Tom Allard, Indonesia
IT WOULD seem an unremarkable venture – a group of American tourists visiting a cultural centre in the Papuan town of Abepura. But to one observer the event (lasting, as he later reported, precisely 35 minutes) was laden with potential significance.
The man in the shadows as the visitors watched a traditional dance was an informant for Indonesia’s elite special forces unit, Kopassus. In a subsequent report, he noted that, while the visit had been ”safe and smooth”, there was no room for complacency. It was a point heartily endorsed by his Kopassus contact, Second Lieutenant Muhammad Zainollah, who alluded, in a report to his own commander, to the risk of foreign tourists ”influencing conditions of Papuan society”.
”Politically, there needs to be a deeper detection of the existence hidden behind it all,” he warned, ”because of the possibility of a process of deception … such as meetings with pro-independence groups.”
Situated in the easternmost reaches of Indonesia’s sprawling archipelago, the Papua region is a source of continuing embarrassment for Indonesia – a country that has otherwise made substantial strides as a democratic and economic power. Despite being granted special autonomy 10 years ago and targeted for accelerated economic development, its indigenous Melanesian people are the country’s poorest and many are deeply unhappy with Jakarta’s rule and a heavy security presence.
The documents, which date from 2006 to 2009, reveal that independence activists and members of the OPM-TPN, the small armed resistance, are under intense surveillance, but so too are many ordinary Papuans and civic leaders who do not advocate independence but are concerned about the advancement of their people, or are influential in the community.
”Everyone is a separatist until they can prove they are not,” says Neles Tebay, a pastor and convener of the Papua Peace Network that is promoting dialogue with Jakarta.
Around the capital, Jayapura, where many of the documents originate, there are 10 Kopassus spy networks infiltrating ”all levels of society”, including the university, government agencies, the local parliament, hotels and the Papuan Customary Council.
A worker at a car rental agency tips off his Kopassus handler whenever a suspicious customer visits the establishment or talks about ”M”, shorthand for ”merdeka” or freedom. A phone shop employee ”often provides information on the phone numbers of people purchasing phone credits”.
Journalists, university students, bureaucrats, church leaders, teachers, motorcycle taxi drivers, clan leaders, village chiefs, farmers and forest workers are all on the books of Kopassus.
One leader of the OPM-TPN has eight Kopassus informants within his network, including a 14-year-old family member.
Other units of the Indonesian military, known as the TNI, run similar intelligence operations, as do the police. There are also scores of agents in Papua from Indonesia’s national intelligence agency, known by its acronym BIN.
Benny Giay, a leader of the Gospel Tabernacle Church, is one of the civic leaders branded a separatist by Kopassus. For Dr Giay, the suffocating presence of the intelligence network is part of daily life, as is interference in the affairs of his church by the military. ”If someone joins the church, we always have to ask ourselves, ‘What did they come here for? Are they intels or worshippers?’ ” he says.
Given the disappearance and deaths of other leaders under the gaze of Kopassus, the surveillance leaves Giay constantly uneasy. ”I have to check my meals to make sure they are not poisoned and I have to be home by 7pm. If I walk around after then, I have to bring someone with me, always.”
Marcus Haluk, the secretary general of the Central Highlands Papuan Student Association, features heavily in the documents. It seems most of his meetings are attended by a Kopassus spy. ”I’ve lost count of the attempts to kill or threaten me,” he says. ”I’ve had guns pointed at my head, I’ve been thrown from a motorcycle. There are always SMS threats.”
Underpinning the spying is the view that most institutions in Papua are riddled with separatists. The documents outline a two-stage intelligence operation to address the perceived problem. The first involves disrupting alleged separatist networks and the second is dubbed the ”diminishing dominant influence phase” or ensuring ”traditional institutions used for politics in Papua lose the trust of the indigenous peoples of Papua”.
In short, the objective is to discredit the institutions and arrangements introduced by the central government under Papua’s special autonomy deal introduced in 2001 – the very policy supposed to give Papuans economic and cultural rights, dampen independence sentiment and secure national unity.
Agus Sumule, a long-term resident of Papua and adviser to governor Barnabas Suebu, is an immigrant and a nationalist and was a key player in drafting the special autonomy laws which created a new legislative body – known as the Majelis Rakyat Papua (MRP) – to represent indigenous Papuans.
Special autonomy has never had a chance, he argues, and much of the blame lies with Jakarta’s refusal to implement it properly. Papua was divided into two provinces – Papua and West Papua – in 2003 against the wishes of the MRP, Dr Sumule says. Moreover, the home affairs ministry interferes in the election of MRP candidates, and has banned people from taking their seats. Despite provisions in the special autonomy law for symbols of Papuan identity to be displayed, the cherished Morning Star flag has been outlawed. Those caught displaying it can be sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Some $3 billion in aid has flowed from the central government to the region in the past decade, but it is handed out haphazardly and most of it has been siphoned off by corrupt officials or wasted on bureaucracies to support the new province and dozens of new regencies in Papua.
Meanwhile, Papua has been swamped by migrants from other parts of Indonesia who dominate its economy. Explaining the economic disparity, one Kopassus report claimed that indigenous Papuans ”lack the willingness to work and the lack the willingness to make a better life, so their lives seem to be making no substantial progress”. Migrants, in contrast, had a ”high spirit and work ethic”.
Asked about the extensive intelligence operations, Sumule observes: ”On the one hand it’s paranoia, but it’s also much more than paranoia. It shows they don’t have a relevant policy for Papua, an understanding of Papua or what Papua should be in Indonesia.
”The problem with the intelligence is it’s not intelligent,” he adds. ”They send so much wrong information for the people in Jakarta, and they make decisions on it. It’s very dangerous.”
Indeed, the major report on the ”Anatomy of Separatists” had a detailed section on the alleged foreign support networks for a ”Free Papua” and it bears out Dr Sumule’s criticism of the quality of the intelligence. The list of 32 names for Australia includes academics, politicians and religious leaders who could understandably be placed in the category, but many others are not separatist supporters – they have simply shown an interest in Papuan affairs, raised concerns about human rights or are journalists who have reported from the region. The appearance of the former current affairs host Naomi Robson on the list is a standout.
Foreigners in Papua are viewed suspiciously, especially non-government groups. Indeed, Indonesia has expelled several foreign NGOs from the territory in recent years. The International Committee of the Red Cross, for example, is allowed into Guantanamo Bay but banned from visiting more than 100 political prisoners in Papuan jails.
One part of the intelligence analysis that is presumably more accurate is the assessment of the strength of the OPM-TPN. It is reckoned to have just 1129 fighters with mixed weapons totalling only 131, plus some grenades.
While the poorly armed resistance fighters do have some success in ambushing Indonesian military posts, the low estimate of their strength calls into question why there is such a large military presence in Papua. The Indonesian government won’t release precise figures on its armed deployments in Papua but, since special autonomy was introduced, it has doubled the number of battalions from three to six. It has 114 posts along the border with Papua New Guinea alone.
Estimates put the military numbers at about 15,000, approximately 13 soldiers for every armed separatist.
As one Indonesian official told a US embassy staffer, revealed in cables released by WikiLeaks: ”The TNI has far more troops in Papua than it is willing to admit, chiefly to protect and facilitate TNI interests in illegal logging operations.”
Whatever the reason for its deployment, the massive military and intelligence apparatus in Papua makes a lie of the Indonesian government’s insistence that it long ago junked its ”security” approach to managing Papua and it is now formulating policy under the rubric of ”development and prosperity”, says Neles Tebay.
”[The troops] are trained to see Papuans as the enemy,” he adds. ”I’m not saying all the troops are bad but if one group of them is threatening the indigenous people then it creates widespread fear. Also, they are always interrogating people. It’s very threatening.”
- Imparsial: Only a state can challenge the Act of Free Choice (westpapuamedia.info)
- West Papua Report August 2011 (westpapuamedia.info)