West Papua Report January 2012

This is the 91st in a series of monthly reports that focus on developments affecting Papuans. This series is produced by the non-profit West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) drawing on media accounts, other NGO assessments, and analysis and reporting from sources within West Papua. This report is co-published with the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN). Back issues are posted online at http://etan.org/issues/wpapua/default.htm Questions regarding this report can be addressed to Edmund McWilliams at edmcw@msn.com. If you wish to receive the report via e-mail, send a note to etan@etan.org.


West Papua Report
January 2012

This is the 93rd in a series of monthly reports that focus on developments affecting Papuans. This series is produced by the non-profit West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) drawing on media accounts, other NGO assessments, and analysis and reporting from sources within West Papua. This report is co-published with the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN). Back issues are posted online at http://www.etan.org/issues/wpapua/default.htm Questions regarding this report can be addressed to Edmund McWilliams at edmcw@msn.com. If you wish to receive the report via e-mail, send a note to etan@etan.org.

Summary: Indonesian security forces, including the U.S. and Australian supported Detachment 88, conducted “sweeping operations” in the Paniai area of West Papua that destroyed churches, homes and public buildings, and forced hundreds of civilians from their homes. The Indonesia’s National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) urged the Police Commander to remove forces from the region, echoing civil society leaders in Paniai. Jakarta’s failure to provided basic health services to Papuans has led to a high rate of death among mothers at child birth according to a recent report. An unconfirmed report claims that President Yudhoyono has committed to withdraw non-organic troops from West Papua and to suspend the operations of a special unit proposed to address fundamental Jakarta-Papua problems. The cost in human life for Papuans of Jakarta’s decades of neglect of the Papuan population is well documented. Amnesty International met with a senior official in Jakarta to press for release of political prisoners, particularly in West Papua and Maluku. The three-month old strike by workers at the Freeport McMoRan mines appears to be headed toward resolution.


Brutal “Sweeping Operation” Continues to Displace Civilians in Paniai

Despite efforts by the Indonesian government and its security forces to block all monitoring of developments in the Paniai region of West Papua, courageous journalists, human rights advocates and others have been able to report on the ongoing tragedy there. Since the first days of December, Indonesian security forces, including the U.S.-trained and funded Detachment 88, Brimob elements, and units of the Indonesian military, have been conducting a massive “sweeping” campaign, purportedly targeting local leaders of the pro-independence Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM). Hundreds and in all probability thousands of villagers have been driven from their homes due to the violence unleashed by government forces which has destroyed churches, homes, and public buildings.

An early December report carried in the Jakarta Post revealed the dimensions of the human tragedy now unfolding:

About 500 inhabitants of Dagouto village in Paniai Regency, Papua, have opted to leave their homes and seek refuge following the deployment of 150 Mobile Brigade officers to their area, Paniai tribe council chief John Gobai said Wednesday.
“Our people have become refugees at Uwatawogi Hall in Enarotali, Paniai, for several weeks. They are now afraid they may not be able to celebrate Christmas at home,” John told reporters at the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM). John, along with four other Paniai people, was at the commission to complain about the presence of police officers in the area, which they said “exacerbated the security situation.”
The National Police has increased its numbers of personnel in the regency following several deadly shootings, reportedly claiming the lives of eight traditional miners working on the Degeuwo River, near Dagouto, last month.

Indonesian Human Rights Commission Calls for Withdrawal of Security Forces from Paniai

On December 17, Jubi reported that the Indonesian Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) called on the Indonesian Chief of Police to immediately withdraw all Brimob troops (the militarized police) from the West Papua district of Paniai and to refrain from sending any additional personnel there.

The request came in the wake of widespread reports (see above) of brutal security force sweeping operations that had targeted civilians.

The deputy head of Komnas HAM, M. Ridha Saleh, wrote the chief of police in response to a formal complaint made by the chairman of the Regional Traditional Council (DAD) in Paniai. The letter cited two recent incidents involving members of the police force: A shooting near the copper-and-gold mine in Degheuwo which led to the death of a civilian. And the situation following the dispatch of 150 additional Brimob troops who arrived in Enarotali on November 11-14, 2011

The letter called for the removal of a Brimob post set up in the midst of several kampungs and for a police investigation into the death of Mateus Tenouye. The letter noted that only a Brimob withdrawal could enable Paniai to return to their daily lives which have been badly disrupted by security operations by Brimob and other Indonesian security personnel.

(WPAT Note: There are consistent reports of the involvement of Detachment 88, Kopassus, and other TNI personnel in the sweeping operations. Neither the U.S. nor Australian governments have made any comment regarding their support for an organization that in this instance, and in numerous previous incidents, has resorted to brutality in dealing with peaceful non-combatants.)

The Komnas HAM appeal concluded with a call for dialogue among all parties.

Inadequate Health Care Responsible for High Rate of Death of Mothers at Child Birth

The Jakarta Post reports that maternal deaths in West Papua remain high. Victor Nugraha, an official with the Papuan Health Agency, speaking to media in Manokwari, said that the rate of deaths in 2011 would be at least as high as in 2010. Real figures, he added, were difficult to ascertain because many cases of death during child birth are not recorded due to the shortage of medical personnel to maintain records.

According to the official the main causes of maternal death were hemorrhage, post-pregnancy infections, and hypertension. Anemia due to iron deficiency can lead to hemorrhaging. Beside low iron levels due to poor nutrition, anemia can also be caused by malaria, which is common in West Papua. The official also explained that late pregnancy checks and poor surgery facilities for caesarean sections in clinics also contribute to maternal deaths.

This report echoes a far more detailed study conducted in the Kebar Valley of West Papua in 2008 (see Health care in the Bird’s Head Peninsula. Its conclusions are stark:

  • Out of 708 pregnancies 4.7% led to miscarriage and 1.4% of the children were born dead.
  • Out of 665 child births, where the baby was born alive, 213 baby’s and children eventually died. This is an infant mortality rate of 32.0%. This means that almost 1 out of 3 children dies before its fifth birthday.
  • 57.3% of the died children (213) were younger than 1 year old. 27.7% is between the age of 1 to 5 when it dies.
  • Most baby’s and toddlers (32.9%) died of fever or malaria. Fever in combination with coughing (probably pneumonia) causes a mortality rate of 13.9%.
  • Diarrhea, icterus, prematures and pulmonary affections like tuberculosis, pneumonia and bronchitis also occur, but in smaller numbers.
  • In 12.7% of the dead infants the cause of death was unknown, according to the mother.
  • 94.4% of the pregnant women give birth at home, whether or not with the presence of a traditional midwife .
  • 14 children were born twins; 3 are still alive.

WPAT Comment: Inadequate health services are common throughout those areas of West Papua where the majority of Papuans live. Services are better, sometimes substantially so, in towns where the majority of the non-Papuan, government-assisted migrants live. Totally inadequate health services, along with government failure to provide education or employment opportunities, in majority Papuan populated areas have inevitably contributed to lower birth rates for West Papuans and greater deaths among Papuan children under the age of five. This decades-old policy of neglect of Papuans constitutes one of the bases of charges of genocide leveled against the Indonesian government.

Report of Major Jakarta Pledge on Demilitarization of West PapuaWest Papua Media Alerts on December 18 reported that President Yudhoyono made a commitment to Papuan Church leaders in a December 16 meeting to withdraw non-organic troops from West Papua. He reportedly said that he would suspend the activities of the special Unit to Accelerate the Development of Papua and West Papua (UP4B) which was to have addressed fundamental issues in the Jakarta-Papua relationship.

Key Papuan leaders in attendance included: Chair of the Papua GKI Synod, Yemima Kret; Chair of the Baptist Church of Papua, Socrates Sofyan Yoman; Chair of the Kingmi Synod, Benny Giay; Martin Luther Wanma and Rika Korain.

Upon hearing an appeal for an end to the troop presence the President reportedly asked the Police Chief and Commander of the TNI to stop the violence. According to Rev. Benny Giay, the President commanded the Chief of Police and the Armed Forces (TNI) “to stop the violence in Paniai, at least during the month of Christmas.” However, Pastor Gomar Gultom, also at the meeting, told the media that the President did not mention a specific deadline for withdrawal of non-organic troops.

With regards to efforts to launch a Jakarta-Papua dialogue, Gultom said the two sides have not yet decided on the dialogue format or issues to be discussed. Religious leaders are scheduled to meet again in mid-January 2012 to formulate the program in more detail.

Gultom added that President SBY spoke about the UP4B led by Lt. Gen. ( ret) Bambang Darmono. The Religious leaders said that UP4B was formed unilaterally, without hearing the aspirations of the Papuan people. “There is a meeting point agreed upon last night. All points will be evaluated together, and UP4B will be stopped until results of the joint evaluation are available,” he said.

WPAT Comment: There is no evidence as of early January that any of the undertakings reportedly set forth by President Yudhoyono have in fact come to pass. Fighting in Paniai continues and there has been no announcement of a suspension of the operation of UP4B.

Amnesty International Appeals for Political Prisoners Release

On December 6, Amnesty International officials met with Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Law, Politics and Security, Djoko Suyanto to urge the Indonesian Government free political prisoners incarcerated for peacefully expressing their views. Amnesty urged the government “to integrate human rights in their efforts to address the situation in Papua.”

Amnesty International’s presentation focused on at least 90 people who are in prison in West Papua and Maluku for peaceful pro-independence activities, including Filep Karma, a Papuan independence leader currently serving a 15-year sentence in Abepura, Papua. Filep’s case has received special attention by the human rights group.

The meeting took place less than one month following the brutal assault on the Papuan Third National Congress during which peaceful Papuan dissenters were beaten and killed and many were arrested, only to join the growing ranks of Papuan political prisoners.

Amnesty argued that “the Indonesian government should free all those who are detained in Papua and Maluku for peacefully expressing their views, including through raising or waving the prohibited pro-independence flags, and distinguish between peaceful and violent political activists.” Amnesty pointed out that although the government had the duty and the right to maintain public order, its actions restricting freedom of expression and peaceful assembly had violated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Indonesia has ratified.

Amnesty stressed the need to set up a human rights court and a truth and reconciliation commission to investigate cases of human rights violations since Indonesia annexed Papua in the 1960s.

According to the Jakarta Globe, Minister Djoko Suyanto at the meeting expressed the government’s commitment to ensure accountability for human rights abuses committed by security forces.

Freeport Strike Grinds Toward Resolution

In early December worker representatives and the Freeport McMoRan corporation reached a tentative deal whereby workers would return to their job sites, thus ending a crippling strike which left the world’s largest copper and gold operation at a standstill since workers began striking the massive West Papua mine site in September. The Indonesian government was losing $8 million worth of taxes, royalties and dividends each day the strike continued.

As of late December, workers had not yet resumed work owing to unresolved issues outside the framework of the new contract. Principal among these is the workers insistence that their leaders not be sanctioned either by Freeport McMoRan, which had talked of firing them, or the police, who have threatened to arrest them for “subversion.” The status of a number of contract workers were also at issue. Workers have also insisted on security measures that will preclude additional violence by unidentified elements thought possibly to have ties to the authorities.

The workers achieved significant concessions in their over three months long strike. The key provisions of the new contract is an agreement by Freeport McMoRan to a pay rise of 40 percent over two years. The current pay is $2-$3 an hour. The union had demanded an hourly rate of $7.50.

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