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ETAN-key West Papua Report May 2013: governance and demography, political prisoners, May 1 anniversary, call for unity

April 30, 2013

West Papua Report May 2013 This is the 109th in a series of monthly reports that focus on developments affecting Papuans. This series is produced by the non-profit West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) drawing on media accounts, other NGO assessments, and analysis and reporting from sources within West Papua. This report is co-published by the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN). Back issues are posted online at edmcw. If you wish to receive the report directly via e-mail, send a note to etan. Link to this issue:

The Report leads with "Perspective," an opinion piece; followed by "Update," a summary of some developments during the covered period; and then "Chronicle" which lists of analyses, statements, new resources, appeals and action alerts related to West Papua. Anyone interested in contributing a "Perspective" or responding to one should write to edmcw. The opinions expressed in Perspectives are the author’s and not necessarily those of WPAT or ETAN. For additional news on West Papua see the reg.westpapua listserv archive or on Twitter.

This edition of the West Papua Report features a PERSPECTIVE by a longtime observer of West Papua. This is the second of a three-part series. This part focuses on the growing crisis in Papuan society posed by decades of neglect of essential services and a breakdown of governance. The author also explores the causes and consequences of fundamental demographic shifts in West Papua. In particular, he describes the destructive impact on West Papuan society arising from central government efforts to divide existing political structures into ever-smaller units and the accelerating marginalization of Papuans through the government-supported migration of non-Papuans into Papuan lands.

Activists associated with the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) face continued persecution, as security forces threaten the organization and others who plan on May 1 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Indonesian annexation of West Papua. The West Papua Advocacy Team calls on the U.S. government to monitor security force activity in West Papua associated with the May 1 demonstrations. This edition’s UPDATE section also welcomes the launch of the website Papuans Behind Bars, which will help human rights activists around the world monitor the plight of Papuan political prisoners. The UPDATE also notes the collapse of central government health care systems for Papuans, as well as the persecution of those who seek to reveal this crisis. In addition West Papuans continue their diplomacy aimed at membership in the Melanesia Spearhead Group. In the CHRONICLE section, the Report notes continuing media coverage of a vast military-run road development scheme in West Papua, a May 1 statement from imprisoned Papuan leader Edison Waromi, and a recent review of the plight of Papuan political prisoners.


The Governance and Demographic Challenge

The following is the second part of a three part analysis of challenges confronting the Papuan people which was composed by a long-term observer of the Papuan scene who chooses to remain anonymous.

Following an analysis of the impact of militarization of West Papua that appeared in the April edition of the West Papua Report, this portion of the analysis looks at the destruction of traditional Papuan culture and fundamental demographic changes which are marginalizing Papuans in their own lands.

  • The presence of security forces and their role in West Papua has led to the reality that the civic government/administration is hardly visible. All the main decisions are made by the security forces. This situation is also exacerbated by the fact that a relatively high number of district heads positions and even the governor’s position until recently have been vacant and left vacant for a long time (i.e., since August 2011, although it should be noted that a governor did take office in March 2013). Officially a "caretaker head of district" can only be in place for maximum of two years. The caretaker’s principal task is organizing the election for the new head of the district. In various districts, including Timika and neighboring Highlands districts such as Puncak Jaya, Puncak and Paniai, the caretaker position has been extended to between five and eight years. In Timika, there is a virtual absence of civil administration policies and activities.This circumstance is caused in part by pressure by the security forces which have interests in the outcome of local government contests and by internal power-struggles.
  • Local elections have been often marked by violence and disruption of internal socialrelations. This is particularly evident with regards to the election of the districts heads (bupati). Virtually no election proceeds smoothly as candidates (often all Papuan) engage in recriminations and violence. In the worst case, in Ilaga (district of Puncak), the political competition led to a massacre that killed 68 people among groups supporting two rival candidates. A total of 672 people supporting the rival candidates were injured. Usually, once the election results are announced, rival candidates take the winning party to the Constitutional Court in Jakarta, accusing them of irregularities. Enormous amounts of energy, time, and money is spent on these legal confrontations. In addition, the government provides additional funds to the contesting parties to encourage reconciliation. The whole process is thus characterized by shameless money politics.
  • Much of the cause for this breakdown of politics and governance at the district level lies in the Jakarta government’s "decentralization policy" (in Bahasa Indonesian: pemekaran). Under this policy, administrative units have been divided into new units purportedly to "bring the public governmental service within more effective reach of the community." This official rationale is often completely disregarded in reality as the stream of money becomes the main driver of political and administrative activity. An official survey by the government revealed that nationally approximately 70 percent of these newly formed districts fail. This reality has led to what is said to be a moratorium on the formation of such new districts. However, the policy continues. For example, recently the Provincial Parliament in Jayapura discussed the possibility of approving 37 requests for establishing new districts in Papua.
  • Reports on the situation of new districts make clear that most of the new districts fall far short of their targets. Infrastructure development has been significant, but the regression of public service has been significant as well. Once again the very simple citizens in (remote) communities are the main victims, suffering a lack of education service and health care and curtailing of from economic and other opportunities. The main interest for local competition associated with the formation of new districts is the desire to gain personally. Local prominent figures see the possibility to compete for the position as district authorities (bupati, parliament, head of governmental services, etc.). These positions afford access to the budget made available by the central and provincial government. Within the arena of competition Papuans fight each other while creating new tensions among families, tribes and even along religious lines. This is a new daily reality. At the same time opportunities to profit from constructing new facilities, are mainly claimed by outsiders. They make the money, while the Papuans are becoming more and more marginalized. The fact that civil servants from these new districts often remain settled in another district precludes the stated purpose of bringing public service closer to the community. For example, in newly formed Kerom district 80 percent of civil servants live in another district, i.e. around Jayapura, which is an hour drive by car. The same phenomena is visible in other urban centers such as Nabire, Merauke, Wamena, Timika)
  • Competition for position in these new administrations is marked by "money politics" which leads to extensive corruption. The central government demonstrates broad tolerance for corrupt practices. As a result corrupt practices are spreading fast and leading to a deterioration of internal human relations, the rapid creation of an indigenous elite, and civil servants generally moving away from an effective service to the people. This tolerance of corruption also generates internal tribal conflict and conflict . These conflicts are increasingly communal or "horizontal." This is a huge change compared with 15 years ago, when generally speaking Papuan civil servants still had the interests of the community in mind, Papuans could still speak with a united voice, and promises still had a substantial meaning.
  • In the meantime constructive policies have been replaced by provision of special subsidies. Often these subsidies, including for rice and fertilizer, are sold by civil servants. Development money for each village (Dana Respek) is given without sufficient guidance to ensure it is used properly. Special subsidies for schools and "free" healthcare are poorly managed and not effective. In election campaigns candidates promise villages as much as one billion rupiahs each. Such promises disrupt and confuse local communities. Local religious leaders note that local people put their faith in promises of government support and as a result neglect work in their garden and fail to take initiatives to ensure steady, self-owned sources for living.
  • The changes in social life and outlook have been dramatic. Once an active population seeking to secure food sources and advancing prospects for their families, local people increasingly have abandoned their own efforts and have begun to rely instead on help from outside (begging). This attitude is completely opposite to traditional values among the Mee people (and probably other tribal entities)where traditional values call for responsibility for securing ones own source for living (the Mee-tribe is a dominant large part of the population in the Highlands). Waiting for new hand-outs has become the normal pattern. It is very sad to observe this among a people that had previously been praised for their "primitive capitalism" based on internal competition, individualism and hard work. Such discipline previously has ensured community respect and success. This traditional culture ("adat") has been abandoned in favor of "playing the game," gambling, demanding compensation (in Bahasa Indonesia "kompensasi" and/or "denda.") The latter has some basis in Papuan traditional culture involving the claiming of payments for any social conflict from others for perceived wrongs inflicted on the claimant. However, this tradition has become much more widespread and many people are now living from "demanding denda" and tribal conflict has become a kind of business.
  • This broad scale change in the attitude of many rural people is not only a consequence of the government’s initiation of "hand-out projects." It is also a result of the pressure on these communities which face the societal stress posed by overwhelming change. This change includes the opening up of the area by roads and the influx of non-Papuan people from outside.
  • Local people have lost the sense of being in charge of their own lives and perceive their lives as directed by powerful outside institutions with hidden agendas. These institutions, including especially the security forces, lead people to feel powerless and often desperate. The destabilizing competition for power and profit also discourages the local communities enormously, and eradicates any trust in persons in authority. Local people do not know anymore whom to turn to for guidance and direction. No one knows anymore who can be trusted, who will be on her/his side when coming in with right and just complaints.
  • This increasing mistrust has also been connected with the "re-division of administrative units," that has led to clear signs of "suku-ism" (tribalism) which pits tribe against tribe and family against family in the struggle to obtain positions or profit from the constructing of new facilities.
  • The strength of the communities has also diminished because of specific disastrous circumstances, such as the very fast spread of HIV-AIDS, the associated high mortality rate among indigenous people, lack of medical service, the increased number of broken homes, the pressure to get involved in family planning practice (sometimes forced upon people), the negative impact of a dominant male tradition/culture, the profusion of "entertainment" establishments, including houses of prostitution, in certain areas the use of narcotics, and the number of unresolved crimes including mysterious killings. Activists among the indigenous people increasingly speak of a "planned genocide" with the aim of ridding Indonesia of the "Papuan problem." The reluctance of the central government to control these destructive developments in Papua, gives these activists reason to believe this.

There is a growing conclusion that they, the indigenous Papuans, have lost, and they have reason enough to doubt whether they still have a future asa Papuan people. The following section gives them strong additional arguments for this paralyzing feeling.

The transition to minority Papuan status in West Papua

  • A key development that will determine the fate of the Papuan people is approaching minority status for Papuans in their own lands. Demographically, Papuans will soon become a minority which will render them "neglectable." In the 1970’s indigenous Papuan constituted 95 percent of the population in West Papua. In 2011, this fell to a minority of 47 percent. What makes the picture even grimmer is the official projection of the demographic balance in 2030 that is expected to leave Papuans with only 15 percent of the population of West Papua. "Outsiders" will represent a dominant 85 percent. Papuans commonly express fear that "outsiders" will hold most civil service positions and will be empowered to "tell us Papuans what to do."
  • In the same context reference is made to the Special Autonomy Law for Papua (OTSUS) that came into force in 2001 and purportedly was intended to create room for Papuans to control the demographic dynamics. However, no regulations in this regard have ever been put in practice, while on the other hand dynamics have been set in motion, such as a huge division (administrative unit reform: pemekaran) of Papua in new provinces, districts and subdistricts that have attracted high numbers of people from outside, pushing (trans)migration to new levels. The "pemekaran" has afforded many opportunities for newcomers, while at the same time marginalizing and/or even dividing the local indigenous communities. In fact OTSUS policies have been sabotaged by the central government from the outset, beginning with the "illegal" proclamation (unilaterally by Jakarta) of the creation of a second province in Papua.
  • One of the key players should have been the Majelis Rakyat Papua (MRP), a quasi-legislative body that specifically was intended to represent the indigenous people. The body was given the task of "protecting and assisting the Papuan People" in securing their just future. It took the government five years to establish the MRP. Once established, the central government moved quickly to neutralize it and render it a powerless ceremonial institution. It is a significant example of how the central government is intervening in local autonomy and eliminating any opportunity for Papua to act autonomously. Not surprisingly, the Special Autonomy Law has been handed back by the Papuan people (via the MRP) to the central government in 2010 as it has proved to be a complete failure and just another trick through which the central government cheats thePapuan people.
  • Another strong factor in pushing the demographic balance in the wrong direction is and has been the huge increase in large investments, especially in the shape of palm oil plantations and mining, throughout Papua. Both, plantations as well as mining, demand large contingents of labor. After initially using local people to meet these labor requirements, the local (Papuan) population overtime has been sidelined and replaced by those who are purportedly more reliable outsiders. For example the original mega-project planned by the central government for Merauke district, called MIFEE (Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate), needs roughly 800,000 laborers, while the local population in the related area hardly totals 125,000. The business economy/investments have a fatal impact on the indigenous communities who often are manipulated in giving permission to use their land (effective misinformation or just traded by some of the community’s "representatives" who in fact have no right to represent them, and/or under pressure by security forces); losing their land(traditional land rights not being recognized by the central government) and the consequent loss of food security, i.e., gardens and traditional hunting area. Once again it is an economic policy that will favor the few rich and denies the need for a local people centered economic development.
  • This demographic trend has been breathtaking. The national policies which are fundamentally changing the demographic balance reflect a purposeful strategy aimed at eliminating the "Papuan problem." It is simply a matter of time. Can anything be done to cope with this overwhelming reality?


Security Forces Threaten Peaceful May 1 Commemorations by Papuans

Civil society organizations, including the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), plan to hold peaceful rallies to protest the 50th anniversary of the handover of West Papua by the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA) to Indonesian administration. On May 1, 1963, UNTEA transferred administration of the Dutch colony of Netherlands New Guinea to Indonesia. Five decades of repression, including direct military action against peaceful civilian protest, followed. Military repression and deliberate central government neglect of even basic health, education and social assistance has been tantamount to genocide.

The KNPB, and other organizations have called on the people of West Papua to hold peaceful demonstrations to commemorate Indonesia’s annexation of West Papua and the five-decade long denial of Papuans right to self-determination.

Statements by Indonesian security force officials indicate their plans to crack down on peaceful protest. The Jayapura police chief said that 1000 security personal will be on duty for May 1. "In principle we do not give permission to anyone in the community to hold a memorial ceremony on the 1 May," he said. Officials have also warned that there will be an increase in patrols and other preventive activities throughout West Papua.

Joe Collins of the Australian West Papua Association (AWPA) on April 25 told media that "we are concerned that statements from the security forces indicate they may crackdown on any peaceful rallies held to protest the handover by the UN."

In a letter to Australia’s Foreign Minister Bob Carr AWPA wrote: "AWPA is urging you to use your good offices with the Indonesian Government asking that it control its security forces in West Papua and urging the Government to keep the security forces in their barracks and let the West Papuan people commemorate this tragic event in their history peacefully."

For its part, the U.S.-based West Papua Advocacy Team calls on the United States government, through its Embassy in Jakarta and other means, to closely monitor developments associated with peaceful Papuan demonstrations commemorating the May 1 anniversary. WPAT also calls on the U.S. government to convey to the Indonesian government, at the highest possible level, its concern that security force violence and intimidation targeting peaceful Papuan protest is unacceptable and would be inconsistent with the Indonesian government’s commitments undertaken in many international human rights agreements.

New Website Tracks Plight of Papuan Political Prisoners

A new website, Papuans Behind Bars, is an important new resource for human rights campaigners to monitor the plight of West Papuans imprisoned by the Indonesian government for peaceful advocacy of Papuan rights. The website is an initiative of civil society groups within West Papua.

The website profiles many of the political detainees currently serving time in Indonesian jails for their peaceful advocacy of West Papuan rights, including the right to self-determination. The website also aims to facilitate advocacy on behalf of the political prisoners. Many of the prisoners profiled on the site have suffered egregious abuse in custody, including beatings and torture, denial of access to lawyer and family, and refusal by prison authorities of urgent medical care.

In conjunction with the launch of the website, TAPOL, the renowned UK-based human rights organization established by Carmel Budiardjo, issued No political prisoners? The suppression of political protest in West Papua. TAPOL documents the cases of the 40 prisoners in jail at the end of March 2013 and reveals there were at least 210 political arrests in 2012, including of many women. TAPOL writes "One of the main problems preventing civil society from successfully addressing restrictions on freedom of expression in West Papua is the stigma of ‘separatism’ and ‘treason’ which surrounds any kind of political activity. This stigma is applied not only to political activists, political prisoners and indigenous Papuans in general, but also to those seeking to defend their rights."

The Chronic Failure of Government Health Services in West Papua

A report published April 23 exposes the fraud and neglect that characterizes the Indonesian government health programs and policies in West Papua. NGO officials say that only 50 percent of central government funds allotted to health care are in fact directed to improving health services. In some areas, health services have been curtailed due to an absence of personnel to staff those services. The deepening health crisis in West Papua is exacerbated by malnutrition which affects many remote Papuan communities.

WPAT notes that the malnutrition in some cases, particularly in the Central Highlands, is the result of continuous "sweeping" operations by the Indonesian military. These military campaigns destroy crops and local infrastructure, disrupt local commerce and in some instances drive civilians into the inhospitable mountains and forests.

The chronic failure of the Indonesian government to provide minimally adequate health services to the Papuan people has for decades generated the worst health and well-being statistics in the Indonesian archipelago and prompted charges of genocide.

Indonesian authorities are reluctant to have their failures in providing health care to Papuans revealed to the international community.

Two Arrested while Investigating Deaths

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) issued an Urgent Appeal on April 17 highlighted the April 8 detention of two human rights advocates for their investigation of the deaths of villagers in the Tambrauw District. The deaths were said to be evidence of inadequate medical services (see above). The November 2012 and March 2013 deaths were the result of diarrhea and malnutrition.

The two researchers were subsequently released, but only after they were interrogated about their links to other activists, their media contacts, and sources of finance. The AHRC writes that a principal objective of such detentions is often intimidation. The commission notes that while Indonesian Criminal Procedure Code allows the police to arrest, detain and summon individuals for the purpose of an investigation of a crime; this authority should not be used to violate international covenants protecting fundamental human rights.

The commission adds that such detentions and interrogations "are often conducted arbitrarily. Instead of being exercised for the sake of crime investigation, arrest and detention are performed by law enforcement officials in many instances as a means to spread threat as well as to intimidate individuals engaged with political activities," and in this instance, for revealing the government’s malign neglect of the Papuan people.

An additional report on recent large scale deaths in West Papua, "61 Papuans die in remote hamlet," can be found here

Persecution of West Papua National Committee (KNPB) Continues

The Indonesian government’s campaign of repression against the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) continues. The campaign has included security force brutality and intimidation targeting KNPB members and persecution via Indonesia’s notoriously corrupt courts.

On April 23, six West Papua National Committee (KNPB) activists from Timika were sentenced to one year in prison each at the Abepura District Court. The trial widely criticized as unfair. The six were sentenced on charges of carrying dangerous weapons and makar (treason/subversion). Defense lawyers are lodging an appeal.

The six, Romario Yatipai, Steven Itlay, Yakonias Womsiwor, Paulus Marsyom, Alfred Marsyom and Yanto Awerkion, were arrested on October 24, 2012, as part of a security force campaign targeting KNPB activists by the U.S. and Australian-funded counter-terror unit Detachment 88.

Recently, the prisoners made a video appeal the prison cells that have been their home since October 2012. They called on the international community to do more to ensure that Indonesia ceases its persecution of peaceful political activists.

"We hope (the) International community, Amnesty International, IPWP, ILWP support us and pressure Indonesia government, Indonesia Police in Papua and Timika," Yatipai told West Papua Media. "West Papua activists, and all West Papuans need UN Observers, UN Humanitarian workers, and International Journalists now in Papua," they said.

Growing Support for West Papua in the Melanesian Spearhead Group

On April 26, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Gordon Darcey Lilo told officials from the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation (WPNCL) that his country supported placing West Papua on the agenda for discussion at the next summit of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG). The meeting is planned for next June in New Caledonia.

Indonesia has long resisted inclusion of the West Papua issue by the MSG. Indonesia is an observer at the MSG. In February, the WPNCL submitted a petition to the MSG for West Papua membership in the organization.

The MSG consists of Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Fiji, and the Solomon Islands. The group also includes New Caledonia’s FLNKS (Front de Libération Nationale Kanak et Socialiste /Front Kanak Socialist Front for National Liberation). FLNKS leaders have said they support full membership for West Papua in the MSG.


Papuan Leader Calls for Unity

Edison Waromi published a Reflections from behind the Iron Bars of Indonesia in time for the May 1 anniversary of the UN handover of West Papua to Indonesia. Since Indonesia first began its incursions into West Papua in 1961, he writes that "the people and the land of West Papua have been experiencing human calamities resulting from a conflict without a peaceful and fair resolution. Hundreds of thousands of the indigenous West Papuans have been murdered, slaughtered and imprisoned by the Republic of Indonesia."

He calls for unity, urging West Papuans to "crucify our egoisms, our faction-centered views, our primordial attitudes in order that the pulse of the Papuan nationalism is beating freely to unite a coordinative resolution agenda between civil revolt institutions, guerrilla fighters, and diplomats."

Waromi is the Prime Minister of the National Federal Republic of West Papua He is currently serving a three-year sentence Abepura Prison for his role in organizing the Third Papuan People’s Congress. The declaration of the Federated Republic serves as "the bargaining position of the people of West Papua."

Military to Build Massive Road Network in West Papua

Survival International has a new report on plans by the military to undertake a massive road building project in West Papua. The report says that the roads will lead to deployment of still more troops in an already militarized region and open up Papuan forests to ever more illegal logging. (See also April 2013 West Papua Report for more on the road "development" project.)

Plight of Papuan Political Prisoners Detailed

Papua Prison Island details the use of imprisonment by Indonesian authorities to repress Papuan aspirations for self-determination. The article describes the plight of several of West Papua’s leading political prisoners serving long sentences in West Papua’s infamous prisons because of their peaceful political advocacy. The are stories of Papuans "who have been arrested at random or deliberately targeted as activists, who have been tortured or beaten in detention, whose trials were a farce, who have suffered major illnesses with no access to proper healthcare — but who have in many cases kept their strength, their dignity and sense of solidarity intact."

Much of the information for this article came from Papuans Behind Bars (see above), which documents the plight of West Papuan political prisoners. Papuans Behind Bars is a collective project initiated by Papuan civil society groups working together as the Civil Society Coalition to Uphold Law and Human Rights in Papua. The grassroots initiative represents a collaboration between lawyers, human rights groups, adat groups, activists, journalists and others in West Papua, as well as Jakarta-based NGOs and international solidarity groups. That site has profiles of current and former political prisoners and releases monthly news updates on arrests and trials.

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