West Papua Report January 2015: Deforestation, MSG application, regional support, PNG, Freeport
West Papua Report
This is the 129th 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 (with graphics):
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, Ethan Harfenist of mongabay.com examines the true rate of deforestation in the region. In UPDATE: The United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP) adopted a constitution and presented of a formal application for membership in the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG). Regional support for West Papua is growing, notably from Prime Minister O’Neill of Papua New Guinea. The expanding international empathy for Papuans has prompted Jakarta to form a task force to try to counter recent Papuan diplomatic successes. A brutal campaign has targeted civilians in the Utikini area near the giant Freeport mining concession. An early champion of Papuan rights has become a victim in the scandal-ridden struggle to appoint a National Police commander. Various voices are speaking out against palm oil developers who, abetted by security forces, are exploiting Papuans. There are growing calls for Freeport to build a new smelter in West Papua rather than in East Java. A senior U.S. defense official has again offered assurances of continued U.S. cooperation with the Indonesian military – notwithstanding the military’s record of human rights abuse, corruption and lack of accountability before the law. A former PNG official has raised concern about Indonesian military pressure on the PNG-Indonesian border.
Deforestation may be ramping up in Papua, West Papua
By Ethan Harfenist, mongabay.com correspondent (January 27, 2015).
from http://news.mongabay.com/2015/0127-gfrn-harfenist-papua-deforestation-ramping-up.html .
Reprinted with permission
Despite being covered in commodity concessions and viewed by some as becoming a focal point for the Indonesian government’s palm oil development in the country’s eastern half, the provinces of Papua and West Papua have, rather mysteriously, recorded very low deforestation rates compared to the rest of the archipelago. This may seem odd to some observers, especially given the number of reports and photos that have poured out of the two provinces highlighting the exploitation of their jungles.
But rather than represent a pleasant surprise for environmentalists and the peoples inhabiting these restive lands, the reality of the situation is a bit more complex. While it may be understood that large-scale deforestation in Papua and West Papua is still in its early stages, finding accurate deforestation data for these two provinces is no easy task. As a result, conflicting numbers published by the government and NGOs tell vastly different stories about what’s really happening on the ground.
Let’s start out with official government data. The Indonesian Ministry of Forestry, an agency viewed by some as corrupt and mismanaged, claims in its 2013 Forest Area Statistics report that West Papua lost 20,285 hectares of forest from 2011-2012, while it provided no deforestation data for Papua province. Attempts by mongabay.com to clarify this absence of data with the ministry were unsuccessful.
Meanwhile, data from Global Forest Watch (GFW) largely uphold the government’s numbers for West Papua, with 22,389 hectares of tree cover lost from 2011-2012, and Papua losing 64,230 hectares during the same time period. In all, Papua and West Papua lost 250,542 hectares and 122,885 hectares, respectively, from 2001-2012.
In comparison to the forest loss of Indonesia as a whole, which reached 840,000 hectares in 2012 alone , the forests of Papua and West Papua have remained relatively unscathed. But although deforestation has not been as rampant in these regions as it has been for other Indonesian provinces, Charles Tawaru, Greenpeace’s forest campaigner in Papua, says that one thing is for certain: "The forests of Papua and West Papua continue to be degraded."
Global Forest Watch data show an upward trend of deforestation in Papua, with tree cover loss nearly doubling between 2011 and 2012, and GFW maps indicate that much of Papua’s tree cover loss occurred in the large number of timber and, to a lesser extent, palm oil and wood fiber concessions that dot its land. As timber concessions become depleted across other parts of the archipelago, namely Sumatra and Kalimantan, intact forests in Eastern Indonesia risk further depletion.
"At the moment, logging legal and illegal and plantations are the main drivers [of deforestation] in Papua," Yuyun Inradi, Greenpeace’s forest political campaign team leader, told mongabay.com.
Logging has traditionally driven most of the provinces’ deforestation, but West Papua, according to Greenpeace, is currently undergoing something of a palm oil boom in certain regencies. Indonesia remains the world’s largest producer of palm oil and, as stated in a recent working paper published by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), the country is targeting to produce 40 million tons a year by 2020 twice the output it recorded in 2010.
"In the provinces of Papua and West Papua, the area of oil palm plantations is low compared to other regions," states the CIFOR paper. "However, it is growing at a steady rate."
But not all concessions in Papua and West Papua are being developed at the same pace. Global Forest Watch shows some concessions in the provinces contain intact forest landscapes (IFLs) that have been degraded, while others are completely void of IFLs. On the other hand, many of the concessions on the map appear to have large swaths of IFL.
Still, given how much area concessions cover in the provinces, deforestation figures remain unusually low. After all, according to government figures cited by Greenpeace, Papua contains about a third of the remaining rainforests in Indonesia, a country that not too long ago gained international notoriety for surpassing Brazil as the world’s largest deforester in terms of annual rate.
Yuyun claims that the presence of concessions doesn’t necessarily translate to active deforestation, especially when it comes to timber plots. "There are a lot of logging concessions that still have active licenses but have no activity on the ground," he said. "Those that still have tracts of IFL could be new or inactive old concessions."
Meanwhile, palm oil concessions represent both a present and future issue for Papua’s forests. Sorong and Manokwari regencies are currently palm oil hotspots in West Papua, a province that has seen its area of palm oil estates increase from 31,000 hectares in 2007 to 70,000 in 2011, according to CIFOR.
In Papua province, the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE) has attracted a lot of attention from activists and local communities alike for its wide-ranging concession grants. According to a 2012 Greenomics report, MIFEE is slated to cover over one million hectares of agricultural land in the Papuan region of Merauke.
Although only two of 10 proposed blocks were to include palm oil, Greenpeace has previously noted that "significantly" more palm oil concessions were to be included. According to Yunyun, roughly 600,000 hectares included in the project’s limits have thus far been opened up for production.
Because of how sensitive they are politically and how valuable they are economically, the provinces of Papua and West Papua represent major development priorities for the Indonesian government and are therefore prone to the effects of extractive industries. Although the situation may be hard to definitively gauge given spotty information, deforestation in the West Papua region may be more widespread than any published data purport.
- Greenpeace, University of Maryland, World Resources Institute and Transparent World. 2014. Intact Forest Landscapes: update and degradation from 2000-2013. Accessed through Global Forest Watch on Jan. 27, 2015. www.globalforestwatch.org.
- Hansen, M. C., P. V. Potapov, R. Moore, M. Hancher, S. A. Turubanova, A. Tyukavina, D. Thau, S. V. Stehman, S. J. Goetz, T. R. Loveland, A. Kommareddy, A. Egorov, L. Chini, C. O. Justice, and J. R. G. Townshend. 2013. "Hansen/UMD/Google/USGS/NASA Tree Cover Loss and Gain Area." University of Maryland, Google, USGS, and NASA. Accessed through Global Forest Watch on Jan. 27, 2015. www.globalforestwatch.org .
- "Logging." World Resources Institute. Accessed through Global Forest Watch on Jan. 27, 2015. www.globalforestwatch.org.
- "Oil Palm." World Resources Institute. Accessed through Global Forest Watch on Jan. 27, 2015. www.globalforestwatch.org.
- UNEP-WCMC, UNEP, and IUCN. "World Database on Protected Areas." Accessed on Jan. 27, 2015.www.protectedplanet.net .
United Liberation Movement of West Papua Adopts Constitution,
Submits Application for Membership in Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG)
In early February, the new coalition, the United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP), (see January 2015 West Papua Report) published the movement’s Constitution. At the same time, the ULMWP produced its formal application for membership in the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG). The Constitution and application flow from the December 3, 2014 Saralana Declaration, which formalized the unity of three key West Papuan groups: West Papua National Coalition for Liberation WPNCL); Federal Republic of West Papua (NRFPB) and National Parliament for West Papua (NPWP). The Saralana Declaration pledged that the organizations would speak with "one voice."
The Constitution states that the principal objective of the ULMWP is to represent "the aspirations of the West Papuan people in seeking to determine their own future and political status." The document describes the group’s vision to "establish a free and democratic nation state called West Papua" and pledges to "faithfully represent the aspirations of the West Papuan people in their struggle for self-determination, using peaceful means." It declares the new unity organization’s intention to "build sub-regional, regional and global solidarity" in a common effort to "seek diplomatic support and recognition for our just cause." In that effort, the ULMWP underscored that its ‘first objective" would be to seek membership in the MSG."
ULMWP Secretary General Octovanius Mote formally handed the group application to the MSG’s Director General, Peter Forau on February 3. Mote said "today the hearts of our Papuan people are with us as we make this application to be properly recognized by the family of Melanesia. We believe we have fulfilled the criteria asked of us by the MSG, and we trust the MSG will process our application with due deliberation."
Mote added that at its 2013 summit in Noumea, the leaders of the MSG "endorsed our ‘inalienable right to self-determination’ but asked us to unify under one group so as to be representative of all the Papuan people. Last December we achieved this unification during a historic reconciliation meeting here in Port Vila, thanks to the support of both the Vanuatu government and Pacific Council of Churches."
ULMWP spokesman Benny Wenda called this "an urgent matter to resolve because of the ongoing atrocities committed by the Indonesian military and the program of transmigration which is accelerating and according to current trends, means that indigenous Papuans will only make up 28% of the population by 2020. Since the election of its new government, we are only seeing an increase in Indonesia’s military presence and intimidation, so we place our hope and trust in our fellow Melanesians to recognize that our struggle is just. We are not just defending our homeland, we are defending Melanesia."
The MSG is expected to make a decision on the application during an MSG leaders summit in the Solomon Islands in July.
Early Regional Support for ULMWP
The government of Vanuatu has reaffirmed its support for the decolonization of both West Papua and New Caledonia. Vanuatu Prime Minister recently told the heads of mission meeting that Vanuatu that his government is determined to assist the two colonized Melanesian populations in attaining independence.
In an unexpected development, the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, long reticent about the plight of Papuans across the border in Indonesia-controlled West Papua, has spoken out on their behalf.
In a speech to a national leaders summit, February 5, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said "the time has come to speak for our people about the oppression" in West Papua. In the past, Port Moresby has supported the Indonesian government contention that West Papua is an integral part of Indonesia. PNG leaders have also been reluctant to talk about human rights violations or to speak on behalf of West Papuans.
In his February 5 speech, he said "the time had come to speak about the oppression of our brothers and sisters in West Papua." He told the assembly that "Sometimes, we forget our own families, our own brothers, especially those in West Papua…. We have the moral obligation to speak for those who are not allowed to talk. We must be the eyes for those who are blindfolded." He added that "Again, Papua New Guinea is a regional leader. We must take the lead in having mature discussions, with our friends and more so, in an engaging manner."
Soon after O’Neill spoke, PNG Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato appeared to pull back. The Foreign Minister reaffirmed PNG support for Indonesian "territorial sovereignty" Pato suggests parts of the O’Neill statement had been misconstrued and that he had been in contact with his Indonesian counterpart, "Whom I had the opportunity to speak to on the phone yesterday in Jakarta on some of these issues over the Prime Minister’s statement. So we’ve moving ahead and putting all those things, particularly the interpretations of that statement, behind us."
Pato appeared to put a new condition on the Papuan application for membership in the MSG noting that the application must be made in consultation with Indonesia’s government. A spokesperson for the ULMWP said it hasn’t consulted Jakarta on the submission, and that MSG leaders do not need Indonesian endorsement to reach a decision on the application.
In Fiji, opposition parties have rallied in support of West Papua in a move they hope will put pressure on authorities to act. Opposition leader Ro Teimumu Kepa said that the pressuring Fijian authorities to hold the Indonesian government to account for human rights abuses in the region.
Jakarta Acts to Counter Growing Support for Papuans
A senior official at Indonesia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said on February 5 that the Indonesian government will create a special task force to advocate government polices in the province of Papua." The announcement comes on the heels of renewed Papuan efforts to join the regional Melanesian Spearhead Group and indications that the unified Papuan diplomatic efforts are gaining traction (see item above).
Darmansjah Djumala, head of Policy Analysis and Development Agency at the ministry, said the task force will "engage, or approach all [those] involved in the spread of information [about Papua], including politicians, media and groups affiliated with separatist organizations." Indonesian diplomats were "told to be responsive on movements sponsored by Papua separatist groups in countries they are serving in." Darmansjah added that the task force would initially focus on Pacific countries, "aimed at gaining empathy for Indonesia on Papua affairs from the region." A Melanesian Culture Center is planned to support this effort.
Massive "Sweeping Operation" Drives Hundreds of Civilians from Their Villages
Benny Wenda, spokesperson for the United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP), told media that the Indonesian military has driven villagers from their homes into inhospitable mountains near the Freeport mining complex at Tembagapura. Wenda reported that there have been mass arrests of civilians in the village of Utikini and that security forces had burned down civilian homes. The military had beaten and tortured villagers after finding "morning star" flags, and other paraphernalia in homes. Peaceful political expression can be dangerous in West Papua, where people are jailed for up to 15 years for simply raising the West Papuan flag.
"[In the] last four days, most of the people in the villages have run, and some of them are still hiding because this village, the Indonesian police and military have blockaded all the roads and there is no way to go out," Wenda said.
Adding some detail, on January 9 FreeWestPapua.org reported:
"Several days ago, the Indonesian military and police arrested scores of West Papuans in Utikini village near Timika. According to reports, up to 116 West Papuan men, women and children were arrested and tortured.
"Recently there has been a surge of Indonesian military activity in the Timika area of West Papua where military and police personnel have assembled to look for members of the banned Free Papua movement (OPM).
"They raided Utikini village and found banners in the basement of one house calling for an independence referendum for West Papua and a rejection of the so called ‘Act of Free Choice’ in 1969. Many of the villagers in Utikini were also carrying cards supporting self-determination for West Papua. For the Indonesian police, this was enough to warrant the arrests of the villagers and burning of their houses."
At a January 7 media conference, a police chief said, "I ordered [the police] to burn the civilians’ houses in Utikini village. This was deliberately done to trim the movement. I will annihilate them."
The military/police assault on the civilians in Utikini was preceded by two events. Unknown elements killed two police personnel and one private security guard on January 1 (see January West Papua Report). The two Brimob and one Freeport security guard were killed in an armed attack allegedly perpetrated by the armed civilian group led by Ayub Waker in Utikini on January 1. There are also reports that killing was linked to illegal alcohol sales in which the victims may have been involved.
An earlier operation by a joint security team of National Police (POLRI) and Indonesian Military (TNI) personnel forced 1,000 Papuan gold miners to abandon panning operations in the Kabul river basin near the Freeport mining complex. Describing this action and its aftermath Papua Police chief Inspector Gen. Yotje Mende told media: "As many as 51 security posts have been set up in illegal gold mining areas along the Kabul river basin so that they will not return. This is for the sake of their own safety because the areas are prone to landslides."
WPAT Comment: The humanitarian impact of this large-scale "sweeping operation," like those conducted throughout the central highlands on a regular basis for many years, is devastating for local people. It is a form of collective punishment which is specifically condemned in the Geneva Conventions (Article 33 of the 4th convention.
But the Utikini case is special insofar as it is the first such large scale operation carried out under the administration of newly-elected President Joko Widodo. Notwithstanding the new president’s pledges to "listen" to Papuans and generally seek a new beginning, this harsh security force action appears to lock the new president into the "security approach" employed in addressing legitimate Papuan grievances since the Suharto dictatorship.
Early Defender of Papuan Human Rights Victim of Police Scandal
Bambang Widjojanto, the 1993 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award laureate, was detained by the Indonesian police as part of a major scandal involving the man tapped by new President Joko Widodo to head the National Police. Widjojanto was an early advocate for the rights of the West Papuan people, suffering threats and detentions by the Suharto dictatorship for his efforts.
Widjojanto, now deputy chief of the Corruption Eradication Commission (Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi/KPK), was arrested on January 23 on an old charge of providing false testimony in a 2010 legal case. He was soon released after protests by supporters of the rights advocate and of the popular commission. Resistance by senior police officials to the commission’s investigation continues. Despite President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo’s order that the National Police cooperate in the fight against graft, some high-ranking police generals for the defied summons for questioning by KPK investigators.
Widjojanto and his fellow commissioners ran into difficulties when the commission named Major General Budi Gunawan as a corruption suspect after a six-month investigation. This action came on the heels of the general’s nomination by President Widodo to head the National Police (POLRI). Widjojanto and the commission have been caught up in power struggles between KPK and POLRI and between Jokowi and the PDI-P party that supported him for president. Gunawan was an aide to party leader and former President Megawati Sukarnoputri.
Widjojanto has since taken a leave of absence from the commission. His term is up at the end of the year.
Note: The West Papua Advocacy Team was created by the RFK Memorial (now the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights) to support the work of Bambang Widjojanto, but separated from the Memorial in 2005 to focus exclusively on West Papua issues.
Papua Student Alliance Condemns Palm Oil Companies Use of Security Forces
The Papua Students Alliance (AMP) Yogyakarta City Committee on January 27 condemned palm oil companies that employ security forces to protect themselves from the customary communities in Sima village, Nabire.
The company PT. New Nabire, according to AMP, operates in Nabire without the approval of a majority of the indigenous tribes, (notably the Yerisiam) who have customary rights over the land. The company, according to the AMP, also lacks a clear legal basis for its operations. AMP charged that the military acts as "guard dogs" on the side of investors by protecting their investments.
Meanwhile, the daily Suara Papua published a January 25 editorial which called for an end to the destruction of protected forests which belong to the Yerisiam people. The editorial noted that logging in Nabire to establish palm oil plantations had increased in recent years. It cited specifically the Wami and Sima areas in Yaur District, which supposedly are protected areas. In addition, five other protected forest areas are being encroached upon in Marera, Orododo, Kali Oro, Bamboo Kali and Kali Wadiyo. Evidence of the increased logging, much of it illegal, draws on 2013-2014 data compiled by the Nabire Regional Papuan Customary Council. Based on council data the editorial contended that there was police involvement in nearly two thirds of the illegal logging. Among companies involved are The PT Nabire New, PT. Sariwana Adi Perkasa, PT Sariwana Superior Self.
Simon Peter Hanebora, chief of the Yerisiam, said that "Palm oil business only disguise, because so far they only cut and take out the logs." Even though companies lack proper business licenses (because they have been rejected by the local communities), the involvement of Brimob (the militarized police) enables the companies to operate, he said.
Anger Over New Freeport Smelter Construction Outside West Papua
The national Commission on Human Rights (Komnas Ham) has raised objection to the proposed construction of a copper smelter by West Papua based PT Freeport in Gresik, East Java, rather than in West Papua where ore for the smelter is generated. The Commission argued that the smelter should be built in West Papua to encourage development in that area. Construction of a smelter in West Papua would also address persistently high unemployment there.
Komnas Ham Commissioner Natalius Pigai contended that "the company is responsible for opening Indonesia’s easternmost region from isolation; not doing so would be an egregious exploitation of Papua." He added that "corporate crimes are not only found in civil and political matters, but also in economic and social aspects, as is the case with Freeport." He said that the commission would file a protest to the State-Owned Enterprises Ministry.
Freeport Indonesia is a subsidiary of U.S. copper and gold mining company Freeport-McMoRan. A 2009 law obligates mining companies operating in Indonesia to process ore within Indonesia. Freeport has until 2017 to complete the smelter after which time ore exports would be banned.
The Indonesian parliament is also pressing for Freeport to place the smelter in West Papua. Parliament leaders raised the issue with President Widodo in a meeting The House’s leaders brought up the Papua smelter issue during a meeting with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo on February 2. Deputy speaker Agus Hermanto claimed that the President had agreed that Freeport should build its smelter close to its mine in Papua, The company plans to build a smelter in Gresik, East Java.
U.S. Collaboration with TNI Based on "Common Values"
U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs David B. Shear while visiting Indonesia highlighted comprehensive military cooperation between Indonesia and the U.S., including military exercises, weapon sales, trade, and high-level defense meetings. He said that the developing military relationship between Indonesia and the U.S. was "based on the common values and interests of both countries, which were established long time ago."
Shear, referring to past restrictions on U.S. military equipment and spare parts imposed in response to human rights violations by the Indonesian security forces in East Timor (now Timor-Leste) and elsewhere, said "It’s hard for me to imagine the U.S. placing such an embargo that will affect Indonesia, which is a strong partner…. We have important agreements on F-16 jet fighters and Apache helicopters."
The Indonesian military is buying eight Apache combat helicopters from Boeing for nearly $300 million. The contract is to be completed by February 28, 2018.
When the deal was first announced by the US government in August 2013, its value was estimated to be $500 million, suggesting that follow-on contracts for equipment and weapons are likely.
WPAT COMMENT: U.S. assurances to the TNI that there will be no interruption in supply of spare parts, along with his assertion that the U.S. and Indonesia share "common values" ignores the Indonesian military’s long record of human rights abuse, corruption and lack of accountability before the law. In the past, usually under Congressional pressure, various U.S. administrations have withheld cooperation with the TNI in order to add pressure to Indonesian NGO’s and others seeking real reform of the TNI and end to abuses. Moreover, previous U.S. administrations had been cautious in extending equipment or training which could render the U.S. complicit in Indonesian military human rights violations. Such concerns appear to be lost on the Obama administration.
Worries Expressed Over Indonesian Military Pressure on the PNG Border
John Tekwie’s, a former Governor of West Sepik province in Papua New Guinea, urged the PNG and Australian governments to do more to help protect PNG’s land border with Indonesia. His comment came after a reported Indonesian military incursion into Bewani, West Sepik. Indonesian military pursuits of West Papuan rebels crossing into PNG are common, sparking complaints by PNG citizens living near the border about abuses by the Indonesians.
Human Rights Watch Calls on Indonesia to Undo Legacy of Rights Abuse
Human Rights Watch, in the 25th edition of its World Report writes about problems in West Papua in its assessment of Indonesia, In a media release accompanying the report, Human Rights Watch summarized:
"Papua’s festering low-level pro-independence insurgency led by the Free Papua Movement (Organisasi Papua Merdeka, OPM) continued to result in human rights abuses by Indonesian security forces. As of late October, at least 69 Papuans were imprisoned for peaceful advocacy of independence. Indonesian police arrested French journalists Valentine Bourrat and Thomas Dandois on August 6, 2014, on charges of "working illegally"; they were released for time-served on October 24 after a Jayapura court sentenced them to two-and-a-half months in prison. Although Widodo indicated in July that he would seek to end the government stranglehold on foreign media access to Papua, he had not done so by year’s end."
Struggle and Survival in West Papua
In "MERDEKA! Struggle and survival in West Papua," an article by Australian socialist Ben Hillier places West Papua’s long struggle in the context of Dutch colonialism and Indonesian repression.
Engage Media, in association with Together with Belantara Papua and Yaysan Teratai Hati Papua, has released a second volume of Papuan Voices documentaries, These videos "tell the stories behind the conflict that are not often circulated: the struggles for education, healthcare, equality and dignity." The videos can be found at www .papuanvoices.net. The site also includes additional resource materials, such as background information, discussion and study guides, music, and more in in English and Bahasa Indonesia.
This issue can be found at http://etan.org/issues/wpapua/2015/1502.htm