Response to Call to Apply Indonesia’s Anti-Terrorism Law in West Papua

by Ed McWilliams

February 2, 2013

Edmund McWilliams is a retired U.S. Foreign Service Officer who served as the Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta 1996-1999. He received the American Foreign Service Association’s Christian Herter Award for creative dissent by a senior foreign service official. He is a member of the West Papua Advocacy Team and a consultant with the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN).
In a December 5, 2012 lecture at Stanford University’s International Policy Studies program ( revised January 22, 2013), the respected Southeast Asia analyst Sidney Jones discussed the Indonesian government’s unwillingness, thus far, to categorize the Papuan “ethno-nationalists/separatists” as “terrorists.” Jones identifies these Papuan “ethno-nationalists” and “separatists” as the armed Papuan opposition, Operasi Papua Merdeka (OPM) and what she describes as “an extremist faction of KNPB, the West Papua National Committee, a militant pro-independence organization.” Jones cites various incidents of violence in West Papua that she claims were committed by these “ethno-nationalists and separatists.”

The authors of violence in the Indonesian archipelago, especially violence with complex motives, are never so clear cut as her lecture implies. This is especially true of West Papua where police-military rivalries over access to resources and sources of extortion monies is well known.

Her analysis focuses on the different approaches employed against the West Papuan “ethno-nationalists/separatists” and against Islamic militants (“jihadists”) by prosecutors and the security forces (police, military and Detachment 88). Jones contends that “the discrepancy between the way the two groups are treated by the legal system is untenable.” She considers two alternatives: One would be to employ anti-terrorism law in West Papua, and the other would entail moving away from the use of anti-terror law against “jihadists.” She argues extensively against the latter approach of “pulling back from the use of the anti-terror law.”

Jones contends that pressure for use of the anti-terror law against “ethno-nationalists/separatists” is growing among Islamic observers. In particular, she cites Harits Abu Ulya, director of the Community of Ideological Islamic Analysts (CIIA): “If the government is consistent, then it should acknowledge that attacks motivated by ethno-nationalism and separatism be considered terrorism because they are carried out by an organization with a political vision that uses terrorism to influence the security environment and challenge(s) the sovereignty of the state. Why aren’t we seeing forces being sent en masse to cleanse Papua of separatism?”

Jones’ argument warrants a more detailed critique than space here allows, but even a brief review reveals a number of problems.

Jones summarily credits recent violent acts in West Papua to the “ethno-nationalists and separatists.” This is surprising insofar as Jones is a highly regarded observer of the Indonesian political scene with a deep human rights background. She knows, or should know, that the authors of violence in the Indonesian archipelago — especially violence with complex motives — are never so clear cut as her lecture implies. This is especially true of West Papua where police-military rivalries over access to resources and sources of extortion monies is well known. Jones should know also that military, police and intelligence agencies, have long played the role of provocateur, orchestrating acts of violence which advance agendas that are invariably obscure.

Jones cites what she claims is recent “ethno-nationalist” pressure on the giant Freeport McMoRan mining operation. She ignores the reality that such pressure in the past has frequently been orchestrated by the military, specifically the Indonesian Special Forces (Kopassus). To be fair, Jones alludes to this complexity but largely dismisses it. Her analysis similarly ignores the reality that the Indonesian state has long blocked international monitoring of such security force skullduggery and manipulation of the security environment in West Papua by restricting travel by international journalists, human rights researchers and others to and within the region.

Jones also fails to acknowledge the reality, widely noted in international and local human rights circles, that the Indonesian government has long sought to smear peaceful dissent in West Papua as “separatist.” Jakarta, through the aegis of a corrupt court system and often criminal state security forces, has repeatedly employed the “separatist” label to arrest and prosecute or detain peaceful political dissenters, such as those who display the Papuan morning star flag. Courts regularly resort to charges of treason that date to the Dutch colonial era and widely used by the Suharto dictatorship to intimidate dissidents. Jones’ call for Indonesia to define “separatism” as “terrorism” would deepen Jakarta’s targeting of peaceful dissent and the intimidation of Papuans generally. Use of the anti-terror law would enable the police to detain “separatist” suspects, including those engaging in peaceful protest, for a week rather than 48 hours. The law also empowers the police to employ electronic surveillance. Ongoing efforts would strengthen the anti-terror law to give the police even broader powers to limit the freedom of speech and assembly.

The argument to employ the “terrorist” label against “ethno-nationalist and separatist” groups and individuals in West Papua could have direct legal implications for international solidarity movements.

Jones claim that the West Papua Nationalist Committee (KNPB) is a “extremist,” is without substantiation. Criminal activity by some alleged members of the KNPB is generally not well corroborated and usually reflects efforts by the State to undermine the organization. The KNPB, and many other Papuan organizations and individuals are indeed ever more strongly pressing for Papuan rights, importantly including the long-denied Papuan right to self determination. But these efforts are largely nonviolent.

In recent years, this struggle has found growing support within the international community. Employing the “terrorist” label against “ethno-nationalist and separatist” groups and individuals in West Papua could have direct legal implications for international solidarity movements. In the U.S., groups or individuals who advocate on behalf of groups designated by the U.S. government as “terrorists” are subject to criminal prosecution. Given the close relations among governments, including those of the U.S. and Australia and Indonesia’s security forces, Indonesian government labeling dissidents in West Papua as “terrorist” could have dire implications for the solidarity network. How long would it be before the U.S. and other governments themselves begin to label various Papuan groups and individuals as ‘”terrorist.” U.S. and other international groups acting in solidarity with Papuans seeking to attain their rights could be criminally targeted and charged.

In sum, the Jones analysis is hobbled by the very term “terrorism” which is so poorly defined international law and procedure as to threaten and intimidate even those groups and individuals engaged in peaceful dissent.

In a final note, Sidney Jones, who was the Asia Director for Human Rights Watch from 1989 to 2002, should at a minimum explicitly reject the call by Harits Abu Ulya that she cites in her lecture for the Indonesian government “to cleanse Papua of separatism.” Such rhetoric gives license to the kind of atrocities already visited on the people of the Indonesian archipelago, including Timor-Leste, for far too long.


Posted here:

Australian Senate Estimates: Questions of AFP regarding training of Indonesian military


Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee – 16/10/2012 – Estimates – ATTORNEY-GENERAL PORTFOLIO – Australian Federal Police

Senator DI NATALE: I have some questions relating to the AFP’s role in the training of counterterrorism operations in Indonesia. On 28 August this year, the ABC’s 7.30 program aired some evidence about the counterterrorism unit Detachment 88, which as I think we discussed in the last estimates hearing, receives training and support from the AFP. The program aired evidence that Detachment 88 has been involved in torture and extrajudicial killings in West Papua. We know that these allegations of torture and ill treatment have also been verified by groups like Human Rights Watch. During the program there was a call from the foreign minister, Bob Carr, in relation to the recent shooting of Papuan independence leader Mako Tabuni for an inquiry. He called for an inquiry. I note the AFP’s response was that it does not investigate received briefings on or ask what I think are fairly basic questions from the Indonesian authorities about human rights abuse allegations. Given that background, I want to ask a few more questions about the training and support provided to detachment 88. I understand that there are hundreds of thousands of security forces in Indonesia and that AFP does not train all of them, but is it correct to say there have been around 12,000 trained in total since the Bali bombings, through the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation? Would that be about right?

Mr Negus : Senator, those figures are right, but there have been 12 000 officers from, I think, around 55 or 56 countries who have been trained at that facility that make up that 12,000—including Australian federal police. I think Deputy Commissioner Drennan might have the numbers here for us about Detachment 88. The media reporting you talked about, back in August: I put out what we call a ‘blue-line response’ the following day, to correct some of the public speculation in regard to the AFP’s support of Detachment 88. I will let Deputy Commissioner Drennan elaborate on this, but the first two points I just want to make are that the AFP does not provide public order, tactical training, or related equipment to Detachment 88 and the AFP does not, and has not, provided any support to the Indonesian National Police, or Detachment 88, in any of their operational activities in West Papua. Again, on our website there is a very clear statement of what our responsibilities are and what we do.

We have been working with Detachment 88, in one sense, since 2005. There has been a range of things they have done very positively in Indonesia, apartment from the allegations of abuse that you mention. They have been responsible for the arrest of over 770 people for suspected terrorism offences. Around 600 of those have been convicted in the Indonesian courts. And I have got to say, from being in Bali last weekend for the Bali memorial, the work of Detachment 88—and it is a very large organisation—the work of parts of Detachment 88 I have no doubt have saved Australian lives in the context of the work they have done in breaking up JI across the Indonesia archipelago. So, in that regard there is a range of very much positive activities that should be looked at, as well as the issues that you raise of the allegations of abuse and particularly around the West Papua issue. So, the AFP is focused very much on the positives, and we do not get involved in any of the areas that have been reported in the media.

I have got to say, though, the media reporting has been quite loose with some of the factual data in regards to allegations against Detachment 88. I know there have been a range of issues attributed to other forces in Indonesia which Detachment 88 has certainly copped the blame for. I will let Deputy Commissioner Drennan talk about this, because I specifically tasked him in the last month or so to sit down with people who have worked in Indonesia, sit down and look at all of our programs with Detachment 88 to make sure that we were more than comfortable, given the basis of your questioning at the last estimates hearing, to reflect on that and to talk to the people on the ground, to be very, very clear about the role played by the AFP and the sort of support that is given to Detachment 88 in that context. So, Deputy Commissioner.

Mr Drenna n : Thanks, Commissioner. Senator, if I could just go back to the beginning there, where you raised the allegations of Det. 88’s involvement in the death of Mako Tabuni—

Senator DI NATALE: I will correct you on that: the 7.30 program raised the allegation, I was just reporting that.

Mr Drennan : Okay, thank you. The International Crisis Group have actually reported on this incident and they have actually reviewed the matter and their finding was that Det. 88 members were not involved in any way in the operation resulting in Tabuni’s death. The INP have affirmed that that is the position. So, again, as the commissioner said, we just need to be a little bit cautious on what the media say, in some circumstances. The International Crisis Group has reviewed that matter, and I think the International Crisis Group’s reputation speaks for itself in its level of scrutiny and independence. Also, if we could just go to the number of officers who have been trained at the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation; from the Indonesian National Police there have been 6,932 students. There have been 702 students from Detachment 88, 11 students—

Senator DI NATALE: Sorry, what was that number?

Mr Drennan : 702. Eleven of those members of Det. 88 have been from the Papua province. And there is one member from Det. 88 who is stationed in Papua province, who has attended a course at JCLEC, which has been supported by the AFP, or funded by the AFP, and that was a counter-terrorism investigations program.

The types of courses that other members from Det. 88 from West Papua have undertaken at JCLEC, are CT investigations management, counter-terrorism financial investigation workshop, counter-terrorism investigation management, informer handling and interviewing techniques, investigation management, CT in analysing the internet, interviewing in-prison debriefing course, and CT investigations management course. Now, those courses are held at JCLEC but are provided by a range of donor countries, primarily from Europe and the UK. You will see from those that there are no courses there that are tactically orientated, that is none which deal with public order or any tactical operations the police may be involved in.

As regards to the other types of courses Detachment 88 officers may have attended at JCLEC, they are of a similar nature and I will run through those as it may help you: crime investigations, management of transnational crime, criminal intelligence, financial investigations, proceeds of crime, communications, management, security risk management, response to CBRN, which is chemical, biological radiological and nuclear events, internet offences, child protection and post bomb blast management. Again you will see from that list of courses that there are none there which are tactical in their nature whatsoever. The other thing I would mention there is that the officers who attend from Detachment 88 is a decision by the Indonesian National Police. JCLEC provide the courses, the request goes to the Indonesian National Police to provide officers and they select officers from across the entire INP to attend those different programs.

Senator DI NATALE: Thank you for that comprehensive background there. It is nice to have someone who has answered a lot of the questions before I have had the opportunity to ask them, so I appreciate that.

Mr Drennan : Here to assist you, Senator.

Senator DI NATALE: I have a few questions about background checks. What is actually done in the way of background checks? I take your point that there may be some controversy around the incident with Mako Tabuni but I think it is reasonably well-established that there have been members of Detachment 88 who have been involved in other non-lawful activities. What work is done in the way of background checks prior to the training? I understand that they are selected by the Indonesian forces but is there any work done in the way of background checks to establish that the people we are training have got a track record that we are pleased to support?

Mr Drennan : It is probably best to answer it this way. Firstly, the nature of the courses, as I articulated, is very much focused on investigations, investigations management, forensics and child protection type things. The nature of the allegations which have been raised in the media—and, as I said, I treat them with some caution—

Senator DI NATALE: It is not just the media; Human Rights Watch have also indicated concerns.

Mr Drennan : Again, I treat those with some caution. They are operations of a tactical nature, so when police officers have been involved in a tactical sense of resolution of matters, of arrests. So the actual type of people who have been selected to go on the courses which are conducted at JCLEC which we are supporting are of a different nature to the type of activities that the police would be involved in. As far as are there checks done in regard to the history of each individual officer, the INP select those officers. We do not have any involvement in that. But the INP are also very aware of our position in that we provide these courses for investigations and the nature of the things I described earlier and we rely upon them selecting suitable officers to attend those training programs. Within the training programs themselves, though, there is a human rights element which is built in. Whether that is through the scenario base of the training or whether it is a specific element of the training, it is incorporated in each of those training programs.

Commissioner Negus : I add that that human rights training is to Australian standards. We have the commandant of JCLEC, which is a joint facility between the INP and the AFP, and we insist on the training in those things being done to international standards, including what we here in Australia commit to as far as international human rights and the protection of human rights are concerned. So this is an opportunity to have people from multiple countries—as I said, over 50 countries have trained there—come together and talk about some of the implications of potential human rights abuses, take these as case studies and discuss these in the classroom before they leave and go back to their various areas.

Senator DI NATALE: If you became aware of a specific allegation of human rights abuse, what would the process then be for gathering more information about the specific allegations?

Mr Drennan : Are you asking what process we would have?

Senator DI NATALE: What is the process in general obviously within JCLEC, or whether the AFP in particular would follow those issues up.

Mr Drennan : We would certainly report those matters to the Indonesian National Police, who would have the responsibility of dealing with them. And if I could just add: the Indonesian National Police are actually overseen by the Indonesian National Human Rights Commission, the National Police Commission and, as you mentioned before, also numerous government organisations and human rights groups closely monitor activities.

In 2009 the Chief of the Indonesian National Police introduced a regulation specifically addressing the implementation of human rights principles and standards in the discharge of the duties for the Indonesian National Police. In a more general sense, the INP is responsible for prosecuting matters according to the rule of law and which therefore brings those matters under the scrutiny of the courts.

We rely upon those tiers of governments and oversight to ensure that the INP discharge their obligations in relation to a range of international human rights conventions to which they are signatories. Again, there are nine core international human rights treaties under the United Nations. Indonesia has signed all nine of those and ratified eight, with one more to come.

Senator DI NATALE: So how often are specific allegations brought before the AFP?

Mr Drennan : I am not aware that any have been brought specifically to the AFP.

Senator DI NATALE: So, in your view, does that indicate that the human rights issue in terms of some of the people who are being trained is a non-issue?

Mr Drennan : No, what I am saying is that none have been brought before us. The type of training that we provide and the officers who are participating in training are not ones we would expect to be involved in activities of the nature where allegations of human rights abuse have been raised.

Mr Negus : One of the points I made in the opening comments, before I passed to Deputy Commissioner Drennan, was that Detachment 88 have a very wide role in Indonesia. They are really the investigative capability for the Indonesian National Police to investigate and prosecute terrorist offences. So think about that in the context of across the whole of the archipelago. Again, they have arrested 775 people with terrorism offences since the Bali bombings took place in 2002, with over 600 of those being prosecuted and convicted in the courts in Indonesia. So we are talking about a very large group of people here in which we have a very small slice—I think 78 of them from Detachment 88 have done those training programs with us. So we are open to a very small component of what is a very large group within an even larger organisation of the Indonesian National Police.

Senator DI NATALE: I appreciate that. Small or large, it is important to establish whether—

Mr Negus : I think publicly, though, there is a perception that Detachment 88 is a small group of people who move around in one group and that is not the case, as we have—

Senator DI NATALE: I am aware of that. I think we share a view that they have done some good work in preventing terrorism in Indonesia. The concern I have is that some of the activities within segments of Detachment 88 have moved from a counter-terrorism operation to a counter-separatism operation within Papua and that may apply only to a small number of that unit. But it is still significant, particularly for the people of West Papua. So understand the basis for my questions—

Mr Negus : We are very careful and, hopefully, you are seeing that we are very careful to limit our support to those actions that are instrumental in ridding Indonesia and the region of terrorist activity and protecting Australian lives in the process.

Senator DI NATALE: Do you share a concern that some of the allegations that may be made end up being investigated by the same agencies that are essentially responsible for committing the abuses? Is that of concern to you?

Mr Negus : We do not have visibility on that. People make the same allegations against police forces, which have internal investigation units. So it is impossible for me to say what level of scrutiny should be applied to those things in a foreign country.

Mr Drennan : I did articulate again a short time ago that there are a range of oversight bodies which sit across the top of the Indonesian National Police.

Senator DI NATALE: Sure. They do not do the investigating, do they?

Mr Drennan : They certainly provide scrutiny in relation to it. Similarly here, the Ombudsman or any range of committees here in Australia have a monitoring role of what the AFP does. Certainly, if they are not happy with what we are doing, then we are held to account.

If I could just go back to the other issue you raise with regard to counter-terrorism work morphing into counter-separatist work: the INP are very clear on the fact that we support them in their counter-terrorism activities.

They do draw a very distinct difference between counter-terrorism and counter-separatism and they are fully aware that we do not and would not be involved in any counter-separatism work. On that note, we have not been involved in any activities in West Papua at all.

Senator DI NATALE: You have not been directly involved but you have trained members of Detachment 88 and we do not know what numbers are involved in West Papua and what activities they have been involved in in West Papua.

Mr Drennan : To be clear, we have trained one person from Detachment 88 who is in West Papua on a CT investigations course.

Senator DI NATALE: Of the other members, again to be clear, the total number was 702 members of Detachment 88; is that correct?

Mr Drennan : That is correct.

Senator DI NATALE: I thought you had said 11—

Mr Drennan : Eleven have undertaken training programs through JCLEC from Detachment 88 in West Papua and one of those members had attended a course that was funded by the AFP. The other 10 had attended courses that had been funded by other donor countries. Again those courses were of a similar nature.

Senator DI NATALE: In terms of the threshold test for limiting an individual’s involvement in training, at what point do we say that there is evidence against them and that we should withhold any training activities for an individual should that be brought to your attention?

Commissioner Negus : We really rely on the Indonesian National Police to select the appropriate people to come on those programs. You have to understand that we are talking about relatively small numbers of people who come and do the training. These are highly competitive programs. These are programs in which only the best people would be selected to come and who have a significant leadership future within that organisation. The level of scrutiny that is placed by the INP would be significant in that regard. In an organisation of over 400,000 police in the Indonesian National Police we are talking about fewer than a hundred who have been trained in that regard from Detachment 88. We really do rely on the Indonesian National Police. They know very well our stance on this. We have been very clear about that, in what support we can and cannot provide. I brought with us today a chart which we could table for you which lists the expenditure we have in each of those areas. It is around three hundred and something thousand dollars in direct support to them over the last few years. That is not a lot of money in the context of broader aid, but we would be more than happy to table that for the committee so you can see exactly where your money has been going and how that has actually worked.

Senator DI NATALE: Thank you, I would appreciate that. I suppose you have really come to the point that I am trying to make. Given that it is such a competitive program, it has to carry with it some degree of legitimacy. Being trained gives some measure of credibility and international legitimacy to those people who have trained, and what I am trying to establish is that we are ensuring that that legitimacy is deserved and is earned. You are telling me that the screening process is essentially done by the Indonesian National Police and that the AFP have no real role in the vetting of individual people who are going through the training program. Is that a fair analysis?

Commissioner Negus : That is right. To be realistic about this, we are talking about training delivered in Indonesia. Yes, we have supported it financially and we support some of those programs financially, but we do have to rely on and trust our partners to pick the right people to come on to our programs. They know our stance on this, they read the newspapers like everyone else does, they realise that in Australia this is a very topical issue and they are certainly aware of 7.30 and some of the other media that has been raised about this, because we have spoken with them about it personally. They are very clear on our expectations and very clear on our obligations and requirements for them to be selecting the right people to come on these programs.

The reason I had the Deputy Commissioner sit down with people who have been in Indonesia for a couple of years, worked with Detachment 88, worked on these programs, is to satisfy myself, given the media reporting, that we are doing everything that is reasonable and appropriate to ensure that we are only supporting activities that would be acceptable to the Australian community. I have done that, and I am satisfied, given what has been told to me and given what we have told to you today, that we are taking significant precautions to make sure that the Australian community is not tantamount to funding anything which would be unacceptable in this country. I go back to 775 arrests for counter-terrorism matters, 600 people prosecuted and convicted in Indonesian courts for terrorism related offences, which, as I said, have saved Australian lives. There are over 900,000 people who go to Bali each year and after being there last week, seeing the memorial and the surviving victims of the Bali bombings, I think that some of the work that has been done in Indonesia by the Indonesian National Police needs to be recognised.

Yes, we need to be very careful about where the funding is going, but I think that we also need to recognise the terrific work that has been done across the board in protecting Indonesians and Australians from future attack.

Sena tor DI NATALE: I recognise that and, as I said previously, I understand the important work that has been done in counterterrorism. But I have also seen the number of people who have died in West Papua, the people who during the recent national congress were arrested, a number of whom were killed and a number of whom were imprisoned. There were very clear reports that the Indonesian forces and members of Detachment 88 were involved in that, and it is for that reason that I am asking you these questions. I appreciate what you are saying about the role that they have played in terms of terrorism and I share the view that they have done some very important work. But I do not think you can use that and ignore what is happening in West Papua at the moment and the fact that there are very credible reports—not just in the media but by a number of human rights monitors with very credible allegations: interviews with victims, eyewitnesses of incidents and so on—which have implicated members of the Indonesian police force in some of those unlawful activities. I think it is worthy of ensuring that the work that we are doing through our training activities is not contributing to that, and it is for that reason I ask those questions.

Mr Negus : I understand that. All I am saying is that I hope we have been able to give the committee some confidence that the appropriate level of scrutiny is being applied by the senior executive of the AFP, including personally by me, to ensure that that is not the case.

Senator DI NATALE : Okay, thank you. I have one final question. If a specific allegation against an individual were made, would the AFP have any role in following that up, or are you saying that you would leave it entirely up to the Indonesian National Police?

Mr Negus : The issue of jurisdiction becomes central to all of this, and we would not have any jurisdiction to investigate that matter. We would report it to the appropriate authorities in Indonesia. We may well report it to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade if it related to activities of a certain type, but the jurisdiction is within Indonesia to settle its own affairs, and we would just ensure that that information was passed through.

Senator DI NATALE: But we are funding the training activities that are going on, so my question relates specifically to individuals who may have benefitted from that training. Would that cause some concern to reconsider?

Mr Negus : It is a hypothetical question, but I can tell you that if there were ever any taint of anyone we had trained being involved in inappropriate activity, we would certainly have to review the level of support that we would provide.

Senator DI NATALE: Okay.

Mr Negus : And that is clearly evident to the Indonesians as we speak.

Senator DI NAT ALE: Thank you for that assurance and thanks for your time today.

An Indonesian War of ‘Unknown Persons’


Published: August 26, 2011

JAKARTA — It is a seemingly unending conflict in a part of the world famous for both its awesome remoteness and the incredible wealth on and beneath the ground.

For half a century, Indonesian troops and police officers have fought a shadowy and sporadic war in the vast forests and highlands of Papua, as the western end of New Guinea is known, after taking control of the former Dutch colony in the 1960s. It is a long-running conflict that is poorly understood by even those involved.

On one level, the fight is between security forces and ragtag groups of indigenous separatists, armed with guns, spears and arrows.

Sometimes, it is alleged, it is factions of the security forces fighting among themselves, drawn into competition over the ill-gotten spoils of a region of vast natural resources, including some of the world’s richest mines. Often, official references to those doing the killing go no further than “unknown persons,” leaving their identity — agents provocateurs, business rivals or guerrillas — the stuff of conspiracy theories.

But after an outburst of violence in recent months that has killed dozens, Indonesia is coming under renewed calls to solve a conflict, replete with economic misery and human rights abuses, that has tainted the country’s image as an emerging democratic giant.

A report this week by the International Crisis Group, an independent research organization, is the latest in a series of calls by civil society groups for a renewed dialogue between Papuans, who are ethnically distinct from other Indonesians and many of whom favor independence, and officials in Jakarta, who see the region as an inviolable part of Indonesia.

At issue are special autonomy arrangements put in place a decade ago by the administration of former President Megawati Sukarnoputri to head off renewed calls for independence following the 1998 fall of the Suharto dictatorship. Suharto ruled Papua with an iron fist while making billions for Jakarta from its natural wealth.

Special autonomy devolved some power to Papuans and saw the creation of local governments and the pumping of huge sums of money back into the region. The government also, controversially, split Papua into two separate provinces, Papua and West Papua.

But the report argues that special autonomy has so far failed to solve the roots of the conflict. Deep poverty persists, as does chronic corruption.

Non-Papuan migrants from other parts of Indonesia dominate the economy.

And, importantly, there remains a sense among Papuans that Indonesian security forces remain a law unto themselves, killing and torturing with near impunity.

“The government of President Yudhoyono, on Papua as on everything else, has been glacially slow to develop a policy that would be different from the default response of throwing cash at the problem and hoping it will go away,” the report by the crisis group said.

While democratic Indonesia has made huge strides in solving bloody wars of separatism and intercommunal conflict in provinces like Aceh and Maluku, Papua has stood out as a weeping sore.

Recent violence exposes the complexity of the conflict. The past two months have seen a rash of attacks in the highland district of Puncak Jaya, one of the poorest and remotest areas of Indonesia and a hot spot for a local insurgency led by a faction of the separatist Free Papua Movement, or TPN-OPM.

This month, a helicopter carrying a shot and dying soldier was hit by rebel bullets in the region and, last week, a motorcycle taxi driver was shot and killed in the district capital by “unknown persons,” said Lt. Col. Alex Korwa, the local police chief.

Over the hills, in Puncak, another district created as part of the government’s special autonomy plan, fighting between indigenous clans over control of the local government left 17 dead in late July.

This month, five people, including two soldiers, were killed in separate incidents near Jayapura, the capital of Papua Province. A series of other gunfights and stabbings have continued throughout Papua over this period.

The authorities have, mostly, pointed the finger at the TPN-OPM for the deadliest of the Jayapura attacks, an ambush in which four people were killed. But Papuan independence campaigners assert that elements of the security forces, or their clients, are behind many such attacks.

“These attacks I think have been carried out either by militias, or the military themselves, as violence to create an atmosphere of fear,” said Benny Giay, a pastor in the Gospel Tabernacle Church. The commander of military forces in Papua, Maj. Gen. Erfi Triassunu, said the attack near Jayapura was “purely the TPN-OPM.”

Mr. Giay also alleged that a Papuan farmer, Das Komba, was abducted and killed by soldiers near the border with Papua New Guinea on Friday, but the police and military have so far not commented on the case.

Cases in which members of the security forces received light sentences for the torture and murder of civilians have caused outrage in recent months, but the crisis group argues in its report that the fact such trials exist at all is a step forward.

With Papua thousands of kilometers from Jakarta, and tightly sealed from foreign journalists and many rights groups, it is difficult to confirm independently claims and counterclaims about much of the violence. For those on the ground, too, many attacks remain mysterious.

“How can we trust the police or the military if there are no perpetrators, if no one gets caught?” asked Latifah Anum Siregar, the director of the Democracy Alliance for Papua, a human rights group.

“Police will send out 200, 300 people on a sweep, but they won’t get anyone.”

One senior police officer who has had command roles in Papua’s hot spots said that even he was often uncertain who exactly was behind attacks — rebels or rogue soldiers. “We weren’t sure,” said the officer, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the subject. “Every time we got a glance of the shooter, they always disappeared really quickly into the jungle.”

Realizing the drawbacks of special autonomy, the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has pledged to put together a temporary body, called the Unit for the Acceleration of Development in Papua and West Papua, to seek solutions to corruption, poverty and rights abuses in the region, but its formation has been delayed.

“There’s a lot of mistrust by the people in Papua, both towards the government in Jakarta and their own regional governments,” said Dewi Fortuna Anwar, a political science professor at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences who is involved in setting up the body.

But building trust may take more than building schools. Many Papuans remain fiercely committed to independence, arguing that the process by which Indonesia achieved sovereignty over Papua in 1969 — a vote by 1,025 Papuan elders handpicked by the Indonesian authorities — was flawed.

Indonesia is similarly inflexible. Simply unfurling the region’s Morning Star independence flag can be considered subversion, a crime punishable by up to 20 years or life in prison. About two dozen people are in jail or awaiting trial in Papua on subversion charges, according to Human Rights Watch.

Amid violence earlier this month, thousands of people protested in Papuan towns and cities to demand a referendum on independence. The political affairs minister, Djoko Suyanto, was firm in his response. “Papua is a part of the unitary republic of Indonesia,” he said. “That is what we must maintain.”

Comments on ICGs Hope and Hard Reality in Papua:

Comments on

Hope and Hard Reality in PapuaAn Update Briefing on the conflict in West Papua by the International Crisis Group (22 August 2011)

(ICG full PDF report available at: )

Jason MacLeod 23 August 2011




The recent ICG report into conflict in West Papua, Hope and Hard Reality in Papua highlights the growing strength of the civilian based movement in Papua. It also points to contradictory developments. On the one hand there is an opening of political space, illustrated by the fact that the conference happened at all and that no topic was off the table. On the other hand, the report details ongoing violence in Puncak Jaya, demonstrating that the presence of the security forces only exacerbates violence as well as highlighting the enduring appeal of armed struggle by a small and hardcore group of Papuans. Hope and Hard Reality in Papua also outlines 44 “indicators of peace” developed during the conference. While still partial these indicators give tangible content to Papuan aspirations for freedom. This content echoes many of the demands made by Papuan youth, student, women’s groups, farmers, pastors, and Adat groups in recent years. Indicators like the “freedom of expression” and “the release of all political prisoners” bring into sharp focus the fact that Papua still remains an nondemocratic enclave of the Republic of Indonesia.


Summary of the report

The recent ICG report on West Papua, Hope and Hard Reality is structured in three sections: the peace conference held in Jayapura in early July 2011; an analysis of the recent spike in violence in the remote and rugged Puncak Jaya district in the highlands of West Papua; and, an evaluation of the extent to which a series of indicators developed during the peace conference could be used to resolve the conflict in Puncak Jaya. The report underscores a key policy recommendation currently sitting on the Cabinet Secretary desk – that the long-delayed new Unit to accelerate development in Papua, Unit Percepatan Pembangunan di Papua dan Papua Barat, known by its Indonesian acronym as UP4B, include a mandate to address political as well economic issues.

The report underscores an opportunity and threat. The opportunity is that there are some key high-level Indonesian allies, including advisors to the Indonesian government and a former Indonesian military officer, who understand that a political as well as economic solution to Papua’s problems is needed. The threat is two-fold. The first is that security operations continue in Papua. This is despite an extraordinary admission by Major-General (Ret.) TB Hassunuddin, deputy head of the Indonesian Government’s parliamentary Commission 1 responsible for security affairs, that all current operations to “hunt down OPM leaders are … illegal”. According to Hasunuddin this is because they do not carry the consent of parliament as stipulated by Law 34/2004 on the Indonesian Armed Forces. The General’s comments illustrate the lack of political will in Jakarta to rein-in the security forces in Papua. This last point relates to the second threat, summarised in the ICG report as “Jakarta’s indifference to indigenous Papuan concerns”.

The Papua Peace Conference and indicators of a peaceful Papua developed during the Conference

The Peace Conference was organised by the Jaringan Damai Papua or Papua Peace Network, a group organised by Dr. Neles Tebay or Pater (Father) Neles Tebay as he is known, and Muridan Widjojo, an Indonesian scholar with the Indonesian Institution of Sciences (LIPI) who was the editor of the Papua Road Map published in 2009. Tebay and Widjojo were previously involved in separate dialogue initiatives but have now decided to combine their efforts. The JDP itself is made up of key individuals, all members of different Papuan civil society groups, but attending as individuals not as representatives of their group or organisation. Both migrants and indigenous Papuans are members.

For me, three things stand out about the conference and the ICG’s summary report on the conference.

The first is that it happened at all. It was neither prevented from occurring by the military nor disrupted by protests. It was also attended by a senior minister of the Yudhuyono’s government, Djoko Sujanto, the Coordinating Minister for Politics and Law, and twenty senior bureaucrats from the various ministries that Sujanto coordinates. This in itself is a sign, albeit a small one, that the Indonesian president may be paying more attention to Papua.

Second, the conference clearly underscored Papuans desire for independence. This can be seen in the final declaration of the conference which outlined a criterion for negotiators and nominated five Papuan Diaspora negotiators, all from the Pro-Independence camp, as well as from an incident during the conference itself. When the Provincial Army Chief of Staff, Erfi Triassunu got up to speak he invited the participants – who were virtually all Papuans – to chant “Papua damai” (Peaceful Papua). Instead the crowd responded as one: “Papua Merdeka!” (Free Papua!). Perhaps not the response the General anticipated.

Third, although the report does not dwell on this, it does suggest that there are still key sectors of the Papuan population that are still not actively engaged in the struggle. These are Papuan politicians, the civil service (who the report acknowledges are engaging in a kind of passive noncooperation illustrated by the fact that in Puncak Jaya for instance, only 30 or an approximate 2000 strong workforce even show up for work); workers, particularly those in the resource extractive industries; and members of church congregations.

Fourth, and this is the most significant in my view, is that the conference produced a list of indicators of a peaceful Papua. Together these indicators are the clearest articulation of the “contents” of a New Papua that we have ever seen. Not only do they constitute a vision of tomorrow they may have important implications for the civil resistance movement. The ICG report argues that the indicators could be used to formulate policy direction for the central and provincial governments. The word “indicators” reflects the language of government and aid and development donors. However, many of the indicators mirror (and in some cases refine) an emerging set of campaign objectives that civil resistance leaders might organise around. In some cases, such as freeing political prisoners, Papuans they are already organising for change. Papuan activists could well use the “indicators” to pursue, and even set, the agenda for change.


Armed Struggle

The report also devotes significant attention to violent insurgency in the Puncak Jaya region by one of the few active units of the TPN-PB (Tentara Pembebasan Nasional di Papua Barat or the West Papuan National Liberation Army). Five things are worth highlighting from the report. First, Papuan guerrillas in Puncak Jaya, and elsewhere in West Papua are poorly armed. The report estimates that Goliat Tabuni’s group in Puncak Jaya has about 30 guns. This reflects the assessment of the armed struggle contained in the recently released Kopassus (Indonesian Special Forces) document leaked by the Sydney Morning Herald. Second, there are very low levels of participation in the armed struggle. Although virtually the entire indigenous population of Puncak Jaya has kinship connections with the TPN there are only a handful of active members. Third, the violence is not just one-sided or in response to Indonesian military attacks. Tabuni and his men, and in some cases other aspiring commanders also initiate attacks on the Indonesian military, not in direct response to Military violence, but to increase their own reputation and prestige.  Fourth, Tabuni’s group itself is split into three leadership groups which are sometimes compete and clash with one another. This reflects the fractious state of the TPN elsewhere in Papua.  Finally, the ICG report makes it very clear that violence in Puncak Jaya, some of which is also linked to inter-clan competition, is exacerbated by the presence of the security forces.

Theories of Change

Although it is not picked up in the report, Hope and Hard Reality in Papua underscores a battle of ideas underway in Papua. This discussion is essentially about how change (freedom) will be won. It is less a contest between armed struggle and peaceful ways of resolving the conflict. Despite the spike in violence (most of which was perpetrated by the security forces) there is little popular support for armed struggle. The contest is mostly between and within proponents of two different competing theories of change: those who believe dialogue, negotiation or other conventional political processes will secure Papuan aspirations for freedom and those who advocate mass mobilisation or civil resistance. The majority of Papuans still invest in the hope that conventional political processes – either diplomacy (by Papuan representatives of various resistance groups), an inclusive dialogue process of the kind envisioned by Tebay/Widjojo and the JDP, or a legal challenge to Indonesian government sovereignty in Papua – will be able to resolve the conflict. I don’t think there is any real indication that these acts of persuasion will compel Jakarta to sit at the table.

On the civil resistance side are Papuans who argue that a conventional political process is naïve. This group claims that Jakarta will only make key concessions when they are compelled to do through mass nonviolent disruptions that raise the political and economic costs of the status quo. Within the civil resistance camp there is also a subtle difference between those whose methods are based around street protests and those who are seeking to organise a much broader base and support them to be active through a much more diverse range of nonviolent tactics than demonstrations.

The fact that KNPB (Komite Nasional Papua Barat or the West Papua National Committee) organised a demonstration attended by thousands on 2 August in support of an conference about a legal challenge to the Act of Free Choice that was happening in Oxford at the same time, shows that there is growing understanding that a conventional political strategy needs a mass movement. Although, there are still widely held unrealistic expectations that dialogue and/or a legal strategy will bring about independence in the near future.

Then there is also tension around goals. The radical student and youth groups, WPNA (West Papua National Authority) and KNPB, as well as Benny Wenda in London (who heads up the International Lawyers for West Papua, the group who is spearheading the legal challenge) are pushing for a referendum. They see the JDP and calls for peaceful dialogue in opposition to the demand for a referendum. Despite these real differences and tensions the report (and recent events inside Papua) suggest that there is growing recognition that a mass movement and dialogue are not incompatible. Some are starting to say that civil resistance helps creates the conditions for dialogue. In fact the report seems to suggest that last year’s occupation of the Provincial Parliament in Jayapura helped widen the proposed mandate of the UP4B.


The ICG report also demonstrates that there are is a small but influential group of allies inside Indonesia who while not countenancing independence for Papua, do support real and significant political changes. In addition the report mentions but does not dwell on the fact that there are key non-Papuans inside Papua (who are members of the JDP) that support Papuan political goals.


The report illustrates the growing maturity of the civilian based movement inside Papua. The development of 44 indicators of a peaceful Papua around the themes of politics, law and human rights, economics and environment, security, and social-cultural rights all point to a closer linkage between civil resistance and conflict resolution approaches to change in Papua. The belief that civil resistance is not in conflict with but rather supports dialogue was made by Chris Waranussy, a prominent human rights lawyer in Papua. The most significant thing about the recent peace conference in Jayapura is that it has supported Papuans to more fully articulate the contents of freedom. It also underscores the mainstream Papuan desire for independence. In this sense the gulf between different positions in Jakarta and Jayapura, and the different perceptions of the problems in Papua, remains wide. A fact illustrated by what is going on in Puncak Jaya and the Indonesian military’s response.

West Papua Report August 2010

West Papua Report
August 2010

This is the 74th in a series of monthly reports that focus on developments affecting Papuans. This series is produced by the
non-profit West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) drawing on media accounts, other NGO assessments, and analysis and reporting from sources within West Papua. Beginning with this edition the West Papua Report will include a Bahasa Indonesia translation of the summary and subject titles. This report is co-published with the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) Back issues are posted online at

Questions regarding this report can be addressed to Edmund McWilliams at

Fifty members of the U.S. Congress, under the leadership of House Foreign Affairs sub-committee chairs Faleomavaega and
Payne, have written to President Obama to express their deep concern about West Papua, noting indications of Indonesian
“slow-motion genocide” against Papuans. The Representatives strongly urged President Obama to give West Papua a high
priority in U.S. policy towards Indonesia and also called on him to meet with Papuans in his scheduled November visit to
Indonesia. The Obama Administration has announced it will open contact with the infamous Indonesian Special Forces (Kopassus), notwithstanding a decade old Congressional consensus against ties with that group unless and until that unit undergoes fundamental reforms. Papuan Political Prisoner Filep Karma told international media that U.S. support for Kopassus would only increase that units capacity to repress Papuans. An International Court of Justice opinion granting Kosovo the right to declare its independence would appear to have implications for Papuans pursuit of self-determination. Indonesian analysts assess that Indonesian central government unwillingness to dialogue with Papuans inevitably leads Jakarta to resort to its repressive “security approach.” Reports of abuse of Papuan prisoners in Indonesian prisons by their Indonesian guards continue. The Indonesian Seafarers Association has revealed Navy and Fisheries Ministry collusion with foreign fishing vessels illegally fishing in Papuan waters. The report also notes the role of foreign fishermen in the transmission of HIV/AIDS in Papuan ports of call.


• Fifty Members of U.S. Congress Write to President Obama over “Strong Indications” of Indonesian Genocide in West Papua

• U.S. Government Resumes Collaboration with Military Unit Long Associated with Human Rights Abuse in West Papua

• International Court of Justice Ruling of Kosovo Independence May Have Relevance for West Papua

• Jakarta’s Unwillingness to Dialogue with Papuans Endangers Peaceful Resolution of Papuan Claims

• More Reports of Prisoner Abuse in West Papua

• Indonesian Navy and Fisheries Ministry Collude with Illegal Foreign Fishing Vessels

Fifty Members of U.S. Congress Write to President Obama over “Strong Indications” of Indonesian Genocide in West Papua

The Chairs of the U.S. Congressional Subcommittees on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment, Rep. Eni F.H. Faleomavaega, and Chairman Donald M. Payne of the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health have spearheaded an effort in Congress calling upon President Obama to “make West Papua one of the highest priorities of the Administration.”

As a result of their efforts, 50 members of the U.S. Congress signed a letter to the President stating that there is strong
indication that the Indonesian government is committing genocide against Papuans. Many of those who signed the letter are members of the Congressional Black Caucus. The signatories include men and women who fought for civil rights in America in the 1960s. In addition to the Congressional Black Caucus, many others who are long-time advocates of human rights joined this request to the President of the United States, including members of the Hispanic Caucus. The last remaining member of the Kennedy family in Congress, Rep. Patrick Kennedy from Rhode Island, also joined the letter to President Obama.

An August 1 press release from Representative Faleomavaega’s office notes that the letter to the President “suggests that slow motion genocide has been taking place in West Papua and reviews findings by human rights organizations and scholars who have conducted extensive research about crimes against humanity and genocide by Indonesian security forces.”

The press release also observes that “according to international agreements, other nations are legally obligated to intervene
when a genocide is in process and Members of Congress remain hopeful that President Obama and the U.S. State Department will hold Indonesia accountable.”

Members concluded their letter by encouraging the President to meet with the Team of 100 from West Papua during his upcoming visit, noting that President Obama has the opportunity to bring lasting change to this part of the world. While Papuan leaders have repeatedly tried to engage in dialogue with the Indonesian government, dialogues have failed to produce concrete results and Papuan leaders are now calling for an International Dialogue. In this context, signatories of the letter have asked President Obama to meet with the people of West Papua during his upcoming trip to Indonesia in November.

U.S. Government Resumes Collaboration with Military Unit Long Associated with Human Rights Abuse in West Papua

The U.S. government announced that it is resuming contact withthe Indonesian Special Forces (Kopassus). U.S. Secretary of
Gates, visiting Jakarta July 22, announced the decision with
caveats, noting that the resumption of contact would proceed “in
accordance with U.S. law, only on the basis of future reforms
within Kopassus.” Specifically, Gates told media that the U.S.
would undertake a “gradual, limited program of security
cooperation activities,” conditioned on “continued reform” (sic)
within Kopassus and the TNI. According to Gates, the engagement
“may be initially limited to including Kopassus officials in
“conferences and events involving non-lethal subjects like rule
of law, human rights and the military decision-making process.”

According to the 2001 Leahy Law, the the U.S. Administration can
not proceed beyond contact/consultations to actually resuming
training and weapons funding for Kopassus absent Indonesian
government action to ensure justice in any cases of “gross
violations of human rights” involving Kopassus personnel (past,
current or future). In the language of the law, “If the
Secretary of State has credible evidence that such unit has
committed gross violations” the U.S. Government is disallowed
from expending funds unless “the Secretary determines and
reports to the Committees on Appropriations that the government
of such country is taking effective measures to bring the
responsible members of the security forces unit to justice.”

Sign the petition opposing U.S. cooperation with Kopassus

The career fates of a number of prominent and not so prominent
Kopassus officers with credible claims of human rights
violations in their records have been and continue to be the
focus of much debate in Washington regarding U.S. aid to
Kopassus. In recent months the U.S. has quietly pressed for the
Indonesian government to scrub abusive officers from Kopassus’s

One of the Kopassus officers upon the policy debate has focused
is Lt. Col, Tri Hartomo who was convicted in 2003 of the
“torture murder” of Papuan political leader Theys Eluay. Hartomo
was sentenced to 42 months in prison. That sentence, and even
shorter sentences handed down against the other six Kopassus
personnel convicted in the case, pale beside those handed out to
Papuans for nonviolent crimes such as displaying the Papuan
“morningstar flag.” Moreover, Hartomo upon release returned to
Kopassus ranks. General Sjafried Sjamsuddin, appointed deputy
Defense Minister earlier this year, is a Kopassus officer
similarly charged with egregious human rights abuses, notably in
East Timor. The U.S. administration’s casual claim that the
general was “only implicated’ and not “convicted” of numerous
human rights abuses begs the broader reality that Sjamsuddin,
like so many other senior Kopassus and TNI officers, has managed
to evade any trial for his behavior in Indonesia’s flawed
justice system. The U.S. administration’s willingness to look
the other way regarding Sjamsuddin contrasts with its decision
in September 2009 to deny Sjamsuddin a visa to visit the U.S.

The U.S. Administration’s decision to move forward to resume
ties to Kopassus notwithstanding its insubstantial reforms has
particular relevance for West Papua. Twenty percent of
Kopassus’s 5,000 personnel are stationed in West Papua. Human
Rights Watch, in a June 2009 report, documented continued
Kopassus human rights abuse targeting Papuans in the Merauke
area. Political Prisoner Filep Karma, convicted of non-violent
protest in 2001 and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment, told
media in late July that U.S. assistance to Kopassus would simply
increase the capacity of that unit to torture and kill Papuans.


• ETAN Condemns U.S. Plan to Get Back in Bed with Indonesia’s
Kopassus Killers

• WPAT: Statement Regarding the U.S. Government’s Decision to
Resume Cooperation with Indonesian Special Forces (Kopassus)

International Court of Justice Ruling of Kosovo Independence May
Have Relevance for West Papua

The International Court of Justice ruled, July 22, 2010, that
the Kosovo 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia did not
violate international law. The decision flowed from the
submission of a question by the government of Serbia to the ICJ
which won the support of 77 members of the UN General Assembly
(including Indonesia). That initiative sought (unsuccessfully)
to secure an ICJ ruling that the Kosovo declaration was illegal
under international law.

The ICJ decision has drawn broad international comment, much of
it arising from the prospect that other cases involving
secessionist movements might be advanced by this “Kosovo
precedent.” The Kosovo case was the first case of unilateral
secession to be brought before the ICJ.

Thus far, there has been no systematic attempt to apply the ICJ
decision to the case of West Papua. Nevertheless, several
principles established within the ICJ decision may apply to the
call by some Papuan organizations and individuals for a Papuan
“right to self-determination.” These include the ICJ’s
acceptance of the presumption in international law that civil
and human rights, including the rights of minorities, should be
protected. A Dutch government submission to the ICJ in the
Kosovo case, for example, would appear to be relevant to the
West Papua circumstance: “The people of Kosovo had the right to
self-determination and secession from Serbia because the
Belgrade authorities systematically violated civil and human
rights of Albanians for years. International law thus allows the
proclamation of Kosovo’s independence.” The violation of Papuan
civil and human rights is well-established including by reports
of UN special rapporteurs, various governments (including annual
reports by the U.S. State Department) and respected
international NGOs and journalists.

A second principle established by the July 22 ICJ ruling of
possible relevance to West Papua addresses the “right to
self-determination” itself which the ICJ earlier found in the
case of East Timor to be jus cogens, a fundamental principle of
law accepted by the international community, and that this right
extends to all peoples, not only those emerging from a colonial
context. The right is also enshrined in Article 1 of the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Indonesian is a party to both covenants.

Jakarta’s Unwillingness to Dialogue with Papuans Endangers
Peaceful Resolution of Papuan Claims

The Jakarta media in July reported on the deteriorating
prospects for peaceful settlement of a rising tide of Papuan
discontent over the failure of “special autonomy” in West Papua.
The July 29 Jakarta Post carried a report by Max Sijabat which
emphasized that efforts to address “long-standing problems” were
in “limbo” due to an absence of dialogue. Analysts cited in the
report drew special attention to the June 9-10 consultation in
Jayapura among 450 leading Papuans (see July 2010 West Papua
Report ) who urged among other things, formal rejection of
“Special Autonomy.” The report cited leading Papuan civil
society figure Benny Giay as noting that the consultation that
Special Autonomy funds “only enriched local elites, while most
indigenous people have been marginalized by immigrants or remain
isolated in the jungle.”

Statistics revealed by consultation participants underscored the
extent to which Papuans remain marginalized in their own lands:
Poverty among Papuans stands at over 81 percent while 70 percent
of residents with HIV/AIDS In West Papua are indigenous Papuans.
Underscoring Giay’s point regarding failure of special autonomy
to address Papuan needs, the consultation revealed that 95
percent of local budget funds “are spent outside Papua.”

According to the Jakarta Post, Agus Alua, spokesman for the
Papuan Peoples Consul (MRP), noted that Jakarta has declined to
draft regulations that would allow the Papuan MRP and the
provincial legislature to issue regulations, including
affirmative action for indigenous people and the settlement of
human rights abuses.

Muridan S. Widjojo of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences
(LIPI), who was assigned by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
in 2005 to identify the most serious problems in Papua, spoke
candidly about the current situation. He told the Jakarta Post
that the Indonesian Government “should learn from now
independent Timor-Leste and the peace talks ending the war with
separatists in Aceh. In Timor Leste, he said, “we relied too
much on the Indonesian Military and the National Intelligence

As in the Suharto era, Jakarta has relied heavily on the
“security approach” to address Papuan discontent and, also as in
the Suharto era, has sought to hide the resultant suffering of
the Papuans behind a a curtain of restrictions that impede or
bar journalists and others from covering developments in West

A July 27 Jakarta Post article, authored by prominent Papuan
religious leader Father Neles Tebay, argued that the symbolic
action of handing back the Special Autonomy law would complicate
an already difficult situation for the government, specifically
in its diplomatic efforts to convince the international
community that the autonomy law is fully implemented and has
improved Papuan prosperity.

More Reports of Prisoner Abuse in West Papua

The Jakarta Globe on July 12 carried a detailed report of a July
11 prisoner “riot” in Abepura prison. The violence reportedly
erupted after prison guards beat another inmate and stole his

The report comments that “Abepura Penitentiary has a wretched
security record, with mass breakouts occurring regularly at the
facility. In May, 18 inmates escaped during a protest by
correctional guards over the sacking of then chief warden
Antonius Ayorbaba.

In June, 26 prisoners broke out by scaling down a prison wall
using a rope strung together with bed sheets. Only two inmates
have been recaptured.

“Several correctional guards refuse to cooperate with the new
warden, leading to gross derelictions of duty that have left
security at the penitentiary in an appalling state,” Nazaruddin
said after the June breakout.

Separate reporting of prisoner beatings, failure to provide
adequate medical care are common. A UN Special Rapporteur in
2007 detailed systematic abuse of prisoners. More recent
reporting by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and
others have reconfirmed those findings.

A resolution addressing the detention of Papuan political
prisoners is currently gaining co-sponsors in the U.S. Congress.

Indonesian Navy and Fisheries Ministry Collude with Illegal
Foreign Fishing Vessels

Papuans and foreign observers have long been critical of the
Indonesian government for failing to protect Papuan forest
resources which have been exploited, often illegally, with no
attempt by security forces to protect those resources. There are
many well documented reports of security force collaboration
with those involved in the illegal exploitation.

Recent studies by the Indonesian Seafarers Association (KPI),
reported in the July 28 Jakarta Post, document security force
failure to protect Papuan sea resources as well. The KPI study
revealed that although the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries
Ministry had stopped issuing permits to foreign fishing vessels,
thousands were still freely operating. The foreign vessels,
mostly from the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand, fish
illegally with impunity due to the failure of the Indonesian
Navy and Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry ships to
protect Indonesian waters. Instead, “many Navy and Ministry
ships regularly patrol the waters – not to catch illegal fishing
vessels but to extort money from them,” according to KPI
chairman Hanafi Rustandi.

The Seafarers study also revealed that the government’s failure
to control the operation of foreign fishing vessels, contributed
to an increase in cases of HIV/AIDS in the country’s eastern
regions of Papua and Maluku. The KPI study revealed that the
highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS cases are in two fishing ports in
Maluku and in and Papua’s coastal regencies, including Merauke,
Mimika and Fakfak.

KPI Chairman Rustandi noted that foreign ships cost Indonesia
dearly in terms of fish, and have caused incalculable damage in
terms of facilitating the spread of HIV/AIDS in the region.

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: