Skip to content

West Papua Report August 2013: Papuan diplomacy, UN rights review, autonomy plus, palm oil

August 15, 2013

West Papua Report

This is the 112th 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 includes 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.


The months PERSPECTIVE reflects on the ongoing diplomatic struggle over West Papuans’ right to self-determination currently being waged by Papuan diplomats who have sought to hold the Indonesian government accountable for its violation of fundamental political and civil rights. The author, Octavianus Mote, is a prominent Papuan engaged in this effort.

In this Report’s UPDATE section, a UN human rights review focused on Indonesia’s excessive use of force in dealing with dissent. Commenting on the UN review, human rights organizations highlighted security force behavior in West Papua. Excessive use of force was on display during the month with the gunning down of an 11 year old Papuan girl. In late July, Papuans who sought to gather peacefully to note the UN meeting were blocked from assembling. Five of the demonstration leaders were detained. Various voices have expressed concern over restrictions on media in West Papua, including arbitrarily enforced restrictions on foreign journalists, the recent closing of a Papuan magazine, and intimidation of Papuan media seeking to cover what the security forces consider sensitive subjects. The failure of central government provided services in West Papua is exemplified by an absence of qualified teachers in Papuan schools.

In a rare victory for the Papuan people and environmentalists, plans for an oil palm plantation in West Papua have been shelved due in part to opposition by local people backed by environmental activists. Elsewhere, new complaints have emerged from local people who have seen their forests taken without compensation by oil palm plantation developers. Indigenous peoples appeals to the companies involved in the theft and to government officials have gone unanswered.

Plans by the administration of President Yudhoyono to revamp the failed "Special Autonomy" law have sparked new critical comment by human rights advocates and local Papuans.

In this report’s CHRONICLE section we note a particularly insightful article focusing on the Melanesian region, including consideration of Papuans application for membership in the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG). Inside Indonesia and Papuans Behind Bars highlight prison issues. A Global Post account describes efforts by the Papuan exile Benny Wenda to draw international attention to the Papuan struggle for self-determination. His efforts have raised the importance of West Papua in the context of UK-Indonesian relations. Cornell University has devoted an entire special issue of its journal "Indonesia" to West Papua. Finally, we link to the video and transcript of the UK’s House of Lords recent debate on West Papua.


This month’s "Perspective" is by Octavianus Mote, Chair of the Papua Peace Team. He is one of five Papuans designated by a 2011 "Papuan Peace Conference" as "negotiators." Until 1999, Mote was the chief of the Papuan Bureau of Kompas, Indonesia’s largest daily. He fled to the U.S. in 1999 following death threats by Indonesian security services, where he was granted asylum. He is now a U.S. citizen. He is a member of the West Papua Advocacy Team.

The Emerging Papuan-Indonesian Diplomatic Struggle

In an historic development, Melanesian nations meeting recently in a summit of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) recognized the right of self-determination for West Papuans. In its communiqué released during the July 2013 MSG Summit (see West Papua Report July 2013 coverage of this summit), the MSG leaders stated emphatically that "the MSG fully supports the inalienable rights of the people of West Papua towards self-determination as provided under the preamble of the MSG constitution." In addition, the MSG leaders explicitly stated MSG concerns regarding human rights violations and atrocities carried out against the West Papuan people. MSG leaders also expressed their determination to raise these concerns with the Government of Indonesia, "both bilaterally and as a group." The question of MSG membership will be the subject of further MSG deliberation, pending a mission of MSG foreign ministers to Jakarta and Papua to be undertaken later in 2013 at the invitation of the Indonesian government. (WPAT Note: The FLNKS is an MSG member even though it is not a state.)

The Papuan struggle for self-determination in the last fifty years is based on the Papuan right of self-determination, a right denied Papuans over 40 years ago by Indonesia, the United States and the Netherlands, acting in their narrow, cold-war shadowed self interest (see Dr. John Saltford’s detailed "PERSPECTIVE" on the "Act of Free Choice" carried in the December 2012 West Papua Report).

These historic developments derive in large measure from an increasingly effective Papuan diplomacy.

Papuan Resistance to Occupation

The long Papuan struggle for their human rights, notably including the right of self-determination, has continued since Indonesia first established control of Papua under the infamous 1962 New York Agreement. That control, implemented on May 1, 1963, has met with both armed resistance and determined peaceful Papuan resistance, including, increasingly, in the form of an innovative, multi-faceted Papuan diplomacy.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: