West Papua Report July 2015: New Indonesian group #PapuaItuKita, breakthrough at MSG, U.S. State Dept. report, record arrests, prisoner release blocked, and more
West Papua Report July 2015
This is the 134th 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 IndonesiaAction Network (ETAN). Back issues are posted online at edmcw. If you wish to receive the report directly via e-mail, write to etan . Link to this issue: http://etan.org/issues/wpapua/2015/1507.htm.
The Report leads with PERSPECTIVE, an analysis piece; followed by UPDATE, a summary of some recent news and developments; 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. We also welcome suggestions of resources and analysis to for listing in the CHRONICLE section. The opinions expressed in Perspectives are the author’s and not necessarily those of WPAT or ETAN.For ongoing news on West Papua subscribe to the reg.westpapua listserv or visit its archive; the list is also available on Twitter .
This edition’s PERSPECTIVE is an exclusive interview with Zely Airane of the #PapuaItuKita on creative ways they are raising issues involving West Papua in Indonesia.
In UPDATE: This Issue highlights the recent Melanesian Spearhead Group summit in the Solomon Islands where the United Movement for the Liberation of West Papua (ULMWP) was given observer status. ULMWP’s Secretary General Octo Mote talks about the implications of the decision for West Papua. WPAT’s interview with Mote is followed by Indonesian and other reactions to the summit, which also upgraded Indonesia’s status to associate member of the regional group. The report then analyzes oversights in the State Department’s recent human rights report. Also in this issue, Papuans Behind Bars report on a new high in arbitrary detentions; the Indonesian parliament blocked plans to release more Papuan political prisoners; and confusion continues on foreign journalist travel to West Papua
In CHRONICLE: A retired Indonesian General says TNI actions in West Papua violate human rights. An NGO criticized plans for a new military command (Kodam) in West Papua. A highly-regarded Australian journalist has described "ignorance, corruption and racism" in West Papua in a series of articles, and a long-term observer analyzes President Widodo’s recent visit to the region.
#PapuaItuKita: Indonesian Grassroots for West Papua
A West Papua Report Interview with Zely Ariane
What is #PapuaItuKita?
We established #PapuaItuKita (We Are Papua, PIK) in December 2015, not as what it has now become but just as a bunch of us who wanted to do something to respond to the Paniai killings and put pressure on Jokowi. We started it just as a tagline, using the hash tag strategy that was successfully being used by activists in other countries, like "I’ll ride with you" in Australia and against police brutality in the U.S. We wanted the President to speak out about the four teenagers being killed, which was so outrageous with everyone knowing who killed them but nothing being done about it. I talked with Vero, a member of LBH, and Bernard, a Papuan based in Jakarta, and the three of us decided to begin with a social media posting to call for a demo.
Surprisingly around 40 people turned up. We just used online posters and Facebook, and we only knew about two-thirds of the people who showed up. This encouraged us and we followed up by organizing a candlelight vigil. It’s the first such initiative since activities [by NAPAS (National Papua
Solidarity)], stalled around a year and a half ago, and this time it has been lead by Indonesians from the start instead of Papuans and that’s important. It’s a mix of NGO activists, young people who are grassroots activists, people involved in land rights struggles. There are still many people who were involved in NAPAS, but also others. There is less of the left movement and organizations, but it’s not that they don’t support the issue. Because this is an all-volunteer effort, people need to be able to spare their own time to be involved.
The face is Indonesian rather than Papuan and that’s important.
Why do you think it is important for Indonesians to be active on Papua?
The people of Indonesia don’t know much about Papua – there are still stereotypes. We want to make a bridge between Papua and Indonesia, because Indonesians have a role in everything that happens there.
We also want to make our approach very popular, because we saw in the last election many young people voted for Jokowi, but at the same time they were very critical about the process of voting. They are very critical and it’s important that we reach out to them. We need to build this layer of discourse and we need a playful atmosphere to draw this out. We just want to create the atmosphere in Indonesia and what Papuans do is up to themselves. They are already doing their work anyway and don’t need our help for that. So we want to help the Papuans by speaking to our nation instead.
What are the difficulties in raising public awareness in Indonesia around human rights in Papua?
The Indonesian public is very blind towards Papua. The issues of Aceh and Timor were very much on the table, people talked about it. But not with Papua. It’s only been the government version, and the alternative version has only been the human rights issue. This is good, but it’s not enough. There is also the nationalism issue.
One colleague from Solidamor [Solidarity for Timor-Leste Peace
Settlement] in Yogyakarta told me that for him, they saw Timor-Leste under Indonesian occupation as more obvious because it was a "real" invasion in 1975. They saw it different for Papua, even if the events in the 1960s are very contested by Papuans.
It’s not the same strength as Aceh and Timor so the public hasn’t been the same. Because of this I hope the ULMWP [application for membership in
below] will help shock the Indonesian public, because they need to be shocked. Like what the CNRT and SIRA did for Timor and Aceh.
What do you see as an acceptable solution to the conflict in Papua?
We don’t have any prejudice on the independence issue. A common response with students or with activists is that they hope Papua will not separate from Indonesia, but we don’t really care about that. We haven’t had a discussion on what we see as an acceptable solution, but what comes out of our discussions is that there is no individual inside PIK who says that they hope Papua will not separate from Indonesia.
At this time we are just raising public awareness, we don’t have a view on the future for Papua at the moment. We are united in our view that there needs to be change in policy, in terms of military, natural resources, to open political space. But we’re not allergic to the political issue so we can continue looking at this.
Are there any prospects for changing Indonesia’s policy on self-determination in the region?
Not from above. It’s very unfortunate for Papua. This issue so far has only been brought up at the national level through Muridan S. Widojo and his team [of LIPI, who passed away in March 2014] through the Road Map for Papua. That is the only "respectable", the highest policy process that has addressed it; no other national figures do that. With Aceh and Timor there were many academics and others who would present it, but with Papua it’s only Papuans.
Two months before Muridan died, he told me they were stuck in the dialog process, not because the dialogue itself, but because there was no willingness from the SBY government. The government is stuck in the mindset of Harga Mati NKRI [the Unitary State of the Republic of
Indonesia or Death]. It’s not that they can’t understand the problems, but they’ve already formed their view. Seeing it from NKRI doesn’t work, but that’s the view that everyone in government has. If they don’t have this view, they become marginalized.
Change needs to come from below. This can happen from Indonesia or from Papua — either way. We want to create the atmosphere to talk about these things. Our first step is to mock NKRI Harga Mati, to say we love our country, but we don’t need to do it in such a hard way. We want it so people can speak freely about their national identity, because there is a problem with their national identity. We want to make nationalism into a simple discourse.
For me personally, I look at what Joshua Oppenheimer did, to open the discourse on 1965. There were over 400 screenings nationwide of The Look of Silence. I want to do the same thing with Papua. Whatever term we want to use, the discourse needs to be opened. It’s very dangerous the way it is now.
If there’s nothing we can do in the next five years, Papuans will become like the Aborigines in Australia. The [indigenous] population has decreased so much already.
How do you see the relationship between President Jokowi and the security forces developing, both generally and in the context of West Papua particularly? Does the President have the respect and full cooperation of the military, police and intelligence services
I don’t have any authority to talk about this precisely because I don’t observe it that closely. But you can see what [West Papuan journalist] Victor Mambo says in any forum that the key to any Papua policy is to have control in Papua. The government can say anything, but they have their own way of operating in Papua itself. All the government bodies act differently there, separated from Jakarta.
But from what I see now, it is very obvious that Jokowi doesn’t have any control. With the Paniai killings, he gave a speech saying there shouldn’t be any violence, and right after that there was more violence. We can’t say whether it was done on purpose, but at the least it shows he has no control.
Also, look at the discourse on establishing a Kodam in Manokwari and Brimob in Wamena. He didn’t have a say on this. I don’t think he has an understanding of how to deal with the problems differently than the previous government. He still approaches it as if there is a change in people’s economic welfare the problems will be overcome but this won’t work. On the [access for foreign] journalists it’s the same issue. It’s like there’s no control, and it’s a pity.
West Papua Report MSG Special
ULMWP Scores Diplomatic Victory at MSG Summit
The leaders of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) meeting in Honiara, Solomon Islands, on June 26 summit responded to a West Papua application for membership granted the United Movement for the Liberation of West Papua (ULMWP) observer status.
The decision constituted a significant diplomatic victory for West Papua, although the observer status fell short of the full member status that Papuans have been seeking since 2014. The victory was also shadowed by the MSG summit’s decision to accord "associate" status to Indonesia. The MSG also described the ULMWP as representing only Papuans living outside of West Papua under the "regional and international organizations category." The MSG also stipulated that Indonesia is to be represented by the governors of five provinces said to have Melanesian populations: Papua, West Papua, , Maluku, North Maluku and East Nusa Tenggara (which includes West Timor).
While the victory was only partial it was nonetheless celebrated in West Papua where popular support for the ULMWP campaign was widespread and enthusiastic. The ULMWP reportedly garnered more than 55,000 Papuan signatures in support of the effort to win MSG membership status. The diplomatic achievement solidifies efforts by the ULMWP – which is a coalition of the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation (WPNCL); Federal Republic of West Papua (NRFPB) and National Parliament for West Papua (NPWP) – to provide united leadership to the movement for independence, a movement that has in the past suffered from a diffuse and contested leadership and the absence of a united strategy.
ULMWP Secretary General Octo Mote was invited to speak to the plenary MSG meeting June 26. (See below for an exclusive interview with Mote.) He told the plenary that the ULMWP welcomed the decision to accord observer status to the West Papua group. He said that while the decision fell short of full membership status, "a door has opened to us. We will sit across a table from Indonesia as equal." Mote also noted subsequently that the new diplomatic status would enable the ULMWP to focus international attention on the continuing human rights abuse in West Papua.
The chief of the Indonesian delegation at the MSG summit reacted furiously to ULMWP Secretary General’s speech before the June 26 MSG plenary.
In his speech, Mote told the assembled delegates that the people of West Papua were united under the ULMWP leadership and that many of the ULMWP supporters had been tortured, imprisoned and even killed for their peaceful advocacy. Mote stated that the Papuan nation has been struggling for 53 years against Indonesian "colonial rulers" and added that in the struggle "at least 500,000 have been killed." He noted that Indonesian crimes against the indigenous peoples of West Papua had been widely recognized in various international and regional fora including at the European Union, the UN Human Rights Council. the Pacific Forum and the MSG itself.
"Ten years ago, Juan Mendes, UN special rapporteur for the Prevention of Genocide, mentioned that West Papua was one of ten countries around the world that could be extinct unless there were international attention…. In the next 5 years, Papuans will be less than 29 percent of the population in our own land. Our Melanesian identity, our Christian identity is under threat of a large wave of migrants from Indonesia and Muslim-dominated Asia," Mote added.
The Indonesian delegation released a statement denouncing the speech, saying:
"We reject all accusations that are unfounded and false submitted by an organization calling themselves ULMWP. We have absolutely no interest in taking advantage of this forum in things that are not productive and constructive."
In a media conference following the meeting, the ULMWP questioned the process by which Indonesia received associate membership status."We want to know whether Indonesia government has followed the same process to apply for MSG membership or not?" Mote asked.
Benny Wenda, spokesperson for the ULMWP, thanked the people of Melanesia for their solidarity and support:
“The people of Melanesia have made our cause for self-determination now your cause. I would like to thank our Pacific family, especially our Melanesian people, the solidarity groups, civil society groups, young people, university student movements, churches, women’s groups, traditional chiefs, and parliamentarians, political leaders and the media who stood with us to get this recognition,” said Wenda.
He added that that the people of West Papua, had signed petitions of support despite the risks: "your signatures clearly speak the volume of support."
Veteran journalist David Robie wrote that the "MSG failed the test with a betrayal of the people of West Papua by the two largest members. Although ultimately it is a decision by consensus," singling out Fiji and Papua New Guinea. He added, "the truth is the West Papuans have been betrayed, especially by the Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and Fiji leader Voreqe Bainimarama. For the Fiji and PNG delegations, Indonesian-funded aid is more important than human rights for their Melanesian brothers."
Gregory B. Poling of the Washington, DC think tank CSIS, while positive about the MSG decisions, speculates that "Jakarta might balk at the conditions placed on its membership" where governors and not the president will represent Indonesia.
WPAT Comment: Mote’s uncompromising speech before the MSG assembled delegates is, for Indonesia, is only a foretaste of Papuan criticism and public shaming in the MSG forum. On the other hand, the MSG forum could also be a venue for the serious, senior level, dialogue that Papuans have long sought with Indonesia. Papuans call for a international intermediary for this dialogue could be fulfilled by the MSG.
West Papua Report Interview with Octo Mote, Secretary-General, ULMWPThe Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), at its June 26 summit in Honiara, Solomon Islands, decided to grant the United Movement for the Liberation of West Papua (ULMWP) observer status. Simultaneously, it raised Indonesia’s status from observer to associate member. Below is an interview with ULMWP Secretary-General Octo Mote conducted by WPAT’s Ed McWilliams, followed by a more detailed report of the decision and reactions from the region. The MSG consists of Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and the Front de Liberation Nationale Kanak et Socialiste (FLNKS). Links to previous articles in the West Papua Report on the Papuans membership drive can be found here:
McWilliams: Do you regard this winning of observer status for West Papua at the MSG as a victory?
Mote: This is great victory for West Papua. This complements 2013 MSG Communique, which recognized West Papuan’s inalienable rights of self-determination and respect for human rights violations. With this recognition, West Papua henceforth will be a nation in waiting.
What do you see as the likely consequences of the MSG decision? How will it change Papuan’s relations with the MSG countries and the international community more broadly?
West Papua is no longer an outsider. On the basis of this "observer" status, as Secretary General of ULMWP I can meet with leaders and the Director General of MSG to discuss West Papua. I will be able to propose agenda items and to explore peaceful strategies with the MSG chair and other members. I can build a human rights and political rights file in the MSG Secretariat for future meetings. I will be able to expose and present the profile of Indonesia’s colonization policy in West Papua.
How strong was Jakarta’s opposition to any MSG recognition for West Papua? What tactics did Jakarta employ and how did you counter them?
Indonesia was unable to block West Papua. While Jakarta may continue with its checkbook policy with some leaders , they can not buy the people. More than 80 percent of the media in MSG countries support West Papua. Once this kind of diplomacy was exposed, the media revealed it. Another way to counter Jakarta’s efforts is to continue lobbying and update the MSG peoples and governments about the current situation in West Papua.
While some MSG officials were wary of granting West Papua any status at all, there was generally strong community and NGO support for West Papua in all the countries. How important was this for your victory?
Yes, Fiji and Papua New Guinea never publicly rejected our applications. We do not know for sure if these two countries actually rejected it. Three other member, FLNKS, Vanuatu and Solomon Island publicly supported our application. So, we knew certainly that ULMWP would be accepted. What we did not know was the category of membership we would be accorded: i.e., full, associate or observer status.
ULMWP’s Octo Mote (l) and Benny Wenda at MSG meeting in Honiara, Solomon Islands. Photo via Twitter: StefArmbruste.
We received very strong public support in all MSG member countries. Until the very last minute, our support groups in all member countries were very active, conducting public awareness meetings and other lobby efforts. Many sent delegations to Honiara to continue last minute lobbying for us. All of this was very important not only for the membership issue but also for future independence movement efforts. Political leader change periodically, but people will be there with their support until Papua wins its independence. The plight of West Papua issue has become a political issue in all these countries.
As a consequence of this MSG action do you think the MSG or at least various member states might emerge as interlocutors between Jakarta and West Papua? Could the MSG become an intermediary in a senior level dialogue?
Yes, that will happen. MSG is a forum where Indonesia and West Papua can conduct talks equally. This is not a post office, where one files complaints and the MSG chair and Secretariat then send them to the other.
Inasmuch as Indonesia has also achieved status in the MSG, do you expect Jakarta to use the MSG as a venue to discuss key issues with the ULMWP?
What role do you see for the International solidarity community in the wake of this victory? Should supporters of West Papua outside of Melanesia learn lessons from the involvement of Melanesian support groups and activities?
Yes. Our support groups have changed minds so that from now on West Papua is perceived as a nation in waiting. We hope they will continue their lobby activities with their own governments, as well as other governments, to recognize West Papua. Also, we hope they can assist us to become members of many international organizations and to seek funding to support our diplomatic team.
Indonesian hard liners are likely to play the Papuan victory at the MSG as a defeat for the Widodo administration. Will this further impede Widodo’s already struggling initiatives to reform policy toward West Papua (e.g., expanding journalists access, release of political prisoners, ending transmigration)?
That is Indonesians business. We will fight for our right of self-determination at any cost until we got our freedom. As leader, President Widodo knows what is best to sort out this 53 year old issue peacefully. Now, President Widodo understands that the ULMWP is the only representative of West Papua’s political leadership. An internationally-mediated negotiation can be launched. We are ready for that at any time.
How does the MSG decision affect the role of the ULMWP within the West Papuan political world. Will this victory serve to unite Papuans behind the ULMWP?
Before we were accepted as observers at the MSG, we united under the organization of the ULMWP. There is no doubt about it. In last two months alone (May and June), thousands have rallied in support of the ULMWP in all of Tanah Papua and many parts of Indonesia to support the ULMWP and our application to the MSG. When Indonesian President Widodo released five political prisoners, the Indonesian military and police arrested hundreds of people (see below). Many were tortured, and some killed. A total of 55.000 people signed the petition supporting membership. ULMWP was formed by three leading political groups (Federal Republic of West Papua, National Parliament, WPNCL) in West Papua and is support by all smaller groups.
How will the ULMWP consolidate this win and what is on your agenda to build upon this development?
We are working on this now. More than 30 people from inside West Papua, mostly political leaders, joined us in Honiara. We met many times to discuss next steps. We will have meetings over the next two months; there is no time for waiting.