TAPOL statement on West Papua to the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights

Statement to the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights


‘Public Hearing on Human rights situation in South East Asia with special focus on West Papua’


29 November 2011

By Paul Barber

Coordinator, TAPOL

[The following is an extended version of the statement delivered to the Hearing]

Thank you Chair and members of the sub-committee for giving me the opportunity to speak about West Papua to this meeting today.

I’d like to divide my presentation into three parts.  The first will provide some background information about West Papua; the second will cover recent political developments; and the third will look at specific human rights problems, and propose constructive solutions, which could help to create the space desperately needed for a peaceful resolution of the West Papua conflict.


I Background

This is an extremely important and critical time to be talking about West Papua.  Tensions are rising in the territory ahead of West Papua’s national day in two days time.

Fifty years ago this coming Thursday, on 1 December 1961, as part of a process under the Dutch colonial administration that was supposed to lead to self-government for West Papua, key symbols of West Papua nationality, including the Papuan ‘Morning Star’ flag and the Papuan national anthem were formally adopted by Papuan representatives in the presence of Dutch officials.  Since then, 1 December has been celebrated by indigenous Papuans as their national day or independence day.

This year’s anniversary is especially important, because as well as being the fiftieth anniversary, it comes at a time of particular political instability and violence in the territory.

Regrettably, Father Neles Tebay, a highly respected Catholic priest and Coordinator of the Papua Peace Network, who was supposed to speak at this meeting on relations between Jakarta and West Papua, was forced to cancel his attendance because he was so concerned about the situation at home that, in his words, “I think I should be among the people here in this time of crisis”.  He has sent a message, which I will read out after this presentation.

Self-government for West Papua never eventuated.  Instead a fraudulent process known as the ‘Act of Free Choice’ led to West Papua’s incorporation into Indonesia in 1969.  Since then the Indonesian authorities have persisted with a heavy-handed security/military approach to maintaining sovereignty over the territory in response to opposition to rule from Jakarta and assertions of Papuan rights.  This military approach has only served to increase resentment against Jakarta and perpetuate the conflict.  It has also resulted in widespread violations of human rights.

Although it has abundant natural resources and is host to Indonesia’s largest taxpayer, the US copper-and-gold mining company Freeport, West Papua is one of Indonesia’s very poorest regions in terms of poverty levels and human development indicators.  Large areas of forest are being targeted for use oil palm plantations and food production with major implications for climate change and the indigenous population.

Migrants from other parts of Indonesia make up a substantial proportion of the population and dominate the local economy.  They are already a majority in urban centres and will soon outnumber indigenous Papuans overall.  Papuan livelihoods and cultures are under severe threat from this process of marginalisation.

While Indonesia has made substantial progress in its transition to democracy since 1998, the Papuan people have not benefited from that transition.  Special autonomy, introduced in 2001, has been rejected by West Papua’s indigenous assembly and community representatives for failing to improve the rights and living conditions of the Papuan people.  Efforts are now being made by Papua’s indigenous and religious leaders to establish a process of dialogue with the Government of Indonesia in order to achieve a peaceful resolution of the conflict.


II Recent developments

Earlier this year, a Papua Peace Conference held from 5-7 July in the regional capital Jayapura, generated some positive signs that tentative progress was being made towards resolving the problems of Papua, but a series a violent incidents and human rights violations have since raised questions about whether a new period of repression is underway as a reaction to these political developments.

The outcomes of the Peace Conference, organised by Father Tebay’s Papua Peace Network provided a framework for dialogue with the Indonesian Government and an aspirational agenda for a peaceful Papua with a series of ‘Indicators of Papua, Land of Peace’ in the fields of politics, law and human rights, economics and environment, and security.

The Peace Conference was attended by indigenous Papuan leaders and some 800 participants from across West Papua as well by senior officials from Jakarta led by Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, Djoko Suyanto, who were present at the opening session.

It should be noted, however, that not all Papuans support the dialogue process because of their lack of trust in the Indonesian Government; some believe that a more direct approach, involving a referendum on the territory’s future political status, is what is required.

In any event, since the Peace Conference, tensions have increased in West Papua with a series of killings, arrests, detentions and violent clashes throughout the territory.  According to the Indonesian human rights NGO, KontraS, over 40 people have been killed.  These incidents appear unrelated, but there are suggestions that they are an orchestrated response to the political developments and are designed to close down the political space available to those proposing dialogue between Papua and Jakarta and those campaigning for independence.

At the same time, a long-running and bitter dispute at the Freeport mine involving thousands of workers demanding a more decent salary has led to clashes between the strikers and the security forces and the deaths of at least 10 people, including employees, security forces and civilians.  Information has emerged about payments by Freeport to the police with allegations that the Government is siding with a foreign multinational rather than with its own people.

The recent political violence culminated in the killing of at least three people at the end of the Third Papuan Peoples’ Congress held in the regional capital, Jayapura, from 16-19 October 2011.  The First Congress had taken place on the same dates in October 1961 and agreed an independence manifesto ahead of the adoption of the national flag and national anthem on 1 December 1961.

At the end of last month’s Congress, Indonesian troops and police special forces fired hundreds of shots to disperse the peaceful crowd, and pistol-whipped and beat participants. The security forces turned violent after Papuan indigenous leaders, who had gathered to discuss their basic rights, issued a declaration of independence.  The extreme brutality of their actions has illustrated again the failure of the Indonesian authorities to treat the Papuans with humanity and respect and as equals.

A new unit known as UP4B has been set up by the Indonesian Government to accelerate development in West Papua, and a special envoy has been appointed by President Yudhoyono to prepare the way for dialogue, but serious questions remain about Jakarta’s willingness to address political as well as economic issues in the territory.



III Human rights problems

There are three human rights issues which I’d like to address.  The first is militarisation, the second is impunity, and the third is freedom of expression.



According to recent estimates, armed forces personnel in Papua currently number 14,842.  The government is understood to have plans to significantly increase numbers over the next 14 years.  This is entirely disproportionate and counter-productive.  Military operations and a heavy-handed approach to security pose a serious threat to the human rights and lives of the Papuan people.  A culture of violence is linked to the belief held by the security forces that political activity and advocacy for Papuan rights is associated with a separatist agenda and should be met with a harsh response.

According to one Indonesian commentator, violence such as this is simply encouraging Papua to break away from Indonesia. “The powerful forces bent on forcing Papuans to separate from Indonesia are none other than the central government, especially its military and police force” he said writing in the Jakarta Globe newspaper.

Violent and repressive practices of the military and police forces include: intimidation; terror tactics; arbitrary arrests and detentions; interrogations conducted without the presence of lawyers and access denied to visiting family members; torture, ill-treatment and denial of healthcare during detention; mysterious shootings; forced disappearances; sexual violence; and extra-judicial executions.

Human rights defenders are particularly vulnerable because of their key role in protecting and promoting Papuan rights.  Severe restrictions on international organizations and foreign media working in West Papua mean that proper independent monitoring of, and reporting on, the actions of the security forces cannot take place.


In response to this problem of militarisation, Indonesia must be encouraged to review its political and security policies relating to West Papua with a view to reducing its military presence and focusing on the political rather than security approach to resolving the Papua conflict.

Furthermore, it should allow free and unfettered access to West Papua, and freedom of movement within Papua, to international human rights and humanitarian organisations and international media.



While Papuans are often severely punished for peaceful political activities, such as raising the Papuan ‘Morning Star’ flag, by contrast security forces personnel involved in serious violations of human rights routinely escape punishment or are given derisory sentences.

Eight police officers who were involved in the violent crackdown at last month’s Papuan Peoples’ Congress were merely given written warnings after an internal disciplinary hearing.  Amnesty described this a ‘slap on the wrist’, but it is far more serious than that.  It epitomises a culture of impunity that literally allows the security forces to get away with murder.

In January 2011, three soldiers were sentenced by a military court to between eight and ten months imprisonment for the procedural offence of ‘disobeying orders’ for their involvement in the widely publicised brutal torture of two Papuan men in May 2010.

These are just two examples of cases of impunity that stretch back many years.  A few years ago, Indonesia’s National Human Rights Commission found that gross violations of human rights had been perpetrated in relation to two cases known as the Wasior case in 2001 and the Wamena case in 2003.  The two cases were referred to the Indonesia Attorney General’s office, but have since become dormant with no prosecutions resulting.

The solution to this problem of impunity is obvious.  The Indonesian Government must strengthen the rule of law in West Papua by ensuring the fair and effective investigation and prosecution of all violations of human rights by security forces so that a new sense of justice and fairness is allowed to develop.


Freedom of expression

As previously mentioned, Papuan activists are regularly arrested and detained for peaceful actions, such as raising the Papuan ‘Morning Star’ flag or attending demonstrations and public events, such as the Papuan Peoples’ Congress.  They are frequently charged with the offence of makar (treason) under Article 106 of the Indonesian Criminal Code and related offences and face prison sentences of up to twenty years or life.

According to data recorded by my organisation, there are currently at least 30 Papuans in prison awaiting trial or serving time for makar and related offences.  A minimum of 77 Papuans have been detained and charged with makar and/or related charges since 2008, and those convicted have been given sentences ranging from 10 months to six years.  Collectively, these political prisoners have been condemned to over 91 years in prison, either through sentencing or time served in detention before acquittal.

Five Papuans, including Forkorus Yaboisembut, head of the Papuan Customary Council (Dewan Adat Papua), were arrested and charged with makar following the violent dispersal by the security forces of the Third Papuan Peoples’ Congress.

One of the longest serving prisoners is Filep Karma who was convicted of makar under Article 106 and other offences for raising the ‘Morning Star’ flag at a political rally in December 2004 and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment.  In a decision adopted in September 2011, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions ruled that the detention of Mr Karma was in violation of international human rights standards.  It requested the Government of Indonesia to immediately release Mr Karma and provide him with adequate reparations.  The UN Working Group further reminded Indonesia of its duties ‘to comply with international human rights obligations not to detain arbitrarily, to release persons who are arbitrarily detained and to provide compensation to them’

Freedom of expression is a key issue for West Papua as it is an essential instrument for the promotion and protection of all other human rights.  It is also an essential requirement for creating the conditions in which the political problems of the territory can be resolved.

Again the solutions to this problem are quite straightforward.  The Indonesian government should immediately end the practice of charging persons engaged in non-violent political activities with criminal offences such as makar; it should amend or repeal penal provisions that restrict the right to freedom of expression; and as a trust-building measure with the Papuan people, release unconditionally all those in detention for non-violent political activities.

I would encourage this human rights subcommittee to take up these issues in whatever ways it can, in particular through the mechanism of the official EU-Indonesia human rights dialogue, which now takes place on a regular basis in Jakarta and Brussels.  I would also appeal to the subcommittee members to monitor events around the 1 December celebrations this week and respond in whatever way they can in the event of a further deterioration in the situation on the ground.

Again, I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to address this meeting and I will be pleased to answer any questions.

Thank you.

Dr Neles Tebay statement on West Papua to the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights

Statement to the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights


‘Public Hearing on Human rights situation in South East Asia with special focus on West Papua’


29 November 2011

By Dr Neles Tebay

Coordinator of the Papua Peace Network and Rector of the ‘Fajar Timur’ Catholic School of Philosophy and Theology, Jayapura

First of all, I would like to apologize for not being able to be with you and among you in this important meeting. I have taken the decision to not coming to Brussels, because the tension in West Papua now is running high. The Papuans are preparing themselves to celebrate 1st of december. More Indonesian security forces are being deployed in West Papua. Many people here are worried and restless. Therefore, I have decided to stay among and with People here in this time of crisis.

I would like to thank you for allowing me to share my observation and opinion about the relationship between Indonesia and West Papua.

The relationship between Jakarta-based government and the Papuans has been and is still being characterized by mutual suspicion and mistrust.

West Papua under Indonesian rule has become a land of violent conflicts.

The conflict derives from different interpretation of the integration of West Papua into the Republic of Indonesia.

Indonesia considers that West Papua is an integral part of its territory. West Papua, then, shpould always be maintained as Indonesia’s territory.

Therefore Papuan resistance is considered as a threat to the Indonesia’s territorial integrity.

The eradication of separatist movement in West Papua has been reason to justify all forms of state violence against the Papuans and human rights abuses committed againat the Indigenous Papuans.

I thinki, more human rights violations will likely continue to happen in the future because thousands of additional troops have been deployed in West Papua and the root cause of the Papua conflict has not been addressed yet .

Menwahile many indigenous Papuans see their ancestral land of West Papua is occupied by Indonesian military. They feel that they have been and are still being colonized by Indonesia.

Therefore they have been raising their resistance against a colonial power on their ancestral land. Their resistance has been manifested through violent and non-violent menas. I see that the Papuans will continue raising their resistance against Indonesian rule by any means.

I think, it is now the time for the central government and the Indigenous Papuans to think about policies to end the human rights violations.

I do believe that more human rights violations are likely to occur in West Papua unless the root causes of Papuan separatism are resolved.

So it is important for the both parties to engage in a constructive dialogue to identify these root causes of separatism and settle them without unnecessary bloodshed.

The good news is that the Indonesian government under the leadership of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Indigenous Papuans have expressed publicly their willingness to engage in dialogue to seek peaceful solutions to the Papua conflict.

President Yudhoyono is commited to settle the Papua conflict through dialogue. He has publicly announced the government’commitment to engage in dialogue with the Papuans to seek better solutions and options to setle the grievances in West Papua.

So, If I may suggest, I would like to ask the European Union, including the European Parliament and the European Commission, to support the Indonesian government’s initiative for an open dialogue with the Papuans to settle peacefully the Papua conflict. The European Union can offer any necessary assistance in order to support the government of Indonesia so that the Papua conflcit can be settled through an open dialogue with the the Indigensous Papuans.

Thank you so much for your understanding and attention.

It is time to put talk into action: Aust Parliament speech by Jane Prentice MP (Ryan)

Hansard Transcript of  Speech given to the Australian Parliament House of Representatives on Monday November 21,  by Jane Prentice MP (Ryan), Liberal Party of Australia.

Mrs PRENTICE (Ryan) (10:42): Like others in this chamber I applaud the sentiment and goals expressed by President Obama in his address to the Australian parliament last week. His words do bear repeating, so I quote:

As two global partners, we stand up for the security and dignity of people around the world.

President Obama said that the larger purpose of his visit to this region was ‘our efforts to advance security, prosperity and human dignity across the Asia-Pacific’ and that ‘Asia will largely define whether the century ahead will be marked by conflict or cooperation, needless suffering or human progress’. He went on to say:

We stand for an international order in which the rights and responsibilities of all nations and people are upheld. … Every nation will chart its own course, yet it is also true that certain rights are universal. … As two great democracies we speak up for these freedoms when they are threatened. We partner with emerging democracies, like Indonesia, to help strengthen the institutions upon which good governance depends. This is the future we seek in the Asia Pacific — security, prosperity and dignity for all.

As I said in my maiden speech, in our region we have a particular responsibility to assist our developing friends, not in a patronising way but with a genuine hand of friendship and support. The developed world has not found a successful form of providing aid to our neighbours, in much the same way that we have much to learn in helping our own Indigenous Australians. In both cases we must persist, because if we fail we let our neighbours down—and, indeed, our first Australians.

I then went on to mention some of the many issues confronting our nearest neighbours. It is against this background that it is important that we acknowledge the respect for human rights that must be accorded to all people.

The people of West Papua are facing challenges that in many ways flow from colonial times, when lines were drawn on maps to suit the interests of colonial powers. As a country we have for more than 100 years been prepared to send our service men and women all over the world, not only into conflict situations but also as peacekeepers. Yet here, literally on our doorstep, we continue to turn a blind eye to the suffering of one of our nearest neighbours.

On that note, with everyone focused on the Asia-Pacific region, as President Obama said, we must stand up for the fundamental rights of every human being. In particular I look to our neighbours in West Papua. Mark my words, history will judge us very harshly. Indeed, we will stand condemned for our lack of action and our lack of compassion. I call on the government in its close partnership with President Obama to ensure basic human rights and freedoms for the people of West Papua. It is time to put talk into action.

Asia-Pacific Region
Monday, 21 November 2011

Indonesia opens fire as Papuans raise flag

December 1, 2011 – 

Security forces opened fire at a separatist flag-raising ceremony in Indonesia’s restive Papua region Thursday, on the 50th anniversary of the region’s claim to independence.

Around 500 protesters had watched a traditional dance and started cheering and running in a large circle when the region’s Morning Star flag was raised on a bamboo pole in the centre, an AFP correspondent at the scene witnessed.

Around 120 police and soldiers, along with a military truck, stormed the crowd and opened fire after the main flag was raised.

Police detained two protesters after kicking and punching them on the ground.

Papuan youth activist leader Markus Haluk told AFP that two people had been shot.

“At the ceremony in Timika, police and military opened fire and wounded one woman and one man. They are both being treated in hospital,” Haluk said.

But Mimika district deputy police chief Mada Indra Laksanta denied the shootings, saying police merely fired warning shots into the air.

“No protesters were shot, we didn’t shoot into the crowd. They were carrying sharp weapons and rocks,” Laksanta told AFP.

“Two protesters fell into the ditch as they were fleeing and suffered abrasions. They were not shot, they only had abrasions,” he said.

“Three police were wounded, their faces and heads were hit with rocks.”

Flag-raising ceremonies were held in a number of towns across Papua, and others were planned abroad in the Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand.

On December 1, 1961, Papuans first raised the Morning Star flag and sang a new national anthem after being granted freedom from more than 130 years of Dutch colonial rule.

A year later, Indonesia invaded Papua and took over the region with a self-determination referendum in 1969, which was widely seen as rigged.

Papuans, mostly ethnic Melanesians, have rejected the region’s status as a region within Indonesia and poorly armed separatist groups have fought a low-level insurgency.

Displaying separatist symbols such as the Morning Star is considered an act of treason in Indonesia under the criminal code and several perpetrators are serving 20-year jail terms for the offence.

Some are serving life sentences, the maximum penalty under the criminal code for anyone “with an intention to to bring the territory of the state … under foreign domination”.


Initial reports from December 1 in West Papua: TNI respond with violence in Timika

Citizen journalists on the ground have started filing the following reports by SMS (translated from Bahasa Indonesia):

(All times given are local time)


“December 1st was celebrated in Timika. The flag was raised for approximately minutes. A church service began at 9am. The military then forcibly dispersed everyone. Two people were shot (a man and a woman). The man’s name is Viktus Wamang. He is currently in the hospital in Timika. The woman is yet to be identified. Three people have been detained. The situation is very tense. People are still detained on the field in Timika Indah.” 11:30, Dec. 1.


“We marched around the municipality office and are now joining a mass prayer. Around 1,000 to 1,500 people are involved. The police are strictly guarding us. Hope that nothing happens to us.” 10:35, Dec 1.


“The streets of Manokwari are crowded. People are holding a 100m long banner that reads ‘The Federal Republic of West Papua’ and includes a photo of the President [Forkorus Yaboisembut] and the Prime Minister [Edison Waromi] and hundreds of Morning Star Flags.” 11:29, Dec 1.

Puncak Jaya (Nemangkawi in the Amungme language), the highest mountain between the Himalaya and the Andes

A European mountain climber unfurled the Morning Star Flag on the summit of Nemangkawi. The photo and a video has just been released on West Papua Media.

People are now coming out of church services. More flag raisings are expected.

It is expected that tension will increase as people come on the streets across Papua.  West Papua Media will continue to monitor the situation closely.

Witness contacts are available from West Papua Media at +61450079106

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