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Summary of events in West Papua (8 March-6 April 2020)

April 6, 2020

Summary of events in West Papua (8 March-6 April 2020)

A snapshot of events

Attack at Freeport Mine

Shooting incidents continued to occur in West Papua in the past week and in particular around the Freeport copper and gold mine. In an attack on the 30 March a number of Freeport employees were attacked in a parking area at an office complex of Freeport in Timika………………………………………………

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Covid-19 death reported in West Papua

March 27, 2020


Covid-19 death reported in West Papua

Johnny Blades, RNZ Pacific Journalist
5:41 pm today

A 43-year-old woman has reportedly died due to Covid-19 in Indonesian-administered West Papua province.
It’s the first recorded death from Covid-19 in the Papua region, and adds to fears that a looming surge in cases could overwhelm the health system on both sides of New Guinea.
The death was recorded in Sorong, the western most city of New Guinea. Tabloid Jubi reports the death was confirmed by West Papua’s Task Force Covid-19.
The victim had been a patient at a hospital in Sorong city, where another five patients remained under supervision for suspected coronavirus infection.
West Papua’s provincial administration has not yet declared emergency measures to close access for travellers to the province and restrict public movements like in neighbouring Papua province.
Papua’s covid response unit confirmed seven cases of covid as of Thursday, as the provincial government this week closed entry of travellers into the province both through sea and air travel.
Papua has also restricted daily activities in public to eight hours, from 6am to 2pm. Large gatherings, including for religious worship, have also been restricted.
The death in Sorong City is a concern not just for all of Indonesia’s Papua region, but also in the neighbouring country of Papua New Guinea whose 800-kilometre border with Indonesia is porous, making it difficult to control movement back and forth between the two sides.
The official land border access point between the two countries has been closed for two months, as PNG’s government seeks to protect its under-resourced health system from the chaos that covid-19 threatens.
But the governor of PNG’s West Sepik province, Tony Wouwou, said it was nearly impossible to stop people slipping across the border by bush or sea.
PNG’s government this week declared a 14-day state of emergency, with restrictions on travel and closure of all schools and non-essential businesses.
Lacking testing kits and a general capacity to deal with an outbreak, PNG’s government is working closely with the World Health Organisation to establish isolation facilities where covid cases would be taken to.
So far, PNG has confirmed only one case of covid-19 in the country, a 45-year old mine worker who flew to Morobe province via Port Moresby after travelling through Singapore from Europe.
The man has since been transferred home to Australia, while PNG health officials conducted contact tracing and tests of people the man had been in contact with – so far all tests have come back negative.
Back on the western side of the island, Papua province’s government, has been urging people to stay at home as much as possible. By and large the public in the Papuan capital, Jayapura are adhering to this call.
Jayapura’s streets are noticeably quiet today, as is Sentani airport which along with other ports in Papua was still receiving transportation of goods into the province, at a time when distribution of certain supplies was more vital than ever.
A member of Papua’s Covid-19 response team, Silwanus Sumule, told the Jakarta Post that a lack of necessary medical equipment, including rapid testing kits to examine swab samples from suspected patients, was a concern for the province.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people are being monitored for coronavirus symptoms in Papua.

Indonesian women speaking out about West Papua, whatever the cost

March 23, 2020

The Indonesian women speaking out about West Papua ­ whatever the cost

ABC Radio National

By Belinda Lopez for Earshot

Updated about 10 hours ago
PHOTO: Veronica Koman is an Indonesian human rights lawyer who describes herself as being in exile in Australia. (ABC RN: Alice Moldovan)
RELATED STORY: Indonesian anger mounts as police chase lawyer hiding in Australia
RELATED STORY: ‘Even if the cost is death’: Anger builds among Indonesians over pro-Papuan activism in Australia
RELATED STORY: ‘We can’t stuff up’: Why is Australia saying little about West Papua?

In the wake of the Lindt café attack in Sydney, a hashtag made its way around the world: #illridewithyou.

The gunman had forced hostages to hold up a flag of the Shahada, the Islamic affirmation of faith, and many Muslims feared a backlash.

In Jakarta, Zely Ariane scanned the messages of solidarity, frustrated that Indonesians were paying more attention to #illridewithyou than the deaths of teenagers in their own country.

It was the genesis of a movement to raise awareness about the struggle facing West Papuans.

But those who first spoke out have had to reckon with the life-changing consequences of discussing one of the most sensitive political issues in Indonesia.

‘We need solidarity’

A week before the Lindt café attack in 2014, Indonesian security forces had fired into a crowd of demonstrators in Paniai, killing four teenagers.

Indonesia’s military was recently found to have committed gross human rights violations over the incident, known as Bloody Paniai. Security forces claimed they were defending themselves from violence.

The crowd had been protesting over the alleged torture of a 14-year-old boy, who has since died, by members of the military.

After Bloody Paniai, Zely had an idea to seize on the momentum of #illridewithyou.

"It was all over social media. So we made a poster," she said.

Lawyer Veronica Koman also decided she needed to speak out.

"I was already disturbed by West Papua issues, but because the victims were children, it really outraged me," she told me back in 2016.

"We agreed we need solidarity in Jakarta."

The birth of Papua Itu Kita

Zely, Veronica and other Indonesian and West Papuan activists formed a movement called Papua Itu Kita (Papua Is Us).

Their first logo was Zely’s #illridewithyou poster.

Papua Itu Kita started holding events that allowed ordinary Indonesians to "build a bridge" with Papuans, to overcome long-held prejudices and to better understand Papuan culture and aspirations.

"Sometimes it’s not because Indonesians are racist, it’s because they just don’t understand," Zely told me when I first met her in 2015.

But her online and offline activities did not go unnoticed.

"I always get calls in the middle of the night. There’s just silence on the other end," Zely said, about a year after Papua Itu Kita began.

She hadn’t yet had any serious threats.

"It’s not like I’m posting hardcore posts about Papuan independence on Facebook," she said.

But despite Papua Itu Kita’s softly-softly approach to discussing human rights, Zely and Veronica were aware that engaging with this topic could be viewed as political by the authorities.

Papua Itu Kita met regularly, often at the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute, where Veronica worked at the time. When I spoke to her there, she told me to look out for the men sitting in the food stalls surrounding the building.

"Half of them are intels," she said, referring to intelligence officers.

"West Papua issues are just an intel magnet."

History lessons

Indonesian government sensitivities about West Papua are woven deep into the fabric of its national story.

After Indonesia gained its independence from the Dutch in 1945, it fought for Papua to be included in its territory.

The then-president Sukarno urged his people to liberate Papua, then known as Irian Jaya, from Dutch colonialism.

Veronica learned this history at school.

She was a "crazy nationalist" by the time she was 19, despite growing up in a Chinese-Indonesian family, a minority background in Indonesia that has also experienced racism and violence.

She showed me the tattoo inked across her forearm.

"It’s the philosophy that Indonesia is running through my veins," she said.

PHOTO: Veronica got her "Indonesia" tattoo when she was a "crazy nationalist". (ABC RN: Alice Moldovan)

Back then she dismissed international criticisms of Indonesia’s actions in West Papua as more Western colonialism against her country, and a "US conspiracy".

But when she searched online about West Papua in English, she was shocked to discover the extensive body of reports documenting human rights abuses in the territory.

The Papuan version of history was also online: Papua was also a Dutch colony, and many scholars argued it only became a part of Indonesia because of a UN-backed election in 1969, which has been called corrupt.

"I was being brainwashed. Indonesians are being brainwashed and systematic censorship," Veronica said.

After forming Papua Itu Kita, Zely also had a desire to learn more. A year after the Paniai killings, she visited Papua for an extended trip.

When she returned to Jakarta, she longed to return and live there, to better understand the region and its subtleties.

"The more it is understood by people in Jakarta in detail, things can only get better," she told me at the time.

"I need longer to understand."

‘We’ve come so far’

In August last year, nearly five years since the deaths of the Papuan teenagers, a rare thing happened: West Papua made global headlines.

It started in the week of Indonesia’s independence day, when Veronica was acting as the lawyer for Papuan students threatened by nationalistic groups at their student dormitory in Java.

The students were accused of damaging an Indonesian flagpole.

By then, Veronica had moved to Australia to do her masters. She was on the phone to them when police stormed their boarding house. She tweeted about it.

Twitter: Tweet veronica koman
View on Twitter

Videos of what happened went viral on social media, with accounts of the students being subjected to racist taunts.

It felt like the heat had been turned up on something that had been simmering for years.

What came next were the largest protests about Papua that had been seen in decades, around Indonesia.

Veronica spent her days online, documenting the demonstrations on Twitter as the Indonesian government shut down the internet in West Papua ­ a move it said would restore order.

Twitter: Veronica Koman tweets: This is the most powerful video of the West Papua uprising so far. Highlanders in full traditional indigenous regalia chanting and calling during a protest of unprecedented size in Deiyai regency. Shouts of "Free Papua" can be heard.

View on Twitter

She managed to gain access to footage of demonstrations that continued after the network was blocked.

"I sort of destroyed Jakarta’s narrative, because Jakarta said that the situation in West Papua has gone back to normal but I kept posting these videos which made their claim not true," Veronica said.

An exile in Australia

Then Veronica found herself a regular fixture in the Indonesian news headlines.

She was named a suspect by Indonesian police, accused of spreading "hoaxes" and acting as a "provocatuer".

She now describes herself as being in exile in Australia.

Indonesian police have threatened to cancel her passport, close her bank accounts and put her on an Interpol red list to have her brought back to Indonesia.

PHOTO: Veronica’s homemade protest sign. (ABC RN: Alice Moldovan)

Fifty-six West Papuans have also been charged with treason following the protests, according to Amnesty International.

An Indonesian man, Surya Anta, is currently the first Indonesian being tried for treason in connection to West Papua, after protesting in support of self-determination.

All face life imprisonment, according to Amnesty.

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Veronica says what appears to have changed following the recent demonstrations is that Indonesians are more aware of West Papuan grievances, regardless of where their support lies.

"Ignorant Indonesians like to say: ‘Ah it’s only a handful of Papuans who want independence from Indonesia, surely’," she said.

"But now, because of the footage of thousands of Papuans demanding West Papua independence, I haven’t heard such ignorant comments being said again."

She also points to a small group of Indonesians showing public support for West Papuan goals, despite the personal risks involved.

"You saw Indonesians leading the marches," she said.

When I met her in Sydney recently, I asked her if she could have imagined this support from Indonesians when we spoke not too long after she began her activism in late 2014.

"Oh my God, I now feel a little bit teary. That’s right, I didn’t imagine that at all," she said.

"We’ve come so far."

A bittersweet ruling

Yet the tragedy that prompted Veronica’s involvement has not been resolved.

The Indonesian government has sent mixed signals about last month’s finding by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) after its five-year investigation into the Paniai incident.

While the government initially committed to following up on the report, the Attorney-General’s Office, which is responsible for instigating prosecution, recently said the commission’s findings were incomplete, and that it would return the dossier.

PHOTO: Papua Itu Kita activists say some Indonesians’ attitudes towards Papuans are slowly changing. (Supplied: Papua Itu Kita)

Zely fulfilled her dream of returning to Papua and later married a man from Paniai.

She now works as a journalist, reporting on the region.

She still recalls the speech that President Joko Widodo gave to Indigenous Papuans a few weeks after the Paniai killings.

He told them he wanted the case to be "resolved as quickly as possible, so that it does not reoccur in future".

Zely says people have grown weary of seeking justice for what happened.

"They just focus on their wounds. They know that the legal process won’t deliver a win," she said.

"They feel numb. And the situation [in Papua] since Paniai has only become worse.

"There have been too many new tragedies, new arrests, and far more deaths than the four people who died in Paniai."

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Armed Group Denies Burning Church in Papua

March 19, 2020

Armed Group Denies Burning Church in Papua

Indonesian police prevent a West Papuan protester from approaching the US embassy in Jakarta in August 2019. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

Jayapura. The Indonesian Military and National Police have accused what they call an "armed criminal group," or KKB, of burning down a church in Tembagapura, Papua, on March 12. But a spokesperson for the National Liberation Army of West Papua-Free Papua Movement, Sebby Sambom, denied the allegation. "We believe the burning of the church was part of a [political] play by the Indonesian Military and National Police to discredit the National Liberation Army of West Papua and the Free Papua Movement. Burning houses and churches is nothing new for them. It’s been their play since the 1960s," Sebby said on Wednesday.

He said the National Police should provide evidence and witnesses to prove the allegation in court. The government must allow an independent team and the National Commission on Human Rights to oversees the investigation in Papua, according to him. Sebby said a fair trial will reveal the real perpetrators of the crime. According to Papua Police’s public relations head, Chief Cmr. A.M. Kamal, separatist leader Lekagak Telenggen and other armed groups converted the church into a hideout on Tuesday.

A joint task force from the Indonesian Military and the National Police are now hot in pursuit of the group, who had fled but are still in Tembagapura. "The church was a place for worship and community activities for people in the Opitawak village. The armed group has been spreading terror in the area in the past few weeks. They did not have a place to stay, so they wanted to turn the church into a base," Kamal said.

Shootings by armed Papuans break out outside Freeport’s mining areas

March 18, 2020

Shootings by armed Papuans break out outside Freeport’s mining areas
1 hour ago

Timika, Papua (ANTARA) – Several shootings by armed Papuan criminals broke out outside the areas of the mining sites of PT Freeport Indonesia, Tembagapura Sub-district, though the gold and copper mining firm’s operations continued unhindered, a police officer revealed.

"This mining company’s operations continue to run normally," Mimika Police Chief Adjunct Sen. Coms. I Gusti Gede Era Adhinata informed journalists here on Wednesday.

Existing security units have further secured the Tembagapura District’s areas. He noted that they continued to coordinate with one another, adding that the gold and copper mining firm’s areas are safeguarded by personnel of the Amole Task Force.

The police in Mimika District, Papua Province, also support the law enforcement units’ endeavors to stop the armed Papuans from disrupting PT Freeport Indonesia’s mining activities, he explained.

"I work and coordinate with the commander of the Mimika District Military and district administration to find ways to serve our community members coming from Tembagapura to Timika," he stated.

The armed Papuan criminals’ shootings often erupted in the area of Utikini Village. On March 15, 2020, an exchange of fire broke out between the Indonesian military and police personnel and armed Papuan criminals in the Wini area of Tembagapura District.

The gunfight, which ended with the deaths of four armed separatists and gunshot wounds to two others, occurred in an area detected to be the hideout of an armed Papuan group, led by Seltius Waker, he revealed.

The security situation in Papua remains vulnerable to acts of deadly violence committed by notorious Papuan separatists.

The rebels were engaged in repeated exchanges of fire with the Indonesian military and police personnel. The rebels also launched deadly attacks on civilians over the past years and killed several of them.

The Papua Police recorded that from early January to December 28, 2019, a total of 23 shooting and criminal cases involving armed Papuan groups had claimed the lives of 10 members of the Indonesian police and military as well as 10 civilians.

The armed Papuan criminals committed such criminal acts in the administrative areas of the districts of Puncak Jaya, Jayawijaya, Mimika, and Paniai in 2019, Papua Police Chief Inspector General Paulus Waterpauw remarked on December 28, 2019. Related news: 800 villagers evacuated to Timika City to evade rebels’ terror

Related news: Minister urges TNI, Police to bolster security in Papua


Reporter: Evarianus S, Rahmad Nasution
Editor: Fardah Assegaf

Push to suspend Indonesia as Associate Member in MSG

March 17, 2020

Pushback to suspend Indonesia as Associate Member in MSG

By Len Garae 9 hrs ago


Members of two Executive Committees line up

In the latest emergency joint meeting organised by the Executive Committees of United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP) and Vanuatu West Papua Association and Unification Committee (VWPAUC) at the Presbyterian Church Conference Hall in Port Vila last Saturday, members of both organisations have emphasised the importance of intense lobbying with member countries of Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) to speak with one voice to suspend Indonesia from its Associate Membership status to MSG and accept ULMWP to Full Membership status to MSG.

The reason for their latest decision they insist, is Jakarta’s seeming indifference to urgent calls by PIF and ACP for Indonesia to cater the UN Human Rights Commissioner to visit West Papua and report back to PIF on the situation on the ground there.

Vanuatu chose to call for “human right” abuse in West Papua as the only way of convincing MSG member countries of Fiji and Papua New Guinea to board the protest vehicle to support the West Papua Struggle.

Indonesia has also placed an international media ban over West Papua which explains why no journalists have been allowed into West Papua to report on the real situation on the ground there.

One or two foreign journalists that dared to ignore the ban were dealt with by Indonesian authorities.

However, the truth is that if there is nothing to hide on the ground in West Papua then the UN Commissioner as well as media representatives should be allowed in without hesitation.

The President of VWPAUC, Pastor Alain Nafuki explained, “We will do our utmost best to lobby to make sure that ULMWP becomes a full member of MSG in its meeting in Port Vila this year and Indonesia suspended from its Associate Membership status”.

The meeting added that any chance of reaccepting Indonesia into its status in MSG would depend on whether Jakarta complies with PIF’s request for the UN Commissioner of Human Rights to visit West Papua and submit a report on the human right issues there.

An unanimous response to the recommendation followed and an emphasis was made to brief the new Minister of Foreign Affairs in the new Government of Vanuatu on the West Papua issue.

The meeting also recognised the importance of appointing a new Director General of MSG who has Vanuatu’s spirit at heart on the West Papua issue.

While the vacant post for the next DG of MSG has been advertised, the outgoing Fijian DG was reported to have said his successor would be from Vanuatu.

Finally, but not least, since ULMWP is a charitable organisation, the meeting agreed to approach the Vanuatu Government to fund the running of its Port Vila Office on a transitional basis for two to three years while ULMWP sources its own means to prepare to take over after that.

ULMWP Treasurer Paula Makabory reminded the meeting of an assurance by then Prime Minister Moana Carcasses to get parliament to pass a budget for the ULMWP Office, an assurance which could not be realised due to political change in Government.

The meeting agreed to submit a proposed budget to the Government to fund the transitional period of the ULMWP Office.

Govt urged to send Red Cross to help displaced Papuans

March 13, 2020

Govt urged to send Red Cross to help displaced Papuans

Ivany Atina Arbi The Jakarta Post
Jakarta / Thu, March 12, 2020 / 05:17 pm

Residents of Tembagapura district in Mimika regency, Papua, wait to be evacuated by the Indonesian Military (TNI) and the National Police on Sunday. Thousands of residents in the area have been displaced from their homes as a result of an armed conflict between security forces and armed separatist groups. (Antara/Sevianto Pakiding)

The Papua Legal Aid Institute (LBH Papua) has urged the government to deploy Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) personnel to restive areas of Papua to provide assistance to tens of thousands internally displaced people forced to flee their homes due to conflicts between the military and the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB).

LBH Papua director Emanuel Gobay said in a statement on Thursday that 57,819 Papuans were currently living at evacuation camps in three regions of Nduga, Intan Jaya and Tembagapura due to the ongoing conflicts since 2018.

At least 241 people reportedly died as a result of poor living conditions in their shelters, which were mostly located in forests. The displaced residents had minimum access to healthy food, clean water and medicine.

"Law No. 1/2018 on the Red Cross requires the organization to assist displaced persons in times of peace and conflict by taking into account the principles of humanity, equality, neutrality, independence, volunteerism, universality and others," Emanuel said in the statement.

Read also: Papua residents flee homes over fears of armed criminal group: Police

Thousands of Papuans have been displaced from their homes following a series of armed conflicts between the Indonesian Military (TNI) and the TPNPB.

The TNI’s approach of aggressively hunting down pro-independence fighters in residential areas has been criticized as counterproductive, as it has resulted in the deaths of civilians rather than of the targets themselves.

Military personnel allegedly shot randomly in villages in their search for the rebels, causing the deaths of dozens.

Various civil society organizations have demanded the government withdraw the troops. The military campaign, however, marches on. (vny)

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