Comments on ICGs Hope and Hard Reality in Papua:

Comments on

Hope and Hard Reality in PapuaAn Update Briefing on the conflict in West Papua by the International Crisis Group (22 August 2011)

(ICG full PDF report available at: )

Jason MacLeod 23 August 2011




The recent ICG report into conflict in West Papua, Hope and Hard Reality in Papua highlights the growing strength of the civilian based movement in Papua. It also points to contradictory developments. On the one hand there is an opening of political space, illustrated by the fact that the conference happened at all and that no topic was off the table. On the other hand, the report details ongoing violence in Puncak Jaya, demonstrating that the presence of the security forces only exacerbates violence as well as highlighting the enduring appeal of armed struggle by a small and hardcore group of Papuans. Hope and Hard Reality in Papua also outlines 44 “indicators of peace” developed during the conference. While still partial these indicators give tangible content to Papuan aspirations for freedom. This content echoes many of the demands made by Papuan youth, student, women’s groups, farmers, pastors, and Adat groups in recent years. Indicators like the “freedom of expression” and “the release of all political prisoners” bring into sharp focus the fact that Papua still remains an nondemocratic enclave of the Republic of Indonesia.


Summary of the report

The recent ICG report on West Papua, Hope and Hard Reality is structured in three sections: the peace conference held in Jayapura in early July 2011; an analysis of the recent spike in violence in the remote and rugged Puncak Jaya district in the highlands of West Papua; and, an evaluation of the extent to which a series of indicators developed during the peace conference could be used to resolve the conflict in Puncak Jaya. The report underscores a key policy recommendation currently sitting on the Cabinet Secretary desk – that the long-delayed new Unit to accelerate development in Papua, Unit Percepatan Pembangunan di Papua dan Papua Barat, known by its Indonesian acronym as UP4B, include a mandate to address political as well economic issues.

The report underscores an opportunity and threat. The opportunity is that there are some key high-level Indonesian allies, including advisors to the Indonesian government and a former Indonesian military officer, who understand that a political as well as economic solution to Papua’s problems is needed. The threat is two-fold. The first is that security operations continue in Papua. This is despite an extraordinary admission by Major-General (Ret.) TB Hassunuddin, deputy head of the Indonesian Government’s parliamentary Commission 1 responsible for security affairs, that all current operations to “hunt down OPM leaders are … illegal”. According to Hasunuddin this is because they do not carry the consent of parliament as stipulated by Law 34/2004 on the Indonesian Armed Forces. The General’s comments illustrate the lack of political will in Jakarta to rein-in the security forces in Papua. This last point relates to the second threat, summarised in the ICG report as “Jakarta’s indifference to indigenous Papuan concerns”.

The Papua Peace Conference and indicators of a peaceful Papua developed during the Conference

The Peace Conference was organised by the Jaringan Damai Papua or Papua Peace Network, a group organised by Dr. Neles Tebay or Pater (Father) Neles Tebay as he is known, and Muridan Widjojo, an Indonesian scholar with the Indonesian Institution of Sciences (LIPI) who was the editor of the Papua Road Map published in 2009. Tebay and Widjojo were previously involved in separate dialogue initiatives but have now decided to combine their efforts. The JDP itself is made up of key individuals, all members of different Papuan civil society groups, but attending as individuals not as representatives of their group or organisation. Both migrants and indigenous Papuans are members.

For me, three things stand out about the conference and the ICG’s summary report on the conference.

The first is that it happened at all. It was neither prevented from occurring by the military nor disrupted by protests. It was also attended by a senior minister of the Yudhuyono’s government, Djoko Sujanto, the Coordinating Minister for Politics and Law, and twenty senior bureaucrats from the various ministries that Sujanto coordinates. This in itself is a sign, albeit a small one, that the Indonesian president may be paying more attention to Papua.

Second, the conference clearly underscored Papuans desire for independence. This can be seen in the final declaration of the conference which outlined a criterion for negotiators and nominated five Papuan Diaspora negotiators, all from the Pro-Independence camp, as well as from an incident during the conference itself. When the Provincial Army Chief of Staff, Erfi Triassunu got up to speak he invited the participants – who were virtually all Papuans – to chant “Papua damai” (Peaceful Papua). Instead the crowd responded as one: “Papua Merdeka!” (Free Papua!). Perhaps not the response the General anticipated.

Third, although the report does not dwell on this, it does suggest that there are still key sectors of the Papuan population that are still not actively engaged in the struggle. These are Papuan politicians, the civil service (who the report acknowledges are engaging in a kind of passive noncooperation illustrated by the fact that in Puncak Jaya for instance, only 30 or an approximate 2000 strong workforce even show up for work); workers, particularly those in the resource extractive industries; and members of church congregations.

Fourth, and this is the most significant in my view, is that the conference produced a list of indicators of a peaceful Papua. Together these indicators are the clearest articulation of the “contents” of a New Papua that we have ever seen. Not only do they constitute a vision of tomorrow they may have important implications for the civil resistance movement. The ICG report argues that the indicators could be used to formulate policy direction for the central and provincial governments. The word “indicators” reflects the language of government and aid and development donors. However, many of the indicators mirror (and in some cases refine) an emerging set of campaign objectives that civil resistance leaders might organise around. In some cases, such as freeing political prisoners, Papuans they are already organising for change. Papuan activists could well use the “indicators” to pursue, and even set, the agenda for change.


Armed Struggle

The report also devotes significant attention to violent insurgency in the Puncak Jaya region by one of the few active units of the TPN-PB (Tentara Pembebasan Nasional di Papua Barat or the West Papuan National Liberation Army). Five things are worth highlighting from the report. First, Papuan guerrillas in Puncak Jaya, and elsewhere in West Papua are poorly armed. The report estimates that Goliat Tabuni’s group in Puncak Jaya has about 30 guns. This reflects the assessment of the armed struggle contained in the recently released Kopassus (Indonesian Special Forces) document leaked by the Sydney Morning Herald. Second, there are very low levels of participation in the armed struggle. Although virtually the entire indigenous population of Puncak Jaya has kinship connections with the TPN there are only a handful of active members. Third, the violence is not just one-sided or in response to Indonesian military attacks. Tabuni and his men, and in some cases other aspiring commanders also initiate attacks on the Indonesian military, not in direct response to Military violence, but to increase their own reputation and prestige.  Fourth, Tabuni’s group itself is split into three leadership groups which are sometimes compete and clash with one another. This reflects the fractious state of the TPN elsewhere in Papua.  Finally, the ICG report makes it very clear that violence in Puncak Jaya, some of which is also linked to inter-clan competition, is exacerbated by the presence of the security forces.

Theories of Change

Although it is not picked up in the report, Hope and Hard Reality in Papua underscores a battle of ideas underway in Papua. This discussion is essentially about how change (freedom) will be won. It is less a contest between armed struggle and peaceful ways of resolving the conflict. Despite the spike in violence (most of which was perpetrated by the security forces) there is little popular support for armed struggle. The contest is mostly between and within proponents of two different competing theories of change: those who believe dialogue, negotiation or other conventional political processes will secure Papuan aspirations for freedom and those who advocate mass mobilisation or civil resistance. The majority of Papuans still invest in the hope that conventional political processes – either diplomacy (by Papuan representatives of various resistance groups), an inclusive dialogue process of the kind envisioned by Tebay/Widjojo and the JDP, or a legal challenge to Indonesian government sovereignty in Papua – will be able to resolve the conflict. I don’t think there is any real indication that these acts of persuasion will compel Jakarta to sit at the table.

On the civil resistance side are Papuans who argue that a conventional political process is naïve. This group claims that Jakarta will only make key concessions when they are compelled to do through mass nonviolent disruptions that raise the political and economic costs of the status quo. Within the civil resistance camp there is also a subtle difference between those whose methods are based around street protests and those who are seeking to organise a much broader base and support them to be active through a much more diverse range of nonviolent tactics than demonstrations.

The fact that KNPB (Komite Nasional Papua Barat or the West Papua National Committee) organised a demonstration attended by thousands on 2 August in support of an conference about a legal challenge to the Act of Free Choice that was happening in Oxford at the same time, shows that there is growing understanding that a conventional political strategy needs a mass movement. Although, there are still widely held unrealistic expectations that dialogue and/or a legal strategy will bring about independence in the near future.

Then there is also tension around goals. The radical student and youth groups, WPNA (West Papua National Authority) and KNPB, as well as Benny Wenda in London (who heads up the International Lawyers for West Papua, the group who is spearheading the legal challenge) are pushing for a referendum. They see the JDP and calls for peaceful dialogue in opposition to the demand for a referendum. Despite these real differences and tensions the report (and recent events inside Papua) suggest that there is growing recognition that a mass movement and dialogue are not incompatible. Some are starting to say that civil resistance helps creates the conditions for dialogue. In fact the report seems to suggest that last year’s occupation of the Provincial Parliament in Jayapura helped widen the proposed mandate of the UP4B.


The ICG report also demonstrates that there are is a small but influential group of allies inside Indonesia who while not countenancing independence for Papua, do support real and significant political changes. In addition the report mentions but does not dwell on the fact that there are key non-Papuans inside Papua (who are members of the JDP) that support Papuan political goals.


The report illustrates the growing maturity of the civilian based movement inside Papua. The development of 44 indicators of a peaceful Papua around the themes of politics, law and human rights, economics and environment, security, and social-cultural rights all point to a closer linkage between civil resistance and conflict resolution approaches to change in Papua. The belief that civil resistance is not in conflict with but rather supports dialogue was made by Chris Waranussy, a prominent human rights lawyer in Papua. The most significant thing about the recent peace conference in Jayapura is that it has supported Papuans to more fully articulate the contents of freedom. It also underscores the mainstream Papuan desire for independence. In this sense the gulf between different positions in Jakarta and Jayapura, and the different perceptions of the problems in Papua, remains wide. A fact illustrated by what is going on in Puncak Jaya and the Indonesian military’s response.

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