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Indonesia’s Kopassus Commandos to Train Again with US Military

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Members of Indonesia’s special forces unit known as Kopassus march during a rehearsal in Banten province, Oct. 3, 2015. Reuters

Papua, Jubi – The elite Indonesian army unit Kopassus will train again with the American military, the Southeast Asian nation’s defense chief said Thursday, in the strongest sign that Washington has agreed to improve ties with the special forces group accused of past human rights abuses.

Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu made the announcement after meeting in Jakarta on Thursday with acting U.S. counterpart Patrick Shanahan, during which the two agreed to boost bilateral military cooperation, including on counterterrorism and maritime security.

“Enhancing cooperation will be in the form of dialogue forums, visits by high-ranking military officers, more TNI [Indonesian military] cadets attending education in the U.S., and training for rangers and special forces,” Ryamizard told reporters.

In a joint statement, the two sides affirmed support for normalized relations with Kopassus, which is short for “Special Forces Command” in Indonesian. A joint exercise was expected to take place in 2020, it said.

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“Both ministries affirm support for the expansion in our army to army exercise next year, and by normalizing the Army special forces relationship beginning in 2020 with a Joined Combined Exercise Training with KOPASSUS,” the statement said.

A Pentagon spokesman did not immediately respond to a BenarNews email seeking details on the joint training exercises. But Lt. Col. Dave Eastburn, a U.S. Defense Department spokesman, told Reuters that the training program was still in its initial stages and would likely be for up to six weeks.

Shanahan’s predecessor, James Mattis, last year pushed for expanding training for Indonesian military units involved in counter-terrorism, including Kopassus, which gained notoriety after its members were accused of rights abuses during the 1990s in East Timor, when it was occupied by Indonesia.

Kopassus personnel have also been accused of committing atrocities in hotspots in Indonesia, including Aceh province on Sumatra island and Papua, the country’s easternmost region.

In 2010, Washington lifted a more than a decade-long ban on military assistance to Kopassus, arguing that the unit had undergone sufficient reform following the fall of authoritarian ruler Suharto in 1998.

Last year, Indonesia’s National Commission on Human Rights, known as Komnas HAM, said Kopassus members were involved in rape, killings, enforced disappearances and torture between 1989 and 1998, describing those accusations as crimes against humanity.

“The crimes were borne out of the policy to impose a military emergency in Aceh at that time,” Komnas HAM team member Mohammad Choirul Anam told a news conference in Jakarta last September.

“We have enough preliminary evidence that crimes against humanity, such as rape and other forms of sexual violence, murder, deprivation of freedom, forced imprisonment and forced disappearances,” he said.

The U.S. Congress bans training of foreign military units believed to have involved in human rights abuses under a law sponsored by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.).

Congress began implementing the so-called Leahy Laws in 1998, cutting ties with Kopassus the following year over allegations that its forces had killed civilians and committed rights abuses in East Timor as well Aceh and West Papua provinces.

The laws attach human rights conditions to congressional appropriations of U.S. military aid to foreign countries.

In Jakarta on Thursday, Shanahan told reporters that he and Ryamizard had discussed growing “our capacity and our level of cooperation.”

“The first is expanding, increasing our complex training exercises,” the acting American defense secretary said. “There are many things that we share in common in terms of threats – or I will consider opportunities – our ability to work in counter-terrorism, our ability to work on maritime domain awareness.”

Last year, as Mattis was preparing for his Jakarta visit, Sen. Leahy described Kopassus as a “criminal enterprise” under Suharto, and said it was unclear whether the elite unit had completely transformed.

“The question Secretary Mattis needs to answer is whether the Indonesian government has punished the Kopassus officers who ordered and covered up those horrific crimes, and whether members of Kopassus today are accountable to the rule of law,” the senator told reporters at the time.

Tackling regional threats

On Thursday, the two countries also agreed to tackle threats to security in the Asia-Pacific region, including those posed by returning nationals who fought alongside Islamic State (IS) fighters in Syria and Iraq, the Indonesian defense chief said.

IS-linked militants from Indonesia and the Philippines had been implicated in recent terrorist attacks in both countries, Ryamizard said.

“We must also pay attention to Rohingya refugees. They must be … humanized, otherwise, terrorists will be waiting in the wings to persuade them to join their ranks,” Ryamizard said.

Shanahan was in Indonesia on the first leg of an Asian tour, which will take him to Singapore, where he is scheduled to speak at the Shangri-La Dialogue regional security and defense forum.

Ryamizard said he would attend the forum and talk about maintaining stability and resilience in the face of threats in Southeast Asia.

The region will be stronger and more stable if the countries with combined populations of 560 million people are united, with the support of the United States and partners including Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and Russia, Ryamizard said.

Concerns that ex-IS militants returning from Syria would become leaders of independent terrorist cells not affiliated with pro-IS militant groups in Indonesia have not yet become a reality but remains something to worry about, according to a recent report by a Jakarta-based think-tank.

“At present, the biggest threat comes from IS supporters who have never left, not from those who returned,” Sidney Jones, director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), said in a report published last month.

Ryamizard also said the U.S. had an interest in making the South China Sea accessible to all.

“Indonesia understands that it must maintain peace and cooperation between countries such as joint patrols so that all countries can go through (the South China Sea),” Ryamizard said.

In December, the Indonesian military inaugurated a military unit in the Natuna islands near the South China Sea.

Indonesian navy patrols have clashed with Chinese fishing boats in waters off Natuna in recent years, as the nation has increased a crackdown on illegal fishing in the maritime region and accused the Chinese of fishing in the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

China responded by calling the waters traditional fishing grounds. Tensions between China and its neighbors have risen as the superpower has sought to assert its control of the South China Sea in the face of competing territorial claims from countries in the region.

China claims most of the sea as its own, while Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei have overlapping claims to territories. (Benarnews.org)

 

Source: Benarnews.org

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A tragic story from Deiyai Regent Office

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Anti-racism protest in Waghete, the capital of Deiyai Regency, Papua, on Wednesday (28/8/2019). – Jubi/IST

Jayapura, Jubi – A rally to protest racism against West Papuans in front of the Deiyai Regent Office on Wednesday, 28 August 2019, turned to a tragedy. A local parliament member Alfret Pakage told Jubi about the tragic story.

The story began when a young man called Yustimus Takimas died in a car crash involving an Indonesian soldier. His death triggered a mass rampage that ended with the police’s gunshot.

“I don’t have an idea about what was happening at the Regent Office’s backyard because I was standing at the side door watching people coming. After the car accident that killed young Takimai, people killed a soldier who was in the car. Then, all young men joined the crowd. Some entered through the front while others from the back via BKD Office. At that time the joint security force stood at the corner of the Regent Office. I was there too facing the BKD Office,” Pakage told Jubi by phone on Wednesday, (11/9/2019).

Furthermore, he said the mob threw stones to the soldiers, and they responded it with tear gas shots. However, when they found out a soldier killed, they threw bullets against the crowd. “I told the Crime and Investigation Department Chief of Paniai Police to hold. It happened when they (security force) knew a soldier died. They shot their guns to the people,” he said.

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Then, the Military District Commandant immediately came out of his office located across the street in front of the Regent Office. “He shouted ‘my soldier is dead. Where’s the Regent? He must be responsible for this. The soldiers took their gun out. Brimob personnel were also there,” he said.

Pakage was alone at the scene, while the regent, deputy regent, local parliament members and all government officials already left their office. The police step on the body of the dead victim lying under the flagpole at the office’s front yard.

“I shouted at them to stop.” While he was confused about how to stop it, he also could not do anything because he was alone and under gun threat.

“I saw people died lying under the flagpole. It’s just me. I was alone. When the soldiers found out that people taken away their guns, they prevented me from being a mediator. They even pointed their guns against me and said ‘you want to back up or not? If not, you’ll be responsible for this’. After that, I backed up. But I still told them not be overwhelming,” he said.

Furthermore, according to Pakage, he moved to a kiosk opposite the Regent Office to join some police officers of Mee origin. It was only 17:12 but already so quiet, and nobody dared to pass. He then saw the ambulance from Deiyai Public Hospital going to the scene.

“I saw the ambulance coming from Deiyai Public Hospital to collect West Papuans who injured and fell because of the shooting. But the police came to block the car, pulled out the victims and took the ambulance’s key. They put their injured friends (soldiers), sent both driver and medical workers home. Then ambulance went to Paniai and left the injured West Papuans,” he said.

It was getting late, so he hurried to go home. He reminded himself that he must keep safe from the danger. Of returning home, he observed that Waghete became so quiet. Only found the security forces standing along the street from the Regent Office to Waghete II until the airport compound.

On the next day, Thursday (29/8/2019), he returned to the scene to check whether the dead bodies are still there or taken to the hospital.

“I only saw the soldiers standing along the street. I didn’t meet any residents. First of all, I checked the Deiyai Public Hospital, but the gate was locked and no activities there. I came inside knocking the door but no one there. So, I went to the scene to check whether the victims are still there or not. So I parked my vehicle at the entrance of the Regent’s office. Suddenly, the joint security force came investigating me with anger.

“They asked, ‘where are our guns?’ I told them I am also a part of this country. Those weapons are the state’s tools; I try to find those losing guns. However, the victims were not there anymore. So I went to Damabagata, Tigi Timur sub-district because I heard from someone that they keep the weapons there. At that time, the Military District Commandant was well-equipped guarding at the intersection of Waghete, Dogiyai and Paniai,” he said.

He continued the story by saying that the Paniai Police then asked him to come to their office as a witness. “At that time, the police acted without thinking. It was a big mistake. They examined me as a witness at the regency police station,” he said.

Meanwhile, Father Santon Tekege Pr said the investigation of the Secretariat of Peace and Justice (SKP) of Paniai Dean – Timika Diocese concludes that a car accident involving a soldier that caused the death of Yustinus Takimai triggered this shooting incident.

“As a result of the gunfire and tear gas shots, seven civilians were dead, while 43 people injured with both minor and serious injuries,” said Father Santon. (*)

Reporter: Abeth You
Editor: Pipit Maizier

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JDP: Government must arrange the customary-based dialogue in Papua

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Pastor Jhon Bunay Pr, JDP Coordinator. – Jubi/Hengky Yeimo

Jayapura, Jubi – A dialogue on Papua should represent the people of Papua, Father Jhon Bunay Pr, the Coordinator for Papua Peace Networks (JDP), told reporters in a press conference held in Jayapura on 7 September 2019.

“The dialogue should conduct in seven Papuan territories, namely Mamta, Anim Ha, Lapago, Meepago, Saireri, Domberai and Bomberai and involve each representative of the central government, military and police, liberation army, Papuans living in Papua, Papuans domicile outside of Papua, other residents of Papua, investors and mass media,” he said.

Furthermore, he emphasises that the involvement of indigenous representatives in the dialogue is crucial. He hopes the government does not initiate the discussion with Papuans from outside of Papua because it could make problems difficult to solve.

“We are the same. We are brothers, no suspicion. There shouldn’t be the police or military’s spies or those who have no concern come in this dialogue. It’s important to ensure that everyone is free to express their feeling and thought, and we’ll find a solution together,” he said.

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He also reminds the government to not organising the dialogue in the form of a seminar. It would not work in terms of producing a satisfactory result for everyone. “We will never find a real solution (through seminar); the result is null. Instead, we must invite local peoples to speak,” he said.

Moreover, he says the dialogue between Jakarta and Papua would never happen due to the high suspicions amongst stakeholders. “Perhaps we are too suspicious of each other. Talking about Papua’s issues should not be done with another approach, because the dialogue is the best approach,” he said.

Therefore, he said the relevant stakeholders must sit together to recover painful and bitter memories during the long conflict that occurred in Papua, including to put suspicious away.

“We must do reconciliation in the seven Papuan territories with involving all relevant stakeholders in Papua. Meanwhile, other components such as military and police, liberation army, Papuans from inside and outside of Papua, other residents of Papua, and mass media must attend (and involved in the process of) in the reconciliation,” he said.

Therefore, the process of reconciliation will turn out to be a transformation point for Papua to plan the best future for Papua. He also reminds that instead of discussing Papua in or inside Indonesia, it is more important to talk about the indigenous rights in Papua, and the welfare of all indigenous Papuans.

“I believe that the dialogue will solve all the problems from the past. Using guns, arresting and putting people in jail would not solve the problem. Instead, it makes it worse,” he says.

Meanwhile, JDP Deputy Daniel Randongkir said authorities must prioritise the principles of human rights and justice. “Once again, for JDP, the dialogue is the only way to solve the problem in Papua with rights and pure. Therefore it can be solved on behalf of justice and dignity,” he said. (*)

 

Reporter: Hengky Yeimo
Editor: Pipit Maizier

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ULMWP: Military and mass organisation in Surabaya are responsible for demonstration waves in Papua

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Papuan Governor Lukas Enembe welcoming the anti-racism protestors on 19 August 2019. – Documentation of the Public Relations of Papuan Provincial Government.

Jayapura, Jubi – Buchtar Tabuni, the Chairman of Legislative Committee of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), declined that ULMWP was behind the mass protests and rampages in Papua. Instead, he accused the Indonesian military, and local mob committed in persecution and racism against Papuan students in Surabaya are responsible for these incidents.

“Those who should be responsible for these protests and rampages in Papua are soldiers, police officers, municipal police officers and the local mob in Surabaya. Those who attacked Papuan students and called them ‘monkeys’ have triggered demonstrations occurred in Papua,” he told Jubi on Sunday (8/9/2019) in Waena, Jayapura.

He further said that for the couple last weeks, the Indonesian Government has attempted to build a discourse to put the ULMWP as the actor behind the anti-racism movements in Papua. “The Indonesian government is panic, terrifying in addressing the issue of free Papua that currently becomes a headline in the rest of the world thanks to the South Pacific countries,” he said.

He also said the way military and police in addressing the outrage speared amongst Papuans is not right. Instead of acting promptly, the government denied the persecution and racism against Papuan students in Surabaya. They even deployed more soldiers to Papua. “ULMWP considers the current situation is similar to what had happened in Timor Lester ahead to their independence,” he said.

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Moreover, Tabuni stated the struggle for a referendum is open for everyone in Papua, including the migrants. He said the migrants have two options to response the growing demand of referendum amongst Papuans. “First, if they want to stay, they must declare their support to referendum for West Papua, just like indigenous Papuans did. Second, if they want to return to their hometowns, they must go nicely, like Papuans student currently did,” he said.

Separately, Victor Yeimo, the Spokesperson of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), said Papuan people are not ‘animals’. They are not easy to provoke by the ULMWP, KNPB, Veronika Koman or Benny Wenda. People go to the street because they want to fight against colonialism.

“The Indonesian Government still perceive Papuans as sub-human (half-animal) who easy to provoke. Up to now they always blame on particular organisations or certain people as the actors. Just asks Papuans whether they go to the street because of being provoked by KNPB? Veronica Koman? Benny Wenda? The answer is not,” he said. (*)

Reporter: Hengky Yeimo
Editor: Pipit Maizier

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