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The mine at the centre of West Papua’s colonisation

May 31, 2023

The mine at the centre of West Papua’s colonisation
Learo EarleMay 20, 2023 Issue 1382 West Papua

Grasberg mine — the largest gold mine and third-largest copper mine in the world — is central to the story of West Papua’s colonisation. The mine, in West Papua’s Waa Valley on traditional lands (tanah adat) belonging to the Amungme and Kamora people, is a site of extraction, violence and profit.

Understanding Grasberg’s existence involves understanding United States mining company Freeport’s entangled history with former Indonesian President Suharto’s military regime.

In their article, “Development, Power, and the Mining Industry in Papua: A Study of Freeport Indonesia”, PA Rifai-Hasan notes that by 1962, the US believed the only permanent solution to avoid Jakarta being “driven into the arms” of the communist bloc was Indonesian control of West Papua.

This set in motion two key events.

First, the US provided support under the New York Agreement of 1962 for the Act of Free Choice (Penentuan Pendapat Rakyat), also known as the “Act of No Choice” — a 1969 plebiscite ceding West Papuan sovereignty to Indonesia following a vote, held under duress, of just 1025 West Papuans.

Second, a US-supported coup brought Suharto’s self-described “New Order” regime (Orde Baru) to power in 1967.

Having politically secured the “open veins” of West Papua, Suharto’s Orde Baru saw Grasberg as what Macarena Gómez-Barris describes as an “extractive zone” in her book of the same title — a site where the existing life forms exist under the gaze of economically rationalised state and corporate mega-projects.

Freeport and Suharto’s regime agreed to a 30-year contract in 1967 (talks had begun in 1965), which included no obligations to traditional landowners and no environmental regulations. Freeport’s mining operations moved three kilometres in 1988, from the depleted Ertsberg to the current site at Grasberg mountain (then-valued at US$40 billion).

The inflow of foreign capital helped stabilise Suharto’s regime in the early years and maintain the dictatorship for three decades.

Profit or livelihoods?

In the cosmology of the Amungme people, Grasberg mountain is the sacred head of their mother and its rivers her milk; to them, Freeport is digging out her heart. By contrast, at an annual meeting in 1997, Freeport CEO James Moffett told shareholders that Freeport’s operations were like taking “a volcano that’s been decapitated by nature, and we’re mining the oesophagus”.

The colonial extraction at Grasberg has created huge short-term profits for Freeport, while leaving local communities to deal with the long-term social and ecological effects. As a result, the mine is a centrepiece in the bloody struggle for West Papuan independence; a site of resistance to Freeport and Jakarta’s exploitation.

The Free Papua Movement (OPM) has attacked the mine multiple times, fuelled by outrage over the dispossession, environmental degradation and lack of political participation that underpin Grasberg’s operations. The OPM blew up the main slurry pipe in 1977, causing tens of millions of dollars in damage. In response, the Indonesian military massacred at least 800 people, although other estimates are much higher.

The West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB), the armed wing of the OPM, recently took New Zealand pilot Phillip Mehrtens hostage to draw international attention to the ongoing colonisation of West Papua.

Freeport relies on the Indonesian military to protect its operations — it has spent more than US$20 million every year since 2010 on military and police. This is documented in the company’s euphemistically named “Working Toward Sustainable Development” reports.

International attention has slowly increased following successive human rights reports exposing the military’s intimidation, brutality and torture. The reports and investigations have given locals a platform to voice the impacts of their dispossession, which otherwise goes unheard.

Amungme community organiser Yosepha Alomang described the abuse she suffered to the Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights in the US House of Representatives in 1999. “I myself have experienced torture at the hands of Indonesia and the giant mining company Freeport,” Alomang said.

“I have been kidnapped by security forces … and carried in a Freeport automobile, and held for one month in a ‘bathroom’ which was full of human faeces.”

Mining waste

Mining at Grasberg runs day and night, and requires satellite tracking of the mining trucks that operate shrouded in cloud. This has generated millions of tonnes of mine waste, or tailings, over its lifetime, which are toxic to people and ecosystems.

By 1990, Freeport’s tailings had polluted 84,158 hectares of offshore river systems and 35,820 hectares of onshore systems. About 700,000 tonnes of earth are sifted through every day, with more than 230,000 tonnes of tailings dumped into the local Otomina and Aikwa river systems.

A 2016 study published in Nature found that tailings had smothered and destroyed 13,800 hectares of forest in the adjacent world heritage-listed Lorentz National Park. Rifai-Husan writes that, apart from toxicity and destruction of the river and forest systems, the dumping of tailings has “consumed local population gardening, fishing, and hunting areas and wildlife, and separated people from their resources and livelihood”.

Social scientist Kjell Anderson labelled the violence and displacement a “slow motion genocide”, in which West Papuans have had their “identity, autonomy, and physical security substantially undermined through the neo-colonial policies of the Indonesian state”.

Freeport’s exploitation and extraction is an extended arm of the Indonesian state, linking Suharto’s Orde Baru with their new development plans. For example, the Indonesian government often claims that traditional land is not being “effectively used”, and seizes it to supposedly provide for “the greatest welfare for the people”.

As Amungme tribal leader Tom Beanel asks: “Could it be that the Indonesian government is drawn to Irian Jaya (West Papua) not by its people, but by its natural resources?”

Indonesia’s colonialism has sidelined First Nations’ perspectives and follows the same logic applied in settler colonies, from Australia to Palestine. West Papuans have been forced to abandon the living-with-land practices that have existed for thousands of years.

With communities no longer able to survive off polluted rivers and soil, Papuans migrate to the downstream flows of the Aikwa delta to scrape a living. They use handmade sifters to search for scraps of gold, exposing themselves to pollution with often-unknown effects.

By mapping long-term harm, Freeport can be held accountable for the dispossession and environmental damage they seek to hide. At the Grasberg mine, a US company is working to stabilise and benefit a military regime through extraction and exploitation.

Since “The Act of No Choice”, Indonesian governments have profited from exploiting the natural wealth of West Papua, and this extraction is closely tied to foreign capital and aided by military control. Since Suharto, Freeport’s operations have morphed; where once they could escape questioning of killings and land degradation, they now use development discourse as cover.

While we can only hope for the safe return of Mehrtens as soon as possible, this is an opportunity to raise awareness around the continuing colonisation of West Papua.


2) Ministry distributes some Rp300 million aid to Papua landslide victims

12 hours ago

Jakarta (ANTARA) – The Social Affairs Ministry has taken prompt measures in response to the landslide disaster that struck Walait Sub-district, Jayawijaya District, Highland Papua, by distributing aid and compensation funds worth Rp 300.4 million to the victims.

The ministry’s Acting Director for Social Protection of Natural Disaster Victims (PSKBA) Adriananus Alla noted in a written statement received in Jakarta, Saturday, that the aid was disbursed on the instruction of Social Affairs Minister Tri Rismaharini to ensure the fulfillment of basic needs for the affected residents.

"In accordance with Madam Minister’s directive, we, from the Social Affairs Ministry, have sent the aids needed by the refugees by prioritizing logistical assistance required, such as footwear, kitchen equipment, family kit, clothes, and ready meals, while taking refuge," he remarked.

The assistance was distributed through the warehouse of the Jayapura Social Welfare Training and Education Center (BBPPKS).

The disbursed assistance comprised 15 packages of footwear, 15 packages of family kitchen equipment, 15 family kit packages, 100 packages of sanitary napkins, 50 children diapers packages, 50 blankets, 75 mattresses, 10 packages of velvets, 100 packages of adult clothing, and 50 bedsheets.

In addition, the ministry provided 20 sets of roll tents, 15 sets of family tents, 50 kids wear packages, 200 packages of ready meals, 80 packages of infant meals, and 200 packages of ready side dishes. The physical assistance was worth Rp234.5 million in total.

The distributing team also handed over compensation funds, totaling Rp 66 million, for casualties and injuries.

The landslide occurred in Walait Sub-district, Jayawijaya District, on May 10, following downpour in the region. The disaster resulted in at least three casualties, while 12 families were compelled to take refuge.

"We hope that this assistance will be able to meet the needs of the refugees," Alla stated.

Taking notes on this disaster, he appealed to people residing in disaster-prone locations to stay alert to prepare for disaster risks, especially in the event of bad weather.

Related news: Bogor: BNPB provides Rp500 mln for Empang landslide victims
Related news: Rismaharini delivers aid packages to landslide victims in Sibolangit

Reporter: Devi Nindy, Tegar Nurfitra
Editor: Rahmad Nasution

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The war we ignore

May 28, 2023

The war we ignore

by Catherine Delahunty | May 28, 2023 | 0 | 5 min read

The West Papuan struggle for independence gets scant attention on our news, writes Catherine Delahunty, and it remains ignored because of “political expediency, trade relationships, and the inescapable conclusion that West Papuan lives don’t matter”.

Nearly four months ago, Phillip Mehrtens, a New Zealander working for an Indonesian airline, was kidnapped by West Papuan fighters in the highlands of West Papua.

No attempts to free him have succeeded yet, although our government has been working hard for a peaceful resolution. The Indonesian government has listened but it’s now losing patience.

Government troops have attacked some of the groups holding the hostage, and they’ve fought back. More troops are reported to have been moved into the Highlands. It looks bad for all involved especially the local communities in West Papua.

Phillip Mehrtens was kidnapped by a West Papua Liberation Army group because he was a foreign national caught up in a struggle for independence against the Indonesian occupation of West Papua.

The call for freedom from Indonesian occupation was the initial key demand of the fighters — a demand that’s likely to be ignored but which is understandable to all who know the history.

Kidnapping or taking civilians as hostages isn’t welcomed by many parts of the independence and solidarity movements for a free West Papua. But it can’t be ignored that West Papua as a country is also being held hostage.

West Papua, on Australia’s doorstep and bordering Papua New Guinea, has been experiencing a military occupation, human rights abuses and loss of sovereignty since the 1960s, while neighbouring and more powerful countries collude with Indonesia.

The recent kidnapping is just one episode in a struggle that’s been hidden because of political expediency, trade relationships, and the inescapable conclusion that West Papuan lives don’t matter.

If we want a taste of Aotearoa in the 1860s, we can look at West Papua in the 21st century. A hunger for resources, and a willingness to make war, and to divide and rule Indigenous citizens, drove the colonisation of Aotearoa.

Like Aotearoa, West Papua is rich in many resources, from fertile lands to mineralised mountains. As happened across Aotearoa, whole regions are being stripped of forest and turned into farms (mainly palm oil/PKE and rice). And roads are being forced into the Highlands to open them up to corporate exploitation of oil, gas, timber and gold.

At the peak of the wars for land in Aotearoa, there were 18,000 British troops in Aotearoa — and now in West Papua, there are at least 17,000 Indonesian military and security forces concentrated in areas such as Nduga in the Highlands.

Appalling wars across the planet are generally reported on by war correspondents, and wars in Europe, such as the Ukraine tragedy, are centre stage on our news. But the war for West Papua is barely mentioned despite the bombing of villages, the plight of the refugees, and the killings and torture by the Indonesian military.

Wars in our region that are affecting Indigenous people are, so it seems, not worth reporting. The fact that Indonesia makes accurate reporting of the situation almost impossible, from inside or outside West Papua, feeds the overall ignorance and disinterest.

Not long ago, on a solidarity network call, a West Papuan person mentioned the very recent death of a close relative in the Highlands. This man was shot when Indonesia security forces opened fire during a street conflict in Wamena.

This death brought home what even the politically committed can ignore from this distance. The reality of military occupation and colonisation lives in the streets where families and communities are trying to live their lives and maintain their right to be who they are in their own country.

This realisation broke through because we heard the story from the family member. It wasn’t a statistic or a news item. It was a person — and that person is one of many being mourned because of the violent methods of the occupying forces. Of course, the trauma won’t stop when the brief news item of what happened in Wamena fades.

This moment caused me to think about the official view of the Pacific communities I grew up with. In an utterly colonial manner, too many Pākehā still see Polynesia as a holiday destination where we go to play and bask in the sun while the locals serve and entertain us.

We basically ignore the western islands of Te Moana Nui a Kiwa. We acknowledge the existence of the RSE workers because they’re working here, but many of us can’t place Papua, PNG, Vanuatu, Bougainville or the Solomons on the map.

Our understanding of our own history in the Pacific is minimal and sanitised. The memories of the war with the Japanese in the Pacific have focused on Anzac soldiers with the local communities as part of the exotic backdrop as white men saved the world.

Now, at last, stories about the true impact of our colonialism are penetrating the Pacific Islands myths that we have marketed to ourselves. But not the West Papua myths.

The brutal exploitation of West Papua remains remote from us in Aotearoa. Australia is equally culpable in their post-war racist patronage and praise of the “fuzzy wuzzy angels” (West Papuans) who supported their soldiers. Those “angels” have been abandoned to political expediency since Indonesia made their 1960s bid for West Papua — with the complicity of the United Nations with their eyes wide shut.

The kidnapping event was a desperate act to cut through the remote wall of silence and force a response from a foreign government as well as Indonesia. In media interviews here, apart from RNZ’s Pacific and Māori media, the entire focus has been on the individual New Zealander now in a dire situation because of the action of the “rebels”.

Phillip Mehrtens is indeed in a serious position which no civilian should face. But equally terrifying is the risk to the nearby communities who’ll suffer from Indonesian retribution, whatever the outcome of the kidnapping.

Few New Zealanders have ever walked down the streets of Jayapura or Wamena. Some have worked in the Freeport McMoran mines in West Papua or for the Indonesian airlines that fly in West Papua. Few of us have seen the dwindling forests of Papua, an essential climate buffer zone being raped for profit. Or met any of the peoples whose ancestry in this place is 50,000 or 60,000 years deep.

Increasingly, young Papuan voices are using social media and their passion for education to tell us their own story of this modern war in our neighbourhood. There is nothing new in this story for tāngata whenua of Aotearoa, which is why they have no hesitation in supporting a free West Papua.

But our ability to ignore justice at home has encouraged our politicians to ignore the people of Papua across the ocean which connects us. Hence the desperate bids for our attention and the ongoing risks to all people in the frontline of this modern colonial war.

Catherine Delahunty is a Pākehā activist in environmental, social justice, and Te Tiriti o Waitangi issues. She was a Green MP for nine years and lives in Hauraki. She mainly works in campaigns against multinational goldmining in Hauraki and is active in the national solidarity network for a Free West Papua. She is a writer and a tutor on social change issues, and a grandmother.

© E-Tangata, 2023


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Protesters call for West Papua to be included on UN ‘decolonisation’

May 24, 2023

Protesters call for West Papua to be included on UN ‘decolonisation’
list By APR editor – May 24, 2023

Asia Pacific Report

An Australian advocacy group has called for West Papua to be reinscribed on the United Nations list of “non self-governing territories”, citing the “sham” vote in 1969 and the worsening human rights violations in the Indonesian-ruled Melanesian region.

The UN Special Committee on Decolonisation began its 2023 Pacific Regional Seminar in Bali, Indonesia, today and will continue until May 26.

Tomorrow the annual International Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories is due to begin tomorrow and will end on May 31.

“Although West Papua is not on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, it should be,” said Joe Collins of the Australia West Papua Association (AWPA).

“It’s 60 years since UNTEA transferred West Papua to Indonesian administration, which then unceremoniously removed it from the list.

“As for the so-called Act of Free Choice held in 1969, it was a sham and is referred to by West Papuans as the ‘act of no choice’.”

‘Seriously deteriorating’
Collins said in a statement today that the situation in West Papua was “seriously deteriorating” with ongoing human rights abuses in the territory.

“There are regular armed clashes between the Free Papua Movement [OPM] and the Indonesian security forces,” he said.

“West Papuans continue to be arrested at peaceful demonstrations and Papuans risk being charged with treason for taking part in the rallies.

“The military operations in the highlands have created up to 60,000 internally displaced people (IDPs), many facing starvation because they fear returning to their food gardens because of the Indonesian security forces.

“Recent armed clashes have also created new IDPs.

Collins cited New Zealand pilot Philip Mehrtens, who has been held hostage by the West Papuan National Liberation Army (TPNPB) for more than three months.

According to Mehrtens as quoted by ABC News on April 26, the Indonesian military had been “dropping bombs” in the area where he was being held, making it “dangerous for me and everybody here”.

‘French’ Polynesia an example
“We cannot expect the [UN Decolonisation Committee] to review the situation of West Papua at this stage as it would only bring to attention the complete failure by the UN to protect the people of West Papua.

However, territories had been reinscribed in the past as in the case of “French” Polynesia in 2013, Collins said.

But Collins said it was hoped that the UN committee could take some action.

“As they meet in Bali, it is hoped that the C24 members — who would be well aware of the ongoing human rights abuses in West Papua committed by the Indonesian security forces — will urge Jakarta to allow the High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit West Papua on a fact-finding mission to report on the deteriorating human rights situation in the territory.”

“It’s the least they could do.”


2) The US-PNG defense pact

Editorial board (The Jakarta Post)
Jakarta ● Thu, May 25, 2023

The newly signed defense and maritime cooperation agreement between Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the United States will not only exacerbate the ongoing great power rivalry in the Asia Pacific region but also give us a cause for concern because we share a border with PNG.

Depending on the details of the deal, sooner or later the bilateral agreement will affect our national security, for better or worse. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said Beijing had no objection to such a form of cooperation, but quickly added, "What we need to be vigilant about is engaging in geopolitical games in the name of cooperation, and we also believe that no cooperation should target any third parties." Beijing has shown a growing interest in Pacific Islands.

Last year, then-Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi signed a security pact with the Solomon Islands as part of his trip to eight Pacific Islands states that badly need financial funding to mitigate the risks of climate change. Australia, the most prominent neighbor of the Pacific nations, is losing its grip on the region since China offers more lucrative deals.

As a part of the strategy to contain China, Australia, the United Kingdom and the US established a military pact, AUKUS, which allows Canberra to possess nuclear-powered submarines to protect its sovereignty. The US also formed another strategic alliance, the Quad, with Australia, Japan and India with rising China in mind.

After attending the Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima, Japan, last week, Biden was initially slated to visit PNG. He canceled the trip due to domestic politics and sent his state secretary, Antony Blinken, instead. The US-PNG agreement was signed by Blinken and PNG’s Defense Minister Win Bakri Daki on the sidelines of the summit of the Pacific Islands Forum in Port Moresby on Monday.

No details are available regarding the deal, but a leaked draft document suggests it gives US personnel and contractors legal immunity; allows aircraft, vehicles and vessels operated by or on behalf of the US to move freely within its territory and territorial waters and exempts US staff from all migration requirements. The Associated Press quoted the US State Department as saying the new agreement provides a framework to help improve security cooperation, enhance the capacity of PNG’s defense force and increase regional stability.

PNG, the most populous Pacific Island nation, saw fierce battles during World War II. Indonesia may choose to closely monitor the developments of the US-PNG deal and assess how it may impact its national security interests, although the full extent of the repercussions of the agreement will depend on various factors, including the specifics of the deal and the reactions of other regional powers, including China, whose influence in the region is growing.

Due to the possibility of the deal bringing about a shift in regional power dynamics, especially because it can increase the presence of the US and its allies like Australia and Japan, Indonesia should engage in diplomacy with both the US and PNG to ensure its concerns are heard and addressed. Papua, which abuts PNG, is rich in natural resources but has for over a few decades been beset by a separatist movement.

The rebel group has been holding a New Zealand pilot hostage in its stronghold of Nduga highland regency since February. Papua is also home to the US valuable asset in PT Freeport Indonesia, one of the world’s largest copper and gold mines, which in 2018 was acquired by Indonesia.

Under nationalist-leaning President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, Indonesia increased its shares in Freeport to 51.23 percent in a divestment deal worth US$3.85 billion. The PNG-US security pact amounts to a national security interest for Indonesia. Jakarta must communicate with both Washington and Port Moresby to prevent unwanted implications of any increase in the US military presence in our neighboring country.


3) Witnesses testify chaos at USTJ triggered by police tear gas
News Desk – USTJ Student’s Treason Case Trial
24 May 2023

Jayapura, Jubi – On Tuesday, May 23, 2023, the Jayapura District Courtcontinued the trial of three students accused of treason for taking part in a free speech which displayed the Morning Star flag, held at the Jayapura University of Science and Technology (USTJ) campus on November 10 last year. The defendants, Yoseph Ernesto Matuan, Devio Tekege, and Ambrosius Fransiskus Elopere, testified as witnesses and stated that the free speech turned chaotic after police fired tear gas into the campus area.

According to Elopere, the free speech took place from around 11 to 11:30 a.m. local time. He mentioned that eight students participated in the event, holding pamphlets and two Morning Star flags. The event was not planned but rather initiated spontaneously when they encountered each other on campus that day.

Elopere said that while the speakers were delivering their speeches, a group of police officers suddenly entered the USTJ Campus using two patrol cars. The police entered the campus while firing warning shots and immediately confiscated the pamphlets and flags.

“While we were speaking, the police got out of their cars and fired warning shots. The police dispersed the event, confiscated our pamphlets and Morning Star flags, and instructed us to get into their car. Our fellow students witnessed us being taken away and shouted to stop it there. Some of them approached and closed the campus fence,” Elopere recounted.

Elopere further mentioned that negotiations were taking place with the Heram Police chief at that time, wherein the students requested that the issue be resolved on campus rather than at the police station.

He said the Heram Police chief had allowed the students to read out a statement. “We had a polite conversation until they agreed to let us read the statement,” he said.

However, Elopere stated that the statement was ultimately not read out due to the occurrence of stone-throwing and the firing of tear gas from outside the campus gate. The sudden use of tear gas caused the students to immediately flee for their safety.

“The situation quickly turned chaotic. We immediately scattered. There were six people injured from being struck. I personally got hit by tear gas,” he explained.

Following the incident, Elopere and fourteen other students were apprehended and transported to the Jayapura City Police Headquarters.

Yoseph Ernesto Matuan also affirmed that the unrest ensued due to the intrusion of the police onto the campus. Matuan further revealed that the participants of the free speech were on the verge of presenting a statement in front of the Heram Police Chief when police started firing tear gas. Matuan added that some students who were recording the incident were also subjected to police brutality.

Matuan expressed his confusion regarding the motive behind using tear gas to disperse the gathering. He clarified that their intention was solely to engage in a free speech activity, rejecting the Jakarta-Papua dialogue facilitated by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), commemorating the passing of Theys Hiyo Eluay, a prominent figure in the Papuan Council Presidium, and urging the United Nations Security Council to visit Papua and witness the prevailing security conditions.

The refusal to engage in the dialogue initiated by Komnas HAM was because the Commission did not involve all parties affected by the armed conflict in Papua.

Matuan also said that the free speech had been notified to the Student Executive Board. He admitted to preparing pamphlets and the Morning Star flag but according to him, the Morning Star flag represents Papuan culture and is safeguarded and guaranteed under Law No. 21/2001 on Papua Special Autonomy.

Devio Tekege also recounted that the free speech held at the USTJ Campus on November 10, 2022, turned chaotic due to the police’s use of tear gas within the campus. As a result, he and his friends quickly sought refuge.

Tekege mentioned that he participated in the protest voluntarily. He explained that the students took turns holding pamphlets and Morning Star flags during the event.

Apart from rejecting the dialogue initiated by Komnas HAM, Tekege said that the students also proposed a referendum as a potential solution to Papua problems. This suggestion arose due to the unresolved cases of human rights violations in Papua, which, according to Tekege, have persisted without proper resolutions in the region. (*)

OPM calls on global trade unions to blacklist Indonesian goods, services

May 21, 2023

OPM calls on global trade unions to blacklist Indonesian goods, services
By APR editor – May 22, 2023

Asia Pacific Report

On the eve of Papua New Guinea’s hosted Pacific meetings, Free Papua Organisation-OPM leader Jeffrey Bomanak has called for an international embargo on Indonesian goods and services in protest over what he calls Jakarta’s “unlawful military occupation” of West Papua.

Bomanak has also challenged US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to meet with him while visiting Port Moresby today to review “six decades of prima facie photographic evidence of Indonesia’s crimes against humanity”.

“My people have been in a war of liberation from Indonesia’s illegal invasion and annexation for six decades,” he said in a statement.

“Six decades of barbarity and callous international abandonment.”

He said the “theft” of West Papua and its natural resources with the alleged complicity of the US and Australian governments had been “well documented in countless books and journals”.

He described the ongoing human rights violations in West Papua as a “travesty of justice”.

“Indonesia will never leave West Papua without being pushed. We are waiting for an act of deliverance,” Bomanak said.

“To all unions and every unionist — help us reach our day of liberation.”

Both agreements for signing
Meanwhile, the PNG Post-Courier reports that Prime Minister James Marape confirmed last night that the Ship Rider Agreement and the Defence Cooperation Agreement would both be signed with the United States this afternoon.

US State Secretary Blinken would sign the agreements during his visit to PNG.

Marape said he did not see geopolitics being involved in the defence agreement. He was signing this agreement to protect the territorial borders from “all kinds of emerging threats”.

He said the agreement was only a defence force cooperation pact like it had with Australia and Indonesia.

Marape hosted dinner last night for all the leaders of the Pacific who had arrived earlier yesterday and on Saturday.

He said Pacific leaders would present their challenges to the world leaders — Blinken and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi — who would be coming for separate meetings.

2) Police arrest alleged leader of armed crime group in Highland Papua
9 hours ago

Jakarta (ANTARA) – The National Police (Polri) stated on Sunday that they have arrested a person with the initials KTH/PH, who is suspected of being one of the leaders of the armed criminal group (KKB) in Highland Papua.

According to Police Brigadier General Ahmad Ramadhan, the Head of the Public Information Bureau at Polri’s Public Relations Division, the person was arrested on Friday (May 19, 2023), at 1.30 p.m. local time.

KTH/PH was allegedly involved in several criminal activities perpetrated by the armed criminal group in Yahukimo, Highland Papua, he said.

He mentioned that the crimes in question include the murder of a military personnel on November 4, 2022, as well as shootings against the Yahukimo police force on November 29, 2022, which led to a police officer’s death.

"Additionally, there were shootings against the Prevention Task Force at the Mobile Brigade Corps on November 30, 2022, and against the Yahukimo Police Department on December 30, 2022," he said during a press conference followed in Jakarta.

Ramadhan stated that there were two pieces of evidence that led to KTH being named as a suspect in the shooting on November 30, 2022.

Currently, the suspect is being detained at the Papua Police headquarters, he pointed out.

KTH/PH was arrested following an investigation of AS, a suspect in the Mobile Brigade Corps shooting on November 30, 2022, who had been previously detained by the authorities.

"The investigation team, assisted by Yahukimo Police Department’s investigators, confirmed the suspect’s identity by showing a picture of KTH/PH to AS," he explained.

AS confirmed that the person in the picture was KTH/PH, a leader of KKB, he added.

Related news: Police raid alleged hideout of Papuan separatists, arrest 22
Related news: Indonesian police make utmost effort to free four hostages in Papua

Reporter: Fath Putra Mulya, Mecca Yumna
Editor: Anton

West Papua conflict: ‘Taken hostage in a country that has also been taken hostage’

May 20, 2023‘taken-hostage-in-a-country-that-has-also-been-taken-hostage’?fbclid=IwAR3FVqpc7Wnv_VCknhq8RinJMfW4CsKkrlvJLwVC_DoZ1CqS6R7zhkWLFc8

West Papua conflict: ‘Taken hostage in a country that has also been taken hostage’

19 May, 2023

Interview by Spike Keith, adapted by Rawan Saadi

The Morning Star flag is considered a symbol of West Papua independence and has been banned by Indonesian authorities. Photo: Canva.

Listen to the full interview

In February of this year, New Zealand Pilot Phillip Mehrtens was taken hostage by the West Papua National Liberation Army.

West Papua is one of 38 Indonesian provinces and has been an occupied state since the 1960s.

The region has an indigenous population of Melansian descent who have become a minority among settler groups such as the Javanese population.

For decades there has been a strong push for independence, and since 2018 pro-independence groups such as the National Liberation Army have been in continuous conflict with the Indonesian government.

Spokesperson for West Papua Action Aotearoa Catherine Delahunty told 95bFM’s The Wire that this is a long-established issue brought to light after the kidnapping of a New Zealand citizen.

According to Delahunty, Mehrtens, who is being held hostage in a remote area in West Papua, has not been physically harmed.

“They are looking for leverage, looking for the world to notice their struggle, which their neighbours like Australia and New Zealand have done very little about and now will actually take note that a citizen of this country has been kidnapped.”

She explained that although diplomatic work is being done to bring Mehrtens back home, the Indonesian Army is taking a more violent approach by sending in combat-ready troops and bombing villages.

“He has been taken hostage in a country that has also been taken hostage. That is what people need to understand.”

Delahunty emphasised that this kidnapping shows how horrific and pressing the situation is in West Papua.

The conflict has resulted in the displacement of villagers and a growing refugee crisis, with many people facing health issues.

“What we need is for Indonesia to take a look at themselves and realise that you cannot colonise in the 21st century. People have never accepted being colonised.”

Delahunty said the Indonesian government has long exploited West Papua’s rich resources, including palm oil, fertile soil, and several minerals.

An open letter from West Papua Action Aotearoa is calling on Prime Minister Hipkins and Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta to urge for a withdrawal of Indonesian military forces and independent mediation to find a more peaceful solution.

Delahunty commended the government’s response so far as they have not escalated or encouraged the violence but argued the aggressive approach of the Indonesian government requires more urgent intervention.

The open letter is signed by organisations such as Greenpeace Aotearoa and senior academics such as Dr Steven Ratuvan, an expert in pacific issues at the University of Canterbury.

AWPA -West Papua Update No 3/ 2023

May 16, 2023

AWPA -West Papua Update No 3/ 2023

17 May 2023

Armed clashes have continued between the Free Papua Movement and the Indonesian security forces. West Papuans continue to be arrested at peaceful demonstrations and Papuans risk being charged with treason for taking part in the rallies. There has been no improvement in the human rights situation in the territory for West Papuans. …………………….

Awyu environmental activists file for intervention to protect land and forests

May 14, 2023

Awyu environmental activists file for intervention to protect land and forests
News Desk – State Administrative Lawsuit
10 May 2023

Demonstration against oil palm plantation companies operating on the Awyu tribe’s customary land. – Doc. Pusaka Foundation

Jayapura, Jubi – In a bid to protect their land and forests, a group of environmental activists from the Awyu region has filed for intervention at the Jakarta Administrative Court. They submitted an application to participate as intervening defendants in a state administrative dispute brought by PT Megakarya Jaya Raya and PT Kartika Cipta Pratama against the Minister of Environment and Forestry. They wanted to represent the interests of the Awyu tribe in the dispute.

Hendrikus Woro, an environmental activist belonging to the Awyu tribe, said his party wanted to become an intervening defendant to highlight that Papua is not a vacant territory.

“We came all the way to Jakarta to support the government in safeguarding our forests against companies that are seeking to demolish them,” Woro said in a written statement received by Jubi in Jayapura on Tuesday, May 9, 2023.

According to Woro, the state administrative lawsuit initiated by the two companies against the Minister of Environment and Forestry could impact the well-being of the Awyu tribe, and as such, they must participate in safeguarding their rights. In a related matter, Woro previously filed a state administrative lawsuit on March 13, 2023, concerning the issuance of an environmental permit for PT Indo Asiana Lestari by the Papua Investment and One-Stop Open Service Office. The permit is situated in Boven Digoel, South Papua.

He said permits granted to several palm oil companies had put the customary forests and living space of the Awyu Tribe at risk. As an indigenous community, the Awyu tribe relies heavily on natural resources such as land, forests, rivers, swamps, and others to sustain their way of life.

“These are the sources of our livelihood, food and medicine, as well as our socio-cultural identity. The forest is an ‘eternal asset’ for us indigenous people,” he said.

PT Megakarya Jaya Raya filed their legal dispute on March 10, 2023. The case challenges the Decree of the Minister of Environment and Forestry on the Ordering and Arrangement of Forest Area Release Holders under the name of PT Megakarya Jaya Raya in Boven Digoel Regency. Meanwhile, PT Kartika Cipta Pratama registered a lawsuit on March 15, 2023 to contest the same matter.

PT Megakarya Jaya Raya and PT Kartika Cipta Pratama, which are affiliated with the Hayel Saeed Anam Group, have neighboring plantation concessions in South Papua Province. The holders of these two concessions have cleared a combined total of 8,828 hectares of forest land that belonged to indigenous communities. Nevertheless, there are still 65,415 hectares of native rainforest that can be fought to be preserved.

According to Sekar Banjaran Aji, a member of the Save Papua Forest Advocacy Team, the licenses granted to PT Megakarya Jaya Raya and PT Kartika Cipta Pratama were part of the Tanah Merah Project scandal. The scandal involved allegations of illegal acquisition of licenses, and during the course of its development, several subsidiary licenses were revoked by the provincial government due to the permit forgery scandal.

The lawsuit filed by the two companies does not provide much information on the revocation of forest concession licenses. It is unclear whether the follow-up to the license revocation has taken into account the rights and interests of indigenous Papuans as landowners and custodians of the customary forests.

The participation of indigenous peoples in the recent process should prompt the government to be transparent in the ongoing revocation of forest area release concessions. The Ministry of Environment and Forestry needs to prioritize the ownership and rights of indigenous peoples in this matter.

Another member of the Save Papua Forest Advocacy Team, Tigor Gemdita Hutapea, emphasized the importance of the Ministry providing access to information and involving indigenous peoples in decision-making about the use of forest areas. This is essential to ensure that indigenous peoples’ local knowledge is taken into account.

“Failing to provide information and opportunities for participation would be a violation of their rights,” Tigor said.

Apart from filing an intervention request to the Jakarta Administrative Court, representatives of the Awyu tribe also lodged a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM). The purpose of this was to bring attention to the issues they have been facing, such as the infringement of indigenous people’s rights, the consequences of palm oil plantations, and the threat of a more severe climate crisis. (*)


2) Amnesty calls on Jakarta to free activist Victor Yeimo
5 minutes ago

Amnesty International is calling on Indonesia to release West Papua National Committee spokersperson, Victor Yeimo.
Yeimo was sentenced on Friday to eight months in prison for his involvement in an anti-racism protest in Papua in August 2019.
In a statement Amnesty International is calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Yeimo and all Papuans imprisoned for peacefully expressing their political opinions.
Amnesty Indonesia executive director Usman Hamid said the arbitrary arrest and detention of Victor Yeimo and many other Papuans is discriminatory and constitutes a failure of the Indonesian state to uphold and protect the democractic and human rights of its citizens.
"The fact that he and many Papuans have been arrested and detained for peacefully expressing their political opinion represents the state’s neglect on human rights protection," he said.
Hamid said data collected between 2019 and 2022 indicates an alarming escalation in efforts to silence and intimidate Papuan activists in Indonesia with at least 78 people facing criminal charges and prosecution for allegedly violating treason articles under the Penal Code.
Carolyn Nash, Asia Advocacy Director at Amnesty USA said human rights are under attack in the autonomous region.
"These escalating efforts to silence and intimidate Papuan activists should alarm the US government, which has repeatedly looked to Indonesia as a regional example of democratic norms commitment to human rights principles," she said.
"But the reality is clear: these human rights principles are under attack. The treatment of Papuan activists is the measure by which the US can assess the Indonesian government’s commitment to protect free expression – and the Indonesian government is demonstrating how weak that commitment truly is."
Previously, West Papua Action Aotearoa spokesperson Catherine Delahunty said Yeimo’s only crime was to stand up against the abuse of West Papuan students in Indonesia.
In March, a West Papuan advocacy group claimed 20 Papuans who were fundraising for the victims of tropical cyclones in Vanuatu were arrested by Indonesian police in the provincial capital Jayapura.

Amnesty calls for unconditional release of Papua rights activists Victor Yeimo

May 10, 2023

Amnesty calls for unconditional release of Papua rights activists Victor

Kompas – May 9, 2023

Singgih Wiryono, Jakarta — Amnesty International Indonesia Executive
Director Usman Hamid is urging the Indonesian government to
unconditionally release Papuan political activist Victor Yeimo, who was
sentenced to eight months in prison on May 5 for to his involvement in
anti-racism protest in Papua in August 2019.

And not just Yeimo. Hamid hopes that all Papuan political activists that
are currently being detained or in prison can be released.

"We urge the state to release Victor Yeimo and other activists who have
been imprisoned just for peacefully expressing themselves in Papua.
Because all of them are protected by the Constitution", said Hamid in a
written statement on Monday May 8.

According to Hamid, the sentencing of Papuan activists to prison terms
only gives rise to the perception that the state is no longer friendly
to free expression by Papuan activists.

Moreover, these Papua activists express themselves in a peaceful manner.
"Even though the state already has a commitment to respect this", said

He also said that in Papua there has been a pattern of violence that has
been going on for a long time against those who practice freedom of
expression and the fulfillment of human rights.

"The sentence against Victor Yeimo today is just one example of the lack
of human rights guarantees", said Hamid.

Because of this, he hopes that the government will no longer use the
articles on makar (treason, subversion, rebellion) and insulting the
government in the Criminal Code (KUHP) to punish activists.

Based on monitoring by Amnesty International from 2019 to 2022, at least
78 people in Papua including Victor Yeimo have been arrested on charges
of treason using Articles 106 and 110 of the old KUHP.

Under national law, the right to freedom of opinion, assembly and
association are also guaranteed in the 1945 Constitution, specifically
Article 28E Paragraph (3).

Article 23 of Law Number 39/1999 on Human Rights also guarantees that
everyone is free to have their own political beliefs and to express
opinions according to their conscience.

The right to freedom of expression, including political expression, is
also guaranteed under Article 19 of the Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights (ICCPR), which is elaborated upon in General Comment Number 34
regarding Article 19 of the ICCPR.

Indonesia has already ratified the ICCPR through Law Number 12/2005,
which means that Indonesia has a binding obligation to respect, protect
and fulfill these rights.

"Amnesty International does not take a position on the political status
of any province in Indonesia, including calls for their independence.
However, in our opinion, freedom of expression includes the right to
peacefully express one’s views or political solutions", concluded Hamid.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original article titled "Amnesty
Internasional Desak Aktivis Politik Papua Viktor Yeimo Dibebaskan Tanpa
Syarat" spelt Victor Yeimo as Viktor Yeimo.]


wp 1) Constitutional Court already revoked article used to convict Viktor Yeimo

May 9, 2023
Constitutional Court already revoked article used to convict Viktor Yeimo
News Desk – Viktor Yeimo’s Treason Trial
8 May 2023

Yogyakarta, Jubi – The Constitutional Court has, in fact, revoked in 2007 the article used by the panel of judges of the . Viktor Yeimo’s lawyer Latifah Anum Siregar revealed this on Saturday, May 6, 2023, a day after the conviction.

“The panel of judges, in their ruling on Friday, found Viktor Yeimo to have violated Article 155 of paragraph (1) of the Criminal Code. However, the Constitutional Court has declared Article 155 to no longer have any legal force,” said Siregar.

According to Siregar, the Constitutional Court’s Decision No. 6/PUU-V/2007, which was read during the Plenary Session on July 17, 2007, clearly states that Article 154 and Article 155 of the Criminal Code are inconsistent with the 1945 Constitution. The decision also declares that these articles have no legal force. “The decision explicitly declares that Article 154 and Article 155 of the Criminal Code are unconstitutional,” Siregar said.

After reading the verdict, the panel of judges led by chief judge Mathius and consisting of member judges Andi Asmuruf and Linn Carol Hamadi, ordered Viktor Yeimo to remain in detention. However, Siregar stated that this order was null and void.

“The detention was founded upon the verdict that found Viktor Yeimo guilty. Nonetheless, he was convicted based on an article that has been invalidated by the Constitutional Court. Hence, we argue that Viktor Yeimo’s confinement, which started after the verdict was read, is not legitimate,” she said.

She further urged the judges of the Jayapura District Court to abide by the Constitutional Court’s decision that invalidated Article 155 of the Criminal Code. She stressed that Article 155 should no longer be included in any indictments, prosecutions, or court decisions.

Siregar pointed out that the Constitutional Court’s Decision has explicitly stated that Articles 154 and 155 of the Criminal Code were abolished due to their excessive restriction on freedom of expression, which contradicts Articles 28 and 28E Paragraph (2) and Paragraph (3) of the 1945 Constitution. These articles were revoked because they were too often used to criminalize the articulation of one’s views.

In the treason case, Viktor Yeimo was alleged for his involvement in the anti-racism protest in Jayapura on August 19 and 29, 2019, which condemned the racist remarks directed at Papuan students at the Kamasan III Student Dormitory in Surabaya on August 16, 2019.

Viktor Yeimo faced two indictments in his case. The first indictment accused him of committing treason, instructing others to commit, and participating in it as outlined in Article 106 in conjunction with Article 55 paragraph (1) of the Criminal Code. The second indictment accused Yeimo of conspiring to commit treason, as stipulated in Article 110 paragraph (1) of the Criminal Code.

Yeimo faces two more charges in addition to the previous two indictments. In the third indictment, he is accused of the offense of inciting, ordering, or participating in treason by providing assistance or opportunities, according to Article 110 paragraph (2) of the Criminal Code. The fourth indictment alleges that Yeimo incited others through oral or written means to commit a criminal act, engage in violence against public officials, or disobey the law or official orders, which violates Article 160 of the Criminal Code in conjunction with Article 55 paragraph (1) of the Criminal Code.

On April 27, 2023, the public prosecutor found Viktor Yeimo guilty for the offense charged in the first count of Article 106 in conjunction with Article 55 paragraph (1) of the Criminal Code. The prosecutor sought a 3-year imprisonment sentence for Viktor Yeimo.

In the verdict read out on Friday, the judges declared the first, second, third, and fourth charges against Viktor Yeimo could not be proven. However, they found Yeimo guilty of breaking Article 155 paragraph (1) of the Criminal Code, and sentenced Yeimo to 8 months of imprisonment.

According to Siregar, the Panel of Judges’ decision went beyond the Public Prosecutor’s request, which is called Ultra Petita. Siregar argued that even if the judges wanted to sentence Yeimo based on an article not mentioned in the prosecutor’s charges, the article used to convict the defendant should still refer to the one in the prosecutor’s indictment. However, in Yeimo’s case, the judges sentenced him based on an article not included in the prosecutor’s indictment, which is now revoked by the Constitutional Court. Siregar pointed out that this verdict punished Yeimo with an article that has been declared invalid by the Constitutional Court.

According to her, the judges’ decision went beyond what was requested by the public prosecutor, which is known as “Ultra Petita.” Siregar argued that even if the judges wanted to sentence Yeimo based on an article not mentioned in the prosecutor’s charges, the article used to convict the defendant should at least correspond to the article in the prosecutor’s indictment.

Siregar said the Coalition for Law Enforcement and Human Rights for Papua is currently exploring different options and legal actions that can be taken in response to the decision made by the judges of the Jayapura District Court. (*)


2) OPM Responds to Susi Pudjiastuti’s Rage concerning Susi Air Pilot
Translator Dewi Elvia Muthiariny
Editor Mahinda Arkyasa
8 May 2023 18:00 WIB

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta – The West Papua Liberation Army of the Free Papua Movement (TPNPB-OPM) rejected a protest by the owner of Susi Air, Susi Pudjiastuti, regarding the detaining of Susi Air pilot Philips Mark Mehrtens. According to OPM, Susi is part of the colonialist.

“Susi is part of the colonial government that colonized Papua,” said TPNPB-OPM spokesman Sebby Sambom on Monday, May 8, 2023.

Previously, Susi expressed her anger at the hostage-taking of the Susi Air pilot during a phone call with a Papuan figure Pastor Karel Phil Erari. In the circulating call recordings, Susi was angry because the armed criminal group (KKB) opened fire on the Indonesian Military (TNI) troops who were trying to evacuate Philip.

Susi said she had never done anything bad to the people of Papua and considered the KKB’s actions against the pilot unfair.

Susi said that she often helped the people of Papua by providing food, education, and medicine. Susi Air’s flights often helped serve transportation for the people. “[Susi Air] has been flying in Papua for almost 20 years, I have helped the community,” Susi argued.

Sebby considered Susi Pudjiastuti’s statement and anger to be fabricated. He believed that Susi was part of the Indonesian government since she had served as Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.

In addition, he asserted that the flights carried out by Susi Air were not aimed at helping the people of Papua but were part of a business to earn money in the region.

“So Susi thought that what she did was not colonialism? That’s weird,” Sebby said.

Sebby also said that the pilot was also part of the occupiers and the TNI for pocketing a flight permit issued by the TNI Commander. “They are part of the Indonesian security force,” he added.

Sebby emphasized that Papua does not need Susi Air’s help, as well as infrastructure or school development. According to him, Papuans can build their own infrastructure and schools when they are independent.

“We don’t need your airplane, we don’t need development. If we are independent, we will build it ourselves with our money and natural wealth,” Sebby concluded.


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Free Victor Yeimo and Other Imprisoned Papuan Activists Unconditionally

May 8, 2023

Free Victor Yeimo and Other Imprisoned Papuan Activists Unconditionally

Amnesty International May 7, 2023

Indonesian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Papuans and those detained solely for their peaceful expressions, said Amnesty International Indonesia and Amnesty International USA following the guilty verdict and prison sentence against West Papua National Committee (KNPB) spokesperson, Victor Yeimo, in Jayapura.

On Friday 5 May, Yeimo was sentenced to eight months imprisonment due to his involvement in anti-racism protest in Papua on August 2019.

“The fact that he and many Papuans have been arrested and detained for peacefully expressing their political opinion represents the state’s neglect on human rights protection,” said the Amnesty International Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid.

“At the same time, unfair trials are underway. In 2007, the Constitutional Court had revoked Article 155 of the Penal Code and today, the same article is being used against peaceful activists such as Viktor Yeimo. Is the law enforcement moving backward?”

The Jayapura District Court’s Panel of Judges convicted Yeimo of violating Article 155 of the Penal Code related to broadcasting or showing letters or pictures that contain expressions of feelings of hostility, hatred, contempt or humiliation against the government.

Previously, the Public Prosecutor charged Yeimo with Article 106 concerning treason, Article 110 Paragraph 1 concerning conspiracy to treason, Article 110 Paragraph 2 on preparing for treason, and Article 160 on sedition.

“What’s been happening to Yeimo and other Papuan activists who spoke up is a form of arbitrariness, misdirection and discrimination,” added Usman.

“It will also send a message to other activists and protesters that dissent and peaceful expression of their views are not welcome.”

According to Amnesty International Indonesia’s monitoring data from 2019 to 2022, at least 78 people in Papua were facing criminal allegation and prosecution for allegedly violating treason articles under the Penal Code.

“These escalating efforts to silence and intimidate Papuan activists should alarm the US government, which has repeatedly looked to Indonesia as a regional example of democratic norms commitment to human rights principles,” said Carolyn Nash, Asia Advocacy Director at Amnesty USA. “But the reality is clear: these human rights principles are under attack. The treatment of Papuan activists is the measure by which the US can assess the Indonesian government’s commitment to protect free expression — and the Indonesian government is demonstrating how weak that commitment truly is.”

“As part of Indonesia’s Universal Periodic Review earlier this year, the US raised specific concern with laws that unduly restrict freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression,” Nash said. “With Yeimo’s conviction, we are seeing the human rights harms of these laws in action. It is not enough for the US government to object in theory to abusive laws. The US must demonstrate the seriousness of their UPR recommendations by making specific calls for Yeimo’s and other activists’ immediate, unconditional release and for the protection of civil society across Indonesia.”

Amnesty International does not take on any position regarding political status within Indonesia, including calls for independence. However, the organization believes that the right to freedom of expression includes the right to peacefully advocate for independence referenda, or other political positions.