Mako Tabuni, KNPB leader addresses a crowd on August 2
Papuans remain under Indonesia’s menacing grip, reports Tom Allard from Jakarta.
It would seem, to most observers, to be a singularly unremarkable venture. A group of American tourists visiting a cultural centre in the Papuan town of Abepura, just outside the capital Jayapura. On the agenda was an opportunity to view some historical artefacts and watch a traditional dance.
But, as the group of some 180 visitors toured the facility and enjoyed the performance, they were being watched. In the shadows was an informant for Indonesia’s elite special forces unit, Kopassus.
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Indigenous traders sell produce in Jayapura, where migrants own many businesses.
In a report back to his handler, the informant observed the tourists had been warmly welcomed by the centre’s manager and been amused and entranced by the dance. The visit had lasted precisely 35 minutes, from 11.50am to 12.25pm, and had been ”safe and smooth”.
The informant warned there was no room for complacency, a point heartily endorsed by the Kopassus handler, Second Lieutenant Muhammad Zainollah.
”With visits from overseas tourists to Papua, there is the possibility of influencing conditions of Papuan society,” Lieutenant Zainollah wrote in his report to the local Kopassus commander. ”Politically, there needs to be a deeper detection of the existence hidden behind it all because of the possibility of a process of deception … such as meetings with pro-independence groups.”
The note is bizarre and even amusing. It is one of hundreds of intelligence briefs obtained by the Herald from Kopassus intelligence posts in Papua and part of a cache of 19 documents that includes a highly detailed analysis of the ”anatomy” of the separatist movement.
But it is also instructive of what the material in its entirety reveals: the Indonesian government runs a network of spies and informants in Papua that is staggering in its scope and range of targets. And infecting all the reporting and analysis is a deep paranoia that is both astonishing and disturbing.
In the easternmost reaches of Indonesia’s sprawling archipelago and located in the western half of the island of New Guinea, the resource-rich region of Papua is a running sore and source of angst and embarrassment for Indonesia, a country that has otherwise made substantial strides as a democratic and economic power.
Despite being granted special autonomy 10 years ago and targeted for accelerated economic development, its indigenous Melanesian people are the country’s poorest and many are deeply unhappy with Jakarta’s rule and a heavy security presence.
The documents, which date from 2006 to 2009, reveal that independence activists and members of the OPM-TPN, the small armed resistance, are under intense surveillance, but so too are many ordinary Papuans and civic leaders who do not advocate independence but are concerned about the advancement of their people or are influential in the community.
”Everyone is a separatist until they can prove they are not,” says Neles Tebay, a pastor and convener of the Papua Peace Network that is promoting dialogue with Jakarta. Around the capital, Jayapura, there are 10 Kopassus spy networks infiltrating ”all levels of society”, including the university, government agencies, the local parliament, hotels and the Papuan Customary Council.
A worker at a car rental agency tips off his Kopassus handler whenever a suspicious customer visits the establishment or talks about ”M”, shorthand for ”merdeka” or freedom. A phone shop employee ”often provides information on the phone numbers of people purchasing phone credits”.
Journalists, university students, bureaucrats, church leaders, teachers, motorcycle taxi drivers, clan leaders, village chiefs, farmers and forest workers are all on the books of Kopassus. One leader of the OPM-TPN has eight Kopassus informants within his network, including a 14-year-old family member.
Each of the informants, who cannot be identified to protect their safety, is described by temperament and motivation. The motivation is usually ”to make money”. Temperaments range from ”hard-working”, ”courageous” and ”quiet” to ”unstable”, ”explosive” and ”drunk”.
And the Kopassus intelligence documents are just a snapshot of the total campaign under way in Papua. Other units of the Indonesian military, known as the TNI, run similar operations, as do the police. There are also scores of agents in Papua from Indonesia’s national intelligence agency, known by its acronym BIN.
Benny Giay, a leader of the Gospel Tabernacle Church, is one of the civic leaders branded a separatist and targeted by Kopassus. For Dr Giay, the suffocating presence of the intelligence network is part of daily life, as is interference in the affairs of his church by the military.
”If someone joins the church, we always have to ask ourselves, ‘what did they come here for? Are they intels or worshippers?’,” he says.
And, given the disappearance and deaths of other leaders under the gaze of Kopassus, the surveillance leaves Giay constantly uneasy. ”I have to check my meals to make sure they are not poisoned and I have to be home by 7pm. If I walk around after then, I have to bring someone with me, always.”
Marcus Haluk, the secretary general of the Central Highlands Papuan Student Association, features heavily in the documents. It seems most of his meetings are attended by a Kopassus spy.
”I’ve lost count of the attempts to kill or threaten me,” he says. ”I’ve had guns pointed at my head, I’ve been thrown from a motorcycle. There are always SMS threats.”
Underpinning the spying is the view that most institutions in Papua are riddled with separatists. The documents outline a two-stage intelligence operation to address the perceived problem.
The first involves disrupting alleged separatist networks and the second is dubbed the ”diminishing dominant influence phase” or ensuring ”traditional institutions used for politics in Papua lose the trust of the indigenous peoples of Papua”.
In short, the objective is to discredit the institutions and arrangements introduced by the central government under Papua’s special autonomy deal introduced in 2001, the very policy supposed to give Papuans economic and cultural rights, dampen independence sentiment and secure national unity.
Agus Sumule, a long-term resident of Papua and adviser to Papua’s Governor, Barnabas Suebu, is an immigrant, a nationalist and was a key player in drafting the special autonomy laws which created a new legislative body to represent indigenous Papuans known as the Majelis Rakyat Papua (MRP).
Special autonomy has never had a chance, he argues, and much of that blame lies with Jakarta’s refusal to implement it properly.
Papua was divided into two provinces against the wishes of the MRP, Dr Sumule says. Moreover, the home affairs ministry interferes in the election of MRP candidates, and has banned people from taking their seats. Despite provisions in the special autonomy law for symbols of Papuan identity to be displayed, the cherished Morning Star flag has been outlawed. Those caught displaying it can be sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Some $3 billion in aid has flowed from the central government to the region in the past decade, but it is handed out haphazardly and most of it has been siphoned off by corrupt officials or wasted on bureaucracies to support the new province and dozens of new regencies in Papua.
Meanwhile, Papua has been swamped by migrants from other parts of Indonesia who dominate its economy. Explaining the economic disparity, one Kopassus report offered a plainly racist rationale. Indigenous Papuans ”lack the willingness to work and the willingness to make a better life, so their lives seem to be making no substantial progress”, it said. Migrants, in contrast, had a ”high spirit and work ethic”.
Asked about the extensive intelligence operations, Dr Sumule observed: ”On the one hand its paranoia, but it’s also much more than paranoia. It shows they don’t have a relevant policy for Papua, an understanding of Papua or what Papua should be in Indonesia. The problem with the intelligence is it’s not intelligent. They send so much wrong information for the people in Jakarta, and they make decisions on it. It’s very dangerous.”
Indeed, the major report on the Anatomy of Separatists had a detailed section on the alleged foreign support networks for a ”Free Papua” and it bears out Dr Sumule’s criticism of the quality of the intelligence.
The list of 32 Australians includes academics, politicians and religious leaders who could understandably be placed in the category. Others have simply shown an interest in Papuan affairs, raised concerns about human rights or are journalists.
The appearance of the former current affairs host Naomi Robson on the list is a stand-out.
The former Today Tonight host, now running a web-based dating service and TV show, presumably gets a mention because she entered Papua without media accreditation in 2006 to ”save” Wa-wa, the boy who was the subject of a story by rival program60 Minutes.
Famously, Channel Nine’s current affairs flagship alleged Wa-wa was destined to be consumed by his fellow Korowai tribespeople, who were cannibals, but after filming they left him behind to an uncertain fate.
Foreigners in Papua are viewed suspiciously, especially non-government groups. Indonesia has expelled several foreign NGOs from the territory in recent years. The International Committee of the Red Cross is banned from visiting more than 100 political prisoners. By contrast, the ICRC is allowed into Guantanamo Bay and could visit prisons in apartheid-era South Africa.
One part of the intelligence analysis that is presumably more accurate is the assessment of the strength of the OPM-TPN. It is reckoned to have 1129 fighters with mixed weapons totalling only 131, and grenades.
While the poorly armed resistance fighters do have some success in ambushing Indonesian military posts and are adept at hiding in Papua’s mountainous terrain, the low estimate of their strength calls into question why there is such a large military presence in Papua.
The Indonesian government will not release precise figures on its armed deployments in Papua, but since special autonomy was introduced in 2001, it has doubled the number of battalions from three to six. It has 114 posts along the border with Papua New Guinea alone.
Estimates put the military numbers at about 15,000, roughly 13 soldiers for every armed separatist.
As one Indonesian official told a US embassy staffer, revealed in cables released by WikiLeaks: ”The TNI has far more troops in Papua than it is willing to admit, chiefly to protect and facilitate TNI interests in illegal logging operations.”
The massive military and intelligence apparatus in Papua makes a lie of Indonesia’s insistence that it long ago junked its ”security” approach to managing Papua and it is now formulating policy under the rubric of ”development and prosperity,” says Neles Tebay.
”[The troops] are trained to see Papuans as the enemy,” he adds. ”I’m not saying all the troops are bad but if one group of them is threatening the indigenous people then it creates widespread fear. Also, they are always interrogating people. It’s very threatening.”
Neither the TNI or Kopassus would respond to questions for this article, sent to them two weeks ago. However, it has maintained human rights abuses such as that depicted last year in a video of a man being tortured by soldiers holding a burning stick against his genitals, revealed in the Herald, do not reflect policy.
It also says it devotes energy towards improving living conditions in remote villages. Certainly, the Kopassus documents include accounts of its officers going to hamlets in the remote central highlands region to help with health clinics, building bridges and homes as well playing sport and attending religious and cultural ceremonies.
But, as shown by mass protests in Papuan towns last week, special autonomy has not worked for Papua’s indigenous people or for the Indonesian government. Papuans such as Neles Tebay have called for dialogue and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono talked last year about embarking on ”constructive communication”.
Progress, however, has been painfully slow and, as the cache of documents reveals time and again, the security forces make no distinction between demands for dialogue and militant separatism. If a lasting settlement is to be achieved, many believe it will require a significant scaling back of the military in Papua, its policy influence in Jakarta and the spy networks that treat ordinary Papuans like criminals and worse.