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West Papuans Testify: Excerpt from “Merdeka and the Morning Star: Civil Resistance in West Papua”

West Papuans Testify

Book Excerpt from “Merdeka and the Morning Star: Civil Resistance in West Papua”

We have come to testify. There is much that we want the world to know.

We want you to travel with us to the remote places of Papua—Wamena, Paniai, the Jayawijaya Highlands, the Star Mountains, Mindiptana, Timika, Arso, Mamberamo, Biak, Merauke, Asmat and many other places. We want you to hear stories of suffering from the mouths of ordinary people. Our memories are clear and sharp.

‘In this river our father was murdered’

‘On that mountain slope there used to be villages. They were destroyed by the military’

‘On that open field, our old men were forced to burn their koteka [penis sheaths] because they were considered primitive’

‘In the past that mountain was ours, now people have destroyed our mother’

We want you to travel with us to the sites of the massacres. We want to testify about the killings and the beatings with rifles.

We want to testify about the people who were disappeared, those who were imprisoned and those who were tortured.

There have been many forms of torture – the burning, the stabbing of the genitals, the rape of women.

These are some of the injustices that we want the world to know.

On some days bombs have fallen like rain. We have been up against Hercules aircraft and helicopters and boats. They had overwhelming power.

And after the massacres or murders, the injustices always continue.

Rather than acknowledge the truth, they tell lies.

The perpetrators are promoted not punished, while the victims are dragged into court.

Some of us have spent years in prison. One of us was jailed for 15 years simply for raising our Morning Star flag.

Over years we have faced one injustice after another and then another.
There has been violation after violation since 1963. Entire villages have been destroyed. And Papuan people have been turned against other Papuans.

Injustices continue to this day. Today we face human rights violations, economic injustice, and every week thousands more migrants come in white ships and planes. We are becoming a minority in our land.

Those who resist face continuing discrimination. We are excluded from employment, education and health care. And for women, it has been worse.
They suffered the rapes and assaults and then even more. They were shamed by their own families and often marriages broke apart. These are forms of double injustice and women’s suffering that no one should ever have to face.

These are just some of the injustices that we are testifying to today.
We want the world to know about this.

We also want to testify to the effects of these injustices

Some of our bodies bear the scars.

And so do our souls. We will never forget the sound of the killings.
Some of us still feel the fear. For those who fled we don’t know if we will be safe when we return.

Other survivors have been left with physical disabilities and troubles in the mind.

The rapes brought shame – so much shame that some women did not seek medical help.

And sometimes survivors may feel guilty for being alive. The killings can make us doubt that we have a right to live.

There have been effects for children too. Fear came to the children who did not go to school for months.

When the foreigners have taken our land, cut down our forests and destroyed our rivers, this destruction affects us too. The loss of our sacred places has brought sickness to our people.

And sometimes we feel like we are slaves in our own land. Some of us have to struggle everyday just to feed our families and send our children to school.

But there is more that we want you to know.

We want you to know our testimonies of remembrance.

We are survivors and also witnesses. We have always remembered those who were killed. We will remember them until we die.

There are many ways that we do this.

We have cultural ways of joining in memory and in prayer. We place stones or wreaths of flowers. And there are traditional songs that we use to connect us with those who have died and with the ancestors. These are songs we can sing to those who have passed. We do this in a quiet place, a garden, a beach.

Or we remember through making statues of our loved ones, or photos, or lighting candles. We commune with our ancestors.

But we never forget them. They are with us. Those of us who are still alive have a responsibility to keep progressing the struggle. I have dreams of those who were killed in the jungle. They come to me in my dreams and they encourage me to keep going. I dreamt of them just last week. I listen to their voices.

If they knew that we were meeting together now, if they knew that we were gathering this testimony, they would be very happy. This would mean something to them.

They have gone over there to another world. We will always remember them.

We also want you to know the stories of our resistance, action and rescue

Our people have a long, long history of resistance. We Papuans have been resisting outsiders for centuries. Back to the 1850s, the Dutch who were seeking to protect their spice trade, faced more than 40 Papuan rebellions – both violent and nonviolent. Diverse tribes came together to resist. Angganeta Menufandu, a Konor (indigenous prophet) from Biak Island, led a mass defiance of government and mission bans on wor (ritual singing and dancing) and urged her followers not to pay taxes and to withhold labor. When the Japanese invaded, towards the end of World War Two, they were initially welcomed but, after acts of cruelty, the movement for a free and independent West Papua began again. The killings and massacres began in these times. And our resistance continued.

Our struggle for freedom continued after WWII when the US drove the Japanese out of West Papua at the cost of thousands of lives. And since
1963 we have resisted Indonesian government rule.

We remember our long history of resistance. This history raises us up.
We carry it on.

Many of us have formed organisations of action. We come together for survivors of human rights abuses, for women, for people all over Papua.
We form resistance groups. We are students, young people, older people, women, men, religious leaders and traditional leaders. We take action on behalf of those who are living and those who are no longer alive.

Some of us, who witnessed massacres, were involved in acts of rescue on the days when bullets were raining down, and when the sky was on the fire. After the Biak Massacre our family gave shelter to two men who were fleeing for their lives. My father gave them his clothes. He sat my sisters on their laps. We sat down quietly and we opened all the doors and all the windows. When the soldiers came in with all their weaponry, we stood there shaking. As they held their guns at us, and asked us if we were hiding anyone, we said no. We were all shaking, my father, my sisters, myself, but we survived, and the two men survived too. For four days they stayed with us. We had almost no food but my mother found a way to feed us. We are survivors, rescuers and resistors.

Right across Papua, and for so many years, we have continued to resist, to rescue and to raise the Morning Star. When we cannot fly our flag we have painted it on our bodies, stitched it into noken string bags. When one of us was imprisoned for 15 years for raising our flag, he was offered amnesty if he apologised, but he refused. ‘Why should I say sorry? I have done nothing wrong. It is the Indonesian state who has to say sorry. And not just to me but to all the Papuan people. They have to return our sovereignty.’

And even though it is risky for us there are many times we have come out on to the streets in our thousands, even in our tens of thousands, to demand freedom.

These are just some of our stories of resistance. There are stories of resistance all over Papua.

We want you to know that building unity is not easy – but we are doing it

The Indonesian government and corporations use many methods to divide us. To turn Papuans against Papuans. If some people raise their voice, the company will come – or the government will come – and say, ‘Hey come into the office, let’s talk.’ They then give that person money, or a scholarship, or a good job. These are some of the ways our opponent uses to break our resistance.

But we keep taking steps to come together. There is a long history to this. When the Amungme have a problem we build a traditional house. In this house – this Tongoi – people come, sit down and talk. We invite every leader and chief from every village. People come together in one mind. When people then go out of the Tongoi they are going to bring a change. These are traditional ways of calling up assistance. In our culture, no one can stand up by themselves. Everyone needs everyone.

So we keep taking steps to come together. We have now formed the United Liberation Movement for West Papua. Inside this United Movement are the National Federal Republic of West Papua (NFRWP), the West Papua National Coalition of Liberation (WPNCL), National Committee for West Papua (KNPB), National Parliament for West Papua (PNWP) and other non-affiliated groups. We are strengthening our struggle and as we do so more and more people join us. People in other Pacific nations are raising their voices.

Our resistance is like a mat or noken – many strands woven together to become one.

Our resistance is like a spear, sharp and dangerous.

Our resistance is like a drum that speaks with the voices of the ancestors.

We want you to know about Papuan skills in survival

Despite all the injustices we have faced, we are survivors and we have many skills. We are wise about when to speak, when to stay quiet, and when to sing our songs. Some of these songs were written in prison for the future of West Papua. Some of our singers have been arrested and murdered. But we continue to sing freedom.

We also have our dances. We wear our traditional dress, and dance traditional Papuan dances. Our Papuan culture helps us to love and care for one another. When we live inside our culture we are free.

We have prayer, faith in Jesus Christ, and God as our witness.

And we have each other. We are among friends and we want to acknowledge all those who have stood with us.

There are other Papuan survival skills too.

Like mothers’ skills of endurance. Mothers who sell fruit and vegetables to feed their families and send their children to school display their produce on hessian mats by the side of the road. Rain, hail, sun and dust they sit. They survive.

Some of us travelled by canoe with 43 others all the way to Australia to seek another life. Years later, some of us sailed back to West Papua with the Freedom Flotilla. The West Papuans, Aboriginal elders and other Australian supporters on board the Flotilla carried a message of peace and solidarity, and reignited ancient connections.

And we have skills in humour, in jokes and in laughter. Even in the hardest times, we pray, we sing, we dance, and somehow we find a way to laugh.

We want you to know about our hopes and our dreams

We carry a big hope together … a free West Papua. We have held onto this hope for many, many years.

As we lift up these injustices to the light, then all the other cases will also be lifted up.

And we carry a hope for justice – international justice, western justice, West Papuan justice, spiritual justice.

That is why we are testifying today.

We are sharing with you testimonies of injustice.

We are speaking about the effects of these injustices.

We are sharing testimonies of remembrance.

We are sharing stories of resistance, action and rescue.

We are sharing the ways we build unity.

We are sharing our Papuan survival skills.

And we are testifying to our hopes and to our dreams.

What we are testifying here has been an open secret. We have always known this, God has always known this, but now you will know it too.

This means that now you are also witnesses.

So these stories and our hopes will now also be carried by you.

Thank you.


Biodata: Jason MacLeod is an organiser, researcher and educator. He is the author of the just-published book ‘Merdeka and the Morning Star: civil resistance in West Papua’.
 This testimony was written in collaboration with Mama Tineke and Daniel Rayer, two West Papuan activists who survived the Biak Massacre, and David Denborough from the Dulwich Centre. It contains the voices of many of the people of West Papua Jason has collaborated with and is in part based on a similar testimony developed for the Biak Massacre Citizens Tribunal.

Police Officers Allegedly Back Up the Palm Oil Company and Intimidate Local Residents

From our partners at

(please note: this article was published just before the sad news of Chief Hanebora’s untimely and sudden death was received and confirmed)

Yerisiam Tribal Chief Simon Petrus Hanebora, left - Jubi

Yerisiam Tribal Chief Simon Petrus Hanebora, left – Jubi

Jayapura, Jubi – Yerisiam Tribal Chief Simon Petrus Hanebora said he was expecting the attention from Papuan NGOs for investigating and doing advocacy on the palm oil plantation issue at Sima and Wami villages of Yaur Sub-district in Nabire Regency, Papua.

“We have tried to terminate the activity of PT. Nabire Baru through an official letter, but the company is still conducting its operation and get support from the Police Mobile Guard officers,” Hanebora said through email to Jubi on Wednesday (11/2/2015).

He further said on behalf of Yerisiam Tribe, he has sent letter to the Nabire Legislative Council and local government asking them to follow up their aspiration to shut down the company. However, both parliament and local government have not given their answer until now.
“Why do government and law enforcement keep silence about Yerisiam’s trouble? Though an intimidation, human rights violation and genocide towards Yerisiam tribe are on going. If we fought them back, they would accuse us as separatist, rebel and so on. What is truly happening?” said Hanebora.

For that reason, he expected both environmental and humanitarian NGOs could take part in the palm oil plantation issue in Nabire, in particular to conduct investigation and advocacy.

Meanwhile, as published in surapapua.com, as land tenure right owners whose land used palm oil plantation by PT. Nabire Baru, some Yerisiam tribal residents always been terrorized and threatened by police officers by accusing them involving with the Papua Free Movement (OPM) although it never existed.
“So we can make conclusion that those officers only made an argument to justify their acts to arrest and intimidate to customary landowners,” a coalition member of Nabire palm oil company’s victims, Charles Tawaru told suarapapua.com on Tuesday afternoon (3/2/2015).

“People protested the company for not being concerned towards their rights, including hire the police officers to intimidate and arrest them. There’s really no OPM headquarter here,” Tawaru said. (Arnold Belau/rom)

Papua-Wide meeting calls for 10 year Moratorium on Plantation and Forestry Industries

From our partners at AwasMifee

Between 4th-7th November 2014, representatives of indigenous communities, environmentalists and human rights defenders from every corner of West Papua met in Jayapura to discuss problems linked to the forestry and large-scale plantation industries, which in recent years have been expanding rapidly throughout the island.

This was an important meeting, as the difficulties and expense of travel around Papua means that communities are frequently isolated to face the companies alone, even though the problems they face are remarkably similar.

With many more plantation companies set to start operations within the next few years, and timber companies still keen to harvest high-value logs, it is also vital to share the (often bitter) experiences of communities which have already seen how these industries operate, and also to formulate some common platform of demands with which to confront government and policy makers.

Participants at the event heard about the long-term injustices connected with plantations in Jayapura, Keerom and Boven Digoel, where land was taken with military backing during the Suharto dictatorship causing problems which are still not resolved. In Papua’s deep south, participants told of how they have been marginalised by plantations connected to the MIFEE agribusiness development. Others from Sorong, Nabire and Mimika, told of how they were unprepared for the problems which started unfolding as the companies moved in. Delegates from Bintuni and Wondama Bays explained how the effects of the timber industry on communities are no less destructive.

In many of these cases, the same problems could be seen to emerge time and time again: intimidation from military and police officers supporting the companies, loss of livelihood as the forest is destroyed, companies’ broken promises to bring development to communities, environmental problems such as pollution, flooding and loss of water sources. Taking all this into account, the participants agreed to call on all agencies involved in allowing these industries to address these problems.

Top of the list was a call for a 10 year moratorium into for large-scale plantation and forestry investment, during which time part violations should be resolved, and the challenge of finding a way that these industries could exist on indigenous land without disadvantaging indigenous people. Hopefully we will translate some of the testimony on this site soon, in the meantime here is the full list of recommendations:

Organisations involved in organising the event were: Yaysan Pusaka, Greenpeace Papua, SKP Jayapura, Jerat Papua, Foker LSM Papua and Jasoil Papua. A copy of this declaration in Indonesian together with a list of participants can be found at: http://pusaka.or.id/demo/assets/REKOMENDASI-TEMU-RAKYAT-ADAT-KORBAN-PAPUA-Nov-2014.pdf


Meeting of Community Victims of the Forestry and Large-scale Plantation Industries.

Dialogue on Building a Green Economy and Sustainable Development

Today, Friday the seventh of November two thousand and fourteen, in the Maranatha Convent, Waena, Jayapura,

After hearing and discussing Reports of Victims of the Forestry and Large-scale Plantation Industries from throughout the land of Papua, and also discussing various developments in development policy, we as representatives of indigenous communities from twelve Regencies or cities throughout the land of Papua, want to hereby make clear that the state has violated and ignored our human rights, by not protecting, respecting and advancing the rights of indigenous communities throughout the land of Papua, including: acts of discrimination, repression and expropriation of what rightfully belongs to indigenous people throughout Papua. These human rights violations, which have occurred between 1982 and 2014, have caused great loss for indigenous people, as their social and cultural fabric and their natural environment disappear. Because of this, we as representatives of indigenous people who have suffered because of the forestry and large-scale plantation industries, coming from twelve regencies and cities, hereby state the following:

1. To the President of the Republic of Indonesia, to issue a ten-year moratorium on forestry and large-scale plantation development throughout the land of Papua. During the moratorium period, the government would resolve the different problems and violations of indigenous communities’ rights that have already occurred, and amend policies and legislation currently in force in the land of Papua.

2. To the Governors of Papua and West Papua Provinces, to reconsider all policies concerning the granting of permits for the forestry and large-scale plantation industries which disadvantage indigenous people across the land of Papua.

3 To the Commander of Military District XVII Cenderawasih Command and the Papuan Police Chief, to discipline and take action against any members of the military and police forces who openly participate in pressurising and intimidating indigenous people that wish to defend their rights throughout the land of Papua. Also to take action against members of the forces who are either directly engaged in illegal business involving forest products, or back-up and protect others in such businessses.

4. To Bupatis and city mayors throughout the land of Papua, to end the practice of unconditionally giving out permits and recommendations in the forestry and large-scale plantation sector.

5 To the honourable members of the Papuan and West Papua People’s Assemblies (MRP), to hold a Special Dialogue with the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, and the Environment and Forestry Ministry, concerning making changes in policy and regulations related to forestry and large-scale plantation investment in the land of Papua, both ongoing and in the future, which would be based on indigenous peoples’ rights and the spirit of Papuan Special Autonomy.

6 To the Provincial Legislative Councils in Papua and West Papua, to form a Special Committee to conduct investigations into the violations of indigenous communities’ human rights in the land of Papua, which are a result of policies and investment activities in the forestry and large-scale plantation sector.

7 To Customary Tribal Councils throughout the land of Papua, to organise reconciliation and customary assemblies in each area to map the customary lands of each tribe/ethnic group and follow up the findings of this Meeting of Community Victims of the Forestry and Large-scale Plantation Industries.

8 http://pusaka.or.id/demo/assets/REKOMENDASI-TEMU-RAKYAT-ADAT-KORBAN-PAPUA-Nov-2014.pdf, to take an active role in reporting violations in human rights and environmental problems so they can be brought to the attention of wider society and institutions that are actively attempting to protect, respect and advance human rights at the Papuan, national and international levels.

9. Participants of the Meeting of Community Victims of the Forestry and Large-scale Plantation Industries – Dialogue on Building a Green Economy and Sustainable Development hereby declare the foundation of the Indigenous People’s Environmental Council in the Land of Papua (Dewan Lingkungan Masyarakat Adat di Tanah Papua).

These are the recommendations which have been made and agreed together, and we hope they will be heeded and implemented. May our ancestors and the Creator be with us all.

Controversy of Environmental Permit Mechanism that Sidelines Community Participation

From awasMifee

Published: September 8, 2014

On 16th August 2014, the Cenderawasih Pos newspaper displayed a notice from the Papuan Provincial Environmental Management Agency (BPLH), taking up about 10 x 20 cm of one column. It informed the papers’ readers about the Merauke Bupati (elected regency leader)’s decision (number 133/2014) which concerned an environmental permit for a timber enterprise on PT Wahana Samudera Sentosa (WSS)’s 79,006 hectare industrial forestry concession in Ngguti and Okaba districts, Merauke Regency.

The community were asked to give their suggestions, opinions and responses to this environmental permit in writing to the head of the BPLH in Papua, within a time limit of five working days from when the notice was published (12 -18 August 2014).

The government issues these environmental permits as a prerequisite that those wishing to initiate new developments must meet in order to obtain their permit to operate, and it is concerned with protecting and managing the environment. According to Government Regulation 27/2012 concerning Environmental Permits, each enterprise and/or project which needs an Environmental Impact Assessment (Amdal) or Environmental Management and Monitoring Plans (UKL-UPL), is obliged to obtain an Environmental Permit. The process consists of three stages: a) compiling the Amdal and UKL-UPL, b) evaluating the Amdal and examining the UKL-UPL, and c) requesting and being issued an environmental permit (cf. Article 2 of the regulation 27/2012)

In the case of PT WSS’s Environmental Permit (and this is also the case in general for companies operating in Papua), the government and developers have been seen to go through the steps required to obtain their environmental permit, seemingly just so they can meet the requirements of the procedure laid out in Government Regulation 27/2012. The substance of their research into the significant impacts of proposed business plans tends to lack attention to detail, as it is just based on a cursory academic study. The knowledge and participation of affected communities is ignored and tends to be pushed aside.

Diminishing the participation of indigenous communities and marginalising their indigenous knowledge takes place at each stage, from when the Amdal and UKL-UPL are compiled, through the evaluation and examination, right up to the moment the permit is issued. For example, during the Amdal compilation stage, the government provides for community participation through 1) publishing a plan of work and 2) public consultation, where the community has the right to give suggestions, opinions and responses to the plans during a period of 10 days from the announcement, which they must communicate in writing to the developer, minister, governor, bupati or mayor.

The mechanism of giving notice which relies on the media as explained above, is a way of reducing the the indigenous peoples of the interior of Papua’s opportunities for participation. The reason is they have very limited access to news media such as the Cenderawasih Pos, and do not have the luxury of radios and televisions, they do not even have electricity. How could it be possible for them to receive the notice and participate in the plans?

Establishing a time limit of ten days for suggestions and opinons could also prove difficult for Papuan indigenous people who learn from their experience and build up their knowledge over many years. Whether an individual, or the wider community, they need a long time, to read, study, understand, consult and discuss, before giving a response or opinion to any proposed development they have just heard about.

In this way, the time limit also limits the chances for local indigenous people to find out about the plans and participate in developing plans. Especially if government and developers do not provide independent and professional workers who can help the community study the development documents.

The next way in which the community are pushed out of the process is in the Amdal consultations, which only involves a few representatives of the communities and takes place in a hotel in the regency or provincial capital. In the Malind people’s social system, discussions about how to make use of the land on a wider scale have to take place collectively between communities from the four directions of the wind, from the Kondo to the Digoel rivers. Such a meeting should take place on the land itself, not in an air-conditioned meeting room with ceramic floors.

The community is forcibly introduced to the knowledge of how environmental impacts are evaluated and a new mechanism of taking decisions which is beyond their grasp. Community participation becomes merely procedural and follows the developers’ wishes. The way this process of participation and decision-making is steered off course is a clear illustration of discrimination against indigenous social systems and the limits to Papuan indigenous people’s civil and political rights.

Existing mechanisms and institutions for awarding environmental permits are not appropriate in the land of Papua. It is highly necessary to develop  mechanisms and institutions for giving permits which prioritised the authority and indigenous rights of local communities, as well as principles of justice.

Source: Pusaka http://pusaka.or.id/kontroversi-mekanisme-izin-lingkungan-menggembosi-partisipasi-masyarakat/

More Agression from Brimob in Nabire, this time Smashing up a Local Family’s House

From awasMifee 

September 3, 2014

Police Mobile Brigade members sent to work as private security in PT Nabire Baru’s oil palm concession in Nabire, Papua have been behaving badly once more. One team paid a visit to the house of Yunas Money, who is a customary landowner. Fully armed, they proceeded to smash and destroy the contents of his house.

This police action, which took place on Friday 29th August 2014 at 3pm Papua time, left Yunus Money’s domestic furniture damaged, while the inhabitants of the house ran to seek refuge in the forest. [It appeared that] the Brimob wished to shoot Yunus dead because they felt aggrieved at the community pressure over how Brimob were working as security guards for the oil palm plantation.

Robertino Hanebora, the Secretary of the Yerisiam Ethnic Group, reported that the policemen had been trying to find out the whereabouts of Yunus who is also the leader of a local cooperative. They were annoyed because of the community’s strong protests against the Brimob security (see also this previous report [Indonesian Original] [English translation]).
Robertino said that although the protest letters which had been sent out had still not resulted in any follow-up action in the field, Brimob’s latest action showed that they were dismayed with our protest.

Local indigenous customary landowners had sent a letter to the national police headquarters through their local cooperative on 21st July 2014, demanding the withdrawal of Brimob troops from the company’s concession because their presence was making the community anxious.

Responding to arrogance on the part of Brimob working as security for PT Nabire Baru’s oil palm plantation, indigenous customary land owners from the Yerisiam people in Sima village, Yaur district, are requesting that chief of police in Papua immediately withdraws the Brimob guards from the plantation and replaces them with general police working out of the Nabire police station. This is the request of the Bumiowi cooperative, as signed by its leader Yunus Money.

Source: Pusaka http://pusaka.or.id/brimob-nabire-baru-intimidasi-ketua-koperasi-bumiowi/