Daily Archives: December 14, 2012

Australian media only tells half the story about West Papua

By Kayt Davies, Edith Cowan University

December 14,  2012

There’s more to the West Papua story than men in Bambi suits. (Photo: Kayt Davies)

Last Friday a picture story appeared on page three of The Age that was ostensibly about events in West Papua. The story was pitched as a quirky yarn, replete with a wacky Disney character, a kilt (always a bit funny) and some large weapons.

All these elements tick boxes on the newsworthiness checklist – but, as US journalist Charles Feldman told a gathering of the Journalism Education Association of Australia in Melbourne earlier last week, “there is a difference between news and journalism”.

The story was about Gerard Michael Little, who presents as a well meaning man dismayed at the death toll in Papua and who allegedly wanted to put his military and paramilitary training to good use in the form of an armed peace keeping force. He was arrested in Brisbane last week under a rarely used law that prohibits hostile activities by armed non-state actors, including planning and training.

To make the charges stick, the prosecutor will have to prove that he was armed and intending to take offensive action.

The story’s first appearance was on Wednesday December 5 when The Australian, ABC Local, the Sydney Morning Herald, The Herald Sun and APN’s Toowoomba Chronicle reported that Little had been arrested. The Jakarta Globe followed up the next day as news emerged from his court appearance.

The articles were all accounts of the bare facts of the court case, in turn highlighting Little’s Victorian and Toowoomba connections, paramilitary training in the Ukraine, disability pension and grandfather status. Reporting a day later, The Age’s Justice Editor Dan Oakes did commendable research on the man and wrote up what he found.

But what was omitted was the context. What is happening in West Papua, in general and in particular this week, goes some way towards explaining Little’s actions.

Having arrived in Melbourne a day ahead of a gathering of journalism educators, I was in town for the December 1 West Papuan flag day celebrations in front of the State Library. West Papuan foreign minister in exile Jacob Rumbiak told the crowd he’d spent a decade in prison for raising a flag in Papua, and that he had many colleagues behind bars for exercising their right to peacefully express their opinion. A young Papuan activist read an open letter to Julia Gillard calling for Australia to take responsibility for the actions of the troops it is training and the atrocities they are committing on Papuan soil.

While Melbourne was sunny and bright, the cloud that passed over the gathering in its final moment at Federation Square was news that Victor Yeimo, the chairman of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) had been arrested. His crime was to lead a peaceful protest march.

The Melbourne West Papuan community waited for news, as international human rights monitors made enquiries about Yeimo’s status and whereabouts. The next day police announced he had been released, leading to concern that he may have “disappeared”.

But Yeimo surfaced, and filed a report that quoted Jayapura police captain Kiki Kurnia saying, “We are ready to wreak havoc and clash with all of you”. Yeimo called on the international community to take action.

Other positive news that didn’t attract the interest of News Ltd, Fairfax or the ABC: an announcement that the Indonesian Law and Human Rights Ministry had agreed to give sentence remissions to around 20 Papuan political prisoners. This announcement must be backed by vigilant international watchdog journalism to ensure that it delivers the due judicial process it appears to promise.

Tempering the optimism of this announcement was the sad news that political prisoner Timotius Napirem Ap was shot dead – in the feet, neck and back – by police.

This is just one week in the rolling saga of the civil resistance movement in West Papua. It’s a story that involves villagers who live in grass huts in jungles, students who live in dorms in the urban heart of Jayapura, Australian mining executives, and the protesters who gathered in Melbourne.

For them, the flurry of news attention given to Little’s arrest must seem odd. That events like these would prompt a military-trained man to step in and try to do something about the void of international neglect and media disinterest is not surprising. But he’s a symptom, not the cause, and his story is just a quirky tangent to a real story that is mostly ignored by Australia’s mainstream media.

Kayt Davies does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation.

The Conversation
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Baptist leader calls for unconditional release of Forkorus

Bintang Papua
11 December 2012
The Indonesian government has been urged to free all political prisoners in Papua, including Forkorus Yaboisembut and Filep Karma. On the occasion of World Human Rights Day,  the human rights defender Socrates Sofyan Yoman spoke about the activities throughout 2012 of organisations such Polri (the police force), the TNI (the Indonesian military) and vicious armed civilian groups. He said 90  incidents of violence had been committed by these groups in all parts of Papua during the year so far.’As we celebrate Human Rights Day,’ he said, ‘we defenders  of human rights urge the Indonesian government to take the following actions:

‘Firstly, in accordance with its constitutional responsibility to safeguard its citizens, the government should acknowledge that the way it treats prisoners, convicts and the citizens in general is brutal, inhumane and demeaning. This includes the way it treats Papuan civil society and Papuan political prisoners. Such activities  should be prohibited, along with all practices that violate the law. Torture must be clearly identified  and criminalised. This would be seen as a concrete sign of Indonesia’s commitment to the International Covnention Against Torture which it officially ratified  by enactment of Law 5/1998

Secondly, the government should agree to adopt a policy that recognises Papuan citizens as victims. In those cases where legal processes have been resorted to, rehabilitation not imprisonment should be the method  chosen. The government should also adopt measures to  inform the general public about the many civilian victims in Papua.

His next point was to ensure that whenever the law on treason is used in a court of law, this should be non-discriminatory and concrete action should be taken to put an end to all criminal activities by the security forces, including judges, public prosecutors and all those people who are in charge of the prisons.

Furthermore,  the rights of all Papuan political prisoners must be safeguarded, including ending all illegal detentions. In cases where confessions were made under duress and without the presence of legal counsel, they should not be accepted as evidence in a court.of law.

The government should create mechanisms for people to be able to initiate charges. Such mechanisms should be available everywhere and in all places of detention and imprisonment.And in cases where charges are brought by detainees, this must be followed through by independent investigations by law-enforcement institutions as well as the National Human Rights Commission.

His next point  was to urge the National Human Rights Commision, the National Commission to End Violence Against Women and the Ombudsman  of the Indonesian Republic, to establish a mechanism  for a fully independent National Protection Unit to visit all places of detention, especially places of detention where persons charged with treason (/makar/) or other political prisoners  are being held as part of the state’s responsibility to act in accordance with the Anti-Violence Optional Convention.

The seventh point was to press the Indonesian government to enter in peaceful dialogue on the problem of Papua, mediated by a third party, one of the aims of which would to end torture and other forms of violence throughout the Land of Papua.

The eighth point was to press the Indonesian government to invite  the UN Special Rapporteur against Torture and Arbitrary Detentions to visit Papua.

The ninth point was to press the Indonesian government  to allow foreign journalists to visit Papua.

The tenth point was that the Indonesian government should accept responsibility for incidents of gross violations of human rights such as the incident in Abepura on 7 December 2000, the Wasior 2001 incident, the Wamena  2003 inicident and other incidents that have already been investigated by the  National Human Rights Commission, and to ensure that  the results of these investigations  are considered at the human rights court and dealt with in accordance with the principles of justice.

With regard to the role of the churches in Papua, it should be acknowledged that their main mission  has been paralysed by the state and governmental system in Indonesia.

Moreover, its prophetic voice is hardly ever heard in Papua, particularly since Papua was integrated into the Indonesian republic by military means and this the integration was preceded by the bloody events surrounding the Act of Free Choice, which continue to the present day.

‘The churches have forgotten or refused to recognise that Christianity arrived in Papua three centuries ago, on 5 February 1855.’

These thoughts were expressed by Socrates Sofyan Yoman during his opening address of the Congress of the Alliance of Baptist Churches in Papua at the Baptist Church in Wamena in October 2012.

He pointed out that his church  has supported the Papuan people with education, religious belief, healthcare and in the economic sphere, and has helped to improve access to the most remote areas by establishing small airfields which cater for small aircraft, with alll the risks this involves.

The church’s  missionaries live in close proximity with the Papuan people and help to foster the dignity of the Papuan people.in sharp contrast to what Indonesia has done since Papua’s integration, when it became a colonial power, a fact that is rarely criticised by the churches.

As a church leader, Yoman said that he not only studies the Bible but also learns from the history of Papua.  He has learned a great deal from this history, in particular the many untruths that have been told.  It is the role of the churches to insist on correcting these untruths, he said

Until now the churches talk about  ‘peace and well being’ but God’s people are continually  stigmatised as treasonous and accused of being part of the OPM.

As a church leader, he rejects all these allegations  and believes that Christians  must reflect of God’s will, as is stated in Genesis 1:26.  For all these reasons, he said in conclusion:

‘I will continue to speak out and will do everything I possibly can to share in the sufferings of God’s people. There is no future for Papua if it continue to remain a part of Indonesia. Papuans cannot live normal lives The churches must speak out about this and integrate themselves with those people whose very identity has been destroyed. It must speak out about  justice, equality  and the freedom  of all humankind regardless of race, ethnicity, culture or religion.

[Translated by TAPOL]