Supporting Accountability, Not Separatism, in Indonesia

Elaine Pearson

Deputy Asia Director, Human Rights Watch

What do US Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Patrick Leahy, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have in common? Their names appear among 248 foreign politicians, government officials, academics and journalists the Indonesian military views as “supporters of Papuan separatists.”

The list appears among 500 pages of Indonesian military documents, which recently came to light, that provide an insider view of the military’s surveillance operations in Papua. the country’s easternmost province.

Most of the documents concern the activities of Indonesia’s Special Forces, or Kopassus. The US should be paying close attention since a year ago it restored full military ties with Kopassus, which had been suspended for years because of the force’s notorious human rights record.

Officially, Kopassus operates in Papua to monitor and suppress the Papuan separatist movement, the Free Papua Movement (Organisasi Papua Merdeka, or OPM), which has been engaged in an armed struggle against the Indonesian government since the 1960s. The documents show, however, that the focus of Indonesian military operations in Papua goes far beyond the roughly 1,000 poorly armed rebels and includes a broad swathe of Papuan political, traditional, and religious leaders, and civil society groups who are spied on by a vast network of Papuan informants.

The documents show that the military believes it has more to fear from peaceful “political separatist” activity than from armed separatists. A 2007 Kopassus report states, “Current political activity in Papua is very dangerous compared to the activities of Papuan armed groups because their access already reaches abroad.”

The problem, as the documents make clear, is that pretty much anyone who challenges authority is automatically deemed a separatist. A couple of years ago I met a Papuan family from Jayapura, the provincial capital, who were pro-Indonesia. They told me how their son had taken a romantic stroll on a nearby beach with his girlfriend when they were set upon by eight naval officers, who beat him up and forced the pair to engage in humiliating sexual acts. The family tried to complain to the police and to the naval base to no avail. The youth’s cousin told me, “I am a Papuan woman and an Indonesian citizen. We are not separatists, but whenever anyone tries to stand up for their rights, they are called separatists – that’s how they silence us.”

The reports indicate that Kopassus believes nongovernmental organizations primarily work to discredit the Indonesian government and the armed forces by using the “human rights issue” to garner international condemnation of Indonesia’s military presence in Papua and to promote Papuan independence.

Human Rights Watch has long documented violations by Indonesian security forces in Papua. For years, the military denied the reports of human rights violations in Papua, even when faced with overwhelming evidence. This lack of accountability gives security forces a green light to commit abuses against the local population. However, the recent growth in cell phone video is making it more difficult to deny abuses.

Last year, a film uploaded to YouTube showed soldiers brutally torturing two farmers in Papua, kicking them, threatening one with a knife to his face, and repeatedly jabbing the other in the genitals with burning wood. A prolonged international outcry finally forced the military to take action. In the end, three soldiers got light sentences for “disobeying orders” rather than torture. It is unclear whether the military has discharged any of them. Two months earlier, soldiers from the same battalion shot and killed Rev. Kinderman Gire on the suspicion he was a separatist. At the trial, the defendants claimed Gire led them to believe he was a member of OPM and tried to grab a rifle from one of them, who then shot him in the chest. They dumped the body in a river, after trying to cut off his head. Last week a military tribunal convicted three soldiers, again only for “disobeying orders,” and sentenced them to six, seven and fifteen months in prison.

Indonesia’s military has heralded such light sentences for torture and killing as “appropriate.” Perhaps this is not surprising given a US Defense Department official characterized the prosecution of the video torture case as “progress.”

Last year, when resuming full military ties, then-US Defense Secretary Robert Gates described how Indonesia’s defense minister “publicly pledged to protect human rights and advance human rights accountability and committed to suspend from active duty military officials credibly accused of human rights abuses, remove from military service any member convicted of such abuses, and cooperate with the prosecution of any members of the military who have violated human rights.”

The revelations in the military documents don’t appear to have changed any thinking inside the Indonesian armed forcesResponding to recent articles about the documents, an Indonesian military spokesman told the Jakarta Post: “There is no such thing as a repressive or militant approach. What we do is always a welfare approach, where we help Papuans have better lives.”

And the old pattern of military denials continues. Where individual cases garner international attention, the Indonesian military has understood that all it needs to do to continue receiving US military funding is to slap soldiers on the wrist for “disobeying orders” rather than prosecute them for serious crimes. The US has conveyed multiple messages of disappointment to the Indonesian government and military on individual cases such as the video torture trial. But US unwillingness to impose significant consequences, such as suspending new military cooperation, tells the Indonesians and others that the US doesn’t insist on sticking to its standards.

The US should call on the Indonesian government to fully disclose all military tribunal cases involving alleged abuses against civilians, including prosecutions for “disobeying orders,” and provide transcripts to the public. Until the Indonesian government re-examines these cases, in line with the US Leahy law, which prevents the US from cooperating with abusive military units, the US government should not participate in joint endeavors with military personnel or units working in Papua. The US should also call on Indonesia’s military to stop viewing peaceful political activists as threats to national security and stop spying on them.

Both the US and Indonesia should recognize that people like Senator Leahy, who are named in the Papua military documents, were not seeking to challenge Indonesian sovereignty, but simply to defend the international standards for accountability that the Indonesian military is undermining.

Elaine Pearson is the deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. Follow Elaine Pearson onTwitter.

Anatomy of an Occupation: The Indonesian Military in West Papua

Full Report is available for download and distribution as a pdf Anatomy of an Occupation: The Indonesian Military in West Papua

and the Secret report is available Here

By Jim Elmslie and Camellia Webb-Gannon, with Peter King

Report for the West Papua Project at the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPACS), The University of Sydney, August 2011

Executive Summary

This report deals with a series of Indonesian military documents that were passed to the West Papua Project (WPP) in early 2011.[1] The documents provide remarkable insights into how the Indonesian military (Tentara Nasional IndonesiaTNI), operates within the disputed territory of West Papua (disputed, that is, between the vast majority of Papuans and the Indonesian government), and how they view West Papuan civil society. The documents reveal the names and activities of Indonesian intelligence agents; describe how traditional Papuan communities are monitored; and include a detailed analysis of both the West Papuan armed guerrilla groups and the non-violent civil society organisations which promote self-determination. Identifying so many West Papuan leaders and others as “separatists”, these documents effectively show that support for independence is widespread and surprisingly well organised. West Papuans have long complained of living under an Indonesian military “occupation” and these documents go a long way to Anatomy of an Occupation: The Indonesian Military in West Papuasubstantiating this claim.

The authors of this report have sought to verify information contained in the documents where possible. Much of this information on individuals and Papuan organisations is already well known, although presented here more comprehensively in some respects than ever before. We can therefore be relatively confident that the documents are not fabricated or deliberately misleading, although they do contain inaccuracies, omissions and many obvious examples of false or misleading precision. Names of Indonesian intelligence agents, both Papuan and non-Papuan, are impossible to verify and have been left out of our report. We do believe, however, that the general modus operandi revealed in the documents is a fair representation of how the Indonesian military operates. As many diverse and disputed claims are made about the conflict in West Papua by the Indonesian and other governments, by international commentators and by the Papuans themselves, we believe that this information should be in the public sphere to increase understanding of this little-known, but intense, bitter and long-standing conflict.

The report is split into two sections. The first deals with the 97 slide PowerPoint presentation entitled, Anatomy of Papuan Separatists. The presentation itself can be viewed at This section acts as a running commentary on the slide show, explaining and contextualising what is an intriguing exposition of the West Papuan armed liberation movement and its non-violent civilian counterpart. The forensic details of the Anatomy leave the reader in no doubt as to the level of military scrutiny under which the Papuans live. It shows just how seriously the Indonesian forces take the threat of “separatism”, especially its attempts to reach out to an international audience. The presentation could accurately be renamed as an Anatomy of the Papuan Occupation.

The second section deals with an assortment of other leaked documents that flesh out the day-to-day reality of living under Indonesian occupation. In both images and text the daily tasks of security force members are outlined as they maintain a close surveillance on communities of traditional Papuans. Details of Indonesian agents  – who they are, where they work, what information they can provide – are listed as small links in the heavy chain mesh of an occupation which has at its core the modern practice of “psychological warfare”, PSYOPS. This pernicious system of social control has created a pervasive atmosphere of terror amongst the Papuan population as their lives are manipulated by state actions and threatened with “black operations”. Unsolved, indeed uninvestigated, killings, beatings and rapes occur against a background of a rapidly changing demography as hundreds of thousands of non-Papuan Indonesians move into the province. Predominantly Muslim, the newcomers are adding another layer of tension and fear, as the Muslim-Christian divide widens – taking its cue from the threatened growth of radical Islam in Java and elsewhere.

PSYOPS, as practiced in West Papua, is analysed initially from a general perspective and then from the personal experience of several individual Papuans. As a tool of social control it has been effective in dividing the Papuan people, some of whom now form a Papuan elite that has prospered economically under the bureaucratic “reforms” enacted by the Indonesian government, particularly the creation of two provinces and some 23 new administrative regencies in Papua. However, these documents show that, despite PSYOPS and divide-and-rule administrative policies, there is a high degree of cohesion and unity amongst the West Papuan nationalist majority. Indeed, looking at the Papuan individuals identified in these documents it can be seen that West Papuan nationalism is spread throughout civil society, in the churches, youth groups, customary bodies and political organisations. Far from the desire for self-determination dying out, the younger generation of Papuan leaders is now stridently demanding the rights to which they are entitled by Indonesian law, albeit increasingly as a non-violent, civil resistance movement.

These documents show that Indonesian rule over West Papua can be characterised as an ongoing military/police occupation. Inevitably this involves the systematic infliction of human rights abuses on a civilian population. Our report concludes that Australia should not be co-operating as it does with the TNI elite special forces, Kopassus, because it directly implicates the Australian army and taxpayer in the suffering of the Papuan people. And all Australian military aid to Indonesia should be seriously reconsidered while the military dominated system of occupation persists in Papua. The political and administrative reforms that have benefited so much of Indonesia since 1998 need to be properly implemented in West Papua. Until then West Papua will remain a blight on Indonesia’s international reputation and a place of suffering for its indigenous Melanesian population.

[1] The West Papua Project, at the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, The University of Sydney, has operated since 2000 as an academic think tank and research center examining the conflict in West Papua between the indigenous Melanesian people and the Indonesian state and its security forces. During this period the WPP has held many conferences, workshops and briefings, and its affiliates have produced a wide range of publications including books, scholarly articles and reports.


This report is based on a series of documents recently leaked into the public domain that relate to military and intelligence operations in West Papua.[1] The most important is entitled Anatomy of Papuan Separatists and it gives observers unprecedented insight into how the Indonesian army views the situation there. Organised as a confidential briefing document, presumably for senior Indonesian military, political and government figures, it clarifies a situation that is generally regarded as opaque. Other documents relate to the use of Papuan and non-Papuan intelligence agents by the TNI and efforts by soldiers to socialise with Papuan village communities (these documents are analysed in the second section of this report). While the Indonesian government bans foreign journalists and researchers from Papua’s two provinces, now confusingly named Papua and West Papua, in an attempt to block information on the situation from reaching the outside world, here is a case where the Indonesians themselves are providing a frank and comprehensive assessment. While undated, the Anatomy document’s reference to US President Barack Obama suggests it was written, or at least finished, sometime after his election on November 4, 2008.

Anatomy of Papuan Separatists is an extraordinary document in the form of an extended PowerPoint presentation. Produced by the TNI,[2] it is a systematic and detailed analysis of the West Papuan political landscape, mapping who the various actors are and where they fit into a larger picture. Almost every leading West Papuan political and military player is included in this analysis – leaving one with the distinct impression that there is no other game in town except “separatism”. In fact the goal for most of the West Papuan leaders in this analysis is independence, which implies that this is also the desired outcome for the overwhelming majority of the Papuan people. So this document is both a study in “separatism” and a blueprint for a military occupation meant to combat that separatism. Separatism is shown to be not a rare sentiment held by the few, but rather the glue which binds together the West Papuan ethnic and political consciousness. We are given a valuable insight into how West Papua and its Indonesian occupation actually work.

The Anatomy file comprises 97 slides and methodically works through the various ways in which the West Papuans confront the Indonesian state. In broad terms the conflict is split between military and political spheres, with some overlap. Both of these spheres are explored in remarkably frank detail. The military analysis of the “separatist” movement is the most detailed ever undertaken, or at least revealed publicly, and shows just how extensive the armed opposition to Indonesian rule is. The Anatomy document provides details of 31 armed groups of the TPN (Tentara Pembebasan Nasional –the National Liberation Army), the military wing of the OPM (Organisasi Papua Merdeka—the Free Papua Movement) that are spread right across the two provinces (Papua and Papua Barat) that constitute the region referred to collectively in this report as West Papua. Rather than being the ragtag bunch of malcontents – which the OPM/TPN are usually portrayed as — this Anatomy shows them to be a relatively cohesive and deeply entrenched resistance army, highly committed to achieving their goal of independence from Indonesia, even though the Anatomy often seems to imply that all the dozens of groups it identifies across a 40 year period are still functioning pretty much as when first identified.

Before proceeding with analysis of the document we have three general comments.

First, we wish to highlight the pervasiveness of the phenomenon of “separatism” as seen from the (Indonesian military) author’s point of view. Demands for dialogue; the “return” of Special Autonomy to Jakarta, and for  demilitarisation, improved human rights, an end to discrimination, economic marginalisation and environmental devastation in West Papua — all amount to only “separatism” in the Anatomy. And separatism is viewed as a legitimate thing for the military to attack; separatists are enemies of the Indonesian state, and therefore enemies of the military and the police. There is no attempt to understand where this sentiment comes from, just to identify its existence to be targeted for destruction. That there are so many separatists does not seem to faze the author(s) of the Anatomy; just to reinforce his (their) sense of mission.

There is little discussion of those Papuans who are not separatists. There are undoubtedly Papuans who have thrown in their lot with Indonesia, one of whom is identified in the Anatomy, Franzalbert Joku. He is the only person of the hundreds listed who has “returned to Indonesia”. Joku is a well-known former independence activist who has given up the struggle as a hopeless cause and works hard to convince other “separatists” to do the same. Later in this report we will explore Joku’s views further as well as those of other prominent Papuans who have eschewed the struggle for freedom.

Second, it is noteworthy that there are so many “separatists” identified in the Anatomy, and that they include so many of the most prominent people from the three generations since the Indonesian takeover of Papua in 1962-3 is striking. While most outside observers dismiss the chance of achieving independence as remote if not impossible, given the power and determination of the Indonesian state and the comparative weakness of the Papuans, many Papuans do not. They are fully committed to the struggle. In fact these documents show that the younger generation, those in their 20s and 30s, are as committed as the older generations. Together the Papuans listed in this document represent most of the current leading figures in West Papuan society. The Anatomy shows how seriously the Indonesian state and military consider the threat of separatism, and indeed it places the people named under grave threat of targeted assassination. Some of them have indeed already been killed since the publication of the document (for instance OPM leader Kelly Kwalik). This has led some informed readers of the Anatomy to describe it as a “hit list” of people targeted for removal.

Thirdly, this document tells us how the Indonesian military views the West Papuan political structure. To an outside observer it is hard to grasp how all the multiple military, social and political Papuan groups relate to each other. Here this complex situation is laid out with surprising clarity: there are traceable lines of authority and engagement — even between various “factions” and geographically isolated groups. One reason that Jakarta has given for refusing to negotiate with the West Papuans over the myriad problems that beset the province is that “we do not know who to negotiate with”.[3] This document undermines that pretext.

[1] These documents have been referred to in a blog site on the internet dated January 30, 2011 at in an entry entitled “Story About Sexual Violence in West Papua [By] Army Personnel”, which refers to “an article titled An Anatomy of Separatists in Papua, [by] Maj. D. Arm Fence”.  The article was published by the Secretariat for Justice and Peace, Archdiocese Merauke, Papua. Some others of these documents have been quoted previously (see, although many appear to be new, or at least to have received no public analysis; hence this report.

[2] The author of the Anatomy document is named as Major Arm Fence D Marani.

[3] Private conversation with senior Indonesian officials accompanying President Yudhoyono on his visit to Australia, Sydney University, 8 March, 2010.

Imparsial: Only a state can challenge the Act of Free Choice

Benny Wenda at the IPWP launch
Image via Wikipedia

>Bintang Papua, 10 August 2011
[A very lengthy report, abridged in translation by TAPOL]

Only a state can challenge the Act of Free Choice

Jayapura: Although no official report has yet been received about the
results of the International Laywers for West Papua conference in Oxford
on 2 August with regard to challenging the 1969 Act of Free Choice
(pepera) at the International Court of Justice, Imparsial-Jakarta says
that a challenge can only be successful if it is made by a state, not
by an organisation like ILWP.

Poengki Indarti, the executive director of Imparsial, an organisation
that frequently draws attention to the activities of the Indonesian
military in West Papua as well as to the human rights situation there,
said that the ILWP is not a state and furthermore, pepera was
legitimised by the United Nations while virtually all countries
recognise that West Papua is part of NKRI, the Unitary State of the
Republic of Indonesia.

She said that what Benny Wenda is trying to do via the ILWP and the
IPWP is to win as much support as possible from countries around the
world which show an interest in West Papua’s secession from Indonesia.
However, this is very difficult indeed because all countries with the
exception of Vanuatu support the incorporation of West Papua into
Indonesia. ‘What they are trying to do is get the support of some
hopefully sympathetic states. I dont think people should overact to the
decisions adopted by the ILWP conference,’ she said.

However, Yan Christian Warinussy, executive director of Papua-based
human rights NGO, LP3BH, said that any challenge with regard to ‘legal
standing’ would depend on the interpretation of the judge before whom
the case is brought. He said: ‘As regards any efforts to challenge
pepera that may be made by the ILWP, anyone and in particular the
Papuan people could submit a challenge because it relates to their
rights as Papuans . If in the opinion of the judge before whom the case
is brought, an organisation such as the ILWP has been granted the
necessary powers by the Papuan people, the case can of course be
accepted.’ He went on to say that it would be much more strategic for
the challenge to be made first of all at the national level because
Indonesia has its own legal system and it is not certain that a
decision would be adopted by the International Court in a case
connected with a sovereign state like Indonesia.

‘Therefore, I would press for the challenge to be made within the
Indonesian legal system which could be done by the Papuan Customary
Council (Dewan Adat Papua) or another organisation that has been granted
the necessary powers,’ said Warinussy who received the John Humphrey
human rights award in 2005.

The Imparsial director-general said that she thinks that all
stakeholders in Papua should focus primarily on peaceful endeavours and
dialogue to find a ‘middle way’. If everyone sticks to their own
opinion, the ones whose interests are damaged are the Papuan people who
do not have a very good understanding of political affairs. (sic).
Meanwhile, she drew attention to the long drawn out Papuan problem with
many actions being taken about the unsatisfactory implementation of
OTSUS (the special autonomy law), many acts of violence that have
resulted in civilian lives being lost, as well as actions calling for
independence, all of which point to the lack any serious attention from
the central and provincial governments. She said that the Indonesian
government is half-hearted about Papua and seems to want conditions in
Papua to stay the same as they are now. ‘We all hope to see the
government pay serious attention to Papua.’ She said it seems as though
the government just wants to keep the conflict in Papua going. It shows
no interest in enacting regulations or laws and seems to be acting at
cross purposes, with the government frequently pursuing the repressive
approach while the military have said that that they have made drastic
changes in the way they handle Papua. However, people feel that the
situation is no different from what it was in the past.

‘In the many cases of violence, it is the task of the police to
investigate who was responsible but nothing concrete has happened, while
Papuans are asking whether it was the real OPM or a fictional OPM that
certain state institutions are keeping alive. Everyone is looking to
the government to explain things because as yet the Papuan question
has not been resolved whereas the government is not serious about
solving it.

A case in point is what Benny Wenda is doing in the UK. Although Poengky
Indarti has checked the Interpol list of fugitives and saw that he is a
fugitive registered with Interpol, he is nevertheless free to seek
support overseas while no action is taken against him either by the
Indonesian government or the Indonesian police. The government is
deliberately keeping the Papuan problem hanging in the air, from the
polemics about the failure of OTSUS, to the breaches of security and the
shooting incidents as well as the calls for independence that have
caused much anxiety among the civilian population, whereas the
government still doesnt regard Papua as a problem that is in need of

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,

[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,”

[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).

The hope for Papua’s freedom: ‘Go International’


Apologies for delay in posting

Tuesday, 03 May 2011 19:58

Editor : Markus

Tabloid JUBI — The struggle of the native people of Papua for freedom from all the evils they have suffered since their annexation into the Unitary Republic of Indonesia on 3rd May 1963, still echo to this day, not only on the local and national scene, but already internationally.

“At this time, our hopes for freedom for the People of West Papua depend on the support of the world. Privately and through our own organisations we are struggling, but now we have the help and sympathy of all the countries of the world,” said the Head of the National Committee of West Papua, Mako Tabuni, on Tuesday 3rd May 2011.

Support from the international world is growing and becoming stronger,for example from Israel.  This is a long campaign, and this is the way to do it – by gaining friends. “The problems of West Papua are also world problems, and Indonesia has to open itself up to recognise the truths of its history, of what happened some decades ago,” said Mako.

The formation of  two  bodies called International Lawyers for West Papua (ILWP) and International Parliamentarians for West Papua (IPWP), said Mako, came about as a result of the world’s notice and support for West Papua. ‘We are being well supported by the ILWP and the IPWP, which are fighting for the fate of West Papua.”

He said this as on the day after Monday 2nd May, when thousands of people had marched peacefully to assemble at the Post Office in Abepura, Jayapura.

The KNPB (National Committee) had emphasised several important points which are tied to our history, status and the sad fate of the people of Papua.

Firstly, the people of West Papua have not, did not nor ever will give their consent to join the Unitary Republic of Indonesia (NKRI) to become a part of their republic, West Papua.

Secondly, the process of making West Papua part of the NKRI, beginning in 1963 and finishing in 1969, organised jointly by Indonesia, United States of America, the Netherlands and the United Nations, was engineered as a false process, not following the Principles of international justice. The owners of the area of West  Papua were never involved in the process, and the international talks and arrangements took no account of their wishes.

Thirdly, the agreement called “The New York Agreement” was not supervised by the whole of the United Nations, resulting in the “referendum” of 1969, where the people of West Papua were not given their political right to vote on the basis of “one person, one vote”; this “vote” consisted of only 1025 people chosen by Indonesia to “represent” West Papua. This is a violation against the political rights of the people of West Papua.

Fourthly, NKRI has killed and destroyed many of the native citizens of West Papua since they began their DOM (Local Military Operation) to take up possession of the land of West Papua in 1963.

Fifthly, NKRI has pursued, intimidated, terrorised and killed many of the citizens of WP since this operation began.

Sixthly, Special Autonomy was offered as a solution to these problems. This policy was never really implemented as promised and published as policy by Indonesia.

Seventh, the only thing which is supporting Special Autonomy, which is the one thing the NKRI is offering, is part of their colonisation of Papua which nullifies the political rights of the native people of Papua, because the foremost problem for them is their right to determine their own future for themselves, which has been suppressed and undermined by the unilateral annexation of Papua through the so-called Act of Free Choice of 1969.

“We do not recognise the right of the Government of Indonesia, and all the institutions of that country, to stand in the nation of West Papua,” said Mako Tabuni, reading from a petition which had been signed by the whole assembly which had attended the march.

What we, the KNPB, are demanding is, firstly: that Indonesia stop all political manoeuvres using the Special Autonomy, formation of the MRP and the UP$B program in the land of West Papua.

Secondly, Indonesia and West Papua be the subject of an international legal process so that the political status of West Papua can be brought to the table at the International Cpurt, to determine a just policy about the validity of Indonesia’s annexation of the land of West Papua, and a justice for the people of West Papua.

Thirdly, in order to determine the will of the people of West Papua, a Referendum be held in a democratic way by the United Nations, to find a final solution to the political conflict in West Papua.

To find a framework to support this process to end the problems in West Papua via an international legal and political process, the KNPB puts forward the name of  Ms. Melinda Janki as Head of the ILWP, Mr. Charles Foster and all the members of the ILWP.

Also,  Mr. Andrew Smith as Head of the IPWP, Mr. Caroline Lucas together with all members of the IPWP to support the political process to bring the matter before an  internasional forum, together with the support of a free Papua. Also, the Government of the Republic of Vanuatu, as a member of the United Nations, also gives a similar mandate  to determine the legal status of West Papua through an international legal process at the International Court of Justice.

At the same time, the Spokesperson of the International KNPB, Victor Yeimo, can be a representative and coordinator to express the hopes and expectations of the people of West Papua. For this to happen, we need to form a representative body: a National Council of West Papua.

“It is not just anyone, it is the people of Papua alone who can bring about freedom. So, let us, the people of this land, come together and work and struggle,” said Yeimo.

About twenty Papuan representatives who addressed the assembly signed a petition before the demonstration ended at about 6 pm.


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