Jayapura, Jubi – Efforts to focus international attention on the West Papua independence cause surged in the past week.
First, a petition claiming to represent the voices of 1.8 million West Papuans calling for decolonisation of Indonesian-ruled Papua was handed to the UN Human Rights Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, in Geneva.
It was presented by the chair of the United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP), Benny Wenda, who was included in an official delegation of the Vanuatu government to a meeting with Ms Bachelet.
Then, the office of the commissioner confirmed that Indonesia had, in principle, agreed to grant her office it access to Papua.
It represented a tentative breakthrough after the previous High Commissioner last year upset Jakarta by complaining that an invitation for his office to visit Papua hadn’t been honoured.
Thirdly, representatives of the Free Papua Movement (OPM) and its armed wing, the West Papua Liberation Army, held a rare press conference in neighbouring Papua New Guinea where they re-asserted their war on the Indonesian state.
They made an urgent appeal to the UN secretary-general to ensure relevant UN agencies applied scrutiny to the human rights situation in Papua, and pressed their insistence that Indonesia has occupied Papua illegally.
At yesterday’s event, they were joined by PNG civil society groups and two high-profile local MPs in calling for the international community to act on the “crisis” happening in the neighbouring territory.
Nduga regency in Papua’s central Highlands region is the current focal point of armed conflict between Indonesian security forces and the West Papua Liberation Army.
In the most serious escalation of hostilities for years, additional Indonesian military capabilities deployed to Nduga in December after the Liberation Army massacred 17 Indonesian road construction workers.
The Liberation Army was suspicious of Indonesian military involvement in President Joko Widodo’s massive Trans-Papua road project.
Given Papuan concerns about preserving their forests and ancestral lands, the project is viewed as a threat to many communities in the Highlands heartland.
Still, the president told media his resolve to forge ahead with his government’s infrastructure development drive in Papua was all the stronger since the attack on the workers.
In her recent annual foreign policy review statement, Indonesia’s Foreign Minister, Retno Marsudi, said her country would “not back down, not even an inch, when it comes to its sovereignty”.
But with shootouts and killings continuing in Nduga and the surrounding region, humanitarian concerns are growing for thousands of Papuan villagers who have fled to the bush to avoid the violence.
Claims that chemical weapons have been used by Indonesia’s military against civilians in Nduga have been vehemently denied by Indonesia.
The claims are just the latest reason cited by the ULMWP in its call for the international community, specifically the United Nations, to intervene in the Pacific’s longest running conflict.
With concern about conflict in Papua running deep among Melanesian countries, Papua New Guinea’s Peter O’Neill-led government is under pressure to act on the issue.
The Governor of PNG’s National Capital District, Powes Parkop, announced at Thursday’s OPM press conference that he was working on introducing a motion in parliament for a change in government policy on Papua.
According to the Oro Governor, Gary Juffa, the 1986 treaty with Indonesia, which commits PNG to not interfere in domestic matters of its neighbour, is outdated and must be changed.
“And it has to be done by parliament, because it was enacted by parliament,” Mr Juffa said.
“And that’s the whole purpose of this gathering. But it is also their statement that no matter what, there’s no going back for them. Their only statement to the Indonesian government is that ‘we are willing to negotiate for freedom, nothing else’.”
Invoking the current urgency around the independence movement, the Oro Governor said West Papuans were determined and deserved the support of their neighbours.
“As Melanesians, as a Pacific nation, we have to rise up and stand up for our fellow Pacific Islanders.”
However PNG’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rimbink Pato, has repeatedly ruled out PNG pushing Indonesia on the matter of Papua’s political status.
He recently said PNG was working with Indonesia on various projects in the common border area that he claimed would help foster economic development and steadily improve living conditions for West Papuans.
But chair of PNG’s Union For Free West Papua, Ken Mondiai, said the issue of West Papua should be addressed by the UN.
“Indonesia has come in in a very forceful way since the 1960s to take over using its military force. The United States of America, the UN, the Netherlands, and many of the big countries like Australia are collectively responsible. So they should be responsible to try and fix the mistakes of the past.”
At the Moresby press conference, an OPM spokesman, Jeffrey Bomanak, announced the Movement’s official support for the Liberation Army’s declaration of war against the Indonesian state.
He said its armed struggle to end Indonesian rule would not cease until Jakarta agreed to meet for peaceful negotiations, for which the OPM is establishing a negotiating team.
However, Indonesia’s government has previously ruled out negotiations with the OPM, which it brands as a criminal group, and is unlikely to change its stance now.
Indonesia’s Political, Legal and Security Minister Wiranto recently told media that the government would not enter any discussions with the Army.
But apart from Indonesia, those involved in this intractable conflict are looking to the UN to help resolve the problem.
According to Mr Wenda, while the OPM and Liberation Army are united in support of his Liberation Movement’s international efforts, he cannot control them.
“We cannot control the guerillas in the West Papuan bush, who face the threat of torture and death by the colonial Indonesian military every day,” he explained.
“The guerillas have their own command structure and their own leadership, and due to geographical, logistical and communicative difficulties we do not try to direct them. The ULMWP is focused relentlessly on its goal of achieving international support for an internationally-supervised vote on independence for West Papua.”
On that front, Mr Wenda’s delivery of the petition in Geneva last Friday was described by Indonesia as a ‘manipulation’.
Indonesia’s permanent representative at the UN, Hasan Kleib, alleged that Mr Wenda has infiltrated the Vanuatu delegation.
He added that Vanuatu was disrespectful and had broken the principles of the UN charter by allowing Mr Wenda to deliver the petition.
But Vanuatu’s Foreign Minister, Ralph Regenvanu, said his government had always maintained its support for the self-determination of West Papuans.
Vanuatu continues to advocate for the UN to revisit the controversial process by which Indonesia took control of the former Dutch New Guinea in the 1960s.
Indonesian officials, who say the question of sovereignty over Papua is final, delivered their own shot at Vanuatu this week in Geneva where the Melanesian country was undergoing its universal periodic review at the UN Human Rights Council.
However, this week it was mainly the Papuans who made the diplomatic running. (*)
Docking their yachts at Jayapura Seaport, foreigners scrutinised by local immigration office
Jayapura, Jubi – Jayapura Immigration, Seaport Health Quarantine Office, Maritime and Port Authority secured and interrogated four foreign citizens on Wednesday (18/3/2020) following their act sailing to Jayapura sea and docking private yachts at Jayapura Seaport.
The Head of Jayapura Immigration Gatut Setiawan states the four foreigners arrived in Jayapura by two different yachts. The Singaporean Wong Tet Chong took Ximula-3 Langkawi, while Bruno Coolmet of France came to Jayapura with his wife and future son-in-law by Krypton.
“The four sailed from Sorong, West Papua Province and got clearance from Sorong Immigration. But, as soon they arrived in Jayapura, they were going to the downtown without reporting their arriving to the quarantine office and seaport authority,” said Gatut in Jayapura on Wednesday (18/3/2020).
In his statement, Gatut said Wong Tet Chong initially wanted to sail his yacht to Papua New Guinea but change the destination to Jayapura due to bad weather and engine problem. Besides, the authority of Papua New Guinea has currently closed access to the country.
“The immigration, quarantine office and seaport authority has interrogated (him) and conducted the thermal check as a procedure of coronavirus anticipation. His body temperature was normal, so we gave him two days to leave the Jayapura water. If he is still around [more than two days], the seaport authority will forcibly pull out his yacht out of Indonesia,” said Gatut.
Meanwhile, Gatut said the immigration did not found any immigration violations conducted by Bruno Coolmet, his wife and their future son-in-law because they have a legal permit to stay until 1 April 2020.
“Although they did not break the immigration rule, they should deal with both quarantine office and seaport authority because [docked and left their yacht at the seaport] without reporting. In the future, we will be more restricted to protect the security of the sea from invasion by foreigners or others by involving the quarantine office, seaport authority and other relevant offices,” said Gatut.
After completing their administrative issue with the quarantine office, the three French national should leave the Jayapura Sea. “The immigration is keeping their documents as a guarantee,” he said.
Earlier, Deputy Governor of Papua Province Klemen Tinal asked the Immigration, Seaport Quarantine Office and other relevant offices to restrict the surveillance over passengers at airports, seaports and other entries to anticipate the spreading of coronavirus to Papua.
“Restriction and inspection should be done more strictly to both foreign and domestic passengers coming to Papua,” he said. (*)
Reporter: Alexander Loen
Editor: Pipit Maizier
Goliat Tabuni asks independent team to investigate the church burning in Tembagapura
Jayapura, Jubi – West Papua Liberation Army (TPNPB) challenge the Government of Indonesia to provide access for an independent investigation team investigating perpetrators behind the burning of a church in Tembagapura Sub-district, Mimika Regency, Papua in a press released by TPNPB. The statement of the Supreme Commander of TPNTP General Goliat Tabuni received by Jubi on Wednesday (18/3/2020).
On Thursday (12/3/2020), the Indonesian Gospel Tent (GKII) Church of Sinai Congregation in Opitawak Village of Tembagapura Sub-district reportedly burned out. The Indonesian security forces pointed finger to TPNPB as perpetrators. However, General Goliat Tabuni denied all allegations in his press release.
In turn, he believes this incident was part of the game playing by the Indonesian security forces to discredit the image of TPNPB in which they have always done for a long time. “This is not new, but [it has happened] since 1960 to the present. The Indonesian Military and Police have done it for a long time,” said Tabuni in his press release.
Furthermore, Tabuni said TPNTP was not surprised by many reports accused them as the perpetrator behind the church burning. Therefore, he challenges the Indonesian Government to provide access to an independent investigation team to investigate.
Meanwhile, TPNPB spokesperson Sebby Sambon confirms the statement released on behalf of Goliat Tabuni as valid. Further, he says the independent investigation team preferred by TPNPB is a joint investigation team of the United Nation’s Human Rights Council and the National Human Rights Commission of Papua Office.
“If they want to find who is behind the church burning, the Indonesian Government must allow the independent team to investigate. [The independent team is] the Human Rights Council [United Nations] and the National Human Rights Commission of Papua Office,” Sambom told Jubi on Wednesday (18/3/2020).
Furthermore, he said the Indonesian Government should be able to prove their accusation through a fair and impartial legal process, not only pointing fingers to TPNPB. “The Indonesian Military and Police should not just accuse TPNPB, and the Indonesian media should not unilaterally publish the one-side story,” said Sambom.
Meanwhile, Antara News Agency launched the statement of Tembagapura Police Chief Adjunct Commissionaire Hermanto saying the insurgent group led by Lekagak Telenggen and Joni Botak burned down the GKII Sinai Congregation Church in Opitawak Village.
“The church was initially crowded by Opitawak villagers for worshipping and other church activities. However, in several recent weeks, the armed group came to spread terror in this village. People finally have to give in to this situation,” said Hermanto to Antara. (*)
Reporter: Benny Mawel
Editor: Pipit Maizier
80 candles lit to commemorate one-year of Sentani flash flood
Sentani, Jubi – Flash food that hit Sentani on 16 March 2019 is still kept strictly in the memory of those who experienced it. Even today, after one year of the disaster, many people are still living in refugee camps. To commemorate one year of the incident, young people and the Baptist Sunday School of Imanuel Toladan Church organise worship and several activities to pray for their family members who passed away in this natural disaster.
“We have not prepared this event for a long time, but we think this is what we can do. We want to remember the incident where all Sunday School’s students were gathering in the ‘island’ for worshipping then suddenly the flash flood came,” says Jenny Marlin Wenda, the GBIT Sunday School Principal, to Jubi on Monday evening (16/3/2020).
Furthermore, she adds that there is nothing more valuable than being grateful to God.
“So, here we are today. Mr Jeff Ron comes to give us a preach and motivate those who attend the worship today. Before praying, we lit 80 candles that provided by our school, then watch movies while gathering for coffee in the churchyard,” she says.
Besides youth and Baptist congregations, this event also involves nearby neighbours.
“We also thank those who participated to join the event and pray with us. We meet with families of victims who join and bring some food for all of us to enjoy. They feel this worship is important to them, so they come to join,” she says.
Moreover, she says no one ever thinks that they would survive in flah flood.
“When remembering that experience, I am sad because it caused 114 death, 205 missing and 961 injured, while approximately 11,725 are currently living in refugee camps. “
Meanwhile, Jeff Ron Sohilait in his preach says in difficult time humans might not think that they will survive during a flash flood, but nothing is impossible for God. God opened the way for us when we were at the island at the time.
“At that night, God opened us the way. He brought us out of place at that time. It means He has a certain purpose for the children of Sunday School in this world,” he says.
“On Saturday evening one year ago, these children went to the worship, and because of their prayer, God came to save them. This is a great testimony where God came to them in the sudden episode and guided them to the safe place,” says Jeff Ron. (*)
Reporter: Yance Wenda
Editor: Pipit Maizier
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