Tag Archives: West Papua Road to Freedom Conference

Warinussy on importance of ILWP meeting in August

[Readers please note that TAPOL decided not to waste time on the item
that appeared in Bintang Papua on 4 August because of its many
inaccuracies. See below. We guessed to the time that this was the result
of TNI intervention, to block accurate reporting about an important
event for Papua in the UK. Readers should also note that the three-hour
meeting in Oxford on 2 August is constantly being reported in the
Indonesian press as a KTT, Konferensi Tingkat Tinggi, a Summit
Conference, an expression normally reserved for meetings of heads of
state, which of course was not appropriate for the meeting held in
Oxford, which was a meeting attended by academics and activists. ]

Bintang Papua, 5 August 2011

Yan Christian Warinussy, a human rights activist and law practitioner,
has expressed his appreciation of the demonstrations organised by Papuan
activists in Sorong, Manokwari, Jayapura and Biak which highlighted the
principle of peace.

He said it was important for all organisations, especially the Dewan
Adat Papua (Papuan Customary Council), to gather together documents and
visual material about the ILWP conference that was held in the UK in
August. These documents need to be analysed and circulated widely to
the Papuan people and district governments, including the security
forces of the Indonesian armed forces and police, to ensure that
everyone has the same understanding about these activities as well as
their impacts on the future of the Papuan people.

‘Whether or not the idea of a referendum has the support of many
components is a matter for the future because it needs a response from
many groups, including those who are for and those who are against the
idea of self-determination for the Papuan people.

‘We need to remember that the right to self-determination is a right
for all the people on earth, including the indigenous Papuan people, as
stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.’ Warinussy also
said that the achievements of the Papuan people in organising the Papuan
Peace Conference on 5 – 7 July this year was an extraordinarily
important event which no one had ever predicted. It was at this peace
conference that all the problems that the Papuan people have been
wrestling with for the past ten years were studied and analysed by
various groups and reported on scientifically. There were thoroughgoing
discussions which led to conclusions and recommendations that were
drawn up by representatives of the Papuan people who participated in the

The Dewan Adat Papua (Papuan Customary Council ) should speedily
consolidate their networks in the Land of Papua and take action
together with all components of the Papuan people to prepare concrete
measures for the achievement of a Papua-Indonesia dialogue in 2011.

Meanwhile, a news item published by Bintang Papua the headline of which
was ‘ILWP conference failed to reach agreement on its agenda’ described
it as ‘breaking news from the BBC but it was of questionable origin.
According to the editor of Bintang Papua, they realised that they had
not been careful enough in confirming that the BBC was the source of the
item; as a result, on the following day action was taken against the
person who had contributed the item, according to a statement by the
Bintang Papua editor.

According to the editor-in-chief of Bintang Papua, Walhamri Wahid, the
contributor admitted that the source of the item was an SMS which was
widely circulated by a senior officer of the Cenderawasih military
command, based on an SMS from a former OPM member who subsequently
defected and who was in London when the conference was taking place.

The SMS commenced with the words BREAKING NEWS BBC LONDON (written in
capital letters) which was sent by Frans Albert Joku in a report to a
senior officer at the Cenderawasih military command which was then
forwarded to Bintang Papua. ‘We did not clarify where the information
had come from, there was no check and counter check on its accuracy and
it was published as if it had been sent by BBC-London, said Walhamri

Bintang Papua abides by the Journalists’ Code of Ethics but on that
occasion, the journalist was in a race against time, facing a deadline
and relied solely on the journalist who had sent the item from the
field. ‘Our conclusion for the time being is that this news item was
untruthful, using another news agency as the source.’ It was decided on
the following day that they would confirm (this mistake) and apologise
if it turned out to be true that this report was not from the BBC. We
have received no denial from the BBC. ‘When I was later browsing on the
internet, I found no such breaking news in any of the reports from the
BBC, said the editor in chief.

At the time it was early in the morning, at 2am on 3 August, and this
was a news item that people in Papua were eagerly awaiting. This was
seen as an important day when the conference was adopting decisions
about the future of the Papuan people. According to the Bintang Papua
editor, their journalist (in the UK) was having difficulty reporting the
matter from the location of the meeting, and the impression was that it
was deliberately blocked so as to ensure that the news would not be

The rest of this article regurgitates the erroneous information that was
contained in the BP report on 4 August.

[Reminder: Readers of this list may recall that we posted the following
statement on 4 August:

Note: The report in Bintang Papua today about the ILWP meeting in
Oxford on 2 August was so full of inaccuracies that it was a waste of
time to translate it. Suffice it to say that it described the meeting
as ‘a failure’.

Carmel Budiardjo, TAPOL

West Papua: the road to freedom?

Benny Wenda at the IPWP launch
Image via Wikipedia
Published on August 4, 2011 by Nick Harvey  in
New Internationalist

West Papua: the road to freedom

Web exclusive

This week marks the 48th anniversary of the West Papuan struggle for independence from Indonesia. Thousands have taken to the streets and international lawyers are making a strong case for West Papuan self-rule.

Thousands have demonstrated on the streets of West Papua in recent weeks demanding independence. Free West Papua Campaign
Thousands have demonstrated on the streets of West Papua in recent weeks demanding independence. Free West Papua Campaign

It is a grief-stricken path that has been followed for generations. It stretches from when the Dutch colonized the region in the 19th century and cruelly continued when control was handed to Indonesia by a United Nations Temporary Executive Authority in 1963. And this week the journey towards independence has led thousands of West Papuans onto the streets to demand the international community acknowledge their right to be free.

‘West Papuans will never recognize their homeland as being part of Indonesia and we have a fundamental right to self-determination under international law,’ says Benny Wenda, a West Papua independence leader living in exile in Britain. ‘West Papuans have marched peacefully this week and have shown again that they can meet violence with peace to achieve this [aim], no matter how much [Indonesia] tries to intimidate us.’

‘A blind eye has been most cynically turned by the international community towards the situation of the people in West Papua’

Protesters and human rights campaigners are regularly harassed and arrested in West Papua and, according to Amnesty International, reports of torture whilst in detention and other human rights violations are commonplace. But with momentum building for the cause, the police have been reluctant to intervene in the recent protests.

‘The demonstrations were so big this time they know if they act violently towards the protesters it would be noticed internationally,’ says Wenda. ‘We have been trying for 48 years now and, just like the Middle East, we need people power to change the world – but we also need people from around the world to notice.’

One of the biggest obstacles that the Free West Papua campaign faces is a lack of interest, let alone support, from the outside world.

Forgotten conflict

‘West Papua is a forgotten conflict,’ says Charles Foster, spokesperson for International Lawyers for West Papua. ‘A blind eye has been most cynically turned by the international community towards the situation of the people there.’

As part of efforts to raise the profile of the region, a conference was held in Oxford this week by the Free West Papua campaign. International lawyers and activists spoke at the event to highlight the case for an independent West Papua under international law.

Benny Wenda and fellow West Papuans sing their national anthem at a conference in Oxford. Nick Harvey

‘In legal terms, the region has a clear right to self-determination,’ says Foster. ‘If you look at the New York Agreement [a treaty signed in 1962 by the Netherlands and Indonesia regarding the political status of West Papua, then known as West New Guinea] the United Nations was given trustee status over the region which was supposed to lead to self-determination in 1969. Indonesia has never disputed the fact it put its name to this agreement; therefore it implicitly acknowledges that it was bound by it.’

But the New York Agreement was followed in 1969 by the ironically titled Act of Free Choice, a vote by a tiny section of the population of West Papua, hand-picked by the Indonesian military, on whether the region should become independent or remain part of Indonesia. Although it has since been widely recognized that the process was a sham, calls for a revote have consistently been ignored.

‘There is no serious legal scholar anywhere in the world who thinks the Act of Free Choice was a genuine expression of the free will of the West Papuan people,’ says Foster. ‘When Indonesians talk about this they try to steer clear of what actually happened on the ground in 1969. They’re not stupid, they realize how embarrassing it is.’

As long as the international inertia continues, the situation for West Papuans continues to worsen

Yet even if the New York Agreement is somehow forgotten and the circumstances surrounding the Act of Free Choice somehow ignored, international law still falls heavily on the side of the West Papuans. In 1960 the UN General assembly passed a crucial agreement, the Declaration of Granting Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, which states: ‘All peoples have the right to self-determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.’

This firm legal ground has yet to translate into any meaningful concessions to the West Papuan people. And as long as the international inertia continues, the situation for West Papuans continues to worsen.

Clemens Runawery is an exiled independence activist who has been unable to return to his country for more than 40 years.

‘The longer we stay part of Indonesia the more our status will suffer, both physically and demographically,’ he says. ‘Back in 1961 the vast majority of the people in West Papua were West Papuan, with only a minority from other places. Today this situation has been completely reversed. How much time do we really have left?’