Monthly report on West Papua - West Papua Advocacy Team

West Papua Report
West Papua Advocacy Team - March 3, 2010

The West Papua Advocacy Team urges President Obama to use his March visit to Indonesia to call on the Indonesian Government to implement fundamental changes in West Papua where human rights violations and impunity for security force crimes persist. Reporting from the central highlands in West Papua indicate an increased presence of security force and abusive and corrupt behaviour of these forces. Papuans have peacefully demonstrated in large numbers to press demands for the release of political prisoners, respect for human rights, investigation and prosecution of the killing of a peaceful demonstrator, and for demilitarization of West Papua. Papuans also have protested an Indonesian Government plan to seize vast tracts of land for "development" and displace many Papuans. The Indonesian government has failed to provide urgent health care for Filep Karma, a Papuan political prisoner. An Indonesian Minister has protested that Freeport McMoran, the giant U.S. mining operation, is operating illegally. Papuans have rejected plans by the Provincial government of West Java and the national government to send migrants to West Papua. It is feared that the transmigrants will use generous government subsidies to out-compete and marginalize local Papuans as has happened repeatedly in the past in West Papua.


  1. WPAT Letter to President Obama on The Eve of His Visit to Indonesia
  2. Indonesian Security Forces Ramping up Operations in Central Highlands
  3. Papuans Demonstrate to Peacefully Voice Demands
  4. Indonesian State Pursues "Land Grab" Targeting Papuans in Merauke Area
  5. Indonesian Government Fails to Provide Urgent Health Care to Incarcerated Prisoner of Conscience
  6. Freeport Operating Illegally According to Indonesian Minister
  7. Papuans Reject Plans for Expansion of "Transmigration"

1. WPAT Letter to President Obama on The Eve of His Visit to Indonesia
The West Papua Advocacy Team welcomes your upcoming visit to Indonesia as an opportunity to deepen U.S.-Indonesian ties and to encourage further democratization of Indonesia. Indonesia's democratic progress in the decade since the overthrow of the Suharto dictatorship has been
impressive and has facilitated the expansion of U.S. cooperation with this important nation. Critical to Indonesia's democratization is the expansion of respect for human rights. Respect for human rights and the process of democratization generally continue to face threats from the Indonesian military which continues to evade full civilian control and remains largely unaccountable before Indonesia's flawed judicial system.
It is imperative that the United States employ its not inconsiderable influence to work for the full subordination of the Indonesian military to civilian control and accountability before the law.

Nowhere in the Indonesian archipelago is military insubordination, corruption and abusive behaviour more on display than in West Papua, where the military continues to operate in a manner that reflects the rules and practices fostered under the Suharto dictatorship.

Your visit affords an opportunity to press for genuine reforms and further democratization in Indonesia and specifically in West Papua where human rights abuse, injustice and security force corruption is endemic.
Special Autonomy has not resolved the issues and is no final solution.
Papuan human rights activists remain subject to intimidation, arrest and even death.

In your meetings with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono we urge you to pursue real reforms that reflect the agenda of issues raised by human rights advocates in West Papua. These include:
... an end to military human rights violations, especially including an end to military "sweeping operations" by Indonesian Special Forces (Kopassus) and others which regularly displace thousands of Papuans;
... replacing the culture of impunity with genuine accountability of military and police personnel before the courts for past and ongoing human rights crimes and corruption;
... an end to resort to force by military and police to address peaceful protest by Papuans to include their employment of flags and banners;
… release of Papuan political prisoners and prisoners of conscience to include all those who have been detained for such peaceful protest;
... cessation of the practice of conflating political protest with "separatist" activity, a practice which enables security forces and Indonesian courts to address such peaceful protest as "terrorist" activity under the Indonesian governments functional definition of terrorism;
... demilitarization of West Papua and an end to military protection of and operation of business operations, many of which have had a devastating impact on Papuan natural resources;
... an end to restrictions on access to and travel within West Papua now imposed on international journalists, researchers, humanitarian workers and diplomats and in that regard to permit the return of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to its offices in West Papua;

We also urge that you encourage the Indonesian President and government to respond positively to long-standing calls by the Papuan civil society and Papuan officials for
… a senior-level, internationally mediated dialogue between the Indonesian government and Papuan civil society, building on the success of the earlier dialogue in Aceh and responding to calls from Papuans and also from prominent voices within Indonesian civil society;
… steps to address persistent Papuan concerns including policies such as "transmigration" and "special autonomy" which marginalize Papuans in their own land;
.. the creation of a demilitarized “zone of peace” in West Papua.

The United States played a central role in the process that saw West Papua annexed by Indonesia in the 1960s, a process that transparently failed to afford Papuans an opportunity to exercise genuine self determination. The period since then has seen continuing, extensive human rights problems. Democratization in Indonesia since 1998, and now your visit to that country, provide an opportunity for United States involvement in support of civil society efforts to solve some of the subsequent human rights problems.

2. Indonesian Security Forces Ramping up Operations in Central Highlands
Reports from reliable sources within the Papuan central highlands reveal a significant expansion of Indonesian military force deployment, particularly by the U.S.-funded "Detachment 88" which has constructed two new, apparently permanent posts. The military inter alia, is reported to be targeting largely unarmed guerrillas associated with the aging Papuan leader Thadeus Yogi. Papuan parliamentarians reporting are seeking to intervene to preclude new conflict by negotiating an agreement that would provide for "rehabilitation" for the aged rebel leader.

Separately, there are also reports that the Indonesian military is targeting rebel forces led by Goliath Tabuni in the Punjak Jaya area. Indonesian military officials have justified such an offensive on the recent killing of a Brimob (militarized policed) officer, found dead on February 15. The military claims of a rebel role in that killing have been disputed by Lukas Enembe, the local Bupati (the government official heading the administrative regency in which the killing took place).

Over several months local officials have sought to secure the removal of Indonesian state security personnel from the Mulia area, also in the central highlands. These personnel include troops from Battalions 754 and 756 based in Timika and Wamena. Among the problems these troops have generated is inflation of the number of personnel (claiming 150 when in fact there are 120 personnel) in order to extract additional funds to support their deployment. In addition to these battalions the 753 Battalion remains in Nabire.

These newly arriving military personnel have also busied them selves with constructions of new traffic control points - frequently used to shake down local travellers. Meanwhile, police forces have constructed three new road-control posts at which they interrogate civilian who are bearded or who carry bows and arrows which is a traditional practice of the local Mee culture.

Indonesian military personnel are also reported to be creating problems elsewhere in the Central Highlands. Kopassus and other military personnel in Mulia, the capitol of Puncak Jaya are engaged in Ojek (motorcycle transportation) business as well as the illegal sale of alcohol. Huge profits are made through mark ups of 600 percent of vodka in Mulia as compared with the price in Jayapura.

3. Papuans Demonstrate to Peacefully Voice Demands
The February 23 Cenderawasih Pos reports that a large peaceful demonstration by Papuans in Jayapura called for an end to repression. The demonstrators demands reflected longstanding concerns of Papuans who have for decades suffered discrimination and marginalization at the hands of a distant Indonesian Government which relies on an abusive military to enforce its will.

The demonstrators demands included:

  • an immediate and unconditional release of all political detainees and convicted political prisoners;
  • investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the killing of Opinus Tabuni who was killed by fire from security forces at a peaceful August 2008;
  • demilitarization of West Papua and for the withdrawal of "non-organic" troops (troops not native to West Papua, assigned to augment indigenous troops);
  • opposition to plans announced in Jakarta to create a new West Papua-based military command (Kodam);
  • and an end to extra-judicial killings.

The demonstration took place outside the Papua Legislative Assembly and was organized by several Papuan groups in the capitol. Repeated police efforts to stop the demonstration failed.

4. Indonesian State Pursues "Land Grab" Targeting Papuans in Merauke Area
The Indonesian Government plans to take control of vast tracts of land near Merauke in West Papua, much of it already owned and farmed by Papuans.

The planned Merauke food estate will comprise a 1.6 million hectare integrated food production zone where companies will grow, process and package their products in one location. The project, part of President Yudhoyono’s fast-track development" 100-day program," is aimed at developing food estates in eastern Indonesia. The plan entails an expansion of Merauke's population of some 175,000 people to up to 800,000. That potentially disruptive population growth will likely involve a massive, state-supported inflow of non-Papuans along the lines of decades of "transmigration policies" that have sown ethnic conflict in West Papua, Borneo and Sumatra. That conflict has arisen as local populations are marginalized in their own homelands as Government support programs favor the internal migrants to the disadvantage of locals.

As noted in the February West Papua Report, there is growing opposition to the scheme from small-scale Papuan farmers who say they fear their traditional livelihoods will be threatened by the large-scale, state-subsidized commercialization of agriculture. "We reject the concept of the food estate. For us, food estates are another kind of land grabbing scheme. It's like going back to the era of feudalism," Indonesian Farmers Union official Kartini Samon told the Jakarta Post. "The regular farmers' land will be taken by big companies and the farmers will be left with nothing," she said.

The plan is only the latest in a history of Indonesian state expropriation of land which has displaced and disadvantaged Papuans which began in 1967, when Papuan lands were still nominally under a UN mandate. In that year, the Suharto regime seized land in the Timika-Tembagapura area in order to facilitate the development of the Freeport McMoran copper and gold mine. The succeeding decades saw the displacement of thousands of Papuans (Amungme and Kamoro) and the destruction of tens of thousands of acres of productive land and fisheries.

The Yudhoyono plan also concerns potential investors. In addition to the local protests reported above and in the February "West Papua Report," an Indonesian Chamber of Commerce official told the Jakarta Globe that "legal uncertainty" will discourage investment. That "uncertainty" arises from a melange of Indonesian laws and regulations on land usage, including the Forestry Law, the Spatial Management Law, and the Law on "Special Autonomy."

5. Indonesian Government Fails to Provide Urgent Health Care to Incarcerated Prisoner of Conscience
Information developed by reputable human rights advocates documents inhumane treatment of those incarcerated in Indonesian prison facilities, including those convicted of peaceful political dissent. In this instance, the inhumane treatment concerns the failure of the Government to address urgent, persistent health needs of individuals such as Filep Karma identified by Amnesty International as prisoners of conscience.

Filep Karma was arrested in 2004, following his involvement in peacefully raising the Morning Star flag on 1 December 2004. He was later convicted, together with a colleague Yusak Pakage. He received a 15-year sentence while Pakage was sentenced to ten years.

Since August 5, 2009, imprisoned Papuan activist Filep Karma has faced painful health problems, specifically he has endured great difficulty urinating and felt acute pain. His appeals for medical treatment for this condition have gone largely unanswered. On August 6, he attend the clinic at the prison and was told that no medicine was available. A nurse advised him to lie on his back and raise his legs to the wall at 90 degrees while massaging his abdomen. He was not examined nor was he given anything to relieve the pain.

On 18 August, he was taken to DOK II Hospital and put into intensive care. On 5 October, he received a letter from the director of the Cikiini hospital in Jakarta stating he required treatment at the Urological Surgery Department at the Cikini Hospital. The Director of the hospital in Jayapura concurred.

However, on 8 October, the prison Director said that the prison can only provide each prisoner the sum of Rp 15,000 (less that $2.00) each year for medical purposes. He added that the prison has no funds to cover the costs of travel to Jakarta.

After extended discussions with officials of the provincial government it agreed to provide funds to cover only for transportation (including transport of prison and other guard officials).

(The above information is sourced to Solidaritas Korban Pelanggaran HAM Papua, Solidarity with the Victims of Human Rights Violations in Papua. It was received and forwarded by TAPOL. )

6. Freeport Operating Illegally According to Indonesian Minister
The February 23 Jakarta Globe reports that the Ministry of Forestry has publicly criticized the U.S.-based Freeport McMoran copper and gold mine in the Tembagapura-Timika area of West Papua for its "illegal" activity. Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan told lawmakers he had sent Freeport an initial warning regarding its illegal activities on August 7, but had received no response in the intervening five months.

Speaking on February 22, before a hearing with the House of Representatives Commission IV which has responsibility for forestry and agriculture the minister explained that a 2004 government regulation in lieu of law ("perppu") required a permit from the ministry to be issued for mining in protected areas. The forestry law prevents forest areas from being mined, but the 2004 perppu provided exceptions to 13 miners, including Freeport, provided they acquire “borrow-use permits” from the ministry. Freeport has no such permit, Zulkifli said.

"Under the forestry [law] it is illegal, that’s why we sent the second warning," Zulkifli said, adding that his ministry did not have authority to revoke the license for non-compliance.

Budiman Moerdiat, the communications manager of Freeport, claimed to media that Freeport had "followed the rules that were set in our mining contract of work." The Freeport official claimed that the company has "lex specialis rights," i.e., a legal stipulation that the terms and conditions of the contracts would not be affected by any general Indonesian laws. The "right" to operate outside the law was extended to Freeport by the massively corrupt Suharto regime in 1988 and was extended in 1991 for a 30 year period. Suharto and his family, as well as the military, benefited from a huge flow of payments and subsidies. Freeport funds continue to flow to the military.

The Freeport official did not explain why the company had ignored the Ministry's August message.

7. Papuans Reject Plans for Expansion of "Transmigration"
The Papua Customary Council as well as Papuan civil society organizations have rejected new plans for expanded "transmigration" as announced by the Governor of West Java.

The new plan arises from discussions between the West Java Governor and Papuan officials, sponsored by the Ministry of Transmigration, which lay the groundwork for the sending of 700 family heads to West Papua from West Java on an annual basis. The scheme targets an area of 5,870,642 hectares of what the Minister of Transmigration described as "potential placement locations for transmigrants." The Minister noted plans to assist the transmigrants beyond levels in past years. Specifically, transmigrants would receive training in agribusiness and trade as well as development of facilities and infrastructure.

It is precisely such assistance, now to be provided at an increased level, that has facilitated the marginalization of Papuans who are easily out-competed by the newcomers in part due to Government assistance.