Unconfirmed reports of mass arrests and sweeping in Serui

Mass flying of banned Morning Star flags, Serui, April 20, 2012

1300 West Papua Time – April 23, 2012

West Papua Media – MEDIA ADVISORY

Reports from credible West Papua Media sources have surfaced from Serui, on Yapen Island, West Papua, this morning (23/ April) that a major sweep by Indonesian security forces in currently underway against people involved in a massive demonstration against Indonesian rule last Friday, April 20.  see https://westpapuamedia.info/2012/04/21/photo-report-scores-of-morning-star-flags-flown-in-serui-demo-despite-police-objections/

According to sources, armed Indonesian police and military have conducted rolling raids on motorbikes across villages including Mantembu and surrounding hamlets outside of Serui town, seeking to arrest all those who were involved in the mass flying of the banned Morning Star independence flag.  It is not known if the troops belong to the Australian trained anti-terrorist Detachment 88 or POLRI Gegana (Motorbike anti-terror commando) units,  but those being targeted were simply engaging in peaceful acts of free expression – guaranteed under Indonesian Law.

All contact with local sources has been lost, and West Papua Media is concerned for the safety of our stringers.

This information is unconfirmed to West Papua Media’s normal standard of confirmation, however we believe the information is credible.

This is a developing situation.  Please stay tuned.  More information as soon as we receive and verify it.

Photo Report: Scores of Morning Star flags flown in Serui demo, despite police objections

from Tabloid JUBI and West Papua Media
20 April, 2012
Over 400 Bintang Kejora (Morning Star) flags were flown by scores of people on a demonstration in Tanggal, Serui, West Papua.  According to media sources, they were demonstrating to  express support for launching of a US branch of International Lawyers for West Papua (ILWP) – this is spelt out as the International Parliamentarians, not Lawyers – in the United States.  However sources on the ground confirmed to West Papua Media that the demo was carried out by over 5000 people in support of the Federal Republic of West Papua, and demanded full international legal recognition of Papuan’s desire for independence and to uphold the universal right to self-determination.

Confirming the event, Aston Situmorang of the NGO Working Forum of Cenderawasih Bay said that thousands of people had gathered to take part in the demonstration from all parts of the district of Serui. The participants first gathered  in three places and then converged on the location of the demonstration.  After they had made their way to Tanggul, a number of speeches were delivered in support of the ILWP.

When the local chief of  police was contacted regarding this demonstration, he denied that anyone had flown the kejora flag. ‘No such thing happened,’ he said. ‘It’s a lie.’ He said that  people marched together but no flags were flown. The demonstrators had only carried banners expressing support for the establishment of the ILWP in the US.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Pictures from the mass flaying of banned Morning Star flags, Serui, 20 April 2012.  According to Indonesian police: “No such thing happened… It’s a lie.” 

Organisers of the demonstration contradicted the police version of events, claiming several groups of up to 470 flags (in each group) were flown, after Police and military attempted to blockade the rally with force.  However given the sheer number of flags, security forces did not attempt to intervene and allowed flags to be flown, an act which carries severe prison terms under the provisions of makar (treason).

A successful tactic employed by rally participants was  mass body painting of the Morning Star flag, an act that although challenging makar provisions remains unenforceable under Indonesian Law.

According to another report about the demonstration in JUBI on the same day, the local police chief in Serui had allowed fifty flags to be flown at the demonstration. According to the organisers, the majority  of the participants were waving flags.

[A photo illustrating the article shows a large number of people, certainly more than fifty, and in this section of the crowd, I was able to count about twenty flags. Translator.]

It was reported that the local police had refused to allow people at the demonstration to take photos. According to the organisers, ‘As we were marching along the road, the police prohibited the use of cameras, but after the people arrived  at the location (Tanggul), the police then allowed photos to be taken.’

Aston Situmorang said  that demonstrators had come from all parts of the district; some were arrested in several places in the town centre, but they were not held for long and after being released, they were able to rejoin the demonstration. As they arrived at the location of the demo, a number of people made speeches..

Many of the participants had walked a long distance from Mantembu, with the whole march proceeding peacefully. After the speeches had been made, they dispersed.

The local chief of police, Yohannes Nugroho Wicakasono, said that the demonstration had been organised by the West Papuan National Authority (WPNA) and had proceeded peacefully, lasting from 9am till 1.30pm. He said that kejora flags had been flown, but after they had been given warnings, the flags  were taken down, collected and put away.

A more senior police chief in the town of Seruis, Daniel Prio Dwiatmoko denied that kejora flags had been flown, saying that the demonstrators had only carried banners   expressing support for the  ILWP which has just been set up in the US.

with West Papua Media, and translated by Tapol (UK)

Demonstration in support of ILWP fails to reach its destination

Bintang Papua, 11 October 2011

A demonstration organised by KNPB, the West Papua National Committee, in support of the ILWP, the International Lawyers for West Papua, was unable to reach its intended destination, the office of the DPRP, and the governor’s office. When the demonstrators marched from Expo, Waena and reached the Abepura junction, they intended to proceed to the office of the MRP [Majelis Rakyat Papua – Papuan People’s Assembly], but had to stop. It was already late afternoon which meant they would be unable to reach Jayapura in time so they halted their march.

While proceeding along the main Abepura road, they conducted some actions which ended with a communal prayer. From there, the demonstrators returned home peacefully. The action caused some congestion which lasted till early evening.

The chairman of the KNPB, Buchtar Tabuni, said that they had received the police acknowledgement of their notification about the demo too late, which was why they were unable to reach their destination before nightfall.

Despite this delay, they were determined to proceed with the demonstration, the purpose of which was to express support for the ILWP meeting in the UK in August this year.

According to the Bintang Papua journalist, the demonstration proceeded smoothly, but had to change its route because of the traffic congestion. A number of businesses along the route decided to close shop for a while.

In a press release received by this newspaper, Mako Tabuni said that the KNPB supports the statement made by the UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon in Auckland New Zealand for the West Papua issue to be submitted to the UN Decolonisation Committee [NB: this was subsequently corrected as Ban Ki-Moon had said no such thing].

The demonstrators shouted slogans supporting independence and a referendum for West Papua.

According to the Bintang Papua journalist, security forces from the Jayaura police as well as Brimob troops were guarding the route. Moreover, some Barakuda tanks were on guard at Imbi Square, to provide protection for the MRP office.

[Slightly abridged translation by TAPOL]

Warinussy on importance of ILWP meeting in August

[Readers please note that TAPOL decided not to waste time on the item
that appeared in Bintang Papua on 4 August because of its many
inaccuracies. See below. We guessed to the time that this was the result
of TNI intervention, to block accurate reporting about an important
event for Papua in the UK. Readers should also note that the three-hour
meeting in Oxford on 2 August is constantly being reported in the
Indonesian press as a KTT, Konferensi Tingkat Tinggi, a Summit
Conference, an expression normally reserved for meetings of heads of
state, which of course was not appropriate for the meeting held in
Oxford, which was a meeting attended by academics and activists. ]

Bintang Papua, 5 August 2011

Yan Christian Warinussy, a human rights activist and law practitioner,
has expressed his appreciation of the demonstrations organised by Papuan
activists in Sorong, Manokwari, Jayapura and Biak which highlighted the
principle of peace.

He said it was important for all organisations, especially the Dewan
Adat Papua (Papuan Customary Council), to gather together documents and
visual material about the ILWP conference that was held in the UK in
August. These documents need to be analysed and circulated widely to
the Papuan people and district governments, including the security
forces of the Indonesian armed forces and police, to ensure that
everyone has the same understanding about these activities as well as
their impacts on the future of the Papuan people.

‘Whether or not the idea of a referendum has the support of many
components is a matter for the future because it needs a response from
many groups, including those who are for and those who are against the
idea of self-determination for the Papuan people.

‘We need to remember that the right to self-determination is a right
for all the people on earth, including the indigenous Papuan people, as
stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.’ Warinussy also
said that the achievements of the Papuan people in organising the Papuan
Peace Conference on 5 – 7 July this year was an extraordinarily
important event which no one had ever predicted. It was at this peace
conference that all the problems that the Papuan people have been
wrestling with for the past ten years were studied and analysed by
various groups and reported on scientifically. There were thoroughgoing
discussions which led to conclusions and recommendations that were
drawn up by representatives of the Papuan people who participated in the

The Dewan Adat Papua (Papuan Customary Council ) should speedily
consolidate their networks in the Land of Papua and take action
together with all components of the Papuan people to prepare concrete
measures for the achievement of a Papua-Indonesia dialogue in 2011.

Meanwhile, a news item published by Bintang Papua the headline of which
was ‘ILWP conference failed to reach agreement on its agenda’ described
it as ‘breaking news from the BBC but it was of questionable origin.
According to the editor of Bintang Papua, they realised that they had
not been careful enough in confirming that the BBC was the source of the
item; as a result, on the following day action was taken against the
person who had contributed the item, according to a statement by the
Bintang Papua editor.

According to the editor-in-chief of Bintang Papua, Walhamri Wahid, the
contributor admitted that the source of the item was an SMS which was
widely circulated by a senior officer of the Cenderawasih military
command, based on an SMS from a former OPM member who subsequently
defected and who was in London when the conference was taking place.

The SMS commenced with the words BREAKING NEWS BBC LONDON (written in
capital letters) which was sent by Frans Albert Joku in a report to a
senior officer at the Cenderawasih military command which was then
forwarded to Bintang Papua. ‘We did not clarify where the information
had come from, there was no check and counter check on its accuracy and
it was published as if it had been sent by BBC-London, said Walhamri

Bintang Papua abides by the Journalists’ Code of Ethics but on that
occasion, the journalist was in a race against time, facing a deadline
and relied solely on the journalist who had sent the item from the
field. ‘Our conclusion for the time being is that this news item was
untruthful, using another news agency as the source.’ It was decided on
the following day that they would confirm (this mistake) and apologise
if it turned out to be true that this report was not from the BBC. We
have received no denial from the BBC. ‘When I was later browsing on the
internet, I found no such breaking news in any of the reports from the
BBC, said the editor in chief.

At the time it was early in the morning, at 2am on 3 August, and this
was a news item that people in Papua were eagerly awaiting. This was
seen as an important day when the conference was adopting decisions
about the future of the Papuan people. According to the Bintang Papua
editor, their journalist (in the UK) was having difficulty reporting the
matter from the location of the meeting, and the impression was that it
was deliberately blocked so as to ensure that the news would not be

The rest of this article regurgitates the erroneous information that was
contained in the BP report on 4 August.

[Reminder: Readers of this list may recall that we posted the following
statement on 4 August:

Note: The report in Bintang Papua today about the ILWP meeting in
Oxford on 2 August was so full of inaccuracies that it was a waste of
time to translate it. Suffice it to say that it described the meeting
as ‘a failure’.

Carmel Budiardjo, TAPOL

The legal road for West Papua: a dead-end?

The legal road for West Papua: a dead-end?


Jason MacLeod[1] and Brian Martin[2]


Legal actions might assist the West Papuan struggle for freedom, but this approach is extremely difficult and entails significant risks. Using the courts plays to the opponents’ strengths: it may not do much to erode Indonesian rule in West Papua, and risks reinforcing it. Priority needs to be put on nonviolent strategies involving large numbers of ordinary people, particularly inside West Papua.

Risks of a legal strategy

Firstly, using legal channels requires considerable money and resources and thus restricts involvement by ordinary people. Even with high profile pro-bono support, any legal case will be extremely expensive. Although West Papua is rich in natural resources, the movement is short on cash. The Indonesian government will do all it can to delay and derail the case going to court, both in Indonesia and internationally. If the case does make its way to the courts, the Indonesian government will spare no expense in fighting it. Legal battles are not won solely by money, but it definitely helps. In court, the movement will be fighting an opponent with more money and resources.

Secondly, a legal strategy favours the powerful. In terms of access to people of influence on the world stage, the Indonesian government has more power than the movement. Government power is not the only kind of power operating, but it is worth factoring the Indonesian government’s considerable international influence into an assessment of whether to pursue legal actions or how such a strategy might be strengthened.

Thirdly, there are technical legal issues. There is a risk that the case might never be heard simply because the court accepts objections such as that the plaintiffs are mischievous and or the court does not have jurisdiction. Even if the case does get to an international court there is no guarantee the challenge will be successful. A failure to win the case, even on technical grounds, could undermine the cause for self-determination by giving a legal stamp of approval to the Act of Free Choice.

Fourthly, even if the case is successful, there is no guarantee of any subsequent political change. This is the lesson from many other struggles relying on courts and official bodies.

Consider the United Nations. There have been numerous resolutions by the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Commission condemning the Indonesian government’s invasion of East Timor and the subsequent human rights violations committed under the occupation. All were ignored by the Indonesian government, some for decades.

In the 1990s, the International Court of Justice was asked to rule on the legality of nuclear weapons under international law. The court gave an opinion, some parts of which supported the goals of anti-nuclear campaigners. However, no government with nuclear weapons took any substantial action, such as moving to disarm, in response to the court opinions.

The situation is similar in West Papua. The Indonesian government’s occupation is clearly illegal, as Saltford[3] and Drooglever[4] have shown convincingly. The Indonesian Government will be unlikely to give up its rule of West Papua just because an international court rules the occupation illegal.

Finally, a legal strategy could act as a dampener on dissent inside West Papua. It could reinforce the belief that Papuans themselves don’t have to actively struggle for their own liberation, because powerful outsiders will save them.

Courts are examples of “official channels” – and they do not work well when dealing with powerful perpetrators, such as governments. People often believe that official channels provide justice, yet they heavily favour those with more money and power. Official channels are usually very slow, can be expensive, and restrict opportunities for non-experts to participate. Issues are taken out of the public domain and moved it to more restrictive arenas, such as courts, that are usually less sympathetic. Even when official channels come up with good recommendations, governments often do not act on them.[5]

The case of West Papua is essentially about power politics and vested economic interests. Therefore, winning in the court of public opinion (in other words building a powerful social movement) and raising the political and economic costs of the Indonesian government’s continued occupation will be more decisive than a legal victory. However, the two strategies could be complementary.


Strengthening a legal case through building a people’s movement

In the past 25 years, international boundaries have been dramatically redrawn and numerous countries have become independent. On 9 July 2011, South Sudan became the world’s newest state. Before that Kosovo and East Timor became independent. During the late 1980s and early 1990s several republics of the former Soviet Union also became independent. The overwhelming majority – with the exception of Romania – did so through nonviolent means. Some, like Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, won national liberation even though half their population was made up of Russian immigrants. What was decisive about all these movements was that they undermined the occupiers’ legitimacy and disrupted their rule. That outcome can be achieved through violent or nonviolent action.

By nonviolent action we mean sustained, unarmed and extra-parliamentary collective action in the pursuit of political and social goals. Nonviolent action has been used in dozens of countries. Also called people power or civil resistance, nonviolent campaigns have ousted dictators, resisted coups and been effective in challenging racism, exploitation and other injustices.[6]

The history of the international movement against nuclear weapons shows that governments have been most constrained when protest is vigorous. When protest has waned, military races have accelerated.[7]

Recent research into  self-determination struggles waged between 1900 and 2006 shows that struggles for independence or national liberation and territory are very difficult to win, even more difficult than removing a dictator like Suharto or Mubarak. Chenoweth and Stephan compared whether armed or nonviolent struggle was more likely to produce self-determination outcomes (like independence). They found that violent and nonviolent struggles had roughly equal chances of succeeding – about 25%.[8]

With equal odds of success, nonviolent struggle is definitely more desirable: it causes less loss of life, allows for greater participation of ordinary people, and lays the basis for a free and open society after independence. In contrast armed struggle results in higher casualties, less participation and a greater likelihood of post-independence repression. Mixing armed and nonviolent struggle tends to contaminate the gains won by nonviolent struggle.

So what helps these movements succeed? Specifically, what might improve the prospects of the West Papuan freedom movement? Here are some possibilities that could be part of a nonviolent struggle.

  1. Make the violence of the Indonesian government and the nonviolent resistance of the Papuans visible to transnational networks that mobilise on behalf of Papuans.
  2. Expose the failure of governance in West Papua by withdrawing support for, or co-opting, state institutions like the Majelis Rakyat Papua (MRP), Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat Papua (DPRP – the two Provincial parliaments in Papua Province and Papua Barat Province), local parliaments (DPRD – Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat Daerah) and the civil service.
  3. Use nonviolent sanctions to impose economic and reputational costs on transnational corporations in West Papua.
  4. Take the struggle to mainstream Indonesia and the societies of the Indonesian government’s elite allies, for example Australian and British governments and corporations.
  5. Coordinate with transnational activist networks to alter the Indonesian government’s willingness to maintain the occupation and to affect its capability to do so.

When it comes to challenging the Indonesian government’s legitimacy in West Papua, it is also vitally important that local Papuan and transnational solidarity movements continue to expose not only the historical denial of self-determination but also the ongoing failure of governance. This includes collecting and publicising the testimonies of surviving participants in the Act of Free Choice, participating in strikes, boycotts, noncooperation with Special Autonomy, establishing autonomous cultural, religious, economic and political institutions and other forms of mass based nonviolent challenges to Indonesian rule. Student and youth groups in particular have taken many initiatives; other groups can become more active, including churches, members of the MRP, members of the Papuan civil service, teachers, health workers, Papuan workers in resource extractive industries – and people like those gathered here today.

A legal strategy has the potential to strengthen the case that Indonesian rule in West Papua is totally illegitimate, but only if, at the same time, Papuans themselves are actively refusing to cooperate with, and nonviolently disrupting, Indonesian rule in West Papua. Faced with an adverse legal opinion, but without sustained and widespread protest, the Indonesian government will simply and legitimately point out that Papuans are participating in elections, that local Papuan politicians are in the positions of Governor and Bupati, that the MRP, provincial and local parliaments represent Papuan interests, and that there is a large Papuan civil service running the country.

A legal strategy without a powerful people’s movement is like a bird of paradise with only one wing. It looks appealing but it won’t fly.

[1] Solidarity activist, civil resistance educator and doctoral candidate at the School of Politics and International Studies at the University of Queensland.

[2] Professor of Social Sciences, University of Wollongong, Australia, http://www.bmartin.cc/.

[4] Pieter Drooglever, An Act of Free Choice: Decolonisation and the Right to Self-Determination in West Papua, Oxford: Oneworld Publications (2009)

[5] Brian Martin, Justice Ignited: The Dynamics of Backfire, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield (2007); “Backfire materials,” http://www.bmartin.cc/pubs/backfire.html.

[6] Kurt Schock, Unarmed Insurrections: People Power in Nondemocracies, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press (2005); Gene Sharp, The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Boston: Porter Sargent (1973); Adam Roberts and Timothy Garton-Ash, Civil Resistance and Power Politics: The Experiment of Nonviolent Action from Gandhi to the Present, Oxford: Oxford University Press (2009).

[7] Lawrence S. Wittner, The Struggle against the Bomb (3 volumes), Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1993–2003).

[8] Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, New York, NY: Columbia University Press (2011).

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: