Tag Archives: buchtar tabuni

opening fire

Shootings, killings, beatings, arrests as Hundreds flee to jungle after Indon Police open fire on peaceful KNPB demo

From the entire West Papua Media team in PNG and West Papua

November 28, 2013

WPM apologises for the delay in posting due to the remote location of the WPM team, and the delays in finding independent witnesses to help in cross-checking of this extreme situation.  This situation is developing and will be updated as more information comes to hand.

Key developments:

  • Indonesian police open fire on peaceful protesters in Jayapura, with at least four gunshot wounds and one death;
  • West Papuan activists and families forced to flee to the jungle for safety;
  • Indonesian security forces conduct scores of raids, sweeps and offensives against West Papuan civilians;
  • Attacks happen during visit of National Police Chief General Sutarman
  • over 200 people arrested across West Papua;
  • Journalists attacked by Indonesian police;

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Images from the crackdown in Jayapura (Credit:West Papua Media/MS); Images from Arrests in Timika (Credit: KNPBNews.com); and Wamena (Credit: WestPapuaMedia/KNPBNews.com).

Indonesian forces have again opened fire on a peaceful Jayapura gathering of about 500 people held by the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), with the shooting of at least 4 demonstrators, and the confirmed death of at least one, on November 26.  A total of 15 people are still in serious condition in hospitals around Jayapura with a range of wounds sustained during the live fire dispersal by Indonesian police.

In the worst single act of Indonesian state violence since the October 19 2011 crackdown on the Third Papuan Peoples Congress, ongoing sweeps and arrests have been continuing in the time since, causing most members of the KNPB fleeing with their families into the relative safety of the jungle.  Unconfirmed reports have also surface that the police have called in the Indonesian Army (TNI) to hunt for KNPB members.

Correspondents have also reported to West Papua Media that Indonesian radio stations in Papua have been broadcasting repeated messages from the Indonesian police against all pro-independence forces, starting with the KNPB.  “We will use force to break apart the KNPB,” a senior Indonesian Police figure in Papua was heard to say on all Jayapura radio stations early on Wednesday morning.  Unconfirmed reports have said that these broadcasts have been repeated hourly across West Papua, with the National Police Chief also issuing warnings that separatism will not be accepted any more.

The rally was part of a nationwide day of mobilisations in solidarity with the opening of the Free West Papua Campaign office in Papua New Guinea on November 28.  31 people were arrested by Police in Timika, and 3 arrested in Sorong as KNPB chapters there also organised rallies and prayers to support the opening of the PNG office, which is being held with the involvement of thousands of people throughout Papua New Guinea, including senior members of the PNG Parliament.

A rally in Wamena drew several thousand enthusiastic and cheering supporters wearing traditional dress (many bedecked in the banned Morning Star flag) on a long march mass action, led by KNPB Wamena region Chairman, Simion Dabi  This was the only rally where police were vastly outnumbered by participants, and police blockaded several points along the route but did not attempt to prevent the rally from going ahead.

Jayapura
The Jayapura shooting victim, KNPB activist Matthius Tengget from near Oksibil in the Star Mountains, died of his wounds in custody.  However, his body was not retrieved until Wednesday evening after it was dumped into the lake, allegedly by those members of the Brimob paramilitary police units who shot him as they were conducting the dispersal.  At time of writing, his family were conducting his funeral in Sentani.

According to a statement from KNPB General Chairman Victor Yeimo, currently in Abepura prison, “KNPB and family members of the victims are also looking for four (4) other KNPB members that are missing: their whereabouts are unknown or their bodies have not yet been found. Three of the victims carry the Mul surname and the fourth Lambe. We strongly suspect that the police shot them and disposed of their bodies.”

“Until now we are still looking for possible victims of yesterday’s mass action who were most presumably shot and disappeared: in their attempt to disperse yesterday’s demonstration, the Police and the Mobile Brigade fired a lot of shots and they chased many demonstrators towards Buper, the Housing Complex III, Ekspo, until Iyoka and all the way to the edge of Sentani Lake,” said Yeimo.

Up to 15 people were hospitalised from both gunshots and beatings, including a group of three young women from the Yahukimo dormitory who were savagely beaten by police during their arrests.  More reports have also been given that scores of female activists were rounded up and severely beaten by Indonesian police and military officers.

The shootings were under the operational field command of the notorious hardliner Deputy Jayapura Police Chief Kiki Kurnia, Abepura area POlice commander Deky Hursepunny, together with Jayapura Police Chief Alfred Papare, with the Deputy Papua
Police Chief Paulus Waterpauw and Papua Police Chief Tito Karnavian allegedly sighted monitoring the situation from their private Kijang vehicles.

Police have predictably launched a propaganda offensive across its tame colonial media networks in West Papua, accusing the KNPB of conducting a riot.  However, stringers for West Papua Media, independent witnesses in the busy Waena shopping area, and KNPB spokespeople have all vehemently denied riotous behaviour by the protesters, instead describing how a peaceful sit-in was brutally dispersed under the orders of a cohort of four senior police officers, who have been personally responsible for ordering significant and ongoing human rights abuses against KNPB members.

Direct Witness to Brutality
A survivor of Tuesday’s violence fled to Papua New Guinea immediately after the shooting, was directly interviewed by West Papua Media  – unidentified for their own safety – and has described how police opened fire without targeting, instead firing indiscriminately into the crowd.

Before the shooting, a mass of people had gathered in the field outside the Expo Waena bus terminal and market in front of the Museum, mainly sitting and chatting while listening to speeches.  According to the witness, police surrounded the gathering on three sides, and the protest leader Buchtar Tabuni attempted to negotiate with senior police present, including the Alfred Papare, Kiki Kurnia and Deky Hursepunny. As it became clear that police were refusing to negotiate with Tabuni, demonstrators agreed to maintain the peaceful action.

According to the witness, Senior police then yelled to the crowd, ordering them to disperse.  However, almost immediately, and without further warning of escalation of the threat, Police commanders ordered the front ranks of police in front of the bus terminal to open fire.

“When the the shooting started, as I was running, I saw the KapolSek Deky Hursepunny and Kapolresta Alfred Papare standing at the gate, directing his police where to fire,” the witness said.

Upon questioning, the witness testified that police initially fired tear gas, but switched very quickly to automatic weapons.   The witness also confirmed that instead of individually targeting demonstrators, police seemed to be firing wildly into the crowd, firing indiscriminately.

Both the order to open fire without warning, and the subsequent excessive use of firearms against civilians are direct violations of both Indonesian and international law.  International Lawyer Jennifer Robinson, Convener of the International Lawyers for West Papua and currently meeting in PNG, told West Papua Media that “This use of excessive force against KNPB members is in breach of international law and Indonesia’s own police regulations on the use of force”.

“This latest incident falls within a repeated pattern of the use of excessive and lethal force by Indonesian police against peaceful activists in West Papua which is indicative of a broader state policy. Continued impunity for the police involved is unacceptable and the failure to punish gives rise to command and state responsibility,” Robinson said.

Many beatings were meted out on KNPB members by Police during the arrests, with allegations that rifle butts were repeatedly used – a standard practice for the Indonesian police against peaceful demonstrators in Papua.

Plain clothes police special forces, described by the witness as “Polisi Preman” (Police gangsters), then continued two days of terror against West Papuan civilians, some in no way connected with the civil resistance movement.  This campaign, at time of writing, shows no sign of lessening.

“We were running across Waena.  Police used many rental cars and were driving around in balaclavas like terrorists, pointing automatic weapons outside their vehicles, and shooting now around Perumnas 1, causing all who could see it to hide in their houses.  At the same time a black Avanza stopped in front of us, followed by white and red Avanzas, pointing weapons at all Papuans present. We ran, because we knew we were about to be shot – we had to seek safety with Indonesian transmigrants, who were unaware of the situation,” the witness told West Papua Media wearily.

“After police shoot the demonstrators, participants fled to the forest.  Police then conducted a brutal sweep, targeting anyone who was wearing dreadlocks, beard, or even wearing sunglasses, and arresting them all,” the witness said.  Civilians have fled in panic, and the witness described Waena as deserted when they fled.  Families of those at the demonstrations have fled to the jungle.  It is not known of normal social functions are continuing, due to the difficulty in getting direct contact with sources in Jayapura.

Our witness reported that two days prior to the demonstration, Indonesian army helicopters were searching extensively around the hills in areas that would be the the first point of refuge for civilian after any shooting.

The witness survivor believes that this indicated that the shootings by police were premeditated and planned, although West Papua Media has been unable to independently confirm this.  However the attacks on protesters occurred just prior to the arrival at Sentani airport of National Police Chief General Sutarman, who has exploited the lack of honest reportage by colonial media to issue more threats against any Papuans who dare dream they can freely express themselves.

“We will take firm action against groups or individuals wanting to separate Papua from Indonesia because Papua is part of Indonesia,” State media Antara quoted Sutarman telling the colonial press in Jayapura.

Tabloid Jubi reported that the Papua Deputy Police Chief Waterpauw has denied KNPB the right to freedom of expression, permanently. ” I made it clear to the group West Papua National Committee ( KNPB ), immediately stop the steps that are likely to violence . Whatever the form of their intention and desire to perform activities in public hearings, (it) will never be given permission or recommendation to implement it , because we know the purpose of the organisation and their desire is clear , (they) want to form a state , split off and so on , “said Waterpauw on Tuesday ( 26/11 ) evening in Jayapura City police headquarters.

An independent international observer in Jayapura contacted by West Papua Media just prior to publication, speaking on condition of anonymity, went even further than the witness now in PNG, stating unequivocally that the crackdown was a “premeditated, highly engineered manufacturing of consent of the type that Tito Karnavian is such a master of, just like his OTK killings.”

“It beggars belief that Karnavian, hoping to please his boss – or more to the point those who would seek to replace the boss with Karnavian – would not be the engine of of a textbook counterinsurgency operation to smash a pesky bunch of separatists.  The only problem is, those separatists are unarmed and were conducting a peaceful gathering.  It looks like the whole thing was organised for a long time.  It is well beyond time those gangsters were held to account,” the observer said, naming Karnavian, Kurnia, Papare and Waterpauw as the perpetrators of massive human rights abuses against Papuan civilians.

The observer added that they saw the gathering just prior to its dispersal and can vouch for the gathering’s peaceful conduct, but was disturbed at the large number of security forces that were surrounding Waena.  “There were at least ten platoons of Brimob, and hundreds of swanggi (ghosts) everywhere, surrounding on three sides the KNPB sitting in a park,” the observer said – confirming maps drawn by the survivor witness.  “They were itching for brutality.  How is this Policing?”

A total of twenty eight people were arrested, but were released by Wednesday night.  KNPB national spokesperson Wim Rocky Medlama told SuaraPapua.com that they are fed up with the police’s actions, which are arrogant and excessive. “This is too excessive. And I think that the police have much to learn. So that they undertake their duties in accordance with the orders”, as quoted in SuaraPapua.com.

Olga Hamadi, the coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (KontraS) Papua, also told SuaraPapua that the police’s actions were excessive and the pattern of arrests should stop.

“I’ve only just heard this information. I think that the police are too excessive. Patters of arrests such as this should no longer be necessary. This is included under the rights of each person to express themselves. Moreover this is a democratic country right”, she said in an SMS message sent to Suara Papua, adding that people expressing their views should not be attacked and arrested. “They should be given space. The issue of expressing views in public should not be responded to with arrests and law enforcement. If [the police] are going to be like this it won’t solve the Papuan problem”, said Hamadi.

More arrests
Earlier on Tuesday morning at 8:13 local time. KNPB Secretary-General Ones Suhun was arrested with 6 members of the KNPB (Assa Asso, Okram Wanimbo, Sam Lokobal, Meminda (Mendenas) Sol, Konoru Wenda, and Bonsan Mirin) by Indonesian Police outside the Student dormitories at Putaran Perumnas 3, Waena, Jayapura.  They had just begun to hand out leaflets about the afternoon’s peaceful rally calling for the respect of West Papua’s right to self-determination. Most were released by Wednesday night.

Reports received by West Papua Media overnight from distressed sources fleeing through the jungle have confirmed that a further series of brutal sweeps and raids had occurred all afternoon and evening on Tuesday and continuing through Wednesday, with unconfirmed reports of Puma helicopters being used to find activists.  Hundreds of heavily armed Police were used to raid the offices of the KNPB Secretariat on Tuesday afternoon, also confiscating  all the contents and destroying what was left.

At least thirty more people were reportedly arrested overnight on the 26th, although this has not been independently verified by West Papua Media, however Buchtar Tabuni was moved by his supporters to a safe location.

Across Papua
In Sorong, the KNPB rally was also forcibly broken up by Police, and Marthinus Yohame (regional Chairman of KNPB), Kantius Heselo (Vice chair KNPB Sorong), Natalis Surabut Gebby Mambrasar, Nius Loho and Welem Surabut, were arrested for holding the rally, but were released overnight.

In TImika,  31 people were arrested by a Joint Police and TNI taskforce at Kelly Kwalik’s Cemetery Park at about 8.15 in the morning as they began to gather for their demonstration.  Police also arrested The Chairman of KNPB Region Timika, Steven Itlay and the chair of Mimika’s Parliament, Abihut Degey  while leading peaceful rally in demand the right of Self-determination in West Papua and are being held still at the Police Post, Mile 32. Their names are:
1. Steven Itlay
2. Abihud Degey
3. Billy Hagawal
4. Dony Mote
5. Petrus Bobii
6. Bony Bora
7. Yulianus Edoway
8. Paulus Doo
9. Martinus Pekey
10. Paulina Pakage
11. Agustin Pekey
12. Sony Ukago
13. Daniel Kotouki
14. Seprianus Edoway
15. Argenes Pigay
16. Menase Dimi
17. Timotius Kossay
18. Welius Kogoya
19. Demianus Kogoya
20. Kasianus Kamke
21. Aduart Suruan
22. Melianus Gobay
23. Pais Nasia
24. Makson Kotouki
25. Maria Piligain
26. Markus Entama
27. Yustinus Pigome
28. Sior Heselo
29. Semuel Edoway
30. Agus Itlay
31. Yakonias Womsiwor

Biak also saw its KNPB rally broken up police, with several arrests reported and injuries sustained.  KNPB Biak Chairman Apollos Sroyer reported to West Papua Media that the actions of police were again excessive in preventing a prayer session from going ahead, using scores of police and troops to blockade access to the church.  Police dispersed the crowd later in the afternoon.

In Manokwari, KNPB members were also banned from holding any events in solidarity with the PNG office opening, but were able to negotiate with the hundreds of riot police, and the rally went ahead with several hundred participants, dispersing peacefully after a prayer in the late afternoon.

In remote Yahukimo in the highlands, an action supported by KNPB Yakuhimo in support of the IPWP/ILWP meeting at Parliament Haus in PNG on Nov 27, and FWPPNG office opening in PNG was held in front of the Ruko Putra store.  The action was carried out in face of threats from Brimob officers and a platoon of fully armed TNI of Kodim Wamena 1702 (Battalion 752), and also 15 Kopassus special forces brought in from Jakarta.  They were backed up by a large but unknown number of police from from POLRES Dekei Yahukimo under the command of the local Polresta Eliakin Ap.

The forces presence was was requested by Ones Pahabol, the Yahukimo Bupati (District Head). Ones Pahabol is also the local head of the Committee of the 17th District of the GIDI (Indonesian Evangelical Church), who is considered extremely pro-Indonesian.  According to KNPB sources in Yahukimo, Pahabol’s reason for requesting military support was to break up any KNPB demonstration, and he ordered the dispersal of the KNPB activists because he was prohibiting the expression of the KNPB in public.

However the KNPB reported that even though the local government, police and local church committee refused to give permission for the rally to go ahead, the district head of gidi church did give them permission. However the KNPB commented that it was “as if the church were giving permission to the military to kill their parishioners.  Despite this military threat we give our full support to the IPWP meetings happening in PNG on the 27th – 29th.” said a KNPB spokesperson from Yahukimo.

Media Attacks
Several Journalists were also attacked by police during the Waena dispersal, forcing an apology from the Jayapura police chief Alfred Papare.   Police officers reportedly beat and threatened the journalists at a scene behind the administrative court offices , Waena , Jayapura.  According to a report in SuaraPapua.com, the three West Papuan journalists that suffered intimidation from police, were Aprila Wayar ( tabloidjubi.com ) , Micelle Gobay ( SKH torch Papua ) , and Arnold Belau ( suarapapua.com ), Hengky Yeimo (MajalahSelangkah) as well as a national reporter , Alvarez Oru Maga ( Reuters )

In addition, independent media website Suara Papua has been subjected to a denial of service attack, after they published accounts conflicting from the official police version of the story.  It is believed by many season observers on cyber conflict in Indonesia, that this is the work of a shadowy  cyber- division of the Indonesian police trained and funded by the Australian government, despite the fake outrage generated by the Canberra-Jakarta spy scandal.

In news to hand just before publication, two more bodies have been recovered from around Jayapura suffering gunshot wounds, though it is unconfirmed whether they were victims of the November 26 shootings, or further murders by security forces.

A highly credible source reported to West Papua Media that on November 27 at 3.30pm, a Papuan youth named Ottis Membilang (17), was shot by two TNI soldiers.  According to witnesses, Membilang was standing on the side of the road in front if his home near the Mega store at Waena when 2 TNI members arrived in an unidentified vehicle and shot and killed him for no apparent reason.  This is within metres of the area that West Papua Media’s witnessing survivor of November 26’s violence described troops and police  driving around in Avanzas, wearing balaclavas and threatening to shoot all nearby Papuans.

At the time that the first victim Mathius Tengget was being buried by his family, another body was found at Koya Barat (West Koya), at Wlara Tami near Skouw. KNPB sources have yet to confirmed if the body belongs to one of those missing since Tuesday’s brutality. The Tami River has long been a notorious dumping ground for victims of the Indonesian security forces’ Ninjas, as the river after rain sweeps all bodies far out into the Pacific Ocean into shark infested waters.

More to Come.

West Papua Media

Buchtar Tabuni’s house raided by Indonesian Police & Military for no apparent reason

Report from KNPB sources – independently verified by WPM

Jayapura,

26 SEPTEMBER 2013

Indonesian police and military forces on September 26 conducted a sweep of the home of Buchtar Tabuni ( Leader of the PNWP/West Papua National Parliament ) in Kamwolker Housing III Waena , Jayapura. Sweeping operation was led by the Jayapura Police Chief Commissioner Alfred Papare and Deputy Commissioner Kiki Kurnia, and the Police Chief Abepura sector, together with the Indonesian military forces in Abepura .

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The  raid occurred at 14.00 at Tabuni’s house as fully armed Indonesian police and military forces arrived with  4 cars and a truck.  The objectives and motivations of the sweeping operation is unknown, as is the reasons for searching the home Buchtar Tabuni.  This (type) of operation is normally done up in the forests to seek Tabuni .

By 14.30, a number of KNPB board members and its secretariat, led by the General Secretary and National Spokesman of KNPB Central together with a number of members, arrived at the scene of the raid.  The demanded to know the reasoning behind the sweeps and raids, but the police refused to answer and continued to perform the search and sweep at the PNWP Chairman’s  home.   Finally the KNPB Central members and administrators only could watch the security forces,  because the managers KNPB leadership were unsure about the performance of the security apparatus, after some police threatened members of the KNPB Board.

Still without knowing the cause of the search, at 16.00WPB the police and TNI members left the scene and went to the city of Jayapura ,  so at 16 .15 KNPB members of the board and left at the scene to the attend the secretariat of KNPB Central in Waena “Vietnam” village.

From this chronology, the question is raised: What happens to Buchtar Tabuni if they saw him? Fortunately Buchtar was not in there when the operation was conducted.KNPB, edited by West Papua Media

 

Leading Indonesian NGO Condemns the continued use of Treason Charges against Papuans

by ALDP (Alliance  for Democracy in Papua)

Opinion/Statement

September  6, 2013

68 YEARS SINCE INDONESIA BECAME INDEPENDENT, TREASON [MAKAR] IS STILL BEING USED AGAINST PAPUANS.

The  Indonesian people recently celebrated the 68th anniversary of their independence on 17 August 2013.   What lessons can we draw from this anniversary in order to resolve problems faced by our people who experience so many problems in various parts of the country,  especially in regions where there is conflict such as Aceh and Papua?

Especially with regard to Papua, it is not acceptable for the articles about treason  to be used any more.   This is because for a country that is now based on democratic principles, it clearly violates these principles.  Furthermore, the law on treason which is still included in Indonesia’s Criminal Code is no longer used in the country where it originated [The Netherlands].  The continued use of these articles will only widen the gap between Papua and Indonesia and lead to acts of violence because of  feelings of revenge about history, or may cause friction between different groups of people.

These articles on treason are always held ready for use against activists or anyone who demands justice and the right to express their views in public, in accordance  with the right to freedom of expression.

The treason articles were first included in the Criminal Code in the 19th century. The Dutch Minister of Justice adamantly refused a move to include an article on treason which could be applicable to anyone.  He said:  ‘These articles should be enacted to meet the needs of a colonial territory and should not be applicable to  European countries.’

The articles on treason were adopted by the Dutch colonial government and were based on Article 124 of the British Indian Penal Code.  In 1915. The Indian Supreme Court and the East Punjab High Court declared that they were invalid because they contradicted the Indian Constitution which upheld the principle of freedom of expression.  In The Netherlands, these articles were regarded as being undemocratic.   However, the Dutch East Indies government made use of the articles in their colonial territories.

In this day and age, several decades after Indonesia declared its independence, these articles should no longer be applicable to citizens of the country, including Papuans, bearing in mind that Papua is not a colony of Indonesia. {Eds – This statement does not reflect WPM’s position}

In judicial terms, treason is a unilateral act against the authorities, for the purpose of ensuring that part of its territory falls into enemy hands or should be ceded in order to become part of another state.

The crime of treason  is regulated under Articles 104 to 129 of the Criminal Code – KUHP.  Treason is also classified as a crime against the president and vice-president [the head of state and/or the head of a rival state], against the legitimate government or against government agencies, being involved in espionage on behalf of the enemy, resistance to government officials, rebellion and other activities that are directed against state interests.  Treason is also committed against the government (the head of state and his/her deputy) for the main purpose being to render an individual incapable of governing, to annihilate the country’s independence, to overthrow the government, to change the system of governance by unlawful means, to undermine state sovereignty by  separating part of the country on behalf of another country, or to create an independent state.

The crimes of spreading hatred or incitement are dealt with in Articles  154, 155 and 156 of the Criminal Code. These articles state that ‘public statements which express feelings of hostility or are offensive to the government’ are regarded as crimes as well as public statements which support such sentiments. These articles are punishable for up seven years.

During the era of the late President Soeharto, these articles were frequently used to restrict freedom of expression. They were also used against political opponents, critics, students and human rights defenders in order to silence them. The people in power used these articles like rubber, something which can be pulled in any direction as a way of restricting the right to freedom of expression.

Nowadays, in {after} the era of ‘reformasi’, the articles are frequently used to bring charges against pro-democracy activists.  In Papua. They are used in every way possible against pro-democracy activists on occasions when it has not been possible to charge them for involvement in treasonous activities.

In a report published by Human Rights Watch (HRW) in 2007, ‘Protest and the Punishment of Political Prisoners in Papua’ , Indonesia was mentioned as one of the countries where exceptions and restrictions apply that are in conflict with the basic principle of freedom of opinion. HRW drew attention to the many cases of people being arrested and imprisoned simply because they took part in peaceful protest or for peacefully raising flags. This is in violation of international law on basic human rights.  Indonesian courts frequently apply the law on ‘spreading hatred’ or ‘incitement’  towards people who are exercising their right to freedom of expression. These clauses also violate the spirit of the Indonesian Constitution which was adopted when the country became independent in 1945.

There is a tendency in Papua for a court, having been unable to prove that treason was committed, to use the crime of incitement. The articles about treason  were used when Indonesia was a Dutch colony to charge individuals or groups of people with rebellion. But these days, ‘the articles on treason are used against the civilian population when they publicly express their aspirations,’ said Harry Maturbongs, the former co-ordinator of KontraS.

A lawyer in Papua, Gustaf Kawer, said that the tendency of courts and prosecutors to use the charge of incitement when they are unable to prove that treason has been committed, is a sign that the court is apprehensive and wants to avoid the possibility of people who have been charged making counter-charges against the state, where the case against them had not be proven.

It is often the case that pro-peace Papuan activists who are brought before the courts are charged on several counts for a variety of misdemeanours.  In the trial of Buchtar Tabuni in 2010, he was charged under five articles.  Article 106 and Article 110, as well as Article 160, Article 212 and Article 218, for treason, for incitement and for disobeying an order by an official.  Another group of people were sentenced and convicted for treason. Forkorus Yaboisembut and his colleagues were arrested by the police for organising the Third Papuan People’s Congress on 19 October, 2011.  [After formally declaring the establishment of an independent Federated State of Papua] ‘President’ Forkorus, along with his Prime Minister Edison G. Waromi, were arrested with others who were involved in organising the Congress, Dominikus Surabut, Agus M. Sananay Kraar and Selfius Bobii. They were charged by a team of prosecutors headed by Yulius D.

Even today In 2013, the treason article continues to be used. A group of men were recently charged. They are Klemens Kodimko (71 years old), Obeth Kamesrar (68 years old), Antonius Saruf (62 years old), Obaja Kamesrar (52 years old), Yordan Magablo (42 years old), Hengki Mangamis (39 years ) and Isak Klebin (52 years old) . They were charged at the first hearing of their trial in a court in Sorong on Monday, 19 August 2013.

A spokesman for the police in Papua, I Gede Sumerta Jaya, said that the men were charged with treason because they are leaders of the OPM (Organisasi Papua Merdeka) or of radical groups that are active planning or speaking out in favour of resistance to the legitimate government.

Earlier this year, on 30 April, hundreds of people gathered at a posko  [a small construction] which they had  just set up. They sang together as they gathered there on 30 April to make preparations to celebrate 1 May on the following day.  While they were singing, shooting was heard aimed in the direction of the posko. The shots came from some people aboard an avanza vehicle with darkened windows, accompanied by a police patrol vehicle.

[Translated by TAPOL]

Mixed success for Papuan Cultural parades despite pre-emptive arrests across Papua

Special Wrap-up report by West Papua Media, with local sources.

(Apologies for delay in posting as WPM was chasing hi-res photo essays from outlying regions.  This will be a separate item as soon as we get hold of them.)

August 26, 2013

Scores of non-violent activists from the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) were arrested across Papua over the last two weeks, when Indonesian Police carried out pre-emptive sweeps ahead of a day of mobilisation on August 15, a day intended to celebrate Papuan cultural identity and demand rights to free expression be respected.

Organisers across Papua claimed varying degrees of success in holding the cultural parades, hailing the assertion of Papuan cultural identity in the face of a “deliberate campaign of cultural suppression by the Indonesian colonial security forces” as a “moral victory that would show that West Papuan people are not going to die quietly,”  according to sources who spoke with West Papua Media (WPM).

The parades were organised by West Papuan activists on the anniversary of the contentious New York Agreement – that began the process of Indonesian colonisation of Papua – to demonstrate against ongoing the threats to the survival of Papuan culture.  The parades  were also celebrating the opening of the new Free West Papua Campaign office in The Hague in The Netherlands under the coordination of Oridek Ap (the exiled son of executed West Papuan musician and cultural hero Arnold Ap).

Despite Police being widely reported by Indonesian colonial media stating they would allow the parades to go ahead, activists and stringers for WPM reported from across the country of waves of arrests – or detentions as described by Indonesian security forces – and intimidation that prevented several of the parades from occurring.

Nevertheless, the events went ahead in Jayapura, Wamena and Biak, with  much smaller gatherings unconfirmed across the rest of the country.

Papuans villagers  arrested and searched, detained in Aula Fakfak Police for interrogation (photo: Alex Tethool / Jubi / Fakfak)
Papuans villagers arrested and searched, detained in Aula Fakfak Police for interrogation (photo: Alex Tethool / Jubi / Fakfak)

In the west coast town of FakFak, police arrested several dozen people on August 13, according to reports from Tabloid Jubi, and human rights sources.   Jubi reported that officers intercepted two trucks carrying dozens of villagers as they were preparing to attend the Cultural Parade on the 15th.  Police commandeered the trucks to  the police headquarters in Fakfak, detaining and interrogating the villagers – including large numbers of women and children –  in the Police Hall.  Police refused to explain their actions to Papuan media, according to local observers.  Unconfirmed reports from Fakfak say the majority of villagers were released, but the date of their release, or the ability for them to continue their participation in the cultural parades is still unknown.

Jayapura

In Jayapura, KNPB Chairman Agus Kosai was arrested by Police as he and other KNPB members attempted to move a sound system from his village near Sentani (about 12km outside Jayapura) to the gravesite of slain independence hero Theys Eluay in Waena.  KNPB treasurer Toni Kobak and National Spokesperson Wim Medlama were also arrested with 13 other KNPB members.  Police interrogated them but later released them, ordering them home after seizing their banners and equipment.

Refusing to be intimidated, the released KNPB members then ignored the Police directive, made new rally materials and proceeded with the planned Cultural Parades regardless in Jayapura.

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Thousands of local people turned out in Jayapura to showcase Papua’s vibrant indigenous cultural diversity, reflecting and representing Papuan cultures from every corner of the country.   The day itself had been planned as a deeply symbolic act of cultural resistance through survival, drawing on the actions of slain ethnomusicologist Arnold Ap in a nonviolent assertion of Papuan sovereignty resisting  Indonesian colonisation and control of Papuan lives.

Indonesian Police surveille activists during the Papuan Cultural Parade, August 15, 2013
Indonesian Police surveille activists during the Papuan Cultural Parade, Jayapura, August 15, 2013 (Photo: West Papua Media / YS)

Illustrating this attempt at control, many acts of cultural expression such as banned dances, banned songs, and banned displays of cultural heritage were actively monitored by heavily armed Indonesian Police, however the sheer number of participants prevented further arrests.

Coordinator of the Peace Demonstration Warpo Sampari Wetipo, told the crowd from a stage mounted atop a Kijang car, “we in KNPB are standing with the people of Papua, despite the Indonesian military’s terror by prohibiting any peaceful demonstration and action, we do continue to fight without fear, to demand the right of self-determination for us, the people of West Papua.”

Buchtar Tabuni, West Papua Parliament Chairman, and revolving door political prisoner currently between arrests, reminded the crowd that they were gathered to “Declare to the world that the people of Papua are demanding the recognition of their right of self-determination with fairness and dignity.”  By demonstrating their cultural resistance, Tabuni said that West Papuan people were asserting their identity “as a community of the Melanesian family, that Papuans are not part of the people of Indonesia or Malay.”

Reports from the Jayapura rally suggested that police were initially prepared to utilise force against the participants after they defied the order to go home.  Significant military hardware was deployed, with security forces surrounding the thousands of people gathered at Theys’ gravesite with Armoured personnel carriers, water cannon, tear gas trucks and several Barracuda armoured assault vehicles.

According to reports filed to WPM, activists had prepared unspecified “unique” methods of non-violent de-arresting techniques should the need arise, though it is unclear whether the Indonesian security forces were prepared to respect the nonviolence of the day.

The rally had been tightly safeguarded by KNPB members, who kept the participants separated from security forces and plain clothes special forces personnel with a simple rope line, thus preventing any agents provocateur from provoking police to create a scenario of violence.  in Papua.   Buchtar Tabuni told the crowd at the end of the rally, “the security forces to help secure us, and also I just want to explain that from yesterday until last night we kept guard patrol, to keep track of things that we do not want to happen and also it helps security deposit until the day’s activities, ”

In Wamena, KNPB activists reported that police and members of the Indonesian army were also being proactive in prevention of the parades, with banner seizures and an active show of force.  According to local sources, almost the entire KODIM 756 Wim Ane Sili (lit. “House of the Sound of War” in Dani language) Battalion (up to 1000 soldiers) surround the protest field at Sinapuk,

This massive “show force” was responsible for thousands of people being forced to stay away from the Cultural gathering, according to KNPB Wamena spokesperson Mr Mabel.  The gathering was peaceful but was only attended by several hundred people.

In Biak, local members of the KNPB organised a smaller demonstration passing the site of the infamous Biak Massacre, which recently commemorated its 15th anniversary on July 6.  Hundreds of people marched from the old market and Terminal Pasar Darfuar ending up at a traditional meeting house (pendopo adat Sorido), to support the opening of The Hague Free West Papua office.  Apollos Sroyer, Biak KNPB Chairman, told WPM’s correspondent “The parade was also planned as an expression of welcome to the arrival of messengers from the Melanesian Spearhead Groups (MSG) in the near future to West Papua.”

Sroyer also expressed “gratitude to those MSG members who have expressed their support of the right of self-determination of the people of West Papua,” without mentioning the official rejection of the bid for Observer Status for West Papua by the MSG, widely seen as a betrayal of Melanesian solidarity by many across the Pacific.

WestPapuaMedia, with local sources

PAPUA – PRISON ISLAND: SPECIAL IN-DEPTH REPORT

Opinion/ Analysis

by contributors to the “Papuans Behind Bars” Project* (see end of article)

APRIL 16, 2013

An expression of people’s desire for freedom, cries of “Papua Merdeka” continue to ring out through the cities, mountains and forests of West Papua. The struggle is against fifty years of Indonesian rule, which throughout the last half-century has violently tried to subdue Papua, in its attempts to create a unified nation from the 17,000 islands that once made up the Dutch Empire.

Freedom as expressed by the word ‘merdeka’ is primarily a call for political independence, although the word is imbued with the clear hope that a new national sovereignty would also bring a wider liberation. Even when used outside the context of nations, ‘merdeka’ carries a sense of autonomy or self-reliance; from the same Sanskrit root Indonesian also inherited the word mahardika, meaning wisdom or nobility.

Those cries of freedom are also heard from the cells of Papua’s prisons, where its absence is arguably felt more strongly than anywhere else. The struggle for a national liberation suddenly becomes much more personal and immediate when deprived of your own individual liberty, by means of police handcuffs or a judge’s order.

Prison is used as a weapon against the people and their resistance to Indonesia, and over the years thousands of Papuans have found themselves locked away from the world behind prison bars. Many were arrested for expressing their aspirations for liberation, mostly relatively peacefully, but occasionally also for taking up arms. Others were merely unlucky enough to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time and got caught up in the structural violence of a justice system designed to spread intimidation throughout the entire population.

It is not always straightforward to know whether and how to relate to the macro-politics of nation states and aspirations of would-be nation states, and especially for those of us who are not in Papua and who are not forced into an existence defined by ever-present violence, repression, marginalisation and resistance. But by listening to the experiences of people caught up in that system, we can understand and be inspired by the ways that they have found to withstand oppression and create an impulse for their own freedom and that of their friends, families and communities.

Here are some of the stories from Papua Prison Island, tales of some of the individuals who have felt the full force of Indonesia’s law enforcement in recent years, who have been arrested at random or deliberately targeted as activists, who have been tortured or beaten in detention, whose trials were a farce, who have suffered major illnesses with no access to proper healthcare – but who have in many cases kept their strength, their dignity and sense of solidarity intact.

1. Repeated Targets: Buchtar Tabuni and Yusak Pakage

A political prisoner is forever marked out as an enemy of the state.  Those who survive the horrors of the prison system and emerge to continue their resistance after being released are particular targets for petty and personalised vengeance. This was the case in 2012, when two former political prisoners who have remained politically active, Buchtar Tabuni and Yusak Pakage, were rearrested and re-condemned, both under ridiculous pretexts.

The story can be traced back to December 2010 when Miron Wetipo, a prisoner who had recently escaped from Abepura prison, was shot dead. News reached the prison and the prisoners’ anger erupted spontaneously. As a riot commenced, two political prisoners stepped in to try to negotiate a resolution. Buchtar Tabuni, the then-leader of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), was serving three years for organising a demonstration, and Filep Karma fifteen years for raising the Morning Star flag, a banned symbol of West Papua. Their attempts at mediation were ignored and instead they were blamed for starting the riot. Along with three other prisoners they were transferred from the jail to police headquarters for three months, where they were initially denied food and family visits and were at constant risk of violent reprisals from the cops.

Eventually the men were returned to the prison and the story could have ended there. Although Filep Karma’s sentence is set to run for several more years, Buchtar served the rest of his sentence and was released nine months later. He continued to be a prominent activist fighting for independence.

However, almost a year after his release on 6th June 2012, Buchtar Tabuni was arrested again. This piece of news only made minor headlines at the time, as everyone’s attention was focussed on a wave of seemingly-random shooting incidents that was causing panic at the time around Jayapura, as they were occurring nearly every day. After Buchtar’s arrest, the Jayapura police chief said in a press conference that he had been arrested in connection with a string of recent violent incidents, which would seem to imply the that he was accused of being involved in the shootings.

However, when Buchtar’s lawyer was able to see him, he established that the arrest was actually in connection with the prison riot 18 months before. But why should he be arrested suddenly now, if the case could have been brought to trial at any point in the nine months between the riot and Buchtar’s release while he was still in custody?

In fact, it appears that this arrest was part of a new wave of repression against the KNPB, an organisation which had been gaining in momentum across Papua over the past few years, mostly by organising open demonstrations in Papua’s urban centres. It was to become a decisive move against the popular organisation; Victor Yeimo, who took over from Buchtar as KNPB chair, claimed that 21 KNPB members were killed and 55 imprisoned during the course of 2012. Just over a week after Buchtar was arrested, KNPB deputy leader Mako Tabuni would be gunned down by a police marksman as he was buying betel nut on a street corner.

Buchtar’s trial for violent disturbance started in July. It was reported that several KNPB members received threatening text messages not to attend the trial. Yusak Pakage was undeterred, however. He was also a former prisoner, having been sentenced to ten years in prison at the same flag-raising event in 2004 where Filep Karma had also been arrested. In July 2010 he was granted a pardon and released, after which he was involved in the Papuan Street Parliament (Parlamen Jalanan).

Watching the farce of a trial, Yusak’s frustration built up until he kicked over a rubbish bin. Bright red spit from someone who had been chewing betel nut spilled out of the bin and stained the trouser-leg of a public official. Yusak was arrested. While he was being searched, police found that he was carrying a penknife. This became the pretext to charge him under an Emergency Law from 1951, which prohibits carrying weapons.

So for possessing this everyday object Yusak Pakage was sentenced to seven more months in prison. He has said that he believes he was targeted for having previously been a political prisoner, and it would be hard not to see it that way, as it is totally normal to carry not only penknives but also tools such as machetes and bows-and-arrows in Papua.

Having already spent years behind bars does not make prison less of an isolating experience. Yusak Pakage, whose name is known around the world due to Amnesty International having promoted his case as a prisoner of conscience, told a local reporter how he was saddened at how few visitors he received in prison, especially after his sister moved to another city. While he knew local human rights activists were supporting him in other ways, whether out of fear or lack of motivation, they didn’t come to visit.

But prison can also sharpen the sense of solidarity with those facing the same fate. After being released from his eight month sentence, Buchtar Tabuni’s first act was to go to the site of where his friend Mako Tabuni had been killed. A few days later he flew to Wamena to try to negotiate the release of other KNPB members which had been arrested in September, accused of possessing explosives. This trip was followed up by trips to Timika and Biak, where he also visited KNPB members in prison and tried to secure their release.

2. Left to Sicken and Die: Prisoners of the Wamena Arsenal case.

On December 2012, Kanius Murib passed away in Wamena, 59 years old. He had been in prison since 2003, but in the last few months of his life the prison guards allowed his family to care for him, as by that time he was suffering from severe mental illness and failing physical health. Arrested with nine other people and sentenced to life imprisonment, he was the third prisoner from that case to die in custody.

The accusation laid against the men was that they had carried out a raid on the weapons arsenal in a military base in Wamena on 4th April 2003. Not knowing who had carried out the attack, the military went on the rampage, sweeping through surrounding villages, meting out an undiscriminating collective punishment on the whole population, burning entire villages to the ground as they so often do when they take revenge. Several people were killed in these reprisals, and it is likely that many others starved to death in the mountains as they fled their homes.

Kanius Murib’s house was one of those burnt. He was arrested on 6th April. While still in military detention one week later he was dragged three kilometres to Ilekma Village, together with another man, Yapenus Murib. Kanius was handcuffed, Yapenus was pulled by ropes tied around his neck. This torture was more than a human body could take; he died shortly afterwards.

Seven more men were arrested, and also experienced similarly brutal torture. One was able to escape, so together with Kanius Murib seven were left to stand trial. All were convicted of treason and sentenced to between twenty years and life.

In December 2004 the other six men (Apotnalogolik Lokobal, Jafrai Murib, Linus Hiluka, Numbungga Telenggen, Kimanus Wenda and Michael Heselo) were woken up and forced to get in a truck. They were being moved to Gunung Sari Prison on Sulawesi Island, isolated from friends and family by 2000km of ocean. They remained there until 2007, when Michael Heselo fell ill in prison. Before his family could raise funds to come and visit him, he died in prison, aged 35.

Protests broke out in Papua, demanding that the five men remaining in Makassar should be brought back to Papua. The authorities acceded to the request and the prisoners were divided between Nabire and Biak prisons – still a long way from home, but at least they were in Papua. But prison continued to take its toll on the men’s health. In 2011, Kimanus Wenda started experiencing stomach pains and was vomiting all the time, and feared he had a tumour. Jafrai Murib, who would have been no more than 28 or 29 at the time, had a stroke, which left him almost paralysed.

Both men urgently needed medical care, and it is the prison’s responsibility to ensure inmates receive treatment, but the only attention they received was consultations with local doctors. The prison refused to pay for operations, or for their transfer to Jayapura, where better facilities were available.

This happens time and time again. Filep Karma has also had a history of sickness in prison – kidney problems left him in severe pain for some time. After a long campaign to get treatment for him, finally local activists went out on the streets collecting donations so he could be operated on in Jakarta. In this way they managed to pay for the flights for him and his family, and international groups helped to pay the hospital bill. It is a sign of the force of his character, which has brought him through ten years of prison maintaining a stubborn and uncompromising commitment to his principles, that even as the money was being found, Filep was talking of refusing to leave unless another prisoner, Ferdinand Pakage, could also get treated – he even started a hunger strike. Ferdinand Pakage had been blinded in one eye after a beating by a prison guard, and continues to suffer as a result.

For Kimanus and Jefrai, eventually local activists had no other choice but to go out on the streets and collect donations again. For doing what should have been the state’s responsibility, collecting money to care for sick prisoners, fifteen people were arrested on 20th July 2012. One of them was Yusak Pakage, just three days before he would be arrested again in the courtroom incident.

Eventually, after many months, enough donations were collected, in Papua, Jakarta and abroad, and prison authorities gave their permission for Kimanus and Jafrai to be transferred to Jayapura for treatment. In the end Kimanus was diagnosed with a hernia. But even after all that has happened, accessing health-care continues to be a struggle – the latest news is that Jafrai Murib was temporarily denied access to the physiotherapy he needs to recover from the stroke – as punishment for having a mobile phone in his cell.

3. In the mountains where no-one is watching: Prisoners in Wamena Prison

Wamena, where Kanius Murib and the others were arrested, is the main town of Papua’s Central Highlands, which support a higher population than other parts of Papua, but remain inaccessible. No usable road connects this high plateau to the coast, and news still doesn’t reach the outside world so easily. It is in these mountains that most of the bloodiest military operations have taken place in recent years. When prisoners are taken they are usually accused of treason and often given long sentences based on spurious evidence. As lawyers and human rights groups, already overstretched in the lowlands, have not always had the resources to come up here, there is often no-one to support them. Few details about their cases circulate, and it can be difficult to find any information about them. Here’s what we know:

Tenius Murib and Jigi Jigibalom were arrested in a military sweeping operation in November 2003. Still in the early hours of the morning, troops surrounded a house in Bolakme village and opened fire, killing ten people. The two survivors were arrested, tortured and accused of belonging to the Free Papua Movement guerrilla army. One of the accusations was that they had participated in the same raid on the weapons dump described above. They were sentenced to 20 and 15 years respectively.

Dipenus Wenda was arrested with three other men in March 2004, while they were giving out leaflets campaigning for a boycott of Indonesian elections. One of the four, Marius Koyoga, was shot dead while in police custody. The others went on trial for treason. Dipenus Wenda was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

In January 2005, Yusanur Wenda and between six and eight others were arrested in Wunin district (information is so limited we are not even sure how many people were prosecuted in this case). Also accused of belonging to the OPM, they were supposed to have burnt down public buildings and schools. For this Yusunur Wenda was sentenced to 17 years, and the others also received long sentences. Local activists asked at the time why the OPM would be interested in burning schools. But there is another explanation: a week before the arrests even took place, a website called West Papua News had published an account of the burnings. In their story, it was Kopassus special forces and police mobile brigade (Brimob), which had arrived by helicopter, and burnt down not only the public buildings but all the houses in the village as well.

In 2008, nine people were arrested while walking to a funeral in Yalengga village. They had been asked to carry a banned Morning Star flag so that the dead man could be buried beneath the Papuan flag. On the way they were intercepted by soldiers, arrested and tortured. Once again, the charge was treason, this time the sentence eight years. It is believed that these men were not even activists, yet they were condemned under laws intended for major attacks against the integrity of the Indonesian state.

At present, out of all these cases, only six convicted political prisoners remain in Wamena prison. Four are from the Yalengga case: Oskar Hilago, Wiki Meaga, Meki Elosak and Obeth Kosay, as well as Yusanur Wenda and Depenus Wenda. Over the years the others have all managed to escape. Some were among the 42 people who broke out of Wamena prison on 4th June 2012. Another mass escape had taken place in 2009, with 43 people managing to escape. Finally in November 2012, two young men who had allegedly been in possession of OPM documents, saved themselves the perils of Indonesian justice by finding a way to break out before their case came to trial. It seems that the only chance for justice in Wamena is to take it for yourself.

4. Allegiance to the Wrong Flag: Repression Against Symbolic Acts of Resistance

The charge of Makar, or treason, the infamous article 106 of Indonesia’s criminal code has been used as a catch-all to repress Papuan movements. It was the principle charge in all the Central Highlands cases mentioned above. Whether the accusation is a peaceful act of dissent or armed rebellion, the charge is likely to be the same, probably because most of the other criminal accusations which could be brought are seen as lesser crimes. With article 106 it is possible to condemn someone to 20 years in prison, or even life, as in the case of Jafrai Murib.

A flag has become a symbol both of what Indonesia cannot tolerate and the Papuan challenge to Indonesian authority. The Bintang Kejora (Morning Star) was first flown on December 1st 1961 at a point when the Dutch Colonial Government was preparing to hand over power to an independent West Papua, before Indonesia sent its armed forces to claim the area. After Suharto fell a special autonomy package granted by President Gus Dur expressly allowed the flag to be flown as a symbol of Papuan identity, but the military never accepted that policy. The special autonomy still stands in theory, but a Presidential Regulation forbade the Morning Star flag once more in 2007.

Many people have gone to prison because of this particular piece of cloth, or even displaying the symbol on clothing, bags etc. Filep Karma is the most well known, and also the most extreme case, sentenced to fifteen years in prison for raising the flag on December 1st 2004. Actually this was the second time Morning Star flag had landed Filep in prison. The first time came just weeks after Suharto fell, and the people of Biak occupied the port, flying the flag from the water tower. The people held the port for four days, but then the military stormed in. Filep Karma was shot in both legs but survived, one of 150 people arrested that day. For many, the punishment was even more severe: according to local investigators, 139 bodies were loaded onto two navy ships to be dumped at sea.

As he has long been a popular figure in Papuan resistance movements, large demonstrations accompanied both of Filep Karma’s trials. At the trial for the 2004 flag-raising, the reason for the demonstrations was the prosecution’s demand for a five-year sentence, which the crowd felt was extreme. Yet in the end the judge went much further, taking the unusual step of exceeding the prosecution’s demand and condemning him to fifteen years and Yusak Pakage to ten.

The ‘Jayapura Five’ were arrested at the Third Papuan People’s Congress in October 2011. Their act of supposed treason was an act of provocation – or at least they knew the huge risks they were taking when they convened a congress where representatives from all over West Papua would meet to discuss their political future. Unsurprisingly, but bravely, the congress decided to declare independence. The flag was raised, and Forkorus Yaboisembut, leader of the Papuan Customary Council, was declared as President of the Federal Republic of West Papua. Edison Waromi, who had been imprisoned under political charges for twelve years in 1989, and then six months in 2001 and two years in 2002, was chosen as Prime Minister. Another former political prisoner, Selpius Bobii, who had organised the conference was also jailed, as were August Makbrawen Sananay Kraar and film-maker Dominikus Sorabut. They were sentenced to three years in jail.

Also still in prison for raising flags are Darius Kogoya and Timur Wakerkwa, sentenced to three years and two-and-a-half years respectively for raising the Morning Star on 1st May 2012. And there have been many more prisoners in recent years for these symbolic acts of defiance: Septinus Rumere, an activist from Biak in his sixties, simply raised a flag outside his house in 2009 – he was sentenced to six months for treason. The Iba brothers were maybe hoping to get away with raising a flag which merely resembled the Morning Star in Bintuni in 2009, but they were sentenced to between two and three years anyway.

Another case highlights how the cruel reality of the prison system clashes with the ways indigenous people find to assimilate the pressures on their lives and express their desire for liberation. In Demta village, on West Papua’s northern coast, a group of villagers had built a meeting house they called Mammo and started believing in a king. Such messianic beliefs, sometimes known as cargo cults, have emerged in Melanesian cultures ever since they came into contact with colonialists, and can be seen as a reaction to these new patterns of domination. This group made a procession calling for repentance from humanity’s wickedness and obedience to the king. Alongside the flag of the king, the Morning Star was also raised. The next morning, after the Mammo had been burnt down by local Christians, people from the group went to the police to avoid a violent conflict building up. They were arrested and charged with treason. After two months their release was negotiated, even if the charges were not formally dropped.

People organising politically for the rights of indigenous people are also targetted. Edison Kendi and Yan Piet Maniamboi were arrested as organisers of a demonstration to mark World Indigenous People’s Day on Yapen island on 9th August 2012. Their trial was still ongoing as this piece was being written, with rumours that the prosecution is asking for 20 years imprisonment.

There have been no recent cases of people being imprisoned as a direct consequence of defending their land from the resource industries of logging, mining and plantations that are becoming ever-more rampant in West Papua, but the climate of repression is nevertheless opening doors to these industries, as there are plenty of reports from local people who feel too intimidated to taking a public stance against these development projects. After all, if raising a flag in your front garden can be considered treasonous, could not also standing in the way of a priority project for Indonesia’s economic development, such as the MIFEE agribusiness project or the Freeport goldmine?

5. When the law itself is violence, do guilty and innocent continue to mean anything?

While in recent years no long-term prisoners have resulted from the continuing conflict around the massive Freeport goldmine, it was a demonstration against that mine outside a university campus in Jayapura that led to a wave of arrests and intimidation in 2006. Twenty-three people spent an average of five years in jail after that demonstration, but by now most have been released. The exceptions are Luis Gedi and Ferdinand Pakage, who were sentenced to fifteen years each and are still inside, and Echo Berotabui, who succumbed to the despair and killed himself in prison.

On the day of the demo, 16th March 2006, minor clashes broke out, but then the police tried to storm the demo and they misplayed it. Four policemen and one air-force officer were killed that day. Once again, the state’s response was to react with widespread violence targeted against all and sundry. Seventy people were arrested, one or two were killed, and the campus emptied as students fled in panic.

As the weeks went on, the state’s handling of the case continued to be directed indiscriminately, more a thirst for revenge than an attempt to prosecute those who actually engaged in violence during the demonstration. Of the 23 people held and charged, all reported torture. People were forced under torture to make allegations against others. Luis Gedi was picked up on the street and forced to admit to killing policeman Rahman Arizona and to give another name as his accomplice. After being subjected to torture the name that he gave was Ferdinand Pakage. The police went to arrest Ferdinand and then they demanded to know where was the knife that had been used to kill Rahman. They made him go to the campus to try and find it. Then they shot him in the foot, and he told the police the knife was at his house. The police went there and seized his mother’s vegetable knife.

Similar stories continued throughout the trial process, with intimidation and a thirst for vengeance running high, police caring little whether the people they had in the dock were the perpetrators or not.

At one point, when 16 men had already been sentenced, police tried to force one of them, Nelson Rumbiak to appear as a witness for the prosecution in the trial of the remaining seven. When his testimony contradicted the police version of events, the police beat him up. As a response the remaining seven defendants refused to leave the prison to attend the next hearing, and convicted prisoners backed them up by throwing stones at the vehicle that came to take them to court. When another man was later arrested in connection to the same trial, all 23 prisoners wrote to the prison governor, saying that they would not testify for the prosecution, ‘even if they should be shot dead’.

Ferdinand Pakage lost an eye in prison in September 2008, after he was beaten by a guard who was holding his keys. The wound left behind has continued to cause problems over the years.

In the multiplicity of forms of struggle for Papuan independence, acts of violence do occur, but the state’s hysterical response means that ‘guilty’ and ‘innocent’ cease to be distinguishable. Dani Kogoya is believed to be a member of the TPN/OPM guerrilla army, and has been accused of co-ordinating an attack in Nafri near Jayapura, where one military officer and three civilians were killed. He was arrested in September 2012 and is being tried with four other people.

Dani has reportedly admitted his involvement in the killings, and expressed regret. Although that confession was made under duress, it is certainly possible that he was involved. What is definate is that neither he nor those accused of being in his gang will stand any chance of a fair trial. The ground has already been laid out: assuming his guilt a year previously police and military conducted a raid where Dani was supposed to have lived. The local community leader was forced to dig a hole while soldiers threatened him at gunpoint. At least fifteen people were held and tortured or maltreated. Dani’s eight-year-old daughter was reported to have been kidnapped and disappeared for a week. During his own arrest in 2012, Dani Kogoya was shot (police said that he was trying to escape), and his leg needed to be amputated. As the trial commenced, and the prosecution laid out its evidence, none of the witnesses they presented could testify to having seen Dani Kogoya carry out the attack.

Papua’s political prisoners stand almost no chance of receiving proper legal representation as the intimidation of lawyers is intense, claiming they are also committing treason. When the accusations are non-violent acts it is bad enough, but when violence has been involved the stakes are even higher. For example, in the case following the 2006 anti-Freeport demonstration, lawyers received death threats by text message against them and their family, and the house that one of them was staying in was pelted with stones. During Filep Karma’s 2004 trial, a severed dog’s head was left outside his lawyers’ office, alongside a note mentioning them by name.

6. Targeting the KNPB: how the state terrorizes social movements.

Late afternoon on 29th September 2012 at the West Papua National Committee’s (KNPB)Wamena secretariat, riot police and military showed up and arrested the people present. They claimed they had found two ready-assembled bombs on the premises. More raids would take place over the weeks and months to follow, in Wamena and also Timika, Biak and Jayapura, all involving members of the KNPB. Other KNPB members would be placed on the wanted list, effectively forcing them into hiding.

One of these arrests, in Wamena in mid-December was especially tragic. As three men were being arrested, police pressed them to give more names. They forced one of the men, Meki Kogoya, to phone another KNPB activist, Huburtus Mabel, and arrange a meeting for the next day. Being in custody, Meki was unable to turn up for the rendezvous, but the police were there and shot Huburtus Mabel, who died from his wounds and also Natalias Alua, who was left in a coma, but eventually recovered. Once again, they were allegedly trying to resist arrest.

However, beyond the names of the suspects, little information is known about this Wamena case. It is from Timika, where trial proceedings are in course, that there is much more news. It appears that twelve people were arrested early in the morning of October 19th, as the KNPB were preparing to organise public activities over the coming days. The police claimed to the press that they had found metal pipes and powders to be used in bomb-making.

Six of the activists were set free after five days, and the remaining six charged under an emergency law from 1951, which prohibits the carrying of weapons – a different article of the same law as that used to sentence Yusak Pakage for the penknife. Also used in the Wamena and Biak cases, this law is rapidly becoming the state’s preferred strategy for criminalising independence activists.

When the case came to court, the allegations were toned down somewhat. It appears that only one of the six was accused of possessing explosives, which he denies. The explosives in question are a kind commonly used for dynamite fishing – an ecologically destructive practice to be sure, but not an indication that they would be used against people. The others were accused of possessing panah wayar – a kind of barbed arrow used for fishing, and other tools. In Papua, bows and arrows are carried by almost everyone, as they are used for hunting and fishing and are a symbol of cultural identity. As the weapons charges seemed rather flimsy, the charge of treason was also added before the case came to trial.

It seems very strongly that this wave of arrests has been very deliberately planned to neutralise the KNPB. Even more so when coupled with a string of assassinations throughout 2012 and the politically-motivated use of the police wanted list.

The KNPB is an organisation which, since 2008, has tried to organise big demonstrations in cities across Papua. Their principal call has been for a referendum on independence to replace the flawed UN sponsored ‘Act of Free Choice’ in 1969, and they have closely aligned themselves with international initiatives to mobilise support for the Papuan cause amongst lawyers and parliamentarians. Papuan people responded and many thousands dared to come on the demonstrations, building a rapidly growing movement across West Papua.

To organise openly in this way was a bold step, relocating the focus of the struggle from the forest to the cities. Although many KNPB members see theirs as a revolutionary struggle, they also recognise the need for mass participation, and so there is a desire to focus on more non-violent forms of struggle. KNPB leaders have repeatedly stressed this point.

Actually it appears that there have been a couple of explosions that have taken place in Papua recently. Both were in Wamena – one in an empty police outpost and the other in an empty government building. It’s important to emphasize that these were empty buildings and there were no injuries – and also that those arrested in Wamena are not believed to be charged with causing these explosions. But it is also possible to imagine that some independence activists may end up choosing this kind of clandestine action. Especially as attempts to organise openly using peaceful methods which should be interpreted as legal are met with long prison terms or even police bullets.

Increasingly prominent in the political policing of West Papua is a group called Densus 88. Set up as an anti-terror squad after the 2002 Bali bombings, their focus has mainly been countering Islamic terrorism. There too, the sensationalism that surrounds their attacks on radical Muslims, and the frequency that they shoot-to-kill has raised accusations that they are causing the radicalisation of certain Muslim communities in response. In Papua, they are accused of carrying out assassinations, of activists and non-activists. A sign of their increasing prominence is that the latest chief of police in Papua was promoted to the position after running Densus 88.

In Papua, it is not really clear whether some activists are storing explosives or not, and if so what they intend to do with them. What is certain is that during the course of 2012 it has become much more difficult for groups who want to express their aspirations openly on the streets to do so. In early 2013, prominent Papuan advocate Benny Wenda made a major diplomatic tour around the US, Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Island States. Normally the KNPB would have been out on the streets to show support for his initiatives. But there have been no such demonstrations. It seems that right now, actions like this have become almost impossible.

7. Papua Prison Island

In 2013, the arrests continue: One person arrested and two others on the wanted list for organising a demonstration in Manokwari, four people arrested in Sarmi accused of being OPM members, another seven held near Jayapura and tortured by police demanding to know the whereabouts of independence activists, two of which have been kept in prison. Then there have been a number of cases in Paniai, in the western part of Papua’s highlands: six people were arrested and held for a month before being released for a lack of evidence, two teenagers were also arrested in a separate case and held for two weeks, and there have been two other reported cases of arrest and torture.

And these are only the political cases: with Papuans so extremely economically and socially marginalised in their own land, and with clear evidence of systematic racism in all parts of the state bureaucracy, we can only wonder what might be the stories of those condemned to prison for non-political crimes.

Prison is just one extreme form of how people are deprived of their freedom in West Papua. While some Papuans are being giving jail sentences, others are being cheated out of their ancestral land by plantation companies, forced to flee their villages due to military operations, or simply unable to find a way to make a living when the possibilities for work fall overwhelmingly to migrants from outside Papua. But none of these injustices are isolated. The prison system is one tool the Indonesian state uses to crush opposition and so maintain these patterns of oppression. Many of those held captive have been denied their personal liberty as punishment for seeking a wider liberation.

Meanwhile Indonesia’s latest strategy is to pacify Papua with promises of development programs, organised unilaterally from Jakarta, whilst glossing over the structural causes of oppression – for example ministers have denied that there are any political prisoners in Papua, only criminals. But economic development without freedom cannot bring peace, merely intimidate people into coercive obedience. It is encouraging that so many in Papua, including many prisoners, refuse to be intimidated.

—Much of the information for this article came from http://www.papuansbehindbars.org , a new project to document the cases of West Papuan Political prisoners. That site has profiles of current and former political prisoners and releases monthly news updates on arrests, trials etc. However, this is an opinion piece which does not represent the position of the Papuans Behind Bars project—