By David Robie
A human rights defender and researcher has warned in a new book published on the eve of the Indonesian national elections tomorrow that the centralised political system has failed many of the country’s 264 million people – especially minorities and those at the margins, such as in West Papua.
Author Andreas Harsono also says a “radical change is needed in the mindset of political leaders” and he is not optimistic for such changes after the election.
Harsono is author of Race, Islam and Power: Ethnic and Religious Violence in Post-Suharto Indonesia, a book based on 15 years of research and travel between Sabang in Aceh in the west and Merauke in West Papua in the East.
Founding President Sukarno used the slogan “from Sabang to Merauke” when launching a campaign – ultimately successful – to seize West Papua in 1961.
But, as Harsono points out, the expression should really be from Rondo Island (an unpopulated islet) to Sota (a remote border post on the Papua New Guinean boundary.
Harsono, a former journalist and Human Rights Watch researcher since 2008, argues that Indonesia might have been more successful by creating a federation rather than a highly centralised state controlled from Jakarta.
“Violence on post-Suharto Indonesia, from Aceh to West Papua, from Kalimantan to the Moluccas, is evidence that Java-centric nationalism is unable to distribute power fairly in an imagined Indonesia,” he says. “It has created unnecessary paranoia and racism among Indonesian migrants in West Papua.
“The Papuans simply reacted by saying they’re Melanesians – not Indonesians. They keep questioning the manipulation of the United Nations-sponsored Act of Free Choice in 1969.”
Critics and cynics have long dismissed what they see as a deeply flawed process involving only 1025 voters selected by the Indonesian military as the “Act of No Choice”.
Harsono’s criticisms have been borne out by a range of Indonesian activist and watchdog groups, who say the generals behind the two presidential frontrunners are ridden with political interests.
The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) and the Mining Advocacy Network (JATAM) have again warned that both presidential candidate tickets — incumbent President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and running mate Ma’ruf Amin as well as rival Prabowo Subianto and Sandiaga Uno — have close ties with retired TNI (Indonesian military) generals.
These retired officers are beholden to political interests and the prospect of resolving past human rights violations will “become increasingly bleak” no matter who is elected as the next president.
Kontras noted that nine out of the 27 retired officers who are behind Widodo and Ma’ruf have a “problematic track record on human rights”.
“Likewise with Prabowo Subianto and Sandiaga Uno where there are eight retired officers who were allegedly involved in past cases of HAM violations”, said Kontras researcher Rivanlee Anandar.
Prabowo himself, a former special forces commander, is implicated in many human rights abuses. He has been accused of abduction and torture of 23 pro-democracy activists in the late 1990s and he is regarded as having knowledge of the killing hundreds of civilians in Santa Cruz massacre in Timor-Leste.
90,000 killed post-Sukarno
Harsono’s 280-page book, with seven chapters devoted to regions of Indonesia, documents an ”internally complex and riven nation” with an estimated 90,000 people having been killed in the decade after Suharto’s departure.
“In East Timor, President Suharto’s successor B. J. Habibie agreed to have a referendum [on independence]. Indonesia lost and it generated a bloodbath,” says Harsono.
“Habibie’s predecessors, Megawati Sukanoputri and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, refused to admit [that] the Indonesian military’s occupation, despite a United Nations’ finding, had killed 183,000 people between 1975 and 1999.”
Harsono notes how in 1945 Indonesia’s “non-Javanese founders Mohammad Hatta, Sam Ratu Langie and Johannes Latuharhary wanted an Indonesia that was democratic and decentralised. They advocated a federation.”
However, Sukarno, Supomo and Mohammad Yamin wanted instead a centralised unitarian state.
“Understanding the urgency to fight incoming Dutch troops, Latuharhary accepted Supomo’s proposal but suggested the new republic hold a referendum as soon as it became independent. Sukarno agreed but this decision has never been executed.”
The establishment of a unitarian state “naturally created the Centre”, says Harsono. “Jakarta has been accumulated and controlling political, cultural, educational, economic, informational and ideological power.
“The closer a region to Jakarta, the better it will benefit from the Centre. Java is the closest to the Centre.
“The further a region is from the Centre, the more neglected it will be. West Papua, Aceh, East Timor and the Moluccas are among those furthest away from Jakarta.”
The centralised political system needed a “long and complex bureaucracy” and this “naturally created corruption”, Harsono explains.
“Indonesia is frequently ranked as the most corrupt country in Asia. Political and Economic Risk Consultancy Ltd listed Indonesia as the most corrupt country in Asia in 2005.”
Harsono also notes how centralised power has helped a religious and ethnic majority that sees itself as “justified to have privileges and to rule over the minorities”.
The author cites the poet Leon Agasta as saying, “They’re the two most dangerous words in Indonesia: Islam and Java.” Muslim majority and Javanese dominance.
Harsono regards the Indonesian government’s response to demands for West Papuan “self-determination” as “primarily military and repressive: viewing Papuan ‘separatists’ as criminals, traitors and enemies of the Republic of Indonesia”.
He describes this policy as a “recipe for ongoing military operations to search for and destroy Papuan ‘separatists’, a term that could be applied to a large, if not overwhelming, portion of the Papuan population”.
Ruthless Indonesian military
“The Indonesian military, having lost their previous power bases in east Timor and Aceh, ruthlessly maintain their control over West Papua, both as a power base and as considerable source of revenue.
“The Indonesian military involvement in legal businesses, such as mining and logging, and allegedly, illegal businesses, such as alcohol, prostitution, extortion and wildlife smuggling, provide significant funds for the military as an organisation and also for individual officers.”
Pro-independence leaders have called on West Papuans to boycott the Indonesian elections tomorrow.
Andreas Harsono launched his journalism career as a reporter for the Bangkok-based Nation and the Kuala Lumpur-based Star newspapers. In the 1990s, he helped establish Indonesia’s Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) – then an illegal group under the Suharto regime, and today the most progressive journalists union in the republic.
Harsono was also founder of the Jakarta-based Institute for the Studies on the Free Flow of Information and of the South East Asia Press Alliance (SEAPA).
In a separate emailed interview with me in response to a question about whether there was light at the end of the tunnel, Harsono replied: I do not want to sound pessimistic but visiting dozens of sites of mass violence, seeing survivors and families’ who lost their lost ones, I just realised that mass killings took place all over Indonesia.
“It’s not only about the 1965 massacres –despite them being the biggest of all– but also the Papuans, the Timorese, the Acehnese, the Madurese etc.
“Basically all major islands in Indonesia, from Sumatra to Papua, have witnessed huge violence and none of them have been professionally understood. The truth of those mass killings have not been found yet.” (asiapacificreport.nz)
Professor David Robie is director of the Pacific Media Centre.
ULMWP activists in Papua express gratitude to Oxford City Council
Jayapura, Jubi – Simon B Daby, a member of the Central Board Committee of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), said that West Papuans appreciate the Oxford City Council for granting the Freedom of Oxford” award to the Chairman of ULMWP Benny Wenda. Further, he said this award proves that the international community paid attention towards the efforts of the ULMWP and Wenda in fighting for Papuan self-determination.
The Freedom of Oxford is the highest honour given by the City of Oxford to people who have a significant impact on society. Benny Wenda is an internationally recognized diplomat and leader for the West Papua free movement. Since being granted political asylum in England in 2002, Wenda has fought tirelessly for the self-determination of West Papuans from his campaign office in Oxford.
Moreover, Simon B Dabby stated that this award is highly essential for all the people of West Papua. “We, the people of West Papua, congratulate Benny Wenda who received this award for his efforts to voice the calls of West Papuans for their right of self-determination to the international community,” said Daby on Wednesday (17/4/2019).
Daby continued to say that Mr Wenda has consistently declared injustice and human rights violations in West Papua since 1961 and campaigned for the right of self-determination for West Papuan. “Through this momentum, the people in West Papua convey to all state members of the United Nation to support their right of self-determination,” said Daby.
He also said the demand of West Papuan for self-determination aligned with the Indonesian Constitution 1945 in which stated in the first paragraph of the Preamble, “whereas independence is the inalienable right of all nations.” It is also following the UN General Assembly Resolution No. 1541 (XV) of 1960. The resolution stated that if a region has a geographical location and cultural ethics that are separate and different from its ruling and administrative state, this region is entitled to claim its right of self-determination.
Meanwhile, a member of the Legislative Committee of ULMWP for Anim Ha region, Pangkrasia Yeem, expressed his gratitude to the Oxford City Council for this award. He said the Freedom of Oxford award for Benny Wenda is a special gift for the Papuan people.
Furthermore, he asks all West Papuans to be united in advocating the ULMWP’s efforts for West Papuan self-determination. “With our support to ULMWP, we (will) establish our state as an independent and sovereign nation,” said Yeem on Sunday (14/7/2019). (*)
Reporter: Hengky Yeimo
Editor: Pipit Maizier
23 extra-judicial killings in West Papua last year – rights group
Papua, Jubi – A human rights group advocating for West Papuans in Indonesia says there were more than 20 extra-judicial killings by the military there last year.
Indonesian soldiers participate in a major military jungle warfare exercise in Poso, in central Sulawesi island, on March 31, 2015.
But the military has dismissed the findings, which come during an escalating conflict in Papua’s Highlands as rebels wage war on the state.
The International Coalition for Papua has documented 23 killings it claimed happened at the hands of Indonesia’s military in 2018.
The recently-released list ranges from bullet wounds to being burned alive, mostly in the troubled Central Highlands.
The rights group is demanding Indonesia launch independent investigations into all the cases, warning more deaths have been reported this year.
But a military spokesperson, Muhammad Aidi, said the report is a hoax and that some victims died from tribal violence.
He said others were rebels who died in gunfights after launching attacks on soldiers. (*)
West Papuan independence group urges primacy of TPNPB
Papua, Jubi – There’s strong opposition in West Papua to a reconfiguration of military forces in the struggle for independence from Indonesia.
The United Liberation Movement for West Papua, led by mainly exiled Papuan. claims it’s taking political leadership of a new unified military force, the West Papua Army.
The ULMWP last week said the Army was a united front between the West Papua Liberation Army, or TPNPB, and two smaller fighting forces.
Representatives of the TPNPB, and the broader Free Papua Movement, have since claimed they do not support thie unification anounced in the ‘Vanimo Border Declaration’.
This has been echoed by the West Papua National Committee, or KNPB, a pro-independence organisation focussed on peaceful campaigning.
Its international spokesman Victor Yeimo spoke to Johnny Blades about their concerns.
Victor Yeimo: We still struggle for independence, for our liberation. We need a liberation army. As you know, historically, this organisation (TPNPB) exist since 1961 and until today they exist, fighting on the ground. And the two other ones (the West Papuan National Army and the West Papua Revolutionary Army) separated from TPNPB. But in reality as West Papuans know, as well as colonial (power) knows, these two organisations never have an action on the ground. It’s not a competition between one organisation and another organisation, but in the unity, to liberate the West Papuan demand for self-determination, to go for our goal of freedom, we need one military organisation only. We don’t need many organisations. It wil make confusion in west Papua people. and it will make it difficult for us to make a solution; And it’s very dangerous for the guerillas and all the soldiers of the West Papua army on the ground because if there are three commands, three shystems going on in the ground, it will be difficult, because it will create problems within our military, and it will confuse. How can we attack the enemy through three systems of military organisations? In the revolution history, as you know, we need only one organisation of military.
Johnny Blades: But isn’t that what the ULMWP is trying to achieve, that they are all uniting?
Victor Yeimo: There are concerns in the constitution of the OPM (Free Papua Movement). As you know on the 1st of July 1971 when OPM declared proclamation of independence of the republic of West Papua, they have their own constitution. And this military, TPNPB, is under the constitution of the proclamation. Yes, it is important for us to unite, but in a military… they (West Papuan National Army and the West Papua Revolutionary Army) already split from the main organisation, the TPNPB. So I think now, in reality, the people of West Papua, we want to be free. So please if you want to unite, don’t degradate the existing organisation, the TPNPB, because today as you know on the ground TPNPB is still fighting with arms on the ground.
Johnny Blades: You’re saying that everything should be done under the auspices of the TPNPB, that it shouldn’t be a new united command; you’re saying it should be done under the rules and the constitution of the TPNPB because that’s the main military?
Victor Yeimo: Yes, the military has its own discipline of military. The constitution is something that we can discuss and unite. But the military is a tool for revolution. We need only one military and one discipline. So if they (the West Papuan National Army and the West Papua Revolutionary Army) if they have their own discipline of military, please bring it to the TPNPB. we have to strengthen the exist one. So then, what we want… we have one goal. So please use the existing one as our strength to attack the enemy. That’s the solution for KNPB. We are supporting the ULMWP but we encourage them to only recognise the TPNPB as the one and only military defence.
Johnny Blades: There’s been some criticism from people in the OPM, or TPNPB, about the way this (declaration) has been done. What do you think about the reaction?
Victor Yeimo: Yes, in the ground the reaction is negative. The other headquarters of each commander, like in Lanny Jaya, also in Puncak Jaya, also in Paniai, also in Yahukimo, also in Nduga, they are not involved in this declaration. So I believe that they are opposed to that declaration.
Johnny Blades: The KNPB has generally been a peaceful organisation. What do you believe in, does the military have a role in the struggle?
Victor Yeimo: Yes we support them in resistance as a defence force, as they have the same aim: to go for self-determination. But we have a different method. We organise people in West Papua through the peaceful means (including civil resistance and demonstrations). Until today KNPB believe in peaceful means. We don’t even hope the military action will give more influence inside our struggle because today people around the world, the solidarity just becomes bigger and bigger because our peaceful action in the ground. But it will not stop them fighting, because this is the reality in every struggle, a liberation army. We want our own military. It’s something that always happens in every struggle. So we want them to fight in accordance to their method.
Johnny Blades: The political leadership of the struggle, is it accurate to say that (ULMWP chairman) Benny Wenda is the head of that movement?
Victor Yeimo: I say that ULMWP should become co-ordinating body, not become a state or acting like a state. because we have too many factions and too many history. So we want today the organisations can unite all of the factions, all of the movements in West Papua through the co-ordination mechanism… like three years ago (at ULMWP’s inception). This is something important. We will have our own nation state after independence. So what we want today is to unite, co-ordinating the agenda and organisation, everything we can discuss. So, it’s not like now, everything comes from outside, from Benny Wenda, from outside. It’s not good for the unity. It will kill the unity because in our history there are too many people claiming they are the president, who claimed they have their own constitution and everything. We don’t want that. What we want today is freedom from Indonesian occupation. (*)
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