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Analysis

Indonesia’s pressure tactics over West Papua issue resemble the actions of China over Tibet

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Protest lead by National Committee of West Papua were always faced repressive measures by the security forces – Jubi

By Nithin Coca

EARLIER this month, the Indonesian military raided and destroyed the offices of the West Papuan National Committee, a separatist group in the country’s easternmost region, which has long agitated for independence. The raid came amid allegations that the military had used chemical weapons in airstrikes on separatists in West Papua in late December. The Indonesian government has responded harshly after at least 17 construction workers were killed by West Papuan militants in early December, the deadliest such attack in West Papua in years.

This surge in unrest in the region is the outcome of a harder line that the Indonesian government has taken on West Papua in recent years. During the United Nations General Assembly last September, the prime minister of the tiny Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, Charlot Salwai, criticized that approach. Referring directly to West Papua, he said the Indonesian government needed to “put an end to all forms of violence and find common ground with the populations to establish a process that will allow them to freely express their choice.”

The reaction from Indonesia, which is usually quiet at the U.N., was fierce. President Joko Widodo hasn’t even bothered to attend the General Assembly in his five years in office, but his government immediately lambasted Salwai. Jakarta’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Dian Triansyah Djani, declared that “Indonesia will not let any country undermine its territorial integrity.” Referring to separatist and independence groups in West Papua, he said Indonesia also “fail[ed] to understand the motive behind Vanuatu’s intention in supporting a group of people who have [struck] terror and mayhem [on] so many occasions, creating fatalities and sadness to innocent families of their own communities.”

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West Papua was not part of Indonesia when the country gained independence from the Netherlands in 1949. The region, which has a distinct ethnic and linguistic identity from mostly Polynesian Indonesia, was formally annexed in 1969 after what Indonesians call the “Act of Free Choice,” when a group of hand-selected Papuans voted unanimously in favor of Indonesian control in a vote marred by allegations of blackmail and coercion.

Since then, West Papua has been the site of regular violence, either from one of the many separatist groups on the island, or, more often, the Indonesian military. The island is rich in minerals, the revenue from which make up a significant portion of Indonesia’s budget. Freeport-McMoRan’s huge Grasberg mine alone provided more than $750 million in revenue in 2017.

Many West Papuans, either living in Indonesia or abroad, have been advocating for self-determination for years. But what was primarily a local conflict has now become more regional, as both sides have attempted to internationalize the issue. West Papuans are ethnically Melanesian, like the citizens of Vanuatu and other Pacific Island nations, such as the Solomon Islands and Fiji. West Papuan activists have been working to build connections with these countries, with the goal of having them speak up for Papuan independence, like Salwai did at the General Assembly.

“West Papua is a regional issue, because we are part of Melanesia, connected culturally and linguistically,” Benny Wenda, an exiled leader of the Free West Papua organization currently based in the United Kingdom, told WPR. “The majority in the Pacific islands, they don’t see West Papua as distant. It’s close to them.”

The main entity for cooperation in the region is the 18-nation Pacific Islands Forum, founded in 1971, and the Melanesian Spearhead Group within it, which counts the four Melanesian nations as members. West Papuan advocates have used the forum to push for global recognition, including formal membership for West Papua as an occupied country.

Indonesia, however, has been pushing back by sowing discord among the forum’s members. It provided military support to Fiji after the island’s 2006 coup, which had led to the imposition of Western sanctions, and offered significant aid to Papua New Guinea. With both countries’ support, in 2011, Indonesia was granted observer status in the Melanesian Spearhead Group. Since then, attempts by the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, an umbrella organization of independence groups, to get a similar status have proved futile. Now, both Fiji and Papua New Guinea say they support Indonesia’s full membership in the group, which would push the West Papua issue to the sidelines.

Since Indonesia got its observer status, “the MSG has become an empty house,” says James Elmslie, a political scientist with the West Papua Project at the University of Sydney. “The MSG is now split on the issue.”

Indonesia’s pressure tactics resemble the actions of a much bigger power in Asia dealing with territories it considers its own: China. Having long sought to isolate supporters of Tibet, China regularly pushes countries to refuse access to the Dalai Lama, as both Russia and South Africa have done in recent years. Beijing also uses a carrot-and-stick strategy to shrink the number of countries that recognize Taiwan, which it sees as a breakaway province. In the past year, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic have dropped their diplomatic recognition of Taiwan in favor of China. Like other countries that have done this, they can expect to be rewarded with aid, investments and more. Conversely, countries that refuse to switch, like Palau, have been squeezed by China and seen their tourism industries suffer.

Unlike China, though, Indonesia is a democracy, one that is often hailed as a model for both Asia and the Islamic world. There was a small window of opportunity, right after the fall of the three-decades long Suharto dictatorship in 1998, when newly democratic Indonesia was engaging with pro-independence activists in West Papua. At the time, East Timor was permitted to hold an independence referendum, and there were calls for something similar in West Papua.

But when reformist President Abdurrahman Wahid—facing corruption allegations, economic woes and political unrest—was forced to step down in 2001, that window slammed shut. The Indonesian military reasserted control, killing Papuan independence leader Theys Eluay, and things went back to the status quo of repression. Indonesia continued to exploit the region for resources and suppress the voices of Papuans. Democracy may have transformed Indonesia, but it brought little change to West Papua.

Now the situation is only getting worse. The core problem is that unlike a decade ago, the Indonesian government is refusing to engage peacefully, instead allowing, either implicitly or explicitly, the Indonesian military to take the lead.

Getting an independent view of what’s taking place in West Papua remains as difficult as ever. For decades, the Indonesian government has essentially closed off the region to journalists, international observers and NGOs. The few who do enter face risk of arrest, like Jakub Fabian Skrzypzki, a Polish citizen who is now on trial for alleged ties to Papuan separatists and faces potential life imprisonment in Indonesia if convicted.

It looks like another move out of China’s playbook. Why would democratic Indonesia go that route? Because so far, it’s working.

Nithin Coca is a freelance journalist who focuses on social, economic, and political issues in developing countries, and has specific expertise in Southeast Asia.

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Analysis

The origin of Indonesian racism towards Papuans and its implication to a Free West Papua Movement

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Lukas Enembe, the governor of Papua Province talks to thoousands protester in Jayapura – Supplied

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.

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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[1] 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[2] 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.[3]

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. [4]

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[5] 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[6]:

“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

[1] https://www.thejakartapost.com/academia/2019/08/19/todays-minkes-racism-at-heart-of-jakarta-papua-conflict.html

[2] <https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2013/05/31/the-continuing-infatuation-with-papua.html>

[3] https://tasmaniantimes.com/2010/10/apology-to-the-west-papua-people/

[4] http://www.pireport.org/articles/2010/06/22/solomons-expert-cites-racism-against-melanesians

[5] https://asiapacificreport.nz/2019/07/16/yamin-kogoya-why-indonesian-trade-expo-deception-wont-win-pacific-hearts-and-minds/>

[6] <https://www.thejakartapost.com/academia/2019/08/19/todays-minkes-racism-at-heart-of-jakarta-papua-conflict.html>

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Analysis

Who actually benefits from the Trans Papua Highway?

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President Widodo’s entourage visiting Trans Papua Highway construction (Biro Pers)

Papua, JubiIndonesian 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.

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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. (*)

 

Source: indoleft.org

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Analysis

Do you know how vital Papua is for the environment?

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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?

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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.

responsible sourcing papua

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.

action aid

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.

papua forests

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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