New Hope for West Papuan – or yet another False Dawn?

by Kim Peart

Is Indonesia about to lose its grip on the western half of New Guinea, a territory the size of France and ancient homeland of the Melanesian West Papuans?

Addressing questions at a press conference in New Zealand yesterday, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, made the following statement:

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at today's press conference in Auckland. Photo: Henry Yamo / PMC

“Again this issue should also be discussed at the Decolonisation Committee of the United Nations General Assembly. And when it comes, again, to whether you are an independent state or non self-governing territory, whatever, the human rights is an inalienable and fundamental principle of the United Nations. We will do all to ensure that the people in West Papua, their human rights should be respected.” [1]


To read of West Papua being raised in the context of the UN Decolonisation Committee by the Secretary-General is quite startling, for one specific reason: West Papua was removed from the list of colonised territories in 1969. This is unlike the situation in East Timor, which had not been removed from this list, becaming the trigger for their 1999 vote on self determination.

East Timor was a clear case of invasion in 1975, brutal suppression by a foreign power and liberation in a baptism of blood and fire in 1999. On the other hand, the West Papuan people were the victim of a brutal play of Realpolitiks during the Cold War.

After Indonesia gained their independence from the Dutch in 1949, Holland retained their territory in western New Guinea, preparing the indigenous population for independence. In 1957 Australia signed an agreement with the Netherlands to work toward the independence of the whole island of New Guinea and many Australians were involved on the ground in this preparation. [2]

In 1961 the Dutch administration formed a local parliament, including indigenous representatives and raised the West Papuan morning star flag, which flew along with the Dutch tri-colour across the territory and 1970 set as the year of independence. In this bright dawn of Papuan democracy, Australia helped to raised the hopes and expectations of the people of West Papua for freedom and self-determination.

Since 1949 Indonesia had been demanding control of the western half of New Guinea, even though it was, like the eastern half of the island, an ancient Papuan land. The Indonesian response was now to begin invading and a full-blown war with Indonesia appeared imminent, in which Australia would have fought along-side Papuans trained by the Dutch to defend their island homeland.

Wishing to avoid being drawn into a war with Indonesia, the United States intervened and told the Dutch to get out, Australia to butt out and gave the green light for Indonesia to take over half of New Guinea, as the new colonial master. This was deeply humiliating for the Netherlands and also Australia and brought into question the true independence of Australian foreign policy.

In this play of Realpolitiks, West Papuan lives, land and resources were used by Washington to buy a nominally pro-Western alliance with Indonesia and also access to Indonesian and Papuan resources. This action was nothing short of a slave trade and theft of land and property on an unimaginable scale.

The West Papuan morning star flag, which first officially flew in New Guinea in 1961, when Australia was working on the ground with the Dutch toward the independence of the whole island of New Guinea.


Indonesia became the new colonial power in New Guinea in 1963 and the atrocities began, with as many as 400,000 Papuans being killed in an ongoing genocide, which has pushed the Papuan aside to make way for Indonesian occupation and immigration. When a vote for self-determination was held in 1969, the United Nations allowed Indonesia to run it completely and even the UN observers on the ground only witnessed 20 percent of the vote.

Could it be called a vote, when 1025 selected men were lectured under the shadow of guns, before being invited to step over a line drawn in the dirt? An armed rebellion was going in in West Papua at the time. Wishing to avoid the prospect of war with Indonesia, most nations voted to allow West Papua to be incorporated into Indonesia and be removed from the list of colonial territories. A few newly independent African nations objected.

Would the United Nations get away with such a vote today. Such a bizarre process would not have been accepted in East Timor in 1999.

If the West Papuan people deserve natural justice, then they have a right to a genuine vote on self-determination. If Indonesia wishes to hold its head high as a truly democratic nation, then they will agree to this happening. If Australia wishes to regain honour with West Papua, then we will support the rights of the West Papuan people to self determination, just as we did the East Timorese and the Papuans of eastern New Guinea.

Sadly, all Australians have blood on our hands when it comes to West Papua, because we did not stand and demand justice, but went along with a brutal theft, slave trade and on-going atrocity Just across our northern border, many West Papuans have been shot on sight for raising the morning star flag, or sent to jail for 20 years.

Filep Karma was jailed for 15 years in 2004 for raising the West Papuan flag and when recently offered remission by the Indonesian Government, refused to accept this, saying, “he preferred to serve out his normal sentence and demanded the Indonesian Government to apologise to the Papuan people for all the atrocities it has caused.” [3]

For decades West Papuan supporters around the World have raised the question of the West Papuan right to self-determination and the voice of the indigenous Maori was added to this throng at the recent Pacific Island Forum being held in New Zealand, when the leader of the Mana Party, Hone Harawira, raised the West Papuan issue with Ban Ki-moon, declaring:

“Can I please ask that you support peaceful dialogue between the Indigenous People of West Papua and Indonesia, to put an end to the killings there and to find a strategy to get Indonesia out of a land that isn’t theirs.” [4]

1. United Nations 7 September 2011 (full transcript included below)

2. p. 882, ‘Current Notes on International Affairs – November 1957’,
Department of External Affairs, Canberra

3. Engage Media 29 August 2011

4. 3 News 8 September 2011

NZ: Harawira discusses West Papua with Ban Ki-moon

Mana Party Hone Harawira is trying to initiate mediation between the Indonesian Government and the indigenous people of West Papua by the UN (NZPA pic)

By Lloyd Burr

Mana Party leader Hone Harawira took the opportunity to talk about the indigenous affairs of Indonesia with foreign delegates at the Pacific Islands Forum in Auckland yesterday.

Mr Harawira called for the United Nations to support peace talks between the indigenous people of the Indonesian province of West Papua and the Indonesian Government.

One of the delegates he spoke to at the Forum was United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Harawira says he “took the opportunity with both hands”.

Mr Harawira released this press statement this morning:

It’s not often that you get to meet somebody as important as Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations so Hone Harawira, MANA leader and MP for Tai Tokerau, took the opportunity with both hands.

“Welcome to Aotearoa, Mr Secretary General,” said Mr Harawira. “Can I please ask that you support peaceful dialogue between the Indigenous People of West Papua and Indonesia, to put an end to the killings there and to find a strategy to get Indonesia out of a land that isn’t theirs.”

Harawira met the UN Secretary General at the formal welcome for all the leaders attending the Pacific Forum, which was held yesterday at The Cloud down on the Auckland waterfront.

“Pity I didn’t have some information packs to hand out because they were all there,” said Harawira, “but I did manage to speak to a number of the leaders about West Papua and I think some of them quietly agreed with the suggestion that Indonesia quit West Papua as soon as possible.”

Back in the early 1960s when the former Dutch New Guinea was being prepared for independence, Indonesia waged a bloody campaign to invade and occupy the territory, with the support of the US. That occupation was ended when the UN approved West Papua being incorporated into Indonesia in 1969, following a rigged referendum of only 1,000 hand-picked West Papuans.

“The people of West Papua have been fighting for their independence ever since” said Harawira, “and New Zealand has had a role in that war – training the Indonesian military and police in return for favourable trade deals with the Indonesian government.”

“New Zealand has the opportunity to put that distasteful period in the past,” said Harawira, “by supporting two simple requests of the people of West Papua – a fact-finding mission to clarify the situation in West Papua, and peaceful dialogue between the Indigenous people of West Papua and the Indonesian government.”

“To do any less would be to sanction our support for the brutal military occupation of West Papua and to ignore the killings of an indigenous people who lack the capacity to defend themselves.”

3 News

Read more:

TPN/OPM warned of deadline for return of two weapons

Bintang Papua, 6 September 2011The executive committee of the Synod of the KINGMI Church in the Land of Papua has responded to the threat issued by the police force in Paniai that failure to hand back two firearms by the end of Wednesday, 7 September  would mean that the police will launch hunt and search operations against the TPN/OPM led by John Yogi.

According to the KINGMI Church, these search operations  against John Yogi who is alleged to have seized the weapons, could result in possibly hundreds or even thousands of casualties of innocent people among the civilian population, said Dr Benny Giay.

The deputy chairman of the Papuan branch of the National Human Rights Commission, Matius Murib, also had a meeting with Ruben Magai, the chairman of commission A of the DPRP about the issue.

Dr Benny Giay of the KINGMI Church called on Commission A of the DPRP to provide the opportunity for local leaders and churches to hold discussions with John Yogi and his comrades. The reason for doing so was that, according to reports from local communities in Paniai, everyday life in Paniai has been paralysed and many local inhabitants  have fled their villages in a state of trauma, havng heard about the forthcoming operations against the TPN/OPM. ‘We call upon Commission A and the chief of police to do everything possible to prevent casualties among the civilian population,’ he said.

Meanwhile, the Rev. Albert Kesya, said that plans to launch search operations against the TPN/OPM had been made public at a time when the congregation were involved in Spiritual Camping in Madi Kampung, Enaro,sub-district of Paniai. on 26 July. which is not far from the location where the headquarters of the TPN/OPM is believed to be based. Even so, Brimob forces in Panai had attacked and seized many things, including thousands of bullets (the figure given in the article is 40,000), Rp 50 million, twelve hand phones, ten bows and arrows, and a Yamaha motorbike.

Deputy chairman of the National Human Rights Commission in Papua, Matius Murib, said the government and the security forces need to pay attention to three things.  There can be no justification for anyone among the authorities or the population to use violence and cause  casualties among the population. ‘Such actions,’ he said, ‘were rejected by human rights organisations around the world, bearing in mind that  Indonesia has ratified  covenants against the use of violence. and the loss of lives. Secondly, the local population needs to hold negotiations with the TPN/OPM. Whatever the situation, people like John Yogi  and his group can be expected to listen and to understand.’

‘There is no need to set a deadline for the launching of operations. Weapons belonging to the state should be in the hands of the state. There can be no justification for launching search operations against the TNP/OPM. There are weapons in the hands of many groups. And there are many weapons in the hands of  people who are not authorised to hold weapons.’

‘People cannot be allowed to do things that will result in victims falling among the civilian population.’ He said that some people can be expected to use weapons as a bargaining point to achieve certain objectives, but trying to force people to return weapons  will never solve the problems.’

Ruben Magai, chairman of Commission A of the DPRP in Papua, called on the chief of police in Papua to use social means, not military means, because the latter will only traumatise the people and make them very afraid.

KNPB on the recent acts of violence in Papua

Bintang Papua, 6 September

According to the KNPB – National Committee for West Papua – the many acts of violence that have been occurring in Papua recently would appear to be part of a scenario designed by certain quarters.’

‘This scenario is being promoted by people who want to get their hands on funding. These acts of terror or intimidation are aimed at warning Papuans not to go on pressing for their human rights.,’ said Mako Tabuni of the KNPB, speaking alongside Buchtar Tabuni, the general chairman of the KNPB, as well as Viktor Kogoya, during a press conference at the Prime Garden, Abepura on 6 September.

They said that the KNPB would not be influenced by these incidents. ‘We, as the voice of the Papuan people, will continue to speak up for the human rights which are the true aspirations of the people of West Papua,’ said Mako Tabuni.

On this occasion too, he said, the fifteen arrests were made by joint patrols of the Indonesian army and police (TNI/Polri) of fifteen Papuans (thirteen have since been released ). They were detained by members of the police force in Jayapura. The arrested men are all members of the Wahno Baptist congregation which is located in south Jayapura. He also said that the arrests were made to the accompaniment of acts of violence, and moreover, the correct procedures were not complied with.

The arrests were made in the village of Nafri on 1 August because those in authority had not been able to arrest the real culprits who had committed the acts of violence.

He also said that a nine-year old boy, Dessy Koyoga, had disappeared from the home of Biben Kogoya, the local sub-district chief, at the time of the arrest of the fifteen people.

‘There are indications that the boy was kidnapped by the security forces involved in the arrests. The parents of the boy are still searching for their young son.’

The KNPB say that a special team should be set up by the DPRP (the local legislative assembly) along with those NGOs which have responsibility for undertaking investigations so that the true facts about this case can be made known.

Statement from the West Papua solidarity gathering at Nga Wai o Horotiu, Tamaki Makaurau / Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand

from Peace Movement Aotearoa

 8 September 2011

We are very encouraged by the statement of the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban ki-Moon, at a media conference in Auckland yesterday, 7 September 2011, that West Papua should be discussed by the Decolonisation Committee of the United Nations General Assembly.

Noting with appreciation the Secretary-General’s statement that “whether you are an independent state or a non-self-governing territory or whatever, the human rights is inalienable and a fundamental principle of the United Nations”, and “we will do all to ensure” that the human rights of the people of West Papua are respected, we therefore call on:

The United Nations Secretary General to act without delay, and:

  • appoint a Special Representative to investigate the situation in West Papua – to review the circumstances and outcome of the 1969 ‘Act of Free Choice’, as well as the contemporary situation; and
  • use his good offices to persuade the Indonesian government to allow free access to West Papua for media representatives from the international community and for non-governmental human rights organisations.

The Pacific Island Forum Leaders meeting in Auckland to act without delay, and:

  • send a fact-finding mission to West Papua to investigate the human rights situation;
  • support the West Papuan people in their call for peaceful dialogue with the Indonesian government;
  • grant observer status to West Papuan representatives who support the people of West Papua’s right of self-determination; and
  • recommend to the United Nations General Assembly that West Papua be put back on the agenda of the Decolonisation Committee.

The New Zealand government to act without delay, and:

  • play a role in mediating and beginning the process of peaceful dialogue between West Papuan representatives and the Indonesian government; and
  • cease all military ties with Indonesia until the human rights of the people of West Papua are respected.

Civil society to:

  • support the West Papuan call for peace and justice, and for a process of peaceful dialogue with the Indonesian government; and
  • take every opportunity to support West Papuans working for peace, justice, human rights and environmental sustainability.

Participating organisations: New Zealand non-governmental organisations Bicultural Desk of the Auckland Catholic Diocese, Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand, Christian World Service, CORSO Inc., Indonesia Human Rights Committee, Pax Christi Aotearoa New Zealand, Peace Movement Aotearoa, Philippine Migrant Centre, and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Aotearoa Section; New Zealand based Coalition for Democracy in Fiji; and Australian non-governmental organisations Australia West Papua Association (Sydney), Institute of Papuan Advocacy and Human Rights,  Medical Association for Prevention of War, Missionaries of the Sacred Heart Justice and Peace Centre (Australian Province), Pax Christi Australia and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Australia Section.

Photos from some of the West Papua solidarity actions in Auckland: are available at
Formatted copy of this statement: is available at

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