Jared Diamond: Don’t assist the Indonesian occupation

by Jason Mcleod

February 21, 2013


Diamond’s observations, made in his recent book The World until Yesterday,  that West Papuans are ‘warlike’ and that the state and development are forces for good need to be chucked in the academic dustbin. They don’t stack up against the evidence and in the case of West Papua help perpetuate ideas that are used to justify the ongoing Indonesian occupation.

Take his claim that Indigenous Papuans like those from the Dani nation are warlike, locked in perpetual combat with their neighbours, and bereft of role models, structures or processes that help pull them out of cycles of violent retribution. In reality Dani leaders like Benny Wenda, Sofyan Yoman, Dominikus Surabut, and Fanny Kogoya are at the forefront of a nationwide nonviolent rebellion against Indonesian occupation. This is not a recent phenomenon. Papuans from Biak, for instance, were engaging in acts of peaceful defiance as early as 1910, twenty years before Gandhi launched his salt satyagraha against British rule. They defied bans against traditional singing and dancing, organised collective tax resistance and initiated labour strikes in protest of Dutch colonialism. Alliances like KNPB, the West Papua National Committee also continue determined nonviolent resistance even as the Indonesian military tries to wipe them out, killing 22 KNPB activists in 2012 alone.

As for not cooperating across tribal boundaries, people like Dominikus Surabut, currently imprisoned by the Indonesian state for peacefully declaring independence from Indonesia, are part of a Pan-Papuan tribal confederacy, the Dewan Adat Papua (DAP) and the Federal Republic of West Papua. If you visit the DAP leader and FRWP president elect, Forkorus’s Yaboisembut’s home on the coast, you will see a Dani gate gracing the front entrance. While Papuans from different highland and island tribes will greet you and make you feel welcome you won’t be able to meet Mr Yaboisembut because like Mr Surabut he is also in jail for leading a nonviolent insurrection.

But you won’t find any of this in The World until Yesterday. Diamond fails to mention the occupation and fails to mention the fact that the West Papuan struggle for freedom is the largest nonviolent movement in the Pacific. We are not just talking about a handful of activists, but tens of thousands of Papuans who have gone on strike, occupied parliament, set up parallel government structures and are using the latest digital technology to demolish the Indonesian government’s refusal to give the international media free reign to report on what is happening.

Diamond’s other suggestion that the twin forces of industrialization and states are helping bringing development and peace to societies once isolated and trapped in a perpetual cycle of inter-tribal war has been labeled by Survival International, an indigenous human rights organisation, as “dangerous nonsense”. In West Papua large scale development like the giant Freeport/Rio Tinto gold and copper mine has displaced the local landowners the Amungme and Kamoro. Far from bringing development the company’s theft of land and resources has impoverished them. Freeport’s policy of paying the Indonesian military and police to provide security has led to a mounting death toll that numbers in at least the hundreds. Demands for independent forensic human rights investigations are repeatedly ignored by the Indonesian government and Freeport. Despite this Papuans from groups like Tongoi Papua, an independent Papuan labour union of Freeport mine workers who in 2006 won a 100% wage increase though collective nonviolent action, are working together, across tribal boundaries, to press for the freedom to organise and greater rights.

As for the Indonesian government bringing peace to West Papua; that is laughable. The Indonesian government has occupied West Papua since 1963. They maintain their rule through brutal force, ably assisted I might add, by foreign governments like Australia, the U.S and others. Rev. Sofyan Yoman from the Baptist Church, and other Papuans, call it “slow-motion genocide”. But again, don’t expect to read that in Diamond’s book.

Diamond’s observations about our collective past are often insightful but in the case of West Papua his ossified ideas about warlike Papuans and his praise of the state and development are at best, highly contested.

They also assist the Indonesian occupation.

Dr J MacLeod, University of Queensland


Seven Papuans are arrested and tortured on false allegations of having a relationship with pro-independence activists

By Asian Human Rights Commission

Urgent Action report

19 February 2013

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information regarding the arbitrary arrest and torture of seven Papuans which took place on 15 February 2013. The victims were driving home in two cars when the police stopped them as they were looking for two pro-independence activists. The victims were later brought to the police station where they were further questioned on the whereabouts of the activists. They were severely beaten, kicked and electrocuted before being five of them were released without charge the next day. However, as at the time of writing two of the victims remain in police custody.


According to interviews and fact gathering conducted by local activists, including Yasons Sambom, on 15 February 2013 at 9am, a silver painted car stopped Daniel Gobay, Arsel Kobak and Eneko Pahabol who were driving on their way home from Depapre to Doprena. Five police officers, one of whom was identified as Iptu Beduh Rahman, got out of the silver-painted car and pointed their weapons at Daniel, Arsel and Eneko. The police then ordered the three men to crawl on their stomachs to Depapre Sub-District Police Station which is approximately 30 metres away from the place where they were stopped. (Picture 1: Eneko Pahabol, source: local activist).

An hour after they arrived at Depapre Sub-District Police Station, Daniel, Arsel and Eneko were taken to Jayapura District Police Station. The police started questioning three of them on the whereabouts of Terianus Satto and Sebby Sambom, two pro-independence activists whom Daniel, Arsel and Eneko do not have any relationship with. Eneko Pahabol told the local activists that he was repeatedly kicked in his face by officers who were wearing police boots. The officers kicked him both in his left and right knees which caused them to bleed. Eneko and his friends were also beaten with a rattan stick as well as being electrocuted on their legs. The police officers pressed the barrels of their guns to their heads, forced them into their mouths and ears. Arsel Kobak told the AHRC that he was asked to take his clothes off and kicked on his head, face and back by the police officers. As a result, his mouth and nose were bleeding, his forehead was wounded and he is now experiencing hearing difficulties.

On the same day at around 10am, the police separately stopped another car which was carrying Yosafat Satto, Salim Yaru, Matan Klembiap and Obed Bahabol. As with Daniel, Arsel and Eneko, they were also stopped by police officers in a silver-painted car in Depapre on their way home. The police officers were wearing civilian clothes and carrying Pindad SS-1 assault rifles which they pointed at Yosafat and his friends. They firstly took Yosafat, Salim, Matan and Obed to Depapre Police Station but later moved them to Jayapura District Police Station. As they arrived at Jayapura District Police Station, Yosafat and his friends were ordered to take their clothes off before the police officers started beating and electrocuting them. The officers also pressed their guns to the heads of Yosafat, Salim, Matan and Obed and asked whether they know anything about the whereabouts of Terianus Satto and Sebby Sambom. None of them know Terianus and Sebby Sambom so Yosafat as well as his three other friends told the police that they do not know anything, an answer that made the officers tortured them even more severely. The officers kicked, beat them with rattan sticks on their backs until they were bleeding, as well as electrocuted them in the face. (Picture 2: Yosafat Satto, source: local activist)

Obed Bahabol told the local activists that they later were interrogated separately and he was the first person to be questioned by a police officer. The police officer jammed the barrel of his gun to his mouth so forcefully that his tooth was broken. The officer also repeatedly beat Obed on his forehead that it was bleeding because Obed told the police that he had no idea on the whereabouts of Sebby Sambom. (Picture 3: Obed Bahabol, source: local activist).

On the next day on 16 February 2013, five of the seven arrested persons were released without charge. As the time of writing, Daniel Gobay and Matan Klembiap are still detained in the police custody, allegedly for possessing bladed articles. However, the charge and their reason of detention are still subject to clarification. Neither Daniel nor Matan has any legal representation as of the time of writing.


In his report in 2008, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment highlighted that torture is practised widely across Indonesia, including Papua. In 2010, for instance, the AHRC released a video online which depicts military officers brutally torturing an indigenous Papua. Last year, the AHRC also issued an urgent appeal on the torture of 42 prisoners and detainees by prison authorities at Abepura Correctional Facility.

Despite the abuse took place, little have been done by the Indonesian authorities to make sure the perpetrators are punished proportionately to provide justice for the victims. Military officers who were responsible torturing a Papuan on the video in 2010 were sentenced only to 9-12 months imprisonment while the allegation on torture at Abepura Correctional Facility has never been investigated by the police.

Indonesia has been a state party to the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment since 1998. Torture is not yet a crime under the country’s legal system that state officials who conducted such abuse are usually unpunished or charged with provisions on assault under the Penal Code whose punishment do not reflect the gravity of the act. For example, the Muaro Sijunjung District Court recently sentenced four police officers responsible for the torture and death of two minors only to 18 months to three years imprisonment.

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: