West Papua Report July 2013
West Papua Report
This is the 111th in a series of monthly reports that focus on developments affecting Papuans. This series is produced by the non-profit West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) drawing on media accounts, other NGO assessments, and analysis and reporting from sources within West Papua. This report is co-published by the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN). Back issues are posted online at http://www.etan.org/issues/wpapua/default.htm Questions regarding this report can be addressed to Edmund McWilliams at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you wish to receive the report directly via e-mail, send a note to email@example.com. Link to this issue: http://etan.org/issues/wpapua/2013/1307wpap.htm
The Report leads with “Perspective,” an opinion piece; followed by “Update,” a summary of some developments during the covered period; and then “Chronicle” which includes analyses, statements, new resources, appeals and action alerts related to West Papua. Anyone interested in contributing a “Perspective” or responding to one should write to firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed in Perspectives are the author’s and not necessarily those of WPAT or ETAN. For additional news on West Papua see the reg.westpapua listserv archive or on Twitter.
The West Papua Advocacy Team announces the granting of the 2013 John Rumbiak Human Rights Defenders Award to Port Moresby Governor Powes Parkop. This month’s “PERSPECTIVE” provides an account of the 1998 Biak Massacre by an observer who visited the scene days after the Indonesian Navy’s brutal assault on peaceful civilians there. UPDATE offers a detailed account and analysis of the Melanesian Spearhead Group’s consideration of Papuans’ application for membership. UNICEF examines the Indonesian government failure to address the needs of Papuan youth and also reports on Indonesian exploitation of Papuan youth. The report notes that the police in West Papua have honored two of their own, notwithstanding their involvement in brutality targeting West Papuan civilians. The “CHRONICLE” section notes a new report on the Indonesian military’s plans to build a massive highway system in West Papua, and cites two reports on the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE) “development” scheme that has already severely damaged local people’s interests. The International Coalition for Papua has a new report on human rights violations in the territory.
|Gov. Powes Parkop|
The West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) is pleased to announce that it is giving its 2013 John Rumbiak Human Rights Defenders Award to Powes Parkop, Governor of the Port Moresby and the National Capital District of Papua New Guinea. Governor Parkop is also a member of the Papua New Guinea Parliament. For many decades, Governor Parkop has sought to improve the plight of refugees in Papua New Guinea who have fled repression in Indonesian-controlled West Papua. His advocacy for West Papuan’s human rights, including the right to self-determination, within Papua New Guinea and in the wider international community has been eloquent and consistent.
Since 2008 the West Papua Advocacy Team has annually honored organizations and individuals with the John Rumbiak Human Rights Defenders Award, named in honor of the West Papua Advocacy Team founder. The award consists of a plaque and a $500 stipend.
Carmel Budiardjo and Tapol (UK, 2008), John M. Miller and the East Timor and Indonesian Action Network (U.S., 2009), Andreas Harsono (Indonesia, 2010), U.S. Congressional Delegate Eni Faleomavaega (American Samoa, 2011), and the Australia West Papua Association (2012).
This month’s “Perspective” by Edmund McWilliams, a member of WPAT, describes his visit to Biak in West Papua in the immediate aftermath of the July 1998 Indonesian military’s massacre of peaceful demonstrators there. At the time, McWilliams was working at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta. He has since retired from the U.S. Foreign Service.
Recalling the 1998 Massacre in Biak
In July 1998, I was serving as the Political Counselor in the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta. Throughout the archipelago, it was a time of turmoil but also of great hope. In May, the three-decade old Suharto dictatorship had been overthrown by a popular uprising led largely by courageous young people, notably university students, who held massive, largely peaceful demonstrations. Indonesians were united by the dream of “reformasi”: determined not only to put an end dictatorial rule but also to end corruption in the governing elite; and a determination to end security force abuse of human rights and to secure accountability of those forces for their crimes.
What transpired in Biak in early July gave clear indication that in West Papua Suharto-era repression and brutality were still in force. Those brutal tactics remain the military’s modus operandi to this day.
In various parts of the archipelago, popular demands reflected grievances particular to the area: In East Timor, people demanded an end to decades of Indonesia’s occupation and repression which extended back to Indonesia’s brutal, illegal invasion in 1975. In Aceh, people sought to end repression and greater political rights. In West Papua too, there were increasingly assertive, but peaceful demands for an end to military repression, exploitation, and the systematic violation of basic human rights, including the right to self-determination.
In early July, residents of Biak, a small island off West Papua’s northern coast, organized a large demonstration to demand Papuan rights. On July 1, local people peacefully raised the popular Papuan Morning Star flag to commemorate the anniversary of West Papua’s declaration of independence. There followed several days of celebration and peaceful rallies in Biak. Their demands included the right to vote on their political future. The demonstrations were fueled in part by an unfounded rumor that a UN team was about to visit Biak.
The reaction of Indonesian security forces at Biak was profoundly unlike their response to protests in other parts of the archipelago during and since the May overthrow of the dictator Suharto. Security forces had employed brutal force on occasion in confronting peaceful demonstrators, including in Jakarta. However, especially after the removal of Suharto from office, the military and police had not for the most part attacked demonstrators. What transpired in Biak in early July gave clear indication that in West Papua Suharto-era repression and brutality were still in force. Those brutal tactics remain the military’s modus operandi to this day. Moreover, military collusion with domestic and foreign corporate interests is as rampant today in West Papua as it was during the Suharto era.
|The water tower on Kota Biak. From Biak Massacre Citizens Tribunal|
At dawn on July 6 security forces, mostly those drawn from the Indonesian naval base on Biak island, attacked the main demonstration on Kota Biak (aka Water Tower Hill) where the Morning Star flag had been raised. Peaceful demonstrators, many sleeping or in prayer, were gunned down by the Indonesian security forces. The military personnel then loaded the wounded and others onto military vehicles and transported them to the nearby naval base, where approximately 200 of the survivors of the mayhem were loaded on naval vessels and taken out to sea. There the survivors – many still in handcuffs – were thrown into the sea. Others were stabbed before they were thrown overboard.
In the following weeks, bodies of victims from the massacre washed up on beaches. Jakarta authorities claimed that the bodies were victims of a tsunami which had recently struck Papua New Guinea. The tsunami claim was not credible; the tsunami’s landfall was hundreds of kilometers to the east.
Information about the Biak massacre reached Jakarta slowly and with little detail. Human rights workers and some local journalists were prevented from visiting the scene of the massacre and from conducting interviews with survivors and witnesses. Alerted to the scale of the massacre by Papuan contacts, I sought permission from my Embassy and the Indonesian government to fly to West Papua. I was seeking credible first hand accounts of the massacre. I was only allowed to travel as far as to the capital Jayapura (Port Numbay). A week after the massacre, when the Jayapura-bound Indonesian aircraft made a refueling stop in Biak, I jumped off the plane and did not re-board. I was able to spend several days in Biak before boarding a Jakarta-bound flight.
A week after the July 6 massacre, I found the entire town traumatized. There was little activity in the streets, many shops were closed and local people clearly did not want to be seen talking to a foreigner. I visited Kota Biak hill. The small field around the water tower was bounded on one side by a wall where I had been told I could see evidence of the massacre, including bullet holes and blood. But the wall had been freshly plastered and painted. An elderly women who observed my search pointed to the legs of the water tower. These revealed many bullet holes approximately chest high. (The U.S. Defense Attaché had earlier told the rest of the embassy team that the Indonesian military had been forced to fire live ammunition to break up an unruly demonstration at the site, but that according to the his military sources, the Indonesian troops had fire above the demonstrators’ heads.)
While I was reluctant to endanger any Biak residents by seeking interviews, I was approached by a few people. One young man offered to take me to his brother who had been badly beaten in the assault. He had escaped arrest and was in hiding. I chose not to endanger the victim by seeking him out, but did briefly interview the few people who approached me on the street including the brother of the man who had been beaten. He told me that bodies of those killed at Kota Biak had been loaded like wood, thrown into military trucks along with wounded survivors. He said that when the doors of some of the trucks were opened at the base blood flowed from the truck beds onto the ground.
A local Christian pastor whom I had met on an earlier visit confirmed that bodies had begun to wash up on local beaches, but that military personnel would not allow the bodies to be buried by local people in Christian ceremonies. Instead the military took them away. He noted that some of the bodies were identified by clothing, including political t-shirts distributed by the Indonesian political parties. He cited this fact as evidence that the bodies had not been victims of the Papua New Guinea tsunami as claimed by the government. He also noted that many of the victims had their hands bound.
The Indonesian government has never acknowledged the Biak massacre. No Indonesian military personnel have been prosecuted for the crime. The Biak Massacre is strongly reminiscent of the 1991 Santa Cruz massacre in which hundreds of East Timorese were murdered by the Indonesian military during a peaceful march. Those marchers, like the Papuans in Biak who had rallied for their rights, including the right of self-determination, had been inspired to demonstrate by the expectation of a UN mission visit. The critical difference between the two massacres was that western journalists were on the scene in Dili, East Timor, to record the assault and tell the international community what had happened. The West Papuans in Biak suffered and died in silence, their pain obscured then and now by an occupation regime in Jakarta that has drawn a curtain over this and other atrocities.
The international community, including the UN and Jakarta’s allies in Washington and elsewhere, by their silence, have enabled Jakarta to hide the bitter truth of on-going repression in West Papua.
For more see the Biak Massacre Citizens Tribunal
Members of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), meeting at the organization’s 19th annual summit in Noumea, New Caledonia, agreed to take unprecedented action regarding the plight of West Papua. While the MSG did not agree to a Papuan application for full membership from the West Papua National Council for Liberation (WPNCL), regional Melanesian leaders, for the first time, publicly supported West Papua’s right to self-determination. Moreover, Fiji’s Foreign Minister Rau Inoke Kubuabola will lead a fact-finding mission of all the foreign ministers of MSG member countries to Jakarta. The Foreign Ministers’ Mission [FMM] will report back to the MSG leaders in six months. (The MSG is composed of four independent states: Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Island and Vanuatu, and the New Caledonia/Kanaky party, the FLNKS.)
The decision to send a senior delegation followed Indonesia’s offer to receive a delegation. This represents an internationalization of the West Papua issue that Jakarta has repeatedly sought to avoid. A high-level delegation is also supposed to travel to West Papua. The MSG endorsed continuing consultations with Indonesia regarding a “roadmap” for consideration of the West Papuan application for membership. The MSG members also voiced specific concern about human rights observance in West Papua.
|West Papuan delegates from the WPNCL at the MSG plenary session in Noumea. Photo by Ben Bohane/PiPP|
The decision not to grant West Papua membership in the MSG disappointed some. Vanuatu’s Prime Minister Moana Carcasses addressed the summit on June 21 and shared his frustration:
- “History will judge us for the decisions that we make here now and in the future, our failure today to take decisive decision….will be exposed by future generations. Our motive …. will be laid bare by our future generation.”
Radio New Zealand’s Johnny Blades interviews with key summit participants revealed that concern over MSG “cohesion” was critical in the decision to defer full MSG membership for Papuans. Specifically, Papua New Guinea’s public recognition of Indonesia’s “territorial integrity” that includes West Papua was the most important obstacle in reaching an MSG consensus about the territory. PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neil skipped the MSG summit to fly to Jakarta.
Fiji has recently expanded commercial and other ties with Indonesia and, apparently in service of this relationship, was unwilling to support MSG membership for the Papuans. Other MSG partners, though more sympathetic to the application, deferred to the PNG and Fiji leaders.
The MSG Summit Communiqué, issued June 20, provided a detailed account of the leaders’ consideration of issued related to West Papua. With regard to Papuans application for membership in the MSG, the communiqué stated:
Application for Membership
Leaders noted that a road map in relation to the application by West Papua National Council for Liberation (WPNCL) for membership should be based on clear and achievable timeline. Leaders acknowledged that the human rights violations need to be highlighted and noted that to progress the WPNCL’s application, it was important to continually engage with Indonesia. Leaders agreed to establish a process of dialogue and consultation with Indonesia. Leaders noted and welcomed the invitation from Indonesia to invite a Foreign Ministers’ Mission to be led by Fiji and that confirmation on the timing of the Mission was being awaited. The outcomes of the WPNCL’s application would be subject to the report of the FMM mission.
Under the category identified as “Decisions,” the communiqué reported that the leaders had,
(i) endorsed that the MSG fully supports the inalienable rights of the people of West Papua towards self-determination as provided for under the preamble of the MSG constitution;
(ii) endorsed that the concerns of the MSG regarding the human rights violations and other forms of atrocities relating to the West Papuan people be raised with the Government of Indonesia bilaterally and as a Group;
(iii) noted the application received from the WPNCL to be a member of the MSG and that the application will be reviewed after the submission of the Ministerial Mission’s report; and
(iv) approved the Roadmap as recommended by the FMM which included:
a) that the MSG send a Ministerial Mission at the FMM level to be led by Fiji’s Foreign Minister to Jakarta and then to West Papua in 2013 and accept the invitation of the Government of Indonesia;
b) the Ministerial Mission to present its report to the Leaders at the earliest opportunity within the next six months;
c) the WPNCL to be officially informed of the MSG Leaders’ decision regarding its application; and
d) the Mission would be part of a process in determining WPNCL’s membership application.
WPAT COMMENT: The failure of the MSG summit to grant membership to West Papua reflects the power and influence which Jakarta wields, particularly with Papua New Guinea with which it shares a long and troubled land border. PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neil visited Jakarta just prior to the MSG summit to sign several major agreements including an extradition treaty that some fear could place Papuans who have fled from repression to PNG in jeopardy.
That the West Papua membership issue assumed such a high profile at the summit is testimony to the strength of the Papuan case, the effectiveness of its Papuan advocates, and the courageous adherence to principle of several of the MSG members, notably Vanuatu. The undeniable progress of the Papuan case at the MSG at this summit was remarkable given the very heavy diplomatic pressure exerted by Jakarta, mostly behind the scenes, to derail the Papuan membership initiative.
A new UNICEF initiative has underscored the deprivation youth face in West Papua. The UN agency is working with local officials on a new youth policy. The initiative follows a 2012 UNICEF survey that found that Papuan adolescents and young adults experienced many challenges. West Papua remains the poorest and most underdeveloped regions in the archipelago.
A lack of quality education put youth at risk of unemployment. Girls often quit school to get married. Nearly a third of all girls are married before turning 18. Early marriages put them at risk of early pregnancy and complications in childbirth.
Meanwhile, Tempo reports that as many as 500 West Papuan children will be schooled in high schools in Java and Bali. The central government is funding the so-called “affirmation program” to “strengthen the relationship among cultures and uniting them as one brotherhood under the same nation.”
WPAT Comment: A May 4 report in the Sydney Morning Herald, They’re Taking our Children, detailed the removal of thousands of Papuan children from West Papua to life in Java. Many of the children wind up as street urchins. Two decades ago Indonesian officials similarly removed children from occupied East Timor to Indonesia. Many of these children wound up as street beggars and child prostitutes in Indonesian cities. Some were eventually transformed into spies by the Indonesian military and employed in East Timor. Indonesia has not only failed Papuan youth, as documented by UNICEF. It has also sought to exploit West Papua’s greatest resource, its young people, including by suborning them into “affirmation” programs.
The Police Chief in West Papua, Tito Karnavian, honored two officers of the Jayapura City Police in specific recognition of their action in violating Papuan human rights. Those honored on June 14 were Commissioner Kiki Kurnia, head of operations of the Jayapura City Police, and Brigadier Afandi, member of the public order police (Dalmas). They were recognized for their actions in inciting a riot, dispersing it, and then using the police-initiated violence to arrest Victor Yeimo, the chairman of the National Committee of West Papua (KNPB. The two subsequently led police in intimidating and violently attacking demonstrators, resulting in one of the victims having his arm broken by the police.
The ceremony took place on the one year anniversary of the killing in cold blood of Mako Tabuni, the Secretary General of the KNPB. He was murdered by police in neighboring Abepura. No one has been held accountable for his murder.
New ICP Report Details Extent of Violations in Papua
Human Rights and Peace for Papua: The International Coalition for Papua (ICP) recently published its third report on the human rights situation in Papua. The 2013 report documents cases of violations of civil, political, economic, social, cultural, as well as indigenous peoples’ rights, between October 2011 and March 2013. The report was prepared by a group of human rights organizations based in West Papua, Jakarta and abroad. Human rights violations continue at a high level, while impunity widely prevails. Jakarta’s approach of accelerated economic development has caused a widening of the social gap. Frustrations over continued violence and injustice angers indigenous West Papuans, who “often lose their traditional livelihoods as a result of deforestation. “
The Indonesian Army Opens Doors for Greater Corporate Exploitation in West Papua
A new report examines the growing opposition in West Papua to Jakarta’s plans to use the military to build an extensive road system in West Papua (Presidential Regulation 40 of 2013). The plan is purportedly to advance development, but it will expose rural Papua to greater exploitation by the military and its corporate allies, while deepening the marginalization and repression of Papuans.
A new grassroots organization has formed in West Papua to unite local opposition
to the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE). The organization, “Formasi Ssumawoma,” seeks to assert local interests by demanding respect for customary (adat) law, particularly of the Marind Anim indigenous peoples in the Merauke District who are the primary victims of the MIFEE “development” scheme.
The MIFEE project was supposed to turn Merauke into Indonesia’s “rice barn” to feed Indonesia, then feed the world. In reality, in just one village, where MIFEE pioneer Medco has been operating for two years, five children have died from malnutrition or simple illnesses in the last few months and dozens more still suffer. Meanwhile, the company is profiting by turning the forest that the villagers depend on into wood chips to fuel power stations in South Korea and elsewhere. The grand irony of MIFEE, already obvious, is shown even more clearly after this tragic news.
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