Tag Archives: NZ – Indonesia relationship

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

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

West Papua: Ignored Struggle Set To Explode On Our Doorstep

West Papua: Ignored Struggle Set To Explode On Our Doorstep


Ignored Struggle Set To Explode On Our Doorstep

By Nick Chesterfield of WestPapuaMedia.Info (In Wellington)

While the world’s media is obsessing with manufactured crisis after crisis, a seriously under-reported and potentially explosive situation on our doorstep has largely failed to take the notice of both media and government. The willful ignorance of events in West Papua, the atrocious behaviour of the Indonesian military and the rise of effective and determined civil resistance is building to a situation that may slap Pacific countries hard in the face during 2011.

West Papua is a colony. After surviving almost 48 years of entrenched brutal treatment at the hands of the Indonesian security apparatus (and ignored by complicit powers ) West Papua civil resistance is consolidating. Innovative new tactics for self-determination are emerging daily as West Papuan people create dynamic space for discussion and action on how to end the state violence on their land.

And now after Jakarta has stubbornly refused to reform the actions of its brutal security forces, and even to simply listen to legitimate grievances, a momentum is developing that will see sustained mass civil disobedience resume after the rains end in early 2011. This will again create a direct challenge to end a colonial occupation from Indonesia that has delivered little benefit and much pain to West Papuan people for nearly five decades.

And just as occurred in East Timor in 1999, the moves towards independence have sparked crackdown by the Indonesian military against non-violent acts of peaceful resistance. Military and police action is intensifying across West Papua, including the arrest of Indonesian legal observers sent in by Jakarta-based civil society.

(Click Here To Download .flv file – full uncut version)

Major arrests have been occurring against people for simply showing the banned Morning Star flag, and political prisoners are being herded around different keepers like cattle. Since West Papuan people commemorated their sacred Independence Day on December 1, there have been daily abuses against Papuan people in Jayapura, Wamena, Tingginambut, Bolakme, Manokwari, Sorong and many more unreported cases.

By taking inspiration and adapting lessons from other successful national liberation struggles, the Papuan people’s strategy is simple and moving forward: through civil disobedience and international action, the aim is to make the cost of occupation unaffordable for Indonesia, and for the enablers of colonial occupation.


An Issue About To Attract A Spotlight

Several factors could propel the issue of Papua front and centre of Pacific affairs in the next 12 months:

  • the desire of ordinary Papuans for deep and comprehensive change, and their organisation, education, and consolidation of the civil resistance movement to achieve that aim;
  • the combined push by Indonesian, international and Papuan civil society to expose potentially embarrassing evidence of Indonesian crimes against humanity.
  • the likelihood of the Indonesian security policy turning rogue in cracking down on all civilians presenting opposition to Jakarta’s plunder of Papua and Papuans.

Already peaceful acts of civil resistance are being met with disproportionate brutality. Three people were shot dead in Nafri on December 1, and in Manokwari, local independence activists are continuing to be abducted by Kopassus, the notorious special forces unit blamed for decades of abuse.

And given the well-known history of brutal behaviour by an unreformed Indonesian military drunk on impunity, there is every likelihood that an enhanced and co-ordinated civil resistance will generate enormous anger from the least civilised elements of the Indonesian state.

Such events have the potential to draw in all Pacific countries whether they like it or not, and will make the violence in East Timor look like a minor skirmish. The opportunity to avoid bloodshed that may engulf wider Melanesia depends on the choices and actions Australia and NZ make in the coming months. The prospect of another East Timor has serious ramifications for the whole Pacific region.

Impunity is the core of the problems in Papua. With an international community too cowardly and/or complicit to hold the Indonesian state and security forces to account, the culture of the TNI [Indonesian Armed Forces] is completely unchallenged. Abuses continue to mount, mass suffering, criminality and mafia behaviour occurs, terrorism and environmental destruction continue – and all the while the Australian Government refuses to stop training these thugs and killers.

Even the US has not actually implemented the resumption of training and support yet, but Australia has never suspended it. With the Indonesian military still only receiving about 20% of its funding from the state, mafia business rackets are the motivation for all their actions. These are the thugs Australia pays to protect its own corporate interests, such as the Rio Tinto owned Freeport mine, the largest gold/copper mine on Earth.

Tough Questions for Pacific Governments

The question both Australia and NZ people must ask their governments, is how much responsibility do we bear for training torturers and abusers and financially enabling the organised criminal apparatus they work for? The people of Papua are understandably saddened by our enabling of the people that make their lives hell every day. Is this how we wish to be seen?

Refusing to actively condemn these behaviours threatens basic human security in our region where it is most vulnerable. And with the manufactured furore in Australia over the relative trickle of refugees from war zones (of our making) how is Australia going to cope with tens of thousands of Papuans fleeing for their lives from coming extreme violence in West Papua?

As a former refugee protection worker and one of the few people involved in assisting a boatload of 43 refugees to land in Cape York, Australia in January 2006, I am well placed to assess the likelihood of any influx.

After several boats attempted the very short Torres Strait crossing, the Australian government asked me in panicked tones: “how many more are you bringing?”. My response now is the same as then: “that depends entirely on how many people need to flee the killings of the Indonesian murder machine”.

It should not take a rocket scientist to see that if there are threats to people’s safety or the ability to live free from climate threats (posed by massive and rapacious land use changes) then people are going to flee to those immediate places to seek protection from slaughter. This course of action is a basic human right, which under the 1951 Refugee Convention both Australia and NZ are treaty bound to honour.

All these “push factors” are as present in West Papua as they are in Afghanistan, Iran or Iraq. In the Pacific, the destination for fleeing West Papuans is obvious. However for the last 45 years, the obvious and logical is something which has been missing from most Pacific Governments’ attitude to Papua.

Political leadership across the Asia-Pacific theatre must wake up to the fact that civil society inside Papua is sick of excuses for looking the other way while a slow motion genocide is inflicted on their people.

With conservative estimates of 200,000 people murdered under occupation, and a demographic discrepancy of 526,000 people unaccounted for, Papuans are acting now for their very survival.

The question that those fighting for survival often ask is: “why are Pacific peoples forgetting their ancestors?”

West Papua’s Resistence Has Evolved Into A Cohesive Whole

For the past decade international media coverage of West Papua has been sporadic, with occasional breakthroughs of stories too terrible to ignore. As such, a stereotype has been entrenched in Western minds of a low level guerrilla insurgency that has little popular support, a view based mainly on bad journalism.

The traditional western understanding of Papuan resistance to Indonesian violence is a romantic notion based on the image of traditional semi naked highland warriors armed with spears and clunky old rifles. However, this Guerrillas in the Mist cliché of armed struggle (whilst still a key part of resistance identity), represents only a tiny element of the total campaign for long term change in Papua, and simply put, does not involve the majority of civil society.

Today’s mass Papuan movement is mainly urban, educated, innovative, nonviolence based, and embracing significantly the power of citizen and social media as a key plank of civil resistance strategy.

Not waiting for the rest of the world to come to the rescue, many sectors of Papuan society spontaneously and independently began a dramatic take-up of social media technology, something which has exponentially increased since 2008. Blogs, social networking and online media outlets are being utilized all over the country, encouraged by the emergence of a generation who came into adulthood after the Papuan Spring of 1999-2000.

Like all Melanesian peoples, this generation deeply respects the experience, counsel, lessons and traditional Law of those elders who have held resistance throughout the occupation, but they are refusing to be held back by its understandably sapped energy. To ensure this does not spark intergenerational conflict (which can easily be exploited by the Indonesian colonial forces) many of the most respected elders across civil society are handing over to the younger activists and leaders as they recognise the new dynamism that is emerging, while providing the guidance that is so critical to maintain indigenous Melanesian identity.

Indonesian civil society must also challenge their state’s behaviour in Papua: are they going to allow their reputation to be trashed even further by a military hell bent on exploitation and mafia fear tactics at any cost, or are they going to do something about it?

Myth Busting (1): Territorial integrity is not immutable

Before East Timor become independent (very suddenly in 1999) the very idea that Indonesia would allow East Timor to leave was unthinkable. Then circumstances changed.

For the same reason the current AUS-NZ (and nearly unanimous global) policy stance of “supporting Indonesia’s territorial integrity” is not even close to a factor in determining what kind of reality will hit the Pacific in early 2011.

Papuan’s have little hope that deals done with the corporate enablers of occupation will deliver any kind of liberation, nor are they unrealistic about their prospects through organised civil/social resistance.

The traditional Great Power game does not factor in the desire of peoples surviving genocide and resisting annihilation. However we are no longer playing that game.

The commercial elites’ (of all the world) obsession with boardroom deals, and keeping happy those who have already profited massively off occupation, just has no bearing with the reality of a switched on, educated, and determined civil resistance.

Historically speaking sustained widespread civil resistance is almost universally the main catalyst for lasting change, a point that has been demonstrated consistently across the world since the fall of the Berlin Wall and more recently across many parts of the former Russian sphere.

Similarly many in the older generation in West Papua have lived under Jakarta’s colonial behaviour and believe that change is unlikely in the extreme.

However the younger generation in West Papua brooks little quarter to Cold War era “Great Power” mindsets amongst their opponents (and even some international friends) that do not think that small independent countries have the capacity to determine their own future.

They are adamant that they will not let a far off bunch of elites determine their future ever again – and notwithstanding the risks are prepared to seek what they want.

National boundaries that are made by drawing lines on with no respect for local geographies or ethnic boundaries, are not countries that ever last. West Papua is an example of one of the most ridiculous arbitrary colonial delineations in history, with a line drawn straight down 141 degrees, declaring one side is Asia and the other the Pacific. Tell that to the cassowaries, kangaroos and birds of paradise and see if they listen.

Whilst it has to be acknowledged that for East Timor, international resource deals did assist in securing the pathway toward Indonesia’s withdrawal (not to mention internal turmoil), many actors in Papuan civil society are very well aware that independence alone is not a guarantee to genuine independence.

One only has to look at the massive forces faced by the former resistance heroes of East Timor’s independence struggle to see that when the resource companies hold the power, the conditions for justice are never met.

In fact the decision by East Timor’s elite to give away any chance of accountability for the most heinous crimes in Indonesia – outside those committed in Papua – was heavily lobbied for by the Government of Australia. Australia in turn was lobbied by large resource corporations who wanted a suitable “business as usual” investment environment.

Business as usual in the case of West Papua, as evidenced by the operations of Rio Tinto’s Freeport , is shorthand for utilising Indonesian security forces to carry out massive human rights abuses.

And so without any international insistence that human rights improvements be enforced against Indonesian State, military, and business interests operating in Papua (and genuine, measurable reform of the military) another East Timor is looking ever more likely in Papua.

TNI Military Tactics In West Papua In 2010 Nearly Identical To East Timor 1999

Many of the strategies that the TNI are utilising in Papua are almost identical to their behaviour in East Timor in the build up to the militia riots and massacre of 1999.

Now as then the strategies are:

  • to treat every person in Papua as a military enemy until they submit to military rule;
  • to wipe out any hint of resistance through a massive campaign of random terror, abductions, torture, rape and pillage;
  • to exploit all possible resources to enrich individual military/militia commander’s business empires;
  • to aggressively expand into areas not previously exploited;
  • to conduct punitive sweeps of massive disproportionate force through any area that may harbour sympathies to independence or dialogue;
  • to decisively put down any act of organised rebellion (whether nonviolent or otherwise) with extreme force.

And the identical use of militia proxies to conduct terror operations.

There is only one result that will come of such strategies. Eventually, the people’s desire for survival outweighs their fear of reprisal, and they kick back hard. Harder than the cassowary. And the violence will escalate.

Myth Busting (2): West Papua is a Colony, Indonesia is Colonialist

So what does this crisis mean for Indonesia? Internally?

For starters Indonesia must face the fact that despite its powerful anti-colonial birth, it is still a colonialist country. It has become everything it fought against.

After fighting so hard for Indonesia Merdeka (Indonesia in Liberation/Freedom), now it refuses to even to countenance the idea of Papua Merdeka. Why is freedom valid for one people and not the other?

In recent years Jakarta successfully bribed the Vanuatu government of Edward Natepei to not list the Papua on the agenda at the UN Decolonisation Committee, but this alone does not make West Papua not a colony.

Jakarta’s chairmanship of the committee is up for expiry soon, so there is potential for change. West Papua is still one of the last colonies on Earth, yet the UN look the other way. Is it too difficult to understand why West Papuan people have zero faith in UN institutions like this?

What Happens Next To A Mafia Run West Papua?

The argument put forward by those foreign powers seemingly under Jakarta’s control is that for Indonesia securing the status quo over West Papua is of paramount interest: Keeping Jakarta happy trumps all concern over human rights, the future of our region’s forests and climate, and the future of human security.

Simply put however, no it does not.

In fact, Indonesia’s failure to stand up against it’s internally unaccountable rogue military mafia will just enhance the likelihood of a brutal and unholy alliance forming between rapacious, expansionist and brutal regimes hell bent on lifting whatever can be carried away in West Papua – and after that anywhere else in Indonesia, SEA and the Pacific that the criminals can get their hands on.

And these alliances have the potential to make 500 years of European gangster colonialism and indigenous genocide look positively humanitarian by comparison.

Already both China and Russia have been offering significant help to Indonesia, and the ever masterly shadow puppeteer Indonesia is playing everyone against everyone else in the Great Power game. Meanwhile those who would be most expected to be keeping an eye on their neighbour – Australia – are experiencing an advanced case of self-inflicted blindness.

Since the ratification of the Lombok Treaty in Australia in February 2008 (it was signed in 2006), giving succour or support to West Papua “separatism” has been outlawed. And oddly this seems to include the simple act of reporting on activities of West Papua political groups.

Official Australian government monitoring of the situation in West Papua is non-existent unless forced, and Canberra refuses to allow either formal or informal contact between it and Australian citizens (such as myself and WestPapuaMedia.Info), or West Papuans, who have data and current monitoring information and resources inside West Papua.

Publicly both Australia and New Zealand continually parrot the Indonesian designed mantra that, “we must respect Indonesia’s territorial integrity”. But this is just long winded description for doing nothing.

Meanwhile West Papuans will not wait for permission from Australia to seek justice, nor respect a diplomatic need to keep the Indonesians happy. Indonesia is in their country, Indonesia is killing their people, Indonesia is destroying Papua’s ancient forests and threatening the very essence of Papuan survival. Papua wants to be free, and neither Australia nor anyone will stand in the way of a people who want to be free.

And thankfully – even if Australia is officially seeing and hearing no evil – media and human rights workers who care about West Papua have many backdoor methods to ensure that the situation enters the official record.

Instability in Neighbouring Papua New Guinea

Adding to the current geopolitical powderkeg in West Papua is the imminent collapse of the Sir Michael Somare kleptocracy in Papua Niugini (Papua New Guninea – the half of Papua that is in the Pacific) which will likely create a security vacuum that Indonesia is well placed to take advantage of.

Whilst currently Sir Michael Somare has, “stepped aside pending a formal inquiry in to official misconduct and corruption”, many in PNG are now pushing for complete investigations into his alleged corrupt activities, and in particular the reach of his involvement with Indonesian military figures.

These inquiries will necessarily delve into his alleged entwinement with Indonesian military businesses which have expanded extensively across the border into PNG, and involve among other things illegal logging, illegal mining, human trafficking, prostitution, and other alleged activities including PNG government involvement in human rights abuses by Indonesian personnel in both PNG and West Papua.

And once Somare’s activities are more publicly examined, we will most probably see profound change in the political dynamic of grassroots sympathy for the plight of West Papuans inside PNG.

Support for direct actions against Indonesian owned business interests inside PNG would then raise the spectre of TNI sending in security forces (in uniform) across the border (or putting uniforms on the very large number of TNI already in PNG) to defend those interests.

In theory this would be an action which should automatically activate Article 4 of the ANZUS Treaty (“an attack on one is an attack on all”) due to the curious unfinished constitutional arrangements Australia imposed on PNG upon independence in 1975.

Having personally conducted extensive investigations in the border areas of PNG and West Papua, the fear of repeated cross-border abuses still paralyses refugees, local villagers, and officials in the border region.

A quick flyover on Google Earth will show just how extensively Indonesian military run illegal logging and oil palm operations have encroached deep into PNG territory, with little attempt or capacity by PNG authorities to combat it. With less than 300 soldiers on the PNG side of a 750 km long border, and almost 40,000 TNI on the other, it is a matter of when, not if, the Indonesian military attempt to formalise their control over the area.

The Problem Of Impunity And The Military State

Indonesia regularly trumpets to the world that it is a vastly different place to that under Suharto. However, there is little evidence of change on the ground in Papua. Every week sees yet another atrocity or threat to a nonviolent activist, journalist, priest, or politically inactive civilian. Today’s victim is tomorrow’s activist.

In November, secret files sourced from the Indonesian special forces, Kopassus, were released by veteran journalist Allan Nairn . They showed the existence of military orders and planning that treats human rights workers, priests and representatives of Papuan civil society and the no-violent movement as military enemies (again shades of East Timor).

Granted there is a remote possibility that the Indonesian state will rein in its uncontrollable and rogue military; i.e. that it will hold all its human rights abusers to genuine account. But to base foreign policy on this remote possibility is deeply dangerous.

And bearing in mind the recent news (via Wikileaks) that Kopassus was making direct demands of the Obama administration (seeking a resumption of military training) in advance of the President’s recent visit to Indonesia – it is hard to believe that they are about to be reigned in.

Every week the international community sees more evidence of torture and atrocity being aired, yet still they sit on their hands. What is indicative is that nowhere in the exposure of the TNI and BRIMOB (Indonesian Police’s Mobile Brigade) misdeeds is there any evidence of comprehension by Jakarta that the actions of their agents are wrong and unacceptable for a nation-state that purports to be a modern democracy.

This is doubly troubling in that this clearly demonstrates the effect of impunity on the psyche of the modern Indonesian soldier. As they burn villages and torture civilians too many clearly quite sincerely believe that they are protecting the unity of Indonesia.

The current reality is that nobody in civilian administrations in Jakarta has had the guts to ever challenge the non-stop murderous rampage that has been the reign of the TNI in West Papua.

Occupation Must End – Directing The Anger

And so Papuans are angry. They are angry at the continuation of regular and unpunished human rights abuses in every corner of their land by the Indonesian state. Papuan people are angry at the tactics of state terror meted out daily for no reason other than to cause fear of the occupier.

They are angry and tired of being treated like stone-age people by an occupier that shows no evidence of even an understanding of civilised behaviour. They are sick of not having the ability to live unfettered in their own land, without it and its resources being stolen by colonial invaders. They are sick of their rivers being poisoned, their ancient forests being destroyed by marauders. They are sick of living as the poorest people in one of the richest lands on Earth.

West Papuan people have a right to be angry, and quite frankly, they also have a right to focus their anger on the greedy consumers in the West that are causing the destruction of their land.

But as 2010 draws to a close though the people on the ground in West Papua are not being bound by that anger – they are transforming it.

As a people that have known nothing but war and violence from brutal occupier for generations, Peace means a lot to the people of West Papua. And it is a peace that they know must be fought for, but not through violence.

New strategies are building on an increased commitment to a nonviolence, and the movement for justice in Papua is coalescing rapidly into a genuine mass movement for self-determination.

The Rise Of Peaceful Civil Resistance To Indonesian Rule

The rise of co-ordinated civil resistance to Indonesian rule has deep roots within the nonviolent struggle dating back to the late 1980s, but has only recently taken on mass character since the June 2010 mass mobilisations that occurred almost spontaneously across Papua. (See also…. Jason MacLeod’s “West Papua: from Morning Star to Mourning” at Werewolf.co.nz)

Last year, sectors of the Papuan civil society working for self-determination came together to form the West Papua National Consensus, to identify a clear pathway to getting the issue of West Papua to the negotiating table in Jakarta.

Whilst eventually agreeing that dialogue could only happen with the involvement of an independent third party mediator, Consensus agreed that the first step that needed to occur was a scientific evaluation and testing of all the conditions in Papua that Indonesia used to claim legitimacy.

Chief amongst these is the policy of Special Autonomy (Otsus), which was designed to give Papuans a greater voice in their economic and social affairs, and hand back the benefits of the exploitation of resources from the land to its people. Special Autonomy was granted to West Papua in the aftermath of events in East Timor by then President Abdurrahman Wahid.

Over the decade across wider Papuan society, differences of strategy had emerged between more vocal Pro-Otsus Papuans, and the majority of Papuan society who sought to establish a framework for the pathway toward a genuine act of self determination.

Then the rarely listened to and oft sidelined Majelis Rakyat Papua (MRP – or Papuan People’s Assembly) joined with the Papuan Consensus to conduct a Papua wide consultative process to evaluate the implementation of Otsus.

Across many months of consultations, the story they heard was the same all over West Papua: i.e. there was no material, social or justice benefit that flowed to Papuan people under the provisions of Otsus they were being implemented by the organised criminal elements in the TNI and BRIMOB.

To enable Papuans’ voices to be heard, these actors across Papuan Society joined with the largest indigenous Church in Papua, the Kingmi Church, and more conservative forces and NGOs who could not be politically aligned, to form ForDem, the Democratic Forum for Papuan People’s Resistance.

ForDem is consequently representative of a genuine national West Papuan majority consensus. (See also…. Jason MacLeod’s “West Papua: from Morning Star to Mourning” at Werewolf.co.nz)

Under ForDem all walks of Civil Society mobilised in unprecedented numbers in 2010 to formally send back Otsus to Jakarta. Massive rallies were held notably on June 18, and then on July 8-9 when mass rallies converged on the Papuan Parliament (DPRP).
Almost 60,000 demonstrators demanded that Jakarta institute immediate dialogue with West Papua civil society over all the conditions in Papua, rejected Otsus, and demanded Jakarta respect the right to self-determination by allowing a referendum to take place (as allowed by President Habibie in East Timor in 99).

Notably this final element in Consensus’ list of demands came after many stops and starts, and after much self-serving and sabotage from actors within exile groups. Putting aside years of acrimony, member organisations of the West Papua National Consensus and West Papua National Coalition for Liberation agreed to work together to achieve a referendum to determine the West Papua’s future.

This Papuan demand for a Referendum to determine the province’s future is not a pie in the sky demand. It comes from a deep seated understanding that this is the best solution to put to rest all claims of legitimacy of either party.

Indonesia currently refuses it, but once again that does not change the reality: that democratic choice is the only basis for peace, not military occupation against a permanently resistant population.

A Swarm Movement Takes Wing

It is important to understand that no one faction or sector in West Papua can claim dominance or leadership of this mass movement. This is not Congress in India and there is no single Gandhi figure. Rather, this is a movement with thousand’s of Gandhis.

And while there is consensus there is not necessarily agreement, but civil resistance is putting this aside to allow many different streams of action.

Many people in West Papua even belong to organisations in opposition to their own position, mainly due to the fact that many younger activists see organisational membership as a tool for continuance of struggle through dialogue and action.

In a unique Papuan twist it is this (undefinable aims) factor that has created the conditions for unity, a unity that allows for internal dissent, and vigorous discussion between groups whilst still working together for common goals.

A perfect example of this is an organisation such as the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), a forum for creating space discussion and organising of nonviolent direct actions. Whilst certainly not the only sector providing this coordinating role (other notable players include activists from both West Papua National Authority, and student organisations ) KNPB has played a leading role, and is bringing together arguing groups on the street to get them to commit to common goals. At a higher level, this forum has been mirrored by the Consensus itself.

This has enabled a situation where the civil movement refuses to be based around a single leadership group, and instead features multitudes of groups and tribes all acting autonomously and independently (where everyone knows their role and works their hardest) but which is nevertheless unified under its collective goals.

This is the epitome of a political swarm movement enabling collective problem solving, providing populations under repression with both the flexibility and robustness needed for survival, but without requiring any centralised leadership or task allocation (and the targets these would create).

As a people close to nature, the natural environment routinely provides (at least subconsciously) political inspiration in Papua. And so working as a swarm is one of the most effective natural strategies for action on our planet, utilised by a majority of life on our Earth.

Such a swarm structure can occasionally present difficulties for those who cannot think outside traditional top-down strategies for national change. Rather than being shut out of dialogue by the game playing of unaccountable elites, this type of structure encourages a longer lasting peace by enabling all actors to have their voices heard.

It is also a natural strategy to employ in a nation where it is for the most part illegal to congregate in groups.

Not Noticed Abroad – Nor Back In Java

The international community is not the only sector that suffers from a complete failure to comprehend the magnitude and development of the Papua body politic.

Jakarta also fails to pay the attention it should to Papua for a variety of reasons, none the least being an entrenched colonial mindset that still clings to a seemingly racist belief that Papuans are unable to manage their own affairs.

To maintain this illusion Jakarta has deliberately sought out the most corrupt local officials, and -together with a mafia military that resists even Presidential orders to stop illegal business – creates military business fiefdoms in local regency who blame Papuans for stealing resources that are being actually being siphoned off by Javanese military elites!

When Papuan institutions examine these rorts – as was the case in June with the MPR’s examination of the failure of Special Autonomy which discovered widespread stealing of development funds from the Indonesian Treasury, Jakarta just refuses to listen.

Now even those Papuans who thought their best chances of moving forward lay with Jakarta are now disillusioned with the lessons that this process revealed. This is shown in the support of ForDem from a number of members of the Papuan Parliament who are the theoretical guardians of Otsus (Special Autonomy).

Jihadist/militia threats

With the rise of a co-ordinated body like ForDem, there is a serious danger now that leading figures will be assassinated, as Kopassus did to Chief Theys Eluay in 2000.

If this occurs, it is pretty much guaranteed that West Papuan people will react with anger. And thus the TNI will, as they always do, seek to provoke significant and widespread violence, including through the utilisation of militias in order to justify any crackdown.

Just like with East Timor and other trouble spots violated by Indonesian state violence, security forces maintain a close and unhealthy working relationship with both nationalist militias like Besar Merah Putih, Islamic nationalist militias like Laskar Jihad, and elements of banned terror networks. This is nothing new: since Indonesia’s founding the doctrine of Pertahanan Rakyat Semesta (Total People’s Defence) has seen civilians mobilised into militias to defend national unity.

These same militias are the ones that took over East Timor in the aftermath of the independence referendum in 1999.

In West Papua, TNI commanders have held several joint meeting with militia and known jihadist figures to recruit fighters against the ‘military threat’ of separatism. Regular and widely reported meetings have been held between security force commanders in Jayapura, Manokwari, Nabire and Wamena, militia commanders from BMP, LJ and Pemuda Pancasila, and the rectors of the universities in each city.

These have occurred in the lead-up to massive mobilisations by civil society, where state forces and their proxies have been exhorted to use all “necessary” measures to prevent demonstrations of separatism. Thankfully to-date the militias have been comprehensively out-numbered by the civil mobilisations and have retreated rather than attacked marchers.

Additionally, anecdotal evidence is continuing to emerge from Papua of the program of Islamisation and mosque building (especially around the Bird’s Head Peninsula in the north west of Papua) with foreign Wahhabist funding enabled through organisation such as Muhummadiyah, the largest mass Islamic organisation in the world. The Muhummadiyah is generally utilised as a vehicle for Indonesian elite political ambitions, especially currently under the stewardship of Amien Rais.

There are two distinct trends in active Islamism as it relates to Papua.

One is the groups advocating violent Jihad to protect Islam, groups that are significantly close to senior figures in the Indonesian military.

The other is of course the “moderate I’syalom” movement, epitomised by indigenous Papuan Muslim groups, Nahdlatul Ulama (Formerly led by the late President Abdurrahman Wahid – who was removed from office by Kopassus after his peacebuilding efforts with Papua in 2000), and organisations such as the Islamic Student’s Association.

This tendency is bucking the trend of misunderstandings leading to violence and working directly to counter the militaristic nationalism pushed by the TNI proxies through ecumenical dialogue and volunteer aid projects

Lasting Security For The Pacific and SEA?

If the democratic nations of South East Asia and the Pacific were genuine about lasting security, it would understand that we have about 200 million natural allies in Indonesia and 2 million in West Papua.

And if we help the people of Indonesia and Papua get the military Hanuman monkey off its back, then they will stand with us, like they always have.

But if we let the military run around with its hard drinking Jihadist thugs, instead we will see havoc and intensifying violence, staining us all with the blood of innocents. The international community has got to wake up to the fact that terrorists is uniform are still terrorists and that criminals who command prisons are still criminals.

Indeed if we allow those who perpetrate fear and violence to force a population to change its policies then we succumb to the very definition of terrorism (US Penal Code).

Even the former Indonesian President, the late Abdurrahman Wahid, described the military as an out of control terror network. Wahid was quoted extensively describing the “fear that senior officers (of the TNI) are involved heavily in terror networks.”

Text (SMS) Terror In West Papua

In late October, a series of SMS text messages were widely distributed purporting to be from the head of the Laskar Jihad network, an Islamic Nationalist militia that has been heavily documented working closely with Indonesian military in Maluku, Poso and Aceh.

The texts said that the Christians were threatening the Islamic character of the Land of Papua and that 16 million rupiah would be paid to anyone that brought in the head of a “slain Nazarene”.

It was very clear that this SMS text campaign originated from military intelligence, as it showed very clear correlations to their prior dark work in Maluku prior to the religious war at the turn of the 21st century.

West Papua Media was also sent these SMS’s in attempt to utilise us to spread panic, but working together with many key actors in civil society and faith communities (both Muslim and Christian) and human rights workers, we organised a response that showed that as these “fear and panic” provokasi campaigns were utilised increasingly, every campaign would be countered with equally effective ecumenical peace-building and emergency interfaith dialogue mechanisms.

People on the ground in Papua, both trans-migrant Indonesians and indigenous Papuans, may be living in fear of the next type of military terror, but they are not stupid. This augers well for the failure of “organic” militia violence, however this also the reason why so many newcomers are still being brought into West Papua enmasse on Pelni ships almost daily.

Black Ops Such As The Recent Shootings Of Indonesian Transmigrants

Since the end of November, several incidents have been recorded of Indonesian transmigrants being randomly shot in the areas of Jayapura, Abepura and Sentani, usually whilst on motorbikes in outlying areas.

There is still only sparse information as to the culprits, which is surprising given the amount of police involvement in the case. However there is a wide belief amongst locals that this is not the work of Papuan forces (as this is a new tactic unsupported by the mass movement). Rather many believe this bears striking similarities to years of “ninja” attacks on Papuans on motorbikes in the northern border region during 2005-06, widely believed to be the work of Javanese terror squads (aka Kopassus).

Responses (1): Speaking Up To Evil

Evil is such an overused and polarising word, but it is the only adequate word that describes the Jakarta generals. They have no concern for human life, they are unreformable, they are completely unaccountable, and are like vultures feasting on carrion.

The international community needs to stop being cowardly and tell Jakarta that if it wants to take its place amongst the civilised nations of the world, then it has to start acting like it. It must be made clear to Jakarta that the behaviour of its security forces as state policy is completely uncivilised and unacceptable.

It is about time the international community faced up to facts – the only way to trust the Indonesian military is stop giving them arms, training, legitimacy, and to put each one of the criminals among them in the dock under Nuremburg principles.

Shooting victim Melkias Agapa – shot dead by BRIMOB in Nabire in June 2009

Melkias Agapa’s body is presented to the riot police

Responses (2): Safeguarding Community Security

Sectors of West Papuan Civil Society have taken extraordinary measures to provide safe space for peaceful free expression, a right which Jakarta seems unable to comprehend in Papua.

The Papua Customary Council (Dewan Adat Papua or DAP), a leading member of Consensus, formed the Guardians of the Land of Papua (Petapa) in July, after a series of violent incidents carried out by security forces and transmigrant militia members. They have had been providing a visible peacekeeping security presence for mobilisations on peaceful demonstrations, which though allowed under Indonesian law are almost always dispersed with force by security forces.

Whilst they have been trained in physical self defence, a significant part of Petapa’s training has been on non-violent conflict resolution. Petapa are not mandated by DAP to be anything but a defensive security guard.

This did not stop the police Mobile Brigade (BRIMOB) from shooting dead Amos Wetipo and Frans Lokobal whilst trying to seek shelter from indiscriminate police shooting at the DAP Balim Lapago office about 1 km from the police station.

Petapa will be providing security for almost all mobilisations right across Papua in the future. However it is unlikely the Indonesian state will allow any community security in opposition to the police and their actions will create another potential trigger for violence across Papua.

Responses (3): Free Media = Free People

Due to the ongoing ban by Indonesia for international media and humanitarian organisations having access to Papua, allegations of abuse are notoriously difficult to verify.

In a joint conference with then Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, the former Indonesian Foreign Minister, Hasan Wirajuda, famousely said “just because we do not allow foreign media to come to Papua, does not mean that we are hiding anything”. Actually, yes it does.

However while this ban remains in place, only the most dedicated journalists make the effort to go in undercover.

West Papua Media has been proud to facilitate undercover trips into occupied territory to meet with many West Papuan people prepare to tell their own story. This is getting more difficult by the day so local people are working for a solution.

Live images, video and online activism have the potential to create tremendous momentum in the awareness of the situation inside Papua, and have certainly already created much international action.

By creating their own media, and their own narrative, Papuan people are reclaiming self-determination denied for so long.

Very occasionally West Papua does get in the news, but only through the co-ordination between committed journalists and human rights workers working together.

The network I work with, West Papua Media (WestPapuaMedia.Info), was started to provide a professional service to international media interested in covering the issue of West Papua.

In particular we seek to cover the moves of the Papuan people to end human rights abuses, the efforts to hold the Indonesian security forces to account for their systematic human rights abuses, and to bring these unreported Papuan issues to the front page.

We have been taking a leading role in the hard work n raising the profile of West Papua this year, with significant joint investigations that have broken several major stories this year, and we have gained deep trust from the people of Papua in reporting their stories.

West Papuan citizen media played a key role in alerting the world to deeply heinous cases of abuse.

One was the sourcing, verification and release of deeply shocking leaked videos of Indonesian military brutality filmed by Kostrad (Strategic Reserve) troops from Battalion 753 torturing two West Papuan farmers, Tunaliwor Kiwo and Telengga Gire, burning Kiwo’s penis with a flaming stick.

Tunaliwor Kiwo

(Click Here To Download .flv file – full uncut version)

Tunaliwor Kiwo’s Torture
The other was footage of Indonesian BRIMOB police taunting a former political prisoner Yawan Wayeni, whom they had allegedly disembowelled moments before after he argued with them.

Both these videos showed the power of citizen media in activating international human rights networks to effectively raise the issue of Papua.

There are many more videos in preparation for release.

After the release of the torture videos (Click Here To Download .flv file – full uncut version), West Papua Media was the first of five organisations subjected to a massive, organised Distributed Denial of Service cyber-attack (DDOS), which investigating agencies have classified as an act of cyber-terrorism.

Since then we have had to spend a great deal of time and money to make our systems resistant to further acts of aggression. However, these attacks only increased our resolve to keep working harder to expose Indonesian abuses in Papua.

Media Exposure Works On July 9 2010

Some of our real time work has assisted directly in the prevention of mass acts of violence by the Indonesian security forces, such as our coverage and media advocacy fixing of the July 8-9 occupation of the regional Parliament House.

With less than ten minutes before the deadline for dispersal of the 2 day rally of over 45,000 people, the Indonesian security forces were forced to back down after a BBC report aired, organised by West Papua Media Alerts, which brought international attention the explosively dangerous situation.

Extensive international diplomacy occurred in that 15 minutes, and together with the extreme discipline of the mass protest, forced Indonesian security to back down and enabled the protestors to peaceably leave the scene of the protest.

The Australian government- pressured by negative media reports via the Fairfax and ABC in Australia – have been forced to take some limited action on the issue in recent weeks.

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd this week was set to raise with Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalagewa the issue of prosecuting TNI officers suspected of torture of Tunaliwor Kiwo.

And to give some wider credit, Australian PM Julia Gillard was also seen showing concern and displeasure at President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono over the lack of progress in holding military to account for the crimes.

More importantly, Gillard has spoken forcefully about the lack of transparency at the trials, and the fact that the Indonesian prosecutors turned the apparent accountability exercise into a red herring.

Instead of a real trial a stacked military court tried different perpetrators for a different violation; abuse much milder than the Kiwo torture.

The military judge lectured the defendant’s not on the criminality of the abuse they had committed, but on the shame they had brought on the TNI by shooting the torture on video and not destroying the evidence! (Click Here To Download .flv file – full uncut version)

This incident neatly captures why the Indonesian military cannot be trusted to reform themselves from the inside.

As an easier and clearer step towards a solution, if the international community is serious about stopping brutality, it will help develop the capacity of the West Papuan media to tell the story of what is going on, and press Jakarta hard to allow international media access.

Responses (4): The Role Of The Pacific & New Zealand

Countries in the Pacific, especially New Zealand, can and should push hard for measurable cessation of human security violations by the Indonesian state and all its proxies.

New Zealand has many forums in which to achieve this, and could play a very constructive and peace-building role just as they did in Bougainville and East Timor.

There is a strong role for New Zealand to play in direct bilateral talks, through ASEAN, APEC and even by becoming involved in the existing EU/Norway/Indonesia annual Human Rights dialogue.

And should the West Papuan ForDem movement achieve its goal of direct dialogue with Jakarta, the movement wants an external third party present at those talks – New Zealand could be that party (even it seems very unlikely at this point in time).

Most importantly it is critical that during this year’s Pacific Island Forum to be held in New Zealand, that it utilises this unique opportunity to highlight the epicentre of Human Rights abuse and Environmental degradation in the region.

Whether NZ decides to do the right thing and help to stop genocide, or not, is certainly NZ’s choice.

However if NZ doesn’t stand up to its responsibilities it risks being seen in the same light as the Australian Government which has been turning a blind eye while its corporate giants pad their annual profit reports with the plundered resources of a vulnerable and defenceless neighbouring indigenous nation.

Whatever country decides to take the initiative will be seen as a country that is a leader in what the planet needs the most: countries prepared to act for principle and decency, to help broker peace.

As we approach the resumption of mass-civil action in West Papua a bloodbath can likely only be avoided if the international community immediately stops sitting on its hands and pulls its head out of the sand.

Pacific countries must start to act now to make it clear that not only the world is watching, but it will be taking action. Without a concerted stand to resist Indonesian state violence, the situation will spiral out of control. There are significant economic tactics, which may hurt collaborators of human rights abuse, but at the end of the day, are Pacific countries more comfortable with subsiding genocide and ecocide, or helping to prevent the annihilation of a people?


Nick Chesterfield is the founding editor of West Papua Media , and is a human rights journalist with extensive experience of the Papua issue, and has conducted many field investigations in the West Papuan region since 1999. He has been involved in refugee protection, advocacy, as a human rights and citizen media worker and trainer. Since 1999, Chesterfield has been intimately involved with the Papua issue, after several years with the Indonesian pro-democracy, and East Timor freedom movements. Initially involved as an activist, and noticed by those who do not wish for the Papua activists to distribute their news, Chesterfield’s first journeys there necessarily saw him underground on mission. He collected abuse data, worked to build local capacity for doing so independently, and to assist in the escape of hunted non-violent activists to safer places.
Together with citizen media and human rights workers from inside Papua, Chesterfield helped set up West Papua Media in 2008, to counter the wilful lack of coverage by the international media.

IHRC: NZ must not stand apart on torture by Indonesia


Indonesia Human Rights Committee,

Box 68-419,


7 December, 2010

Media Information:

IHRC has written to Minister of Foreign Affairs, Murray McCully, and to Minister of Defence Hon Wayne Mapp to urge them to act over the West Papua torture scandal,   a high profile issue at the time of the Foreign Minister’s October visit toJakarta.  A widely distributed video clip of Indonesian military personnel perpetrating shocking torture on two men in the highlands of Indonesian controlled West Papua has put Indonesia’s lack of military reform under the spotlight.  However,Indonesia has opted to try personnel involved in a separate less serious case of videoed abuse, in a blatant attempt to defuse international criticism.

“Mr McCully has an absolute obligation to follow this up as he was given personal assurances at the time of his visit that those responsible for the grave crimes depicted on the video would be investigated and held responsible.  He should now act with the Minister of Defence to suspend military training ties with Indonesia in the face of this evidence of ongoing abuse and military impunity.

The letter to the Ministers follows: Maire Leadbeater: 09-815-9000 or 0274-436-957

Indonesia Human Rights Committee,

Box 68-419,


Hon Murray McCully,

Minister of Foreign Affairs,

Hon Wayne Mapp,

Minister of Defence,

Parliament Buildings,


7 December, 2010

Dear Mr McCully and Mr Mapp,

You are aware that there has been international consternation over the case of the Indonesian security personnel shown inflicting brutal torture on two highland Papuan men. The video clip, recorded in May 2010, depicted one of the men having a smouldering stick applied to his genitals while his companion was repeatedly threatened with a knife.

Minister McCully was visiting Indonesia at the time that the torture video was circulating and was  assured by Indonesian  Foreign Minister Natalegawa that the Indonesian government was  ‘deeply concerned’ and would conduct a thorough investigation.  I understand that a  personal  undertaking was given that the findings of the investigation would be presented ‘transparently.’

The Indonesian authorities accepted that the video was genuine, but instead of acting to investigate and try those responsible, they moved quickly to charge and tried military personnel who were responsible for a separate case of videoed abuse.  This separate event took place in March and involved the beating and kicking of a number of bound villagers.  The charges meted out to the military personnel responsible were relatively light – terms of imprisonment of seven and five months, scarcely commensurate with these brutal crimes against civilians.

The ploy has been described by some as a classic ‘bait and switch’ operation clearly timed and planned to deflect international scrutiny of the human rights record of the Indonesian security forces.    Not only is there no indication by Jakarta of any intention to investigate and try the military officers involved with the more serious case of abuse, but a spokesperson from the Indonesian Defence Ministry told the Australian media that the case is now closed.

We understand that the Australian Government is continuing to put the case that the more serious torture case should be investigated in line with assurances given to Prime Minister Julia Gillard prior to her recent visit to Indonesia.

The Indonesia Human Rights Committee urges that New Zealand support Australia in its appeal for a full investigation and for those responsible for these grievous abuses to be held accountable. New Zealand should suspend its military training ties withIndonesia, in the face of such clear evidence of military abuse and ongoing military impunity

Tragically the events depicted in the videos are not isolated or unusual cases of abuse.

In the past week there has been an escalation of violence and several disturbing reports of security forces injuring and killing civilians.  On November 28 a farmer, Wendiman Wenda was killed in Yambi, Puncak Jaya as he returned home from Church. The report we received said that he did not hear when the security forces called out to him, and when he did not respond he was shot.

On December 3, near Jayapura an escaped prisoner was killed in a violent police raid.  Komnas Ham, the Indonesian Human Rights Commission has criticised the conduct of the raid which it described as ‘extra-procedural’. There are also other reports of recent violence including two Papuans being shot in Bolakme on December 1 and on December 4,  a young peace activist, Sebby Sembon,  was summarily arrested as he was about to board a plane.

In West Papua the right to dissent is not respected. Those who take part in peaceful demonstrations risk charges of ‘makar’ or rebellion and lengthy jail terms. Meanwhile those responsible for a documented case of extreme torture are escaping sanction.

New Zealand must not stand apart and we look forward to your response,

Yours sincerely,

Maire Leadbeater

(for the Indonesia Human Rights Committee)