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Photos: In southern Papua, navigating an alien world built on palm oil

July 22, 2020

Photos: In southern Papua, navigating an alien world built on palm oil

Mongabay Series: Indonesian Forests, Indonesian Palm Oil

  • In June 2019, photographer Albertus Vembrianto spent three weeks on assignment in the southern lowlands of Papua, Indonesia’s easternmost province, for Mongabay and The Gecko Project. He traveled through the villages of Indigenous Papuans whose land had been taken over by palm oil conglomerates.
  • A decade ago, the Indonesian government promoted investment by plantation firms in this region with a vision of turning it into a major agribusiness hub. Today, Indonesia is the world’s top producer of palm oil, but many Papuans have lost their land and are struggling to acclimatize to a very new world, with their traditional food sources dwindling.
  • Albertus’s photos were featured in an investigation into the operations of one of the these companies, the Korindo Group, recently published by The Gecko Project and Mongabay in collaboration with the Korean Center for Investigative Journalism-Newstapa and 101 East, Al Jazeera’s Asia-Pacific current affairs program.
  • In this photo essay, Albertus, who is Indonesian, writes about his experience reporting in Papua.

This article was co-published with The Gecko Project.

Paskalina called to me by waving her hand and asked me to come to her house in a whisper.

It was my third day staying at the family bivouac of an Auyu tribal chief in Boven Digoel, a heavily forested district in southern Papua. Indigenous Papuans like Paskalina usually stay in these temporary shelters when hunting in the forest and harvesting sago, their staple starch that grows wild in groves. In the past four years, however, the area around this bivouac had been converted into an oil palm plantation.

Paskalina, who was 38, didn’t want her story to offend the chief of the clan, one of the traditional elders, who had decided to sell the forest to a palm oil company. But for the past year, after the forest was cleared, she had often felt dizzy and taken vitamins. “The doctor said I am stressed,” she told me. “I have to take medicine.”

Paskalina never knew when, exactly, the forest had been sold. Women are not involved in such decisions. She only knows when it was demolished and replaced with a sea of oil palms.

To make a living, Paskalina sells products that she grows in her garden. To get to the market, she has to take the dirt road through an oil palm plantation, the hot sun blazing now the forest is gone. Sometimes her child takes her by motorcycle, but more often she walks. The trip takes her two hours each way.

The journey brings to mind her parents and ancestors. “I sometimes cry on the road, feeling guilty to my parents and ancestors for not being able to protect the forest,” she said.

Paskalina’s experience was similar to that of most Indigenous Papuan women I met during my three weeks in the oil palm lands of Boven Digoel and neighboring Merauke district. Without their forest, these women have suffered.

In another village, Angela, 29, was working as a laborer harvesting palm fruits with her husband. His wages were not enough to cover their household needs, so she worked on top of her domestic roles at home.

The Papuans here once held sway over the land, but now toil on it as laborers. Often they take on debt to buy food from the company, with the money deducted from their wages. That often leaves them without enough money to cover their basic necessities for the month.

The loss of the forest has made their traditional food sources disappear. The companies bring in food that comes from factories, through the city. They are slowly getting used to the instant pattern of manufactured food. Some people told me that food from the city is the best food. But they never know what the ingredients are. Some of the children whose family land was turned into plantations suffer from malnutrition.

These photos were chosen to tell the experience of Indigenous Papuan women who are now living according to new customs; customs that came with the oil palm companies. Their lives are more vulnerable, and they have little choice…………………………….


2) Indonesian military denies shooting civillians in Papua
3:43 pm on 22 July 2020

Indonesian security forces have denied that two local West Papuans they killed late last week were innocent civilians.

The bodies of Elias Karunggu and Seru Karunggu were recovered later by the military with the assistance of the locals Photo: Supplied

The men were shot dead by the military who say they were part of an armed criminal group that’s been attacking them.
The two men, Elias Karunggu and Seru Karunggu, were part of a community displaced by ongoing conflict in recent months between Indonesia’s military and the pro-independence West Papua Liberation Army in the region.
The Liberation Army said the pair were shot dead by Indonesia’s military forces without provocation as the displaced community was on the move towards Nduga’s capital Keneyam.
The following day hundreds of people gathered in Keneyam and demanded the bodies be handed over to their families.
Indonesia’s military told relatives of the men that the pair had been armed and were shot as part of a gunfire exchange.
This has been backed up by Regent Yairus Gwijangge who said the Indonesian military were wrongly blamed for shooting innocent people in local media reports.
Meanwhile, the United Liberation Movement for West Papua condemned the killings.
Its chairman Benny Wenda said Indonesian military operations in Papua must stop immediately.
"I’m calling for the Indonesian president to immediately withdraw all troops from West Papua and allow ordinary people, who have been internally displaced in their own land, to resettle in their villages peacefully," Mr Wenda said.
It’s estimated that over 45,000 people have been displaced in Nduga due to the conflict since December 2018.
The Liberation Army alleged that Indonesia’s military kidnapped the pair and tortured them before killing them and dumping their bodies in nearby forest.
The bodies were recovered later by the military with the assistance of the locals.
But an Indonesian military spokesman, Colonel Czi Gusti Nyoman said the death of the pair was carried out by soldiers in a Task Force Team as part of a deterrence operation.
He said the two Papuans were found to be carrying a gun, machetes and axes.

3) ULMWP Chair: New killings in Nduga show independence only solution in West Papua
Published 1 day ago on 21 July 2020 By Admin1

Jubi, Papua – Two more unarmed West Papuan civilians have been killed by the Indonesian military in the Nduga Regency. As the 2001 Special Autonomy law expires this year, this is yet more evidence of Jakarta’s genocidal intent in West Papua. There can be only one solution this year: a referendum and independence for my people.

Elias Karunggu (40) and Seru Karunggu (20), father and son, were shot dead in cold blood on Saturday July 18. They had already been displaced from their homes for months due to the brutal Indonesian military operations that have been ongoing in Nduga since December 2018.

“We had hoped that the Covid-19 situation would make the Indonesian police and military stop their murderous repression and concentrate on the medical crisis spreading across the world. Instead, Jakarta has only used the crisis as a cover for its war against the existence of Melanesian West Papuans. Last month even more troops were deployed to West Papua – for what? There is only one purpose in such militarisation: ethnic cleansing and genocide. Over 45,000 people have been displaced in Nduga since December 2018,” said ULMWP Chair, Benny Wenda.

These military operations must stop immediately. I’m calling for the Indonesian president to immediately withdraw all troops from West Papua and allow ordinary people, who have been internally displaced in their own land, to resettle in their villages peacefully. The hospitals and schools are still not functioning, and women, men and children are still displaced. This is a double crisis for the people of Nduga: a humanitarian crisis caused by the Indonesian military, and a Covid-19 crisis made worse by the colonial destruction of health care and our way of life.

“I’m calling on all my people to unite. Collectively, whether you are a civil servant, ordinary West Papuan, or Indonesian born in West Papua, everyone must unite to refuse the new autonomy law and to hold a referendum. Today, you are choosing your destiny and the destiny of the generations to come. Indonesia is clearly trying to systematically wipe out the population, and as last year showed, racism and discrimination are embedded within Indonesia’s colonial project. We must unite and act now. This is my call,” he said.

To the whole world, particularly the governments of the Melanesian countries, the Pacific Islands Forum, EU, and the United Nations: don’t support a new autonomy law in West Papua. If you do, you are indirectly or directly supporting the Indonesian government’s murder of my people, as happened to Elias Karunggu and Seru Karunggu on Saturday. “We don’t want to suffer the same fate as the Indigenous people of Australia and North America. We don’t want our environment to be irreversible destroyed and polluted by the Indonesian occupation. You must all support our cry for freedom, before it is too late.”

To our solidarity groups across the world, please continue to support us. People across Indonesia are beginning to wake up and support my people as Black Lives Matter movement becomes Papuan Lives Matter. We need everyone’s solidarity, concern and support now.

“Indonesia, there is no other solution to this 57-year-old problem. We will not give up until we win a referendum on independence. Every Papuan murdered by the Indonesian military only makes us more determined, and gives us more strength.” (*)

Source: ULMWP


4) Mahfud Md to Papua Task Force: Do Not Get Provoked

Translator: Dewi Elvia Muthiariny

Editor: Laila Afifa

22 July 2020 20:58 WIBTEMPO.CO,

Jakarta – The Coordinating Minister for Politics, Legal, and Security Mahfud Md held a meeting with the task force of the Indonesian Military (TNI), National Police, and the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) during his working visit to Timika, Papua, on Wednesday, July 22.

Mahfud appreciated the performance of the team in maintaining the security, order, and unity of the Republic of Indonesia. However, he asked them to prioritize the legal approach, and not lose temper at provocations issued by various parties.

“I know that your work is hard, but I suggest to act cautiously, don’t be incited into taking actions that violate human rights. Let us protect this country wholeheartedly, and not be provoked by other parties,” said Mahfud in a written statement on Wednesday.

He acknowledged that the current tasks of the TNI and Polri would be tougher as they also have to focus on handling the COVID-19 pandemic, including in Papua.


“We face three challenges. [First,] in the west, foreign intervention in the North Natuna Sea. [Secondly,] in the eastern, Papua, issues of security disturbances by armed criminal groups,” added Mahfud.

The rest, the former Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court continued, is in the center which was spread across the country’s regions: a threat to the integrity of ideology, or in other words, radical movements.

In talks of Papua development, Mahfud Md claimed the government was preparing a more comprehensive Presidential Instruction (Inpres), in which the control will be under the National Planning and Development Agency (Bappenas) so that the region’s progress will be more integrated while applying the welfare approach.

Read: Military Justify Shootings of Nduga, Papua Men; TNI: Separatists


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Herman Wainggai : West Papua’s Representative to the United nations

July 21, 2020

West Papua Womens Office in Docklands and Democratic Republic of Congo Community (Victoria) are planting a tree in honour of Dag Hammarskjöld, the UN Secretary-General found dead on 18 September 1961 after a plane-crash near the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where he was mediating post-independence conflict. His death, which is still being investigated, precluded him from presenting a decolonisation program to the 1961 UN General Assembly for the Non-Self-Governing Territory of Dutch-Nieuw Guinea (West Papua).  The program would have deterred Indonesia from invading the territory in 1962, and thus rendered unnecessary the agreement that facilitated its incorporation of the territory.

Organisations and Individuals are invited to join the memorial (online, or face-to-face) on 13 September 2020, or create their own tree-planting ceremony (between 12—17 Sept) and email a 2-minute video to the West Papua Womens office. We particularly invite diaspora communities from places that have been decolonised and those that are still struggling to achieve self-determination. The videos will be presented to UN Sec-General Guterres on 29 September—the date of Mr Hammarskjöld’s burial in Sweden in 1961—by Herman Wainggai, West Papua’s UN Representative in New York. At the bottom of this page is a suggestion (only) for your speech at your tree-planting ceremony.

Is planting a tree-memorial for Dag Hammarskjöld seeding a UN vote for West Papua?

Many UN member-states now recognise that their failure to uphold West Papuans right to self-determination in November 1961 enabled the brutal subjugation of an indigenous people by a foreign state that has never recognised the principle of self-determination (despite being a UN member since 1950).  They also recognise that despite Indonesia’s claims of ‘being a democracy’ and of ‘developing West Papua’, its policies and practices have, in fact, little changed since 1962.  West Papuans in 1962, at the beginning of the Indonesian occupation, constituted 99% of the population. In 2010 they were 30%, and in 2030 they are projected to be just 15%.

We anticipate that trees planted in honour of Dag Hammarskjöld will fortify the activism of states, NGOs, and individuals to support a motion in the UN General Assembly where West Papuans current, and historical, arguments for their right of sovereignty (over their land) can be debated. The Pacific Islands Forum (18 UN member-states, including Australia and New Zealand) and the African Caribbean Pacific Group (79 member-states) have passed motions of preparatory support for West Papua’s registration on the UN Decolonisation List, which should have happened in 1961.  However the successful passage of a motion requires 2/3 majority support (130 of the 193 UN member-states).  Will the tree-plantings inspire the support of the 30 more states required?

INQUIRIES: Louise Byrne 0424 745 155

West Papua Human Rights Center: The people of West Papua became victims of the shooting

July 21, 2020

BREAKING NEWS: Elias Karunggu and Sellu Karunggu are father and son who have just been killed by the Indonesian military.

These two civilian victims along with thousands of other refugees who have lived in the forest all this time and only depend on nature for months to survive. But finally they had to be shot dead by members of the Indonesian military in Nduga District yesterday, July 18, 2020.

Deep sadness of the nation was once again experienced by the people of West Papua because Genocide numbers continue to grow in the land of Melanesia, West Papua due to the brutality and greed of the Indonesian government for 57 years.

This is evidence of the Indonesian state’s crimes against the people of West Papua, which have continued for 57 years.

As the contents of our petition to the White House dated May 21, 2020, the West Papua Human Rights Center called on the United States government to urge the Indonesian government to immediately allow the UN human rights investigation team to immediately go to West Papua before more casualties occur due to the Indonesian government’s behavior and the growing number of the Indonesian military in West Papua today.

Image may contain: one or more people, plant, outdoor and nature

Papuan activists in Yogya protest against Special Autonomy extension

July 21, 2020

Papuan activists in Yogya protest against Special Autonomy extension

Arah Juang – July 15, 2020

On Tuesday July 15 a protest action against Papuan Special Autonomy
(Otsus) Chapter II was held at the zero kilometre point in the Central
Java city of Yogyakarta. The joint action was initiated by the Papuan
Student Alliance (AMP) and the Indonesian People’s Front for West Papua

During the action they took up a number of demands including:

– Rejecting the planned extension of Papua Special Autonomy which will
expire in 2021;
– Challenging the results of the 1969 UN sponsored referendum (Pepera)
on Papua’s integration with Indonesia;
– Calling for the unconditional release of all Papuan political
prisoners (tapol);
– Rejecting the Draft Omnibus Law on Job Creation, calling for the
recently enacted Mineral and Coal Mining (UU Minerba) to be revoked and
demanding the ratification of the Draft Law on the Elimination of Sexual
Violent (RUU PKS);
– Calling for the closure of the Freeport gold-and-copper mine and all
foreign companies in West Papua;
– Rejecting the establishment of a military headquarters in West Papua;
– Demanding that the broadest possible access be given to journalists to
report in West Papua;
– Calling for the decision to expel four students from Khairun
University in Ternate be revoked;
– Demanding the withdrawal of all organic and non-organic troops from
West Papua; and
– Calling for the right to self-determination as a democratic solution
for the West Papua nation.

The action began with a gathering at the Papuan student dormitory in
Kamasan which was followed by a long-march to the zero kilometre point
in front of the central post office.

During the action it was also emphasised that all participates follow
health protocols to safeguard each other’s health. After marching for
around half-an-hour, the protesters arrived at the zero kilometre point
where they formed a circle and held a free speech forum.

The free speech forum was filled with speeches from organisational
representatives and individuals who took up a number of issues including
the dangers of extending Special Autonomy and the business interests
behind this, challenging the undemocratic 1969 Pepera and the militarism
practiced by Indonesia in Papua, as well as the importance of demanding
an act of self-determination for the West Papuan nation.

In addition to this, one of the points very much highlighted during the
speeches was how the Special Autonomy applied by the Indonesian state in
Papua is nothing more than a tool to silence the Papuan people’s
resistance. It is also used as a manipulation by the local political
elite in Papua to serve the political elite in Jakarta.

Special Autonomy has also not brought any improvements for the Papuan
people as can be seen from the fact that the ordinary Papuan people are
far from what could be called prosperous, human rights violations are
increasing and the poor state of healthcare and education.

Those who benefit from Special Autonomy are none other than those in
power. Special Autonomy has become a tool to legitimise all kinds of
rotten practices by the ruling class. On the pretext of developing
Papua, militarism is legalised to silence the Papua people’s resistance

In addition to this, several participants at the action emphasised the
importance of challenging the 1969 Pepera on the grounds that it was
undemocratic and violated international law.

One of the speakers said that during the 1969 referendum each Papuan
person should have been given one vote. However what took place was not
in fact like that. What occurred instead was a consensus by 1025
representatives who had been chosen to vote for integration with
Indonesia, yet the Papuan population at the time was around 800,000

So it is very important that the Papuan and Indonesian people fight for
the demand for an act of self-determination in order to realise a
democratic solution for the West Papuan nation.

At 1.29 pm the rally ended with the action coordinator reading out a
statement after which the protesters disbanded in an orderly fashion.

Independent reconciliation body ‘crucial’ to resolve past atrocities in Papua: Experts

July 20, 2020

Independent reconciliation body ‘crucial’ to resolve past atrocities in Papua: Experts Rizki Fachriansyah
Jakarta / Tue, July 21 2020 / 01:00 am

Experts have made fresh calls to push for the immediate establishment of an independent fact-finding and reconciliation body as part of a long-overdue effort to resolve past human rights violations in Indonesia’s easternmost provinces of Papua and West Papua.

Beka Ulung Hapsara, a commissioner at the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM), emphasized the urgency of the initiative as he called on President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to address past rights abuses in Papua and West Papua through a truth and reconciliation commission (KKR) in accordance with Article 47 of the 2000 law on human rights courts.

“Considering the urgency of resolving gross violations of human rights and the absence of any legal umbrella for the formation of a KKR, the President may issue a regulation in lieu of law [Perppu] on a KKR,” he said during the Papua Strategic Policy Forum online discussion held on Monday by Yogyakarta-based Gadjah Mada University’s Papua Task Force and the School of Social and Political Sciences’ Capacity Building and Networking Center.

He added that Komnas HAM had recommended the establishment of a KKR to Jokowi and several of his aides in 2018.

Beka said it was also crucial for the central government to consider a reparations mechanism designed to compensate Papuans who had been impacted by past human rights violations.

Democratic Alliance for Papua director Latifah Anum Siregar echoed Beka’s sentiments, saying that a KKR and a human rights court were crucial to impunity eradication efforts so that all victims of past rights abuses could get justice.

However, Latifah pointed out a number of roadblocks that had made it difficult for the government to accomplish said ideals, including the state’s own efforts to “protect perpetrators of rights abuses”.

“There’s still a major stigma against Papua. Consequently, all public movements in the region have been lumped in with separatism,” she said during the same event.

“The government is limited by its own paranoia over Papuan separatists, fearing that such reckoning with past rights violations would only serve to enable counterinsurgency.”

The two provinces have been the scenes of serious past human rights abuses, including incidents in Wasior in 2001, Wamena in 2003 and the Paniai shooting in 2014 in which five people, including four students, were allegedly shot by members of the Indonesian Military (TNI) during a protest.

The central government announced in 2016 that it intended to resolve 12 cases of past human rights abuses in Papua, but no significant progress has been made.

Beyond these unresolved serious rights abuses, Papuans have faced decades of discrimination and injustice.

Gabriel Lele, a researcher at Gadjah Mada University’s Papua Task Force, said any reconciliation attempts should not stop at legal proceedings, urging the government to engage in consistent dialogue with victims of rights violations.

Such engagement was vital for a collective recovery, as reconciliation was a psychosocial process, he said.

“To quote Nelson Mandela, ‘There is no peace without forgiveness, there is no forgiveness without justice’,” Gabriel said.

According to Amnesty International, at least 100,000 West Papuans have been killed since the Indonesian takeover of West Papua in the 1960s.

The most recent bout of violence was sparked by racial attacks on Papuan university students in Java last year, which prompted thousands of Papuans to protest against the government. The protests brought renewed media attention to human rights violations in the region and Papuans’ decades-long fight for autonomy.

Herman Wainggai: Leader of Nonviolent Struggle in West Papua

July 18, 2020

Peace Solution for Indonesia is the best solution delivered by Mr. Herman Wainggai, a former political prisoner and leader of nonviolent struggle in West Papua Melanesia today. His speech is available in Indonesian and we will share it again in English. Join us to call on Indonesia and the UN today.

Herman Wainggai: Peace Solution for Indonesia

July 18, 2020

Remember this: The Dutch government jailed Sukarno because he declared or proclaimed the independence the Republic of Indonesia, why are you doing the same to West Papuan activists?

"PEACE SOLUTION for Indonesia"

To: Hon. President Jokowi,

I am writing this because for 30 years of political activism we have had many good and bad experiences with the Indonesian government in Jakarta: From the government of late President Suharto to your government. And I’m writing to you as an indigenous West Papuan Melanesian and former political prisoner.

The death rate of West Melanesian Papuans since the illegal occupation our lands continues to increase because of the violent conflict that continues to occur in our own backyard due to our aspirations for a Free West Papua – a movement that you know very well cannot be stopped by military force.

We have many displaced indigenous villagers who did nothing wrong but were chased out of their lands by angry and retributive military and police officers; many of them are dying. We also have ‘nonviolent’ peaceful activists in prison suffering as result of your ‘zero-tolerance policy’ on peaceful demonstration; a treasured democratic way of life. As a former political prisoner who served time in various Indonesian prisons, I understand what our people are going through today. We know that our sufferings, as mentioned earlier, are the result of the Indonesian government trying to prevent us from attaining our God-given right of self-determination. I therefore want to put forward the following challenge to you and your government, to:

• Immediately declare West Papua an independent country and return all its governing rights to the indigenous people. It is our right and we are more than ready to run our own country and to make sure that the freedom of Western Melanesia that Dr. Thom Wainggai, whom your government murdered in Cipinang prison, proclaimed on December 14, 1988, is fulfilled. By doing so, Indonesian will reaffirm what has been in Indonesia Laws – that is human rights is a universal right.

• Let us establish our country’s governing system according to our unique Melanesian culture and traditions of our forefathers – the very system that sustained us for centuries; ones that grounded in peace and harmony. These cultural values have sustained us long before foreigners set foot on our shores, today and the future.
This is our offer to your government to end this decades-long dispute with a peaceful solutions today. It is time to end this and preserve the dignity of our two different national interests as this conflict cannot be resolved by simply installing a so-called special autonomy (OTSUS), which and I know is not in the best interest of our indigenous community.

July 14th, 2020

Thank you,

Herman Wainggai
Former Political Prisoner

Leader of Nonviolent Struggle in West Papua

Washington,D.C., USA

Read more :

Papuan students in Jakarta protest against Special Autonomy extension

July 17, 2020

Papuan students in Jakarta protest against Special Autonomy extension

CNN Indonesia – July 14, 2020

Jakarta — Papuan students from the Action Committee Against Special
Autonomy demonstrated in front of the Home Affairs Ministry offices in
Jakarta on Tuesday July 14 against Special Autonomy (Otsus). The
students said that the policy is not needed by the people of the land of
the Bird of Paradise as Papua is known.

Action coordinator Eto Rumpaday said that the peaceful action was held
to reject the Indonesian government’s plan to extend Papua’s special
autonomy status which will end in 2021.

"Our action is a peaceful action. We reject Otsus chapter two. We as the
spokespeople of Papuan society, we are not asking for Otsus chapter two,
it’s being pushed on to us by Jakarta", said Rumpaday in an SMS message
received by CNN Indonesia on Tuesday July 14.

In addition to this, the Committee also slammed the political elite who
in the name of the Papuan people support Otsus. The Committee also urged
the government to release all Papuan political prisoners.

The Papuan students also called for an end to all forms of
discrimination and racism against Papuans and for the widest possible
access to be given to foreign journalists to report in the land of

They also demanded the cancelation of a decision to suspend four
students from the Ternate Khairun University (Unhair) and declared their
rejection of the 1969 UN sponsored referendum (Pepera) that saw Papua
being integrated with Indonesia which they said was undemocratic.

The Committee also demanded that the Indonesian government withdrawal
all military personnel — both organic and non-organic — from Papua and
demanded a referendum for Papua.

"We strongly condemn this, we the Papuan people reject Otsus chapter
two. We ask for a referendum, this is non-negotiable", asserted

Similar rallies were held also in other cities around the country
including Yogyakarta (Central Java), Surabaya and Malang (East Java),
Makassar (South Sulawesi) and Ternate (North Maluku).

The Jakarta rally was held at the Ministry of Home Affairs (Kemendagri)
because the protesters wanted to meet with government representatives.

Special Autonomy for Papua is regulated under Law Number 21/2001 on
Special Autonomy. Under the law, Special Autonomy for Papua and West
Papua provinces will expire in 2021.

As of 2019 the government has disbursed some 83.36 trillion rupiah in
Special Autonomy funds for Papua and West Papua. Although in the lead up
to the end of Special Autonomy, the Home Affairs Ministry once said that
it planned to reassess the implementation.

"We say that that the results of our study along with friends at
Lemhanas [National Resilience Institute], Wantannas [National Resilience
Council] and several NGOs, are indeed as directed by the Pak [Mr]
Minister, the our Otsus fund will continue", said Home Affairs Ministry
Regional Autonomy Director General Akmal Malik at the ministry’s office
in Jakarta on September 25, 2019.

Throwing money at Papua

In relation to Special Autonomy, the director of the Papua chapter of
the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), Aiesh Rumbekwan,
believes that the government of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo is
issuing a policy which is not based on the needs of indigenous Papuan
and is undermining regional authority through the Special Autonomy law.

"Although it visibly violates [the law], the central government
continues to peddle its implementation with a view that it will bring
prosperity to the Papuan people. This view carries with it a meaning, as
if Papuan traditional communities are incapable or stupid", he told CNN
Indonesia on Sunday July 15.

Yet, he said, the needs of the Papuan people are access to natural
resources, a resolution to human rights (HAM) violations, putting a stop
to extractive industries in Papua and the theft of indigenous people’s
land, not never ending money.

"The government’s argument always rests on the issue of the funds (Otsus
funds) which the government gives to Papua [and West Papua] provinces.
Meanwhile no space is given to the Papuan people to manage natural
resources and the tendency is for it to be robbed", said Rumbekwan.

"Explicitly that the state must immediately resolve the problems of HAM
in the land of Papua, including giving access to communities to manage
natural resources (forests)", he said.

The government, said Rumbekwan, must also listen to indigenous Papuans,
not people or groups who speak in the name of the Papuan people but
without any agreement with the communities themselves.

"That the central government immediately stop accepting the interests of
certain groups or individuals without first gaining agreement from
indigenous Papuans and the Papuan and West Papuan provincial regional
governments, the DPRP [Papuan Regional House of Representatives] and the
DPRPB [West Papua Provincial House of Representatives}, along with the
MRP [Papua People's Council] and the MRPB [West Papua People's
Council]", he said. (dhf/arh)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was
"Mahasiswa Papua Demo Otsus Jilid II: Itu Pemberian Jakarta".]

Summary of events in West Papua (15 June -16 July 2020)

July 16, 2020

Summary of events in West Papua (15 June -16 July 2020)
A lot of media coverage on West Papua (again) over the past month focused on the Papuan political prisoners detained in Balikpapan. Many opinion pieces linking them to the Black Lives Matter Campaigns in the US and around the world and in general to racism/oppression of minority groups. In West Papua there was a lot of comment on how the authorities have difficulty separating concern about human rights and racism from the independence struggle.
The Balikpapan 7 as they were known received between 10 and 11 months in prison on charges of treason for organising and participating in anti-Jakarta protests last year. Activists Buchtar Tabuni, Stevanus Itlay and Agus Kossay were found guilty of treason and sentenced to 11 months in prison. Student leaders Ferry Gombo, Irwanus Uropmabin, Alexander Gobai and Hengki Hilapok received 10 months. The seven had already spent about nine months in prison. Although the sentencing seemed lenient compared to what the prosecutors had demanded (between 17 and 15 years’ imprisonment), all the defendants had done was to take part in demonstrations.

Three of the Papuan political prisoners, Irwanus Uropmabin, Alexander Gobai and Ferry Gombo arrived back in Papua from East Kalimantan on Sunday 7 July after their release. The other political prisoners who were sentenced to 11 months are to be discharged next month.

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’In the plantations there is hunger and loneliness’: The cultural dimensions of food insecurity in Papua (co mmentary)

July 15, 2020

’In the plantations there is hunger and loneliness’: The cultural dimensions of food insecurity in Papua (commentary)
COMMENTARY BY SOPHIE CHAO ON 14 JULY 2020 Mongabay Series: Indonesian Palm Oil

  • Sophie Chao is an anthropologist who has spent years studying the Marind people of southern Papua.
  • As palm oil companies take over their land, the Marind, she writes, are struggling to feed themselves.
  • Photographs in this article feature Marind, Mandobo and Auyu tribespeople in southern Papua and were taken by Albertus Vembrianto.

The article was co-published with The Gecko Project.

A decade ago, the Indonesian government began to heavily promote large-scale plantation developments in Papua province, a region of savannahs and rich rainforests. A recent article published by Mongabay and The Gecko Project explores how corporate investors gained the rights to these projects and the fallout for local Indigenous populations. The investigation, done in collaboration with the Korean Center for Investigative Journalism-Newstapa and 101 East, Al Jazeera’s Asia-Pacific current affairs program, revealed that children were suffering from malnutrition while agricultural commodities were being exported from their ancestral lands. Sophie Chao, an anthropologist at the University of Sydney, has spent years studying how such developments have affected the Indigenous Marind people. In this commentary, she explores how the loss of traditional foods that comes with deforestation, driven by plantation companies, has brought about both hunger and began to sever a deep cultural connection between the Marind and the natural world.

In late May 2018, I was invited to dine at the home of Barnabus Ndiken, a clan head from the Upper Bian region of Merauke, a district in Indonesia’s easternmost province of Papua. The centerpiece of the meal, I had been told, was a dish of deer, caught by Barnabus and his kinsmen (pseudonyms have been used throughout this article). With vast swaths of forest being felled to make way for oil palm plantations, game in and around their village had become increasingly rare. Several of their children had never tasted it, and Barnabus himself had not eaten it for weeks. Meat was a special treat, served only to the most honored guests. This portion had been saved especially for me.

When Evelina, Barnabus’s wife, began to grill the meat, a sickly sweet smell assailed my nostrils. Worried about the unpleasant odor, the women decided to boil the meat instead, but this only made things worse. The gelatinous chunks began to break apart, the broth turned milky, and the pungent steam rising from the pot stung our eyes. The meat, I realized, had been kept for too long and was rotten. Holding our breaths, my companions and I struggled to swallow the viscous pieces of grey flesh. Eventually, they lowered their heads and began to weep softly. First the women, then the men, and finally Barnabus. They told me they were weeping from shame.

Beside me, Evelina was holding a bundle close to her chest, out of which poked what appeared to be firewood sticks. The bundle twitched. I thought I heard a faint whimper. Evelina removed the cloth, revealing an emaciated infant, whose frail bones jutted out of an almost translucent skin. The child’s eyes were expressionless, its face sallow, the fontanel — the soft spot in its head — sunken. The child’s name, Evelina told me, was Anna. It was her skeletal arms and legs that I had mistaken for branches.

Evelina tried to breastfeed the baby, but her flaccid breasts had no milk to give. Anna would not last the night. The village women and I stayed beside her until the break of dawn, when Anna drew her last breath.

Evelina rocked the small body. She told me that in the past, the Marind people had plenty of meat and sago. Their forest was full of food and they never went hungry.

“Now, oil palm eats our land,” I recall her saying. “Our skin is dry and grey, and our bodies are weak. Our children are small and frail. Many die before they have even learned to walk the forest. Now, Marind eat rice and instant noodles. Since oil palm arrived, everyone is hungry. This hunger never goes away.”

Evelina and Barnabus are two of many Indigenous Marind in rural Merauke who have lost their customary forests to agribusiness projects over the last decade. These developments, operated by South Korean and Singaporean conglomerates, are promoted by the Indonesian government in an effort to achieve national self-sufficiency in basic commodities. On the ground, however, agribusiness expansion is undermining the food and water security of Marind communities, who have traditionally relied on the forest for their subsistence.

Read also: The Consultant: Why did a palm oil conglomerate pay $22m to an unnamed ‘expert’ in Papua?

Once-plentiful game, such as cassowaries, kangaroos and wild pigs, have become difficult to encounter. Aquatic creatures, such as fish, crocodiles and crustaceans, have become contaminated with pesticides and palm oil mill effluents. Edible fruit, nuts and seed-bearing trees are increasingly rare.

I spent 18 months in the Upper Bian across four trips, between 2013 and the end of 2017, first as a human rights advocate and then as a doctoral candidate, researching the social and environmental impacts of deforestation and oil palm expansion among Marind communities. My fieldwork was undertaken in Marind villages as well as in the forest, carrying out interviews and participating in and observing their daily lives.

I found that many Marind associated the destruction of the forest and the arrival of monocrops with a pervasive and constant sensation of hunger. On the one hand, this hunger is visceral. Deforestation, water contamination and biodiversity loss have resulted in widespread hunger. Evelina’s baby, Anna, was one of many infants suffering from severe undernourishment in Kindiki village. With medical facilities only available in the distant township of Muting, several others had reportedly succumbed to malnutrition-related conditions over the preceding six months.

But the loss of forest foods also had a different dimension, a cultural hunger. As I learned from Marind during my time in the field, forest foods — vegetables, tubers, fruit, nuts, fish and game — are always “more than just food.” They derive from plants and animals with whom Marind share common descent from ancestral spirits, or dema. Marind have caring relationships with these species, which they consider to be “grandparent” or “sibling” species.

The relations of Marind to these non-human beings are based on mutual care and exchange. Plants and animals grow to support their human kin by providing them with food and other resources. In return, humans offer respect and perform rituals as they seek out and consume kindred plants and animals in the forest. Losing access to these foods, beyond the physical hunger, had a deeply adverse effect on Marind social and cultural well-being, severing these broad and deep connections to other species.

Marinds’ own bodies, too, are a part of the multispecies food chain of the forest. When people die, their flesh decays to feed organisms in the sacred groves where bodies are buried. Exchanges of flesh and fluids across species lines commemorate and sustain the relations of humans to non-human life forms within the cosmology of the forest. Marind are a part of this expansive, complex landscape. People and nature are not apart from one another, but rather intrinsically woven together. When this landscape — and all the species and food within it — is cleared, Marind cannot simply move on to working as laborers or buying noodles instead to satiate their hunger, because the whole world of which they are a part has been torn away from them. The food they eat, and how they obtain it, is a profound manifestation of that.

Of all forest foods, sago starch is considered by many Marind to be the most tasty, filling and nutritious. As in other Melanesian societies, the Marind word for sago, dakh, is also the generic term for “food.” “True Marind,” I was told repeatedly, are “Marind who eat sago.” Sago, then, is the most integral to the Marind sense of identity. It was just one part of a diverse range of other foods in the forest, such as game, legumes and tubers that, together, make for a balanced and nutritious meal. But it is sago, I was often told, that makes the body strong and fit. It allows men to hunt for days on end without feeling tired or hungry. It enables women to bear many healthy offspring. Children who eat sago develop tall and athletic bodies and learn to hunt and forage with ease.

Again, it is not just the substance of sago itself that Marind value, but how they procure it. Gathering and processing sago is a deeply social and collective activity, through which Marind affirm and enhance their relationships to each other and to the forest ecology. The labors involved in preparing sago starch — felling, rasping, leaching and cooking — are divided between men, women, and children, who all have a part to play in providing food for the community. Many Marind also derive great personal pride from procuring forest foods, and see it as a key part of the enculturation of their children into fully fledged members of Marind society.

Children learn to enhance the environment of plants and animals in ways that support their growth and reproduction. They clear pathways for pigs and deer to travel to water catchments, leave fruit and nuts behind when foraging for cassowaries to feed on, and avoid disturbing the canopy during birds’ mating season. They also support the growth of sago itself through selective sucker transplanting and felling, clearing dying branches off the boles of sago palms, weeding their base and trunk, and judiciously pruning or trimming fronds to increase leaf formation and starch accumulation. These activities by Marind past and present are what sustain the growth of the forest, as well as the abundance of foods within it.

Going to the forest to procure food is also a way in which Marind connect with, and remember, past events, encounters, and figures of importance in Marind myth, whose stories are recounted by parents and elders to the younger generations. Eating sago and other forest foods produces a collective sense of identity among Marind. They often refer to themselves as “sago people,” affirming their shared connections with neighboring Melanesian ethnic groups who also depend primarily on sago for their subsistence.

In contrast, imported commodities that are now increasingly replacing native foods are described by many Marind as tasteless and unsatiating because, as Rosalina, a Marind mother of three put it, “They do not taste of the forest.” Foods like rice, instant noodles and biscuits come from unknown places and are grown and processed by unknown people. They are not derived from plants and animals with which Marind share intergenerational kinships and pasts. They are not procured or prepared by relatives or friends. They do not make people strong but rather weaken their bodies and constitution, in the Marind view. For all these reasons, processed foods are seen to lack the moral, cultural and emotional values that imbue forest foods with meaning and flavor.

Marind often point to their own deteriorating bodies as evidence of their hunger for forest foods. Rosalina spoke of her breasts becoming dry and her skin sallow from the absence of sago. Village men described how they had lost blood, fat and muscle for want of forest game. Many community members noted a loss of wetness in children whose bodies had become skinny and grey rather than glossy and taut. Experiencing hunger and witnessing the hunger of others also gave rise to feelings of sadness and anger, and in particular, a pervasive sense of loneliness arising from the severance of peoples’ connection to the forest and its kindred life forms.

For instance, community members lamented the decline in collective hunting and foraging activities that had once sustained their ancestral relations to forest organisms. Women mourned the decimation of sago groves where they had once celebrated their role as mothers in the company of a plant whose fertile flesh and fluids, like their own, had provided for Marind children. Villagers who attempt to hunt and forage in the privatized land concessions face the threat of interrogations, fines and expulsion by the soldiers who guard plantations. As village elder Gerfacius put it, “In the plantations, there is no freedom, no kin, and no real food. In the plantations, there is just hunger and loneliness.”

Many Marind also claim that processed foods don’t just fail to satiate their hunger, but actually exacerbate it. Children, for instance, clamor for more food within hours of eating instant noodles. Women described snacking on processed biscuits throughout the day but always craving more. Young men also talked of having become “addicted” to rice, which they would eat in copious amounts without feeling full. As Pius, a young man from Kindiki, described it, “When you eat sago, you can go without food for an entire day. But when you eat plastic foods, you become even more hungry. The more you eat, the more you want to eat. This hunger never goes away.”

It is not just Marind who suffer from hunger as a result of deforestation. Robbed of their water, nutrients and symbiotes, plants and animals that once thrived in the company of their human kin, too, wilt and starve. Bamboo clusters and sago groves collapse as the soil is depleted of its minerals and the rivers contaminated by sludge. Pigs and cassowaries that venture into monocrop plantations die of starvation or are eaten or sold by migrants or company workers. Chemicals dumped into waterways contaminate the forest animals that drink from them, and corrode the flesh of the fish, turtles and crocodiles living within them. “Drunk” on toxins, they die and float to the surface.

Hunger, of course, is not an entirely new phenomenon among Marind. Many villagers recalled suffering from scarcity as a result of seasonal fluctuations and droughts. Extended periods of hunger, however, were rare and interpreted as punishments meted out by ancestral spirits against community members for failing to respect their non-human kin. Such violations included killing juvenile or gestating animals, felling or damaging sago palms and other vegetation, and failing to perform rituals when hunting and foraging. Remedy for the collective hunger inflicted by dema required the performance of pig sacrifices to the ancestors and ritual incantations and spells.

But the hunger Marind face today is different. It speaks to the loss of a forest ecology that is replete in nourishing foods and animated by plant and animal beings with which Marind share ancestral and intimate kinships. It speaks to the destruction of life on an unprecedented scale. In the past, hunger was a punishment inflicted by ancestral spirits upon Marind who failed to protect the forest and its life forms. Now, however, it is agribusiness companies that are wreaking havoc on the landscape, and Marind can do little to prevent this from happening.

Hungers experienced by Marind today also speak to the loss of Marind food-based identities, social relations and ecologies as “sago people.” It gives rise to shame among parents, like Evelina and Barnabus, who are no longer able to feed their children. It brings into question the possibility of well-being — physical, cultural and emotional — of future Marind generations who may never know the forest and grow up on rice and instant noodles instead.

Many Marind also see hunger as symptomatic of a broader and longer pattern of discrimination toward the Indigenous inhabitants of the Indonesian portion of New Guinea, collectively known as West Papua, on the part of the Indonesian state. Some, for instance, are aware of the irony at play when agribusiness projects implemented in the name of national food security give rise to local food insecurity. Others see this as evidence that Indigenous West Papuans are disposable in the eyes of the state, and that only their land and natural resources matter.

Many of my companions expressed anger and frustration over the patronizing ways in which corporate and government representatives talk about Marind forest-based diet and way of life, which they often describe as primitive, backward and in need of development. This racialized rhetoric speaks in turn to the broader problem of “development” discourses in West Papua, that tend to be imposed by Indonesia without local consent or meaningful consultation, and yet putatively for West Papuans’ own good.

Read also: Defining ‘development’ in the Aru Islands: Q&A with anthropologist Chris Chancellor

Marind experiences and perceptions of food insecurity reveal the deeply culturally shaped ways in which deforestation and agribusiness expansion impact upon Indigenous well-being. The destruction of the forest deprives Marind of foods that are considered nourishing because of their association with kindred plants and animals, and with diverse human labors that shape Marind identity.

At the same time, the suffering wrought by hunger today speaks to a much deeper, and more disturbing, rupture in the everyday world of Marind. In the past, food scarcity was attributed to the wrongs and mistakes of Marind themselves, and particularly their failure to protect the forest environment. But now, the forest is being obliterated by powerful outsiders whose actions Marind have little power to control. This produces a seemingly inescapable double bind. Marind must sustain their customs and protect the forest to satisfy the ancestral spirits and sustain their forest food systems. Yet Marind are also vulnerable to the powers of corporations who destroy the very landscape from which these foods are derived. These two dimensions are irreconcilable. Together, they lead to a profound and ongoing erosion of Marind culture in the face of capitalistic forces, whose hunger for land and profit erodes the vulnerable beings and bodies dwelling upon and with it.

Photos in this article were produced with the support of the Money Trail Project (

Banner: Angelina Ketang, 29, lives in Kampung Naga, a settlement within an industrial oil palm estate in the southern lowlands of Indonesia’s Papua province. She works as a laborer on the plantation.

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Article published by mongabayauthor

2) West Papua Autonomy – Lies, Bullets And Murders
July 14, 2020 in Asia / conflict / Current Events / Oceania / violence by Adrianne Ramirez (updated on July 13, 2020)

On July 4, 2020, the spokesperson for the National Committee of West Papua (KNB), Victor Yeimo repudiated a unilateral deliberation of the West Papua autonomy bill in Indonesia’s House of Representatives. Indigenous Papuans – the subject of this bill – were not included in the discussion. Sixteen groups in Papua have voiced their opposition under the Petisi Rakyat Papua (Petitions by the Papuans) movement over their concerns of the potential continuation of its special autonomy (Otsus) status. They are demanding a referendum that would let them determine their own fate; whether they want the special autonomy continued or become independent.

Former Papuan prisoner Sayang Mandabayan has refused to acknowledge this proposal, condemning the political decisions that have pitted the Otsus against Jakarta’s elites. John Gobay, head of the Papuan Students Alliances, stated, “ever since before the Otsus until today, almost 20 years after the Otsus, racism towards Papuans, land grabbing, military operations, rights abuse, and social and economic inequality keep happening in Papua.” Despite the government’s sizable US $7.4b funds to improve Papua’s economy, according to the National Development Planning Agency, Papua is still home to almost one million impoverished people and more than 6,000 underdeveloped villages. Statistics Indonesia (BPS) has also noted that Papua and West Papua have the lowest human development index in the country.

On July 9, Benny Wenda the chair of the United Liberation Movement of West Papua expressed the concerns of West Papuans “Under this so-called Special Autonomy, we have only been further killed, marginalized and ethnically cleansed. Our environment and way of life [have] been destroyed in an unrelenting ecocide – our mountains have been mined, our rivers polluted, our forests turned down.” She also called for the European Union, World Bank, United States, Britain, New Zealand and Australia to cease funding of the Indonesian occupied forces and to help address the conflict’s root causes in accordance with the Asian Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) resolution – which seeks for the Papua human rights situation to be a standing item on the United Nations Human Rights Council Agenda.

While the secessionist development in the region has been attracting attention from human rights activists and even politicians, the problem cannot be solved unless the involved parties adopt a radical approach towards the current political and economic climate. International affairs expert, Vladislav Gulevich speculated it could even hang off the possibility of tipping the current balance of power in the Pacific region. Being one of ASEAN’s founding members, holding a large population and having one of the biggest economies in Southeast Asia, Indonesia is influential in shaping the organization’s agenda in the Pacific.
Since Papua New Guinea and Australia both acknowledge sovereignty over West Papua, Papua New Guinea is constrained by its aversion to impacting its relations with Australia. Although Papua New Guinea provides refugee assistance to West Papuans, it still works with Jakarta to contain this problem within the region. Port Moresby on the other hand, is aware of the growing separatist sentiment but holds little incentive to upset the status quo. Australia reflects this position, reluctant to ignite regional instability for a state that “lacks the socio-political strength to ensure its sovereignty.” Conclusively, only a state with no incentive to maintain agreeable relations with Australia or Jakarta will be in a position to support West Papua’s secessionist goals. As Benny Wenda said, “The only autonomy that exists is the autonomy of [the] Indonesian military and police to kill.”

Adrianne Ramirez
I am currently a second year studying International Relations and Music. A few of my areas of interest are critical and feminist security, indigenous rights, and denuclearization. Through my writing, I hope to promote awareness about human rights


3) Govt prioritizes welfare approach in handling Papua, West Papua issues
12 hours ago

Jakarta (ANTARA) – The government has prioritized welfare, anthropological, and evaluation approaches in handling the issues in Papua and West Papua.

Deputy V for Political, Legal, Security, and Human Rights of the Presidential Staff Office Jaleswari Pramodhawardani remarked that the approaches were directed at boosting the welfare for tackling the primary issue impacting the provinces of Papua and West Papua.

"President Jokowi has adopted the welfare approach through various forms of development. The problem that arouse in Papua to date is (the lack of) welfare, marked by the lowest human development index in West Papua," Pramodhawardani noted in a statement here on Tuesday.

Developments in the two provinces comprise the Trans Papua road project, one-price fuel policy, and divestment of 51 percent of PT Freeport Indonesia’s shares.

Pramodhawardani remarked that before the implementation of the one-price fuel oil policy, Papuans had to pay a higher price for fuel oil as compared to those in Java and Sumatra.

"I had to say that the single-price fuel oil policy is not only a matter of bringing down the price, but it also implied the efforts to materialize justice for all people of Indonesia," she stated.

The government had issued Presidential Instruction (Inpres) No. 9 of 2017 on accelerating welfare development in Papua and West Papua. The Inpres expired in 2019 and will be renewed.

The head of state ordered to give serious attention to the areas of education, health, local economic empowerment, infrastructure, digitalization, legal and administration management.

"We know that people see Papua only in terms of the issue of human rights and violence. There is less concern on the fulfillment of Papuans’ basic rights, and this must be stepped up," she emphasized.

Pramodhawardani cited the increased Human Development Index (HDI) in the two provinces during the past five years as the government’s success to boost welfare of the Papuans.

The HDI in Papua rose, from 57.25 percent in 2015 to 60.84 percent, whereas the index in West Papua increased, from 61.73 percent in 2015 to 64.7 percent in 2019.
Related news: West Papua has successfully controlled COVID-19: Task Force

Related news: Special autonomous status ushers in progress for Papua: official

Reporter: Rangga PAJ, Sri Haryati
Editor: Fardah Assegaf


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