The TNI Should Withdraw From Papua to Prevent Another Lacluta

By Daniel Pye

This month marks the 30th anniversary of the Lacluta massacre in East Timor by battalions of the Indonesian military, or TNI.

One of the enduring horrors of the occupation of East Timor was the “fence of legs” campaign of 1981 where civilians were rounded up and forcibly marched across the island to flush out resistance fighters – including Xanana Gusmao, now the fledgling nation’s Prime Minister.

Many died along the way. The campaign led to “very serious humanitarian consequences,” including famine as it took place during planting season and many of those press-ganged were subsistence farmers.

The march headed to Lacluta where the UN Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation determined hundreds of East Timorese were murdered by Indonesian armed forces. “The commission received evidence of a large massacre of civilians, including women and children, at this time,” it said.

Indonesian authorities admitted to only 70 deaths, while Martinho da Costa Lopes of East Timor’s Catholic church said the death toll was closer to 500. One East Timorese fighter said the attack was carried out by Battalion 744, later to be commanded by Indonesia’s current president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

“I witnessed with my own eyes how the Indonesian military, Battalion 744, killed civilians in front of me,” Albino da Costa said. “They captured those unarmed people, tied them up then stabbed them to death. There was a pregnant woman captured and killed just like that. I saw it from a close distance, just 100m from where it happened.”

Costa Lopes died in Lisbon in 1991. His repeated calls for intervention by the United Nations and for curtailment of United States military aid to the Indonesian Government went unheeded.

The US, Japan and a number of Western European countries continued to provide Indonesia with about $5 billion in military aid. In the aftermath of the 1975 invasion the media largely ignored, as one Australian parliamentary report called it, “indiscriminate killing on a scale unprecedented in post-World War II history,” because of Indonesia’s vast natural resources. It was, as former US President Richard Nixon put it, the “greatest prize in the Southeast Asian area”.

Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor ended with independence and perhaps as many as a third of the population killed.

But today there is another war for independence in Indonesia: West Papua. And the parallels with East Timor are striking.

Papuans have endured horrific violence since Indonesia first invaded in 1963. Amnesty International and other human rights groups agree that as many as 100,000 Papuans have been killed under occupation.

West Papua is rich in minerals and oil. Transmigration, commercial logging, mining and other government-sponsored programs are considered to be in the interests of the nation, and take priority over any local land claims.

It has the world’s largest gold mine, controlled by the Freeport-McMoRan Company of Louisiana and the Anglo-Australian company Rio Tinto. General Suharto granted the concession under the 1967 foreign investment laws that opened Indonesia to near-unrestricted foreign wealth exploitation.

When guerrillas from the Free West Papua Movement sabotaged the mine in 1977, the army responded by killing at least 800 Papuans. This was not the first, not the last time the Indonesian military would be used to protect Western capital under the guise of “protecting the unity of the nation”. It is happening still.

Grasberg workers walked out on strike over pay and conditions on Wednesday. The mineworkers are paid between $1.50 and $3.50 per hour, less than a tenth of what their colleagues in other countries get, while between April and June 2011 Freeport made a profit of $1.73 billion. Most of the wealth extracted from the mine goes abroad – a tiny percentage benefits Papuans. Two thirds of West Papua’s forests – which are at the heart of Papuans’ traditional way of life – are designated for “production” by Jakarta.

An Indonesian military intelligence report leaked to the press in August showed how the island is awash with spies. And how badly equipped are the Papuan separatists to fight the Indonesian military. The TNI is armed and trained by the US and its allies as part of the East Asia Summit grouping, which is fast developing into a Nato for Asia.

Ahead of the planned Third Papuan Peoples Conference, Indonesian paramilitary forces linked to the police and Special Forces of the army appear to have stepped up military operations in the province, which have been described as a campaign of terror by people on the ground. According to KontraS, The Commission for the Disappeared, the army’s actions are illegal under Indonesian law.

Just like in East Timor before independence, West Papua is a prime example of a colony where the extraction of wealth for the benefit of a few outweighs a people’s fundamental right to self-determination. If atrocities such as the one at Lacluta are to be prevented in the future in West Papua, the TNI should withdraw and international investigators should be allowed access to the region.

Jakarta is at a crossroads with international attention focused on West Papua following the Pacific Islands Forum meetings in New Zealand. The head of the UN Ban Ki Moon was unequivocal when asked about Papua. Papuans’ rights should be upheld, he said. Indonesia’s government could take this opportunity to fulfill its pledge to grant Papuans autonomy. But this must include an end to the lawlessness of government-sponsored armed groups, a withdrawal of army units, and determining how Papuans’ natural resources are used must be the preserve of Papuans.


Alex Mahuze is a Malind tribesman and a sago farmer in Merauke. His clan has for generations lived in harmony with nature. The arrival of the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE) program has forced him to earn money through other means, which ironically harms the environment. He lost his lands and his culture is threatened, but Alex fights on.

[vimeo w=500&h=400]

Originally at​Members/​papuanvoicesmerauke/​videos/​ironic_survival/​view

Re-uploaded by westpapuamedia as courtesy to Papuan Voices Merauke and EngageMedia: EngageMedia cannot share effectively due to software restrictions in embedding iframes across many platforms. This is temporary fix to help get it out further.

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* Sago, or Metroxylon sagu is a species of palm in the genus Metroxylon. It tolerates a wide variety of soils and may reach 30 meters in height. Several other species of the genus metroxylon, particularly metroxylon salomonense and metroxylon amicarum, are also used as sources of sago through Melanesia and Micronesia. In addition to its use as a food source, the leaves and spathe of the sago palm are used for construction materials and for thatching roofs, and the fibre can be made into rope.

* Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate – MIFEE – was announced on 18 February 2010 by the former Bupati of Merauke, J.G Gebze and officially launched on 11 August 2010 by the Minister of Agriculture, Siswono Yodohusodo on behalf of the Indonesian President. The project involves 36 investors, 13 of whom are already operating in the area. MIFEE covers an area of 2.5 million hectares and plans to bring into the area a work force of four million people.

Warinussy on the politics behind the recent conflicts in Papua

Bintang Papua, 14 September 2011Manokwari: Yan Christian Warinussy, a Papuan human rights lawyer and executive direction of LP3BH, believes that the road leading toward dialogue between Papua and Indonesia has become clearer in the past few months.

The recent escalation of violence in various parts of the Land of Papua. such as Jayapura, Biak, Nabire and Manokwari as well as the Central Highlands will not dampen the aspirations of the indigenous Papuan people, that which were proclaimed in the Papuan Peace Declaration drawn up at the Papuan Peace Conference held by the Papuan Peace Network (Jaringan Damai Papua) on 5-6 July this year in Jayapura.’From the record of conflicts that have occurred in the Land of Papua up to the present day, I have been able as a human rights activist to reach a better understanding of the specific characteristics and background of the reasons for the various violent conflicts that have occurred in the Land of Papua recently. Moreover, we now know who the persons who having been plotting these incidents are, along with their political purposes. All this has helped us to understand the motivation behind these strange incidents which has made it possible for us to draw conclusions about who it is who is behind all these criminal incidents,’ said Warinussy.

Each of these incidents has occurred without leaving any trace of who was involved. This impression has been further strengthened by the fact that the police force throughout the land of Papua have been unable to identify who was behind each incident. It is also apparent that  the police have been unable to discover any significant evidence to reveal the perpetrators of these incidents.

In fact, he went on to say, each of these incidents have occurred without anything left behind that might help to identify the perpetrators. This would suggest that the criminal perpetrators are part of  a special unit that have undergone intensive training  and have been trained even to commit murders without leaving a single trace and in this way make it difficult for the police to conduct any criminal investigations. These crimes  have resulted in the Papuan people feeling more afraid to take actions in conformity with their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of opinion.

The intention appears to be to show to the central and local governments and to the international community that the security situation in West Papua is not safe because of the presence of the TPN/OPM. Yet, we have heard nothing at all from the TPN/OPM about who they think are behind these recent incidents. This has been aimed at thwarting the deeply felt aspirations of the indigenous people for dialogue with the Indonesian government.

Vested interests in the Land of Papua have for years pursued a strategy  within the context of development and general governance aimed at causing frictions  between those vested interests. This is something that needs to be discussed openly between all those involved, including the indigenous Papuan people, in order to find a peaceful solution and realise the aspirations for a Papuan land of peace as quickly as possible.



By Herman Wainggai, West Papua National Authority
September 15, 2011


I have lived in Australia for the past five years and have visited the United States several times. Currently I am in America working to promote democracy and human rights in West Papua; a right that my people have been desperately struggling to win for almost fifty years.Even in the recent past West Papuans have continued to be hunted like animals but our resolve has never diminished to win independence and become our own self-governing nation.

Since 2009 when the Australian government granted thirty-nine West Papuan friends and myself political refugee status in 2006. Australia has given us protection, permanent residency and in some cases Australian citizenship.

My question to Indonesia is, “Why do the Australians value the lives of West Papuans and allow us to enjoy our freedom while at the same time the majority of West Papuans do not even know what freedom feels like?

On October 8 and 9 there will be an historic meeting of the West Papua National Authority Congress unlike any other in our past. It will take place in Port Numbay, the capital city of West Papua. The people of West Papua have known for seven years of the existence of the West Papua National Authority (WPNA). At the meeting we hope to break new ground on the soil of our beloved homeland and forge new and vital relationships with important international powers. Additionally we will be meeting in Cenderawasih University on 16-19 of October. The floodgates of democracy will soon swing wide open and we West Papuans will finally realize our dream of merdeka and the international community shall be behind us on a journey as a nascent, democratic nation.

My hope is that the American government will continue to hear the voices of West Papuans through our presence here in Washington, D.C.

I would like to request that the international community hears our call for help and understands that our policy of peaceful protest is rooted in 50 years of repression and violence. Our continuing struggle for freedom is clearly endorsed and encouraged by President Barak Obama of the United States as illustrated by his words spoken in April 2009 in Prague:

““…peaceful protest could shake the foundations of an empire, and expose the emptiness of an ideology. It showed us that small countries can play a pivotal role in world events, and that young people can lead the way in overcoming old conflicts. (Applause.) And it proved that moral leadership is more powerful than any weapon.” ”

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