By : Roshni Kapur
The province of West Papua continues to be shrouded in secrecy from the rest of the world. West Papua’s struggle for independence from the Indonesian government has been simmering for half a century. The conflict has received little media coverage since the Indonesian government has managed to block and censor information. The government has also implemented a policy that bars foreign journalists from entering West Papua, hence preventing stories of human rights violations from being reported and reaching the outside world.
West Papua was the only territory of the East Indies Empire which the Dutch did not give to Indonesia. In 1961, the Dutch formed a national assembly and the Morning Star flag was hoisted declaring its independence. Soon after, Indonesia invaded West Papua with the military support of the Soviet Union.
The US intervened by brokering the New York Agreement without consulting or involving the indigenous people. The agreement gave Indonesia interim control of West Papua until the 1969 Act of Free Choice, a UN-sponsored referendum to vote for either independence or integration will be held. Instead of holding a universal referendum, only one per cent of the population was handpicked to vote. Those selected by the authorities were intimidated with force which resulted in a unanimous vote that was in favour of joining Indonesia.
Although the outcome of the referendum was unopposed around that time, many West Papuans think that their mandate was not taken into account on whether they want to be a part of Indonesia. The Indonesian government wrests their control of West Papua through the New York agreement.
The West Papua resistance is the most protracted conflict in the Pacific which is a highly sensitive issue for Indonesia. Almost 500,000 people have been killed since Indonesia’s annexation in 1969. The province is the most heavily militarised place of Indonesia with around 45,000 military personnel currently deployed. In 2012, security forces deployed in Wamena ambushed civilians and burned down houses and vehicles. The violence continued where in May 2015 some 487 activists were arrested for taking part in the signature-raising campaign, where some were subjected to torture.
There have been high hopes that the incumbent Indonesian president Joko Widodo may bring in new reforms on Indonesia’s policy towards West Papua. He granted release to five West Papuan inmates and removed restrictions on international media during his visit to the province in May 2015.
“The Jokowi administration has been trying to improve the human rights, economic, and security conditions in Papua,” DrIkrar Nusa Bhakti, a research professor at the Research Centre for Politics was quoted in an online article on ABC.
“Mr Jokowi has visited Papua four times and become the first Indonesian president (to) spend his time and attentions on Papua,” he added.
Although Widodo has tried to pacify Melanesian leaders that Indonesia upholds democracy, the police continue to use unrestrained force on West Papua.
The UN now faces regional pressure to probe the alleged human rights violations in West Papua. In March 2017, seven Pacific countries, led by Vanuatu, pushed for an UN inquiry into the alleged human rights abuses such as extrajudicial executions, fatal shootings and beatings of nonviolent protesters.
The appeal on behalf of the seven states was made by Vanuatu’s Justice Minister Ronald Warsal during a session in the UN Human Rights Council who requested for a detailed report from the high commissioner for human rights.
“To date the Government of Indonesia has not been able to curtail or halt these various and widespread violations,” he said.
“Neither has that Government been able to deliver justice for the victims. Nor has there been any noticeable action to address these violations by the Indonesian Government,” he added.
In response, Indonesia has denied that human rights abuses are rife in West Papua and criticised the countries for meddling into its affairs.
“The Indonesian Government has always endeavoured to address any allegation of human rights violation as well as taking preventative measures and delivering justice,” an Indonesian Government spokesperson told the Human Rights Council.
Some think that chances remain slim for an UN supervised referendum without approval from the Indonesian government who is ferociously against holding another referendum. West Papua’s mandate for liberation is the government’s biggest nightmare.
“The TNI (Indonesian Armed Forces) has made very clear it will not allow it, and no president has sufficient political will or capital to push it that hard,” Damien Kingsbury, Professor of International Politics at Deakin University in Melbourne was quoted in an online article on Pasifik News.
On the other hand, others think that the heightened awareness from the unwavering and persisted self-determination struggle may be a positive step.
“We need to look at what the movement has been able to achieve in recent years in terms of raising the profile of this issue not just in our region but across the world,” said Tess Newton Cain, political analyst from the Vanuatu-based TNC Consulting.
High-profile politicians such as Britain’s opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn have also backed the resistance movement, calling for a political strategy for West Papuans.
“It’s about a political strategy that brings to worldwide recognition the plight of the people of West Papua, that forces it onto a political agenda, that forces it to the UN, and ultimately allows the people of West Papua to make a choice about the kind of government they want and the kind of society in which they want to live,” he said during a meeting of the International Parliamentarians for West Papua at the House of Commons in the UK.
The mountainous region, comprising the provinces of Papua and West Papua, is home to more than 250 Melanesian ethnic groups. The tribes have not shown any inclination to join Indonesia, a country with which there is no common culture, history, ethnicity or religion. West Papuans belong to the Melanesian race. In 2007, the province’s name changed from West Irian Jaya to West Papua to fulfil the aspirations of the indigenous people.
Indonesia’s sovereignty of West Papua is recognised by most countries including the US and Australia. Australia has said that Indonesia’s rule over the region Papua provinces is defined by the 2006 Lombok Treaty. However, many Pacific island countries think that another referendum should be held to decide West Papua’s sovereignty.
The province is a poverty-stricken region even though it is one of the most mineral-rich areas in the world. According to the Australian Institute of International Affairs, the poverty level in the province is thrice more than Indonesia’s national average.
Indeed secession movements against an occupation are a tall order where the propensity of achieving full secession is grim. The self-determination resistance will continue until West Papuans are not given the freedom of choice to decide about their political future. Getting outsiders involved in the movement might be one way to push for democratic reform that will restore the dignity, freedom and respect for them. (*)
Roshni Kapur graduated from the University of Sydney where she specialised in Master of Peace and Conflict Studies. Her research interests are in the areas of women’s rights, civil society, and migration, conflict transformation and reconciliation.
The origin of Indonesian racism towards Papuans and its implication to a Free West Papua Movement
By Yamin Kogoya
ESCALATING violence and attacks on Papuan students saw thousands of young people march on the streets and set fire to the Parliament building in West Papua on 19th August 2019. This was in response to Papuan students being attacked in their dormitory in Surabaya last week after they had alleged bent a flagpole during the Indonesian Independence Day celebrations (on 17 August).
Surabaya police chief, senior commissioner Sandi Nugroho, said the attack on the Papuan student dormitory was carried out by Indonesian nationalist community groups who were angered by the treatment of their national flag.
In an effort to restore calm, the Papua Governor, Lukas Enembe called on all Indonesian citizens to respect their national value of “unity in diversity” (Bhineka Tunggal Ika), and for the security forces to act professionally and in accordance with Indonesian laws and to not let activist groups take the law in their own hands. He reiterated that Papuans studying in Indonesian cities and towns must be treated with dignity and respect and is how Papuans treat Indonesians studying in West Papua.
The timing of last weeks’ attacks, retaliations and protests could not be more significant for both the Papuans and Indonesians. On 16th August 2019, the leaders of Pacific Island nations passed several resolutions regarding the Papuan genocide at the Pacific Island Forums, while 17th August 2019 was the 74th anniversary of Indonesia’s Independence Day.
PAPUANS HAVE ENDURED YEARS OF RACISM AND VIOLENCE
Papuans are no stranger to Indonesia’s cruel and violent racism and which they have endured since the 1960s. Papuans have died, been marginalized, and had their rights denied because of racism.
Filep Karma, a West Papuan political activist experienced firsthand racism by Indonesians during his university years, and in 2014 said: “As If We Are Half Animal: Indonesia’s Racism in Papua Land”.
Fifty-six years later, and these cruel racial slurs are alive and thriving as Papuans continue to be called monkeys, insinuating that they are primitive. This insult cuts deep in the hearts of Papuans.
Just last week, Indonesian Human Rights Lawyer, Veronica Koman posted videos on her Twitter feed of Indonesian demonstrators holding up picture monkeys and chanted “kick out, kick out the transmigrants, kick out transmigrants now”.
While the world’s media is focusing on the violence involved in the demonstrations, they are ignoring what is at the heart of the demonstrations, that being racism. It is not acceptable to call Papuans monkeys, effectively denying them their fundamental intrinsic value of being human. And while President Joko Widodo called on his brothers and sisters in Papua and West Papua to forgive and forget, the racial harassment and discriminations against Papuan students has been ongoing.
Governor Enembe said “Papuans students throughout Indonesia always get called Monkey and are not safe”. During an interview on Indonesian TV ONE, he condemned the way Papuan students are treated in other parts of Indonesia. “It has been 74 years since Indonesia gained its independence from the Dutch and this country still treats my people inhumanly. If the situation doesn’t improve, I will bring my Papuan students back home”.
Racism is a weapon deploy by the colonial power to break down the Papuan human spirit. This is the same weapon Indonesia is using that was used on them by the Europeans, and who killed millions of the first nation people around the world over 500 years.
IS IT A CASE OF MONKEY-SEE-MONKEY-DO FOR INDONESIA?
As the Jakarta Post reported “racism” is at the heart of the Surabaya -West Papua conflict, and highlighted Indonesia’s own experience of racism under the Dutch colonial rule.
It appears that after 74 years of independence from the Dutch, and despite Indonesia’s national ideology of “Pancasila” and “Bhineka Tunggal Ika” (Five constitutional Pillars and Unity in Diversity”, it is still suffering from the decades of racial abuse under Dutch rule.
Indonesian treatment of Papuans is like a revenge towards unexamined grievances they suffered. Papuans’ genocide at the hands of Indonesia in West Papua and unprecedented destruction of their ancestral homeland originated in the minds of racist Europeans. But they are projecting their anger onto the wrong people. They should direct their anger onto the Dutch and Western Governments.
The Dutch used guns and the Bible to tame the Indigenous Indonesian over 300 years. They broke their human spirit and imagination through racial discrimination. They were dehumanized and used as a lethal weapon against all other non-Dutch Europeans.
The Dutch implemented a class system whereby the Indonesians were third class citizens, well beneath the first-class Europeans, and the second-class Chinese and Arabs.
And so, the cycle continues, with Indonesia trying to dehumanize and break the Papuan spirit so they can rebuild them to identity with Indonesian colonial ideas.
Indonesia wants to love Papuans and accept them as part of Indonesia. However, they can’t because, just like their former European colonialists, Indonesia has wrong and distorted information about Papuans.
As articulated by sociologist Thomas Scheff in the Jakarta Post on Friday, May 31, 2013:
“there is no love between Papuans and Indonesians. It is infatuation. Genuine love requires detailed knowledge of the other”.
Another tragic learned behaviour from the Dutch is Indonesia taking the role of “definer”. Essentially, Indonesia sees itself as the tape measure that other people and cultures have to measure up to or ‘be defined’.
Papuans are subjected to racism everywhere they go, from university dormitories, the marketplace and on the streets. The Papuan values, feelings, emotions and psychology are under constant attack by the colonial racist system. This is the institutionalized racism to poison the soul of Papuans.
PAPUA HAS BEEN THE RACISM FOOTBALL THAT’S BEEN KICKED AROUND FOR YEARS
West Papua has been treated as a commodity for years, being passed around and sacrificed as world leaders saw fit. The USA, Australia, Dutch and Indonesia decided its fate during the negotiations in the 1960s. It was sacrificed for world peace on UN’s alter in 1963 and handed over to Indonesia in an attempt to halt the spread of communism in Indonesia (by way of providing an army). Remarkably, West Papuans was never considered nor were they invited to participate in this meeting
US president Kennedy referred to West Papuans as “The 700,000 living in the stone age…a few thousand square miles of cannibals land.” Papuans was used to secure the interest of Western governments and the Soviet Bloc. They had no value and rights. The result of these negotiations cost millions of Papuan lives.
Western policy makers were more concerned with teaching Papuans how to eat with knife and fork rather than their rights for political independence.
Unfortunately for Papuans, their relationship with Europeans has always been tainted by racism. The Western governments, Chinese, Indonesian and industrialised countries always assume that natural state of being Papuan is not desirable which is why they always attempt to dehumanise the Papuans.
According to Dr. Tarcisius kabutaulaka, associate professor at the Centre for Pacific Islands Studies at the Univeristy of Hawaii, European’s have always placed Melanesian people at the bottom of human hierarchy because of their darker skin colours and cultural traits that led to them being viewed as primitive. They bare the internal stigma of “Oceanic Negroes”. The crimes Melanesian committed to be boxed at the bottom of Europeans category was simply the fact. 
IS THIS THE PATH TO INDEPENDENCE
The intriguing aspect about this recent demonstration is how seriously Papuan students and young people are taking the issue of ‘racism’. They are using the ongoing racism to voice their deep aspiration for independence from Indonesia.
Recently, Indonesia has been focusing on building diplomatic relationships with the Pacific island countries but, how can a genuine relationship be built and sustained when one party approaches the other with a paternalistic colonial mental outlook? This was evident during the 2019 Pacific Exposition in Auckland whereby the Indonesian government did not disclose the real issues faced by Papuans. What Indonesia did display was misconstrued image of the Papuan.
If Indonesia continues to see Papuans through the lens of racism (monkey), why would they treat any other black race in the Oceania with love and respect. To build a sense of brotherhood among all men across all our cultural and religious prejudices, we need a new interconnectedness worldview, not racially fragmented one.
if President Jokowi was sincere about calling Papuans “brothers and sisters” then it is time for Indonesian to treat Papuans with dignity and respect, including the overwhelming desire by Papuans for “Independence”. Otherwise these words are meaningless.
Despite the Indonesian effort to truncate the growing support for an independent West Papua, the Pacific island leaders did pass a few resolutions in during last week PIF’s meeting in Tuvalu.
What do these resolutions really mean to Papuans? Whether it was a mere Orwellian exercise concocting the final communique -a pure fiasco or it is one of the steps that will enable the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) to enter UN General Assembly, one thing is clear that support for the West Papuans plight is growing.
This support from Pacific island communities will likely grow in the future if Indonesia continues to mistreat their fellow Papuans.
Calling Papuans a monkey can and will ignite the fire of resistance (as seen by thousands of Papuans protesting and setting fire to parliament house). The issue of racism is serious and failure to recognise this will end up costing Indonesia the very thing they are trying to hold on to.
As Evi Mariani warned Jakarta in her paper published yesterday by the Jakarta Post:
“Racism in the love story in Bumi Manusia is the prequel to Indonesia’s budding nationalism against the occupation of the Dutch before our independence in 1945. Surely, we would not want the racism befalling Papuans to pave the way for their struggle for independence from “Indonesian occupation” on their land”.
The outspoken Free West Papua advocate, the governor of PNG Oro Province, Gary Juffa has warned through his official Facebook page that:
“In case any of you have any misconception about your future fate at the hands of expanding Indonesian influence…here is a grim remainder…if they call our brothers and sisters monkeys…on their own land…that is exactly what they are calling us now”
The leaders of “Blue Pacific” cannot be naïve like a rabbit by inviting the wolves from Jakarta, Beijing and Canberra to discuss about what they are going to have for dinner. Dangerous and yet virtues rabbit is better than harmless and virtue less creature that lives only to be eaten by predators.
It is West Papua’s deepest hope that the Pacific Island leaders will not sacrifice West Papua by accepting a worldly materialistic offer by Jakarta, Beijing and Canberra. How remarkable it would be in this modern world for the racially abused and subjugated people are able to stand firm against the might and reject the gold in favour of their own souls. That would be the retelling of an old story written anew. (*)
Author is Australia-based anthropologist
Who actually benefits from the Trans Papua Highway?
Papua, Jubi – Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI) researcher Cahyo Pamungkas says that the Trans Papua Highway has yet to bring any benefits to the Papuan people.
“The benefits for indigenous people can’t be seen yet. So people ask who exactly is the road for? Because the there is still illegal logging in the central highlands, the highlands are being destroyed, it’s easier for outsiders to exploit natural resources”, said Pamungkas at a press conference on the conflict in Nduga regency at the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH) offices in Jakarta on Thursday July 18.
Pamungkas explained that instead of benefiting ordinary Papuans, the Trans Papua Highway threatens their economic wellbeing.
“Pig livestock from Toraja comes into Wamena. So the Wamena’s people’s pigs don’t sell. This threatens their economy. It is increasingly easy for outsiders to come to Wamena, so Wamena people see the road as a threat to their future”, explained Pamungkas.
Pamungkas said that the Trans Papua Highway project only connects regencies or cities and the benefits of this are not felt by the Papuan people. Meanwhile roads between villages and districts which are in fact what is actually needed are not being built.
“Yet roads like this (between villages and districts) are very important, for example simply to sell vegetables produced by farmers in markets”, said Pamungkas.
According to Pamungkas, the Trans Papua Highway actually facilitates the exploitation of natural resources which can be seen from large number of trees being felled and gold mining.
“Moreover when LIPI researched development on this road, we found many logging camps for logging in the direction of the Papua Lorentz National Park, which should a protected area”, explained Pamungkas.
Pamungkas is of the view that the government should immediately hold a dialogue with Papuan social leaders with the assistance of appropriate mediators.
“Because the most important thing at the moment is liberating the Papuan people from the memory of suffering which has built up over time. Particularly the acts of violence by security forces which has resulted in trauma for the residents of Nduga regency, Papua province”, he explained.
Local people’s rights
Expressing a similar view to Pamungkas, Amnesty International Indonesia researcher Aviva Nababan believes that the Trans Papua Highway does not provide any clear benefits. He also questions the government’s planning process for the road.
“Looking at it again from the process. Did the government design its function by thinking about the rights of the people the road impacts on? Did they really follow the principles of involving local communities? If not, this needs to be fixed. We think it shouldn’t be seen from the perspective of western Indonesia. There’s a road, lovely. There’s a road, great”, said Nababan at Jakarta LBH on Friday July 19.
Nababan warned that Indonesia has a commitment to fulfill the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) meaning that it must involve local communities in all development planning.
He also asked the government to respect the rights of indigenous Papuans. Because according to Amensty’s research, there have been alleged human rights (HAM) violations which have made Nduga residence traumatised and afraid of the security forces.
“When there are problems of HAM violations related to law enforcement in Papua, the tendency is that the cases are rarely investigated. Let alone followed up, or satisfactory accountability”, he explained. (*)
Do you know how vital Papua is for the environment?
By Benjamin Ware
DO you know how vital Papua is for the environment? This province in Eastern Indonesia is home to the last big area of intact forest in the country, and one of the world’s most biodiverse. It is also the poorest part of Indonesia – nearly 30% of people here live in poverty.
Growing palm oil can be a way out of this poverty trap, but it also brings with it the risk of deforestation. In 2018 Greenpeace exposed large-scale deforestation in Papua linked to palm oil business Gama, which was then suspended from our supply chain.
That same year, Nestlé suspended 10 companies for violating our Responsible Sourcing Standard. Three for illegal deforestation in Papua, and one for the same offense in neighboring West Papua. This shows the seriousness of deforestation as a local issue.
What happens after we suspend a company from our supply chain?
Some companies continue with ‘business as usual’, while others sell off their remaining forested lands. Others, like Gama, act to halt deforestation and commit to ‘No Deforestation, No Peat and No Exploitation’ (NDPE) – the basis of responsible palm oil production and a requirement of our Responsible Sourcing Standard.
At Nestlé, we want to support companies like Gama to produce sustainable palm oil. Indeed, efforts are ongoing to develop standard re-entry criteria that suppliers found guilty of illegal deforestation must meet, before buying companies let them back into their supply chains.
Verifying supplier claims
We wanted to see Gama’s commitment to responsible production first hand, which is why Nestlé visited Papua in early 2019 with the NGO Aidenvironment Asia and one of our suppliers.
On the ground, we saw how Gama is implementing its new NDPE commitment, which involves working with Aidenvironment Asia on a remediation strategy for their lands in Papua and other parts of Indonesia.
Their work involves replanting ‘riparian zones’ (transitional zones between land and water) and deforested areas unplanted with palm oil, developing conservation plans for forested lands in Gama’s ‘land bank’, and generating compensation plans for lands cleared and planted.
Using concession maps from the supplier, Nestlé was able to monitor Gama’s sites via Starling. Since September 2018, this satellite-based system allows us to monitor our entire global palm oil supply chain for evidence of deforestation.
Satisfied with what we saw, we allowed Gama back into our supply chain on the condition that it does not clear any more forest or peatland (Aidenvironment will monitor this, and Nestlé also using Starling). Gama must also implement recovery and compensation plans that take account of local community needs.
Safeguarding people and planet
To some people, our move to allow Gama back into our supply chain before it completes its remediation plans might seem hasty. But we took this decision with one of our key Responsible Sourcing objectives in mind – what is best for people and planet.
In Papua, proper planning to support conservation and sustainable economic development is vital. Local communities want Gama to develop their lands. If Gama does not do so, it runs the risk of losing the lands, which another, less scrupulous company could then clear.
At the same time, conservation is vital. Locals we met also want to conserve their local forest, which is central to their culture. Indonesia’s government thinks similarly – it wants to develop the region whilst conserving 90% of its forest cover under the Papua Province Vision.
The situation is complex, and the need to balance conservation and development objectives is not unique to Indonesia. In South America, West Africa and beyond, we face similar challenges.
Nonetheless, if you take one message from this blog – this is it. We can only preserve forests by supporting those companies that embrace forest conservation as part of a sustainable economic development plan.
By excluding those companies that are found guilty of deforestation, but work hard thereafter to do the right thing, we risk endangering the magnificent forests that remain. (*)
The author is Global Head of Responsible Sourcing
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