Tag Archives: west papua

The Struggle for Merdeka in West Papua

Book Review:
Merdeka and the Morning Star: Civil Resistance in West Papua
Author: Jason MacLeod
University of Queensland Press
Release Date: 1/12/2015
Pages: 304
ISBN: 978 0 7022 5376 8

Excerpt from the book can be read here

 

Review by Robert J. Burrowes

January 19, 2016

It has been argued that nonviolent struggles to liberate occupied countries – such as West Papua, Tibet, Palestine, Kanaky and Western Sahara – have failed far more often than they have succeeded but that secessionist struggles (that have sought to separate territory from an existing state in order to establish a new one) conducted by nonviolent means have always failed. (See ‘Why Civil Resistance Works: The strategic logic of nonviolent conflict’.)

However, this argument fails to properly take into account one crucial variable: the quality of the nonviolent strategy that has been used. Given that none of the cases cited above, for example, has ever planned and then systematically implemented a comprehensive nonviolent strategy of liberation/secession, it is accurate to observe that struggles that largely (but not necessarily wholly) reject the use of violence and then use a randomly selected and applied range of tactics, most of which are not violent, have ‘failed far more often’ or have ‘always failed’ to achieve the desired outcome.

In essence, the failure is one of strategy, not of nonviolence per se. And if we fail to identify the problem correctly, we inaccurately assign the blame for failure.

In Jason MacLeod’s new book, ‘Merdeka and the Morning Star: civil resistance in West Papua’, the failure to develop a comprehensive strategy of any kind, violent or nonviolent, to liberate West Papua is overwhelmingly evident. And MacLeod does an excellent job of identifying why this has happened as he provides us with an overview of the history and geopolitical circumstances of the occupation of West Papua as well as a history of the resistance, both violent and nonviolent, to this occupation. He then identifies what still needs to happen if Papuans are to develop and then effectively implement a comprehensive nonviolent strategy to achieve the richly textured and multifaceted merdeka to which they aspire.

MacLeod, an Australian, has spent an enormous amount of time in West Papua since 1991 and the reason for this is explained early in the book with a compelling personal story that gives his commitment to West Papua both focus and depth. He has been actively involved in their struggle as a student (learning about the history and culture of West Papua), scholar (observing and documenting the origin and history of the occupation by interviewing key personnel and reading important documents), compassionate consultant and teacher. He has also spent time in Indonesia and travelled to many countries in search of the knowledge necessary to better understand why Indonesia occupies West Papua while most of the rest of the world either supports the occupation or does nothing.

Like all occupying powers, but particularly one that is a borderline ‘failed state’, the Indonesian elite cares nothing about West Papua, simply treating it as a resource (particularly for forest and mineral products which it can steal and then export) while subjecting Papuans to the usual abuses of occupation: lack of political recognition and participation, state violence, discrimination, racism, economic marginalisation, large-scale industrial development at the expense of traditional landowners, denial of access to health, welfare, education and other human rights, unfettered migration of Indonesians to displace/dilute the indigenous population, as well as police, paramilitary and military violence, including torture, to repress Papuan dissent.

Moreover, of course, the Indonesian elite ensures that West Papua is relatively isolated from media scrutiny, access to international agencies and diplomats (even though many western states are well-known to oppose any indigenous struggle for self-determination, given it would only raise questions about their own subjugated indigenous populations).

A key feature of this occupation, which is worth emphasizing, is the Indonesian government’s facilitation of resource extraction by large transnational corporations such as Freeport-McMoRan/Rio Tinto and BP among a host of others, including a dense network of Chinese, Malaysian and Korean timber and mining companies. In this context, it is also worth noting the corrupt involvement of the Indonesian police and military in the occupation by securing financial kickbacks for providing ‘security’ to these corporations. This highly profitable corruption ensures the enthusiastic complicity and brutality of the police and military in support of the occupation.

But these are not the only problems, as MacLeod makes clear: ‘There are also significant internal movement challenges’ including significant mistrust and disunity between the various parties of the resistance both within and outside West Papua, lack of resources, inadequate political analysis, and lack of strategic planning and coordination.

In many ways, MacLeod notes, West Papua is a worst-case scenario: ‘internationally isolated and internally divided indigenous peoples facing a genocidal occupying army’.

Nevertheless, ‘Papuans continue to dream, plan and act in pursuit of self-determination and decolonisation’ with significant diplomacy, lobbying and legal work at the international level (particularly among Melanesian allies in the Pacific), a variety of local victories through women’s and worker actions within West Papua and, most notably, a clarity and agreement about the root causes of the conflict in West Papua.

Moreover, there is an emerging consensus about the desire for self-determination, respect for their rights as indigenous peoples, greater trust and unity among Papuans symbolised by the formation of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua in December 2014, and a gradually emerging consensus about the nature of their liberation strategy with many prominent Papuans articulate in their advocacy of nonviolent struggle and many organisations publicly committed to it. In the words of Reverend Benny Giay: ‘Resisting without violence is not something foreign to us, it is part of our history’. And from Reverend Herman Awom: ‘Even when we were imprisoned we tried to keep a nonviolent struggle.’

The final section of MacLeod’s book provides a compelling explanation of how Papuans might systematically address the problems they face in developing and implementing a comprehensive nonviolent strategy of liberation. It reflects the work of a thoughtful scholar who has both listened well to the needs and aspirations of the people of West Papua, knows and understands the many obstacles that need to be overcome and who has consulted the literature on nonviolent struggle and in other relevant fields.

It was in 1961 that Papuans first raised their Morning Star flag. It is still illegal to do so. Will Papuans achieve their precious merdeka and see the Morning Star flag fly freely over West Papua? Not without a struggle. But the commitment to make that nonviolent struggle more strategic has never been clearer. And it is this commitment that will make the difference. One day, West Papua will be free.

Robert J. Burrowes has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is author of ‘The Strategy of Nonviolent Defense: A Gandhian Approach’. His email address is flametree<at>riseup.net and his website is at http://robertjburrowes.wordpress.com

OpEd: Asia, Africa and the Unresolved Question of Papua

by Budi Hernawan*

April 24, 2015

EDIT: WPM received a transcript without the original author being credited and published as an original .  We apologise for this, but will maintain the article as fair dealing.  Article originally appeared at http://thejakartaglobe.beritasatu.com/opinion/commentary-asia-africa-unresolved-question-papua/

Sixty years ago in Bandung, 29 representatives from Asian and African nations were enthused with the spirit of decolonisation, and today even more seem determined to pursue South-South cooperation.

If we look back at the 1955 Bandung conference as described in Richard Wright’s “The Colour Curtain,” it was simply stunning. Most of the leaders of newly independent nations were former political prisoners under their respective colonial regimes. Those who had long been treated as underdogs were now in charge of new nations. It was a new dawn of liberation and in 1960 these Asian and African countries made history through the adoption of Resolution No. 1514 on Decolonisation at the General Assembly of the United Nations.

For this year’s commemorative Asian-African Conference, Indonesia has set three main goals:

  1. strengthening South-South cooperation to promote world peace and prosperity;
  2. reinvigorating the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership; and
  3. a Declaration on Palestine.

However, one thing is missing in this picture: Papua.

Sixty years ago, Papua was on the top of then-president Sukarno’s decolonisation agenda. He managed to get the support from many of the participants of the Bandung conference for his diplomatic battle at the UN to make Papua — still ruled by the Dutch — part of the Republic of Indonesia. The Dutch were still recovering from their post-colonial syndrome and although they had started to realise that their time had passed, they were determined to hold on to what they called Netherlands New Guinea, and what Indonesia referred to as West Irian.

The debates at the UN centred on the topic of unfinished decolonisation and the serious threat to world peace this posed. With the support of other Asian and Africa countries, Indonesian diplomats tirelessly argued before the General Assembly that West Irian was part of Indonesia as agreed during the Roundtable Conference in The Hague in 1949. Furthermore, they argued that the situation was detrimental to stability in the Southeast Asian region, calling on the UN to step in, as mandated by the UN Charter.

With the support of 14 countries, in 1954 Indonesia managed to table “The Question of West Irian” at the UNGA but it took another year before the UN General Assembly adopted it as Resolution 915(X) in 1955. The journey was far from over.

In the following years, Indonesia fought hard for the topic to be put on the agenda at the UNGA, with the support of 15 Asian and African nations, but failed. Australia was one of the countries that consistently voted against the proposal, whereas the United States opted for abstention — giving the Dutch leeway. This diplomatic failure led Sukarno to divert his energy to scale up the nation’s military capacity and, ultimately, launch an assault — Operation Trikora in 1961.

Not long after, the current provinces of Papua and West Papua were transferred to Indonesia after a brief period of UN administration. However, many people do not realise that until today, “Papua” remains an unresolved question.

Papuans have long appealed for a peaceful solution to the decades-old conflict in the easternmost part of the country. It has been a while since local church leaders declared Papua as a “Land of Peace” in 1998, following the bloody massacre of Biak, which remains unresolved. Filep Karma, who rose the Morning Star flag in Biak days before the massacre, remains in jail for doing the same thing in 2004.

The Papuan Peace Network has been trying to persuade Jakarta to engage in dialogue with Papuans since 2009. President B.J. Habibie’s administration told the 100 Papuan representatives to go home and rethink their call for independence. The administration of president Susilo Bambang Yudhyono held two separate meeting with Papuan church leaders and promised to organise a dialogue, which never happened. President Joko Widodo visited Papua after promising to improve the situation on the campaign trail.

But Papuans are still waiting.

While the national government is determined to revive the Bandung spirit of liberation by proposing a “Declaration on Palestine”, local police in Jayapura on April 8 arrested five Papuan leaders and charged them with treason even though they had only just returned home from a  meeting with Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu. Papuan efforts to establish a dialogue are being criminalised. Charges remind us of the colonial time, when our founding fathers were persecuted for expressing their political positions.

Papuans are no longer placing their hopes in Asian and African countries, and some have started to shift their focus to the Pacific.

The Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) has become a new forum to find a solution for Papua. During its 2013 summit, the MSG expressed concerns over the human rights situation in Papua and called on Indonesia to find a peaceful solution. The summit also discussed an application for membership from Papuan representatives, although a decision has been delayed. But in May, the MSG will again discuss the application during its summit in Honiara.

“The Question of West Irian” is still very much alive.

*Budi Hernawan is a long time researcher on human rights issues in Papua, and is currently a research fellow at the Abdurrahman Wahid Center for Interfaith Dialogue and Peace at the University of Indonesia (UI).

Papuan students attacked with machetes in Manado, 2 dead, 4 injured: WARNING GRAPHIC

WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES OF INDONESIAN STATE VIOLENCE

from our partners at MajalahSelangkah.com, with additional reporting by West Papua Media

original report Sunday 19th October 2014,

2 Victim Petius Tabuni after being hacked to death by militias in Manado. Photo supplied

Victim Petius Tabuni after being hacked to death by militias in Manado. Photo supplied (accompanying image too gruesome to display openly, if you must see this click here.)

 Manado, MAJALAH SELANGKAH – a Papuan student, Petius Tabuni, was hacked to death with machetes by unknown assailants, believed to be militia, around 3am local time on Sunday morning(19/10/2014) in Tondano City, Manado, North Sulawesi.

Petius, a student at Manado State Political-technical university,  died on the spot from his extensive and vicious  machete wounds across his back, body, head and face.  Five other Papuans who went to look for him were also attacked and rushed to a hospital nearby, by the same assailants.  The names of the other students and dead boy have not yet been released at time of writing.

“At this point, the  situation in Manado is not very safe. We are all too scared to leave our dormitories,”  a student from Manado told majalahselangkah.com on Sunday.

The incident began as students from Manado University (UNIMA) on Saturday night (18/10/2014) were holding a graduation celebration party at the student dormitory village of Tataaran Patar Minahasa.

The victim was reported to have been intoxicated, and left the party. Around 03:00 am, he telephoned his brother and friends saying he was being attacked.   When 5 of his friends came to the place he had called from, they found him already lying dead.

Before they had time to park their motorbikes, they were attacked with machetes for over twenty minutes by a large group of local Manado people loitering in the darkness nearby. The five were severely injured with machete wounds, with one of the five students, reportedly just out of middle school, died in hospital.

Local sources reported that a large group of Papuan students at Tondano are being forced to barricade themselves and have been stranded in their student boarding houses.   They can not leave even with a rental car, according to local sources, because there is information circulating that the perpetrators are still looking for more Papuan victims.

Manado police have refused to return calls from West Papua Media about the status of the victims and the current security situation for Papuan students in Manado.  (BT/014/MS/WPM)

Additional reporting, Edited and translated by Westpapuamedia

Karnavian: 11 prominent security cases in West Papua for 2013

From Victor Mambor at  Tabloid Jubi

December 1, 2014

Head of Papua Police, Inspector General of Police Tito Karnavian (Jubi)
Head of Papua Police, Inspector General of Police Tito Karnavian (Jubi)

Jayapura, 1/1 (Jubi) – Head of Papua Police, Inspector General of Police Tito Karnavian said, during the year 2013, there were eleven prominent cases related to Security and Public Order.

“There were eleven prominent cases during the Year 2013. Such as attacks carried by unidentified peoples, fifteen cases, and assault in the area of ​​PT Freeport Indonesia, eleven cases,“ said Tito Karnavian to reporters on Tuesday (31/12) night.

The eleven prominent cases are :
1. Tribal warfare, 3 cases;
2. Shooting in the area of ​​PT. Freeport Indonesia, 11 cases;
3. Mass attacks against members of the police, 6 cases;
4. Attacks by Armed Civilian/The National Liberation Army of Free West Papua Movement, 15 cases;
5. Deprivation against foreigners, 1 case;
6. Plane crash, 0 cases;
7. Protests against Special Autonomy Law, 3 cases;
8. Possession of illegal weapons , 4 cases;
9. Shootings by police, 3 cases;
10. Anarchist demo, 3 cases;
11. Raising of the Morning Star, 5 cases.

In addition, Papua Police had eleven operation carried out in the year 2013.
Eleven of these operations include Operation Mantap Praja II,  Operasi Mantap Praja III, Operasi Sahabar Matoa, Operasi Simpatik Matoa, Operasi Dian, Operasi Patuh Matoa, Operasi Zebra Matoa, Operasi Lilin Matoa dan Operasi Aman Matoa III.

“To eradicate corruption, from ten activities with 122 existing cases in police report, the State suffered a loss of Rp. 58,166,994,730, – but money returned to the state was Rp. 15,066,951,566, – , ” said Tito Karnavian.

Papua Police have predict public order and security situation (Sitkamtibmas) for 2014 will still be dominated by mass demonstrations relating to the Legislative and Presidential Elections. (Jubi/Aprila Wayar/Victor Mambor)

Bobii: Indonesian Armed Forces, the main Anti-Peace Agents in Papua

By Selpius Bobii  writing from Abepura State Prison, Jayapura

 Opinion

December 24, 2013

Every religion teaches values of goodness and kindness and has teachings that are intended to create happiness and peace on this earth and in eternity.  We hear so many people speak of the importance of peace, but the reality is that it’s not that simple to realise peace in our everyday lives. In the Papuan province of Indonesia it feels like peace is so far from becoming a reality for the indigenous people who live there.

Of late the Cenderawasih XVII Military Commander in West Papua has been coining the phrase “Peace is beautiful” and yet at the same time the Indonesian Armed Forces continue to be the number one culprit committing acts of violence and humanitarian atrocities against the indigenous people of Papua.  Behind the mask of these sweet words the Armed Forces are clearly acting very much against the creation of peace in Papua.

 Peace can be realised in a place when every person, every group, every faction, respects the rights of others; and this extends to nations and tribes. Where each is able to exercise their rights and at the same time fulfils their obligations towards others. It seems however in Papua that the realisation of peace is something that’s incredibly difficult to achieve, with the root cause of that being the lack of recognition of the very basic political rights of the people of Papua by all three Indonesia, the USA and the United Nations (UN).

(UN)involved in Papua's desire for Peace; very involved in its atrocities (Photo: Public domain)
(UN)involved in Papua’s desire for Peace; very involved in its atrocities (Photo: Public domain)

With the USA and UN’s active support throughout the entire process of annexation of Papua into Indonesia in the 1960’s, they indeed played a part in the actions of violence and atrocities against the indigenous people of Papua.  They achieved their goal of making Papua into ‘the kitchen of the world’, opening it to the many international companies that have been stripping Papua of its rich natural resources ever since. It was not to end at the annexation of Papua, as they have continued these last more than 50 years to support Indonesia’s hold on Papua which in turn keeps the door open for exploitation of the land.  There have been various forms of aid and in particular joint programs in security and defence, which of course are critical to Indonesia’s continued domination of Papua.

The Indonesian Armed Forces have by intention made Papua into a centre of conflict, but for what end?  In so doing they create a situation where the indigenous people can be paralysed, can be annihilated and the world just keeps quiet, with Indonesia saying they are dealing with the conflict. The result?  Papua remains permanently part of Indonesia and its natural resources can be exploited with ease by international parties.

Let’s not be fooled that the partnerships going on between Indonesia and other nations of the world in the areas of security and defence are aimed at peace building and protecting the people of the region as claimed. Nothing could be further from the truth! The reality is they have quite the opposite goal! The Indonesian Armed Forces are the main agents intentionally creating violence, bondage and theft of natural resources, discrimination, marginalisation, injustice, terror, intimidation and humanitarian atrocities against the indigenous peoples of the land of Papua. Their military and civilian operations both overt and covert are intended to slowly but surely annihilate ethnic Papuans.

The many forms of both visible and hidden violence and humanitarian atrocities undertaken by the state of Indonesia against indigenous Papuans are intended to stifle the political aspirations of Papuans for independence and at the same time annihilate the people. In the face of this continued violence against their people the indigenous peoples of Papua continue to express their opposition to the many human rights violations by peaceful and dignified means, primarily by means of peaceful demonstration. Yet even the narrowest space for a voice calling for democracy has been blocked by the Armed Forces in recent times, especially by the Provincial level of Indonesian Police.  The Provincial Police are known for their practice of taking advantage of occasions when there are peaceful demonstrations to create conflict and to terrorise, torture, kill, arrest and imprison Papuans who struggle peacefully for change.  Indonesia’s Armed Forces are constantly manipulating activities of the Struggle to create incidents of violence. Nevertheless Papuans continue to struggle peacefully in keeping with their decision at the 2000 2nd National Papuan Congress.

And so in the midst of all this, now it is Christmas. Where all parties in Papua hear of the message of ‘the coming of the King of Peace’.  A message that reminds humanity that Jesus Christ came to bring peace to this earth.  A message that starts to have real meaning only when entire communities of humans make space to allow for peace in their hearts.  To that end let’s all prepare our hearts with simplicity, faithfulness, honesty and love for one another. We are each one of us reminded by the message of Christmas.

It is dearly hoped that the message of Christmas will also touch hearts and bring awareness to those who are committing the many forms of violence against indigenous Papuans. That there might be a commitment to bring an end to all forms of oppression towards indigenous Papuans and to enter into dialogue between Jakarta and Papua with a neutral facilitator. To reach that end we need to be ready and willing to humble our hearts, to be faithful, honest and to act in love. Only in that way can we bring peace to the land of Papua.  We are all called to bring an end to the latent conflicts in Papua and to create peace, no matter who we are and wherever we may be.

Peace and joy at Christmas to all and throughout 2014!

Footnote:

  1. 1.       The Dutch previously tried to prepare Papua to become an independent nation whilst still under their control, with those preparations reaching a peak on 1 December 1961. However less than a month later on 19 December 1961 Indonesia by a political and military invasion marked by what’s known as Trikora (a three prong command which demanded the dismantlement of the “puppet” Papuan state created by the Dutch; the raising of the Indonesian Red and White flag over Papua; and preparation for a general mobilisation in Papua) succeeded in annexing Papua into the Indonesian Republic.

Selpius Bobii is the  General Chairperson of Front PEPERA & is a Papuan Freedom Political Detainee imprisoned in  Abepura State Prison, Jayapura, Papua, for another Christmas.