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


By Jim Elmslie, University of Sydney

September 21, 2012

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

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

The players respond

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

A new East Timor?

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

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

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

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

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

Words or bullets?

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

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

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

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

Jim Elmslie does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Read the original article.


Pulling together: Solidarity Work and western aid to the Indonesian police and military

Paper by Maire Leadbeater given at the Dynamics of Civil Engagement Conference 27 February, 2012 Southern Cross University, Queensland.
“Dynamics of Civil Engagement Conference: Southern Cross University” Southern Cross Univeristy: 27 February, 2012
Pulling together: Solidarity Work and western aid to the Indonesian police and military.
Not long ago video of a talk given by  American investigative journalist, Alan Nairn had me transfixed in front of my computer screen.  Alan was one of the journalists who was present at the time of the Santa Cruz massacre in Dili, East Timor in 1991. The Indonesian military beat Alan severely on that day, which seems to have left him with an undying commitment to expose the crimes of the Indonesian Special Services (Kopassus) and to ferret out crucial information about American support for the Indonesian military.
I think it is worthwhile to summarise some of Alan’s analysis about East Timor’s liberation, the fall of Suharto and the power of the United States in world affairs. He sees the Santa Cruz events as pivotal.  First to remind you of what was happening in East Timor just over 20 years ago:   the Timorese resistance was trying to come to terms with a bitter let-down –they had been anticipating a parliamentary delegation from Portugal, and were gearing up to use this chance to tell their story and ask for international support.  But the delegation was cancelled.  Then on 28 October a young student Sebastiao Gomes was killed by armed militia after he sought shelter in the Motael Church.
Two weeks later on 12 November 1991 following  Sebastiao’s memorial mass,  a funeral  procession proceeded to the cemetery.  As their  numbers swelled, the emboldened participants began to unfurl pro-independence banners, and to shout ‘Viva Timor-Leste’.  They knew that what they were doing was incredibly dangerous but they proceeded anyway under the eyes of the military, and because they chose to keep going, Nairn says, history was changed.
When they reached the cemetery the military simply blocked their escape route, raised their rifles and opened live fire on the demonstrators. Soldiers chased down those who tried to escape and shot them in the back. A list of 271 victims was compiled but the full number of the dead is almost certainly higher as many ‘disappeared’.
What made this event different to all the other massacres that took place was that on this occasion the word got out and the world did take notice. New Zealand lost one of its own – a wonderful young man called Kamal Bamadhaj, an Indonesian speaker who was there  to help his fellow activists  as they met with members of the clandestine resistance.
The Santa Cruz massacre and the death of Kamal jolted the New Zealand solidarity movement and it exposed the moral bankruptcy of the New Zealand Government’s East Timor policy – in a nutshell Government sought to appear outraged at the loss of its citizen while at the same time pursuing careful diplomacy aimed at preserving good relations with Indonesia.
In the United States, as  Alan Nairn related ,  the massacre was the catalyst for the formation of the highly effective US  East Timor Action Network (ETAN)  which is still going like a ball of fire today alongside the more recent West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT).
ETAN set about lobbying the US Congress about US military funding and within a year they had succeeded in bringing to an end the military aid under the International Military Education and Training programme (IMET).  It took a few years longer before the solidarity network was able to expose other defence funding under JCET Joint Combined Exchange and Training, but this training was also suspended in 1998, not long before Suharto’s fall from power.
In 1998 the students led mass demonstrations calling on Suharto to step down. The military did not gun them down. Why was this? Nairn is convinced based on his interviews with such figures as Admiral Sudono, Suharto’s  Security Minister,  that the Indonesian soldiers did not open fire on the students on the streets of Jakarta because they feared ‘another Dili’ . Jakarta had established that the US had a limit on its tolerance for violence. Of course it was forced to learn the lesson again a year later when its military laid siege to East Timor after it had voted for independence.
Obviously the solidarity movement can only claim a small part of the credit for East Timor’s liberation.  The political and economic upheaval in Indonesia, the growing sympathy of democratic-minded Indonesians and of course the steadfastness of the Timorese resistance must all be factored in. But if solidarity activists had not exposed western hypocrisy in training and supplying the Indonesian military with weapons,  there might have been a different outcome.
Interviewed in September 1999 at the height of the crisis in East Timor, Noam Chomsky said: ‘The US government will do something positive- more accurately it will stop doing something horribly negative – with regard to East Timor only  if public pressure makes it essential to do so by raising the social costs of continuing to abet the massacre.”
 Globally there were massive demonstrations, tens of thousands demonstrated across Australia,  human chains encircled the embassies of the UN Security Council members.   In Portugal people wore mourning white, and hundreds of Timorese and Portuguese traveled to Spain to demonstrate at the nearest Indonesian Embassy.  On 9 September traffic stopped in Lisbon, as thousands got out of their cars to stand in the road to observe a nationwide 3 minute silence.
Then President Clinton delivered his eleventh hour  ultimatum to Indonesia: end the violence or invite the international community ‘to help’.
Nairn also pointed out for an American audience,  that in the United States in the twenty-first century demonstrators do not get shot.  The United States uses its guns, drones and troops against  other countries to preserve its interests but at home a civil liberties framework usually  prevails. Demonstrators may face  tear gas or even arrest but they won’t be killed. The deaths happen elsewhere at the business end of the guns supplied by the United States.
In this part of the world I believe we also have power.  If we want to understand how important our region and our governments are to the United States, the official cables released by Wikileaks are very helpful.  We know that the ANZUS Treaty is defunct, and New Zealand will not be reversing its no nuclear warships ban, but that hasn’t really stopped ongoing defence and military cooperation between our three nations.
Instead of ANZUS meetings Australia and the US now hold AUSMIN meetings.  When Kevin Rudd hosted that meeting last year he said it marked the 60th anniversary of the ANZUS Treaty and described the meeting as ‘the premier forum for advancing Australia-US cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region and globally.’.
From  the  Wikileaks cables  you can trace New Zealand’s secretive restoration of defence and intelligence ties  over 2008 and 2009 and also how US officials upped the pressure as they prepared for  an AUSMIN meeting.
So we are definitely part of the same club, even if New Zealand’s actual military and intelligence contribution to the US led may seem small in comparison with Australia.  We are part of the Five Eyes or UKUSA  intelligence community and we  have our own satellite  spy base at Waihopai, an integral part of the global intelligence network feeding intelligence to the US National Security Agency (NSA).
Indonesia has had an important place in US strategic plans since Suharto took power in 1965. From that time Indonesia opened up its economy to western investment. US spokespeople talk about the importance of the constructive partnership with the country which has the world’s largest  Muslim population, holding it up as an example of moderate Islam and a supporter in  combating terrorism and extremism.  Indonesia a leading member of the ASEAN group of pro-western nations, and key to US plans to extend its presence in the Asia-Pacific. Now that the cold war is over ASEAN is no longer a bulwark against communist expansion, but it is still held up a political, economic and security counterbalance to the influence of China
It is of course also true that Indonesia offers New Zealand and Australia  important trade and investment opportunities.  Indonesia ranks as New Zealand’s eighth largest export market, mainly for our meat and dairy products. We have  signed an agreement with Indonesia called  a Trade and Investment Framework and we import products such as crude oil and timber from Indonesia  The balance of trade is in our favour.  New Zealand’s Super Fund and some other Crown Financial Institutes invest in Freeport McMoran and in Rio Tinto, Freeport’s joint venture partner.
It isn’t easy to persuade our Governments to put at risk these kinds of perceived or real advantages, but as Alan Nairn pointed out it can be done.  The fact that we are closely allied with the United States imposes constraints on our Governments, but they don’t always dance to America’s tune. The most obvious and important New Zealand example being our 1985 refusal to accept port visits from nuclear capable warships.
If  Australia or New Zealand did take a stand – whether supporting a referendum,  a mediated dialogue process or  suspending their defence ties,  it would have a significant impact.
When I read letters from the New Zealand or Australian Foreign Minister it is clear that they are following a similar script.  These are the phrases that appear in the letters received by our respective solidarity groups:
 ‘The Australian Government has long supported Indonesia’s territorial integrity, including its sovereignty over the Papua provinces.’  ‘The New Zealand Government is committed to the peaceful development of Papua as part of Indonesia, where the human rights of all citizens are respected and upheld.’ And there is usually a reference to support for ‘the full implementation of the 2001 Special Autonomy Law’.
New Zealand ‘upholds human rights’ by ‘quiet diplomacy’ and ‘constructive engagement’ through aid.  In bilateral meetings behind closed doors New Zealand Ministers raise human rights concerns with their Indonesian counterparts. These exchanges can be pointed, but frequently they are amount to little more than ritual expressions that require minimal response from the Indonesian side.  At its worst this ‘quiet diplomacy’ is a blatant exercise in collusion
This hasn’t gone unnoticed in West Papua.
 Forkorus Yaboisembut, was appointed President of the ‘Republic of West Papua’ at the October 19 Congress and now he and four colleagues are on trial for makar or treason.  He is scathing of this  refusal of the countries like Australia and New Zealand to confront the issue of self-determination, suggesting that a focus on human rights alone is  to define the Papuan people as ‘merely the colonial possession of a foreign power’.
The Indonesian authorities impose tight restrictions on media visits to West Papua, but a new kind of citizen journalism is now asserting itself.and the  real state of affairs is becoming better known. ‘You tube’ videos circulate after atrocities to tell the story as no words can.  Shocking videos circulated after  the events on October 19 when the Jayapura Congress was forcibly dispersed by the security forces. A visiting West Papuan leader showed footage to some of our parliamentarians recently – I thought they would be appalled by the sight of heavily armed police opening fire from aloft their armoured vehicles, but they were also shaken at the sight of civilians being rounded up and forced into crouching postures as they were herded into the middle of the soccer field.
  Those events were closely followed by an 8000 strong strike at the Freeport McMoran mine, during which two of the striking workers were killed by the security forces.  The news of the strike spread round the world through union and occupy movement circles.  In New Zealand a popular glossy magazine, Metro, devoted a long features article to the story of the mine, the strike and New Zealand’s investment in it.   In August last year  Australian academics and media exposed leaked Kopassus documents  detailing  the network of spies and informers that support Indonesia’s iron control.
Gradually Indonesia’s  giant agribusiness proposal for the Merauke district is also becoming known.  The Indonesian President has grand ambitions for the up to 1.6 million hectares project which he hopes will feed Indonesia, and then feed the world. The proposed crops such as corn sugar, rice and palm oil will destroy the fragile ecology, displace the local people and bring vast numbers of new migrant. Indigenous West Papuans are already believed to be a minority in their own land, so it is hardly surprising if a sense of now or never desperation is driving this latest wave of activism.
Are we managing to lever any change?
It is hard to believe that the officials in the Foreign Affairs and Defence Ministries of Australia and New Zealand have not given some thought to the possibility that a West Papua is at boiling point and that their  uncritical support for Indonesia may blow up in their faces.  After all they were caught wrong-footed by the firestorm in East Timor in 1999.
I have witnessed a few tiny cracks in the last year:
When the Pacific Island Forum  met in Auckland New Zealand activists were joined by West Papuan leaders and supportive MPs from the Mana and Green Parties. We ensured that the West Papua issue was under the noses of the Forum Heads of Government. The  UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon was a guest at the Forum and addressed a public meeting during his time in Auckland. Subsequently a journalist questioned him about our very visible West Papua lobby.  He came dangerously close to talking about self-determination:  ‘whether you are an independent state or a non-self-governing territory or whatever, the human rights is inalienable and a fundamental principle of the United Nations’.  He subsequently clarified that he did not state that West Papua should be placed on the agenda of the Decolonisation Committee,  any such call would not be his to make as that was a matter for  Member States.
The New Zealand Foreign Minister,  Murray McCully is being forced to confront the West Papua issue more often.   In August 2010 a very graphic video depiction of the torture of two Papuan farmers was circulating just as Mr McCully was scheduled to meet in Jakarta with his counterpart Marty Natalegawa, so questions were asked. At the time of the Forum, Mr McCully did not make time to meet West Papuan representatives personally but he did instruct his officials to meet with John Ondawame and Rex Rumakiek, and I understand a similar meeting with West Papuan representatives also took place in New York.
I am hoping that this might be an echo of the small shift to acceptance of dialogue or constructive communication on the part of the Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.  The President’s meetings with outspoken Church leaders in recent months seems a potentially  hopeful sign, and will have been noted by western governments.
Over the past twelve years that IHRC has been working on West Papua we have tried hard to find the points of leverage that might prompt our Government take effective West Papua action.  Obviously we have not made any amazing breakthroughs, and disappointingly there have steps backward such as the Government’s restoration of military training ties in early 2007.  But I think there is some evidence at the very least that officials and politicians are worried., and perhaps we can again draw some lessons from  our history of activism on East Timor.
When I probed back through declassified government documents relating to East Timor I found that the officials had been weighing up what we activists were doing and saying.  I was surprised to find that we had had more influence than we knew at the time.
To give one example, in March 1995 a military training visit of five Indonesian officers was postponed as the NZ Defence Attache explained:
‘The reason for the postponement is due to increasing interest among the New Zealand public over recent matters in East Timor.  In addition to general public interest in all regional and international affairs there is in New Zealand a small but sophisticated and well co-ordinated lobby, sympathetic to the claims of East Timorese exiles, who seek any opportunity to generate anti-Indonesian feeling.  It was therefore thought unwise to risk exposing the visitors to the possibility of becoming the focus of media campaigns, demonstrations, petitions etc. at this time.’
Deputy Secretary of Foreign Affairs Neil Walter held a damage control meeting with the Indonesian Ambassador and wrote:
On military contacts/exchanges/exercises, I said this was a matter on which both sides needed to work closely together…It wouldn’t do the relationship any good to present the anti-Indonesian school of thought with large tailor-made pegs on which to hang further protests. Careful management was needed.
So I want to focus finally on New Zealand’s direct relationship with the Indonesian security forces.:  the training support we offer to the Indonesian military and a Pilot  training programme to the police in West Papua.
New Zealand’s  military training for Indonesia largely consists of bilateral officer exchanges:  each year an Indonesian officer attends the NZDF Command and Staff College to participate in the Senior Staff Course while New Zealand Defence Force officers  attend courses in Indonesia.   Recently there has been mention of  New Zealand increasing its  defence ties with Indonesia by extending  the training currently offered to Indonesian officers and hosting higher level visits of Indonesian personnel. Our Government defends this programme on the grounds that engagement with the Indonesian military will promote positive reform, but there is no evidence to support this claim.  On the other hand the record shows that New Zealand officials and  the New Zealand Minister of Defence at the time (Phil Goff) took the initiative to get the defence relationship resumed, because they considered that this would be in New Zealand’s interests.
A New Zealand Defence Attache commented before defence ties were reestablished: ‘at the moment the New Zealand Indonesia  relationship resembled a ‘three-legged stool’  with one leg (ie the defence aspect) missing.  In spite of the many reforms that had taken place in recent years, the TNI was still a major force in Indonesian life; without engagement with TNI we could not hope to build a full relationship.’
As far as I know the New Zealand’s  police training does not involve improving the lethal  or the punitive skills of the officers involved.  In fact the community policing model is all about conflict avoidance and working with communities, a positive model of police work.   The problem with this training is that we are talking about engaging with the forces of repression. While I believe many of those involved in providing the training sincerely hope their efforts will benefit the West Papuan people and Indonesian civilians, there is limited objective evidence to support this outcome. The risk is always that the New Zealand aid will be co-opted to support  Indonesia’s anti-self-determination agenda.  After studying the documentation, including reports released under the Official Information Act I believe that this is happening..
The West Papua project: ‘Community Policing: Conflict Resolution in Papua and West Papua provinces’ had ambitious aims: ‘ The project’s purpose was described as enhancing adherence to human rights standards by the INP in the two Papua provinces. ‘ The primary objective  of the Project was to contribute to changing the military mind-set of the INP.  Anticipated outcomes of the Project were described as ( i) improving human rights (ii) improving security; and (iii) reducing poverty.’
The project began following a request from the Police Area  Commander General Tommy Yacobus,  in Jayapura in 2006,  . Early in 2007 thirty two West Papuan police (only 10 of them indigenous Papuans) attended a workshop in Jayapura at which participants were told how New Zealand police try to build community relations and anticipate and prevent conflict.
The Ministry memos reveal  that Jayapura Police Chief had instructions from the National Police Chief to ‘get back the confidence of the community’  following the March 2006 riots.   The Police Chief, told the Second Secretary that he wanted to increase the percentage of indigenous Papuans within POLDA Papua which was currently at 4%.,
In late 2010, New Zealand Embassy officials were advised (the name of the Indonesian official they met has been blacked out) that some 1500 Papuan police were recruited in  2009.   This would help, the New Zealanders were told, ‘in increasing the effectiveness of policing because of the importance of good information and an understanding of adapt (customary) law and traditions.  Police also had a network of informants in every village which allowed for reports of trouble to flow through to Wamena, despite the isolation of many communities, poor roads and absence of communications infrastructure in many areas.’
It is not surprising that West Papuans don’t always welcome the recruitment of indigenous police officers.  I am told that the Police have a rigorous interrogation process for potential recruits which ensures that anyone joining up must deny or hide any connection however remote to those who support independence.
The records show, that  the Community Policing Initiative had an impact on the Wellington-Jakarta relationship.  By September 2008 when New Zealand Embassy representatives visited West Papua they found that Community Policing Initiative had ‘emerged as the centerpiece of New Zealand’s engagement in Papua and West Papua.’
: “In the past Embassy visits to the two provinces have been confined to information gathering.  This time it was very different – we had something concrete to offer. That was reflected in the warm reception accorded to us. The NZAID-funded, NZ Police Community Policing (CP) project is now the centerpiece of New Zealand’s constructive engagement approach with Indonesia on the Papua issue.  It demonstrates New Zealand is serious in its desire to make a real difference on the ground in the two provinces.”
In fact the Indonesian officials were so pleased with the New Zealanders that an  article about the visit appeared in the Papua Pos  headed Selandia Baru Menentang OPM or New Zealand opposes OPM.   New Zealand officials reassured their hosts  that they did not support separatism, but the write up took things a step further. The diplomats wryly recorded later that the article misrepresented the discussions, and their ‘alleged commendation of TNI’.
In 2010 the New Zealand Police commissioned an independent review of its Community Policing programme.  When I combed through the lengthy report, I had a growing sense of unease.  The first criteria evaluated was ‘strategic relevance’  and the project matched up well, since ‘it is supporting the decentralization efforts  of central government through autonomy laws (Otsus).’
‘The Project has strengthened the relationship between the Indonesian and New Zealand police:  NZ Police is the only foreign agency that has been permitted to deliver CP training in Papua and West Papua provinces, and NZ Police is the only foreign agency permitted to use serving NZ Police Officers for Project activities in these provinces.’   But who benefits from this close relationship?
The evaluation team  struggled with assessing the effectiveness of the project, partly for reasons to do with the lack of before and after data.  But they cite a few ‘solid examples’:
“an INP officer said he had employed the skills and approach taught by NZ Police during the training to resolve political unrest in his area, where Papuan nationalists were planning to raise the morning star (the applicable sentence for doing so is 25 years imprisonment).  The fact that the training provided a practical tool to assist the INP officer to successfully resolve this issue is a highly effective result for the Project.’
There is nothing to suggest that the NZ Police discussed the right to free expression,  let alone any suggestion that they even considered that ‘nationalists’ might have a legitimate claim to genuine self-determination.
The report also looked at risk management and addressed the possibility of personal security risk for the NZ trainers ‘given political stirrings on the ground in Indonesian Papua’ and the ‘risk that NGOs might criticise the Project if training were followed by  INP-perpetrated human rights abuses.’    The report says that these risks did not materialise.
This is a bit disappointing since the Indonesia  Human Rights Committee has been raising concerns about the police training project since 2008.  Our statements have become stronger as we have learnt more about the project.  We tie our criticism to human rights reports and other evidence of ongoing police brutality in West Papua, but we concede that we don’t have any evidence that an officer who has participated in New Zealand training has been implicated in a documented instance of abuse.
 More recently, Green MP Catherine Delahunty has also voiced her concerns: ‘the road to hell can be paved with good intentions. These policemen appeared to have no context for operating in West Päpua, their focus was on crimes like robbery and alcohol and they made no comment on the lack of democratic freedoms or the need for the West Papuan police to stop colluding with the military in the human rights abuses’
When I visited West Papua in late 2010 I made a point of talking about the police programme,  and especially among younger activists, the response to the training was decidedly negative.   New Zealand Embassy representatives were in West Papua around the same time, and they also met with civil society representatives,  as well as the Governor of Papua, politicians and  UN officials. They highlighted the ‘community policing project as a flagship in the province.’  It seems the diplomats did hear some negative feedback about the actions of the police in West Papua and New Zealand engagement, but they rated the overall response to the project as positive.
 At the moment, despite the earlier hype, and talk of a second phase,  the Community Policing Project has been on pause for two years. From my point of view this is good news. I am just hoping it is because of concerns about violence in West Papua and not because the New Zealand aid budget is being pared down.
I should emphasise that I support  New Zealand  expenditure on humanitarian aid in West Papua, in fact one of my objections to the military and police training is that it probably edges out constructive programmes.  New Zealand offers post-graduate scholarships to up to 50 Indonesian applicants each year.  The scheme prioritises students from Eastern Indonesia including West Papua.  But a response to a parliamentary question reveals that only  two indigenous Papuans were granted post-graduate scholarships in the 2007-2010 period.
I want to emulate Alan Nairn by finishing on a positive note. I believe he is right, solidarity actions can be effective even if we don’t know in advance which actions will be effective.  There is a strong case for solidarity work focused on ending military ties and I believe we should widen that to include the police training programmes.
At the elite level Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Britain  and Indonesia  are tied together in a range of intelligence and defence networks.  I believe we could all increase our efficiency and our effectiveness if we did more to work on joint campaigns, and if we shared more research information with each other
Over the years many Papuan leaders have raised the possibility that New Zealand could help to facilitate a peace dialogue for West Papua – drawing on the successful process mediated by New Zealand which helped to resolve the crisis in Bougainville.   We weren’t really a neutral party with respect to that conflict either,  but we were able to be effective and that also gives me some hope.
Leadbeater, M. (2006). Negligent neighbour : New Zealand’s complicity in the invasion and occupation of Timor-Leste. Nelson, N.Z., Craig Potton Publishing.

Open Letter to President Obama from West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) and East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)

Contact: John M. Miller, +1-718-596-7668; mobile: +1-917-690-4391,

Ed McWilliams, +1-575-648-2078,

President Barack Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20500

November 15, 2011

Dear President Obama,

We urge you to seize the opportunity of your imminent return to Indonesia to consider the challenges and opportunities posed by the U.S.-Indonesia relationship more realistically than you have up to now.  Your Administration urgently needs a policy that addresses the problems created by the Indonesian security forces’ escalating violations of human rights and criminality and its failure to submit to civilian control. The recent 20th anniversary of the 1991 Santa Cruz massacre in Dili. East Timor (Timor-Leste), when hundreds of peaceful protesters were massacred by Indonesian troops wielding U.S. supplied weapons, reminds us that a lack of accountability for past crimes — in Timor-Leste and throughout the archipelago — keeps those affected from moving on with their lives, while contributing to impunity in the present.

Indonesian military and police forces continue to operate without any accountability before the law. Only in rare instances are individual personnel brought before military tribunals for crimes against civilians, often because of international pressure. Prosecution is woefully inadequate and sentencing, in the rare instance of conviction, is not commensurate with the crime.

Indonesia’s security forces, including the Kopassus special forces and U.S.-funded and -trained Detachment (Densus) 88, continue to employ against civilians weaponry supplied by the U.S. and to use tactics developed as result of U.S. training. In West Papua, these security forces have repeatedly attacked civilians, most recently participants in the October 16-19 Congress and striking workers at theFreeport McMoRan mine. Those assaulted were peacefully asserting their right to assemble and freedom of speech. At the Congress, combined forces, including regular military units, Kopassus, the militarized police (Brimob) and Detachment 88, killed at least five civilians, beat scores more, and were responsible for the disappearance of others.

Moreover, in the central highlands of West Papua, these same forces regularly conduct so called “sweeping operations,” purportedly in search of the very small armed Papuan resistance. These operations have led to the deaths of many innocent civilians and driven thousands from their village into forests where they face life threatening conditions due to inadequate access to shelter, food and medical care.

Indonesian military and police forces continue to operate without any accountability before the law. Only in rare instances are individual personnel brought before military tribunals for crimes against civilians, often because of international pressure. Prosecution is woefully inadequate and sentencing, in the rare instance of conviction, is not commensurate with the crime. Several videoed incidents of military torture of civilians — widely discussed during your November 2010 visit to Indonesia — concluded in just such failures of justice. The concept of command responsibility is rarely considered in the military tribunals.

International monitoring of these developments in West Papua is severely hampered by Indonesian government restrictions on access to and travel within West Papua by foreign journalists, diplomats, researchers, and human rights and humanitarian officials. The International Committee of the Red Cross remains barred from operating an office in West Papua. Indonesian journalists and human rights officials face threats and worse when they try to monitor developments there.

Elsewhere in Indonesia, too many times security forces have stood by or actively assisted in attacks on minority religions, including deadly attacks on Ahmadiyah followers.

The Indonesian security forces — especially the military — are largely unreformed: it has failed to fully divest itself of its business empire, its remains unaccountable before the law, and continues to violate human rights. These forces constitute a grave threat to the continued development of Indonesian democracy. The upcoming national elections in Indonesia present a particularly urgent challenge. The Indonesian military is in position to pervert the democratic process as it has in the past. The military has frequently provoked violence at politically sensitive times, such as in 1998 when it kidnapped tortured and murdered democratic activists.  For many years it has relied on its unit commanders, active at the District, sub-District and even village level to influence the selection of party candidates and the elections themselves. The territorial command system is still in place.
In the past, U.S. restrictions and conditions on security assistance have resulted in real rights improvements in Indonesia. Your Administration should learn from this history.

Given this threat to democracy and to individuals posed by Indonesian forces, it is essential that the U.S. employ the significant leverage that comes from Indonesia’s desire for U.S. security assistance and training to insist on real reforms of Indonesian security forces. Rhetorical calls for reforms are clearly insufficient. These exhortations have manifestly not worked and readily brushed aside. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s recent expression of “concerns about the violence and the abuse of human rights” in Papua were dismissed by a spokesperson for Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono , who called the escalating rights violations “only isolated incidents.”

In the past, U.S. restrictions and conditions on security assistance have resulted in real rights improvements in Indonesia. Your Administration should learn from this history and quickly suspend training for those units whose human rights records and impunity are especially egregious, as required by the Leahy law. We specifically urge you to end plans to re-engage with Kopassus and to end assistance to Detachment 88. These actions would demonstrate U.S. Government seriousness in pursuit of real reforms of the security forces in Indonesia.


Ed McWilliams for WPAT

John M. Miller for ETAN

see also

At Papuan Congress, a Brutal Show of Force

via Jakarta Globe

by Oktovianus Pogau

October 22, 2011

Jayapura, Papua. Anxiety was apparent among the participants of the Third Papuan People’s Congress on Wednesday as they marched toward the event venue in Abepura, passing by lines of military and police officers in full combat gear and holding assault rifles.

By 8 a.m. that morning, the final day of the three-day congress, security officers were standing at the ready. Five Barracuda armored jeeps were parked not far from the Zakeus oval, the site of the event, as were seven police trucks and three trucks from the region’s Cendrawasih Military Command.

As the congress drew to a close, the 3,100 officers sprang into action, marching toward the venue with their fingers on the triggers of their Pindad SS1 assault rifles. As the prospect of a full-blown attack became evident, fear could be seen in the eyes of many congress-goers.

Minutes later, the situation descended into violence.

Soldiers from the Armed Forces (TNI) and police officers fired bullets into the air and ordered the participants to disband. Some of the officers pointed their weapons directly at the unarmed civilians.

As the crowd dispersed in panic, the troops pressed forward.

A four-by-three-meter gate collapsed, shaken down by TNI officers. It fell onto the some 100 members of the Papuan Caretakers Movement (Petapa) who were guarding the congress.

Those outside the gate did not escape unscathed. Soldiers and police beat them with batons, bamboo poles and the butts of their rifles. Man after man fell to the ground, pleading with the officers to stop the show of force. Their pleas were met with kicking, stomping boots.

“Disband them, disband them immediately,” a high-ranking officer ordered his men. “They have committed acts of treason. Disband them now.”

Several men wearing kotekas, the traditional Papuan penis gourd, tried to push authorities back, but they were greatly outnumbered.

Less than 100 meters from the congress was a monastery and a pastors’ dormitory. Security forces raided it.

“Nobody leave the house. Everyone stay where you are,” several TNI officers shouted, shooting into the air and toward the pastors’ homes.

Later, bullet holes could be seen in some of the walls, and bullet fragments were found in some bedrooms.

“Dozens of officials forced their way into the monastery and walked back and forth for two hours in front of us,” the Rev. Adrianus Tuturu said. “We were so afraid we hid in our rooms.”

More than 300 people were arrested. They included Forkorus Yoboisembut, chairman of the Papuan Customary Council (DAP), and Edison Waromi, president of the West Papua National Authority. The congress had earlier declared the men as president and prime minister of an independent Papua, respectively.

“So you want to be the president of Papua?” an officer told Forkorus, grabbing his shirt. “Try to protect your citizens who we are arresting.”

The arrested were told to squat down with their hands behind their heads for two hours. Some were made to take off their trousers and shirts and lie on the earth. Blood stained many of the Papuans’ cheeks.

“Papua will never be independent. Don’t you dare dream. Forkorus will not set you free,” witness Yustinus Ukago quoted a police officer as saying.

Eventually, security forces told the men to march, still squatting, to the police trucks. As the congress-goers made their way slowly forward, some officers kicked them in the back and side.

Some Papuans managed to escape. They hid in nearby food stalls and pretended to be innocent bystanders or made for bushes or gutters. Others fled into the forest.

Free expression or treason? 

Papua has seen a low-level insurgency since Indonesia annexed the resource-rich province in 1969. Following the annexation, exploitation of Papua’s mineral resources, most notably at the hands of American mining company Freeport McMoRan, and a massive security presence fueled resentment toward Jakarta.

In 2000, Indonesia granted the province special autonomous status, giving Papuans greater control over their economy. But the plan opened the floodgates for migrants into the province, further marginalizing the natives.

The recent congress was a continuation of a similar one in 2000, held to unite Papua’s seven tribal areas and discuss the natives’ basic human and political rights.

This year’s congress once again declared independence. “The Papuans’ freedom and independence must be restored in the West Papua country which was stolen by the Indonesian government in 1962,” leaders there proclaimed, announcing the Victoria Crowned Pigeon as a national symbol, the banned Morning Star flag as the national banner and the song “Hai Tanahku Papua” (“Oh My Land Papua”) as the national anthem.

Amnesty International condemned the crackdown, saying it “believes that the right to freedom of expression includes the right to peacefully advocate referendums, independence or any other political solutions that do not involve incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.”

The heavy-handed repression, the group said, was “a clear violation of the rights to freedom of expression, opinion and peaceful assembly which are guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Indonesia is a state party, as well as the Indonesian Constitution.”

But chairman of the House of Representatives commission on defense, Mahfudz Siddiq, said security forces “should have been firmer” and refused to issue a permit for the congress.

The Jayapura Police chief said he would do whatever it took to quash subversion.

“Whoever supports separatism or subversion activity, I will do the same as yesterday [the day of the congress]. I’ll finish them,” Adj. Sr. Comr. Imam Setiawan told state news agency Antara.

Imam said the congress had not been conducted according to the permit it had been issued, so he was forced to take action. He said he was paid to protect civilians and the unity of the nation.

“If there is anyone supporting such movements, I’m ready to die and finish them,” he said. “This is my duty.”

Djoko Suyanto, the coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, also defended the government’s tactics, according to Antara.

“The police raided the rally because it was considered as a coup d’etat,” Djoko said. “They declared a state within a state and did not recognize the president of Indonesia.”

The brutality of the crackdown was further revealed the following day, when all but six of the arrested were released. Many of the congress-goers had sustained cuts and bruises, and one man who had been beaten with an automatic rifle had marks all over his body.

Another man had scrape marks on his stomach. He said they came from police dragging him, face down, on the field’s jagged ground.

Of the six who remained in custody, five were charged with treason. The lone exception was Gat Wenda, who was charged under the 1951 Emergency Law for carrying sharp weapons.

The five who face treason charges are Forkorus, Edison and event organizers August Sananay Kraar, Dominikus Sorabut and Selpius Bobii.

Despite military and police claims that security forces only fired warning shots, three dead bodies were found on Thursday morning just behind a military compound some 50 meters away from the congress venue. They were 25-year-old university student Daniel Kadepa and Petapa members Maxsasa Yewi, 35, and Yacob Samonsabra, 53.

That afternoon, three more bodies were uncovered: James Gobay, 25; Yosaphat Yogi, 28; and Pilatus Wetipo, 40.

“The security forces should have used dialogue and persuasion to disperse the crowd,” said Matius Murib, deputy chairman of the Papua branch of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM). “Next week, officials from the central Komnas HAM office will conduct an investigation.”

The Rev. Benny Giay, a respected religious leader and human rights advocate in Papua, said the TNI and police had used disproportionate force by using heavy fire power to quell a meeting of unarmed civilians.

This report is supported by the Pantau Foundation.


by Numbay Media — via our partners

This is raw footage of Wednesday’s attack by the Indonesian military and police on the Third Papuan People’s Congress in Jayapura. The footage shows people dancing, soldiers closing in, and gun shots. The video was shot by several observers. The last sequence was shot while the camera person was hiding from gunfire. Police have now confirmed that five people were killed in the attack – human rights groups say it was more.

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: