West Papua Report November 2014: Reaction to Ryacudu, Widodo and West Papua, Journalists Freed, U.S. Maritime Cooperation, HIV-AIDS, more…
West Papua Report
This is the 127th 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 analysis 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.
This edition’s PERSPECTIVE looks at the controversial appointment of retired General Ryamizard Ryacudu as Defense Minister by President Joko Widodo. UPDATE reports on Widodo’s initial comments on West Papua. He has pledged to pursue a more benign approach to the multiple economic, education and heath problems facing Papuans, but critics note his failure to acknowledge ongoing human rights problems there. Two French journalists who had been detained for alleged immigration violations were finally freed. Their arrest prompted widespread protest internationally and within Indonesia over efforts by Jakarta to limit international awareness of the repression in West Papua. The U.S. plans to expand cooperation with the Indonesian navy notwithstanding its role in the 1998 Biak massacre. The arrest of six Papuans and wounding of one has prompted armed rebel threats of new hostilities in the Central Highlands. A new project employs mapping to advance land rights protections. President Widodo has named the first Papuan woman to be an Indonesian government minister. The new Home Minister has pledged to pursue solutions to problems affecting minorities, but supports further division of Papua into more provinces. Legislation to end local voting for governors, mayors and district heads is stalled for now. In CHRONICLE, the report notes an outstanding analysis by Inside Indonesia which explores the devastating impact of HIV-AIDS in West Papua.
The State Department Thinks Appointment of Ryacudu as Defense Minister Is No Big Deal
The appointment of General Ryamizard Ryacudu to the key post of Defense Minister has caused dismay among human rights advocates, including those supporting rights in West Papua. The U.S. Department of State, however, says it is no big deal.
Ryacudu is an uncompromising ultra-nationalist who has repeatedly demonstrated in word and deed that he is prepared to use the power of the military to silence critics of the military or those he perceives to be "separatists."
John M. Miller from the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network called Ryacudu "a relic of the past with a history of excusing rights violations by soldiers, threatening human rights critics, and asserting the military’s right to meddle in civilian affairs." His appointment "tells us that President Widodo is not serious about promoting human rights or reaching out to Papua."
Haris Azhar, coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (KontraS) said “A Cabinet with human rights violators is an obstacle for your administration’s performance…. How can you solve human rights violations if there is a perpetrator inside [your
Joe Collins of the Australia West Papua Association (AWPA) said: "The people of West Papua live in fear of security operations in the territory and the appointment of Ryamizard Ryacudu as Defense Minister can only add to this fear. There was some hope that the election of Jokowi would bring an easing of tension in West Papua, but with Ryamizard Ryacudu’s appointment it looks like there could be a continuation of solving issues of concern in West Papua by the security approach, not by dialogue."
As chief of the Army’s strategic command (Kostrad) from 2000 to 2002, and then as Army Chief of Staff from 2002 to 2005, he prosecuted brutal campaigns against the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and the Free West Papua Movement (OPM). Those campaigns deliberately blurred the lines between armed rebels and civilians who were — or who were perceived by the military to be — rebel sympathizers. After the tsunami that devastated Aceh, Ryacudu worked to undermine the peace process.
Nic Maclellan writes in Crikey that "Ryacudu also played an important role in the crushing of the ‘Papuan Spring’, the period between 1998 and 2001 when West Papuans met to propose new options for self-determination." A West Papua-wide congress launched the Papua Presidium Council. Its chair Theys Eluay was murdered by members of the Kopassus special forces on November 10, 2001. Reacting to the soldiers’ conviction for this deliberate murder, Ryacudu showed his unwillingness to distinguish between military targets and civilian critics. He said of those military who killed Eluay: "I don’t know, people say they did wrong, they broke the law. What law? Okay, we are a state based on the rule of law, so they have been punished. But for me, they are heroes because the person they killed was a rebel leader."
The Indonesian military has a notorious reputation for assaults on civilian villages in the course of its unending "sweep operations" purportedly targeting armed rebels in the highlands of West Papua. The Indonesian military remain largely unaccountable for such past and ongoing criminal violations of human rights and its deep corruption. Given his past, it is also unlikely that the Indonesian military will become any more accountable under Defense Minister Ryacudu.
The U.S. government — which by virtue of its extensive assistance programs to the Indonesian military has significant potential influence over its direction — reacted disingenuously to the naming of Ryacudu as Defense Minister:
"We are certainly aware of the allegations of human rights violations committed by the Indonesian army while the general served as army chief of staff," said State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki. "We are not, however, aware of any allegation that ties the defense minister explicitly to a specific human rights violation."
She added that the military had changed "in significant ways," since the overthrow of the dictator Suharto.
The State Department’s remarks ignore the role of Ryacudu in the brutal military campaigns in West Papua and Aceh and appear deaf to the concerns of human rights organizations who have sounded alarms over the appointment. The State Department comment, by contending that Ryacudu is not tied "explicitly to a human ignores his command responsibility for brutalities and human rights violations by troops under his authority. The State Department doesn’t mention that for the first time in over a decade, Indonesia’s Ministry of Defense will be headed by someone with a military background rather than a civilian. The appointment of civilians to this post has been an important indication of support for the democratic principle of civilian control of the military.
Moreover, the U.S. State Department spokesperson’s contention that the Indonesian military has transformed "in significant ways" perpetuates the U.S. government’s efforts to obscure the reality that the military remains the greatest threat to democratization and respect for human rights in Indonesia.
President Widodo Offers Assurances on West Papua
"I want to give special attention to West Papua," President Widodo told Australia’s Fairfax Media on October 19, the eve of his inauguration. Widodo said that he planned to the region’s social and economic disadvantages first.
Widodo’s predecessor, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, made a similar pledge to put emphasis on problems with Indonesian policy in West Papua a decade ago but those efforts failed largely as a consequence of "corruption, cronyism and bureaucratic dysfunction," according to Fairfax. (WPAT Note: As an example of Yudhoyono’s failure, his Special Autonomy Plus plan to replace the failed "Special Autonomy" never got off the ground and has raised a mini-scandal over funds expended to bring it to life.)
Widodo, who appointed the first Papuan woman as a Cabinet Member (see below), sought to assure that he was on top of the problem: "Every day groups from Papua come here and I explain about the problem, they complain about the problem, so now I know 100 per cent of the problem in Papua," he said.
He wants to attack "the causes of economic discrimination," saying that a bag of cement that sells for $US6 in Jakarta is priced as height as $US150 in Papua hindering basic development.
"I think the most important thing is education, yes, and then health care, and then infrastructure," he told the Fairfax journalists. "If we can deliver as soon as possible the education program, and health program, I’m sure, the political tension will drop."
Responses to President Widodo by Papuan activists are mixed. Reverend Socratez Yoman, the head of the Baptist church in Papua, said "The core problem in West Papua is political. Before you talk about economic development, the first part has to be to have genuine and peaceful dialogue."
Frederika Korain told Fairfax that "In the last two weeks the tension has already reduced in Papua; I think the military troops there understand what kind of president he’ll be." She added that a group of Papuan activists proposed that the "Indonesian government set up an agency under presidential authority to focus solely on Papua with three parts to its charter: political dialogue, human rights and development."`
However, plans by Widodo’s Minister of Rural Development of Disadvantaged Regions, and Transmigration Marwan Jafar calling for greater migration to West Papua could undermine the president’s efforts. Papua province’s Governor Lucas Enembe warned that transmigration could lead to greater marginalization of indigenous Papuans and increased conflict with non-Papuans.
French Journalists Finally Freed
Two journalists jailed by Indonesian authorities for their attempts to report on developments in West Papua are back in France. They were freed on October 27 after conviction of immigration violations.
Thomas Dandois, 40, and Valentine Bourrat, 29, were each given a two and a half month jail term, but were soon freed because they had already served most of the time in custody awaiting trial. The arrest of the French journalists drew broad criticism from within Indonesia and internationally (see West Papua Report for September and October).
Their incarceration was unprecedented. Previously, foreign journalists accused of reporting "illegally" from Papua were simply and quickly deported. The pair could have faced up to five years in jail, but in the end prosecutors recommended a four-month sentence, which was reduced by the judge.
According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), one of their sources, the tribal leader of the Lanny Jaya district Areki Wanimbo, remains in prison and "may be tried on a charge of ‘rebellion.’"
While advocates for freedom of the press welcomed the release of the two journalists many underscored that the issue of access to West Papua by journalists and others with legitimate interest in visiting and working in West Papua remains.
Andreas Harsono, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, explained that while foreign journalists can apply for visas to report from Papua, "in reality they are rarely granted. Under the current system, 18 different government agencies have to give their approval."