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Maire Leadbeater: West Papua must be on the agenda at the Pacific Islands Forum

August 14, 2019

Maire Leadbeater: West Papua must be on the agenda at the Pacific Islands Forum

13 Aug, 2019 5:00am
4 minutes to read
Protesters seeking justice for West Papua greeted leaders and special guests at the Pacific Islands Forum in Auckland in 2011. File photo / Greg Bowker
Protesters seeking justice for West Papua greeted leaders and special guests at the Pacific Islands Forum in Auckland in 2011. File photo / Greg Bowker
NZ Herald

By: Maire Leadbeater

The Pacific Islands Forum holds its annual meeting this week. Usually the leaders manage to avoid mention of the desperate human rights crisis in Indonesian-controlled West Papua in their communiqué, or to dismiss the issue in a formula of words so insipid it has negligible impact.

This year, however, thanks mainly to the tireless work of Vanuatu and its energetic Foreign Minister Ralph Regenvanu, this is set to change.

In their pre-forum meeting, the regions’ foreign ministers put forward their recommendation that the communiqué should state the region’s insistence that Indonesia fulfil its undertaking to allow the UN Human Rights Commissioner to visit and ensure a report is available to the 2020 Forum. The ministers also advocate that Indonesia pursue "constructive dialogue" with West Papuans and urge everyone to refrain from violence. Nothing particularly radical about that, of course, but going on past experience Indonesia, a dialogue partner to the forum, will be lobbying to water down this proposal.

The World Council of Churches recently issued a strong statement based on the experiences of the ecumenical pilgrim team which visited in February. The church visitors were not able to access the Nduga area, which is subject to a military operation, but were shocked at the level of militarisation they witnessed and at the situation of the thousands of displaced villagers struggling to cope in the neighbouring regency. Local human rights groups are similarly barred from Nduga but they are documenting dozens of deaths from malnutrition and illness among the displaced.

West Papuans who want a new referendum on their political status are considered guilty of ‘separatism’, and run up against police brutality for taking part in demonstrations or even prayer meetings.
The Indonesian Government has been pursuing a charm offensive in the Pacific in the face of growing concern about West Papua among Pacific governments and people. The latest move was a flashy trade, investment and tourism Pacific Exposition (12-14 July), held at SkyCity, and attended by delegations from 19 Pacific countries and territories. The Indonesian Ambassador to New Zealand, Tantowi Yahya, said that the incorporation of cultural performances would capture the "harmony" of the South East Asian and Pacific regions.

According to Radio New Zealand International’s Mackenzie Smith, Yahya asked the
Papuan and other Eastern Indonesian officials at the expo opening to stand up, and then told the other Pacific attendees: "They 100 per cent look like you."

One can only guess at the discomfort of the officials so blatantly enlisted to endorse Indonesia’s Pacific credentials. I was outside the venue taking part in a vigil pointing out that Indonesia’s treatment of the Melanesian West Papuan people gives the lie to any claim of Pacific benevolence. News stories noted that neither the delegates from Papua nor Yahya would respond to questions about West Papua.

I describe New Zealand’s past record on West Papua as a betrayal. Back in the 1960s, our government understood well that the people were being denied their right to self-determination when Indonesia took control and cemented their rule with a fraudulent "Act of Free Choice" better known now by West Papuans as an "Act of No Choice". Regrettably, our leaders chose to prioritise the bilateral relationship with Indonesia as they have done since.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo with Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern during a 2018 bilateral meeting at Parliament in Wellington. File photo / AFPIndonesian President Joko Widodo with Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern during a 2018 bilateral meeting at Parliament in Wellington. File photo / AFP
Jacinda Ardern met Indonesian President Joko Widodo last year, undertaking to urge him to allow more open access to West Papua. However, the declassified briefing papers prepared for Ardern’s private meeting emphasise that New Zealand regards Papua as the sovereign territory of Indonesia and backs Widodo’s personal support for improved human rights and economic and social development in Papua.

West Papua has the highest rates of poverty and HIV/Aids of any part of Indonesia, while economic development is mostly about landgrabbing for mineral exploitation and palm oil plantations. West Papuans who want a new referendum on their political status are considered guilty of "separatism", and run up against police brutality for taking part in demonstrations or even prayer meetings.

Maire Leadbeater. File photo / Greg BowkerMaire Leadbeater. File photo / Greg Bowker
Now we have a chance to redeem past inaction by supporting a forum resolution that calls for action and ensures that Indonesia is held to its promise to admit a UN representative.

That is not much to ask for a people considered by many to be facing "slow genocide".

Maire Leadbeater is an organiser with West Papua Action Auckland

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Indonesian govt neglecting Papuans displaced by conflict

August 12, 2019

Indonesian govt neglecting Papuans displaced by conflict: researcher
7:46 pm on 12 August 2019

Analysis – Indonesian researcher Hipolitus Yolisandry Ringgi Wangge says central government has failed to help thousands of Papuans displaced by ongoing armed conflict.
After eight months of the armed conflict between Indonesian security forces and West Papuan pro-independence fighters in Papua’s central highlands, there’s no end in sight to the struggles of the indigenous communities displaced by the fighting.
It’s estimated that over 45-thousand people have been displaced from their homes in remote Nduga regency since a deadly attack on road construction workers by the West Papua Liberation Army sparked an escalation of the conflict last December. That massacre was followed by a large pursuit operation by Indonesian forces who have left few stones unturned to hunt down the Papuan guerilla fighters.

Fleeing from the ensuing bouts of fighting and raids, displaced villagers have sought refuge in neighbouring parts of Nduga or other regencies such as Yahukimo, Asmat, Lanny Jaya, Puncak and Jayawijaya. Away from their own land and gardens, the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are struggling to meet basic needs, and living in appalling makeshift conditions.
The poor living conditions faced by IDPs in various temporary abodes, for instance the 700 school-aged children in Wamena, should not be lost on national leaders. So far government has largely been ineffective in alleviating their plight. Neither central nor local government has found a way to end the conflict, to provide humanitarian aid to the displaced, or restore secured living conditions in Nduga.
Given the negligence of the armed conflict and those it displaces, the central government displays a form of political discriminations towards Papuans.

In denial

Political conflict between the Indonesian central government and Papuans who aspire to independence is highly sensitive.

It may account for why there has been no clarification by government on the status of the Papua conflict since the counterinsurgency operation kicked off in early December 2018.
Secondly, the state does not officially recognise the IDPs. Meanwhile, according to the aid group Solidarity Team for Nduga, at least 182 people from Nduga have died of famine and disease in displacement camps.
Indonesia’s Law No.7 of 2012 on the Management of Social Conflicts is based on horizontal conflicts, not vertical or asymmetrical ones, such as those questioning Indonesia’s sovereignty and legitimacy in a territory in Papua and West Papua Provinces.
Although the 2012 law does not cover the Papuan context with its political and armed factors in its definition of social conflict, the law still acknowledges the presence of IDPs. Hence, the government should clarify the status of the conflict and recognise the plight of the Nduga IDPs. By doing so, the government could terminate the conflict, and provide necessary supplies as well as trauma-healing services to the IDPs.
As long as the government maintains its narrow explanation of the conflict as a criminal operation to inform the Indonesian military and police pursual of pro-independence fighters, the conflict will continue. The conflict has political, economic, and cultural aspects generally overlooked by the Indonesian government and its security officers.
Initially, the central government denied the presence of IDPs since they claimed that most of the displaced Nduga people have been living with their families in Wamena. In that way, it is difficult to categorise them as IDPs.
Even the regional Cendrawasih military command stated that there is no internal displacement, but a typical migration. Such a statement by Indonesia’s military merely exacerbates poorly co-ordinated efforts by the governments to assist the displaced.
Contrary to the denial, the Wamena-based voluntary team analysis, based on verified data, argues that the IDPs from Nduga are forced to live with relatives and have built several temporary huts as a result of the absence of specific shelters in Wamena. At the same time, not all IDPs have relatives in Wamena, so they have to find other ways to survive. Furthermore, some problems have emerged since some displaced Nduga people have illegally occupied lands belong to Jayawijaya residents in Wamena.
The local government and local security authorities have no plan to relocate the IDPs in specific areas in Wamena. However, action has finally begun, if late. Shortly after the solidarity team recently released its report of IDP deaths, the central government started distributing some aid. The Ministry of Social Affairs has cited only 53 deaths of the IDPs from Nduga, which is at odds with its initial denial on the existence of IDPs.
The data presented by the ministry using the report from Nduga health agency has some fundamental weaknesses. One of them is that surveyed health treatments were concentrated in 3 instead of all 11 affected districts in Nduga. Moreover, the treatment took place only in February and March 2019, while the displacement is still happening now, August 2019.

International dimension

Indonesia’s government appears to be trying to keep the Nduga conflict on the down-low to maintain its profile as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, that premier international body that promotes peace and stability across the globe.
One of the Council’s priorities is to promote peaceful dispute resolution. However, the current armed conflict in Nduga and the deaths of IDPs are casting a growing shadow on the Indonesian government within the country and international communities.
There will be attention on the issue at this week’s Pacific Island Forum leaders summit in Tuvalu. The issue of West Papua and its problems is an agenda item to be discussed. Jakarta is expected to face strong criticism on rights issues including on the humanitarian crisis in Nduga, from Pacific governments such as Vanuatu which has the United Liberation Movement for West Papua as part of its delegation.

The Future of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)

After hundreds of displaced Ndugans in Wamena rejected the ministry’s aid, linked to the military, the Indonesian government must find a way to speed up aid and organise its distribution via other organisations, most likely the churches and voluntary groups in Wamena.
Some IDPs from Mbua District have returned to Nduga, and they have lived in unsafe conditions where the military personnel still occupy the public facilities, such as schools and health facilities. They also found that their homes and gardens were damaged or destroyed by security forces. Their struggle for somewhere safe to live continues.

If there is an encouraging sign that government might take steps to quell the conflict, it is that the Indonesian Ministry for Public Works and Housing has considered changing the Trans-Papua Road Project route to veer away from the danger zone. It’s unclear whether the plan will be implemented since the Jokowi’s administration is still grappling with the Indonesian political elites to secure their interests in the new administration.
Additionally, the military and the police are resistant to calls to withdraw their soldiers although provincial and local governments in Papua have strongly urged the national government to review the massive military deployment. This raises concern over the military’s vested interest in conducting their operation in Nduga. Indonesia’s military plays a significant engineering and security role in the project which provides a major source of income to the institution and its officers. That’s not to mention illegal distribution of arms by military officers as evidenced in the recent capture of three military officers in Sorong.
Across the board, the Jokowi administration is likely to keep repeating the mistakes of previous governments in dealing with the Papuan armed conflict and its humanitarian impacts. These impacts can be expected to rise if the central government continues to deny the status of the conflict and its victims.
*Hipolitus Yolisandry Ringgi Wangge is a researcher at the Marthinus Academy Jakarta, and conducts fieldwork in Papua.

Summary of events in West Papua (7 July 12 August 2019)

August 11, 2019

AWPA update

Summary of events in West Papua (7 July 12 August 2019)
Pacific Islands Forum
The 50th Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) is being held from August 13-16 in the Republic of Tuvalu.

Although Climate change is a priority at the forum the human rights violations in West Papua are also on the agenda. Johnny Blades reports in an interview that Forum Foreign ministers met in Suva late last month, laying out the agenda for this month’s Pacific leaders summit in Tuvalu and the ministers’ decision to set a deadline in relation to Papua reflects a shift in regional dynamics (RNZI 05 Aug 2019).

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Tuvalu prepares for Forum meeting

August 10, 2019

Tuvalu prepares for Forum meeting

00:18 am GMT+12, 09/08/2019, Tuvalu

By Nic Maclellan (Islands Business magazine) in Funafuti

A giant crane hoists the flagpoles into place outside Funafuti’s Sir Tomasi Puapua Convention Centre. Four go up, with another fourteen to go. Tuvalu is getting ready to host the 18 member states of the Pacific Islands Forum.

Around town, workers are putting the finishing touches to new accommodation, kids are shooing dogs off the airport runway, and women are preparing food, flowers and mats. A carver has almost finished the nameplates – shaped like a canoe oar – that will mark the seats for delegations from Australia, New Zealand and sixteen island countries and territories.

“I believe we’re ready”, said Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga. “It’s been a big job, but our people are ready to host the leaders of the Pacific.”

It’s a major exercise for the Polynesian nation of just 11,000 people. Accommodation is at a premium, with Forum delegations joined by representatives from 18 Forum Dialogue Partners, regional organisations, media and civil society groups. Hercules aircraft will ferry delegates from Nadi over the weekend, to support the limited number of commercial flights into the small atoll nation.

There’s a lot of international interest in the annual leaders’ meeting, at a time when regional geopolitics is becoming more heated and complex.

Australia is “stepping up” and New Zealand “resetting” its relationship with Forum island countries. India wants to be an Indo-Pacific player, while the European Union is seeking a new relationship with island countries through a “post-Cotonou” treaty. Taiwan – aligned with host nation Tuvalu – seeks support for greater UN recognition, while the People’s Republic of China comes bearing gifts (and flexing its muscles, joining Indonesia to abstain from a recent resolution at the UN General Assembly on enhancing UN cooperation with the Forum). The United States is sending a large delegation to Funafuti, pledging its commitment to the region and hoping that people have forgotten President Trump is withdrawing from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Meanwhile, island leaders have their own agenda and a number of sensitive topics to resolve.

Promoting the Blue Pacific

At the Apia leaders’ meeting in 2017, the Forum launched a “Blue Pacific” agenda, seeking to develop a regional program on development and sustainability in the ocean environment. This week’s meeting will discuss the development of a “2050 Blue Pacific Strategy”, to look forward on crucial issues around climate, ocean resources, maritime boundaries and fisheries.

Tuvalu’s nine atolls are just metres above sea level, and Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga will showcase climate change as the centrepiece of the meeting. On Monday, Tuvalu will host a Sautalaga dialogue on climate change, with experts addressing loss and damage, the 2018 IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C and the ongoing need for climate finance to address the adverse effects of climate change.

The Tuvalu government has long been promoting a Pacific Island Countries’ Climate Insurance Facility for Smaller Islands States (SIS), to develop regional insurance mechanisms and assist countries to deal with the effects of cyclones, disasters and the slow onset effects of global warming. The eight SIS leaders meet in caucus on Tuesday morning.

A high-level technical working group, including Cook Islands, Samoa, Palau, Fiji and New Zealand has also been refining a proposal for a Pacific Resilience Facility. This regional fund would allocate risk-financing to assist national governments, private sector and local communities to invest in resilience initiatives.

Climate debates

Thursday’s leaders’ retreat, to be held at the Kainaki II Falekaupule (meeting house), will be a first for both Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Fiji Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama. Both will no doubt contribute to the discussion in a lively manner!

After recent visits to Fiji, Vanuatu, and Solomon Islands, Morrison is fond of talking about Australia’s “vuvale” (family) relationship with the Pacific. However, all Forum island countries are looking to widen the security agenda to take account of the existential threat of climate change. Last year’s summit in Nauru issued the Boe Declaration, which recognised that – amongst a range of traditional security concerns – climate change was “the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific.”

The Suva-based Forum Secretariat has now developed a draft Action Plan to implement the Boe Declaration. But already, the gap between island priorities and Australia’s position on climate action is widening.

Last month’s Pacific Island Development Forum (PIDF) summit in Fiji issued the “Nadi Bay Declaration on the Climate Change Crisis in the Pacific.” As PIDF chair, Prime Minister Bainimarama will champion the declaration’s proposals for urgent action on the climate emergency, including calls for “coal producers to immediately cease any new mining of coal and develop a strategy for a decadal phase-out and closure of all existing coal production” and “to take immediate measures to relinquish the subsidies to fossil fuel production.”

These are proposals that Canberra will not accept as Forum policy, with the Morrison government currently supporting local and overseas corporations to open up new coal fields in Queensland’s Galilee Basin.

The Nadi Declaration also calls for “relevant parties to the Kyoto Protocol” (i.e. Australia and Russia) “to refrain from using ‘carryover credits’ as an abatement for the additional Paris Agreement emissions reduction targets.” Even before Prime Minister Morrison arrives in Tuvalu, this proposal has already been rejected by his government ministers.

There are divisions too on climate finance. Tuvalu is one of many Forum island countries to benefit from funding from the Green Climate Fund (GCF), a global mechanism to provide climate finance to developing countries for climate mitigation and adaptation. In Funafuti, island leaders will promote discussion about next year’s GCF replenishment round, seeking to top up the $10 billion fund with new finance from OECD nations. However, Australia and the United States have both announced that they will not contribute more funding to the GCF, despite pledges from past administrations.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres made an unprecedented visit to the Pacific last May, as part of his agenda on UN reform and climate action. At their meeting in July, Forum Foreign Ministers recommended that “leaders issue a high-level statement or declaration on climate change for the UN Secretary General’s Climate Action Summit”, to be held in New York next month. But given the gulf between Australia and Forum island countries on the need for greater action, a draft Forum declaration has already been through the wringer in several versions. Forum officials met this week in Suva to try and find compromise language to keep everyone happy, but it’s likely the problem will be handballed to the leaders.

Speaking to the plenary of the PIDF summit on 30 July, Prime Minister Bainimarama suggested there will be tough talk at the Forum: “We should not accept anything less than concrete commitments to curb greenhouse gas emissions in line with the most ambitious aspirations of the Paris Agreement. We cannot allow climate commitments to be watered down at a meeting hosted in a nation whose very existence is threatened by the rising waters lapping at its shores.”

Regional security

The legacies of nuclear testing, unexploded ordinance and marine pollution will be discussed again in Funafuti. Marshall Islands is concerned about new scientific studies showing ongoing radioactive contamination in foodstuffs in the RMI’s northern atolls, while Solomon Islands has been battling the devastation of an oil spill from a tanker accident in Rennell and Bellona. Tuvalu has declared the 50th Forum meeting as “plastics-free” to highlight the damage to the marine environment of single-use plastics.

In July, Forum Foreign Ministers proposed further action on the radioactive legacies of nuclear testing. There were also tentative moves to investigate how the 1985 Rarotonga Treaty for a South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone might be modernised.

Once again, the Morrison government is taking a different position to most of Australia’s neighbours in the Pacific and ASEAN. Unlike New Zealand and many Forum island countries, Australia has refused to sign the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). Last December, NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hosted a meeting of Pacific signatories, seeking to encourage more Forum member countries to sign and ratify the nuclear abolition initiative (The TPNW will enter into force with fifty ratifications, and is already halfway towards that number, with Samoa, Palau, Vanuatu, New Zealand and Cook Islands amongst the supporters).

In Canberra, however, members of the Coalition government are promoting a Senate inquiry into establishing a nuclear industry in Australia. Senior security analysts have called for a debate over whether Australia should acquire nuclear weapons, concerned that the United States may one day withdraw its nuclear umbrella from Asia-Pacific allies. Given Australia is a signatory to the Rarotonga Treaty, which bans the development of nuclear weapons, it seems Canberra is once again swimming against the regional tide!

At a time of growing trade and political tensions between the United States and China, Scott Morrison wants Australia to be recognised as the primary security partner for the region, and seeks further integration of the Australian and island economies. The Australian government has been promoting a new Pacific Fusion Centre and expanded support for maritime surveillance, police training and intelligence sharing, but other security and human rights concerns remain on the Forum agenda.

Bougainville is moving towards a referendum on self-determination, and the French Pacific dependency of New Caledonia is likely to hold a second referendum in 2020 (newly elected President Thierry Santa will attend his first leaders’ meeting in Funafuti, seeking closer ties with independent neighbours).

This week, however, discussion on decolonisation, sovereignty and human rights will focus on West Papua.

With members like Australia, Papua New Guinea and Fiji pressing Indonesia’s case for sovereignty over West Papua, the Forum has focussed instead on promoting dialogue between Jakarta and the United Liberation Movement of West Papua, while calling for action on ongoing human rights violations by Indonesian police and military forces. With strong lobbying from Vanuatu Foreign Minister Ralph Regenvanu, the Forum Foreign Ministers Meeting recommended to “strongly encourage” Indonesia to finalise the timing of a visit to West Papua by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

This debate on self-determination in Bougainville, Kanaky-New Caledonia and West Papua will continue beyond Funafuti, with Vanuatu scheduled to host the 2020 Forum on the 40th anniversary of its independence from Britain and France. Fiji has also put in a bid to host the 2021 summit, and so, after this week’s summit in Funafuti, regional debate on global warming will keep getting hotter.


PWI plan to invite foreign journalists to Papua may be ‘politicized’

August 9, 2019

PWI plan to invite foreign journalists to Papua may be ‘politicized’

Ivany Atina Arbi The Jakarta Post

Jakarta / Fri, August 9, 2019 / 01:59 pm

In a bid to give foreign media access to reporting about Papua, the Indonesian Journalists Association (PWI) has planned to bring several foreign journalists to the province, which has been marred by violence for years.

With a full support of the government, the PWI is to show the foreign journalists that “nothing wrong is happening in Papua”.

The plan, however, was criticized by human rights and media activists at home. They argued that the move might have been politicized, with the government using the PWI to strengthen its political agenda of expanding diplomatic relations with several Pacific countries.

PWI chairman Atal Sembiring Depari previously said his organization was mulling over a plan to invite “Asia-Pacific journalists” to Papua during the celebration of National Press Day on Feb. 9, 2020 in the province’s capital, Jayapura.

“We can use this opportunity to prove to the world that everything is alright in Papua,” Atal said after a meeting with Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Minister Wiranto on Aug.5.

He added “outsiders” often accused the government of treating the country’s easternmost province poorly by committing various human rights violations and injustices.

“That’s not factual,” he said.

Rights group Amnesty International Indonesia, however, begged to differ by revealing that human rights violations did happen in Papua, many of which allegedly involved security forces, as summarized in its 2018 report entitled “Don’t bother, just let him die: Killing with impunity in Papua”.

At least 95 people were unlawfully killed in Papua from January 2010 to February 2018, with police officers and soldiers being the perpetrators, the report said. Among the casualties were people who staged peaceful rallies. Dozens of them had also died from the unlawful use of force in cases related to pro-independence issues.

“The government must undertake serious efforts to address human rights violations in Papua. Therefore, the journalists will portray its positive attitudes and report them to the world,” Amnesty International Indonesia spokesperson Haeril Halim said, adding that both local and foreign journalists faced various issues — from security to access — while covering news in Papua.

He revealed that several local journalists of Papuan ethnicity had even received discriminatory and repressive treatment from security officers while on the job.

“I don’t know whether the PWI’s intention is to fight for press freedom in Papua or to further push Indonesian diplomacy in the Pacific region. I think it should prioritize [the former] to create full and unlimited access for both local and foreign journalists in Papua,” Haeril said.

The Foreign Ministry announced previously that Indonesia was moving to strengthen its regional ties with Pacific countries by establishing diplomatic relations with Niue and Cook Islands while pursuing trade deals with Fiji and Papua New Guinea.

The chairwoman of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) in the Asia-Pacific, Jane Worthington, supported the PWI’s initiative to bring in foreign journalists to Papua as an attempt to dismiss various accusation against the government, yet she did not think it could altogether solve coverage problems that journalists had there.

Worthington, who had visited Papua some years ago, said there were several issues she faced when in Papua, including about safety, access and surveillance.

“We had problems with being monitored, being followed and also there was some control of what I can cover,” she said.

Worthington revealed that the process to gain permits for news coverage in Papua was “very long and drawn-out”. Some journalists consequently made the decision to go in using tourist visas because of the “onerous procedure”.

“That space needs to be opened up. We need to advocate more about opening up [Papua] for journalists, not only Indonesian journalists going in but also international media,” she added.

The chairman of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) in Papua, Lucky Ireeuw, said separately that the plan to facilitate the Asia-Pacific journalists to cover Papua was likely being “politicized by the government”.

“It’s the duty of journalists to make a report based on the real facts they find in the field, including in Papua. They do not need to be asked, or mobilized by the security ministry,” Lucky said, adding that the AJI had long fought for press freedom in Papua both for local and foreign journalists.

“We want free access to all areas in Papua, without being monitored and limited like our previous experiences. We want Papua to be reported objectively and based on its real condition.”

Indonesia’s military tightens its anti-terror grip

August 8, 2019

Indonesia’s military tightens its anti-terror grip

New American-style Special Operations Command will give the armed forces new terror-fighting powers some see as a retrograde step for democracy


Under consideration for over four years, the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) is finally moving ahead with the formation of an American-style Special Operations Command (KOPASSUS) tasked with mounting operations against terrorist networks at home and abroad.

Mandated under the revised 2018 Anti-Terrorism Law, the move has predictably alarmed civil society activists, who see any perceived military encroachment into the arena of internal security as a retrograde step for the country’s still nascent democracy.

The police Detachment 88 counterterrorist unit has so far done a capable job in capturing and decapitating more than 1,600 Islamic militants since it was formed in the wake of the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings, which claimed 202 lives, most of them foreign tourists.

Handing the military a new role in fighting terrorism, while long in the making, comes amid rising threats from Islamic State and other regional terror outfits in the world’s largest Muslim nation.

Reforms introduced at the birth of the nation’s democratic era in 1999 separated the police from the military chain of command and left the 400,000-strong civilian force in sole charge of internal security, though with the army’s pervasive territorial structure still intact.

The new 500-strong command brings together company-sized elements of the elite Army special forces (KOPASSUS) Detachment 81, the Air Force special forces (KORPASKHAS) Detachment Bravo 90, along with a unit of Navy SEAL and Marine Corps reconnaissance operators, known as DEPJAKA.

Although the newly revised anti-terrorism law lays out an expanded role for the military, Widodo still must issue a regulation defining what it will do and how it will complement the work of Detachment 88 and the National Counter-Terrorism Agency (BNPT).

Retired police general Benny Mamoto, who played a leading role in identifying and tracking down members of the Jemaah Islamiyah terror network, told the Jakarta Post that deploying a joint special task force is necessary to combat non-traditional threats to national security.

Now head of the University of Indonesia’s Center for Police Science and Terrorism Studies, Mamoto says it is important, however, for the government to devise a comprehensive standard operating procedure for the military and the police in tackling an issue that goes back to the church bombings of Christmas 2000.

Tjajanto says as much as 80% of the new command’s operations will focus on surveillance as part of its deterrence function, but when called upon it will also be tasked to perform special operations across Indonesia and abroad, all under direct presidential authority.

As in many other countries, it has always been widely accepted that KOPASSUS and other specialized military units will take over from Detachment 88 if Indonesia is faced with a hijack or siege situation that is beyond the capability of the police.

The only time Indonesian troops have conducted an anti-terrorist operation abroad was in 1980 when a KOPASSUS strike team flew to Bangkok to free hostages aboard a Garuda jetliner which had been hijacked by Islamist militants on an internal flight.

Three of the five terrorists were killed in the initial pre-dawn takedown, but what has always concerned human rights activists was the fact that the two survivors subsequently died under unexplained circumstances on the flight home to Jakarta.

So-called Operation Woyla hasn’t been the military’s only overseas mission, however. In May 2011, a combined Indonesian task force launched a long-range operation to free 20 sailors aboard an Indonesian bulk carrier hijacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia.

Although a US$3 million ransom was paid in the final hours before the troops went into action, something commanders were very unhappy about, seaborne special forces operators killed four pirates attempting to seize back the ship after the original group of hijackers had left with the cash.

The only time troops have been deployed in an anti-terrorist role at home has been against the East Indonesia Mujahadin (MIT), a small Islamic State-affiliated militant group which was effectively crushed in 2016 after holding out for years in the jungles of Central Sulawesi.

The new KOPASSUS will be led by Major-General Rochadi Diperjaya, a 1986 classmate of TNI commander Air Chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto, who appointed him to his previous job as director for internal affairs at the Armed Forces Intelligence Agency (BAIS).

A career KOPASSUS officer, Rochadi joined Detachment 81 in 1989 when the battalion-sized counterterrorism unit was commanded by Luhut Panjaitan, now the maritime coordinating minister and reputedly President Widodo’s closest political adviser.

Rochadi has not been a high flier, but Tjahjanto clearly needed loyalists in BAIS after a purge of key officers close to previous TNI chief Gen Gatot Nurmantyo, who was removed three months ahead of retirement in late 2017 for publicly airing his political ambitions.

The KOPASSUS concept appears to be similar to that of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), the elite component of America’s Special Operations Command (SOCOM), which the US formed in the wake of the ill-fated 1980 attempt to rescue hostages at the US Embassy in Iran.

Although SOCOM has the special operations units of all four services under its umbrella, JSOC is in direct charge of so-called Tier One units, including the army’s Delta Force and Task Force Orange, SEAL Team 6, the 75th Ranger reconnaissance company and parts of the Special Operations Air Regiment.

Military analysts point out that SOCOM was created to overcome inter-service rivalries that led to the botched Operation Eagle Claw debacle in the Iranian desert. The Indonesian military, they point out, has the same acute problems which could ultimately doom the new command.

As a newly minted major-general, Rochadi will not have any authority over KOPASSUS and its air force equivalent, both of which are headed by two-star officers who are nominally senior in rank and may be unwilling to assign their best men to the new unified command.

The air force is also regarded as the junior service and anything put in place now could well be undone when Hadi, 55, is replaced next year – or perhaps even earlier­ by what is widely expected to be Army chief General Andika Perkasa, 54, the son-in-law of former intelligence guru A M Hendropriyono.

Analysts recall that following the 2008 Mumbai incident, in which Pakistan-based Islamic militants killed at least 165 people in 12 coordinated attacks across the coastal city, security chiefs staged a series of exercises to test Indonesia’s preparedness for a similar event.

But that’s about as far as it went. Certainly, the police and the military never came up with the sort of action plan that would enable them to operate together in a crisis situation where they would have to deal with multiple threats in a capital also open to the sea.

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Refugees, Papua: Women at risk of giving birth to children in the middle of a weapons conflict

August 7, 2019

Refugees, Papua: Women at risk of giving birth to children in the middle of a weapons conflict

Ayomi Amindoni BBC Indonesia 05 Agustus 2019

The women in Nduga and their children were forced to survive in the wilderness in the central mountains of Papua, to avoid armed conflict between the TNI / Polri and the Papuan pro-independence armed groups that lasted for the past eight months. Some of them were even forced to give birth in the forest.


The baby boy is crying in his mother’s lap. His breathing was heavy, while his body was feverish without being covered by a cloth.

The mother, Jubiana Kogeya, looked confused. Several times she tried to calm her child by breastfeeding her, but not a speck of breast milk came out. By the mother, the baby was named a refugee.

"Because giving birth in the forest, in refugee, so I give the name of Refugees," Jubiana answered when asked why the fourth child was named Refugees.

Refugees were born about four months ago, when his mother was on the run from her home in Mugi district, to avoid armed contact between the TNI / Polri and Papuan pro-independence armed groups.

Initially, Jubiana, who was pregnant at the time, was reluctant to evacuate. Meanwhile, her husband and three other children were already preparing to evacuate at that time.

"At the time of the attack and arson in the Yigi and Yal districts, I still survived. As soon as it happened in Mugi, it just started moving out of the house," Jubiana told BBC News Indonesia, Friday (02/08).

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"I saw my husband holding children in his hands, eventually I was forced to flee. I heard that in Mugi there were soldiers, shootings, arson, finally out of the house, into the forest," he said.

For days, Jubiana and her three young children had to face the cold mountain weather and eat a kind of nail plants that grow in the forest for daily intake.

Until finally around April, she was forced to give birth in the forest.

"I am alone, nobody accompanies, [I gave birth] under a tree." said Jubiana, trying to calm the refugees who kept crying.

"This child has a transverse position [in the stomach], the process is almost a life bet. I think the child has died, because when I want to give birth I press, I set myself, he crosses, so I set. I think this child has died," he said.

Since being born last April, Refugees have never worn clothes. When the cold weather hit, Jubiana could only hug her child tightly and covered her with woven pandanus leaves.

"Make a mat using pandan leaves, then give him a base, then hug him," explained Jubiana.

Jubiana is one of thousands of Nduga residents who are now forced to evacuate from the raging conflict in Nduga.

Another refugee, Katarina Kogeya and her eight children, were forced to stay in the forest for some time to avoid clashes in the village in Yal district.

"No time to bring anything. Just bring the children in the hands to the forest we made tents in the forest from leaves. These children cried for food because there was no more food.”

"Finally, we have to move again from that place to a place far into the forest which is even more jungle."

Since last June, the two of them have been displaced in the Ilekma district in Wamena, Jawawijaya district to avoid conflicts that have raged in Nduga since eight months ago. Many of them, until now still survive in the forest.

The human rights activist who accompanied the refugees, Theo Hesegem, said these refugees became ‘victims on their own land’.

"They say we are afraid of both because these two hold weapons so if these two hold weapons and there is a standard of contact between the TNI and OPM, the community could become victims in the middle," said Theo.

The escalation of armed clashes between the military and Papuan pro-independence armed groups occurred after the shooting incident of dozens of Trans Papua road construction workers last December.

Over the past eight months, a wave of refugees has spread to several areas around Nduga, even some of them were reported dead.

However, by a spokesman for the West Papua National Liberation Army, the Free Papua Movement (TPNB-OPM) Sebby Sambom, the large number of refugees and casualties is a ‘risk of war’.

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"That is the risk of war. It was not the TPN who was expelled but the Indonesians who entered, so they were afraid of Indonesia. Therefore the responsibility of the Indonesian government, not the TPN. The TPN always lived with the community, in the villages, never threatened the community, never threatened the community "They displaced people. They were displaced because of the presence of large numbers of TNI / Polri and burning houses, livestock killed, butchered," he said.

However, this claim was disputed by the Head of Information of the Cenderawasih Military Command Lt. Col. Cpl Eko Daryanto, who said the joint TNI / Polri operation in Nduga was in addition to securing the Trans Papua project that crossed the Nduga Regency, as well as the pursuit to find the perpetrators of the attack last December.

Difficulties faced, because many of these Papuan pro-group groups mingle with residents.

"When they carry out attacks, they always mingle with the community. Naturally, if people become victims, they evacuate," Eko explained.

However, he stressed, not all Nduga residents were refugees. Eko claimed there were Nduga residents who "felt safe with the arrival of our troops."

"But on the one hand they feel frightened because OPM is mingling, there is also a side of intimidation. We have difficulty differentiating OPM when they are not armed," said Eko.

Theo Hesegem explained that some refugees experienced many rejections, while living in refugee camps.

He gave an example, children who sought refuge in Walesi were told to pay by people who owned land when caught catching fish. Another refugee, while searching for firewood, was reprimanded by local residents.

"This shows that they are not safe, there [military] operations then here they live, but not safe."

Not to mention, many refugees are traumatized by the military presence. That is why, some of them refused the assistance provided by the Indonesian government, because it was considered that the distribution of aid involved the military.

This, according to Theo, could not be separated from the trauma of refugees over the existence of the military who pursued the armed group led by Egianus Kogoya.

In addition, their customary belief is that they cannot receive help from ‘the enemy’.

"The culture of people here, if we fight with the enemy, we cannot take it, traditionally it is difficult. Later they will get sick and die all."

However, military involvement in the distribution of aid was denied by the Commander of Kodim 1702 / Jayawijaya Lieutenant Colonel Inf Chandra Dianto.

He said that the military deployment in Nduga was to secure the construction of the Trans Papua road project from interference from armed groups.

"Of course, escalation or gunfire is one of the tasks in order to secure workers."

"The shootout occurred because of the emergence of disturbances. So as to reduce aid, inevitably the task of the TNI is to secure, so that contact fires cannot be avoided," Chandra said.

The conflict in Nduga, according to Papuan human rights figure who is also a Catholic priest, Father John Djonga, is inseparable from past trauma that occurred since the 1960s, when a group of people wanted Papuan independence from the Republic of Indonesia.

Since then, Nduga residents have lived under the experience of military violence, until now.

"Therefore, in my opinion, it is no longer the time for the Indonesian government to feel they are the most righteous, the OPM also feel they are the most right, because they are fighting for an independent Papua. But how independent is Papua with this much death?"

"I think as a church person how these two sides must negotiate so there are no more victims," Father John stressed.

Judging from the past history of the Nduga people and the conflicts that occurred in the region which became the division of Jayawijaya Regency, he considered the government and military leaders did not understand the Nduga problem.

"They are living under experiences of military violence, military operations, until now.”


"Because that’s actually how the Nduga people can live safely. Safe life according to them cannot be safe with the military, it cannot and until now there is still a warfare."

The Ministry of Social Affairs noted that there were at least 2,000 refugees scattered at several points in Wamena, Lanijaya and Asmat. Among these refugees, 53 people were reported dead. This figure is far below the data compiled by the Solidarity Team for Nduga, which recorded at least 5,000 Nduga residents were now displaced and 139 of them died.

Data from volunteers said that refugees in Wamena were scattered around 40 points. Most of them live in family homes.

Due to the large number of refugees arriving, one house or honai can contain between 30-50 people.

Visual production by Oki Budhi.

This article is part of BBC News Indonesia’s special coverage of Nduga refugees and the conflict in Papua.