Reaction on ICG report and response by ICG

Reaction on ICG report and response by ICG

ICG, March 23rd

WPAT, March 16th


Ever since the International Crisis Group report on West Papua was published on March 11th many organisations have given their response or criticism to the same. This article reflects one of these counterreactions, namely of the WPAT and ICG's reaction to the main topics of criticism.

West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT): Statement on International Crisis Group report - and its coverage
Ed McWilliams, March 16, 2010


The International Crisis Group published a report on March 11, "Indonesia: Radicalization and Dialogue in Papua," which purports to depict the growing radicalization of some Papuan groups and consequent increases in violence there. The report usefully calls for dialogue between the Indonesian Government and Papuans and for an end to restrictions on access to Papua by journalists and researchers. However, the report fundamentally misrepresents the reality in Papua (West Papua) insofar as it ascribes growing violence there to Papuan "radicals." The principal impetus toward violence continues to be the persistent and accelerating deterioration of conditions effecting Papuans.

The report ignores continued violation of Papuan human rights and the unaccountability of their security force persecutors; the marginalization of Papuans who face resumption of ethnic cleansing under the rubric of "transmigration; as well as the devastation of Papua's natural resources under the guise of development. Specifically, although the report condemns the use of the label "separatist' to "taint" Papuan activists, no where does the lengthy report describe or acknowledge the daily consequences of policies which entail legal and extra-legal intimidation, harassment and worse for Papuans who assert their rights.

The report similarly ignores the fear among nearly all Papuans that government subsidized "migration" to Papua by non-Melanesian Indonesians will within this generation make Papuans a minority in their own homeland. While the report focuses heavily on Papuan animosity toward the Freeport-McMoran gold and copper mining enterprise, there is no attention to the vast environmental devastation wrought by those mining activities. Similarly, new "development" schemes promoted by Jakarta which stand to expropriate vast tracks of privately owned Papuan land for palm oil and food-for-export plantations to be farmed by non-Papuans are nowhere discussed.

Analysis of the report also reveals methodological problems. The report relies on sources who are in some cases no longer active. In other instances, the report fails to acknowledge the possibility that sources are advancing a particular agenda. Such self or group promotion is particularly a concern by the report's heavy reliance on press statements and third party interviews. The report curiously cites few NGO sources. It also surprisingly failed to interview numerous Papuan academics, church leaders or respected civil society leaders. Father Neles Tebay, who authored a dialogue proposal that the report describes (and commends) in great detail, was never interviewed for the report. Among problems arising from this inadequate sourcing is the implication advanced in the report's analysis that Papuan activists are divided along regional and tribal lines. While Papuans differ on specific tactics, there is remarkable unity among Papuan activists, particularly with regard to the key concerns prompting their efforts. The report also wrongly describes the International Parliamentarians for West Papua (IPWP) as having "encouraged violence." In reality, the IPWP and the vast majority of Papuan civil society groups have consistently sought to end through peaceful means the state violence meted out against Papuans.

The report's conclusion receiving the widest international attention relates to its assessment that recent violence associated with the Freeport-McMoran mine is most likely attributable to Papuan rebels. That assessment contends:
"It is not clear who is responsible or whether one or multiple parties have been involved. There are four possibilities, however: Kelly Kwalik’s OPM forces (Kelly himself was killed in a police raid on 16 December 2009); men acting on the orders of someone who once worked with Kelly Kwalik; the local Indonesian military; or a combination of the above. It is a reflection of the complexity of the political and economic dynamics around the mine that more than six months after the shootings began, and with some good investigators on the scene, there are no conclusive answers".

This assessment is questionable on many grounds. Among these, the ICG report fails to make any reference to a 2002 shooting that is in many ways appear to be an analog for the 2009-2010 shootings which independent reporting has persuasively indicated to have involved the Indonesian military. It also fails to note that despite deployment of many hundreds of Indonesian secuirty forces to the area, the attacks have continued for over six months.

Of much greater concern is the misrepresentation of even this cautious analysis in initial media coverage. A March 11 Reuters report assessed led with the following in its coverage: "Separatists in Indonesia's politically sensitive Papua province were behind deadly attacks in 2009 on workers near a mine run by a unit of Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc, a report released on Thursday said. A secessionist movement has smouldered for decades in Papua in the far east of the Indonesian archipelago. In recent months, unidentified gunmen launched a series of attacks on vehicles travelling to Freeport's Grasberg copper and gold mine near Timika, wounding more than 20 people and killing two."

Further complicating this misleading press coverage of the report, the ICG's Southeast Asia Director, Jim Della-Giacoma has himself misrepresented the report's conclusion. The Voice of America reports as follows on March 13: Some reports have indicated the mine shootings were carried out by rival factions of police and the military, competing for lucrative security contracts. But Della Giacoma says interviews with separatist leaders indicate the motivation was political.
"Whereas a number of those shooting incidents and attacks have actually been admitted to, acknowledged by those from the Free Papua Movement, and their supporters see it as a very, sort of, making a lot of sense tactically," he said. "Because they see that they can raise the profile of their issue by attacking and closing the mine."

This conclusion and an analysis is beyond what appears in the actual report.
WPAT regrets this ICG report badly misrepresents conditions on the ground in Papua and calls on the ICG to correct the record, especially insofar as press coverage and statements by ICG officials have drawn conclusions and offered analysis that go well beyond that contained in the report

"Indonesia's Papua: Of roads and road maps",
Jim Della-Giacoma, 23 March 2010
Jim Della-Giacoma is the South East Asia Project Director of International Crisis Group.

It seems to be unpleasant for some to digest that the Free Papua Movement (OPM) was most likely involved in the string of attacks near the Freeport mine road in Indonesia's easternmost province. But by their very nature, armed groups are committed to violence and killing people.

It causes further discomfort to learn that political activists from one militant group, the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), were active in getting out the message for OPM.

OPM acknowledged responsibility for some of the shootings and other attacks between July 2009 and January 2010 along the main road that links the mountain-top mine with its sea port, although it denied shooting dead an Australian mine worker. The evidence is not conclusive, although the case for the involvement of the late guerrilla leader Kelly Kwalik and his men is stronger than for any of the alternatives on offer.

As indicated by group of Jayapura-based students who spoke to ICG for our recent report on Papua, foreign NGOs might be sceptical but Papuan activists are open to the possibility that OPM staged these attacks: 'The OPM is the military wing, right? Their job is to shoot the enemy. Freeport and the security forces are the enemy. So it fits that OPM would attack them.' Military strategists would probably agree — the lone road that links the mine with the sea is also a good place for an ambush.

The mining road attacks have attracted the most international attention, because so many, inside and outside Papua, are convinced the Indonesian military is responsible, largely on the basis of the arms and the ammunition used and the alleged professionalism of the shooters. In fact, it is well known that from Sabang in the west to Merauke in the east, criminal activities in Indonesia often involve government-made weapons and munitions.

If it were true that the military is the culprit, the case on the Papuan side for rejecting dialogue with the Indonesian Government because of the abusive nature of one of its key institutions would be strengthened. But if the Papuan guerrillas are responsible, the attacks could be seen as a way of raising the stakes in any future negotiations.

Finding the truth is thus critical, but no one should lose sight of the larger issue, which is finding a just, practical and non-violent solution to the conflict. Those who want to help Papua need to focus on the political calculus at work in Indonesia. The so-called 'Papua Road Map' dialogue offers the best chance to address political and historical grievances (not just economic inequities) in a comprehensive way.

President Yudhoyono has reportedly expressed interest in opening a dialogue with Papuan representatives but he has to do more than passively back it – he has to get out front and preempt some of the paranoid nationalists in government ranks who equate dialogue with capitulation to separatists. No one is suggesting that following the Road Map will be easy, and it also carries risks: a poorly prepared dialogue that breaks down amid recriminations of bad faith could be worse than no dialogue at all.

In the end, though, there is a serious political bottom line for Jakarta to consider: if Indonesia wants to keep Papua a domestic issue, it needs to back this homegrown initiative. To ignore it or allow it to get lost along the way will see the real problems of Papua unresolved and give undesirable, and possibly violent, radicalism the right of way, with more international attention to follow.

In the meantime, it would be better for all if Papua were opened up for proper investigations and this province treated less like it contains something to hide.