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August West Papua Report: Tolikara, Paniai, Freeport, demographics, Pacific Islands Forum, more

August 5, 2015

West Papua Report
August 2015


This edition’s PERSPECTIVE provides a detailed overview of the Tolikara incident in which security force fired on a demonstration by Christian Papuans killed one and injured 11 others. The demonstrators then attacked a Muslim community, burning kiosks and a mosque. Years of government "transmigration" policies and neglect of Papuans have left West Papua a powder keg. Despite this, the local Tolikara community has come together to resolve tensions.

In UPDATE: Pressure is growing on the Indonesian government to credibly investigate the December 14, 2014 murder of four West Papuans by security forces. The National Human Rights Commission (Komnas Ham) "Ad Hoc Investigation" has made little headway and competing security force investigations appear aimed at pressuring victim families to abandon efforts to force accountability. Negotiations between the Indonesian government and mining giant Freeport McMoRan have led to a six month extension of its license. Talks to renew its contract have not yet gotten underway and are essential if Freeport operations are to continue past 2021.There are growing calls to reduce security forces in West Papua.

In CHRONICLE: Demographic trends in West Papua which have seen the reduction of Papuans to the status of a minority in their own land. Renowned human rights campaigner Carmel Budiardjo calls into question the United Kingdom’s cooperation with the Indonesian government. A West Papua "embassy" was temporarily set up in Darwin. The Pacific Islands Forum was urged to put West Papua on its agenda.


Tolikara Incident Underscores Volatility in West Papua

Decades of repression by unaccountable security forces and national policies designed to marginalize West Papuans in their own land have rendered West Papua a powder keg. Communal tensions boiled over in remote Tolikara on July 17. Police opened fire on a demonstration killing a teenager and wounding eleven. Christian Papuans then attacked Muslims celebrating the Idul Fitri holiday. Kiosks owned by Muslims were destroyed and an adjacent small mosque was burned. In a positive move, local religious leaders quickly moved to reduce tensions and condemned outside interference.

Papuan objections to the use of a loudspeaker in conjunction with the Idul Fitri celebrations at the mosque appear to have prompted the initial demonstration by approximately 150 Christians. Police firing into the demonstrators precipitated the violence when the firing killed 15-year-old Endi Wanimbo and wounded 11 others. Dozens of shops run by migrants were reportedly destroyed.

Tolikara District Chief Usman G. Wanimbo told media that he had urged that the Idul Fitri celebration take place at a different site because it was too close to a simultaneous gathering by the Evangelical Church (GIDI). The District Chief’s advice to the police precinct chief (Adj. Sr. Commander Soeroso) was ignored. Wanimbo also claimed that use of the loudspeaker was not authorized. While Indonesian officials reacted quickly and strongly to the demonstration which turned violent, there has been little official reaction to the security force’s lethal attack on the demonstrators. This failure of government officials to address what many saw as an over-reaction by security forces has drawn criticism from Papuan officials and others.

President Joko Widodo, July 24, met with representatives of the conflicting communities, including religious leaders from the district and Papua province in an attempt to calm the situation and present further violence.

Other senior Indonesian officials sought to exploit the incident in service of their own agendas. Recently appointed State Intelligence Agency (BIN) chief Sutiyoso told mediathat the riot in Tolikara, Papua was aimed at attacking President Widodo. "Those people took advantage of the incident to attack Pak Jokowi, attack the government, attack me as the head of BIN and attack the national police chief. This is becoming commonplace," he said at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta on July 22. Sutiyoso created suspicion of foreign involvement when he told media that he had asked the police to investigate the possibility that "foreign parties were involved." One national legislator blamed the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI), which was destroyed 50 years ago.

Locally, religious and other leaders acted to calm tensions. Muslim and Christian leaders in the Tolikara area met to resolve the issues that generated the July 17 incident. After a July 22 meeting, local Muslim and GIDI leaders reportedly "hugged each other as residents from the Muslim and Christian communities witnessed the truce agreement. The settlement was preceded by community work to clean up debris from last Friday’s fire." On Wednesday, July 29 representatives of the GIDI and Muslim communities in Tolikara signed a seven-point reconciliation agreement (see below).
Pastor Dorman Wandikmbo, president of the Evangelical Church of Indonesia (GIDI), said that "The recent incident in which the shops were razed [and the fire] spread and burnt down the mushola [little mosque] was simply because of a poor communication, all of us deeply regret the incident, and we have now made peace and returned to living alongside each other." He criticized the actions of the Papua regional police (Polri) and condemned efforts to scapegoat West Papuan guerrillas of the OPM. "Everyone in the community saw who the perpetrators were, TNI and Polri personnel, so do they now have the courage or not to be held liable for this action," he asked.

The Civil Society Coalition for Peace held a prayer vigil at the end of July at parliament in Jayapura. Nahdatul Ulama Papua Regional Board member Ustad Rasyid Mayang said religious leaders and others in Papua could solve this misunderstanding without having to involve the outsiders. He said they know the current situation in Papua than others.

Benny Wenda, spokesperson for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), blamed police for the violence. "Our problems are with Indonesia’s illegal occupation of our country, not between Christians or Muslims. My people have always live peacefully side by side with all Papuans of different faiths but the Indonesian police and military have always wanted and always tried to stir up religious conflict to draw the world’s attention away from our freedom struggle."

Indonesian government transmigration policies, in force since early in the Suharto dictatorship, have sown the seeds of communal conflict throughout the Indonesian archipelago. The tensions have developed as migrants have been moved, sometimes against their will, from their native regions to other parts of the archipelago where they are frequently received with hostility by local inhabitants. The hostility is fanned by the government’s seizure without compensation of local land and resources for the incoming migrants. Moreover, the juxtaposition of migrants and indigenous peoples who have differing ethnic/racial and religious backgrounds, as well as government support for newly arriving migrants against the backdrop of historic government neglect of indigenous inhabitants, have generated deep animosities.( See below for a brief look at demographic trends that show Papuans are becoming a minority in their own country.) Security forces often exacerbate these differences to bolster their position.

Over the decades, transmigration-stoked conflict has exploded in many areas targeted for transmigration, including Kalimantan, Sumatra and West Papua. Typically, as news of incidents of ethnic or religious conflict spreads, members of the victim community in one area exact vengeance against the attackers in other areas, leading to a metastasizing of the communal violence. The quick actions at aimed reconciliation in Tolikara will hopefully undermine those who would use events there to justify violence elsewhere.

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