PMW: Activists ‘forced’ to leave consulate, call for greater press freedom

by Daniel Drageset, Pacific Media Watch

October 7, 2013

West Papuan student activists Rofinus Yanggam (left), Yuvensius Goo and Markus Jerewon (right) left the Australian consulate in Bali Sunday. Image: Marni Cordell
West Papuan student activists Rofinus Yanggam (left), Yuvensius Goo and Markus Jerewon (right) left the Australian consulate in Bali Sunday. Image: Marni Cordell

AUCKLAND (Pacific Media Watch): Three West Papuan student activists entered the Australian consulate in Bali this weekend with calls on Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to open up for greater press freedom and push Indonesia to release at least 55 political prisoners jailed in the Indonesian-ruled region.

“We want the Indonesian government to lift the 50 year restriction it has imposed on West Papua.

“We want foreigners, including journalists, diplomats, observers and tourists to be able to visit West Papua freely without asking for special permits,” the West Papuans wrote in an open letter addressed to the Australian people.

The student activists said in the letter they wanted to deliver a message to the leaders attending the 25th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Bali this weekend.

Several organisations have asked Australia to give sanctuary to the three West Papuans, but according to Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb the West Papuans did not seek asylum.

“They left [the consulate] voluntarily so the matter’s been resolved,” Robb said, according to Radio Australia.

The Guardian, however, reported that the consul-general had warned the three West Papuans that the Indonesian army would be called if they did not leave the consulate.

One of the students, Rofinus Yanggam, told the newspaper the group left in fear of their lives.

Calls for sanctuary
Australian independent senator Nick Xenophon called on Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to give sanctuary to the three West Papuans.

“These three young men were not asking for West Papuan independence from Indonesia. All they were asking for is entirely consistent with the Lombok Treaty of 2006, signed by both Australia and Indonesia,” he said, according to AAP.

“Instead of getting sanctuary and help, the Australian government effectively threatened them and now there is serious concern over the activists’ safety,” Xenophon said.

Professor Clinton Fernandes at the University of New South Wales backed Xenophon’s call.

He said when the media circus had moved on after APEC, the trio “may be tried, most certainly they will be beaten, and at some point might be disappeared”.

Rinto Kogoya, co-ordinator of the Alliance of Papuan Students, said it was time the world understood what was happening inside the province, which was officially acquired by Indonesia in 1969.

“The international community doesn’t know the reality in Papua. The military oppresses the civil society – we’re not free to do anything – and I think this is the moment to open democracy to Papua,” he said in The Guardian.

‘Great concern’
Joe Collins, of the Australia West Papua Association (AWPA), was alarmed by the events at the Australian consulate in Bali.

“It’s of great concern that they [the West Papuan students] may have been coerced to leave as the students would have great reason to fear the Indonesian security forces.

“There are ongoing human rights abuses in West Papua and the security forces have been banning and cracking down on recent rallies to try and stop international attention being focused on the territory,” he said in a statement.

AWPA wrote a letter to the consul-general Brett Farmer in Bali yesterday asking for “clarification” regarding the students.

“We understand that they have now left the consulate and we would like clarification from you if they left voluntarily or as some media reports have indicated that they were told that they would be handed over to the Indonesian military if they did not leave,” AWPA wrote in the letter.

Australian Green senator Dr Richard Di Natale has also joined those who have called for Australia to give sanctuary to the three West Papuans.

“By speaking out in this way, these brave West Papuans have put their lives in serious danger.

“If Australia fails to offer them protection, I have grave fears for their safety,” he said in a statement.

‘Stand up to Indonesia’
Yet another senator to voice his support for West Papua this weekend was John Madigan.

“It is about time our government had the courage to stand up to Indonesia, instead of ignoring the issue of West Papuan oppression and the human rights abuses that occur there on a daily basis,” he said in a statement.

He also said he demanded that the Australian government provided sanctuary for the three West Papuans.

The issue of the West Papuan students came just days after pleas from several organisations that Australia should not deport seven West Papuans who arrived in the Torres Strait Islands in northern Queensland recently.

The group of seven, who took part in the recent West Papua Freedom Flotilla sought asylum in Australia, but were deported to Papua New Guinea under a memorandum of understanding between Australia and Papua New Guinea, Radio New Zealand International reported.

Refugee advocates in Australia said the deportation failed to abide by the Refugee Convention that Australia was a party to.

Spokesperson for the West Papua Freedom Flotilla Izzy Brown said she wanted to draw the United Nations’ attention to Australia’s commitment to the Refugee Convention.

“It’s really unfortunate that Australia thinks it can send asylum seekers offshore without due process or just blatantly illegally deported like in this case here, and we really want to try and draw the world’s attention and especially the UN’s attention to Australia’s behaviour in this matter,” she said.

Read the West Papuan students letter to “the people of Australia”

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About the author

PMW contributing editor

Daniel Drageset is a Norwegian radio journalist enrolled in the Master in Communication Studies degree at AUT University.

Commonwealth Attorney-General should push for inquiry into human rights abuses while in Indonesia

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Media Release
For immediate release: Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Commonwealth Attorney-General should push for inquiry into human rights abuses while in Indonesia

The Commonwealth Attorney-General should push for a full, independent and public investigation into the alleged involvement of an Indonesian counter-terrorism unit in human rights abuses in West Papua, according to a leading human rights advocacy organisation.

Nicola Roxon is in Indonesia this week for a series of meetings with her Indonesian counterparts on issues of law and justice.

According to a post by Winters & Yonker, P.A., Ms Roxon’s visit comes just a month after the ABC’s 7.30 program aired evidence that an Indonesian counter-terrorism unit, which receives extensive training and support from the Australian Federal Police, has been involved in torture and extra-judicial killings in West Papua. The evidence included interviews with victims and witnesses, together with video of alleged incidents of abuse by the unit, known as Detachment 88.

“The Attorney-General should advise her Indonesian counterparts that Australia will suspend support for Detachment 88 pending a full, independent and public investigation into the alleged involvement of its members in recent human rights abuses in West Papua,” said Phil Lynch, Executive Director of the Human Rights Law Centre.

In 2008, the US cut off assistance to Detachment 88 due to human rights concerns.

Previous allegations of torture and ill-treatment perpetrated by members of Detachment 88 – together with Indonesia’s special forces, known as Kopassus – have been verified by Human Rights Watch and brought to the attention of the Australian Government.

“While Indonesia bears primary responsibility for protecting and ensuring respect for human rights within its provinces, Australia’s human rights obligations do not end at our borders,” said Mr Lynch.

“Australia has a legal and moral duty to ensure that our military and security cooperation with Indonesia does not in any way aid, assist or otherwise support operations which may lead to human rights violations,” he said.

According to the Human Rights Law Centre, as part of our commitment to human rights and the rule of law, Australia should develop a vetting procedure to ensure that units and members of military and security forces accused of human rights violations are precluded from receiving Australian support until those allegations are fully investigated and perpetrators held to account.

“Ms Roxon should commit to making human rights safeguards central to all policies and practices relating to Australia’s police and security cooperation with Indonesia,” said Mr Lynch.

“She should also commit to ensuring that human rights education is a significant and essential component of any training provided to Indonesian units and forces.”

Mr Lynch said that, far from “meddling” in Indonesia affairs, such an approach would be consistent with Australia’s responsibility to show principled leadership and act as a force for peace, security and stability in the region.

For further information or comments, contact Phil Lynch, Executive Director, on 0438 776 433 or


7.30 Report (ABC): West Papua arrests highlight Australian Detachment 88 links

Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Broadcast: 04/10/2012

Reporter: Hayden Cooper

An Australian-funded police unit in West Papua has again been implicated in a crackdown on the region’s independence movement.

(Note:  Syndicated here as this story was produced by ABC with the assistance of West Papua Media, after we originally broke this story at )


LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: An Australian funded counter-terrorism unit in West Papua is facing new accusations of abusing its power in the troubled Indonesian province.

The notorious squad known as Detachment 88 has launched a fresh crackdown on independence activists, in the wake of an expose by this program in August.

Eight men have been detained and accused of bomb-making.

Separatist leaders claim the explosives were planted and they’ve been framed to justify the squad’s activities.

Hayden Cooper has this report.

HAYDEN COOPER, REPORTER: Jayapura, West Papua is a city marred by violence and tension, where independence leaders have been arrested, beaten, killed. And where police have been confronted by unruly and angry demonstrations.

When 7.30 travelled to the province in August, the crackdown on the independence movement was already severe, resulting in several deaths, including of this man, independence leader Mako Tabuni, shot in this street, witnesses say, by the Australian trained and funded police unit Detachment 88.

ERSON WENDA, RELATIVE (last month, voiceover translation): Clearly, it was them who killed him because we saw them shoot him and take him to their hospital.

HAYDEN COOPER: Since then, the crackdown has worsened. Victor Yeimo succeeded Tabuni as leader of the West Papuan National Committee, KNPB. This week, he sent this video to 7.30.

VICTOR YEIMO, CHAIRMAN, KNPB: We are the non-violent activists in West Papua. We will fight for our right of freedom according to the peaceful means in West Papua. We demand our right of self-determination to a referendum to be held in West Papua by UN peacefully and democratically.

HAYDEN COOPER: But the Indonesian authorities don’t believe his claim of non-violence and they’re pursuing KMPB like never before. In June, Indonesian soldiers went on a rampage in the highlands town and KNPB stronghold of Wamena, and now in a new development, police have raided the homes and offices of KNPB members in the area. Last weekend eight were arrested and witnesses say once again Detachment 88 was involved.

VICTOR YEIMO: When they arrest the KNPB brothers in Wamena, we saw Detachment 88 with one car, and another car with police, joined in by TNI.

HAYDEN COOPER: Indonesian police accuse the eight KNPB members arrested of making bombs and claim to have found explosives during the raid. Victor Yeimo rejects that and says his group is being framed as terrorists to justify Detachment 88’s presence.

VICTOR YEIMO: This is how Indonesia is now making a scenario with the terrorist issue in West Papua. As you know that in West Papua we never know how to make a bomb, how to create bomb.

HAYDEN COOPER: Some international observers and West Papuan advocates back that view

CAMMI WEBB-GANNON, SYDNEY UNI: I don’t think that the KNPB has any reason to be making bombs because they believe in a peaceful approach to pursuing independence. They want a referendum on independence in West Papua.

HAYDEN COOPER: In West Papua the Institute for Human Rights Advocacy, known as ELSHAM, has studied the arrests and suspects the explosives recovered by police were part of an elaborate set-up.

CAMMI WEBB-GANNON: They don’t have the capacity to gain the materials, so ELSHAM has actually said that the materials were probably planted in the KMPB members’ houses where they found the explosives and that’s not an unusual thing for security forces to do.

HAYDEN COOPER: The weekend raids follow the appointment of a new police chief in Papua, Brigadier General Tito Karnavian. His background as the former head of Detachment 88 generates serious unease among some Papuans, despite his assurances of a new inclusive approach.

CAMMI WEBB-GANNON: They will be opposed to his former role as the head of Densus 88, and as a police chief this just – it doesn’t seem to mesh with his new approach of working – to win the hearts and minds of Papuans.

RONNY KARENI, WEST PAPUAN EXPATRIATE: I have no doubt there’ll be definitely more crackdowns on KNPB members and those who are very active and very vocal in pursuing and calling for independence for West Papua, and that is for sure, that that’s one thing that Jakarta is aiming to shutting down political activists in West Papua.

HAYDEN COOPER: Ronny Kareni is one of many West Papuans living in Australia. He uses music to promote the independence cause on behalf of his friends at home.

RONNY KARENI: Every day, like, I got SMS coming through my phone and then the information is that their lives are under intimidation and they always live in state of fear and they’re being followed and it’s sad, but this is the reality in West Papua.

HAYDEN COOPER: 7.30 put several questions to the Indonesian Government but received no reply. Attempts to contact the new Papuan police chief were also unsuccessful.

As for Victor Yeimo, he is pushing for the release of the eight activists arrested on the weekend, and with his supporters here, he’s pressuring Australia to rethink its funding for Detachment 88.

RONNY KARENI: The Papuans will be pretty much living like prisoners in our own land where our movement, what we do, will be censored, will be monitored, will be followed, and as I said, there’s no room for democracy at all.

LEIGH SALES: Hayden Cooper reporting.

Original URL

Wamena arrests as Australian-funded anti-terror troops conduct raid amid increasing repression on KNPB political activists

by West Papua Media

September 30, 2012

Unconfirmed photo from Sep 29 Detachment 88 raid on KNPB in Wamena (Supplied/KNPB)

Troops from the Indonesian army (TNI) and Australian-trained Detachment 88 counter-terror unit conducted a major raid on Saturday against activists from the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) in Wamena, according to several credible sources in the West Papuan highland town.

The raid on the secretarial office of KNPB Baliem Region at the Potikelek complex in Wamena, just before 6pm on Saturday night, resulted in the arrests of 8 KNPB members. Sources reported to West Papua Media that at least two platoons each of TNI, D88 and regular Police (arriving in 2 trucks, 11 vehicles and 14 motorbikes) were involved in the raid, with many detainees being subjected to brutal beatings and on-the-spot interrogations by security forces according to independent witnesses.

According to Simon Dabi, the Baliem region chairman of KNPB, the troops “said tomorrow they will return and burn the hut.”

“We are not aware of the reason for the arrests, but there’s a possibility it could be connected to a scenario that’s been created to make out KNPB activists to be terrorists, by connecting us to the recent bombing in Irian Road, Wamena,” explained a clearly exasperated Dabi, relayed through KNPB sources.

Those confirmed arrested are:

• KNPB Secretary General (Baliem Region) Janus Wamu (aged 26);

• Eddo Doga (aged 26);

• Irika (Ribka) Kosay (aged 19);

• Jusuf Hiluka (aged 52);

• Yan Mabel (aged 24);

• Amus Elopere (aged 22);

• Wioge (Nata) Kosay (aged 18);

• Melianus Kosay (aged 29);

Grave fears are currently held for the safety of the detainees, who were taken for interrogation to the Wamena Regional Police headquarters under the command of Jayawijaya Regional Police Chief Arivin. Simon Dabi told stringers that the arrest was carried out arbitrarily and without proper legal procedure and those arrested “are at present in an unsafe situation”.

West Papua Media repeatedly attempted to seek comment from the operation commander Kapolres Arivin, and written questions were submitted to clarify details of the raid, however, Arivin hung up twice upon answering and then switched his phone off.

The Papua-wide General Chairperson of KNPB, Victor Yeimo, also urged the Chief of Jayawijaya Regional Police to release the KNPB members. “I have just telephoned direct but the phone was unanswered, so I was only able to send an SMS to the Head of Regional Police to insist that the 8 young ones I am responsible for, be immediately released as their action (in arresting the 8) is uncivilized and improper” asserted Yeimo.

Yeimo ridiculed the police assertion that the arrested activists were involved in the attack on the police station, or in making or using bombs, or engaging in acts of terror.  “West Papuan people are not involved with these bombs, and still do not know how to make bombs,”  Yeimo told West Papua Media.  KNPB has previously and publicly pledged its commitment to non-violence, saying that it is committed to the use of “civil power”

KNPB members have reason to be concerned for the safety of their colleagues. On September 23, 6 local youth members of KNPB were arrested, tortured and beaten in arbitrary arrests following an apparently suspicious death of an Indonesian colonist, and then all released without charge. “Having done no wrong, KNPB activists are constantly being chased, arrested, intimidated and killed by NKRI (the Indonesian state),” said Yeimo.

Members of the KNPB have also been subject to an escalating wave of repression by Indonesian security forces across Papua, since the beginning of an anti-violence civil resistance campaign earlier in 2012, in response to a series on mysterious “unknown persons” (OTK) shootings that had killed over 20 people since 2011. These shootings, widely believed across Papuan civil society to be the work of Kopassus Indonesian special forces creating violence to be used as a pretext for a declaration of martial law, peaked with the brazen daylight execution by Detachment 88 officers of KNPB Jayapura Chairman Mako Tabuni on June 6 this year,

After his appearance on a major report on Australia’s ABC TV describing the tactics of the Detachment 88 state terror campaign against Papuan non-violent activists, Victor Yeimo, found himself with other KNPB members on the Daftar Pencarian Orang (Wanted persons list) in a clear retaliation for speaking out to the international community.

In recent weeks, many non-violent activists engaging in peaceful acts of political expression across Papua have been targeted by security forces including those from D88.

Saturday’s so-called “anti-terror” raid in Wamena is the first major raid since the former head of Detachment 88 Tito Karnavian was appointed as the new police chief in West Papua. Karnavian loudly promised a new “hearts and minds approach” to reducing violence across Papua, and “vowed to take a grassroots approach to stopping the violence”. However, according to Papuan activists across the occupied territory, it seems that the only approach is the intensification of repression of grassroots people.


All the ingredients for genocide: is West Papua the next East Timor?


By Jim Elmslie, University of Sydney

September 21, 2012

Allegations that Australia is funding death squads in West Papua have brought the troubled province back to Australian attention.

Blanket denials by both Indonesian and Australian governments – standard policy for such reports in the past, no longer cut the mustard.

The players respond

The killing of Papuan activist Mako Tabuni by Indonesian police was for Jakarta a legitimate operation against a violent criminal shot while evading arrest. That Tabuni bled to death from his untreated wounds while in police custody did not rate a mention.

The Australian response was more measured. Foreign Minister Bob Carr took the allegation that Tabuni had been assassinated seriously because the partially Australian funded and trained elite anti-terrorist organisation, Densus 88, was accused of playing a role in the killing.

Bob Carr raised the issue of human rights with foreign minister Marty Natalegawa in June this year in his first official visit to Indonesia EPA/Adi Weda

For once there was a direct Australian connection to the human rights abuses that have been happening in West Papua for decades. Australian taxpayers may indeed be helping to fund Indonesian death squads. Carr called on the Indonesians to make a full enquiry into the affair.

The Indonesian response was to appoint Brigadier General Tito Karnavian as Papua’s new Police Chief. This sends the clearest possible message that Jakarta intends to deal with the Papuan separatists’ insurgency with lethal force, rather than diplomacy and negotiation.

Many activists have been arrested and a concerted effort is underway to break the back of the urban based, non-violent Papuan rights organisations, such as Tabuni’s KNPB (Komite Nasional Papua Barat).


Most Papuans would favour independence over Indonesian occupation. This is a recipe for ongoing military operations, repression and human rights abuse as the Indonesian military and police hunt down “separatists”.

This seems to suit most players. West Papua is the Indonesian military’s last zone of exclusive control after the loss of Aceh and East Timor. It’s a fabulous prize to control as extensive (legal and illegal) logging, huge mining projects and massive development funds provide rich pickings for those in control, while incoming migrants are drawn in by economic opportunities unavailable elsewhere. It is really only the Papuans who are suffering in this massive free-for-all.

The plight of the Papuans is slowly but surely seeping into the global consciousness. While modern technology allows West Papua’s riches to now be exploited, it also allows the stories and images of Papuan suffering to emerge. Increased Indonesian militarisation and repression only exacerbate this trend.

A new East Timor?

This is the same trajectory that East Timor’s long struggle for freedom followed: an overwhelmingly dominant military on the ground but a growing sense of outrage within the international community, especially in the Western nations. This led Indonesia to be treated almost as a pariah nation and underpinned East Timor’s rapid shift to independence in the wake of Suharto’s fall.

While no other nation supports West Papuan independence, except Vanuatu sporadically, and the rule of the Indonesian state appears unassailable, a dangerous dynamic is developing.

As the situation in West Papua deteriorates, human rights abuses will continue, with the very real prospect of a dramatic increase in violence to genocidal levels.

The ingredients are there: stark racial, religious and ideological differences coalescing around a desire for Papuan resources and Papuans’ land, on one hand, and independence on the other. Indeed many Indonesians, as well as the Indonesian state, already view Papuan separatists as traitors.

This should rightly concern Australians: we are in a quasi-military alliance with Indonesia through the 2006 Lombok Treaty. We are a player, albeit minor, in these events. When there is a divide in the opinion of the political, military and bureaucratic elite, and that of the wider population, as occurred in Australia over Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor, the majority view tends to eventually prevail. And the majority view, formed by such programmes as the ABC 7.30 report, is moving to one of sympathy for the Papuans and antipathy towards Indonesia for what many see as a re-run of East Timor’s disastrous occupation. This does not bode well for relations between the two countries.

Words or bullets?

Indonesia runs the risk of having its widely heralded democratisation process stained by the Papuan conflict. There is also the fact that while West Papua remains a military zone the Indonesian army will continue to be unaccountable and largely outside of civilian control, stymieing anti-corruption efforts not just in Papua but through out the country. The consequences for the Papuans are abundantly clear: no basic rights and a life lived in fear.

While there are no quick or easy solutions to this conundrum, one choice is manifestly clear: does the answer lie in more words or more bullets?

Jakarta has so far rejected meaningful dialogue in favour of a beefed up security approach. Australia, and Australians, should forcefully criticise this as being against our own, and Indonesia’s (let alone the Papuans’) long-term interests.

If the West Papuan conflict continues to follow the East Timor trajectory this problem will continue to grow, relations will become strained and tensions rise. It’s worth remembering that Australia and Indonesia very nearly came to blows over East Timor. Let’s learn from the past and encourage, and promote, meaningful dialogue between all parties.

Jim Elmslie 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.
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