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. (*)
Individuals might take advantage of current situation in Papua for own interests to meet President Widodo
Jayapura, Jubi – Emus Gwijangge, Papua parliament member from the Democratic fraction, appeals to any individuals or groups to not exploit the current situation in Papua for their personal or group interests.
He said this to pointing some recent group meetings with President Joko Widodo in Jakarta. The first group, he mentioned, met the president and then proposed some requests, while another group claimed Papuan youth representatives met some state officials. And the most recently some officials of the Indonesian community group in Papua met President Widodo and asked the president to divide the region of Papua into seven indigenous territories in both Papua and Papua Barat provinces.
“Everyone has a right to meet the president. But please do not act on behalf of indigenous Papuans while requesting something to the president,” Gwijangge told Jubi on Wednesday (16/10/2019).
According to him, indigenous Papuans never ask for a title, new regional split or anything else. What they want is the central government sit together with them in a forum facilitated by the third parties addressing some issues that occurred in Papua.
“What indigenous peoples want is a historical correction as well as the settlement of many cases of human rights violations in Papua. Therefore, the Melanesian race no needs to continue our contention against the central government. We shouldn’t go to Jakarta for asking so many random requests,” he said.
Moreover, he hopes President Widodo and other state officials should carefully accept the proposed meeting by any groups from Papua who claimed to represent indigenous peoples.
He said if the president and state officials want to meet indigenous Papuans, they must invite the indigenous representatives. Also, the provincial government officials, local parliament and Papua’s People Assembly members and religious leaders are there to consider.
“The sort of this representation would guarantee that the aspirations delivered to the president are coming from the indigenous Papuans. It would contribute to the future of our grandchildren for they would not be engaged in the same problems and continuously become victims,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ahmad Taufan Damanik, the Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, said Komnas HAM has repeatedly advised President Jokowi to come to Papua for a dialogue. The president is suggested meeting people and any relevant stakeholders to solve problems in Papua.
However, he said, the president has contrary invited other groups, who claimed themselves as Papuan leaders, to Jakarta.
“Inviting a group of people from Papua to Jakarta is not what we meant, but the president himself needs to come to Papua,” said Ahmad Taufan. (*)
Reporter: Arjuna Pademme
Editor: Pipit Maizier
Discrimination handling refugees hurts Papuans
Jayapura, Jubi – The way government handling the humanitarian conflict in Papua has become a spotlight. Many people think the government are being discriminative in handling Nduga refugees compared to refugees from Wamena.
A native Ndugama Resina Lokbere said that she is discouraged seeing how the government differently treated refugees from both areas. “I see a huge difference approach here. Although the government always declare our national motto ‘unity in diversity’, but I have not seen this applied in Papua. A conflict in Nduga has occurred since 1 December 2018. Since then, Nduga residents must leave their villages and flee to other regions and the jungle to avoid a military operation,” she said.
Moreover, she said if the government are a concern in settling the humanitarian conflict in Papua, they should treat people fairly. The government should treat people equally, regardless of indigenous Papuans or non-Papuans.
“Thousands of youth and children drop out of school, and now they are living under poor health condition. There is economic loses as well. Who knows whether they will be survived or dead after a few months of suffering without enough food and water? I don’t know. Only God is the witness of their suffering,” said Resina whose relatives refuge from Nduga.
In her view, the way the government handling the issue of refugees can create a barrier in society. She thinks the government has indirectly built a wall between one community to others.
“The government should not perceive conflicts in Nduga and Wamena merely from a political view but also a humanitarian aspect. They are all your people. They need you. They need your action, not your promises on the public stage,” she said.
Meanwhile, a local parliament member Laurenzus Kadepa also think the government has shown different response in handling refugees due to conflicts occurred in Nduga and Wamena.
According to him, he observed that the victims of conflict in Wamena were promptly evacuated or accommodated with adequate facilities. They had enough food and other basic needs during the evacuation. It was opposite to what had happened to Nduga residents. They had to walk for days from their villages to Wamena and other regions.
“While there was a lack of access to food aid distribution for Nduga residents, it didn’t happen for Wamena refugees. They had planes to transport them, shelter and enough food,” he said.
Seeing what has been happening lately in Papua, the relevant stakeholders in Papua and the central government should immediately think a solution to end this current complicated situation. (*)
Reporter: Agus Pabika
Editor: Pipit Maizier
Five bodies discovered in Mbua, allegedly shot by military culprits
Jayapura, Jubi – Residents and activists from Pegunungan Tengah Human Rights Defender Networks (JapHAM) discovered five bodies on Thursday (10/20/2019) in Iniye Village, Mbua Sub-district, Nduga Regency. The bodies are suspected of the shooting victims of military culprits and covered by grass and leaves before being buried in one hole.
Nduga youth leader Samuel Tabuni, who is also a relative of the victims, said the victims left Wamena on 20 September for picking food supplies by car. They went together with a group of young men. Some group members then separated for taking food to their villages. Meanwhile, the victims took their supplies to Gua Batu, Gunung Kanbobo because they lived far away and decided to stay in Iniye Village.
“The next day on 21 September, the five victims went to take the food they stored at Gua Batu. Another group followed them later, but while they were walking, they heard gunfire. They were scared and decided not to continue to their walk to Gua Batu. They walked back to Ineye and called me,” Samuel Tabuni told on Thursday (10/10/2019).
However, after the call, he wasn’t sure about what had happened in Ineye. So he asked the police for further investigation. But the police said there was no report of the shooting incident in Mbua.
“The victims are my relatives, so I must continue to find the truth. After twenty days, it finally reveals that allegedly military culprits have shotted these five people,” said Samuel Tabuni.
He said a resident who called him witnessed military personnel at around Gua Batu.
The five bodies later identified as Mrs Yuliana Dorggi (35), Mrs Jelince Bugi (25), Mrs Macen Kusumbrue (26), Tolop Bugi (13) and Hardius Bugi (15).
“Local people and JapHAM Pegunung Tengah led by Theo Hesegem discovered their bodies,” said Samuel Tabuni.
Meanwhile, Kodam (regional military command) XVII/Cenderawasih admitted to Jubi that they have not yet received any information regarding the shooting incident in Iniye Village.
“We have not received an official report from the local unit,” said Colonel Eko Daryanto, Kodam spokesperson, to Jubi via WhatsApp.
Since a military conflict occurred in Nduga in the early of December last year, 189 residents are reportedly dead because of starvation in a refugee camp or shot by the military and police. Following the incident, thousands of Nduga residents have fled, and 39 churches have vacated.
Currently, according to Samuel Tabuni, Nduga residents demand the government to withdraw the joint military and police troops from Nduga. Furthermore, Nduga urgently needs humanitarian aid to supply food, medicine and support from the international humanitarian organisation to conduct an independent investigation on human rights violations in Nduga.
Meanwhile, Papua Governor Lukas Enembe hope Nduga refugees are not treated differently with refugees from another conflict in Wamena.
“Nduga residents are also the Indonesian citizens who should be treated equally as other residents,” said Governor Enembe.
Further, he said the case of Nduga refugee is an extraordinary case related to a humanitarian issue.
Therefore, he said he already communicated with the regents of Jayawijaya and Lanny Jaya because most of Nduga refugees are currently staying in these two regencies. He asked the regents from both regencies to treat Nduga refugees well because they are also Papuan citizens who need the attention of the government. (*)
Reporter: Victor Mambor
Editor: Pipit Maizier
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