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Pacific Forum Leaders: Ready to Champion West Papua where the UN has Failed

August 16, 2015

Ilustration – Suplied

By : Lealaiauloto Aigaletaulealea Tauafiafi

In the 1960s, West Papuans were sacrificed in the name of Cold War politics – and the United Nations have done nothing about it according to Jennifer Robinson, a London-based human rights lawyer.

In the weekend, West Papua independence leader and international Free West Papua lobbyist, Mr Benny Wenda described the reality for his people.

“For over 50 years, my people have lived under illegal occupation and endured brutal oppression from the Indonesian state which has killed over 500,000 Melanesian Papuans in a ruthless genocide.

He pointed to the UN’s failure to uphold and protect the rights of West Papuans more than 40 years ago.

“Indonesia illegally occupied West Papua in 1969 by forcing 1,026 people at gunpoint to vote for Indonesian rule. Indonesia calls this ‘The Act of Free Choice’ but we West Papuans call this ‘The Act of NO Choice’ and continue to peacefully struggle for the restoration of our own independence and for the fulfilment of our fundamental right to self-determination.”

It once again brings to light that no matter how hard the United Nations pound the human rights pulpit, they are too compromised to right their 1969 West Papuan failure, today.

It is at this failed UN juncture that Pacific leaders in 2015 head to Papua New Guinea for the 46th sitting of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF). A juncture where they can choose to champion West Papua and make a difference.

Earlier, in May this year, Dame Meg Taylor, the head of the Forum’s Secretariat stood in Wellington and replied with clarity on the issue of West Papua. She said that if the Forum’s 16 leaders choose to do so, they could take a leadership role in West Papua’s case.

“The West Papua issue is very important,” she told senior government officials, academics, civic and Pacific community leaders in her first official visit to Wellington, also the birthplace of the Forum back in August 1971.

She quantified how “important” West Papua’s human rights and self-determination issues are when she highlighted the reason why the Forum was founded originally.

“…in the origins of the Pacific Islands Forum, it always stood for the self-determinations of people,” she said.

“This [West Papua] is a matter that the leaders of the Forum will have to deal with. If it is raised as part of the Framework for Pacific regionalism then it will be considered by the Leaders.”

Dame Tayor, who is Papua New Guinean pointed to PNG prime minister Peter O’Neill’s comments in support of West Papua in February 2015 as a possible indicator that PNG could spearhead a discussion on West Papua when the Forum convenes next month.

“The PM for PNG has made comment on West Papua on human rights perspective and has not retracted that statement,” Dame Meg told the packed audience at Wellington’s Victoria University.

The comments she referred to are in Mr O’Neill’s speech at a leadership summit on 5 February at Port Moresby. It was the first time that an incumbent PNG prime minister has spoken directly about the rights of West Papuans in a public forum:

“Papua New Guinea today is a respected regional leader. After 40 years of undisturbed democracy, we are in a unique position to lead mature discussions on issues affecting our people in the region.

“Our leading role in encouraging Fiji to return to a democratically elected government and voicing our concerns about the plight of our people in New Caledonia are examples of our growing influence. We have also participated in the restoration of democracy and law and order in countries like Vanuatu and Solomon Islands.

“But sometimes we forgot our family, our brothers and sisters, especially those in West Papua.

“I think as a country the time has come for us to speak about oppression our people. Pictures of brutality of our people appear daily on social media and yet we take no notice. 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. Again, Papua New Guinea, as a regional leader, we must lead these discussions with our friends in a mature and engaging manner.”

The following month, on a 31 March interview with Radio Australia, Mr O’Neill pressed his support further by saying he hoped current Indonesian president Joko Widodo would keep former Indonesian leader Mr Yudhoyono’s promises made to PM O’Neill when in Indonesia on a state visit.

“We will try and hold the Indonesian government to that, to make sure that the current government also has the same view about a reduction of presence of military on the island, and of course more autonomy for the people of West Papua,” Mr O’Neill told Radio Australia.

The likelihood West Papua will make it onto the 2015 Forum agenda was turbo boosted on 26 June when the five-country Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) granted “observer” status to the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP).

Gaining ‘Observer status’ means the ULMWP now sits on the inside of the MSG organization alongside Indonesia. It is seen as an historic step toward addressing the human rights atrocities committed against West Papuans by the Indonesian army.

The significance of the decision was outlined by ULMWP Secretary General, Octovianus Mote after the 26 June vote.

“Despite not getting full membership [at MSG] we welcome the decision of the leaders as it is our first step to full political recognition.”

Full political recognition would be realized if ULMWP gains ‘Observer status’ in the Pacific Islands Forum. And these are the

The questions that may be given talk time in September: West Papua’s independence movement? And prospects of ULMWP gaining PIF ‘observer’ status? Topics that PNG’s Peter O’Neill seem very likely to push when he takes over the Chairmanship of the Forum.

Dame Taylor, heading the Forum’s operational arm hinted that both are doable.

She stated that self-determination is one of the core reasons for establishing the PIF back in 1971. And added that if the West Papua issue is raised as part of the Framework for Pacific regionalism, then West Papua will be “considered by leaders”.

Since Dame Meg’s Wellington visit, organisations supporting the Free West Papua movement from New Zealand and Australia have sent open letters to the Forum.

The Australia West Papua Association (Sydney); and West Papua Action, Auckland letters call on the 16 Forum leaders to discuss the human rights situation in West Papua and acknowledge the concerns in their official communiqué.


West Papua has been subjected to a brutal repression by the Indonesians since 1962. Prior to that, the island of New Guinea (the eastern half now known as Papua New Guinea and the western half now known as West Papua) as well as Indonesia had been Dutch colonies until Indonesia’s own war of independence in 1949.

In 1936 while still under Dutch rule an erstberg (ore mountain) was discovered in the southwest region of New Guinea, and in 1959 alluvial gold was found just off the West Papuan coast. Another massive ore mountain was yet to be discovered deep in the West Papuan forest.

In the 1950s, plans were made by the Dutch to prepare for withdrawal including plans for West Papua to revert to indigenous rule by 1972.

Despite a West Papuan congress on independence in 1961 and the raising of the national “Morning Star” flag, Indonesia had claimed New Guinea as part of its territory. A United Nations intervention resulted in the New York Agreement in 1962 which placed the territory in UN trusteeship (without consent of the population) and required that West Papuans hold an independence vote under UN supervision.

But by the time the vote was conducted in 1969 the Indonesian military had handpicked 1,026 representatives to vote on behalf of the entire population. Having been threatened with the death of their families the vote was unanimous for Indonesian rule. The so-called “Act of Free Choice” is known to this day by indigenous West Papuans as the “act of no choice.”

When the West Papuans were making plans for independence in 1961, unbeknownst to either they or the Dutch, then-Indonesian army general Suharto was negotiating a mining deal with the American mining company Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold. Subsequent discoveries resulted in the notorious Grasberg mine—one of the largest reserves of copper and gold in the world—and is today at the center of the conflict between Indonesia and West Papua.

The Free West Papua Movement claims that over 500,000 civilian West Papuans have been killed to date. (*)


2) ULMWP welcomes recommendation to make West Papua a Forum Leaders agenda

By Online Editor
00:12 am GMT+12, 14/08/2015, Fiji

The United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) has today welcomed the recommendation set by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat’s Special Sub-Committee on Regionalism (SSCR) and the Forum Officials Committee for West Papua to be one of the top priority issues of the regional agenda.

ULMWP Secretary General, Octovianus Mote, attributed the increasing awareness on the state of West Papua to growing ground swell of people solidarity movements in the Pacific, reflected by the media coverage of the issue, and the three submissions from various solidarity groups around the region advocating the peaceful resolution of the struggles of the people of West Papua.

“The Forum Officials Committee which considered the issue of West Papua yesterday we understand has taken a decision to endorse West Papua as one of the five top regional issues that will be considered by forum leaders next month in PNG during the leaders’ summit,” said Mote.

“In the words of the current Secretary General, Dame Meg Taylor, the forum has a history and regional role in assisting territories achieve self-determination, and we are certain our leaders will act on our plea to address the growing human rights abuse in West Papua by establishing a fact finding mission, and supporting the call by Vanuatu for the UN to appoint a special envoy to West Papua,” added Mote.

Mote also welcomed the decision by the Solomon Islands Government to appoint a Special Envoy on West Papua and seek West Papua’s admission to the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

“On behalf of the ULMWP, I extend our deepest gratitude to the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, Manasseh Sogavare, and the solidarity movement in the Solomon Island. I would also like to thank other solidarity movement partners in the Pacific for their continued support for standing up for the people of West Papua.”

He said he is confident in Prime Minister Sogavare as the current chairman of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, and under his leadership, he will steer a peaceful path for West Papua. ULMWP respectfully urges Pacific Island leaders to join with PM Sogavare to steer a peaceful path for West Papua.



3) West Papua for Pacific Islands Forum agenda depends on ‘thin down’ process of topics: McCully’

The Island Sun (Solomon Islands) 14 August


4) Papua New Guinea’s military denies Indonesia border incursion to bring down flag
Pacific Beat
By Girish Sawlani

Posted about an hour ago

The Papua New Guinea Defence Force has denied reports from a senior Indonesian official that its soldiers claimed part of Indonesian territory in the bordering Papua province.

According to the Jakarta Post, Indonesia’s Papua border and International Relations chief Suzana Wanggai said 14 uniformed PNG soldiers arrived in Yakyu village in the Merauke regency and

ordered residents to lower the Indonesian flag.

Ms Wanggai said she received the report from the head of a neighbourhood unit who alleged the PNG soldiers moved in because they thought it was part of their country’s territory.

She said the matter should be resolved through diplomatic channels.

But chief of staff of the PNG Defence Force (PNGDF) Colonel Mark Goina told Pacific Beat the incident did not happen.

“We have not received any information around PNGDF troops going to Merauke to conduct any form of activity or operation, and therefore we categorically deny any involvement of our

service men and women and that information is not true," he said.

"I confirm there is no Papua New Guinean soldiers in or near Merauke, they are all stationed outside of the border doing their normal border duties."

The Jakarta Post also reported the incident was confirmed by Papua’s Cendrawasih Military Command chief Syafei Kusno, who said it deployed 10 soldiers to the village to prevent residents from lowering the flag.

Mr Kusno told the newspaper the Indonesian troops argued the village was in a neutral area that should hoist Indonesian and PNG flags together.

PNGDF’s Colonel Goina was uncertain whether Yakyu village was a part of Indonesian or PNG territory.

"At this point in time I need to confirm that, we need to confirm that on a map."

Pacific Beat contacted Ms Wanggai from the Papua Border and International Relations unit for further comment, but she is yet to respond.

The border between Indonesia’s Papua provinces and Papua New Guinea largely follows the 141st meridian on New Guinea island, with one 64 kilometre break following the Fly River.

A flow of people and contraband across the porous border is not uncommon, with occasional military incursions by Indonesia occurring as recently as 2008, but border treaties signed

in 1979 and 1986 have largely kept the peace.


5) New military chief must tackle abuses: HRW, Jakarta | National | Fri, August 14 2015, 1:52 PM –

The Indonesian Military (TNI) should take necessary and appropriate action to prevent human rights abuses by its personnel and furthermore hold perpetrators accountable, Human Rights Watch (HRW) says in a letter to the new TNI commander Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo.

“General Nurmantyo is now the responsible man for making sure that the Indonesian armed forces stop committing abuses and improve their respect for human rights,” said HRW deputy Asia director Phelim Kine in a statement on Friday.

“It’s his responsibility to ensure the military meets its international legal obligations throughout Indonesia,” he said.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo named Nurmantyo, the former Army chief of staff, as TNI commander on July 8.

Kine said Nurmantyo should ensure prompt, transparent and impartial investigations into abuses in which military personnel have been implicated, and that he should also take appropriate action against such personnel.

HRW says among the measures the new TNI commander must take is the immediate ban of so-called virginity tests. The tests are mandatory for all female recruits and fiancées of military officers in the Indonesian armed forces. However, HRW has stated that the tests violate the prohibition of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment that is enshrined in international human rights law.

Another step HRW says Nurmantyo needs to take is to publicly show his support for President Jokowi’s decision to lift access and reporting restrictions on Indonesia-based, accredited foreign media entering, or trying to enter, Papua. He also needs to ensure that all armed forces in Papua are aware of, and fully respectful of, the freedom of the press, HRW says.

President Jokowi announced a complete lifting of those restrictions on May 10.

HRW says Nurmantyo should also publicly support investigations into serious human rights abuses, particularly in Papua, such as the killing of five peaceful protesters in the remote town of Enarotali on December 8, 2014.

“The new military chief should also fully cooperate with government plans to investigate the 1965-66 mass killings of alleged communists and others, as well as other past atrocities, including the Talangsari incident, the Trisakti and Semanggi I and II killings, the abduction of pro-democracy activists in 1997-98, and the May 1998 rioting,” said Kine.

He said military cooperation was crucial to determining responsibility for these abuses in order to provide justice and redress for the victims and their families. (ebf)(+++)


6) Islands in focus: Indonesian flag burned in Timika –
The Jakarta Post, Jayapura | Archipelago | Fri, August 14 2015, 8:28 AM –

An unidentified person burned an Indonesian flag in Mimika Baru, Timika city, Papua, on Thursday ahead of the 70th anniversary of independence.

“The red-and-white flag was burned at approximately 1 a.m. at the home of local resident Marthen Sulle, 54, on Jl. Seroja, Timika. The flag had been raised on a pole in front of the house on Monday,” said Papua Police chief spokesman Sr. Comr. Rudolf Patrige in Jayapura on Thursday.

“The police are investigating the incident,” said Patrige.

Separately, an Indonesian flag hoisted in Yakyu, Rawa Biru village, Sota district, Merauke regency, Papua, was taken down by 14 Papua New Guinea soldiers who arrived in the village on Aug. 7.

The soldiers claimed that they had lowered the flag because it had been hoisted in a neutral zone and that a PNG flag should be flown alongside it.

Cenderawasih Military Command intelligence assistant Col. Syafei Kasno confirmed on Thursday the lowering of the flag by PNG soldiers, adding that a post had been set up in Yakyu to prevent a similar incident.


7) No Justice in Sight for Rights Abuse Victims as President Touts Reconciliation Over Prosecution
By Jakarta Globe on 02:49 pm Aug 14, 2015
Category Featured, Front Page, Human Rights, News
Tags: Indonesia human rights abuses, Joko Widodo, Komnas HAM

Jakarta. President Joko Widodo has indicated that the Indonesian government has no intention of prosecuting perpetrators of past human rights abuses, in a state of the nation address that only briefly touched on the issue.

Speaking before the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) in Jakarta on Friday, Joko said his administration was working on setting up a “reconciliation committee for severe rights violations.”

“The government is at the moment trying to find the most judicious and noble way to resolve human rights abuse cases,” he said.

“The government wants there to be a national reconciliation so that future generations will not have to bear the burdens of history. Our children have to be free to face the wide future.”

The president’s statement fell far short of calls from human rights groups for an official apology for all past rights abuses, including the 1965-66 anti-communist purge in which up to two million people were summarily killed or disappeared by the military and state-backed militias.

Survivors and families of victims of the military’s myriad massacres and other rights abuses over the decades have long demanded that the masterminds, many of whom now occupy positions of power in Joko’s administration, be brought to justice for their crimes.

Among the latter is A.M. Hendropriyono, the former intelligence agency chief linked to, though never charged for, the 2004 murder of prominent human rights activist Munir Said Thalib. Hendropriyono, involved in the military’s massacre of 27 civilians in Talangsari, in southern Sumatra, in 1989, is close to Joko’s political patron, former president Megawati Soekarnoputri, and served as an adviser to the president-elect when preparing to take office last year.

The current intelligence chief, Sutiyoso, now the chairman of a party in Joko’s coalition, also has a checkered record, primarily stemming from his role in overseeing a deadly military raid on an opposition party compound in Jakarta in 1996.

The government’s own National Commission for Human Rights, or Komnas HAM, issued a landmark report in 2012 denouncing the anti-communist purge and other incidents as gross human rights violations, and recommended criminal inquiries into the cases. However, the Attorney General’s Office has repeatedly refused to initiate an investigation into any of the cases, saying instead that the perpetrators should be let off the hook for the nation to move forward.

“The option of reconciliation should only be available if the judicial process is technically [unfeasible],” Hendardi, the head of the Setara Institute for Peace and Democracy, said in June.

“The attorney general has not yet done anything [in the way of an investigation], yet already it is choosing the path of reconciliation. Don’t try to simplify the problem, don’t be lazy and unjust.”

He warned that a national reconciliation committee “should not serve to whitewash the perpatrators’ [crimes] or provide false satisfaction for the victims. [Such a committee] would be a fraud.”


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