Indonesian crackdown on Papuan Congress sparks outrage
A joint statement by TAPOL (UK), the West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT,
US) and East Timor Action Network (ETAN, US)
On Wednesday, a meeting of thousands of indigenous Papuans in
Jayapura, West Papua, became the scene of a brutal crackdown by
Indonesian security forces. Indonesian troops and police Mobile
Brigades reportedly fired hundreds of shots to disperse the crowd,
pistol-whipped participants and beat them with batons and rattan
canes. They arrested around 300 participants. According to the
Indonesian press, security forces turned violent when Papuan
indigenous leaders, who had gathered to discuss their basic rights,
issued a declaration of independence.
“This appalling display of excessive force has no place in a modern
democracy,” said Lord Avebury, Vice Chair of the UK Parliamentary
Human Rights Group. Avebury called on the Indonesian government to
immediately release detainees and conduct and publish a full
investigation into the incident.
Two people are confirmed dead, with many more injured and five charged
with treason. Among those arrested were Congress organiser Mr Selphius
Bobii, and prominent indigenous leader Mr Forkorus Yaboisembut, head
of the Papuan Customary Council (Dewan Adat Papua). The arrests are a
provocative response to a peaceful gathering, targeting one of West
Papua’s most respected tribal leaders, said the US-based West Papua
The meeting is the third of its kind to take place in West Papuan
history, and was reportedly attended by around 4,000–5,000 people.
While the Congress attracted thousands more to the surrounding area,
many were prevented from gaining entry to the event by security
forces, or were too afraid to enter.
“It is bitterly ironic that when Papuans meet to discuss their basic
rights, Indonesia responds by violating those rights,” said Carmel
Budiardjo, senior campaigner for the UK-based NGO TAPOL. “The daily
discrimination and violations experienced by Papuans are bad enough,
but an attack of this nature on a democratic congress is an absolute
outrage,” she continued.
The use of the infamous ‘makar’ or treason laws to deny the right to
freedom of expression and assembly is an increasing problem in Papua,
suppressing activists and fuelling simmering resentments among the
indigenous population. On Wednesday, US Congressman Mr Eni
Faleomavaega expressed concerns about the arrests, calling for the
immediate release of Mr Forkorus Yaboisembut. The US-based East Timor
Action Network has also condemned the arrests. “The right to gather
and speak out is a fundamental freedom, it doesn’t just disappear
because the government doesn’t like what is being said,” said John M.
Miller, the network’s National Coordinator.
The situation in Jayapura last night was tense amidst fears of
reprisals and further actions by security forces against local
residents and those involved in the Congress. TAPOL, WPAT and ETAN
call on the international community to urge Indonesia to show
restraint, release the detainees, and commit to a peaceful resolution
of the West Papua conflict.
UK: Paul Barber, Coordinator, TAPOL, +44-20-8771-2904
US: Ed McWilliams, West Papua Advocacy Team, +1-575-648-2078
John M. Miller, East Timor Action Network,
Photos and video clips
Photos of victims available from TAPOL on request, including victims
suffering gunshot wounds and beatings.
Check West Papua Media Info for breaking news and video clips direct
from West Papua.
Background notes for editors
The Third Papuan People’s Congress
The Congress, themed ‘Affirming the basic rights of the indigenous
Papuan people for the present and the future’ was planned to last for
three days. It opened in Abepura, Jayapura, on 16 October 2011 with
between 4,000 and 5,000 delegates in attendance representing more than
200 tribal groups from across the territory. Over 20,000 more
gathered in the vicinity of the Congress. The organisers were forced
to hold the event in an open field as requests to hold it at a more
suitable venue were rejected.
For the first two days the Congress proceeded peacefully, but the
atmosphere was increasingly tense due to the build-up of over 2,000
members of the security forces in Jayapura. According to local sources
reported by West Papua Media Info, troops encircled the conference
with around 70 vehicles including Army Pansers, a water cannon,
Armoured Personnel Carriers and Barracuda armoured jeeps. On the third
day at the close of the conference, Indonesian troops armed with
automatic weapons, along with units of Brimob, the notorious mobile
brigade of the Indonesian police, reportedly opened fire in an attempt
to disperse the Congress.
History of the Papuan People’s Congress
The First Papuan People’s Congress was held on October 16–19 in 1961,
and issued a manifesto declaring their independence. The Second
Congress held in May–June 2000 issued a resolution which affirmed
their sovereignty as a people and led to the establishment of the
representative body, the Papuan Presidium Council (PDP). Just over a
year later, in November 2001, the PDP chairman, Theys Eluay was
kidnapped by a unit of Indonesia’s Kopassus Special Forces and
assassinated. In a travesty of justice which characterises the problem
of impunity for security forces in Indonesia, the perpetrators were
sentenced to between two and three and a half years.
Elsewhere in Papua: strikes at Freeport
At the same time as the Congress was underway, thousands of Papuan
workers employed by the massive Freeport copper-and-gold mine in West
Papua continued their strike to demand a substantial rise in wages.
The strike, which has hit production at the multibillion dollar
company, which is losing millions, has been met by security force
violence. Since the late 1970s Freeport has been the largest taxpayer
to the Indonesian state, while the majority of Papuans continue to
live in dire poverty: the Papuan provinces remain the poorest in
One of the world’s longest-running conflicts, the independence
struggle between the Free West Papua Organisation (Organisasi Papua
Merdeka, OPM) and the Indonesian state has been raging for 48 years,
since Indonesia took control of West Papua on 1 May 1963. The conflict
escalated when West Papua was formally incorporated into Indonesia
following the controversial Act of Free Choice in 1969.
A period of heightened political activity in the middle of 2011,
including the holding of a Papua Peace Conference in Abepura from 5-7
July and calls for dialogue with the central government, generated
positive signs that tentative progress is being made towards resolving
the Papuan problem, but was followed by a series a violent incidents
and human rights violations. The outcomes of the Peace Conference,
organised by the Jaringan Damai Papua (Papua Peace Network) led by
Father Neles Tebay, provided an aspirational agenda for a peaceful
Papua with a series of ‘Indicators of Papua, Land of Peace.’
Note: The term West Papua covers the whole territory of West Papua,
which in 2003 was divided into two provinces: Papua and West Papua.
- Updates: More Stories Unravelled As Indonesian Police and Military Attacked the Third Papuan People’s Congress (westpapuamedia.info)
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