Violent Tactics Backfire In Papua

1 Nov 2011

By Alex Rayfield


The tough response of the Indonesia armed forces to the Third Papuan People’s congress has strengthened calls for freedom. NM’s West Papua correspondent Alex Rayfield reviews the fallout

If the Indonesian police and military thought shooting live ammunition into a mass gathering of unarmed Papuans would somehow dampen dissent and endear them to Jakarta’s continued rule, they were mistaken. Indiscriminate repression meted out against those gathered at the Third Papuan People’s congress is showing signs of having the opposite effect: widening the circle of dissent inside West Papua and igniting international support outside.

First the Indonesian military and police denied they shot dead peaceful protesters. But that was too difficult to sustain. New Matilda received text messages as soon as the shooting started which were followed by urgent phone calls. Gunfire could be heard in the background.

When it became clear that covering up the shooting would not wash, the Indonesian Chief of Army in West Papua, Erfi Triassunu, admitted opening fire but claimed his troops only fired warning shots. He insisted no one had been hurt. Some of the international media bought the story. With foreign journalists banned from West Papua, some media outlets went to the police and military for confirmation. This is in spite of the fact that West Papua Media, with their extensive network of citizen journalists and local stringers, broke the story, verified it and began filing reports about what happened within a few hours.

A few hours after the shooting, the Indonesian police in West Papua were telling journalists in Jakarta that an attempted coup d’état had taken place and that police had used force to defend the state. The Jayapura Chief of Police, Imam Setiawan, even went as far as saying that members of the Papuan Liberation Army had attacked the Congress.

Setiawan took this line again on Thursday 20 October. In an interview with Bintang Papua, a local Papuan daily, he outlined how he thought police should respond to a gathering of unarmed Papuans expressing their political opinion: “Whoever supports separatism or subversion activity, I will do the same as yesterday. I’ll finish them.”

The language used by Setiawan echoed hard-line nationalists in Jakarta. It follows a deadly trajectory. Cast the Papuans in the worst possible light. Label them as “separatists” — which in Indonesia is the worst kind of criminal, someone who is treasonous, dangerous and violent. From here it was only a short step to imply that those at the Third People’s Congress were using violence to try and seize control of the state. This narrative makes it sound like the police and military were taking evasive action to stop the Papuans storming the Bastille of Indonesian rule. This is pure fantasy.

Initially it was reported that police and the military raided the stage after Forkorus Yaboisembut and Edison Waromi (appointed as President and Prime Minister of the Federal State of West Papua respectively) declared independence. We now know that the attack did not happen until well after the three-day gathering had finished.

After the Declaration of Independence was read around 2.00pm local time, the Congress concluded. The leadership — Yaboisembut, Waromi, Dominikus Surabut, Helena Matuan and a few others left the field to rest in the nearby Sang Surya Catholic Friary in the grounds of the Fajar Timur Theological College where the Congress was being held. Those remaining on Taboria oval (Zaccheus Field) danced the Yospan, a traditional Papuan group dance.

The festivities continued for around 60-90 minutes. We don’t know exactly what the police, military and Brimob soldiers were doing between the time the Declaration was read out and the time the shooting started. Presumably they were discussing what to do. Most likely they consulted commanding officers locally and in Jakarta.

According to Yan Christian Waranussy, a prominent Papuan human rights lawyer, members of the security forces under the command of Police Chief Imam Setiawan arrested Edison Waromi as he drove out of the Fajar Timur grounds on Yakonde Street. Waranussy reports that the police pulled people out of the vehicle and started beating them before pushing them into a police van. Following the arrest of Waromi, Waranussy says the security forces starting firing their weapons into the crowd.

This occurred at around 3.30pm. One of the first killed was 25-year-old Daniel Kadepa, a student at Umel Mandiri Law School. According to those who knew him, Kapeda did not even attend the Congress. He was passing by when the security forces opened fire. Witnesses said that he died from gunshot wounds to the head and back after soldiers fired on him as he was running away.

Video footage obtained by EngageMedia and published by New Matilda shows people hiding in nearby buildings just after the police and military opened fire. In the background you can hear shooting. This is not automatic gunfire. They are single shots. Then there is a pause, followed by more shots. It is as if the shooter is walking around picking people off. There is very little background noise. No screaming or yelling, just an eerie silence … and gunshots.

According to Catholic clergy who witnessed the event, the police, Indonesian military and the the paramilitary Mobile Police Brigade continued discharging their weapons for approximately 25 minutes.

Eyewitnesses report that when the shooting started, Yaboisembut and Surabut were talking and relaxing in the Sang Surya Friary, a few metres from the oval. Then bullets smashed through the window. According to statements obtained by New Matilda people immediately hit the ground and began crawling to safety as the police indiscriminately fired live ammunition and canisters of tear gas into the buildings surrounding the oval.

According to statements obtained by New Matilda, police, military and Brimob personnel ransacked student dormitories, clergy residences and offices. One witness reported an Indonesian security officer yelling “Where are those idiot priests? Why do priests hide criminals?”

Those present also reported security personal using combat knives or bayonets and beating people with truncheons and rifles. At least 300 people were arrested and taken away in army and police trucks where they were detained overnight in the tennis courts at the police station.

We now know that three people were shot dead that day. They are Daniel Kapeda, Max Asa Yeuw, and Yakobus Samansabra. Two others, Matias Maidepa and Yacop Sabonsaba, were allegedly found dead behind the military headquarters in Abepura. According to the Indonesian military sources quoted in the local Papuan press, the victims had been stabbed. In addition, members of the Organising Committee of the Third Papuan Congress allege four other people died, all from gunshot wounds, two from Sorong and two from Wamena.

Six people are still in detention charged with rebellion. According to family members they have all been badly beaten. According to Human Rights Watch and KONTRAS Indonesia (the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence) those still in detention are:

• Forkorus Yaboisembut, chairman of the Papua Customary Council, probably the most prominent pro-independence leader in Papua. When New Matilda interviewed him in West Papua in 2010 and again in 2011 he was regularly receiving death threats. A few people had even come forward and told the local press that they were offered new motorbikes and other inducements if they would help orchestrate a fatal “accident”.

• Edison Waromi, president of the West Papua National Authority. Edison Waromi’s daughter, Yane, was kidnapped and assaulted by the security forces in 2008.

• Dominikus Surabut, secretary of the Papuan Customary Council in La Pago region.

• Selpius Bobii, a social media activist, who organised the Papuan Congress. He initially eluded the police crackdown, but surrendered to police on October 20, accompanied by his lawyers and a Papuan journalist.

• August M. Sananay of the West Papua National Authority.

• Gat Wanda, a member of PETAPA (Defenders of the Land of Papua, an unarmed civilian defence group), charged with possessing a sharp weapon.

It will take some time before the immediate effect of the repression is made clear, but early signs suggest the use of extreme and deadly violence against nonviolent activists has enlarged the circle of dissent inside West Papua and ignited international support outside.

Certainly Church leaders — both Catholic and Protestant — have expressed their outrage. Neles Tebay, a key Papuan intellectual, defended the role of clergy who provided humanitarian protection for those seeking safety. Tebay, who also gave permission for the Committee to hold the Congress in the Theological College grounds, was quoted as saying that he “rejects the use of all kinds of repression in dealing with the problems. Using violence undermines the dignity of all concerned, above all the dignity of the victims as well as the perpetrators.”

Tebay has repeated his call “for all people of goodwill to jointly press for dialogue, for the sake of peace in Papua”.

Political representatives of the Papuan Provincial Parliament, a group that until now has sided with the government on matters of national security, expressed their dismay. Bintang Papua reported that Yan Mandenas, chairman of the Pikiran Rakyat Group in the Provincial Parliament said “the actions of the security forces in dispersing the Congress exceeded all bounds and … were in violation of the law”.

Similar views were expressed by Ruben Magay, chairman of Commission A on Politics and Law of the Provincial Parliament who reportedly urged the chief of police to withdraw his men because the Congress was already over. Magay said that what happened was clearly “a violation” and that “no one was fighting back”.

And while a large group of hard-line nationalists in Jakarta applauded or condoned police and military action, Effendy Choirie and Lily Chadidjah Wahid, both members of House of Representatives Commission I on information, defense and foreign affairs in Jakarta, warned the government that the mounting tension could lead to the province’s separation from Indonesia. In a clear rebuke of Papuan Police Chief Imam Setiawan, the two legislators added “that the government should not blame the Free Papua Movement (OPM) for the shooting but rather the security personnel in Papua”.

Internationally, things have gotten much worse for Jakarta.

United States Congressman Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin condemned the actions of the security forces. So too has Senator Richard Di Natale from the Australian Greens who has urged the Australian Government to suspend military ties with Indonesia. MP Catherine Delahunty from New Zealand has also called for the New Zealand Government to withdraw its training support for the Indonesian police. This is more than words. The United States, Australian and New Zealand Government all provide money, training and material aid to the Indonesian police and military. In this sense we are beginning to see the early signs of what could become an international withdrawal of legitimacy for continued Indonesian repression in West Papua.

Papuan calls for UN intervention won’t happen, at least not in the foreseeable future. And the movement internally still faces serious challenges. But the Congress, the Declaration of Independence and the subsequent shooting has realigned the political landscape. There are now three main political groups, the Congress, the Papuan Peace Network led by Neles Tebay who is calling for dialogue, and the West Papua National Committee who want the giant US/Australian Freeport Mine closed and a referendum on West Papua’s political status. At a fundamental level there is not a lot of difference between these positions. They all point to the need for a political solution to the Pacific’s longest running conflict.

The Indonesian political elite and security forces can no longer pretend that the problem in Papua is economic. Papuans want political freedoms. The Congress made that abundantly clear. It opened with raising the banned Morning Star flag and singing the banned West Papuan national anthem, Hai Tanah Ku, and closed with a Declaration of Independence.

And it wasn’t as if the military or police was unaware of this depth of feeling. When an open peace conference organised by the Papua Peace Network was held in Jayapura last July, Erfi Triassunu, the local Army Chief, took the podium. In attendance were 800 respected Papuan civil society leaders. Triassunu tried to get the audience — who were mostly Papuan — to chant “peace!” in response to his “Papua!”. But as soon as he called out “Papua!” the crowd responded as one with “Merdeka!” (freedom).

Now the Papuans’ cry for freedom is echoing around the world. And it is the Indonesian police, military and their nationalist political allies in Jakarta who are helping amplify it.

At Papuan Congress, a Brutal Show of Force

via Jakarta Globe

by Oktovianus Pogau

October 22, 2011

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

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

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

Minutes later, the situation descended into violence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Free expression or treason? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This report is supported by the Pantau Foundation.


by Numbay Media — via our partners

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

1530 21/10/2011 Updates From West Papua

By and

Anywhere between 300 and 800 activists arrested, most released
Core group of 5 in custody at least but could be more, all feared tortured:

– Forkorus Yaboisembut – elected as leader of the broad based movement for peace and justice – possibly paralysed witnessed by another detainee
– Edison Waromi – deputy leader
– Argus Krar
– Selfius Bobii
– Dominikus Sorabut

– Abraham Kareni (who’s son lives in Melbourne) with fractured skull

Charges include treason, rebellion, crimes of hatred against the state. These are colonial laws left over from the Dutch era and they carry long sentences — in some cases up to 20 years.

Police violence, dead and wounded
DFAT have confirmed four people are confirmed dead, activists claim six
People identified (all from Petapa or family of:
– Dani Kabepa
– Yakovus Sabonsaba
– Mathias Maidepa
– Martinus Siep
– Tanepi Kobeta
– One additional unidentified member of Petapa, the West Papuan paramilitary guard formed to protect Forkorus Yaboisembut, the man delegates elected as their leader.

– Numerous people have been savagely beaten, many are in hiding for fear of arrest or worse
– Unverified claims people were shot at point-blank range and bundled into armoured personnel carriers and other vehicles.
– Five people at the Dian Harapan Hospital suffering several wounds: ”One is a woman, Ana Ana Adi, 41. She has got wounds at her right thigh. Pilatus Wetipo, 40, was shot in the right leg. Wiler Hobi (22) has some wounds in his head because of being beaten by the weapon, the other two have blistered wounds
– four people in Sabron Yaru wounded

  • Members of the community security force (Petapa) are arrested. Photo: West Papua Media Alerts

Reports of violence by Indonesian troops continue to emerge from West Papua. New Matilda is in contact with local sources. We’re publishing regular updates on the situation here. (Warning: graphic content)

On Thursday, New Matilda published a report on the violence at the Third People’s Congress in West Papua. Indonesia military and police opened fire on participants and took activists and leaders into custody. Reports of fatalities and injuries continue to emerge from Jayapura.

Read Alex Rayfield’s initial report here.

New Matilda is in contact with local sources and will continue to update this page as new information emerges.

UPDATE, Friday 21 October, 10am:
This is a phone interview with journalist Alex Rayfield.

“Ferry Marisan, the director of Elsham — a leading human rights organisation based in the capital, Jayapura — has said that six people are confirmed dead.

“We think that a couple of people were shot as the security forces raided the stage, and some later. There are also lots of people with gunshot wounds, some of whom are in hiding and too scared to get medical assistance.

“We’ve had multiple reports that there were 800 people in jail. Many of those have been released, but a core group is still detained, charged with a range of offences including treason, rebellion, crimes of hatred against the state. These are colonial laws left over from the Dutch era and they carry long sentences — in some cases up to 20 years.

“It’s important for people to know that [Congress] is not a radical fringe movement. It’s made up of mainstream Papuan society: academics, church leaders and senior tribal leaders. In fact the radical fringe stayed away from this event because they think it’s not radical enough. So if the Indonesian government thinks this is a minority view, they are sadly mistaken. It is a mainstream view.

“Meanwhile, we should add for Australian audiences, that the strike continues at the Freeport mine [which is part owned by Anglo-Australian company Rio Tinto]. The two events are intimately connected.”

For more information on the Freeport strikes read New Matilda’s coverage here andhere.

UPDATE Friday 21 October, 4.30PM
These photos were sent by a credible source to West Papua Media Alerts and allegedly show injuries suffered in police custody. They have not been verified by New Matilda.

Photo: West Papua Media Alerts

Photo: West Papua Media Alerts

Photo: West Papua Media Alerts

Listen to an interview with Elsham’s Ferry Marisan here.

Read Amesty International’s statement on the incident here.

Read an article on Australia’s foreign policy response by Greens spokesperson on West Papua, Richard di Natale, here.

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