Tag Archives: Papua New Guinea

opening fire

Shootings, killings, beatings, arrests as Hundreds flee to jungle after Indon Police open fire on peaceful KNPB demo

From the entire West Papua Media team in PNG and West Papua

November 28, 2013

WPM apologises for the delay in posting due to the remote location of the WPM team, and the delays in finding independent witnesses to help in cross-checking of this extreme situation.  This situation is developing and will be updated as more information comes to hand.

Key developments:

  • Indonesian police open fire on peaceful protesters in Jayapura, with at least four gunshot wounds and one death;
  • West Papuan activists and families forced to flee to the jungle for safety;
  • Indonesian security forces conduct scores of raids, sweeps and offensives against West Papuan civilians;
  • Attacks happen during visit of National Police Chief General Sutarman
  • over 200 people arrested across West Papua;
  • Journalists attacked by Indonesian police;

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Images from the crackdown in Jayapura (Credit:West Papua Media/MS); Images from Arrests in Timika (Credit: KNPBNews.com); and Wamena (Credit: WestPapuaMedia/KNPBNews.com).

Indonesian forces have again opened fire on a peaceful Jayapura gathering of about 500 people held by the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), with the shooting of at least 4 demonstrators, and the confirmed death of at least one, on November 26.  A total of 15 people are still in serious condition in hospitals around Jayapura with a range of wounds sustained during the live fire dispersal by Indonesian police.

In the worst single act of Indonesian state violence since the October 19 2011 crackdown on the Third Papuan Peoples Congress, ongoing sweeps and arrests have been continuing in the time since, causing most members of the KNPB fleeing with their families into the relative safety of the jungle.  Unconfirmed reports have also surface that the police have called in the Indonesian Army (TNI) to hunt for KNPB members.

Correspondents have also reported to West Papua Media that Indonesian radio stations in Papua have been broadcasting repeated messages from the Indonesian police against all pro-independence forces, starting with the KNPB.  “We will use force to break apart the KNPB,” a senior Indonesian Police figure in Papua was heard to say on all Jayapura radio stations early on Wednesday morning.  Unconfirmed reports have said that these broadcasts have been repeated hourly across West Papua, with the National Police Chief also issuing warnings that separatism will not be accepted any more.

The rally was part of a nationwide day of mobilisations in solidarity with the opening of the Free West Papua Campaign office in Papua New Guinea on November 28.  31 people were arrested by Police in Timika, and 3 arrested in Sorong as KNPB chapters there also organised rallies and prayers to support the opening of the PNG office, which is being held with the involvement of thousands of people throughout Papua New Guinea, including senior members of the PNG Parliament.

A rally in Wamena drew several thousand enthusiastic and cheering supporters wearing traditional dress (many bedecked in the banned Morning Star flag) on a long march mass action, led by KNPB Wamena region Chairman, Simion Dabi  This was the only rally where police were vastly outnumbered by participants, and police blockaded several points along the route but did not attempt to prevent the rally from going ahead.

Jayapura
The Jayapura shooting victim, KNPB activist Matthius Tengget from near Oksibil in the Star Mountains, died of his wounds in custody.  However, his body was not retrieved until Wednesday evening after it was dumped into the lake, allegedly by those members of the Brimob paramilitary police units who shot him as they were conducting the dispersal.  At time of writing, his family were conducting his funeral in Sentani.

According to a statement from KNPB General Chairman Victor Yeimo, currently in Abepura prison, “KNPB and family members of the victims are also looking for four (4) other KNPB members that are missing: their whereabouts are unknown or their bodies have not yet been found. Three of the victims carry the Mul surname and the fourth Lambe. We strongly suspect that the police shot them and disposed of their bodies.”

“Until now we are still looking for possible victims of yesterday’s mass action who were most presumably shot and disappeared: in their attempt to disperse yesterday’s demonstration, the Police and the Mobile Brigade fired a lot of shots and they chased many demonstrators towards Buper, the Housing Complex III, Ekspo, until Iyoka and all the way to the edge of Sentani Lake,” said Yeimo.

Up to 15 people were hospitalised from both gunshots and beatings, including a group of three young women from the Yahukimo dormitory who were savagely beaten by police during their arrests.  More reports have also been given that scores of female activists were rounded up and severely beaten by Indonesian police and military officers.

The shootings were under the operational field command of the notorious hardliner Deputy Jayapura Police Chief Kiki Kurnia, Abepura area POlice commander Deky Hursepunny, together with Jayapura Police Chief Alfred Papare, with the Deputy Papua
Police Chief Paulus Waterpauw and Papua Police Chief Tito Karnavian allegedly sighted monitoring the situation from their private Kijang vehicles.

Police have predictably launched a propaganda offensive across its tame colonial media networks in West Papua, accusing the KNPB of conducting a riot.  However, stringers for West Papua Media, independent witnesses in the busy Waena shopping area, and KNPB spokespeople have all vehemently denied riotous behaviour by the protesters, instead describing how a peaceful sit-in was brutally dispersed under the orders of a cohort of four senior police officers, who have been personally responsible for ordering significant and ongoing human rights abuses against KNPB members.

Direct Witness to Brutality
A survivor of Tuesday’s violence fled to Papua New Guinea immediately after the shooting, was directly interviewed by West Papua Media  – unidentified for their own safety – and has described how police opened fire without targeting, instead firing indiscriminately into the crowd.

Before the shooting, a mass of people had gathered in the field outside the Expo Waena bus terminal and market in front of the Museum, mainly sitting and chatting while listening to speeches.  According to the witness, police surrounded the gathering on three sides, and the protest leader Buchtar Tabuni attempted to negotiate with senior police present, including the Alfred Papare, Kiki Kurnia and Deky Hursepunny. As it became clear that police were refusing to negotiate with Tabuni, demonstrators agreed to maintain the peaceful action.

According to the witness, Senior police then yelled to the crowd, ordering them to disperse.  However, almost immediately, and without further warning of escalation of the threat, Police commanders ordered the front ranks of police in front of the bus terminal to open fire.

“When the the shooting started, as I was running, I saw the KapolSek Deky Hursepunny and Kapolresta Alfred Papare standing at the gate, directing his police where to fire,” the witness said.

Upon questioning, the witness testified that police initially fired tear gas, but switched very quickly to automatic weapons.   The witness also confirmed that instead of individually targeting demonstrators, police seemed to be firing wildly into the crowd, firing indiscriminately.

Both the order to open fire without warning, and the subsequent excessive use of firearms against civilians are direct violations of both Indonesian and international law.  International Lawyer Jennifer Robinson, Convener of the International Lawyers for West Papua and currently meeting in PNG, told West Papua Media that “This use of excessive force against KNPB members is in breach of international law and Indonesia’s own police regulations on the use of force”.

“This latest incident falls within a repeated pattern of the use of excessive and lethal force by Indonesian police against peaceful activists in West Papua which is indicative of a broader state policy. Continued impunity for the police involved is unacceptable and the failure to punish gives rise to command and state responsibility,” Robinson said.

Many beatings were meted out on KNPB members by Police during the arrests, with allegations that rifle butts were repeatedly used – a standard practice for the Indonesian police against peaceful demonstrators in Papua.

Plain clothes police special forces, described by the witness as “Polisi Preman” (Police gangsters), then continued two days of terror against West Papuan civilians, some in no way connected with the civil resistance movement.  This campaign, at time of writing, shows no sign of lessening.

“We were running across Waena.  Police used many rental cars and were driving around in balaclavas like terrorists, pointing automatic weapons outside their vehicles, and shooting now around Perumnas 1, causing all who could see it to hide in their houses.  At the same time a black Avanza stopped in front of us, followed by white and red Avanzas, pointing weapons at all Papuans present. We ran, because we knew we were about to be shot – we had to seek safety with Indonesian transmigrants, who were unaware of the situation,” the witness told West Papua Media wearily.

“After police shoot the demonstrators, participants fled to the forest.  Police then conducted a brutal sweep, targeting anyone who was wearing dreadlocks, beard, or even wearing sunglasses, and arresting them all,” the witness said.  Civilians have fled in panic, and the witness described Waena as deserted when they fled.  Families of those at the demonstrations have fled to the jungle.  It is not known of normal social functions are continuing, due to the difficulty in getting direct contact with sources in Jayapura.

Our witness reported that two days prior to the demonstration, Indonesian army helicopters were searching extensively around the hills in areas that would be the the first point of refuge for civilian after any shooting.

The witness survivor believes that this indicated that the shootings by police were premeditated and planned, although West Papua Media has been unable to independently confirm this.  However the attacks on protesters occurred just prior to the arrival at Sentani airport of National Police Chief General Sutarman, who has exploited the lack of honest reportage by colonial media to issue more threats against any Papuans who dare dream they can freely express themselves.

“We will take firm action against groups or individuals wanting to separate Papua from Indonesia because Papua is part of Indonesia,” State media Antara quoted Sutarman telling the colonial press in Jayapura.

Tabloid Jubi reported that the Papua Deputy Police Chief Waterpauw has denied KNPB the right to freedom of expression, permanently. ” I made it clear to the group West Papua National Committee ( KNPB ), immediately stop the steps that are likely to violence . Whatever the form of their intention and desire to perform activities in public hearings, (it) will never be given permission or recommendation to implement it , because we know the purpose of the organisation and their desire is clear , (they) want to form a state , split off and so on , “said Waterpauw on Tuesday ( 26/11 ) evening in Jayapura City police headquarters.

An independent international observer in Jayapura contacted by West Papua Media just prior to publication, speaking on condition of anonymity, went even further than the witness now in PNG, stating unequivocally that the crackdown was a “premeditated, highly engineered manufacturing of consent of the type that Tito Karnavian is such a master of, just like his OTK killings.”

“It beggars belief that Karnavian, hoping to please his boss – or more to the point those who would seek to replace the boss with Karnavian – would not be the engine of of a textbook counterinsurgency operation to smash a pesky bunch of separatists.  The only problem is, those separatists are unarmed and were conducting a peaceful gathering.  It looks like the whole thing was organised for a long time.  It is well beyond time those gangsters were held to account,” the observer said, naming Karnavian, Kurnia, Papare and Waterpauw as the perpetrators of massive human rights abuses against Papuan civilians.

The observer added that they saw the gathering just prior to its dispersal and can vouch for the gathering’s peaceful conduct, but was disturbed at the large number of security forces that were surrounding Waena.  “There were at least ten platoons of Brimob, and hundreds of swanggi (ghosts) everywhere, surrounding on three sides the KNPB sitting in a park,” the observer said – confirming maps drawn by the survivor witness.  “They were itching for brutality.  How is this Policing?”

A total of twenty eight people were arrested, but were released by Wednesday night.  KNPB national spokesperson Wim Rocky Medlama told SuaraPapua.com that they are fed up with the police’s actions, which are arrogant and excessive. “This is too excessive. And I think that the police have much to learn. So that they undertake their duties in accordance with the orders”, as quoted in SuaraPapua.com.

Olga Hamadi, the coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (KontraS) Papua, also told SuaraPapua that the police’s actions were excessive and the pattern of arrests should stop.

“I’ve only just heard this information. I think that the police are too excessive. Patters of arrests such as this should no longer be necessary. This is included under the rights of each person to express themselves. Moreover this is a democratic country right”, she said in an SMS message sent to Suara Papua, adding that people expressing their views should not be attacked and arrested. “They should be given space. The issue of expressing views in public should not be responded to with arrests and law enforcement. If [the police] are going to be like this it won’t solve the Papuan problem”, said Hamadi.

More arrests
Earlier on Tuesday morning at 8:13 local time. KNPB Secretary-General Ones Suhun was arrested with 6 members of the KNPB (Assa Asso, Okram Wanimbo, Sam Lokobal, Meminda (Mendenas) Sol, Konoru Wenda, and Bonsan Mirin) by Indonesian Police outside the Student dormitories at Putaran Perumnas 3, Waena, Jayapura.  They had just begun to hand out leaflets about the afternoon’s peaceful rally calling for the respect of West Papua’s right to self-determination. Most were released by Wednesday night.

Reports received by West Papua Media overnight from distressed sources fleeing through the jungle have confirmed that a further series of brutal sweeps and raids had occurred all afternoon and evening on Tuesday and continuing through Wednesday, with unconfirmed reports of Puma helicopters being used to find activists.  Hundreds of heavily armed Police were used to raid the offices of the KNPB Secretariat on Tuesday afternoon, also confiscating  all the contents and destroying what was left.

At least thirty more people were reportedly arrested overnight on the 26th, although this has not been independently verified by West Papua Media, however Buchtar Tabuni was moved by his supporters to a safe location.

Across Papua
In Sorong, the KNPB rally was also forcibly broken up by Police, and Marthinus Yohame (regional Chairman of KNPB), Kantius Heselo (Vice chair KNPB Sorong), Natalis Surabut Gebby Mambrasar, Nius Loho and Welem Surabut, were arrested for holding the rally, but were released overnight.

In TImika,  31 people were arrested by a Joint Police and TNI taskforce at Kelly Kwalik’s Cemetery Park at about 8.15 in the morning as they began to gather for their demonstration.  Police also arrested The Chairman of KNPB Region Timika, Steven Itlay and the chair of Mimika’s Parliament, Abihut Degey  while leading peaceful rally in demand the right of Self-determination in West Papua and are being held still at the Police Post, Mile 32. Their names are:
1. Steven Itlay
2. Abihud Degey
3. Billy Hagawal
4. Dony Mote
5. Petrus Bobii
6. Bony Bora
7. Yulianus Edoway
8. Paulus Doo
9. Martinus Pekey
10. Paulina Pakage
11. Agustin Pekey
12. Sony Ukago
13. Daniel Kotouki
14. Seprianus Edoway
15. Argenes Pigay
16. Menase Dimi
17. Timotius Kossay
18. Welius Kogoya
19. Demianus Kogoya
20. Kasianus Kamke
21. Aduart Suruan
22. Melianus Gobay
23. Pais Nasia
24. Makson Kotouki
25. Maria Piligain
26. Markus Entama
27. Yustinus Pigome
28. Sior Heselo
29. Semuel Edoway
30. Agus Itlay
31. Yakonias Womsiwor

Biak also saw its KNPB rally broken up police, with several arrests reported and injuries sustained.  KNPB Biak Chairman Apollos Sroyer reported to West Papua Media that the actions of police were again excessive in preventing a prayer session from going ahead, using scores of police and troops to blockade access to the church.  Police dispersed the crowd later in the afternoon.

In Manokwari, KNPB members were also banned from holding any events in solidarity with the PNG office opening, but were able to negotiate with the hundreds of riot police, and the rally went ahead with several hundred participants, dispersing peacefully after a prayer in the late afternoon.

In remote Yahukimo in the highlands, an action supported by KNPB Yakuhimo in support of the IPWP/ILWP meeting at Parliament Haus in PNG on Nov 27, and FWPPNG office opening in PNG was held in front of the Ruko Putra store.  The action was carried out in face of threats from Brimob officers and a platoon of fully armed TNI of Kodim Wamena 1702 (Battalion 752), and also 15 Kopassus special forces brought in from Jakarta.  They were backed up by a large but unknown number of police from from POLRES Dekei Yahukimo under the command of the local Polresta Eliakin Ap.

The forces presence was was requested by Ones Pahabol, the Yahukimo Bupati (District Head). Ones Pahabol is also the local head of the Committee of the 17th District of the GIDI (Indonesian Evangelical Church), who is considered extremely pro-Indonesian.  According to KNPB sources in Yahukimo, Pahabol’s reason for requesting military support was to break up any KNPB demonstration, and he ordered the dispersal of the KNPB activists because he was prohibiting the expression of the KNPB in public.

However the KNPB reported that even though the local government, police and local church committee refused to give permission for the rally to go ahead, the district head of gidi church did give them permission. However the KNPB commented that it was “as if the church were giving permission to the military to kill their parishioners.  Despite this military threat we give our full support to the IPWP meetings happening in PNG on the 27th – 29th.” said a KNPB spokesperson from Yahukimo.

Media Attacks
Several Journalists were also attacked by police during the Waena dispersal, forcing an apology from the Jayapura police chief Alfred Papare.   Police officers reportedly beat and threatened the journalists at a scene behind the administrative court offices , Waena , Jayapura.  According to a report in SuaraPapua.com, the three West Papuan journalists that suffered intimidation from police, were Aprila Wayar ( tabloidjubi.com ) , Micelle Gobay ( SKH torch Papua ) , and Arnold Belau ( suarapapua.com ), Hengky Yeimo (MajalahSelangkah) as well as a national reporter , Alvarez Oru Maga ( Reuters )

In addition, independent media website Suara Papua has been subjected to a denial of service attack, after they published accounts conflicting from the official police version of the story.  It is believed by many season observers on cyber conflict in Indonesia, that this is the work of a shadowy  cyber- division of the Indonesian police trained and funded by the Australian government, despite the fake outrage generated by the Canberra-Jakarta spy scandal.

In news to hand just before publication, two more bodies have been recovered from around Jayapura suffering gunshot wounds, though it is unconfirmed whether they were victims of the November 26 shootings, or further murders by security forces.

A highly credible source reported to West Papua Media that on November 27 at 3.30pm, a Papuan youth named Ottis Membilang (17), was shot by two TNI soldiers.  According to witnesses, Membilang was standing on the side of the road in front if his home near the Mega store at Waena when 2 TNI members arrived in an unidentified vehicle and shot and killed him for no apparent reason.  This is within metres of the area that West Papua Media’s witnessing survivor of November 26’s violence described troops and police  driving around in Avanzas, wearing balaclavas and threatening to shoot all nearby Papuans.

At the time that the first victim Mathius Tengget was being buried by his family, another body was found at Koya Barat (West Koya), at Wlara Tami near Skouw. KNPB sources have yet to confirmed if the body belongs to one of those missing since Tuesday’s brutality. The Tami River has long been a notorious dumping ground for victims of the Indonesian security forces’ Ninjas, as the river after rain sweeps all bodies far out into the Pacific Ocean into shark infested waters.

More to Come.

West Papua Media

Papua New Guinea takes a regional lead in supporting a free West Papua

16 March 2013

 by Airileke Ingram and Jason MacLeod

Melanesian support for a free West Papua has always been high. Travel throughout Papua New Guinea you will often hear people say that West Papua and Papua New Guinea is ‘wanpela graun’ – one land – and that West Papuans on the other side of the border are family and kin. In the Solomon Islands, Kanaky, Fiji and especially Vanuatu, people will tell you that “Melanesia is not free until West Papua is free”. This was the promise that the late Father Walter Lini, Vanuatu’s first prime minister made.

benny powes 1
Above: Papua New Guinea National Capital District Governor Powes Parkop with Independence leader, Benny Wenda at the concert for a free West Papua, Jack Pidik Park, Port Moresby 6 March 2013.

Ordinary people in this part of the Pacific are painfully aware that the West Papuan people continue to live under the gun. It is the politicians in Melanesia who have been slow to take up the cause.

But that may be changing.

Last Wednesday 6 March 2013, the Right Honorary Powes Parkop, Governor of National Capital District, Papua New Guinea nailed his colours firmly to the mast. In front of a crowd of 3000 people Governor Parkop insisted that “there is no historical, legal, religious, or moral justification for Indonesia’s occupation of West Papua”. Turning to welcome West Papuan independence leader Benny Wenda, who was in Papua New Guinea as part of a global tour, the Governor told Wenda that while he was in Papua New Guinea “no one will arrest him, no one will stop him, and he can feel free to say what he wanted to say.” These are basic rights denied to West Papuans who continue to be arrested, tortured and killed simply because of the colour of their skin. Governor Parkop, who is a member of the International Parliamentarians for West Papua, which now has representatives in 56 countries, then went on to formerly launch the free West Papua campaign. He promised to open an office, fly the Morning Star flag from City Hall and pledged his support for a Melanesian tour of musicians for a free West Papua.

Governor Parkop is no longer a lone voice in Melanesia calling for change.

Last year Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill broke with tradition and publicly admonished the Indonesian Government’s response to ongoing state violence, human rights violations and failure of governance in West Papua. Moved by 4000 women from the Lutheran Church O’Neill said he will raise human rights concerns in the troubled territory with the Indonesian government. Now Governor Parkop wants to accompany the Prime Minister on his visits to Indonesia “to present his idea to Indonesia on how to solve West Papuan conflict once and for all.” Well known PNG commentator Emmanuel Narakobi remarked on his blog that Parkop’s multi-pronged proposal for how to mobilise public opinion in PNG around West Papua “is perhaps the first time I’ve heard an actual plan on how to tackle this issue (of West Papua)”. On talk back radio Governor Parkop accused Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr of not taking the issue of West Papua seriously, of “sweeping it under the carpet.”

In Vanuatu, opposition parties, the Malvatumari National Council of Chiefs and the Anglican bishop of Vanuatu, Rev. James Ligo are all urging the current Vanuatu government to change their position on West Papua. Rev. Ligo was at the recent Pacific Council of Churches in Honiara, Solomon Islands, which passed a resolution urging the World Council of Churches to pressure the United Nations to send a monitoring team to Indonesia’s Papua region. “We know that Vanuatu has taken a side-step on that (the west Papua issue) and we know that our government supported Indonesia’s observer status on the MSG, we know that. But again, we also believe that as churches we have the right to advocate and continue to remind our countries and our leaders to be concerned about our West Papuan brothers and sisters who are suffering every day.”

In Kanaky (New Caledonia) and the Solomon Islands West Papua solidarity groups have been set up. Some local parliamentarians have joined the ranks of International Parliamentarians for West Papua. In Fiji church leaders and NGO activists are quietly placing their support behind the cause even while Frank Bainimarama and Fiji’s military government open their arms to closer ties with the Indonesian military. This internationalisation of the West Papua issue is Indonesia’s worst nightmare; it follows the same trajectory as East Timor.

The West Papuans themselves are also organising, not just inside the country where moral outrage against ongoing Indonesian state violence continues to boil, but regionally as well. Prior to Benny Wenda’s visit to Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu based representatives from the West Papua National Coalition for Independence formerly applied for observer status at this year’s Melanesian Spearhead Group meeting due to be held in Noumea, New Caledonia in June, home to another long running Melanesian self-determination struggle. While in Vanuatu Benny Wenda added his support to that move, calling on Papuans from different resistance organisations to back a “shared agenda for freedom”. A decision about whether West Papua will be granted observer status at this year’ MSG meeting will be made soon.

In Australia Bob Carr may be trying to pour cold water on growing public support for a free West Papua but in Melanesia the tide is moving in the opposite direction.

 

 

free_west_papua_concert

 

The West Papua struggle is a difficult one and what outcome will emerge in the years to come is still hard to see. Allot of thoughts crossed my mind on Wednesday night when I attended the Benny Wenda, Free West Papua Concert. But from an Australian perspective, these comments by Daeron on an online forum summed it up quite well for me:

 

“Despair would be a natural but unproductive reaction to this SMH article yesterday, http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/carr-helps-to-remove-the-blinkers-20120305-1ue67.html

Both Bob Carr and Mr Hartcher are products of an American fantasy about Indonesia which benefits Bechtel, Freeport, Exxon, NewMount, Conoco Phillips, to name a few.. Just find a membership listing of the US Indonesia Society lobby to get a full listing. But an Australian foreign minister needs to know the difference between illusion sprouted in US publications and reality, and he needs to understand our regional interests. Bob Carr is a wonderful choice for Indonesia, but not so much for us.I agree the Balinese are a nice people, but Jakarta is not ruled by the people of Indonesia, it is a oligarchy mostly of Indonesian Generals and US corporate interests. The effect of the 1975 invasion of East Timor was that Portugal Oil was replaced by Conoco Phillips, and the effect of the 1962 American deal (the “New York Agreement”) for the UN to trade our neighbours of West Papua to Indonesian rule, was that Freeport got to mine Papua’s gold & copper etc.The NSW Parliament is well aware that West Papua is victim of an illegal UN resolution (resolution 1752 (XVII)) which Australia supported in August 1962, an act which benefited the US corporations and Jakarta but not Australia or our regional interests. Colonialism is good business for Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc.; and it is the unspoken Australian policy for the indigenous population of West Papua.Over this coming year watch as Bob Carr, just like Kevin Rudd, refuses to answer a simple question; why did Australia support UN General Assembly resolution 1752 (XVII) ?
Posted by Daeron, Wednesday, 7 March 2012 1:49:53 AM”

 

But putting aside Independence hopes and geopolitical hurdles for a minute, why would a group of people be causing so many issues for Indonesia if they were happy?

 

.

 

Benny Wenda opened his speech with a story of how when he was 6 years old he witnessed his mother being struck down by the butt of a gun at the hands of Indonesian Military and then witnessed as two Aunties who came to help his mother were raped before his eyes. All this at the age of 6.

 

.

 

It is no wonder that experiences like this from many West Papuan’s have clearly driven them to dispute the fact that they had a legitimate say in self determination in 1962. Again, even if we accepted the UN resolution, has Indonesia given them appropriate rights and services to lead fulfilling lives?

 

.

 

I’m no authority on this issue and I’ve never been to West Papua, but as far as I know there are quite allot of unhappy indigenous West Papuan’s in the world today.

 

.

 

So what are they going to do about it? Well Governor Parkop announced on the night that he was going to be setting up a West Papua Office in Port Moresby. Globally as well they would be coordinating with the International Parliamentarians for West Papua, the International Lawyers for West Papua and International Musicians to ramp up the Global Campaign for West Papua’s Freedom.

 

.

 

I take my hat off to Parkop, this is perhaps the first time I’ve heard an actual plan on how to tackle this issue. Below are some pics of the night and here’s a good wrap up of Parkop’s speech here.

 

.

 

IMG_2504

 

IMG_2535

 

IMG_2563

 

IMG_2580

 

IMG_2597

 

IMG_2634

 

IMG_2681

 

IMG_2673

 

IMG_2708

 

IMG_2715

free_west_papua_concert

The West Papua struggle is a difficult one and what outcome will emerge in the years to come is still hard to see. Allot of thoughts crossed my mind on Wednesday night when I attended the Benny Wenda, Free West Papua Concert. But from an Australian perspective, these comments by Daeron on an online forum summed it up quite well for me:

“Despair would be a natural but unproductive reaction to this SMH article yesterday, http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/carr-helps-to-remove-the-blinkers-20120305-1ue67.html

Both Bob Carr and Mr Hartcher are products of an American fantasy about Indonesia which benefits Bechtel, Freeport, Exxon, NewMount, Conoco Phillips, to name a few.. Just find a membership listing of the US Indonesia Society lobby to get a full listing. But an Australian foreign minister needs to know the difference between illusion sprouted in US publications and reality, and he needs to understand our regional interests. Bob Carr is a wonderful choice for Indonesia, but not so much for us.I agree the Balinese are a nice people, but Jakarta is not ruled by the people of Indonesia, it is a oligarchy mostly of Indonesian Generals and US corporate interests. The effect of the 1975 invasion of East Timor was that Portugal Oil was replaced by Conoco Phillips, and the effect of the 1962 American deal (the “New York Agreement”) for the UN to trade our neighbours of West Papua to Indonesian rule, was that Freeport got to mine Papua’s gold & copper etc.The NSW Parliament is well aware that West Papua is victim of an illegal UN resolution (resolution 1752 (XVII)) which Australia supported in August 1962, an act which benefited the US corporations and Jakarta but not Australia or our regional interests. Colonialism is good business for Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc.; and it is the unspoken Australian policy for the indigenous population of West Papua.Over this coming year watch as Bob Carr, just like Kevin Rudd, refuses to answer a simple question; why did Australia support UN General Assembly resolution 1752 (XVII) ?
Posted by Daeron, Wednesday, 7 March 2012 1:49:53 AM”
But putting aside Independence hopes and geopolitical hurdles for a minute, why would a group of people be causing so many issues for Indonesia if they were happy?
.
Benny Wenda opened his speech with a story of how when he was 6 years old he witnessed his mother being struck down by the butt of a gun at the hands of Indonesian Military and then witnessed as two Aunties who came to help his mother were raped before his eyes. All this at the age of 6.
.
It is no wonder that experiences like this from many West Papuan’s have clearly driven them to dispute the fact that they had a legitimate say in self determination in 1962. Again, even if we accepted the UN resolution, has Indonesia given them appropriate rights and services to lead fulfilling lives?
.
I’m no authority on this issue and I’ve never been to West Papua, but as far as I know there are quite allot of unhappy indigenous West Papuan’s in the world today.
.
So what are they going to do about it? Well Governor Parkop announced on the night that he was going to be setting up a West Papua Office in Port Moresby. Globally as well they would be coordinating with the International Parliamentarians for West Papua, the International Lawyers for West Papua and International Musicians to ramp up the Global Campaign for West Papua’s Freedom.
.
I take my hat off to Parkop, this is perhaps the first time I’ve heard an actual plan on how to tackle this issue. Below are some pics of the night and here’s a good wrap up of Parkop’s speech here.
.
IMG_2504
IMG_2535
IMG_2563
IMG_2580
IMG_2597
IMG_2634
IMG_2681
IMG_2673
IMG_2708
IMG_2711
IMG_2715

IRIN: West Papuan refugees hope for citizenship in PNG

 Article

humanitarian news and analysis

a service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Dan Hanasbey was born in Papua New Guinea

PORT MORESBY, 17 December 2012 (IRIN) – Access to citizenship could prove the best hope yet for thousands of West Papuan refugees living in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

“I want citizenship. I’ve been here 28 years and want to get on with my life,” said Donatus Karuri, a 57-year-old father of six, outside the shelter he shares with five other families at the Hohola refugee settlement. It is one of four settlements for West Papuan refugees in the capital Port Moresby.

Like most West Papuan refugees, he is unable to work legally and has only limited access to public services.

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), there are more than 9,000 West Papuan refugees in PNG today, many of whom have been in the Pacific island nation for over three decades.

Others know no other home and can’t imagine living anywhere else.

“I was born here. This is the only country I know,” said Dan Hanasbey, 27, another refugee wanting citizenship.

Flight from Indonesia

Between 1984 and 1986, more than 11,000 West Papuans fled east into PNG from the western, Indonesian half of New Guinea Island to escape political turmoil and economic discontent; the area’s longstanding secessionist sentiments towards Jakarta continue to simmer today.

West Province, a former Dutch colony rich in natural resources, was later divided into two separate provinces – Papua and West Papua – however, indigenous West Papuans continue to refer to the entire Indonesian area as West Papua.

At the time the refugees arrived, the PNG government was not yet a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention. It granted the West Papuans prima facie refugee status shortly after accession to the convention in 1986 – but with seven reservations, including Article 34 on naturalization.

Of the close to 9,300 West Papuan refugees in PNG today, almost half live along the border area with Indonesia.

Another 2,435 live in urban areas, while 2,290 live in East Awin, the only officially sanctioned area for West Papuan refugees to settle. There, regular assistance is available and access to 6,000 hectares of government land is provided – about 120km away from the Indonesian border. The site was established in an effort to resettle the refugees away from the border areas to avoid possible political problems with the Indonesian government.

Those who resettle in the area for six months are provided permissive residency permits (PRPs), which allow them certain rights, including the right to work and travel internally (excluding border areas), and gives them access to health and education services.

Few refugees, however, wish to resettle in East Awin, preferring instead to stay close to the border area and their land and families on the other side. Others frown upon its remote jungle location and inaccessibility.

The government estimates only 40 percent of West Papuan refugees hold PRPs. As a result, most survive on subsistence farming – particularly in the border area. Those in urban settings live on private or government land, under constant risk of eviction, and often work illegally.


Photo: David Swanson/IRIN
Like many West Papuan refugees, Donatus Karuri would like to stay

The cost of citizenship

Despite these challenges, many West Papuans – who share a similar Melanesian ancestry to Papua New Guineans – have integrated well in this nation of 7.3 million and would like to stay.

“Local integration with the opportunity to be granted PNG citizenship is the best solution for many West Papuan refugees under the current circumstances,” Walpurga Englbrecht, UNHCR country representative for PNG, told IRIN.

“The problem, however, is the application fee is too high.”

Under PNG law, any foreigner – including refugees – wishing to apply to citizenship and who has fulfilled eight years of residency must pay a 10,000 kina (US$5,000) application fee.

“We can’t afford that. It’s impossible,” Freddy Warome, 58, a West Papuan community leader, complained.

Under Article 34 of the Refugee Convention, signatory states should facilitate the assimilation and naturalization of refugees, and make every effort to expedite naturalization and reduce the costs as far as possible.

To date, the PNG government appears mindful of this responsibility, but it remains unclear when they might act upon it.

Speaking at a 2011 ministerial meeting to mark the 60th anniversary of the Refugee Convention, Moses Manwau, PNG’s former vice minister for foreign affairs and immigration, confirmed the government’s commitment to withdrawing its earlier reservations to the Convention, and to waiving all fees or introducing nominal fees for refugees seeking naturalization.

“We are determined to give refugees the kind of life, liberty, peace and prosperity they deserve so that they can hold their own against any other citizens in Papua New Guinea,” he said.

UNHCR believes there should be a path to citizenship for those who desire it, while those West Papuans lacking PRPs who would like to remain in the country should be provided PRPs without having to relocate to East Awin, Englbrecht said.

ds/rz
Theme(s): Refugees/IDPs,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

 conditions as set out in the IRIN copyright page.

 

Open Letter from Forkorus in Abepura prison to PNG Prime Minister

Reprinted in full:

FEDERATED REPUBLIC OF WEST PAPUA

ABEPURA PRISON, JAYAPURA, WEST PAPUA

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill
PO Box 472
Port Moresby, NCD 121
Papua New Guinea
5 October 2012

Dear Prime Minister,

Excellency, I am writing from Abepura Prison in Jayapura on the other side of the border, to wish you well during your term as Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea.

I am writing also to thank you for your demonstration of Melanesian leadership last
week in speaking out about human rights violations in West Papua.
We West Papuans have been intimidated, tortured, raped, killed and incarcerated for
decades, since 1962 to be precise, and our suffering has been ignored by the world,
including by the Melanesian Spearhead Group and Pacific Island Forum. Your words
last week, committing to some responsibility for your brothers and sisters in West
Papua, filled our hearts and we hope will relieve us somewhat of our burden.

Excellency, security for all my people has been so much worse since our congress in October 2011, and safety levels are now so low that I feel obliged to ask you, if not beg you, to initiate a United Nations’ fact-finding mission as soon as possible.

As you would know, West Papua was a colony of the Netherlands for sixty-four
years, but was transferred to Indonesia in 1962 by way of a duplicitous treaty
engineered by Australia and the United States. (The New York Agreement was in
fact a Cold War transaction that rode over the intentions of the South Pacific
Commission to develop our independence program). As a consequence of Indonesian
governance, which has been deplorable across all measurable sectors, we Melanesian
West Papuans now constitute 48.73% of the population, down from 96.09% fifty year
ago, with more than half-a-million (546,126) missing.

Excellency, during the 3rd Papuan Congress in October 2011, five thousand registered participants mandated the Federated Republic of West Papua to deliver independence, and as part of our liberation win back the western border of Melanesia.

I believe Papua New Guinea under your leadership is in a strong position to help
deliver the political change we need if we are to survive. Your voice, as kin and as
neighbour, will be listened to in the Melanesian Spearhead Group, in the Pacific
Islands Forum, the Africa Caribbean Pacific Committee, and also the United Nations.
I sincerely hope Prime Minister that you are willing to take some responsibility for
ending this occupation so that we in West Papua can take our rightful position
alongside the other Melanesia nation-states.

Yours sincerely,

Forkorus Yaboisembut, SPd
President, Federated Republic of West Papua

Abepura Prison

 

PNG abuses West Papuan refugees as Indonesia’s proxy war further corrupts Customs

EXCLUSIVE IN-DEPTH INVESTIGATION FROM WEST PAPUA MEDIA

BY NICK CHESTERFIELD

December 27, 2011

Allegations of brutality, corruption, and a failure of the rule of law are being levelled at PNG Police and Customs officers in Wewak, East Sepik, after a small group of West Papuan refugees fleeing from Indonesian violence were subjected to an unauthorised operation and imprisoned on illegal charges.

Procedural failures, responsibility avoidance and accusations of financial exploitation of vulnerable and traumatised refugees have transformed a simple misunderstanding into a major miscarriage of justice. International legal obligations, basic human, refugee and legal rights have been systematically denied as law enforcement officials in Wewak scramble to avoid any personal or legal responsibility for the debacle.

A group of four West Papuan refugees, fleeing to Wewak after the violent crackdown by Indonesian security forces on the Third Papuan People’s Congress, were arrested, beaten and imprisoned by Papua New Guinea police and Customs officers on November 17. Police and Customs officers at the scene refused to hear claims for Refugee status, and several weeks of direct appeals by family members were brushed off by East Sepik police hierarchy.

Pastor Abraham Kareni (51), Judit Kambuaya (61), Esboren Fonataba (30) and Anton Toto (39) were attacked by police and Customs, accused of illegally importing the fuel in their boat while escaping to PNG from Indonesian security forces.

Boram prison, Wewak

Since their arrest, PNG Police, Customs, Courts and Corrections have all denied the four men medical attention, legal representation and basic procedural fairness, who remain in detention at the notorious Boram prison.  This is contravenes the  minimum obligations on PNG as a signatory and ratifier of the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

.

There is deep suspicion at the timing of the arrest of the four men, as part of an alleged campaign by Indonesia to silence its international critics in the immediate aftermath of its crackdown on Third Papuan People’s Congress. Kareni was a direct witness to the violence, and his testimony was internationally broadcast days after the Indonesian brutality was captured on video and social media.

The men’s families have grave fears for their lives and worry that the Indonesian Intelligence has motivated corrupt PNG authorities to imprison them.

This complex story shines light into the murky layers of a barely functioning state apparatus in a town riven by factionalism and corruption, amid allegations of outright treason against PNG. Where every player is deeply interconnected with a hundred others, the lack of basic accountability is complicating natural justice for the four innocent men.

At the centre of this debacle is the corrupt abuse of power by those who should be enforcing the law in Sepik. Senior Customs and Law Enforcement officials have denied any responsibility, telling West Papua Media that the arrests and beatings were conducted without their knowledge or approval, yet disciplinary action against those involved has still not occurred.

After agreeing to hold publication at the request of the prisoner’s families whilst a legal strategy was in play, and to ensure investigators safety, West Papua Media can now reveal that a deep malaise and tolerance for corrupt practices have enabled PNG law enforcement officials to be utilized for personnel vendettas, Indonesian military objectives, all with the shadowy involvement of local militias loyal to the leading business families of East Sepik province.

———————————

A very slow boat to freedom

When a historic announcement was made that West Papuan people would hold the Third Papuan People’s Congress, for only the third time in 50 years, to discuss pathways to West Papuan independence, Wewak based refugees Abraham Kareni, Judit Kambuaya and Esboren Fonataba, together with Anthon Toto (a West Papua supporter from Sepik, PNG), decided they must do whatever they could for their people..

The four men planned to be present to assist exiles to return, and to be on standby as contingency should Indonesian violence mean more had to flee. Like most West Papuans, the four knew that returning to West Papua under Indonesian occupation could mean death, or arrest and guaranteed torture. It could also mean that like many ordinary Papuans, death could come from a random act of an aggressive soldier, a bombing or razing of a village, all acts that are untouchable through entrenched impunity.

Whilst in West Papua, they sourced a large amount of two-stroke engine oil, which was to supply not just their own escape, but also to be a contingency for other boat journeys to assist other West Papuans fleeing for their lives.

All four men had long experience of this. Rather than seeking a more secure life when they escaped, they chose to remain in a frontier town for the sake of others. Like Oskar Schindler in World War 2, who helped thousands of Jews escape Nazi persecution, Abraham Kareni is a man who has eschewed his own security and financial benefit to be on hand should more West Papuan people need to flee for their lives from Indonesian brutality. This was done for the noblest of motivations: pure altruism borne from the empathy of experience. Abraham was often a first point of contact for thousands of refugees who fled Indonesia’s violence.

Despite having to smuggle people to freedom, the men were not people smugglers in the accepted international legal definitions, as they have never sought personal financial advantage. The International definitions of people smuggling are explicit (author’s italics):

Article 3(a): ‘Smuggling of migrants’ shall mean the procurement in order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit, of the illegal entry of a person into a State Party of which the person is not a national or permanent resident. (Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (United Nations) )

With Kambuaya, Kareni set up the West Papua Action Group in Wewak and remained politically active, reminding the often sleepy town of the ongoing human tragedy occurring less than a day’s sailing away in West Papua.

Abraham Kareni

Abraham, from Serui in West Papua, originally fled to PNG in 1984 after joining the armed struggle after brutal Indonesian military offensives right across West Papua. Together with an influx of over 10,000 refugees at the time, he reunited with his wife and two children in Blackwater, near Vanimo, and was then sent to a refugee camp in East Awin, Kiunga. Since then, the family had been living in a small shelter in Wewak, a meeting place that is a cornerstone for the Free West Papua movement from armed struggle to non-violent movement, holding critical meetings and workshops for the formation of West Papuan civil resistance – meetings that were auspiced by Sir Michael Somare .

Judit Kambuayawas originally from Sorong in West Papua and also has living in Wewak for almost 32 years.

Jude Kambuaya

He married to a local lady from Lumi in East Sepik Province and has two children, both teenage boys. His activism was through music and culture with his Tabamramu cultural group, which toured PNG speaking (and singing) out about the violence occurring in his homeland. Kambuaya had also been assisting other meetings, workshops and creating safe havens for West Papuan student activists.

Esboren Fonatabais an activist in West Papua’s civil resistance movement from Ambai in Serui. His married and has 3 children.

Esboren Fonataba

His from Ambai as well and his family lives in Jayapura. Esboren , also known as Morris by locals around Wewak, is married with 3 young children living in Jayapura. Since early 2000, he has been the boat skipper helping the student activists coming to PNG for meetings, workshops or who are escaping from military repression in West Papua, and has been devoting most of his time and effort in helping activists crossing the border via sea route.

Anthon Totois a human rights activist and West Papua supporter from Warpo village, between Vanimo and Aitape, Sandaun, PNG. With a wife and 4 children, Anthon has been helping his friend Morris assisting civil resistance activists in crossing the border.

Anton Toto

On the afternoon of October 19, while thousands of people were celebrating the provocative declaration of the independent Federal Republic of West Papua, Indonesian troops opened fire on the peaceful aftermath of the Third Papuan People’s Congress. At least seven people were shot dead and hundreds severely beaten, with 800 arrested. Both Abraham and Judith were arrested, and severely beaten, but were released the next day because Indonesian forces simply did not have the space to detain them.

All four men went into hiding near Jayapura as Indonesian security forces were hunting them, aware of their need to stay in case a major refugee crisis was about to develop. Most activists eventually chose not to flee West Papua, electing to stay and intensify the civil resistance struggle against Indonesia. However, according to trusted sources, contingency arrangements still had to be made ahead of December 1, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of an Independent West Papua, and the first raising of its now banned symbol of freedom the Morning Star flag. Mass demonstrations had been planned for this day, as Indonesian security forces threatened to arrest and shoot anyone showing the flag, as an act of rebellion. A bloody crackdown was expected, but due to the discipline of the movement inside, the bloodshed was limited and Indonesian security forces were restrained by effective international civil media monitoring (coordinated by West Papua Media).

But for Abraham, Judit, Morris and Anthon, they cast off in mid-November to prepare for the moment when thousands would need to flee. They knew that they had to make that crossing, to test the route for that still inevitable day, when the Indonesian military will launch another bloody crackdown.

Local brutality or extending Indonesia’s war by proxy?

At 5pm on Thursday November 17, several hours after the four men arrived back at Kareni’s house on the beach at Boram, opposite Wewak Airport, Police and Customs stormed the house. Three car loads of police and Customs officers were present and threatened family, and destroyed property.  The raid was led by Wewak Police Station Commander, James Wangihomie, who authorised the operation, together with his sister-in-law, Customs officer Maggie Wangihomie. Despite the verbal authorisation, no legal warrant was issued by either Customs or the Police.

According to several witnesses, the police – mainly young recruits from outside Sepik – were drunk, as was a police officer known as Sergeant Tassi, who was alleged to be the main perpetrator of the violence. Tassi assaulted Kareni repeatedly in the house, and witnesses allege police struck Kareni – already sustaining a fractured skull from beatings during the 3rd Papuan People’s Congress – at least eleven times on his head.

Speaking on video interviews provided to West Papua Media, Abraham Kareni described the abuse he and his friends received at the hands of Tassi:

Kareni''s house, rebuilt after militia attack

“The policeman slapped me. He didn’t talk to me in a proper way. When he asked me questions he just hit me straight away, left, right. I wanted to explain my journey to the policeman, but I couldn’t explain because he didn’t respond with words but with his fists.”

“Then he said ‘you’re a con-man, you always import cigarettes and weapons’. I wanted to answer his claims but he just slapped me. I wanted to explain but he just responded with violence, just kept punching me.”

No cigarettes or weapons were found by either police or Customs.

Kareni continues: “As the police were hitting me I said, Ouch! Don’t hit me on the face. The policeman said ‘Do you want me to kill you? I can kill you now.’ I said ‘thank you, if you want to kill me kill me now’. I was calm, everything that was happening to me, I said to God, ‘whatever happens to me I surrender to you’.”

Mama Sonny described the violence. “As I was standing I saw Abraham getting slapped in the face, he told him to quickly go up into the house to bring down all the things, so from there Abraham carried the boxes down and they slapped him again when he was going to put them in the police car. Not long after the two guys were going to take things to the boat, but they were hit and kicked and slapped from behind until they reached the boat.”

Abraham's family home in happier days, Boram, Wewak, PNG

“I want that policeman to be fired. He is really too evil. Because his actions are so violent against us. What he was doing marching up and down was excessive more than the others?” demanded Mama Sonny.

Tassi, after restraining Kareni, turned his attention onto the other three men.

Jude Kambuaya described the attack on him. “They came up to the house without any notice, smashed our belongings, they took our bags. An army jacket that I had bought was wrapped up in the bag. A policeman by the name of Tassi broke open the bag, took out the jacket and put it on. Then he took the things out of the broken bags, and carried it away with the boxes of oil, our fishing nets, he took them and put them in the police car.”

Esboren Fonataba was dismayed at his treatment. “The policeman was holding a stick and started beating my back with it. Twice the stick broke when it hit my back. The first time the stick broke, the policeman just picked up another stick and kept going. I shouted out ‘God, how can this be happening to me!’. They hit me all the way to boat and told us to push to boat out into the water. While I was pushing the boat he hit me on the face.”

At no stage during the operation did James Wangihomie, the officer in charge, attempt to restrain his officers, and sat in or near his car.

Abraham’s son Ronny Kareni is a musician with the band Tabura, as well as a human rights advocate and community organizer living in Australia since arriving as a student in 2002. He travelled to Wewak to assist his father after performing with Tabura at a major music festival in Port Morseby. While visiting his father in prison, Ronny Kareni attempted to secure some element of responsibility from PNG officials over the situation.

According to Ronny Kareni, “The conduct of the arresting officers wasn’t within the law of PNG. How could an arresting Officer on duty, provide no search warrant, come in a drunken state, not have proper consultation, savagely brutalize suspects, and make a vicious verbal attack on the suspects that they are illegal migrants and trouble makers, without any evidence?

All the men were charged formally on November 19 on one count each of “tax Evasion”. Customs allege that detainees attempted to defraud PNG by illegally importing fuel, notwithstanding the lawful excuse that the two-stroke fuel was being transported and stored to provide contingency as a means to escape persecution for other refugees from recent well-documented Indonesian violence in West Papua.

Customs seized the fuel and the Banana boat and a significant amount of engine fuel, together worth an estimated K6000.

The seized banana boat in Customs' custody

Under accepted refugee practice, items that are means to escape persecution cannot be prosecuted. When Ronny went to inspect the seized goods he was presented with the engine oil boxes, including several that were missing their contents. Customs have yet to acknowledge the seizure of the goods, which could raise upwards of K10000 on the vibrant Wewak black market.

Seized boxes of 2 stroke oil.

According to Ronny Kareni, Customs would drop the charge for illegal immigration, and instead charge the four men under the Customs Acts, Section 16 (2), alleging the detainees sought to “convey imported goods without customs control and entry.”

Since their arrest, Police have consistently refused any of the detainees medical attention, despite being told by family and advocates of pre-existing head injuries from beings sustained during Indonesian security force crackdown at the 3rd Papuan People’s Congress. Francis Kikoli, a police officer who has been involved in previous attacks on the Kareni family, allegedly refused the four men access to food and medical attention for six days following the arrest, and reportedly told the families that they “were banned from bringing food”.

Boram Prison meal area

The conditions that the men are being held in are atrocious. Jude Kambuaya says that after being beaten, “we were brought here, we sleep on the cement floor, mosquitoes bite us all over, when the mosquitoes bite me I feel sick and my back is aching.”

Access to legal representation has been also been consistently denied, as the defendants faced Wewak Court on several occasions without the chance to consult lawyers or even having the opportunity to present a defence, according to the family.

Despite attempts to secure guarantees for the four men’s safety whilst being held at the notorious Boram prison, well known for extremely bad behaviour amongst inmates, they remain under grave risk of attack. A local police officer, sympathetic to the men, expressed to West Papua Media his own deep concern. “The detainees shouldn’t be put in Boram prison, especially Abraham and Judith because the prison is different world altogether where inmates run their own show.”

The East Sepik Police Provincial Commander (PPC) Vincent Pokas was not informed of the operation and was absent in Vanimo at the time, alerted only after West Papua Media contacted him for comment.  Pokas initially was outraged, and promised to take action to bail the four immediately upon his return to Wewak, and was adamant that they would be released.  Unfortunately, Pokas has yet to take action despite having the power to drop charges.

When a report was received that the men were about to be attacked by prisoners just before Christmas, the PPC did not attend as requested by the family and legal representatives. Pokas has been unreachable for comment ever since.

Arresting police have also claimed to West Papua Media that the West Papuan men cannot be considered refugees as they willingly went back to West Papua. Under PNG law (together with most countries) a person avails themselves of protection if they voluntarily choose to return to country of persecution.

Yet International Refugee law is also explicit on the question of fresh evidence. If a person who has returned to the persecuting country, and is then subjected to new persecution, then it is the new round of persecution that determines the claim. All conflicting evidence prior to the fresh persecution is not considered, under the standard guideline of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. The immediate experience of Kareni, Kambuaya and Fonataba prior to their most recent escape form West Papua all qualify for fresh claims.

Jude still cannot understand why the PNG authorities are treating him in this way, when he was fleeing for his life. “We came here to escape; now the Customs say that we are here illegally, what do they mean by illegal? We have already been here for many years. I have a permissive residency permit; the PNG government gave me that status in 1984. This is equivalent to being a PNG citizen. So why are they doing this to me? I am married to a woman born inside PNG.

A Wewak based community organiser, who contacted West Papua Media but wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, has described the events as “disgusting” and something that “all people who want a new beginning for PNG should hang their head in shame about”.  The source described a situation where most locals in the deeply divided town do not want to get involved, and have also turned a blind eye to the plight of men well known as humanitarians.

“The fact that every policeman, every mauswara tukina raskol in uniform, has completely passed off responsibility for this, is one point to be angry about. But the fact that people like these honourable wantoks from West Papua, who are doing nothing more than making sure their countrymen, our countrymen, are able to have a place to land, and save their lives from the Indonesian killers …. The fact that these corrupt thugs are preying on them for an easy bribe is even more shameful.”

“These families have endured so much at the hands of corrupt thugs, and they are still being picked on by cowardly and corrupt people. They should immediately be given their freedom, permanent protection, and have restitution for their losses so they can have some dignity. And those criminal thugs at the wharf (Customs) should be sacked and forced to pay compensation to their victims,” said the organiser.

Indonesian Whispers lead to a chance to make some kina

One source within the PNG police in Vanimo has claimed to West Papua Media that the four men were spotted as they left a secluded cove near Jayapura, and Indonesian intelligence contacted its officers in the Consulate in Vanimo.

According to the Wewak office of Customs, the operation occurred after a tip off was received on the morning of November 17 in Vanimo that the boat was headed to Wewak and would need to be intercepted. It was alleged to Customs that the boat was carrying weapons and marijuana.

Enquiries made by West Papua Media have narrowed the source of the tip off to one of three possibilities: either from a troublesome faction of the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN) based near Vanimo, or directly from the Indonesian military attaché at Vanimo consulate, or both.

West Papuan exiles are no different to any other displaced diaspora in that their politics are factionally riven. However one particular grouping in Vanimo has caused more grief for long term refugees in PNG than any other.

Allegations have long swirled around about both the connections, ease of travel and petulance of certain dual nationals who are aligned with the armed struggle in West Papua, and who had publicly collaborated with the infamous Operation Sunset Merona in January which burnt down refugee camps across Sandaun province.

Internet postings one week prior to Kareni’s arrest – that people associated with the nonviolent struggle were actually seeking to ferry weapons and drugs in and out of PNG – match up with the allegations that Wewak Customs said they received from Vanimo.  PPC Vincent Pokas, on the day after the arrests, had confirmed to West Papua Media that the allegation had arisen from a West Papuan in Vanimo.  However, when the author asked “was that the Indonesian consulate?”, the PPC answered “Yes”, and then “Look, Sir, I cannot tell you that”.

Whether the statement by Pokas is verifiable is unimportant. Past operations by PNG security forces against West Papuan refugees have left critical questions unanswered about the extent of Indonesian intelligence agency involvement. This is a question that not a single serving officer in Wewak Customs or Police will be drawn upon on the record.

Established Indonesian intelligence practice in many countries has been to manipulate local law enforcement as an extra-territorial extension of its anti-separatist policies. The is despite Jakarta’s double-standard in insisting that no other country interferes in West Papua, yet its agencies are happy to interfere in PNG government processes, using PNG personnel to continue the war against West Papuan activists by proxy.

There is deep suspicion at the timing of the arrest of the four men, as part of an alleged campaign by Indonesia to silence its international critics in the immediate aftermath of its crackdown on Third Papuan People’s Congress.  Kareni was a direct witness to the violence, and his testimony was internationally broadcast days after the Indonesian brutality was captured on video and social media. Indonesia’s interests would be well served by indefinitely imprisoning a direct witness.

In November, the Indonesian government manipulated the Interpol Red Notice system to issue a highly controversial international arrest warrant for exiled West Papuan political leader Benny Wenda, to face charges stemming from his alleged involvement in a police station attack in Abepura in 2000, which Wenda denies. According to legal observers present at his trial, no witnessed called by the prosecution were willing to testify. Wenda escaped in 2003, and was sheltered and assisted in his bid for freedom by Kareni. Wenda is now living in the UK, where he leads the Free West Papua Campaign.

PNG has systemic form in denying West Papuan refugees legal representation under pressure from Indonesia. During the Sunset Merona raid, not one refugee was ever afforded independent legal representation after being accused by the Sunset Merona commanders of being armed rebels, and all were promptly bundled away to the Kiunga camps, deep in the jungle on the remote PNG – West Papua border, far from independent communications.

Tony Edwards, a long term supporter of the West Papuans in Wewak, says no-one can say that any of the four are here illegally. “The four guys who came here are not illegal immigrants, they are citizens of Sepik region. They are citizens of Wewak and we regard them as being Sepik people.”

Abraham Kareni is adamant that outside forces have played a role in their detention. “The way I see it, there is involvement from Indonesian Intelligence and the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) in this case.”

“Now they are also using our own people, they reported us to Customs so that Customs would come and arrest us. If Indonesian Intelligence and the CID weren’t involved, then nothing they wouldn’t have arrested us and we wouldn’t be in prison,” said Kareni.

Questions are still unanswered as to why PNG agencies still see fit to carry out Indonesian demands for persecution without any form of accountability or even basic cross-checking for the political motivations of such demands. By refusing to investigate and demand an onus of legal proof from Indonesian authorities, PNG has repeatedly run the risk of handing its sovereign process directly to the Indonesian security forces already physically present in the province.

Murky history of Customs corruption

Are PNG’s security forces, including Customs, in the hands of the Indonesian military? Or is the corruption of the few creating a danger for those honest officers within the forces? With the almost 18,000 Indonesian soldiers along the border being reinforced daily, and deep infiltration of both the former Somare government (too early to tell with the O’Neill government) and PNG’s business elite, massive ongoing corruption in the forestry sector with Indonesian military run logging interests

West Papua Media has been informed by several reliable sources in Wewak that the secretive operation was highly unusual and did not follow procedure. Gunu Gao Yonge, Acting Manager of the Customs Officer in Wewak, kept the operation secret from all other staff members apart from Maggie Wangihomie, the Customs representative that took the Police officers down to the Kareni house at Boram.

Only Gunu Yonge and Maggie Wangihomie were aware of the operation, according to other officers. When asked by Ronny Kareni, Yonge refused to disclose the name of the arresting officers or any of the police officers involved in the arrest, but this information was sourced from witnesses and other officers.

“Yonge is accountable, and must justify why those drunken police officers savagely brutalized four detainees. Her evasiveness to questions show there is a huge level of hidden truth and fraudulent conduct in this operation,” said Ronny.

The Wewak office of PNG Customs has a long documented history of corrupt dealings associated with the logging industry and biased operations and persecutions. Several reports by NGOs and government agencies since 2006 have identified repeated and deliberate failures by Customs to enforce PNG law on Malaysian owned illegal logging operations, the removal and correct labelling of high value hardwood timber, and the correct enforcement on equipment brought from Malaysia, Indonesia and West Papua on Indonesian military connected vessels.

Illegal workers, trafficked prostitutes, undutied imported supplies and contraband for the mainly Indonesian personnel working at the illegal logging sites are also ignored regularly by Customs in Wewak, despite their office being situated in front of the main entrance to the Wewak wharf.

In addition, Taiwanese and Filipino fishing fleets still bring in illegal labourers to their tuna cannery, once again right in front of the Customs office.

Most worrying of all is the selectivity of operations under Customs, and the question of who gets targeted. The blindspots of Customs surveillance is in East Sepik are telling.

Multiple direct complaints have been made to Customs and police by local human rights investigators in the past that their officers have only been present in Kaup, the family village of former Prime Minister and attempted coup leader Sir Michael Somare, whilst being entertained by Arthur Somare, the former East Sepik raskol leader, governor and business figure, and now Member of Parliament.  This is despite the unmolested presence of a large timber terminal operated by notorious Malaysian logger Rimbunan Hijau, which is consistently shipping out undeclared timber, and shipping in undeclared contraband, illegal workers and sex slaves.

Local human rights investigators also claimed to the author during a previous investigation that Arthur Somare’s own house allegedly housed a prostitutes’ barracks

House of ARTHUR SOMARE with alleged Prostitutes accommodation in white donga

that has been a regular haunt of Wewak based Customs and Police officers.

From the house balcony of ARTHUR SOMARE overlooking the Rimbunan Hijau Log Pond at Kaup

Further allegations have been raised with West Papua Media, but at time of publication no confirmation or denial has been forthcoming if any of the officers involved in the illegal raid had been present in Kaup in the months ahead of the raid.

What is clear is that no contraband seizures or arrests from Indonesian timber vessels have occurred in recent months, despite numerous tip-offs from local investigators. Gunu Yonge reacted angrily when asked about this discrepancy by West Papua Media, and hung up the phone.

Deep internal divisions within both Wewak Police and Customs have also been exposed by the arrests and subsequent mishandling of the case. The PPC, Vincent Pokas, met with Abraham and the others on December 13 at Boram Prison and explained the extent of police and customs corruption and internal conflict, according to Kareni family.

Obed Mathew is the former customs manager in Wewak, and was suspended after Gunu Yonge allegedly engineered his dismissal after he raised discipline and accountability issues at the office. He told West Papua Media that the procedure of customs seizing of goods is outside the normal procedure.

“Usually we hold a briefing for all staff members, then we (Customs) go to the suspects and identify the goods. We then make consultation with the suspects, and seize goods only if they are used for commercial purposes have not been declared. The normal procedure is usually, if the suspect has not reported in 24 hours, there is a breach of customs provisional law. In this case they didn’t wait until after 24 hours”.

Matthew further explained that the operation authorised by Yonge is a clear case of Official Misconduct, as it was conducted without regard to procedure, understanding of the law, or fair process, and well before the expiry of the compliance period. Matthew was so incensed by the treatment of the four defendants that he agreed to become their legal guarantor.

Marryanne Gito, a Customs officer on day leave when the raid took place, told West Papua Media that she had no awareness of the operation. She testified that other staff members were not briefed of the operation beforehand, saying the case is very unusual.

Gunu Yonge told West Papua Media just before she hung up again on the author, that she had no understanding of the legal framework around the arrest, and therefore would have to refer all legal questions to Customs lawyers. However, when West Papua Media requested contact details for Customs legal representatives, officers had no knowledge of those representatives.

On December 14, after receiving the names of the arresting officers from his sources, Ronny Kareni returned to the Customs office to confirm this information with the acting Customs manager.

“When I went to double check with Yonge, she accused me of obstructing Customs, and further mentioned that their office was not handling the case, but the regional office is”.

However, Francis Nipuru, the East Sepik regional Customs Commissioner, was not notified of the operation, nor its outcome, until notified by Ronny on December 13.

“I said to her face that she was lying because the regional office wasn’t aware of the operation until I personally called Francis Nipuru, who followed up with Gunu later on Tuesday”

However, Nipuru also has not attempted to seek clarification or review of the charges laid by Customs on the four men, despite being in a position to drop all charges.

“When Yonge heard what I said, she walked away from me and went straight into her office. Her reaction was childish. By walking away from this conversation is enough proof that she authorised an illegal and corrupt operation to arrest my father and his friends,” Ronny said.

Denial of basic Justice

Since the arrests, none of the defendants have been afforded access to lawyers, and custodial police have actively obstructed lawyers and legal workers from meeting with their clients or having access to even basic charge sheets.

Two court appearances have occurred in this case, but both have been adjourned until January 9.   In neither case were the defendants allowed to be present.  The Police Prosecutor, Salvado Namtane, has also participated in the denial of justice by by not objecting to the procedural violations and basic court rules by insisting that adequate legal representation has been afforded to the defendants.

Nowhere in the process have either the family members been provided with either a Brief of Evidence or even a charge sheet, nor a Customs version of Facts and allegations against the four men. The police prosecutor has refused to provide any copies of allegations, which have not been formally obtained, however Ronny Kareni reported that he sighted the prosecutor’s Summary.

According to the Summary, the defendants have been categorised by the Provincial Court as Grade 5 suspects. Grade 5 is the most extreme Court categorisation, reserved for suspects in murder or aggravated armed robbery cases and requires a senior magistrate. The minimum cost for bail in such a case requires between 5000-6000 Kina (approx A$2300- A$2800)

Interestingly, the bail price itself has reduced significantly since arrest. Initial bail was set at an impossible 55,000 Kina, ten times higher than the bail set for accused murderers. This amount was promptly reduced to 5,500 kina when objected to.

The families of the detainees have expressed deep concern at what they are seeing as “a cycle of exploitation that has been started”. Ronny Kareni explained “my family feel like everyone is just trying to get on the game, and even the lawyers are just asking money we do not have”

According to Ronny, “3000 Kina has already been paid to the lawyer William Tekwie from Wagambie Lawyers, and he is demanding another 2000 kina as standby for bailout that might happen any day. But the court date has been adjourned to January 9, so my family cannot understand how they are going to get it. They are refugees, not businessmen”  *(please see endnote for Correction and clarification of the contentious paragraph)

“We fled from persecution, only to be persecuted by our own blood”

Reliable sources in Wewak, once again seeking anonymity for fear of reprisal, have expressed their belief that the detention is linked high level corruption in the province involving leading Sepik political and business families, and in particular, a development proposal for the land on which the shelters were burnt. The families and individuals have been named by these sources, but West Papua Media has not able to independently source robust supporting evidence or documentation directly in relation to this particular case to consider the identification of those family names. The land is considered prime tourism real estate in Wewak, immediately opposite the airport terminal and lined with a postcard tropical beach.

In 2008, the compound belong to the West Papuan refugees in Boram was attacked by a loosely formed group comprising raskols, who claimed – after 24 years – that compound squatted illegally on their land. All seven houses and fishing sheds in the compound were burned to the ground, and families had to again rebuild from scratch after calm was restored.

Both family members and independent community workers in Wewak have claimed that the land was legally provided by Jerewai clan members to house refugees after the massive Indonesian offensives in West Papua in 1984. The Somare family, who also have extended family land on the east side of the airport, reportedly gave their deep support to the refugees at the time to set up houses on the site in order to maintain their traditional fishermen’s lifestyle.

Damage from militia attack on Kareni home

Just one week before the arrest of the four men in early November, another attack occurred on Kareni’s house.

A Sepik local, who was drinking in the town, allegedly punched a man. He was chased and ran into the Kareni compound to seek shelter, when a group of drunken men attacked the compound to flush out the man.

Damage from militia attack on Kareni home

This attack, carried by children of several serving police officers, smashed up the houses under the cover of darkness. The son of senior police officer Francis Kikoli was allegedly involved in the attack. Kikoli himself has been linked by sources in Wewak to ongoing abuses on behalf of logging interests in the Sepik.

A complete failure of responsibility

According to Ronny Kareni, every office holder in East Sepik can put a speedy end to this embarrassing saga “by making a simple determination of misconduct, and simply dropping the charges to give the men their freedom and dignity. All is requires is for people to face up to their responsibilities”.

Most of all, the corrupt behaviour of the customs officers has turned ordinary people’s lives upside down, people that deserve the protection and not the persecution from the state.

Whatever the outcome of the court hearings, if the family remain in Wewak they will continue to remain in extreme danger. Mama Kambuaya is in a desperate situation.

“Right now we are very worried. I haven’t eaten today. I went there to see them in the prison. It’s a big burden to see them all in prison. It’s a big worry how can we help to release them. We feel really bad about this, we want them to be released and come back home to us.”

Will anyone in a position to take responsibility actually do so, or will this next episode of denial of West Papuan refugee rights be yet another shameful chapter of PNG acquiescence to Indonesian military aims? Will PNGs’ new leaders show resolve in standing up to Indonesia, or will they continue to do the dirty work for Indonesia’s proxy war on PNG soil?

For Abraham Kareni the situation is clear, and he calls on PNG people to not just help his friends, but to stand up for Papua as a whole. “We came to PNG, because we share one island, one culture, we are Melanesian brothers. From Papua New Guinea and from West Papua we are all brothers, we share one skin, that’s why we came here to seek refuge, for them to be aware of our bad situation, to see whether they can help us or not. But I see that they don’t recognise this yet, how we are fighting for our rights.”

Will the people of Papua New Guinea stand up for their wantoks?

To assist the family or the case, please contact Ronny Kareni at ronny_kareni<@>yahoo.com.au or at +61401222177

WIlliam Tekwie has taken exception to an accurate and direct quotation in the above article from Ronny Kareni who was reporting the fact that the family of Abraham Kareni was concerned at the cost of legal fees.  As West Papua Media‘s fact checking systems have verified the accuracy of both the quote and the factuality of what was said, we cannot remove this quote, as this would be unethical.  Moreover, West Papua Media did seek comment from Tekwie via his office number, his mobile contact, via personal messages to and from his client’s family, yet he could not be reached for comment prior to publication.  Furthermore, the family of the clients made it very clear that Tekwie would not be making comments to the media.  We acknowledge that we made an error in not publishing this fact of non-availability, and apologise for this error.

We stand by the correct use of the word “demand” in the quote – as that is the word that was given, and the Oxford English Dictionary definition concurs ( See http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/demand).  West Papua Media does not believe it implies that Tekwie attempted duress on the family, nor threat or undue pressure for any personal gain.  We certainly had no intention for such an implication.  We also believe it to be self-evident that a bail fee would be paid to a court, and not to a lawyer, as is standard practice in PNG, Australia, and in any court in the Anglophone world, and therefore we did not believe a there was a need to editorialise this issue to clarify that a bail fee would not be used by the lawyer personally.  We acknowledge that Mr Tekwie believes this is not self-evident and this is a difference of opinion that he is entitled to.

Mr Tekwie has brought it to our attention that he “even offered to return some of the fees I had been paid to assist the Kareni family pay the bail amount!”.  This information was not available from any source at time of publication despite checking..  It is also to be noted that Mr Tekwie offered a discount for representation fees to the family.

Therefore West Papua Media is willing to acknowledge William Tekwie’s hurt feelings and apologises unreservedly for any offence he believes we have caused through this paragraph, and for any inadvertent damage to his reputation.

West Papua Media also acknowledges the hard work that Tekwie has done for his clients since the article was published on December 27, and wishes him full success in the case, and his future advocacy work.”