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Indonesia’s political system has ‘failed’ its minorities – like West Papuans

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Human Rights Watch researcher Andreas Harsono … violent repression has “created unnecessary paranoia and racism among Indonesian migrants in West Papua”. Image: HRW

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.

‘They’re Melanesians’

“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.

Java benefits

“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.

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Headlines

West Papuans given jail time for rebellion

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Yakonias Womsiwor and Erichzon Mandobar. Photo: Facebook/ Veronica Koman

Papua, Jubi – Two West Papuans have been sentenced to more than a year in an Indonesian prison over a rebellion.

The jail terms come as several cases are being levelled against West Papuan activists and rebels in the restive region.

Yakonias Womsiwor and Erichzon Mandobar were detained in September when authorities raided the office of a Papuan independence group.

According to their lawyer, on Tuesday a judge in the Timika district court sentenced Mr Womsiwor to one year and six months jail.

His co-defendant got one year and three months in prison.

Both were sentenced under a criminal law for coercion and rebellion.

Lawyer Veronica Koman says she’s considering an appeal of the judgement.

During their arrests in Timika, the defendants were shot several times and denied medical attention until rights groups brought attention to their case.

Mr Womsiwor was shot six times in total, while Mr Mandobar was shot once, according to Amnesty International and Ms Koman.

“They were shot without warning as the law required,” Ms Koman said, adding that they were later allowed to be treated by their families.

Their arrests were part of a raid on the Timika secretariat of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), which was later seized by police.

Earlier in the trial, police and prosecutors had claimed the men were found with ammunition and guns, which the defendants denied was theirs, according to Ms Koman.

She said during the trial two police officers, including a deputy police chief, called as witnesses testified that military personnel had placed the ammunition and guns at the KNPB offices.

Ms Koman added that the sentencing on Monday did not give proper consideration to statements made by the defence.

The sentences come just days after a Polish tourist was jailed for five years for plotting to sell arms to West Papuan rebels. (*)

 

Source: RNZI

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Indonesia loses Pacific asset in Franzalbert Joku

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Indonesian government consultant on West Papua-related issues, Franz Albert Joku. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

Papua, Jubi – Indonesia has lost a significant asset from in its Pacific diplomacy efforts with the recent passing of the West Papuan, Franzalbert Joku.

The prominent Sentani landowner was the international spokesman for the Papua Presidium Council which galvanised momentum in the independence struggle at the turn of the century.

But in his last decade, Mr Joku strongly advocated autonomy for Papua within Indonesia rather than independence. He often represented Indonesia at regional meetings of the Melanesian Spearhead Group and the Pacific Islands Forum.

Mr Joku, who died at the age of 66 late last month in Jayapura, had fled from Indonesian rule in his homeland as a youth with his family in the early 1970s. For around three decades he lived in various parts of Papua New Guinea where Mr Joku worked as a journalist and a PNG government advisor who developed extensive links in the Pacific.

An expert in Indonesian history and politics, Richard Chauvel of the University of Melbourne, says Mr Joku’s career in PNG was significant.

“His great utility both in the early 2000s (for the Papua Presidium) and post 2007/8 for the Indonesian government has been his intimate knowledge of Papua New Guinea politics, through his role as a journalist and then as a political advisor or spokesman for (former PNG PM) Julius Chan and other senior PNG politicians,” Dr Chauvel said.

“I think it’s that knowledge of local PNG politics, and through networks into the Pacific, that made him such a formidable figure, both initially for the Presidium, in the lobbying of the Melanesian Spearhead Group and the Pacific Islands Forum, and then subsequently for doing much the same thing, utilising the same skills and knowledge for the Indonesian government,” he explained.

As an effective envoy for Jakarta, Mr Joku had a forthright approach to his diplomacy, as evidenced last year by his instrumental role in pressing the Solomon Islands government to mollify its support for West Papuan self-determination aspirations:

Occupying both extremes of the Papuan political spectrum over time made Franzalbert Joku a polarising figure in the eyes of West Papuans.

“The way he executed those positions was remarkably the same – with great commitment, very articulate, he was obviously a bright guy… you could never accuse him of being nuanced,” Dr Chauvel said.

Dr Chauvel first met Franzalbert Joku when he was lobbying for the Presidium, the organisation which energised the independence struggle as democatic space opened up briefly in post-Suharto Indonesia around the time of the Papua People’s Congress in 2000 in Jayapura.

“He was just as vigorous and forthright in his advocacy of that position as he later became from 2007/8 onwards when he’d clearly joined the other side,” he said.

Indonesia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry has a number of officials who have led delegations to MSG and Pacific Forum meetings over the past decade.

“They have acquired some of that background knowledge, but I don’t think that they can speak to their counterparts in Vanuatu, Fiji, Solomon Islands and PNG from the same position as Franzalbert could, as a Pacific Islander,” Dr Chauvel said. (*)

 

Source: RNZI

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Polish man charged over links to Papua arms deal to appear in court

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Jakub Skrzypski, a 39-year Polish citizen visiting Papua as a tourist, was arrested in Wamena in late August on suspicion of being a journalist. Photo: Facebook

Papua, Jubi – The trial of a Polish man charged with treason for allegedly supplying arms to Papuan rebel fighters continues today.

Indonesian prosecutors have demanded 10 years’ jail for Jakub Skrzypski, who was arrested in August last year.

According to his lawyer Jakub Skyrzypski was a tourist who wanted to see the culture, customs and history of Papua.

Instead, he was detained and charged on suspicion of arranging an arms deal with the West Papua Liberation Army, a rebel group which is waging war on state forces.

Mr Skrzypski’s lawyer, Latifah Anum Siregar told the Wamena city court on Wednesday he hasn’t committed a crime by meeting with the armed group, according to a copy of her plea.

The public prosecutor, who has called on ten witnesses in the trial, will respond in court on Thursday.

Judges will deliver a verdict after final responses from both sides on Monday.

Mr Skrzypski is being charged alongside his co-defendant, West Papuan student Simon Carlos Magal, who was arrested in September. (*)

 

Source: RNZI

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