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Experts recommend military withdrawal from West Papua region

February 19, 2019

Experts recommend military withdrawal from West Papua region

By Catherine Graue on Pacific Beat


Calls for the West Papua region to be granted independence continued this week as activists took to the streets in various Australian cities, calling for the Federal government to support an independence referendum.

Melanesians who call the region home have been pushing for independence for decades.

A referendum was held in July 1969, overseen by the United Nations.

It was called the Act of Free Choice but it has been heavily criticised.

Hugh Lunn, an Australian journalist who was on the ground reporting for the Reuters news agency during the 1969 referendum, is among those critics.

"I thought it would be a vote. What a fool I was. Under the UN, it was note a vote. They specially selected 1025 people, in the eight provincial capitals and told them they had to make the decision," Mr Lunn told Pacific Beat.

"They all voted for staying part of Indonesia, but as I was walking through the fair, people stuck letters under my arm, one of them was addressed to the ‘nicest man in Merauke’, and they said ‘this is all a farce, we’re scared to say anything, no one knows what to do’".

The West Papua region is actually two provinces, Papua and West Papua, that make up the western half on New Guinea island, and has previously also been known as Irian Jaya.

It officially became part of Indonesia after that vote, and since then, there have been continuous reports of violent crackdowns and human rights abuses committed by Indonesian authorities, particularly its military, against pro-independence supporters.

The Indonesian government says it has been paying special attention to the human rights issues.

Since coming to power in 2014, President Joko Widodo has made economic and infrastructure development a priority, which is something experts like Cahyo Pamungkas say is important to help stem the conflict.

He is a researcher at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, and has conducted extensive field research on West Papua.

But he says that economic and infrastructure development won’t resolve the violence, because there are still limited benefits to the Melanesian population.

Mr Pamungkas and his colleagues recently visited the Indonesian Presidential office to deliver their recommendations on how best to approach the issue of West Papua, ahead of the national election in April.

"The government should cancel the military operations, or withdraw the troops and police from the central mountains, because it increases the potency for human right abuse. There is no other option," he said.

Duration: 5min 2sec

Broadcast: Fri 15 Feb 2019, 7:00am


By Catherine Graue on Pacific Beat


2) UN Human Rights office continues negotiations for West Papua visit

Discussions are continuing between the Indonesian government and the United Nations to allow its human rights officials to enter the West Papua region, after an escalation of violence in recent months.

Indonesia has re-issued its invitation to the global body, which it originally made in February 2018, but there are some concerns the proposed access may be postponed, as the country gears up for its national election in April.

The spokesperson for UN Human rights office Ravina Shamdasani said there is still no clarity on the dates.

"We’re hoping they’ll be able to agree on dates very soon," she told Pacific Beat.

"Quite often it does take time for these visits to materialise. There’s a fair bit of back and forth between the UN and the Government. In the UN Human Rights office, we always insist on unfettered, unconditional access when we do get access, which means we should be able to meet with not only government officials but also civil society activists, of our choosing and we should be able to visit without any undue constraint.

"Having said that, it has taken awhile so we are hoping this will materialise soon".

Duration: 8min 55sec

Broadcast: Fri 15 Feb 2019, 7:00am


3) Protesters demand ‘Free West Papua’

Kerry Smith Sydney February 15, 2019 Issue 1209 Australia

Free West Papua campaigners rallied in several cities on February 12. In Sydney activists demonstrated outside the Indonesian Consulate in Maroubra.

[More photos on GLW's Facebook page.]


Summary of events in West Papua

February 17, 2019

Summary of events in West Papua

West Papuan petition
Thanks to Vanuatu, Benny Wenda chair of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) presented a petition to the UN Human Rights Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, in Geneva . The petition was signed by 1.8 million West Papuans and called for the decolonisation of West Papua. Benny Wenda, was included in an official delegation by the Vanuatu government to a meeting with Ms Bachelet. Indonesia’s Ambassador to the UN, Hasan Kleib, strongly condemned Vanuatu for helping Benny Wenda to meet with UN officials during one of its periodic review meetings. Hasan Kleib, alleged hat Mr Wenda has infiltrated the Vanuatu delegation and that Vanuatu was disrespectful and had broken the principles of the UN charter by allowing Mr Wenda to deliver the petition. But Ralph Regenvanu, Vanuatu’s Foreign Minister said his government had always maintained its support for the self-determination of West Papuans and continues to advocate for the UN to revisit the controversial process by which Indonesia took control of the former Dutch New Guinea in the 1960s.

320 children take refuge in Jayawijaya due to firefights in Nduga

February 10, 2019

320 children take refuge in Jayawijaya due to firefights in Nduga
Reporter: Antara 2 hours ago


(Photos File) – Thousand of refugees from three village in Tembagapura District were registered by local authority in Timika, Papua onn Monday, Nov 19, 2017. They fled their homes as firefights occurred between the armed criminal group and security personnel. (ANTARA FOTO/SPEDY)

Wamena, Papua (ANTARA News) – Some 320 children from Nduga district in Papua province have fled to the neighboring Jayawijaya district along with their parents or on their own, as firefights are ongoing between the armed criminal group and security personnel.

The children are students of 10 elementary schools, five junior high schools and two senior high schools in Nduga district, Ence Geong, a member of the team in charge of handling Nduga refugees, said in Wamena, the capital of Jayawijaya district, on Friday, Feb 8.

"When we gathered them at this church building on Monday (February 4), their number ran into more than five hundred. Since their number is large, they were accommodated at the church which has a capacity of accommodating 800 to 1000 people," Geong said.

He said the team is still coordinating with several parties to set up emergency schooling so that the children could continue to study.

"We need other supporting facilities, such as student dormitories because some of them live far from the school here," he said.

The refugees come from several sub-districts including Mbua, Yal, Ndal, Mapenduma, Nirkuri, Mbulmu Yalma, Ininggal, Mam and Iniye.

Headmaster of Yigi elementary school Ledy B Welly, who is also taking refuge in Jayawijaya, said the children continued to study although the number of classrooms and learning facilities is limited.

"We have not studied for more than one month. To catch up with our studies, the teachers will hold a meeting to find a solution," he said.

Reporting by Marius Frisson Yewun
Editing by Suharto

Editor: Azizah Fitriyanti

Indonesia: Free Three Papuan Activists

February 8, 2019

Human Rights Watch

Indonesia: Free Three Papuan Activists

Arrests for Peaceful Protest Highlights Police Abuse of Treason Laws

February 8, 2019 7:00PM EST

(Jakarta) – Indonesian authorities should release and drop treason charges against three Papuan activists for peaceful advocacy in the Papua mining town of Timika, Human Rights Watch said today. The Indonesian government is currently imprisoning at least nine people from Papua and the Moluccan Islands for exercising their rights to freedom of expression.


Yanto Awerkion (far left) detained in the Timika police station in September 2017 for his role in organizing a petition calling on the UN to organize a referendum in Papua.

Police in Timika arrested Yanto Awerkion, Sem Asso, and Edo Dogopia of the West Papua National Committee (Komite Nasional Papua Barat, KNPB), a student association, on December 31, 2018 when they were organizing a prayer gathering to commemorate the group’s fifth anniversary. Papuan human rights groups reported that the police arrested and beat nine KNPB members. On January 7, charges were only brought against the three for treason (makar) under articles 106 and 110 of the Criminal Code. Article 106 carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. They are currently being held in Papua’s capital, Jayapura.

“New police arrests of peaceful activists make a mockery of Indonesian government claims that it’s releasing the country’s political prisoners,” said Andreas Harsono, Indonesia researcher. “The baseless charges against the three Papuan activists should be dropped and they should be released immediately.”

The KNPB, perhaps the largest indigenous youth organization in Papua and West Papua provinces, advocates for independence of their homeland through a United Nations-sponsored referendum. In 2017, Awerkion organized a petition calling on the UN to organize a referendum in Papua. Awerkion said that the petition was signed by over 1.8 million Papuans. The Indonesian authorities alleged the petition to be a hoax and charged Awerkion with a “treasonous petition.” In March 2018, he was sentenced to 10 months in prison, but was released late that month for time already served.

On January 3, 2019, more than 80 police without a warrant used batons to forcibly remove KNPB members from their office in Timika, dismantling their sign board, taking down a wall with a mural painted with pro-independence symbols, and repainting the entire building with the red-and-white color of the Indonesian flag. The police said that Papuans were not allowed to use any Free West Papua insignia or anything with the Morning Star flag, long a symbol of opposition to Indonesian rule.

Since the raid, the office has been used as a joint military-police post. The KNPB filed a lawsuit against the forced removal, contending that the police removed them without a court order to remove them. The police claim that the office was used for “shouting about freedom.”

The police crackdown occurred in the context of an attack by Papuan militants on December 2 that had killed at least 17 Indonesian construction workers in Nduga, in Papua’s Central Highlands. This has fostered a hostile atmosphere against pro-independence groups such as the KNPB.

There have been other acts of violence against KNPB offices. Unidentified assailants burned down the KNPB office in Asmat regency, near Timika, on December 1. The KNPB head office in Jayapura was vandalized on November 19 and December 2.

Over the last decade, the Indonesian government has released dozens of people imprisoned in Papua and the Moluccas Islands for peacefully expressing their political aspirations. In December, the Indonesian government released two Moluccan political prisoners, Johan Teterisa and Jonathan Riri, who had been imprisoned for treason for more than 11 years. They were among more than 60 activists arrested and imprisoned for treason since June 2007 after 28 of them staged a protest dance with the South Moluccan Republic flag in front of then-President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in Ambon stadium. Now only six political prisoners, all Moluccan activists, are still imprisoned in Ambon, the Moluccas Islands, since their 2007 arrests with Teterisa and Riri.

In January 2018, Indonesia’s Constitutional Court rejected a judicial review to annul five treason articles, including articles 106 and 110, but found that those articles were often disproportionally applied against political activists raising the Morning Star flag in Papua. In its ruling, the court considered the 2011 ruling from the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on the arbitrary detention of Papuan activist Filep Karma, who was then serving a 15-year prison term for his 2004 peaceful protest against Indonesian rule. The working group concluded that articles 106 and 110 were applied disproportionally in the Karma trial.

“The big drop in political prisoners in recent years, from more than 110 people in 2014, is noteworthy for Indonesia’s progress as a rights-respecting country,” Harsono said. “But the new arrests in Papua show that Indonesian police are still abusing their authority by using their old tactics of misusing treason laws.”

Papuans get independence petition to UN despite obstacles

February 4, 2019

Papuans get independence petition to UN despite obstacles


In this photo released Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019, by the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, an exiled leader of Indonesia’s Papua region, Benny Wenda, second left, presents a petition to U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, second from right, Friday, Jan. 25, 2019, in Geneva, Switzerland. Activists in Indonesia’s mountainous jungle-clad Papua region risked imprisonment to collect 1.8 million signatures for a petition calling for self-determination and succeeded in delivering it to the U.N. last week after being rebuffed in 2017. (The United Liberation Movement for West Papua via AP)

Activists in Indonesia’s mountainous jungle-clad Papua region risked imprisonment to collect 1.8 million signatures for a petition calling for self-determination but had a final dilemma: They were blocked from presenting it to the intended recipient, the United Nations.

An attempt to present the petition in 2017 to the U.N. committee responsible for monitoring the progress of colonized territories toward independence was rebuffed. The chairman of the committee said it couldn’t be accepted because Papua was not part of its mandate.

Highlighting the risks of the endeavor, an activist promoting the petition was arrested by Indonesian authorities in 2017 and sentenced the following year to 10 months in prison. He was arrested again this month along with several others who face treason charges.

Last week they succeeded, aided by the diplomatic equivalent of a wink and a nod from the tiny Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, which has been championing the Papuan cause.

Vanuatu officials had a scheduled meeting last Friday in Geneva with U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. Among them was an exiled Papuan leader, Benny Wenda, who presented the voluminous petition to Bachelet.

"During this meeting, one member of the Vanuatu delegation, Mr. Benny Wenda, presented the high commissioner with a petition. This was not actually a meeting arranged with Mr. Wenda for that purpose," said Ravina Shamdasani, deputy spokeswoman at the U.N. Human Rights Office.

Bachelet "was not aware" in advance, she said.

The United Liberation Movement for West Papua sent The Associated Press a photo of Wenda passing the petition to a smiling Bachelet.

Indonesia reacted angrily, accusing Vanuatu of "taking manipulative steps through the infiltration of Benny Wenda into the Vanuatu delegation."

An insurgency has simmered in Papua since the early 1960s when Indonesia annexed the region, which had remained under Dutch control following Indonesia’s 1945 declaration of independence from the Netherlands. Last month, rebels killed 19 people working on a construction site for a trans-Papua highway in the deadliest attack in years. The Indonesian government denies 20 Papuans were killed in reprisal security operations.

The government says the territory is rightfully its under international law because it was part of the Dutch East Indies empire that is the basis for Indonesia’s modern borders.

But Papuans, culturally and ethnically distinct from the rest of Indonesia, say they were denied the right to decide their own future. Indonesian control was formalized in 1969 with a U.N.-supervised referendum in which little more than 1,000 Papuans were allowed to vote in an atmosphere of heavy intimidation.

Today the region is divided administratively into two provinces, Papua and West Papua, but supporters of independence call the entire region, which makes up the western half of New Guinea, West Papua.

The petition makes several demands of the U.N., including calling on it to review its involvement in the "unlawful annexation" of Papua, to appoint a special representative to investigate the human rights situation, to reinstate Papua on the decolonization committee’s agenda and to conduct an internationally supervised referendum on self-determination.

"Indonesia’s fake referendum included less than 0.2 percent of the population in 1969. The West Papuan People’s Petition of 2017 has 70 percent of the population," Wenda, who is head of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, said in a statement.

"Indonesia’s entire claim to West Papua rests on what happened in 1969. That claim is destroyed now," he said.

He said he and others are "working day and night" to bring the petition to the U.N. General Assembly.

Indonesia’s mission to the U.N. said Vanuatu had "deliberately deceived" Bachelet. It said Indonesia "would never retreat to defend and protect" its territorial sovereignty.

The U.N. reiterated previous statements it has made about Papua. Indonesia in February last year agreed that a U.N. rights delegation could visit Papua, to which Jakarta tightly controls access, but no visit has taken place.

Shamdasani said Bachelet informed the Vanuatu delegation that the U.N. Human Rights Office "has been engaging with the Indonesian authorities on the issue of Papua, including the prevailing human rights situation, and has requested access to Papua."

Papua rebels fire at aircraft in Indonesia; 1 dead

January 28, 2019

Papua rebels fire at aircraft in Indonesia; 1 dead

By Associated Press

January 28 at 5:12 AM

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Separatists opened fire on an aircraft carrying military personnel and local government officials in Indonesia’s easternmost Papua region, killing one soldier, the military said Monday.

The incident, in Nduga district where rebels killed 19 people in an attack last month, happened shortly after the light plane took off from Kenyam airport Monday morning, said Muhammad Aidi, a military spokesman.

He said two soldiers on the plane were injured and one later died in a hospital.

The chief of Nduga district and two other district chiefs were passengers on the plane, which was transporting supplies to another remote area.

The rebels fled into the jungle after soldiers on the ground opened fire and it was unclear if any was killed, Aidi said.

An insurgency has simmered in the Papua region since it was annexed by Indonesia in 1963.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

West Papuan separatists hand petition to U.N. human rights chief

January 27, 2019

West Papuan separatists hand petition to U.N. human rights chief
By Reuters• last updated: 27/01/2019 – 19:32

GENEVA (Reuters) – A separatist movement in Indonesia’s West Papua province delivered a petition with 1.8 million signatures demanding an independence referendum to U.N. Human Rights chief Michelle Bachelet on Friday, its leader told Reuters after the meeting.

Benny Wenda, chairman of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), said he hoped the United Nations would send a fact-finding mission to the province to substantiate allegations of human rights violations.

"Today is a historic day for me and for my people," Wenda said after the meeting in Geneva. "I handed over what I call the bones of the people of West Papua, because so many people have been killed."

He said West Papuans had no freedom of speech or assembly and the only way to be heard was through the petition, signed by almost three-quarters of the 2.5 million population.

"It weighs 40 kg. It’s like the biggest book in the world."

He said he also spoke to Bachelet about the situation in the Nduga region, where he said at least 11 people had been killed and more may have died after fleeing into the bush to escape Indonesian forces, and 22,000 people had been displaced.

Provincial military spokesman Muhammad Aidi said the allegation was unfounded.

"He cannot show the evidence of what he has accused (Indonesia and the military) of," Aidi said on Sunday. "It is the Free Papua Movement that killed the innocent civilians."

Last month members of the military wing of the Free Papua Movement (OPM) claimed responsibility for killing at least 16 people working on a bridge on a high-profile road project, and a soldier, in the Nduga area.

The OPM has said it views the project workers as members of the military and casualties in their war against the government.

The governor of the province subsequently called for an end to a hunt for the rebels, saying villagers were being traumatised.

The military rejected the plea to suspend the search in the remote, heavily forested province on the western half of New Guinea island, a former Dutch colony incorporated into Indonesia after a widely criticized U.N.-backed referendum in 1969.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo wants to develop impoverished Papua and tap its resources. Since coming to power in 2014, he has tried to ease tensions in Papua by freeing prisoners and addressing rights concerns, while stepping up investment with projects like the Trans Papua highway.

(Reporting by Tom Miles and Augustinus Beo Da Costa; Editing by Catherine Evans)


2) Foreigner in Papua coup plot: arms dealer or ‘adrenaline junkie tourist’?

  • Polish citizen Jakob Skrzypski accused of joining the Papua National Liberation Army and offering to help supply it with weapons
  • Observers describe him as an avid ‘extreme’ traveller with a passion for other cultures, languages, and humanitarian issues

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 January, 2019, 4:46pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 January, 2019, 11:17pm

Jakob Skrzypski left a stable job in Switzerland to travel through Indonesia last year. He visited Java, Sumatra and the tourist island of Bali before heading to the restive provinces of West Papua and Papua.

But three months ago, Indonesia authorities detained the 39-year-old Polish citizen in the Papuan capital of Jayapura. On January 15 this year, he was charged with treason.

He was the first foreigner in Indonesia to be charged with the offence, one that could see him spend 20 years in prison, if found guilty.

Skrzypski has been accused of plotting a coup with a pro-independence Papuan armed group and offering to help supply it weapons to overthrow the Indonesian government.

Skrzypski, who sports a bushy beard and has his hair tied back, has been held in a small, poorly-lit jail cell as he awaits trial in Wamena, an isolated town in Papua’s highlands.

A photograph seen by the South China Morning Post shows a jail cell with filthy streaks on the walls and a hand drawn sketch of Jesus Christ hanging on the cross.

“No freely available hot water. Washing water is dirty,” Skrzpski wrote in a letter to the Post, adding that he shared the cell with up to four other prisoners, and that he got one meal a day of rice and vegetables.

His court case is an unexpected twist in the long-running independence struggle between Papuans and the Indonesian government.

A low-level insurgency has simmered in the provinces, which share a border with Papua New Guinea, ever since the former Dutch colony came under Indonesian rule in the 1960s.

Papua declared itself an independent nation in 1961, but Indonesia took control of the resource-rich region by force in 1963. It officially annexed Papua in 1969 with a UN-backed vote, widely seen as a sham. The province was split into two in 2003 to become Papua and West Papua.

The pro-independence movement has little international backing, except for a small number of Pacific nations.

In his correspondence with the Post, Skrzypski described how Papua had “nurtured” his curiosity for some time, and that we wanted to visit.

He visited Papua’s urban centres of Sorong, Jayapura, Timika and Wamena, making friends in each place through social media.

“Papua is … virtually unknown, seldom ever mentioned in Europe. Since it’s very different from the other parts of Indonesia, it has been nurturing my curiosity for some time,” he wrote.

Skrzypski graduated from Warsaw University in Poland, worked in Britain, then studied at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, before getting a job there.

He had travelled to Indonesia several times, and also to Armenia, Myanmar and Iraq.

In August 2018, while he was in Wamena, the largest town in the highlands of Papua province, local police asked him to report to them.

Skrzypski said he did so, accompanied by a man who was his tour guide.

He said police offered him a ticket to leave Indonesia, but he refused. They then asked the guide to stay at the police station, while they allowed Skrzypski to go back to the hotel.

The next day, the police picked up Skrzypski in the hotel and brought him to the Papuan capital of Jayapura, an hour from Wamena by flight, where he was arrested.

The guide was later freed.

According to Skrzypski, police accused him of joining the West Papua National Liberation Army, a militant group and one of four active separatist organisations.

They cited his online friendship with Simon Magal, a student with links to prominent West Papuan human rights activist Mama Yosepha Alomang, as evidence.

Mama Yosepha received international acclaim after she lobbied against American mining firm Freeport McMoRan, which has been accused of causing grave environmental damage in its decades-long operation of the giant Grasberg copper mine.

The National Liberation Army had also waged attacks against Freeport, saying that the province’s integration with Indonesia was a conspiracy between the government and the mining giant.

Skrzypski says he discussed Freeport with Simon.

But Jayapura police commissioner Ahmad M. Kamal said they had evidence from Facebook Messenger chats and video testimony from three pro-independence fighters that Skrzypski had expressed his support for the militant Papuan independence movement.

Magal was subsequently arrested and also charged with treason.

A statement issued by Skrzypski’s lawyer Latifa Anum Siregar and several human rights groups said police alleged the Polish citizen was an arms dealer and relied on photos of him holding guns as evidence.

But according to one of Skrzypski’s friends, the photos were taken in an indoor sport shooting range in Vaud, Switzerland, where he had been living.

The police also claimed to have confiscated more than 130 rounds of ammunition from Skrzypski and three Indonesian citizens.

Veronica Koman, a lawyer for the National Committee for West Papua (KNPB), which is campaigning for the national referendum, said police become paranoid when foreigners make contact with Papuans.

Access to the region for international media is limited.

“Based on my correspondence with [Skrzypski’s] family and close friends, he is just an adrenaline junkie tourist,” she said.

Tapol, an NGO monitoring human rights issues in Indonesia, described Skrzypski as an avid “extreme” traveller with a passion for other cultures, languages, and humanitarian issues.

In his letter, Skrzypski claimed access to his lawyer was obstructed and authorities were holding his trial in Wamena instead of the capital Jayapura where his case would get more attention from media and the diplomatic community.

He said he felt isolated and depressed, not knowing when he would have to go to court next.

To pass the time, he had been reading old copies of National Geographic magazines and books on Papuan culture.

“Every step of the investigation was held secretly. I was never informed of anything in advance. At least not by the police,” he wrote.

Police insisted this was not the case. During their investigation of Skrzypski, foreign ministry officials in Jakarta were kept in the loop and they communicated with the Polish embassy there, they said.

Skryzypski’s trial continues and his next court appearance is scheduled for January 29.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: QUE STI O NS O VER POLish m an accu sed IN PAPUA COUP PLOT