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Extractive companies in West Papua

May 12, 2017

Sacrifice Zone: BP, Freeport and the West Papuan independence struggle

The ties that bind transnational mining companies to the Indonesian occupation.

‘The forests are gone, the river dry, and all things taken away.’ – Dora Baluban, GKI Church of Tanah Papua.

A promotional video on BP’s website portrays beaming, empowered West Papuan workers, proud to operate the company’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) site in Tangguh, West Papua. This little-known project, a massive fossil-fuel extraction site that pumps out 7.6 million metric tonnes of LNG per year, has, the company claims, ‘helped to make a difference to local healthcare, employment and literacy levels’.

Nestled quietly in Indonesian-occupied West Papua, this project has been held up by BP as a shining example of extraction-led development since the site came online in 2009. But as the oil giant prepares to increase production at Tangguh by 50 per cent, does the rhetoric match the facts? And given the sordid history of resource extraction in West Papua, what role will the project play in the bitter struggle for Papua’s freedom from Indonesia?

Glimpses of a darker reality

Atlantic Richfield Co. began exploring the Tangguh site in 1996. In 2001, indigenous Papuans in the local village of Weriagar told a visitor that the grass on the banks had turned yellow and then infant mortality had risen, with many more babies dying. This allegation, like so many others in West Papua, has never been independently investigated. In 1999, the exploration site transferred to BP, and the incident seems to have been forgotten by the company.

Such hidden tales have trickled through Papua’s reinforced borders ever since. In 2008, The Guardian reported the words of Papuan leaders, who claimed that ‘our worst predictions and fears [about BP] have come true’, with forced relocation, an influx of Indonesian migrants, destruction of traditional fishing grounds and loss of local control. Professor Agus Sumule of the University of Papua explains that decisions over resource extraction ‘are now being controlled 100 per cent by Jakarta … in 20-30 years, everything will disappear. So what will local people obtain from this? Nothing. Except perhaps some toxic waste’.

Yet the narrative remains dominated by BP. Few studies reference Papuans directly impacted by Tangguh, and most NGOs that provided a critical perspective have lost interest or closed down.

Seeking to avoid the PR-disaster that struck it in Colombia in the 1990s, BP set up the Tangguh Independent Advisory Panel (TIAP) to monitor its operations in West Papua. TIAP, however, ‘carries the word “independent” in name, but not in practice’, according to Andrew Hickman of Down to Earth, one of the few NGOs to have attempted long-term monitoring of the site. The panel, he explains, ‘has bought into the idea of Tangguh as a “first class model for development”’, largely swallowing BP’s framing of the issues. There is an urgent need for more independent scrutiny.

Echoes of Grasberg

Casting a proverbial shadow over BP’s enterprise is the giant Grasberg mine in West Papua, owned by US company Freeport and British-Australian corporation Rio Tinto. The mine has faced years of attacks from armed insurgents, huge strikes, and calls for its closure. Freeport has funnelled millions of dollars to the Indonesian security services, and the area around the mine has been the site of regular shootings, often carried out by the Indonesian army as a justification for its lucrative security contracts.

Grasberg not only contains the world’s largest deposits of gold – and third-largest of copper – but is one of the planet’s pre-eminent producers of industrial waste, with over 200,000 tons of tailings dumped in the local river system daily. So vast is the waste that a 50-kilometre levee has been constructed by the company to protect the nearby town of Timika from immersion. A study published by Nature in 2016 concluded that, as a result of the mine, ‘Indigenous Papuans have lost their forest, sago, and, in many ways, the [local] river system, itself’. Nabil Ahmed, one of the report’s authors, has argued that the actions of the company – in tandem with the Indonesian state – constitute ‘ecocide’.

Spanish, Swedish and Norwegian oil and gas companies also operate in West Papua. Deforestation driven by palm-oil plantations is causing indigenous land dispossession and contributing to climate change. West Papua contains one of the world’s largest tropical rainforests – covering around 30 million hectares – but this huge area of biodiversity is under threat. A 2015 report describes how Bintuni Bay, home of BP’s LNG fields and ‘once a remote area covered with rainforest and mangrove forest, is in the process of being converted into an industrial landscape’.

West Papua has become what Naomi Klein calls a ‘sacrifice zone’: ‘a subset of humanity categorized as less than fully human, their poisoning in the name of progress somehow acceptable’.

The glue of the Indonesian archipelago

These projects further bind the Indonesian state to its occupation of West Papua. Freeport is the single largest tax payer to the Indonesian government, and 75 per cent of the gas extracted by BP’s new infrastructure expansion at Tangguh will go to Indonesia’s state electricity company.

The central elite has long relied on this ‘plundering of the regions’, as Indonesia-specialist Professor Damien Kingsbury puts it, in order to maintain political stability in the densely-populated Java. The result: one of the most resource-rich regions of Indonesia – West Papua – has the highest rates of infant mortality, illiteracy and HIV in the country.

The Indonesian military (TNI) and police lubricate the flow of revenue from West Papua. When 8,000 Grasberg workers went on strike in 2011, an extra 114 armed police officers were brought in, and four demonstrators were shot dead. The Indonesian army requires the rents it extorts from corporations to maintain itself. In the early 2000s the TNI secured only 25 to 30 per cent of its budget from the central government, and often still makes revenue through autonomous business activities and security agreements with foreign corporations such as Freeport.

This flow of wealth from West Papua to Indonesia is a key factor in the government’s resistance to calls for West Papuan independence. As Professor Kingsbury argues, the flows of capital and resources from periphery to centre are ‘the glue that holds the [Indonesian] state together’. Indonesia clung on to Timor-Leste ferociously from 1975-1999, eliminating up to half the population in the process – and the small island nation possessed a fraction of the natural resources of West Papua.

Western entanglements

When Indonesia orchestrated a rigged referendum in West Papua in 1969 to legitimate its rule, Britain lent Indonesia military and diplomatic support, and did nothing to halt the brutal annexation unfolding before it. According to British diplomats at the time, ‘no Western government would wish to see the [Suharto] government in jeopardy’. Crucially for the UK, the blood-drenched Suharto regime had eliminated the Indonesian communist party and signed a sweeping foreign-investment law, opening Indonesia up for British and US corporations to gorge upon. ‘The freedom of a mere 800,000 people’, as a British embassy secretary put it in 1968, was ‘scarcely the point’.

This unofficial pact – open foreign-investment laws in exchange for uncritical support over West Papua – has remained in place ever since. Britain funds and trains Detachment 88 – the elite ‘counter-terrorism’ unit of the Indonesian police – at the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation, alongside Australian, Canadian, US and Dutch police. The unit, deployed as a counter-insurgency force in West Papua, has a human rights record described as ‘appalling’ by Human Rights Watch. As BP’s Tangguh operation expands, the British state’s interest in maintaining Indonesia’s occupation grows with it.

The US has a longstanding strategic alliance with Jakarta that has only increased with Trump’s electoral triumph. A top presidential advisor, Carl Icahn, is the single largest shareholder in Freeport. Shortly after his inauguration, Trump’s company announced the commencement of two huge resort projects in Indonesia. The melding of long-standing US strategic interests with Trump’s private economic ventures dampens hope, in the short term, of a shift in US policy on the Indonesian occupation.

The unsolved dilemmas of decolonization

Papuans have long deployed disruptive civil disobedience to resist resource extraction. Riots against Freeport’s operation, for example, shut down the mine in 1996. Local women dug up root vegetables and built fires on the mine’s airport runways to disrupt operations. In 2008, after Papuan landowners and environmentalists organized against a proposed nickel mine on Gag Island, the lead corporation, BHP Billiton, pulled out. Pemalangan actions – blockades – have been documented at 14 of West Papua’s 28 palm-oil plantations, and have successfully prevented the commencement of others.

Coordinating with the recently-formed United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), the movement’s growing strength means the time is now ripe for a wave of global solidarity. What is needed, according to Papua-specialist Jason MacLeod, ‘are systematic campaigns that target and alter the ways … Indonesia’s Western and regional allies directly and indirectly support violence and exploitation in West Papua’. By connecting the dots between fossil-fuel extraction, transnational corporations, climate change, indigenous land dispossession, and Western government support for Indonesia, the global environmental and anti-racist movements can replicate the important role that international networks played in Timor-Leste’s successful independence struggle.

Much of Papua’s forests and culture remains intact, and can be defended by a determined movement; a 2014 study in Nature Climate Change, for example, records how, ‘Papua is at a more nascent stage of forest exploitation’ than other parts of Indonesia. Working to reassert Papuans’ rights to their land against corporate and Indonesian land-grabbing will, at the same time, help tackle climate change by reducing deforestation. As Octo Mote, Secretary General of the ULMWP, told us: ‘protecting Indigenous rights is important for saving the world’.

If and when their country achieves independence, West Papuan leaders will face another challenge: can they avoid exchanging Indonesian rule for the self-administered rule of transnational corporations? As Professor Hilary Bambrick of Western Sydney University puts it, Pacific countries’ economic dependence on resource extraction ‘simply reflects a continuation of a long history of colonialism and resource exploitation in the region’. The threat posed to low-lying Pacific islands by climate change introduces a whole new factor. BP is sitting on 14.4 trillion cubic feet of gas at Tangguh –25 fossil fuel that the Pacific cannot afford to dig up.

West Papuans are seeking solidarity from those in the West who recognize that their privilege and wealth rest on the suffering of millions. When emerging from colonial occupation, the revolutionary Afro-Caribbean political philosopher Frantz Fanon advised: ‘Let us decide not to imitate Europe; let us combine our muscles and our brains in a new direction’. However, he also wrote that the liberation of humanity ‘will be carried out with the indispensable help of the European peoples’, if only they would ‘wake up and shake themselves, use their brains, and stop playing the stupid game of Sleeping Beauty’.

If you want to support human rights defenders on the ground especially in West Papua, who are working for the release of political prisoners, the repeal of repressive laws, accountability for past abuses, and the protection of indigenous lands, resources and livelihoods you can get in touch via info or see their website.

If you want to support the London Mining Network’s work to expose the role of mining companies listed on the London Stock Exchange, London based funders and the British Government in the promotion of unacceptable mining projects in West Papua or elsewhere, you can get in touch via contact or see their website.

Churches fight Indonesian abuses

May 10, 2017

Islands Business Magazine April 2017

IMG_3573.JPG Churches fight Indonesian abuses
Islands Business Magazine April 2017

Papuan rights highlighted in UN review of Indonesia

May 8, 2017
1) Papuan rights highlighted in UN review of Indonesia
3:53 pm today

Several countries have highlighted concern about treatment of West Papuans, in a human rights review of Indonesia at the UN in Geneva.

New Zealand, Australia, Austria, Germany and Mexico were among the countries raising concern about human rights in Papua during the 27th session of the UN Universal Period Review.

Indonesia’s permanent representative in Geneva, Hasan Kleib (middle) responds to recommendations on human rights in the UN Universal Period Review, 2017. Photo:
The Austrian delegation voiced concern about a "lack of accountability for human rights violations committed by security forces in Papua".

New Zealand recommended that Indonesia "ensure human rights obligations in Papua are upheld, respected and promoted, including freedom of assembly, freedom of the press and the rights of women and minorities."

Australia recommended that Indonesia should "finalise the investigation of all human rights cases in Papua".

Mexico’s representative urged Indonesia to "extend an invitation to the special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples to visit Indonesia, including Papua."

While Indonesia was praised for the improvements it has made on human rights in general, the delegations of several countries raised their concerns and recommended that Indonesia should do more.

Indonesia’s permanent representative in Geneva, Hasan Kleib said his country was open to input on addressing its human rights challenges and willing to listen to "constructive observation".

"We consider this constructive reminders, comments and even criticism as a platform to scrutinise things that we as a state may have probably missed," he said.

"In this regard Indonesia has solid commitment and political will to make changes for the better."

Indonesia accepted 150 of the 225 overall recommendations it received in its review.

Hasan Kleib said the remainder would be further examined due to four reasons:

"One, further consultation with broader and relevant national stakeholders is needed. Second, an accurate formulation of the recommendations which make them difficult to be translated into policies. Third, it’s still out of national policies," he explained.

"And fourth, lack of understanding of the context of the factual situations on the ground. Indonesia has tried to consult with the countries concerned. But apparently, further elaboration is needed."

The country is expected to state its position on the pending recommendations by September, during the 36th session of the Human Rights Council.

Subject: MEDIA RELEASE: West Papua raised at the ACP

May 5, 2017

For Immediate Release:

The issue of human rights violations and self-determination in West Papua rose to its highest international level in nearly fifty years, as a coalition of Pacific Island nations raised the case of the Indonesian-ruled territory at the 79-member Africa, Caribbean, Pacific Group of States and asked the assembled governments to join their advocacy.

3 May 2017

Brussels, Belgium – The Pacific Island nations of Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Nauru, Palau and the Marshall Islands delivered a hard-hitting joint statement today condemning Indonesia’s human rights violations, including crimes against humanity, at the Council of Ministers of the 79-member Africa Caribbean Pacific Group of States (ACP) and called for an eventual resolution that includes support of the right of West Papuan political self-determination.

The statement, made by Johnny Koanapo, a high-ranking member of the Republic of Vanuatu parliament and Parliamentary Secretary for the Office of the Prime Minister, transfixed the packed council room as he graphically described Indonesia’s violations and West Papuans’ “slow-motion genocide.”

West Papua, the western half of New Guinea, the world’s second largest island, has been under Indonesian rule since the 1960s.

Koanapo said that the seven Pacific nations were “very concerned [that] the international community had neglected the voices of the Papuan people over the last 50 years.”

The ACP, he stated, was the right place to seek further support for the plight of West Papua because African and Caribbean countries are “the oldest defenders of West Papua’s right to self-determination” and consistently tried to defend the Melanesian West Papuans as they “were passed from one colonizer to another” more than a half century ago. The ACP, which was founded in 1975, is comprised of almost all former colonies itself.
As some among the hundreds of country delegates and staff nodded in strong agreement, Koanapo called Indonesian governance and massive state-backed settlement an “Apartheid-like colonial rule” that was “slowly but surely” going to wipe out the West Papuans as a people “while… the world stood by.”
Estimates of indigenous West Papuans killed during Indonesia’s rule range from 10 and 25 percent of the population, he said, several hundred thousand people. He added that Indonesia’s own National Commission on Human Rights has described its country’s actions as crimes against humanity.

Koanapo contended that according to numerous reports “those deaths and all the associated acts – the violent arrests of non-violent protestors, the beatings, the torture, rape, disappearances, extra-judicial executions, intimidation of the local Papuan media, the barring of foreign media from the territory – have continued through the 20 years of [Indonesian] democracy.” However, Koanapo added: “this forgotten race [is] still fighting.”
Under a policy of state-supported population movement, more than two million Indonesians have also settled in the territory. They now outnumber the indigenous Papuans and dominate the economy and almost every arena of life in the cities, towns, coastal areas and growing zones of mining, logging, gas and oil production and plantation agriculture.

After the meeting, Koanapo stated that the day’s discussion “now sets up the great likelihood of a resolution on the full range of West Papua issues at the next ACP ministerial council meeting”, which is scheduled for this coming November. A number of ministers and ambassadors later approached Koanapo to thank him for his “extraordinarily powerful” speech.
During the past several years, the coalition of Pacific Island nations, echoing the West Papuans, has argued in regional and international venues that Indonesian violations will not be ended by focusing just on human rights. There needs to be a proper act of self-determination or the conflict, which damages Indonesia, as well as West Papua, will continue indefinitely. The ACP appears to be coming to the same conclusion.

This is the fourth round of ACP discussions and sharing of information on West Papua. ACP meetings at the subcommittee and ambassadorial level during the past two months have elicited almost universal affirmations of strong support for West Papuan self-determination among delegates from Africa and the Caribbean.

At today’s Council of Ministers, the Papua New Guinea ambassador Joshua Kalinoe, whose country shares a 760km-long border with its powerful Indonesian neighbour, was the only delegate to speak against ACP moving forward on such a resolution in the months ahead. The PNG ambassador conceded that “no one is denying that the human rights violations are going on.” He suggested that a fact-finding mission to West Papua might be necessary for the ACP to get a clearer picture of the situation.

Ambassador Alfredo Lopez Cabral from Guinea-Bissau spoke directly after the PNG ambassador, comparing the plight of West Papua to East Timor, which Indonesia violently invaded and occupied for 24 years. More than one quarter of East Timor’s population reportedly died as a direct result of Indonesian rule. Guinea-Bissau and other former Portuguese African colonies were leaders in the long campaign on behalf of East Timor, which had earlier been a colony of Portugal, and is now the independent country of Timor Leste. Ambassador Cabral said that there was “no reason why the ACP shouldn’t take up the issue and help” West Papua gain a similar referendum on independence to what East Timor finally received after the fall of Indonesia’s Suharto dictatorship in 1998 and mounting international pressure.

West Papua, a former Dutch colony, has been an official part of Indonesia since 1969, when Indonesia undermined the referendum among hundreds of thousands eligible West Papuans that was stipulated in the 1962 bilateral treaty transferring the territory to provisional Indonesian administration.

West Papuans have long argued that they are geographically, racially and culturally part of the Melanesian Pacific, not Asian Indoneisa. During the 1940s and 1950s, even leaders of the Indonesian independence movement, such as Mohammed Hatta, his country’s first vice-president, stated that Papua had not been part of the Indonesian struggle and needed to become a separate nation. At the time, observers expected West Papua to become the first independent Pacific Island nation.

Labor rumbles, quiet talks underlie Freeport standoff

May 3, 2017

Indonesia-Labor-Mining-Protest-May-1-2017.jpg Labor rumbles, quiet talks underlie Freeport standoff
Indonesia and the US miner have made progress in behind-the-scenes negotiations to end an impasse over the future of the world’s most profitable mine

Labor rumbles, quiet talks underlie Freeport standoff

Indonesia and the US miner have made progress in behind-the-scenes negotiations to end an impasse over the future of the world’s most profitable mine

After painting themselves into a corner, the Indonesian government and American mining giant Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold are finally taking tentative steps in quiet negotiations to end the impasse over the future of the world’s most profitable mine.

The emphasis is on quiet. If the government is serious about securing a long-term, win-win solution — and Freeport seems convinced it is — the talks must stay out of the public arena, where economic nationalists dominate the agenda.

Hence Freeport chief executive Richard Adkerson’s recent quiet dinner with Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati in Washington and now his under-the-radar visit to Jakarta with chief financial officer Kathleen Quirk, who is involved for the first time.

Apart from the immediate objective of negotiating a so-called “financial stabilization agreement” that will keep the provisions of Freeport’s current contract intact until its expiry in 2021, they now also face the prospect of labor unrest.

Employees are threatening to strike unless Freeport reinstates the 10% of its work force that was laid off when a 12-week government ban on concentrate exports forced the company to cut production by more than 60%.

Adkerson and Quirk were meeting this week with Mines and Energy Minister Ignasius Jonan and a multi-ministerial working group. The group was originally formed to tackle the international arbitration case Freeport has threatened to bring against the government for breach of contract.

Now it is focused instead on the company’s request for a 20-year contract extension beyond 2021. Because it includes taxes and divestment, the stabilization agreement would be a critical component of any longer-term settlement.

“The challenge is to find an agreement that is acceptable to the minister and the president and is acceptable to us,” Adkerson told analysts last month. His reference to the president is a solid pointer to where the ultimate decision lies.

Public opinion, fed by what Australian resources analyst Eve Warburton describes as “popular mobilization and electoral politics,” feels it is high time for Indonesians to own and run their extractive sector.

While that may apply to the simple excavation of surface coal seams and the exploitation of maturing oil and gas fields, it becomes a lot more difficult and expensive when it comes to sophisticated underground mining and deep-water drilling in remote areas of the archipelago.

When the commodity boom ended in 2012, resource nationalism did not fade in Indonesia as it usually has during previous down cycles. Indeed, it even accelerated with new President Joko Widodo building on nationalistic policies introduced by his predecessor Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

That has left the Freeport contract negotiations in politicized limbo. While the firm has agreed to build a second US$2.7 billion smelter, demands for a 51% divestment and the replacement of the firm’s contract with a special mining license remain the main sticking points.

“It is important for the government to come out with one voice,” says one source familiar with the discussions. “There is now more clarity. They are now distinguishing between the short and long-term issues.”

If they fail to reach an agreement by mid-October, when a temporary six-month export permit expires, Freeport says it will be forced to suspend the conversion of the Grasberg mine from an open pit to an underground operation.

The company has already cut expenditure on the expansion from US$120 million to US$40 million a month. But shutting down the tunneling work would further delay the six-year period it will already take to ramp up production to near current levels.

More immediately, it will mean laying off 5,000 workers engaged in the first US$6.2 billion underground phase, which began in 2004 and by this year had brought Freeport’s total capital expenditure in the mine since 1973 to US$13.8 billion.

Among them are Australian-based Redpath Mining’s 1,500 specialists, drawn from around the world, who are building much of the common underground infrastructure. Reassembling them once they have been dispersed would take months.

Another US$13.6 billion is planned to be spent between now and 2041 on a project that will eventually see hundreds of kilometers of high-speed electric railway tapping into five different ore bodies deep beneath the Grasberg mine.

The change-over was originally planned to take place this year, but has now been pushed out to 2018, the year before Indonesia’s next presidential elections which could have an inhibiting influence on the current talks.

Because of the risk of subsidence, Freeport must first extract the estimated US$5 billion worth of ore left in the bottom of the two kilometer wide open pit before it can begin block-caving directly beneath it.

Widodo has personally insisted on the 51% divestment of subsidiary PT Freeport Indonesia and any retreat from that would be seized on by opposition leader Prabowo Subianto, who is now widely expected to run against him a second time.

The government is turning Sumatra-based PT Indonesia Asahan Aluminium (Inalam) into a holding company for state-owned mining companies, four years after taking over Southeast Asia’s only aluminum smelter from Japanese interests.

Valuation will play a big part in the Freeport talks, with foreign stock analysts bemused by Indonesia’s position that the US miner can’t claim Grasberg’s reserves because they constitutionally belong to the country’s citizens.

How that will be resolved is unclear. If there is any wiggle room, as far as Freeport is concerned, it will almost certainly have to involve an initial public offering (IPO) that will conceivably allow it to retain a controlling interest to protect its investment.

Some lawyers have suggested that could be accomplished by the parent company issuing class A and class B shares, with the B shares carrying limited or no voting rights.

Outside of an IPO, there is still the question of where local entities, either the central and regional governments, state enterprises or domestic corporations, will get the money to buy such a significant stake.

The government already has a 9.36% interest in Freeport Indonesia, but the company’s offer of a further 10.64% stake has stalled because its declared valuation is two-thirds that of the firm’s US$1.7 billion.

Freeport had originally agreed to a 30% divestment under a 2014 memorandum of understanding reached with the Yudhoyono administration. All that changed, however, when Widodo came to power.

For now, neither side is winning from the legal standoff, labor layoffs and reduced production. The ban on concentrate exports, which began in mid-January and lasted until the issuance of a temporary license on April 21, cost the government US$500 million in lost revenues and taxes.

In February, Freeport responded by triggering a 120-day arbitration notice, which is likely to be extended beyond mid-June provided the two sides are talking and there remains hope of a settlement in a year that marks Freeport’s 50-year anniversary in Indonesia.


2) Jakarta press event ignores Papua
Taylor McDonald


Indonesia is hosting World Press Freedom Day in Jakarta this week but has been criticised for failing to address media restrictions in Papua, where a reporter was beaten by the police this week.

The media event, themed “Critical minds for critical times: media’s role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies”, is being held from May 1 to 4, with a focus on strengthening media freedom and quality.

Organised by the UN’s cultural agency, Unesco, with the Indonesian government and the Press Council, the event does not include any discussion of media freedom in the subjugated eastern provinces of Papua and West Papua. Indonesian and foreign journalists have long complained about the difficulties of getting access to report on the separatist movements in the ethnically distinct provinces.

As ever, Jakarta treads an uneasy balance between its aspirations to join the international community and the necessity to hold its sprawling, impoverished archipelago together. Jakarta cannot afford another East Timor.

Indonesia’s decision to hold a conference proclaiming press freedom, while simultaneously crushing the Papuan media, neatly encapsulates the contradictions.

Press Council chairman Yosep Adi Prasetyo said the lack of media freedom in Papua was never on the agenda. “[Papua] is a domestic affair while this event is an international forum where we focus more on discussing issues that are relevant both locally and internationally,” he said. This fails to recognise that the Papua issue is of both domestic and international significance.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) and other NGOs have documented harassment and violence faced by activists and journalists in Papua.

President Joko Widodo’s announced in May 2015 that Papua would be open to the foreign media but international access to Papua was often denied on spurious “security” grounds, HRW reported.

Yosep said: “We cannot solve the matter, only Jokowi’s administration can. Other countries can’t meddle in this affair, because of non-interference principles.”

The council had visited Papua, the chairman said, to discuss the concerns with the police and military, urging them to relax restrictions on access.

The provinces make up around a quarter of Indonesia’s landmass but West Papua has a population below 900,000 and Papua Province around 3.5 million out of the archipelago’s total population of 263 million.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian police reportedly arrested at least 50 Papuans this week in the provincial capital Jayapura for joining a public discussion and prayer event.

Suara Papua reported that 26 of the Papuans taken into custody had been tortured.

The rally was apparently organised by the West Papua National Committee to commemorate May 1, 1963, when the UN gave temporary administration of West Papua to Indonesia.

A Papuan journalist who was covering the peaceful demonstration in Sentani, a suburb of Jayapura, was allegedly beaten by the police.

Yance Wenda of the news website Jubi has published photos of his injuries after he was taken into custody where he said the police beat him with a rattan cane.

Wenda told the BenarNews he had a letter of authorisation from his employer to cover the protest.

Jayapura police chief Gustav Urbinas acknowledged Wenda had been arrested, but denied his officers beat him.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemned what it called Indonesia’s “double-dealing”.

Benjamin Ismaïl, head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk, said: “We firmly condemn the police violence against Yance Wenda and we call for an investigation so that both the perpetrators and their superiors, who endorse their brutality, can be brought to justice. Indonesia is in the bottom third of the 2017 World Press Index and this beating, the latest in a long series of attacks on media freedom in West Papua in recent months, constitutes yet further evidence that it did not deserve to host the World Press Freedom Day celebration.

“Unesco and all the political figures gathered in Jakarta must condemn the violence and ask President Joko Widodo to stop playing a double game that consists of promoting media freedom with the international community while continuing to crack down in West Papua.”

Indonesia was ranked 124th out of 180 countries in the 2017 World Press Freedom Indexlast month, while journalists were regularly threatened by the authorities and forced to censor their work, RSF said.

Last week, the Papuan police seized the camera of television reporter Richardo Hutahaen and deleted its content. Hutahaen, who represents an organisation of Papuan journalists, and two colleagues reportedly received death threats after covering a court hearing on a dispute between politicians in the province.

Back in in Jakarta, more than 1,500 journalists, including 500 representatives from 90 countries, are attending the event.

Communications and Information Minister Rudiantara said the Indonesian press had experienced more freedom since the beginning of the reform era. Since the 1999 Press Law, the government had never intervened, he told the event.

“All stakeholders want democracy and freedom of expression to be maintained to guard Indonesia’s unity while journalists should obey ethics codes,” he said.

His promises ring hollow.

The Indonesian police block a demonstration in Jayapura, Papua, last year. Picture credit: YouTube


3) Truck crash in Papua kills 10, including nine children
Nethy Dharma Somba The Jakarta Post
Jayapura, Papua | Wed, May 3, 2017 | 10:14 pm

As many as 10 people were killed when the truck carrying them overturned in a crash in Dogiyai regency, Papua, on Tuesday.

The truck, which was heavily loaded with sand, was carrying a total of 24 people. They had departed from Kumipugi village and were en route to Egebutu village.

However, the seemingly overloaded truck failed to climb a hill and it began to roll backwards.

Most of the people who were riding in the back of the truck’s tailgate were students aged 8 to 13. Nine of the students were killed, as was the driver, M. Ansori, 30. As many as 14 others were injured.

(Read also: Fatal collisions raise safety concerns)

Papua Police spokesman Sr. Comr. AM Kamal said the truck was later burned by villagers because they were upset that it killed the 10 people.

“All of the dead victims were buried yesterday and the police have investigated the accident,” Kamal told The Jakarta Post in Jayapura on Wednesday.

Kamal said he hoped it would be a lesson for truck drivers to consider their loads before giving people rides. (hol/bbs)


West Papua: Herman Wainggai and the struggle of displaced people

May 1, 2017
Published: April 24, 2017
By Dinanda Pramesti, Culture Editor

Herman Wainggai – Leader of Nonviolent Struggle in West Papua

One of the most contentious issues of today’s politics is refugees — particularly Syrian refugees, whose country’s civil war has created one of the worst humanitarian crises of our time. They are forced to flee their war-torn country in hopes of finding a better life for themselves and especially their children.

The United States, along with the rest of the Western world, has its eyes on Syrian refugees. However, many Americans do not know about the struggles of West Papuans living in the shadows of Indonesian colonization.

On a Thursday afternoon, Students Engaged in Ending Displacement hosted SEED Displacement Day at Mason. Herman Wainggai, a visiting scholar from the School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution, spoke about his plight as a West Papuan refugee. He is a diplomat and a leader in West Papua’s struggle for self determination. Wainggai has devoted more than 20 years of his life to nonviolence activism to free West Papuans from Indonesian occupation.

Wainggai is an internationally-recognized human rights leader who represents indigenous West Papuans at the United Nations under his organization, West Papuan National Authority. He has expertise in the theory and practice of nonviolent conflict transformation, has an extensive and international media presence and is a frequent keynote speaker.

The history of West Papua’s independence is complex and turbulent. It was originally populated by an indigenous group of people called the Melanesians. By 1898, West Papua and Indonesia were formally colonized by the Netherlands. When the country of Indonesia became an independent nation in 1949, West Papua did not join. The Dutch government recognized that West Papua is culturally very different from Indonesia and ultimately prepared West Papua for its own independence. In 1961, West Papuans declared their independence and raised their new flag.

However, the dream came to an end in just a few short months. The Indonesian government wanted all of the former Dutch colonies in the Asia-Pacific region, and their military soon invaded West Papua. Over the next few decades and up until present day, conflict broke out between the Netherlands, Indonesia and the indigenous population of West Papua over control of the territory.

The Indonesian military has conducted a genocide in an attempt to control West Papuans and their land. This has started the West Papuan resistance movement and an armed guerrilla group called the Free Papua Movement to resist the colonization of West Papua. They have carried out a number of attacks on the Indonesian military — only using their bows and arrows — for taking their land and resources.

Wainggai is a targeted political activist because he took on the Indonesian government for West Papuan rights and freedom. He has been targeted and incarcerated numerous times because of his outspokenness on West Papuan sovereignty. Ultimately, he was one of 43 asylum seekers who fled to Australia to escape persecution.

In Australia, Wainggai and his group can talk freely with the media about what the Indonesian military has been doing to them — oppressing and killing them.

On SEED Displacement Day, Wainggai gave a speech to a group of students discussing his experience as a human rights leader: “The most important thing for us West Papuans is that we would like to see a change in West Papua. The Indonesian government needs to recognize West Papua to live in their own country freely without any discrimination or violation of human rights.”

The system that the Indonesian government has created gives very limited rights for West Papuans.

“There are 10,000 West Papuans who have been displaced and relocated to other countries ever since the Indonesian occupation,” Wainggai said.

In the last 50 years, people have been living in exile like Wainggai. In total, there are almost 100,000 West Papuan people living as refugees.

Al Fuertes, faculty advisor for Students Engaged in Ending Displacement and professor in the school of Conflict Analysis and Resolution, set up a makeshift home that resembles what refugees and people who have been displaced from their land live in.

Fuertes said, “Displacement is basically being forcibly uprooted against their will… [T]hese people fled their home countries against their will. You can just imagine the psycho-social implications of being displaced. Especially for indigenous communities where their sense of identity is tied up to their land.”

Fuertes spoke with passion and knowledge because his work revolves around being a field practitioner, and he specializes in psycho-social trauma healing.

“There is a difference between being forcibly displaced and being a migrant. Migration is people leaving their home in search for a better life, but not necessarily for the reason that their safety and security are threatened. Displaced populations are from war zones or affected communities from areas that have been terribly devastated by natural disasters,” Fuertes said.

However, there is a conflict over the actual definition of migrant and displaced population. Fuertes did say that migrants flee home for economic reasons, but exemplifies how there is an argument that being in poverty is a threat to someone’s safety and security. Displaced populations — who are often referred to as refugees — are people whose communities have become war zones, who have had their safety threatened or who are from homes that have been destroyed by natural disasters.

Ultimately, he said that the bottom line is that they are all affected by these traumatic events, they all fled forcibly from their home community. “Internally displaced population is a whole other thing. They are people who, technically, have not decided to cross the borders to be relocated to a nearby country. Many of them were displaced from their home villages but still remain on the same country,” Fuertes said.

There are many extreme trials that refugees go through to relocate to another country. They are not automatically given refugee status; there is a rigorous application process.

“There is a lot that refugees or displaced people go through when they relocate to a country they do not know about. There is social, cultural, economic and political implications. There are a lot of prejudices and biases towards them by mainstream media. They are being perceived in this [unjust] manner and it also follows how they are being treated. Many of them are deprived of their basic necessities,” Fuertes said.

Wainggai’s presence has enriched people’s understanding and provided a human face to the whole issue of displacement, particularly refugees or political asylum seekers. “His presence enabled my students to appreciate and to take seriously the problem of displacement even more. He has provided a voice for the millions of displaced populations,” Fuertes said.


Freeport Workers Go on Strike for a Month Starting from May Day

May 1, 2017

MONDAY, 01 MAY, 2017 | 17:02 WIB
Freeport Workers Go on Strike for a Month Starting from May Day

TEMPO.CO, Timika – Thousands of Freeport Indonesia’s workers in Mimika, Papua, are going on a strike that will last for a month from May 1 to 30, 2017, following a deadlocked negotiation with the company’s management.

Yafet Panggala, head of the organization unit at the Chemical, Energy and Mining Workers Union (SP-KEP) of Freeport Indonesia, said on Monday in Timika that the strike commencement coincided with the International Workers Day, which is also known as May Day.

“We waited until 12 a.m. last night for the company’s good faith to listen to our demands. But it didn’t happen and there’s no deal. Therefore, our letter notifying about the strike, which was sent to the company and government earlier, is valid,” Yafet said.

According to Yafet, employees of contractors and Freeport’s privatization companies will participate under 14 Work Units in the strike on May 9, 2017 as stated in a strike letter sent to the Mimika Manpower, Transmigration and Public Housings Agency.

Yafet asserted that Freeport’s Workers Union will continue to be in communications with the company’s management. Yafet guaranteed that the strike will cease if there is a deal with the management.

“The strike is not our goal, but it’s a mean of our struggle. So, there should not be an allegation saying that we want to go on strike all the time. It’s not like that,” Yafet explained.

Yafet revealed that the union and Freeport have not reached an agreement related to the disciplinary actions against workers who violate the Cooperation Agreement and the Industrial Relationship Guidelines (PKB-PHI) 2015-2017.



2) Freeport Indonesia mine workers hold rally at start of planned strike

Mon May 1, 2017 | 3:09pm EDT

Indonesian soldiers watch as workers and contractors from PT Freeport travel in a convoy during a rally commemorating May Day in Timika, Papua province, Indonesia May 1, 2017 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Wahyu Putro A/via REUTERS

Thousands of workers from the Indonesian unit of Freeport McMoRan Inc staged a rally near its Papua mine on Monday, a union leader said, protesting against layoffs by the miner due to a contract dispute with the government.

The union representing a third of the 32,000 workforce sent a notice to Freeport on Monday threatening to strike from May 1 to the end of the month at the Grasberg mine, the world’s second-biggest copper mine.

Freeport is trying to ramp up output and exports at Grasberg after reaching a temporary deal with the government following a 15-week stoppage linked to new mining rules, but customers are concerned that labor unrest could now hit supply.

Freeport had laid off about 10 percent of its workforce and warned it could cut another 5,000 to stem losses, sparking protests from workers.

"We are still waiting. We have good intention by opening up in a transparent and fair manner so the problem can be solved. We actually don’t want a strike to happen," said union leader Aser Gobai, adding that about 8,000 workers had participated in the rally in Timika, the nearest town to the mine.

Freeport said in an emailed statement that its Indonesia unit "continues to work with union leaders, with the support of government officials, to encourage a safe and efficient return to normal operations for the benefit of all stakeholders."

Freeport Chief Executive Richard Adkerson said last month the company could punish workers for absenteeism.

Any delays in resuming exports could support copper prices. London Metal Exchange prices were last at $5,735 a tonne, up 4 percent this year.

Adding to tensions around Grasberg, several Freeport workers and police were injured in a clash in Papua last month, when officers fired tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators in Timika who authorities said had been attempting to free a union leader at a court hearing.

New rules in Indonesia require Freeport to obtain a new mining permit, divest a 51 percent stake, build a second copper smelter, relinquish arbitration rights and pay new taxes and royalties.

Freeport insists any new permit must have the same fiscal and legal guarantees as under its 30-year mining contract, and in February it served notice to Jakarta, saying it has the right to commence arbitration if no agreement is reached by June 17.

(Reporting by Samuel Wanda in Timika,; Additional reporting by Nulifar Rizki, Wilda Asmarini and Fergus Jensen in Jakarta and Nicole Mordant in Vancouver; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Matthew Lewis)


3) Indonesian’s government has been urged to ensure that state security forces who attack journalists in regions like Papua are held to account. 7:53 pm on 1 May 2017
The call from the NGO Human Rights Watch comes as Indonesia prepares to host a series of events for World Press Freedom Day on Wednesday.
It points to new research data from Indonesia’s Alliance for Independent Journalists showing an increase in assaults on journalists in the past two years in Indonesia.
At least a dozen cases in this time refer to journalists being attacked, intimidated or detained in Papua region, otherwise known as West Papua
The Alliance says foreign journalists and local fixers are liable to be arrested and prosecuted if they try to document the Indonesian military’s abuses there.
However, since the election of President Joko Widodo in 2014, Indonesia’s government has been making steps towards opening up Papua region to foreign journalists.
After Mr Widodo "lifted" the effective ban on foreign journalists visiting Papua, several foreign journalists went to Papua in 2015, including two from RNZ International.
But, numerous restrictions remain on foreign media access to Papua.

The international media watchdog, Reporters Without Borders, this month called on Mr Widodo to keep his promise to allow foreign journalists to operate in Papua without obstruction or surveillance.
The organisation said Jakarta’s repeated refusals to issue press visas and the growing number of journalists on its blacklist, showed it fell far short of qualifying as a country that supports freedom of expression and media freedom.
But as Jakarta hosts World Press Freedom Day on Wednesday, abuses against local journalists remain the most pressing media issue in Papua.
Numerous journalists working with the independent Papua-based newspaper Tabloid Jubi have been subject to threats and attacks by security forces in recent years.
Indonesian law also requires journalists who are targets of physical assault to report such incidents to the National Police Profession and Security Division if the perpetrator is a police officer, or to the Military Police if the perpetrator is a soldier.
However, the government human rights commission, Komnas-HAM, has found that police investigations of incidents of violence against journalists often stall “because of technicalities or as a result of social or political pressure."

After interviewing numerous journalists and human rights advocates across Indonesia, Human Rights Watch said they described "an atmosphere of fear and self-censorship in many newsrooms".
It said this was "due to abuses and threats by security forces and local authorities that go unpunished and that, most of the time, are not even rigorously investigated".
According to the NGO, Jakarta must show it is serious about press freedom by ensuring accountability for these abuses.
This echoed a call by Irina Bokova, the director general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, which chose Jakarta as global host for its annual World Press Freedom Day commemoration.
She said Jakarta should use the occasion to publicly address the increase in assaults on journalists and urge President Widodo to take more decisive action in response.
Meanwhile, difficulties around press freedom in West Papua are the subject of a discussion event in Jakarta tomorrow, ahead of World Press Freedom Day.
This event will feature discourse by Tabloid Jubi’s founder, Victor Mambor, the head of Indonesia Amnesty International, Usman Hamid, and David Robie, lecturer at Auckland University of Technology and founder of Pacific Media Watch.