rights violations will continue to occur,” stated the KNPB spokesman.

West Papua Media was this week contacted by a retired European missionary who had formerly served in Puncak Jaya regency who was concerned about the current situation.  He offered the following comments on condition of anonymity, as he is concerned for reprisals for his former colleagues:

  “Burning villages, causing people to flee with nothing but the clothes they wear, creating absolute terror amongst ordinary people, condemning babies to die starving and frozen hiding from the soldiers high in the mountains, killing and torturing priests and laymen alike… who are the real terrorists? This is not new, this slaughter happens every year since Indonesia first came – they are not hunting guerrillas, they are hunting Papuans until they are dead.  Whilst we might not always agree with the strategies employed by TPN, and that we pray for a peaceful solution, they are a legitimate army of national liberation there to protect their people in the absence of any international concern.”

West Papua Media will continue to provide monitoring and coverage of this evolving situation.  Please send any tips or corrections to editor<at>westpapuamedia.info

*Please note: bona fide journalists can be provided with sources if they are doing a story on this issue, but for their safety, their identities are strictly not for publication.

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