The folks at TAPOL, the UK-based Indonesian human rights campaign, regularly issue Bulletins about issues and events in Indonesia related to outstanding human rights problems.
In December 2005, several reports about West Papua were published.
First there was the Dutch government-commissioned Drooglever report 'Een Daad Van Vrije Keuze', secondly there was a New York Times investigation into the dealings with West Papuans by and on behalf of Freeport Mining, who operate the world's largest goldmine in the Carstensz mountains.
It seems that since December 2005 things are starting to escalate around West Papua, so it's not surprising that TAPOL dedicates a large section of the Bulletin to the issues in Papua.
Tapol Bulletin No 181
Issued December 2005
10 April 2006: Pieter J Drooglever, An Act of Free Choice? - the Papuans of Western New Guinea and the limitations of the right to self determination. An English summary of the Dutch Government-commissioned report into the handover of Irian Jaya to the UN under the New York Agreement in 1962 and the Indonesian - and stacked - Referendum of 1969.
31 March 2006: The Secret War Against The Defenseless People Of West Papua - "If the history of human rights is not the history of great power's impunity, the UN must return to West Papua, as it did finally to East Timor." Essays and writings by John Pilger, Clinton Fernandes and Marni Cordell.
4 February 2006: Rallying for the Papuans - Photo Reports from around Australia - Within a week of the 43 Papuans arriving near Weipa in Queensland, Australians voted with their feet, and rallies were held in several states. Here are the photos from Melbourne, Sydney, Darwin, as well as some images taken on Christmas Island.
31 January 2006: Free West Papua, Let Them Stay! - A forum in Fremantle about the West Papuan asylum seekers and their reasons for the trip from Merauke to Weipa in Queensland with Senator Kerry Nettle, advocate Kaye Bernard, Project SafeCom's Jack Smit and Australian West Papua Association supporter Ned Byrne.
22 January 2006: Inside the Grasberg Mine: an exasperating New York Times key feature investigation on West Papua's Freeport Mine. Published in December 2005, the article is already found on dozens of locations on the internet, and perhaps it's a study that will break the stranglehold on a situation that's both environmentally unsustainable, politically corrupt and an abhorrence in terms of human rights and ecological responsibility.
21 January 2006: Raise the Flag and Cry Merdeka - The first traditional Papuan boat, a canoe with outriggers, arrived on Australian shores this week from West Papua. The heat is on the Howard government especially because the Indonesian government allegedly embarked upon "revenge attacks" against family members of those who made the journey. This is a background briefing on the issues at stake.
The 1969 Act of Free Choice, intended to be an act of self-determination for the people of West Papua, was a 'sham' and doomed to failure from the outset, indicates a landmark report commissioned by the Dutch government. The 700-page report by historian Professor Pieter Drooglever was launched by the Institute of Dutch History in the Hague on 15 November 2005. It supports the Papuans' persistent contention that the 1969 vote was a fraud and the root cause of their problems to this day.
The Papuans' fate was sealed when Indonesia's autocratic President, Suharto, whose army was in control of the territory, stipulated that no outcome of the Act of Free Choice 'other than a ruling in favour of Indonesia would be acceptable to him' reveals Drooglever.
According to Western observers and Papuans who have spoken out, 'the Act of Free Choice ended up as a sham where a press-ganged electorate acting under a great deal of pressure appeared to have unanimously declared itself in favour of Indonesia,'
This led to decades of harsh military rule and violence during which 'not a day went by ... when no one died or no one was seriously mistreated ...' Figures running into the tens of thousands have been mentioned' for the number of people who fell victim, notes Drooglever.
West Papua's abundant natural resources have been ruthlessly exploited for the benefit of the military, the Indonesian treasury, and the elite in Jakarta, leaving the Papuan population as 'one of the poorest groups in Indonesia'.
All this has resulted from persistent and disastrous failures of policy by the Netherlands, Indonesia and the international community. Since the 1960s, the Papuans have suffered from the Netherlands' failure to oversee a successful decolonisation process, from Jakarta's reliance on repression to subjugate the Papuan people, and the international community's failure to protect the rights of the indigenous population. Above all, the Papuans have suffered from the failure of those in power to respect their right to determine their own future and control their own affairs free from violence and oppression.
But, says Drooglever, hope for the future lies in 'the possibilities of Papuan society itself, which has produced the necessary self-control, wisdom and resilience to ensure its survival' and in the 'dignified and insistent manner' in which leading Papuans in church and society have brought the voice of the Papuans to the world's attention. It also lies in the interest shown by the international community, which can be a driving force for change and may have unfulfilled responsibilities under international law.
Professor Drooglever, was set his task by the Dutch government in 2000, following a request from the Dutch parliament, to conduct historical research into the events surrounding the Act of Free Choice. He completed the project despite a lack of co-operation from the Indonesian authorities who refused him access to its archives and permission to enter the country.
In a statement, TAPOL welcomed the Drooglever report. It urged the interested parties, especially the Indonesian government and military, to avoid knee-jerk responses, to reflect carefully on and learn from the report's findings, and to seek peaceful ways, through dialogue and negotiation, to resolve the historical and contemporary injustices suffered by the Papuan people.
Drooglever cites with approval a statement by former Indonesian foreign minister, Adam Malik, that 'the army would first have to be withdrawn before Papuan society would be able to develop'. That remains true to this day, but, as Drooglever points out, since Malik spoke, the pressure exerted by the army and police on the population has only increased. A reversal of this trend - now accelerating with the deployment of large numbers of additional territorial and combat troops - would be a start and a sign of Indonesia's commitment to a political solution to the conflict.
In 1949, sovereignty over the territories of the former Dutch East Indies apart from West Papua (then known as Dutch New Guinea), was formally transfered to the Republic of Indonesia following a Round Table Conference between the Netherlands and Indonesia. For strategic reasons - and because of 'the entirely different national character and the virtual absence of Indonesian nationalistic sentiment among the population' - the Dutch, despite Indonesian objections, retained West Papua with a view to developing the territory and setting it on course for self-determination.
However, Indonesia persisted with its claim to sovereignty. This led to threats of military action and low-level incursions at the beginning of the 1960s. Under pressure from the US, which was anxious to avoid Indonesia falling under Communist influence in the Cold War, the Dutch entered into the UN-brokered 'New York Agreement' with Indonesia on 15 August 1962. The agreement provided for an initial transfer of power of West Papua to the UN to be followed by a transfer to Indonesia. An Act of Free Choice would then take place within six years, before the end of 1969.
Drooglever notes that the New York Agreement was vaguely worded on a number of essential points, including the duration of the UN transition period and the guarantees for the implementation of an internationally acceptable referendum.
The Papuans were not a party to the Agreement and were not even consulted despite the fact that by 1961 there existed 'the unmistakable beginning of the formation of a Papuan state' with the adoption of a flag and national anthem and the establishment of a New Guinea Council.
'By the end of 1961 onwards, Jakarta's behaviour, both in word and deed, was outright threatening,' says Drooglever. After the end of Dutch rule in 1962, 'the UN administration [UNTEA - the UN Temporary Executive Authority] lacked the necessary power, the will and the expertise to bring about a truly neutral interim phase,' he says.
By then, 'Indonesian soldiers and officials were pouring into the country in far larger numbers than planned and quickly took control. They exerted heavy pressure on the Papuans to choose their side publicly and to give up the dream of self-determination.
Drooglever notes that 'the first signs of the violent action taken by the Indonesian military, which would also characterise the new administration in the coming decades, soon appeared. Rapid impoverishment ensued, together with a substantial decline in legal certainty and a loss of civil rights across the board ... This led to increasingly negative reactions from the Papuans. The number of victims quickly rose into the thousands'.
The process leading to the Act of Free Choice itself got underway in the summer of 1968 with the arrival of the UN Secretary General's special representative, Ortiz Sanz. Indonesian pressure meant that his team was kept very small, 16 members in total.
Drooglever describes how Sanz was overrun with petitions from Papuans complaining about Indonesian mismanagement in all kinds of areas. His referral of the complaints to his Indonesian counterpart was regarded as inappropriate interference.
Sanz' advice on the form of the referendum was disregarded and a traditional Indonesian system under which only collective decisions and perfect consensus was possible, was chosen. Sanz' team was not allowed to play any part in putting together the electorate and was given the smallest possible role in the implementation of the referendum itself. In the event, only 1,022 Papuans out of a population of around 700,000 took part [see separate item, 'UN failed to ensure free choice'].
When the matter was considered by the UN in November 1969, the Secretary General, U Thant, was able to conclude only that an Act of Free Choice had been held. Drooglever says 'he was unable to use the definite article because the representative value of the operation had been far below the standards laid down in the Agreement of New York' [italics added].
The UN General Assembly failed to endorse the Secretary General's report, but simply 'took cognisance' of it. Regrettably, that was then considered sufficient to remove West Papua from the UN agenda.
Michel Pelletier was a member of the UN team which was supposed to assist Indonesia with the implementation of the 1969 Act of Free Choice. Following the release of Professor Pieter Drooglever's definitive report into the controversial process, TAPOL spoke to Pelletier about his experiences. They included being threatened by an Indonesian soldier at gunpoint. It is clear from what he recalls that the UN, under intense military and political pressure from Indonesia, did little to ensure that a genuine act of self-determination took place according to international standards.
Michel Pelletier went to West Papua (then known as West Irian) as a 28 year-old UN observer in the autumn of 1968. It was a time when the world was going through a momentous period of decolonisation and he arrived with an idealistic expectation that he would be involved in "something important". But he was soon disillusioned by the very limited ability he and his colleagues had to fulfill their role. They were forced to operate in an "isolated vacuum", which meant they had no way of finding out much of what was happening outside their small compound near to the West Papuan capital, Jayapura. The presence of the Indonesian military was overwhelming, he recalls, not just in terms of numbers, but also in the sense of "hovering over the whole thing".
One of his earliest memories was the shock he felt at the impoverished state of the territory. In his view, it was deplorable that much of what the Dutch had done to develop West Papua had been destroyed. The people were extremely poor, there were no stores in Jayapura and medical facilities were non-existent.
According to the 1962 New York Agreement between Indonesia and the Netherlands, the UN was supposed to 'advise, assist and participate' in arrangements for the Act of Free Choice, which was to be carried out 'in accordance with international practice'. A number of UN experts were to remain in the territory following the transfer of administrative control to Indonesia in 1963. However, Jakarta made it clear that no UN officials would be allowed to stay. This meant there was no UN presence until the Secretary-General's special representative, Ortiz Sanz, arrived in August 1968. The UN did not therefore fulfill its designated role and Indonesia was free to act as it pleased.
The UN team, headed by Ortiz Sanz, was originally supposed to comprise 50 members - grossly inadequate in itself for a territory the size of California with a population then of around 700,000 - but in the event it was reduced to 25 and then just 16 members at Indonesia's insistence. They included Ortiz Sanz, a number of advisers and administrative staff and five observers.
The observers' task was to monitor every aspect of the implementation of the New York Agreement, including provisions guaranteeing freedom of speech, movement and assembly. Their ability to do this was considerably curtailed by severe restrictions on their own freedom of movement - permission from the Indonesians was required for all their travel around the territory. Another flagrant breach of the Agreement.
Any monitoring, they were able to undertake was inevitably "superficial", says Pelletier, as the small team was normally able to be in only one place at a time. They had no interpreter for several months and had to rely on what the Indonesians told them. At times, there was so little for them to do that they were given "made-up" jobs, such as investigating the education system.
The observers received a number of reports about the maltreatment of Papuans, of people being killed after crossing the border from neighbouring Papua New Guinea, and of violence against Papuans in places such as Fak Fak and Sorong. The reports were passed on to Ortiz Sanz, but the observers were unable to investigate further. According to Drooglever, the number of victims had quickly risen 'into the thousands' soon after the Indonesian takeover in 1963.
The observers were aware of several demonstrations by Papuans, but were prevented by the Indonesians from witnessing them. On the one occasion when Pelletier did attempt to attend a demonstration in Jayapura he was stopped in his car by an Indonesian soldier and told not to proceed. When he failed to turn round fast enough, the agitated soldier stuck a gun in his stomach to reinforce his order. Understandably, Pelletier was extremely frightened and remains angry about what happened. The incident was reported, but there were apparently no repercussions. It is reasonable to assume from this outrageous treatment of a UN official that the Indonesians had similar scant regard for the rights of the Papuans as Drooglever indeed confirms.
Contact with Papuans was extremely limited. They were stopped from coming to see the UN team and from visiting the UN compound. Persons submitting petitions were not allowed to discuss them with the team. The extraordinary lengths to which Indonesia went to prevent contact with local people were illustrated by an incident in which a number of armed Indonesian soldiers attempted to forcibly remove one of the UN team, Marshall Williams, from the compound because he was black and resembled a Papuan.
Pelletier's memories of the act of free choice itself - which, against the advice of Ortiz Sanz, was in the form of a traditional Indonesian musyawarah consultation, involving 1,022 selected representatives out of a population of around 700,000 - was of a series of meetings in the presence of non-uniformed military personnel in which the participants were told to raise their hands and all duly obliged. Normal election procedures were not followed. The 'vote' took place in an incongruous carnival atmosphere, with Indonesian flags everywhere. Papuans, who were normally naked, were bizarrely dressed in smart shorts and shirts, recalls Pelletier, who witnessed the event in the highland town of Wamena. Most election experts would agree that the implausible 100 per cent vote for inclusion in Indonesia is in itself evidence that the process was a fraud.
The UN team was made to leave West Papua and Indonesia as soon as the vote was over. Pelletier had wanted to take a short break in Bali, but was not allowed to stay on.
He remains deeply unhappy about the way the process was conducted. His memory of similar processes in other countries was of long lines of people queuing to vote, being intent on expressing their views and being allowed to do so. Recently retired, Pelletier worked for the UN for over 30 years and served in Africa, Asia, and South America, but says he never experienced anything like the Act of Free Choice, before or since.
Undoubtedly, the UN's conduct in relation to the Act of Free Choice was in stark contrast to its involvement in East Timor, where despite the appalling violence and intimidation, it was scrupulous in ensuring that the administration of the August 1999 'popular consultation' was free and fair.
Pelletier agrees with the general conclusion of those who have said the act of free choice was a 'sham' and a 'whitewash' and is in no doubt that a similar process would not be tolerated to the international community today.
In a separate development, two members of the US Congress, Eni Faleomavaega (D - American Samoa) and Donald Payne (D - New Jersey) have urged African nations to request a review of the UN's actions in Papua. A number of African countries expressed strong criticism of the Act of Free Choice when the matter was considered by the UN general assembly in 1969.
The Congressmen were responding to a letter they received from the UN secretary-General, Kofin Annan, in which he said he would consider a review of the UN's involvement if the general assembly requested it. It is salutary that the Congressmen are using every opportunity to keep the issue of West Papua alive in Washington.
[For more information on the UN involvement in the Act of Free Choice, see Dr John Saltford, The United Nations and the Indonesian Takeover of West Papua, 1962-1969: The Anatomy of a Betrayal, Routledge Curzon 2003 (hardback book) and Saltford, United Nations Involvement with the act of self-determination in West Irian (Indonesian West New Guinea) 1968 to 1969 (22-page article), Indonesia 69, Cornell University, April 2000, available from TAPOL].
The publication of the report by Professor Pieter Drooglever of the Institute of Dutch History on the 1969 Act of Free Choice has attracted responses from many countries which will help to internationalise the issue of Papua.
In an attempt to distance their governments from the event, neither the Indonesian Government nor the Dutch Government sent representatives to the launch. Both governments refrained from making any response, probably afraid that the report might provoke calls for a 'historical rectification' of the 1969 vote and for a referendum to be held.
No fewer than eleven Papuans from all parts of West Papua made the trip to The Netherlands, at their own expense, eager to hear the results of the investigation concerning a matter that has been at the core of their grievances for nearly forty years. Most of the Papuans were representing their local Dewan Adat (Tribal Council). They attended both the launch on 15 November and a seminar held later in the week, and took advantage of their presence in The Netherlands to meet the many Papuans living in the country.
They virtually took over the presentation ceremony on 15 November and went on to the podium to sing the Papuan national anthem.
On 18 November, a one-day seminar was held in Amersfoort, followed the next evening by a well-attended public meeting.
The Papuans who addressed the public meeting on 19 November were Thom Beanal, the chair of Dewan Adat Papua (Papuan Tribal Council), Thaha Mohamed Alhamid General Secretary of the Papuan Presidium Council (PDP) and Wilhelmina Woy, representing the Fak-Fak Tribal Council.
Thom Beanal spoke about the grave injustice of the Act of Free Choice while Thaha Alhamid gave an account of Papuan efforts to hold dialogue with the authorities in Jakarta. He explained that in the period following the downfall of the authoritarian President Suharto in May 1998, there was for the first time a greater willingness in Jakarta to respond to Papuan concerns. Under President B.J. Habibie, who took power after the fall of Suharto, a team of one hundred Papuans went to Jakarta and had a meeting with the President. Habibie appeared to listen carefully to their representations but did little more than say that he would look into the matter.
From then on, all efforts to seek dialogue during the presidencies of Abdurrachman Wahid, Megawati Sukarnoputri and the current president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, went downhill and failed to get any response.
Several weeks before the Drooglever report, Een Daad van Vrije Keuze (An Act of Free Choice) was due to appear, there were attempts in the Indonesian press to discredit the Dutch historian.
A Jakarta fortnightly, Intelijen, carried extensive coverage in September about the forthcoming report. A man described as being one of Indonesia's intelligence experts, Djanda, was asked who was inciting the Papuans to press for independence. His response was: 'It's people like Drooglever and Langenberger (sic), Dutch intellectuals who feel they have been betrayed by Indonesia. Their sense of betrayal means that they want to humiliate Indonesia. Just wait till 15 November when Drooglever and Langenberger hold a seminar.'
He described Drooglever as not only an intellectual but also an intel, who was probably lobbied by the socialists. 'He has been stirring up Papua. He is in the pay of the OPM and has for many years been raising Papua and Indonesia on the international forum.'
In the words of a spokesman of Indonesia's Foreign Ministry, the Report was 'an academic study which is no different from other studies on Papua'. The spokesman, Yuri Oktavian Thamrin, said: 'The Dutch government recognises Papua as part of Indonesia. That's why the substance of the study has no legal or political relevance to the facts'.
Members of the Indonesian Parliament rallied to the side of the government. A member of Parliament's Commission I on Foreign Affairs urged the Indonesian government to 'counter such a finding with solid arguments and to establish lobby groups to stop it from becoming an international issue.'
A seminar on West Papua to be held by LIPI, the Indonesia Institute of Sciences, in Jakarta to coincide with publication of the Drooglever report, had to be called off when the Indonesian government indicated that it was not prepared to fund the event. It was suggested that the issue should be discussed by the University of Indonesia. According to LIPI they have not been informed of the reason for the government's decision.
Although the request for an investigation was made by a member of the Dutch Parliament and the report was commissioned by a previous Dutch government in 2000, the present government was dismissive of the investigation. The present Dutch Foreign Minister, Ben Bot, was quoted in the Dutch daily, Trouw, as calling the investigation 'superfluous', stating that the initiative had come from his predecessor, J. van Aartsen. Neither is the Dutch Parliament planning to do anything with Professor Drooglever's report. According to the Jakarta Post: Certainly no book will by itself change history, Drooglever's publication has started a momentum that could bring Papuan politics into line with history.'
While the Dutch government had signed the so-called New York Agreement with the Indonesian government in 1962, which set the scene for a act of self-determination to take place by the end of 1969, it appears that the Dutch government was not happy to be associated with the investigations, which called the 1969 Act a 'sham', for fear that this might have a detrimental effect on its wide-ranging relations with Indonesia. Clearly economic interests take precedence over any concern for the grievous historic injustice which has been done to the Papuan people.
In an editorial following the publication of the report, Australia's leading daily, the Sydney Morning Herald wrote:
"There is always merit in setting the record straight, no matter how much time has passed. For the Indonesian province of Papua, it has been a long and bloody 36-year wait. The Papuans have refused to accept the 'Act of Free Choice' by which they supposedly voted to join Indonesia in 1969. A report commissioned by the Dutch government unequivocally vindicates their stand. The resource rich territory of Papua was not included when the Dutch handed over their colonial territories to a new Indonesian nation after World War II. Instead, the Papuans - who share no religious or cultural ties with majority Muslim Indonesia - were promised a popular ballot on independence. But a mere 1,000 or so Papuans participated in the 'sham' rigged vote orchestrated by Jakarta, the report says. The result has been a protracted, debilitating independence struggle, pitting a vicious Indonesian army against ill-equipped Papuan tribes.'
One of the speakers to address the seminar on 18 November was Muridan Widjojo, a Research Fellow of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, LIPI. Muridan is a PhD Candidate in History of Maluku and Papua at Rijksuniversiteit in Leiden.
His paper, Bridging the Gap or Pushing Papua out of the Republic? is a carefully structured analysis of the opposing views of Papuans and Indonesians on the status of West Papua, from the perspective of a writer who sympathises with both sides of the argument. After giving an account of the diverse social and religious views of Papuans and the commitment of the PDP and the OPM to a peaceful struggle, he draws attention to what he calls 'the most painful miscommunication between Papuans and policy makers in Jakarta'. From the days of Sukarno up to the present era, sentiments in Indonesia have been deeply nationalistic. Papua is approached as an 'unquestionable issue' and any discussion is seen as a 'threat to the near-sacred "imagined-community" of Indonesia'. Police and TNI officers implicated in such crimes as the murder of Theys Eluay in November 2001 and the Abepura incident in 2000 continue to enjoy impunity and according to some, should be rewarded as 'heroes' for risking their lives to defend the unity of Indonesia.
On the Indonesian side of the dispute, he distinguishes between the hardliners in the military and the civilian bureaucracy and those intellectuals who hold moderate points of view. While they share the same desire to defend the Republic, they differ about the strategies and methods for achieving this.
The hardliners reject dialogue and go into a panic when they hear Papuan calls for the rectification of history. The moderates on the other hand believe that dialogue and 'straightening' the history of Papua's transfer to the Republic are constructive ways to resolving the conflict in Papua.
While the nationalist defence of the unity of the Republic is, he says, understandable, it should be done by winning the hearts of Papuans and not frustrating them even further. He describes the hardliners attitude as 'terribly dangerous', that can only lead to more violence, 'simply push(ing) the Papuans out of the Republic without them being the cause.'
The Indonesian government should abandon the illusion that the idea of merdeka can be removed by educating the Papuans, punishing them and disrespecting their human dignity. The consequences of such an erroneous approach is that: 'With every wrong move of Jakarta, the Papuan heart that bleeds with pain and cries for more sovereignty will beat harder and harder. Jakarta seems to provide the spirit and energy for Papuans to remain hopeful of an independent state.'
Jakarta may see Special Autonomy as the solution but Muridan argues that it has brought Papuan trust to its lowest level. The reasons are that Papuans have not had the space to determine political and developmental affairs in their own province. The government has systematically ignored respect for human .rights, and the destructive power of corruption, and intervenes in political processes without giving a voice to Papuan civil society groups. Moreover, there is little indication that educational facilities, health services and general prosperity will improve.
Above all, says Muridan in conclusion, Jakarta must show a sincere commitment to the dignity of the Papuans as owners of the land.
Developments in West Papua are in stark contrast to the progress being made in Aceh. Plans to send more troops have again been announced, while a leaked police document reveals plans for action against activists, particularly those involved in flag-raising. Local communities have expressed strong objections to plans to deploy troops in their localities.
The leaked police document, dated 10 November 2005, is proof that the Indonesian authorities are well aware of the depth of dissatisfaction among West Papuans about their plight under Indonesian occupation.
The document is an instruction from the chief of police in Papua, Drs D. Sumantyawan, H.S, to police chiefs throughout West Papua, warning of possible 'separatist' actions on certain occasions in November and December. The occasions mentioned as possible triggers for action are the anniversary of the death of Papuan leader, Theys Eluay on 10/11 November, the launch of the Drooglever report on 15 November, West Papua's national day on 1 December and what is described as the anniversary of Melanesian independence on 14 December.
Local police commands are instructed to identify local targets and to increase the number of personnel in remote locations, in anticipation of actions by armed groups. Local communities, it says, should be encouraged to organise sporting or other events in places likely to be the venue for protest gatherings, to involve themselves in 'voluntary' work projects under the supervision of the police and army, and to organise religious activities to distract attention from events planned by separatists. Police patrols should be intensified in the towns and in remote areas, on days of possible separatist activity. Raids should be launched to confiscate firearms and other weapons.
The police instruction states further that those involved in flag-raising should be arrested and charged with treason (makar). The police are advised not to resort to acts of violence unless this is necessary because of the circumstances, and firearms should only be resorted to on orders from superior officers. This note of caution suggests that the security forces see the need to avoid casualties which could attract international attention.
As already reported [see TAPOL Bulletin, No. 179, July 2005], two West Papuans are currently serving sentences of fifteen and ten years for peacefully hoisting the West Papuan Morning Star flag on 1 December 2004. Both men have been adopted as prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International.
On 1 December this year, hundreds of students, workers and government employees gathered in Jayapura and yelled: 'Free Papua!' as they blocked roads in Abepura, where the state university, Cendrawasih, is located. According to reports received by the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights, the demonstration was initially peaceful. Demonstrators were intending to raise the West Papuan flag on the Trikora field in Abepura where demonstrations in 2004 resulted in the arrest of Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage (the two men now serving sentences of 15 and 10 years) after being blocked by Brimob forces, the crack troops of the police.
This year, hundreds (according to some sources, thousands) of Papuans sat down on the roadway blocking the traffic on the road connecting Abepura with Jayapura. The sit-down continued for several hours, until a heavy downpour of rain forced the protesters to seek shelter.
According to a report in The Jakarta Post [2 December], the police were determined to keep the pro-independence action low-key. Hundreds of police had been deployed since early morning to prevent anyone raising the flag. Using logs to block the street in front of Cendrawasih University, the disappointed demonstrators pelted stones at university buildings, shattering some windows.
The hundreds of independence supporters then marched to the campus of a nearby Protestant bible college and unfurled a banner saying: '44th Anniversary of West Papuan Independence!' Under tight security, they held a rally at which speakers spoke of Papua's incorporation into Indonesia. Two people were detained for putting logs on the road, but police later said they were only held for questioning.
Commemorative events also were held in Sentani, near the home of Theys Hiyo Eluay, who was abducted and killed by security forces in November 2001. Prayers were said and an address was delivered condemning the vote held in 1969 which led to Papua's incorporation into Indonesia.
In defiance of his jailers, Filep Karma startled the prison authorities by unfurling the Morning Star flag on the prison roof on 1 December. Filep Karma is serving a 15-year sentence.
According to The Jakarta Post, Filep Karma said: 'Although I am being kept in jail, it does not dampen my spirit to fight for independence.' He refused however to reveal who smuggled the flag into the jail. He also said that he had done this despite the possible consequences.
It was later revealed that his sentence has indeed been extended by decision of the Supreme Court, but at the time of writing, the document announcing the Court's verdict had not been given to him.
Traditional communities in villages located in the north-east of West Papua, in the vicinity of Jayapura, have come together in a Coalition to voice their rejection of the deployment of troops of the Indonesian army, the TNI, in their respective villages. In a document dated 21 November 2005, which is based on reliable local sources, they itemise the placement of units of fifteen soldiers in their kampungs (a kampung is the lowest-level residential unit in Indonesian cities and towns).
The report give details about placements in a number of districts in the vicinity of Jayapura, the Districts of West Sentani, Nimbokrang, Nimboran, Namblong, Kemtuk Gresi, Demta, Depapre and Kaureh.
For example, in the District of Demta, a local inhabitant identified only by the initials DY reported that the district military commander had visited him to inform him that security personnel would be placed in three kampungs. Another informant, LW, described how an army officer had informed him that troops would be deployed from 9 November till the end of December, and would be billeted in the homes of the inhabitants. In both cases, the informants said they rejected the presence of military personnel in their kampungs.
Similar reports of deployment were included in the Coalition's report for all the other districts. In two kampungs in the District of Kaureh, it was stated that twelve military personnel would be located in all the nine barracks of a local company, PT Sinar Mas, which means that a total of 108 soldiers would be deployed in that location.
A note in the concluding section of the report explains that the authorities claimed that the deployments were necessary because of the alleged disappearance of a helicopter on 12 October but no villagers had seen or heard a helicopter flying in the area. After extensive searches, no helicopter was found and local people concluded that the story was simply a pretext to justify the deployment of additional troops.
The report stated in conclusion that local communities reject the deployment of additional troops 'because there already are Koramil and Polsek (army and police) command stations in these locations. So what need is there for more security personnel since conditions in the area are very peaceful, there is no war in progress and the people are busily engaged in their gardens, out at sea, taking their children to school and a number of other social activities?
Two British-supplied Tactica armoured personnel carriers fitted with water cannons have been deployed to West Papua to be used against protestors. The very presence of the vehicles is a powerful deterrent to Papuans wishing to participate in public events and a flagrant breach of their rights to freedom of assembly and expression.
The water cannons have arrived in West Papua at a time of heightened tension. Large numbers of additional troops are being sent to the territory and the police have been under instructions to prevent people participating in public actions on a number of important dates in November and December [see separate article, 'Security forces on high alert'].
TAPOL understands that the vehicles were sent to the West Papuan capital, Jayapura, from Aceh at the beginning of August. They were present during a large demonstration against special autonomy on 12 August and at a protest against the establishment of the Papuan People's Assembly (MRP) at the Governor's office on 31 October.
The Foreign Office in London says that the water cannons were also used on an unspecified date to break up a violent demonstration aimed at an office of the Indonesian Electoral Commission. Information about this demonstration is extremely sketchy and has not been confirmed. Serious questions would in any event have to be asked about the cause of the alleged violence given the propensity of the security forces to start or provoke incidents by the use of heavy-handed tactics or other means.
An informed source has told TAPOL that a salt/liquid soap solution has been added to the water in the cannons to produce a tear gas-like effect on those targeted. This is a common practice in Indonesia where water cannons were used on many occasions in the 1990s against the pro-democracy movement opposed to the Suharto dictatorship.
The water cannon vehicles were licensed for export to Indonesia by the Conservative government in the 1990s. A number of them were not delivered until after Tony Blair's Labour government came to power in May 1997. It controversially refused to revoke the export licences despite promising an 'ethical dimension' to its foreign policy. The Tacticas were made by Glover Webb, a company then owned by GKN, which has since been absorbed into the BAE Systems conglomerate.
UK parliamentarians opposed to arms sales to Indonesia have reacted angrily to the deployment of the water cannons. In a parliamentary motion, 38 MPs said they were 'appalled at the reported deployment of British-supplied equipment by Indonesian forces against civilians in West Papua'. They called for a halt to all arms and equipment supplies and an investigation into the abuses of human rights in West Papua [Early Day Motion 1131, 28 November 2005].
The Foreign Office has countered by saying that the use by the Indonesian government 'within its own borders of proportionate force to maintain law and order, subject to appropriate controls, is legitimate and does not constitute repression or a human rights abuse'.
This 'law and order' justification deliberately ignores the context of West Papua in which human rights are routinely abused by security forces who cannot be trusted to use 'proportionate force' or exercise 'appropriate controls'. It also entails the disturbing consequence that British equipment is being used to uphold laws - for example the law which makes it illegal to fly the Papuan 'Morning Star' flag - which are themselves flagrant breaches of fundamental rights.
The Foreign Office says that without further evidence that the equipment is being used in what it regards as a repressive manner it cannot do anything. This is a familiar approach adopted over many years to defend accusations that British equipment was being used in East Timor and Aceh. In effect, the British government is saying that it will not do anything unless and until equipment is used to perpetrate human rights abuses. It will not intervene to prevent abuses taking place.
In the past, the Foreign Office's favourite tactic has been to rely on so-called Indonesian assurances that British equipment will not be used for internal repression or in violation of human rights. However in answer to a parliamentary question on the water cannons, the government has admitted that such assurances are unenforceable. TAPOL and other campaigners have always maintained that the assurances were worthless, but were persistently ignored. The government cynically used them to disregard the concerns of human rights groups and victims of Indonesian military violence so that British arms companies could continue with business as usual.
While welcoming the official recognition that the assurances have no value, TAPOL is deeply concerned that British government is not now prepared to prevent the use of British equipment in violation of human rights in West Papua or elsewhere.
This latest development has also exposed the inadequacy of procedures to monitor the end use of British equipment, such as they exist. Despite the fact that the British Embassy's human rights officer visited Jayapura in September, after the deployment of the water cannons, the Foreign stated in reply to another parliamentary question in November that it was not aware of any British equipment in West Papua.
The government has admitted that no guidelines have been issued to embassy staff concerning the end-use monitoring of equipment. Instead, in further confirmation that its approach is entirely reactive, it has said that the core standing tasks of embassy staff include investigating after the event reports that equipment has been used to perpetrate human rights abuses.
In early December, it was reported that fifty-five Papuans had died because of lack of food in the district of Yahukimo, while more that one hundred were suffering from famine-related ailments. While efforts were being made to send food to the area, a senior government official alleged that the reports were untrue. Several weeks earlier, a report about West Papua by the World Bank said that West Papua has the highest level of poverty in Indonesia.
The district of Yahukimo is some 800 kms from the capital, Jayapura, and is situated in the Baliem Valley. The nearest town is Wamena. While efforts were being made to send emergency food supplies, it was reported that bad weather and the remoteness of the affected region were hampering the relief effort.
Inappropriate intervention in aid distribution by the police and military and local corruption may have made matters worse.
From Jakarta it was reported that, on hearing of these deaths, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono instructed a senior member of his cabinet, Aburizal Bakri, to go to the region. While little was said about how long the minister spent in the region and whether he had managed to reach the affected area, he was subsequently reported as saying that the reports about famine and deaths were untrue, and that he had seen plenty of fat people.
Although information about the situation in Yahukimo has been sketchy and difficult to obtain, it seems clear that this area of the Highlands is facing a serious problem with hunger and malnutrition. In this instance, the food shortage appears to have been caused by a failure of the sweet potato crop because of excessive rain in recent years and the lack of an appropriate response from the provincial and local authorities.
Indonesia's leading English-language daily, The Jakarta Post, said that some government officials 'have gone so far as to deny any malnutrition at all in the regency, a common tactic during the New Order regime'.
'The horrible irony of the Yahukimo famine,' wrote the daily, 'is that it occurs in a province that is immensely rich in natural resources. Papua has millions of hectares of virgin tropical forest and huge gas and mineral deposits. Some of this natural wealth has been exploited for decades, but the riches have not trickled down to (ordinary) Papuans.'
A church missionary, Sister Sue Triner, who has been living for years in Papua and recently visited Yahukimo, said the food aid helped save the lives of residents in the famine-affected area. If the food aid had not been dropped into the area, the starvation would have been much more severe and would have cost more lives, she said. [Jakarta Post, 14 December 2005]
A food policy specialist published an analysis of why food shortages have occurred in Papua. Jonathan Lassa who wrote his doctoral thesis on 'Food Politics and Food Aid' said that there had been a policy of switching food consumption away from traditional foods such as sweet potatoes to rice. 'Yakuhimo cannot attain food sufficiency in rice and must therefore rely on supplies from outside.' Inevitably, transportation costs severely affect the cost of food. He said that the policy of switching consumption habits from traditional crops to rice seriously affected people's food sovereignty. He said that local officials had introduced what they described as superior seeds with higher yields. But such crops require elaborate storage which added to costs. This also undermined local sovereignty over food consumption, switching away from crops that are more compatible with the local ecology and culture.
He wrote in conclusion: 'Such inappropriate policies often compel me to draw the conclusion that hunger and death in Yakuhimo are the result of a deliberate interaction between development disasters and developing disasters.'
In November 2005, the World Bank released a report, Papua Public Expenditure Analysis which points out that Papua 'has the highest level of poverty in all of Indonesia. In 2003,' it said, '38 per cent of Papua's population were living in poverty, more than double the national average of 17 per cent.' The Bank's report also pointed out that there were significant variations in poverty rates between districts and towns, ranging from 23 per cent in the city of Jayapura to 56 per cent in Bintuni Bay. It is worth noting that Bintuni Bay is the location of what will be Indonesia's largest exploitation of natural gas by BP, a British company. (The World Bank report did not draw attention to the changing composition of the population, with immigrants accounting for an increasing percentage of the population, especially in urban areas.)
The World Bank report also drew attention to the cost of living in Papua which varies enormously from district to district. In Jayawijaya district, it said, prices for basic essentials were one hundred times (sic) higher than in coastal towns. The difference was due primarily to the cost of transportation.
As for the availability of health services, the World Bank report said: 'Few Papuans have access to good health facilities... More than 90 per cent of villages in Papua do not have basic health facilities such as health centres, doctors and midwives, and 70 per cent of these villages have difficult access to such facilities in other villages.'
On education, the World Bank report states that Papua's education indicators are consistently lower than the national average. Although it states that Papua has relatively more teachers than elsewhere in Indonesia, conditions from district to district vary greatly. The unequal distribution of these resources limits access to education in certain parts of the province.
While these indicators suggest that things are not too bad, the report goes on to quote a university lecturer in Jayapura (obviously an Indonesian, not a Papuan) who explains why so few Papuans complete their university education:
'Actually, universities in Papua are providing a lot of opportunities for native Papuan students. We provide scholarships and other types of funding assistance. We even lowered our standard just to be able to accept more ethnic Papuans. But it is difficult to keep them in the classroom. Some of them cannot follow the lecture since they are way behind the others. No matter how hard we try to help them, still they cannot catch up. It is not entirely their fault. Once I asked them why they could not do simple multiplication and division. Didn't they learn it in secondary schools? Their answers were, how could we learn proper math if the teachers were never around to teach us? That's why most of them drop out of the university because they cannot follow the course.'
The US mining giant Freeport-McMoran continues to reap fabulous profits from the gold and copper it has extracted from West Papua since clinching a deal with Suharto in 1967. The company depends heavily for its security on the Indonesian army and has paid huge sums of money to army officers for their services. Britain's Rio Tinto also profits from the extraction of Papua's wealth.
A front-page article in the New York Times on 27 December, The Cost of Gold - The Hidden Payroll: Below a Mountain of Wealth, a River of Waste, published also in the International Herald Tribune, has focused international attention on the operations of the mining company that has become Indonesia's largest tax-payer and controls what is acknowledged to be the world's largest gold reserve and the world's third largest copper deposit.
The Times article follows an in-depth report on the relationship between the Freeport Mine and the Indonesian security forces, Paying for Protection, published by the non-governmental organisation Global Witness in July 2005.
Unable to visit the site of the mine as the company and the Indonesian government refused permission despite repeated requests, the authors of The Times article were compelled to rely on several months of research through email and with the help of more than thirty former and present company employees most of whom withheld their names for fear of retribution. Freeport 'has bored out of its Grasberg mine an almost bottomless store of gold. Satellite images show a spreading soot-coloured bruise of almost a billion tons of mine waste that the New Orleans-based company has dumped directly into a jungle river of what had been one of the world's last untouched landscapes,' says the article.
Behind a solid shield of military protection, Freeport has 'managed to maintain a nearly impenetrable redoubt in the easternmost Indonesian province as it taps one of the country's richest assets.' According to company records obtained by The Times, the company gave military and police generals, colonels, majors and captains, and military units nearly $20 million, while individual officers received tens of thousands of dollars, in one case up to $150,000. A former Indonesian attorney general told the paper that it was illegal under Indonesian law for officers to accept direct payments. Current and former employees told of a covert programme - email messages intercepted to spy on the company's environmental opponents.
The company has transformed one of the world's most remote areas into a company town and mine 'on a scale unique even by the standards of modern mega-mining'. According to an official of Indonesia's Department of Energy and Mineral Resources: 'If any operation like this was put forward now, it wouldn't be allowed. But now the operation exists and many people depend on it,' said Witoro Sularno.
As a company with $2.3 billion in revenues, it has become among the biggest - and in some years the biggest - source of revenue for the Indonesian government. From 1992 to 2004, Freeport provided Indonesia with $33 billion in direct and indirect benefits, almost 2 per cent of Indonesia's gross domestic product.
Under special autonomy, Papua is supposed to receive 80 per cent. of revenues from Freeport. According a recent World Bank report, Papua Public Expenditure Analysis, such autonomy funds have boosted development spending, but they have partially substituted for regular development funds instead of increasing them and there has been little progress in the key areas of health and education. Levels of poverty remain the highest in Indonesia [see separate article, 'Famine and neglect in a land of plenty']
Although it has been warned frequently by Jakarta's Environment Ministry that it was breaching environmental laws, the regulatory tools were 'so weak' that it was like 'painting on clouds' to persuade it to comply with official requests to reduce environmental damage. By the company's own estimates, it will generate an estimated six billion tons of waste before it is through - more than twice as much earth as was excavated for the Panama Canal.
According to a report commissioned by the company not previously made public but made available to The Times, the rivers upstream and the wetlands inundated with waste are now unsuitable for aquatic life.
As for human rights violations, according to anthropologist Chris Ballard who worked for Freeport, and Abigail Abrash, an American human rights campaigner, an estimated 160 people have been killed by the military between 1975 and 1997 in the mine and its surroundings.
After a series of riots in March 1996 in which military personnel in mufti took part, the mine was forced to shut down for three days; $3 million worth of equipment was destroyed. To deal with the crisis, CEO James Moffett rushed to the scene and held a meeting of army officers presided over by Major-General Prabowo Subianto, the son-in-law of the dictator, Suharto who told him they were ready to help. Entering into what has been called a 'deal with the devil', the armed forces drew up a bill of $35 million for infrastructure for the army - barracks, roads, and scores of heavy vehicles - which would need to be replaced every few years. This resulted in payments of at least $20 million from 1998 to May 2004 and additional payments of $10 million. Current and former employees told The Times 'it was likely that much of the money went into the officers' pockets'. Records show that the largest recipient was Lt Col Togap F. Gultom, commander of the troops in the Freeport area who received $100,000 for 'food costs' for six months in 2001 and more than $150,000 in the following year. The company also gave a total of $350,000 to ten other commanders also for 'food costs' even though Freeport had allowed the soldiers to eat in their mess and had trucked food to more distant kitchens.
In April 2002, the company gave Major-General Mahidin Simbolon - then senior commander of forces in Papua and formerly responsible for counter-insurgency operations and militia training in East Timor - $64,000, followed eight months later by another $67,000 according to Global Witness. The Times request to interview Simbolon was rejected.
Freeport has resisted any detailed disclosure of its payments to the military, claiming they are legal and even required by Indonesian law. Bur former minister of justice Marsillam Simanjuntak told The Times it was in violation of Indonesian law for soldiers and police officers to accept payments from a company.
The questionable relationship between Freeport and the Indonesian military came under scrutiny following the killing of two Americans and an Indonesian near to the mine in the district of Timika in August 2002.
Initial investigations by the Indonesian police provided strong indications that Kopassus special forces or other army units were involved. US officials had similar suspicions. It was thought that the attack was intended to be a warning to Freeport not to cut its support for the military.
A joint investigation by the Indonesian police and the FBI faced persistent obstructions by the military. An alleged member of the Free Papua Movement (OPM) Anthonius Wamang, has been indicted in a US court, but remains at large. The case now appears to have stalled and many questions about who was responsible remain unanswered [See 'Freeport indictment leaves many unanswered questions', TAPOL Bulletin, No. 176, p. 18].
While Indonesia's environmental ministry has stood by powerless, the company informed the government that the waste rock in the highlands, 900 feet deep in places, now covers about three square miles. What was once one of the richest freshwater habitats in the world is now buried in mine waste with levels of copper and sediment so high that almost all the fish have disappeared. Yet no government in Jakarta to this day has dared encroach on Freeport's prerogatives.
Indonesia's environment minister Sonny Keraf argued that Freeport should be forced to pay compensation for the rivers, forests and fish that its operations had destroyed, but to no avail.
To counter growing outrage at the consequences of Freeport mining operations, the company agreed in 1996 to pay 1 per cent of revenues annually for development projects in Papua. However, Thom Beanal, chief of the Amungme tribe, whose lands have been taken over for the mine, says the combined weight of the Indonesian government and Freeport has left his people in bad shape. Yes, he said, they have provided electricity, schools and hospitals but the infrastructure was built mainly for the benefit of Freeport.
Stunned by the revelations in the New York Times, Indonesian officials have been compelled to respond.
Following the publication of the article in The Times, the Indonesian military acknowledged for the first time that its commanders in West Papua had received 'support' from the U.S. gold-mining giant - responding to allegations that Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. (FCX), gave the army millions of dollars to protect its facilities in the remote province. Maj. Gen. Kohirin Suganda said the armed forces 'as an institution' had never received donations from the New Orleans-based company. 'But we have heard that Freeport provides support such as vehicles, fuel and meals directly to the units in the field,' Suganda said. 'That's the company's policy. It was not done because we requested it.'
But when asked about the payments, the commander in chief of the Indonesian armed forces, General Endriartono Sutarto would only say: 'Please ask Freeport, not me.' [AP, 29 December 2005]
Another response to the NYT 's exposure came from Indonesia's Minister of Defence, Juwono Sudarsono He was quoted as saying that local and international companies should not make direct payments to military officers guarding their operations as the practice is illegal. He added that according the a ministerial policy statement in 2000, payments for security arrangements should be made to related government agencies, that is to say not to officers or the military. [Jakarta Post, 30 December 2005].
Global Witness has called for greater transparency in payments by oil and mining companies to governments and security forces, especially in conflict areas such as West Papua. It has recommended an investigation into the relationship between Freeport and the Indonesian military and police by law enforcement authorities in the US and Indonesia.
It will be interesting to see whether anything changes.
Reports have been received that 12 Papuans suspected of involvement in the Freeport killings, were arrested on 11 January 2006. They were detained in Timika and later transferred to Jayapura for interrogation. Those in custody include Anthonius Wamang and Rev. Isak Ondawame, a well-known local pastor and human rights advocate. This appears to be a joint operation carried out by the Indonesian authorities and the FBI.