WPAT: Letter to Secretary of State Clinton on West Papua

The Honorable Hillary Clinton
Secretary of State
Department of State
Washington, D.C.

July 20, 2011

Secretary Clinton:

The West Papua Advocacy Team is writing to you on the eve of your
visit to Indonesia to request that you use this opportunity to raise
with senior Indonesians the Indonesian military operation that is
occurring in the Puncak Jaya regency of West Papua.

Media reports have indicated that up to 600 Indonesian military (TNI)
personal are involved in “sweeping ” operations in the region. This
operation is only the latest in a series of such operations which the
Indonesian military has conducted in the Puncak Jaya region over many
years. These operations have had a devastating human toll including
civilian casualties, destruction of civilian homes, churches, public
buildings gardens and livestock as well as broad displacement of
civilians from towns and villages, often to nearby mountains and
jungle. Due in part to routine military closure of these zones of
conflict to humanitarian operations, displaced civilians suffer and
die as a result of lack of food, shelter and access to medical care.

Typically, military forces, including forces which benefit from U.S.
government equipment and training, fail to distinguish between those
they are targeting, the lightly armed Free Papua Movement (the OPM),
and the general public. While the OPM is committed to peaceful
dialogue, it retains the right to self defense and protecting the
local people if attacked. Although the security forces blame all
incidents in the area on the OPM, many attacks on the TNI are by
unknown attackers. Some of these arise as a result of disputes
related to commercial interests among military units and/or with
police units which compete over exploitation of natural resources and
extortion of local and international commercial operations.

In the current sweep operation media reports indicate four civilians,
including one women and 3 children, were wounded on July 12 when
Indonesian troops from the Infantry Battalion 753, who are based in
Nabire, fired into huts in the village of Kalome while searching for
members of the Free Papua Movement (OPM). Thus far, the military has
refused to acknowledge this incident.

In May the military began a “socializing program” in Puncak Jaya
involving up to 300 Army, Air Force and Navy personnel . The program
is proposed to include the renovating of homes, churches and markets.
The military personnel, as part of the program, also lecture local
Papuans at Papuans Sunday church gatherings. Local people, according
to media and other accounts, have described the program as in reality
only a shield and a cover-up of the military and police’s violation
of human rights abuses that have transpired in the region for many years.

Papuan civil society leaders, non-governmental organizations,
churches and ordinary civilians have long called for transformation
of Papua into a “Land of Peace,” a concept that would demilitarize
West Papua and end the Indonesian government’s reliance on a
“security approach” to address peaceful, political dissent.
Currently, many Papuans are incarcerated in prisons due to their
peaceful exercise of freedoms of speech and assembly which are denied
them by the Indonesian government.

We urge you to use the opportunity of your visit to Indonesia to call
on the Indonesian President to halt all military operations in West
Papua and return all military personal to their barracks as a way of
easing tension and saving lives. We also urge you to raise with
senior Indonesians, the plight of dozens of Papuan prisoners of
conscience who were jailed as result of peaceful dissent and who now
face health and even life-threatening conditions in Indonesian
notorious prisons.

Yours respectfully,

The West Papua Advocacy Team

(Edmund McWilliams, Acting Secretary)

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