By Johnny Blades
In a battle of wills in the region, Australia and Indonesia now find the island nations have a measure of leverage.
One of the criticisms of the Pacific Islands Forum over the years relates to the regional grouping’s limited ability to advance its agenda in the face of the interests of Australia and New Zealand. The power imbalance hasn’t always made for a cohesive regionalism.
Yet it’s worth noting a rare victory for the island countries at the recent Forum Foreign Ministers meeting in Suva. It was a regular session, setting the agenda for this month’s summit of leaders of the Forum’s 18 member states in Tuvalu. Among the big items which Pacific countries are pursuing, alongside action on the climate crisis and ocean protection, is the festering issue of human rights abuses against the indigenous Melanesians of Indonesian-ruled Papua region, or West Papua.
There’s a new determination within the Forum that West Papua must stay on the agenda. Recognising the escalation of armed violence in Papua’s Highlands between the West Papua Liberation Army and the Indonesian military, as well as signs that rights abuses in the region are worsening, the Forum urged open dialogue with Indonesia on these issues, and for all parties to address the root causes of the conflict by peaceful means. The Forum has made these sorts of noises before. But now, notably, the Forum members have laid down a deadline regarding an ostensible invitation by Jakarta for the office of the UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet to visit Papua region.
This visit has been a fraught subject. Bachelet’s predecessor, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, last year complained that an earlier Indonesian invitation for the office to visit Papua had not been honoured, which in turn upset Jakarta. Concerned that Indonesia is dragging the chain again, Forum foreign ministers have called for the timing of the visit by the commissioner’s office to be finalised, and for a resulting report on the Papua situation to be presented before the next Pacific Islands Forum leaders meeting in 2020.
How did such unusually strong wording get past strong Indonesian allies within the Forum, particularly Australia? It took a heated discussion in Suva at the senior officials level ahead of the foreign ministers’ meeting. The wording was proposed by Vanuatu, the key regional supporter of West Papuan independence aims. Objecting to it, Australia officials traded back and forth with Vanuatu on the make-up of the resolution, which ultimately won the support of Pacific island countries. When it got to the foreign ministers meeting itself, Vanuatu’s Ralph Regenvanu fought successfully for the deadline provision to be included. It was a battle of wills in which Vanuatu prevailed over Australia.
It was partly a sign that Pacific islands countries have a measure of leverage over Australia that they rarely held in the past, because Canberra is anxious to keep friends in the region amid the looming presence of China. But it’s more than simply that. There’s a shifting dynamic in the Pacific on the West Papua issue related to a change in leadership in key countries.
The big change has been in Papua New Guinea with its reconfiguration of government. One of those who lost his job was the country’s longest-serving foreign minister, Rimbink Pato. In the role for almost seven years, Pato forged close relationships with Indonesian counterparts and proved effective at containing the West Papua issue both within the Forum and the Melanesian Spearhead Group whenever the regional organisations threatened to apply pressure on Indonesia. Without Pato in the mix, there was no objection from the Pacific foreign ministers to Regenvanu’s representations in Suva.
In addition, two relatively new foreign ministers in Fiji and Solomon Islands have injected fresh blood into the Melanesian bloc. Fiji’s government, hitherto unwilling to question Indonesia over West Papua, is now prepared to support a regional push on the human rights issue, as long as self-determination isn’t discussed.
It’s not as if Pacific governments can easily ignore the rights issue any more. Grassroots solidarity with West Papuans is growing in the Pacific as signs abound that the rights situation in Papua is worsening and demanding international attention. UN human rights rapporteurs are deeply worried about the culture of impunity and lack of investigations into allegations of violations in Papua by police and military. Furthermore, a World Council of Churches team recently visited Papua and was alarmed at the level of abuses.
Forum members are increasingly frustrated that its attempts so far to engage with Indonesia over West Papua have come to little, for instance that requests for fact-finding teams to visit Papua have been met with a dead bat. Instead of acknowledging Papuan problems in international fora, Jakarta focuses instead on the big infrastructure drive that President Joko Widodo is rolling out in Papua. His government is busy forging ties with island countries under its “Pacific Elevation” strategy. Despite what was at times a misleading representation of Papuans at its recent Pacific Expo summit in Auckland, Indonesia used the event as a big pitch about wanting to connect more with the region.
And therein lies the rub for Pacific island countries. If Jakarta is serious about elevating relationships with them, they feel it must come to the party more on West Papua. Indonesia has its own significant leverage in the region, but Forum countries are running out of patience. Previously Pacific island countries were divided on Papua. Yet when they speak together, as they appear to be doing now, they represent a force to be reckoned with. (*)
Papuans desire happiness and peaceful than materials, says Filep Karma
Jayapura, Jubi – Papuan freedom advocate Filep Karma said what indigenous Papuans need from the Government of Indonesia are not about clothes, food or houses, but more related to emotional well-being.
It is more about security, safety and peace, Karma told Jubi, to comment about the implementation of Special Autonomy in Papua. He mentioned it while a break during the seminar on the investigation of the conflict in Nduga held by the Papua People’s Assembly (MRP) in a hotel in Jayapura City, Monday (9/12/2019).
According to this former political prisoner, when People’s Vote (Pepera) held in 1969, the Indonesian Government promised prosperity to indigenous Papuans if they wanted to join with Indonesia. However, until now, the Indonesian Government is considered being failed to embody its promise. Both Special Autonomy Law and Fund which annually delivered to Papua since 2001 are also not able to prosper the indigenous.
“I think Papuans have not measured the well-being of food, clothes or any materials. Instead, they want to happy and live peacefully, that the state can guarantee that they would not be kidnapped or arrested or executed. That’s the well-being that we want,” said Karma.
Moreover, he also supports the plan of MRP and MRPB (People’s Assembly of West Papua Province) to evaluate the Special Autonomy through a public hearing with indigenous Papuans in 2020.
” Autonomy is a political confectionary. It sorts of a statement from the central government for Papuans to not ask for independence. Instead, we gave you this Special Autonomy. That’s it,” he said.
But, he further said, if the evaluation found that the Special Autonomy failed to prosper the indigenous Papuans, the last alternative for Papuans is independence,” he said.
“Because this (the Special Autonomy) was the highest offer from Indonesia to Papuans, therefore the Indonesian Government can no longer deny their failure by offering other development plans. Special Autonomy is the last and final offer from the Government of Indonesia,” he said.
In the meantime, Timotius Murib, the Chairman of Papua People’s Assembly, in responding to the questions of participants said those who have rights to evaluate the Special Autonomy are indigenous Papuans because they are beneficiaries of the Special Autonomy Fund. Therefore, Indigenous Papuans must determine whether the Special Autonomy should continue or not.
“In 2020, MRP and MRPB will collaborate to organise public meeting (on the Special Autonomy). People will determine what they want. No matter what, bitter or sweet, MRP will recommend people’s desire to the state and the world,” said Murib.
According to him, in this sense, MRP has had an MoU with the United Nations. The United Nations will come to observe the implementation of the evaluation. (*)
Reporter: Arjuna Pademme
Editor: Pipit Maizier
Witnesses not able to confirm who’s the perpetrator of destruction towards Horison Hotel
Jayapura, Jubi – Jayapura District Court resumed the trial against defendants Elo Huby Ary Asso and Urbanus Tambonop on Monday (9/12/2019) regarding mass riot on 29 August 2019 in Jayapura City. In the hearing, Public Prosecutor Andreas Tomana presented two witnesses who are staffs of Horison Hotel, Kota Raja, Jayapura.
The two witnesses were doing their shift at the hotel when a mob passed throwing stones to the hotel. However, a witness, with initial A, stated he could not determine who the perpetrators are.
The witness further said he had checked the CCTV recording. “To be more certain, the operator of CCTV showed the recording, but it couldn’t tell us about the perpetrators,” he said to the panel of judges chaired by Maria Sitanggang.
Moreover, witness A said so many people involved in the incident of stone-throwing. Therefore he could not recognise the perpetrator. “Of the two defendants, we did not see them in CCTV, because many people passed the street at that time,” he said.
In the meantime, the public prosecutor said he would present another witness for the next hearing on Wednesday. He also mentioned that several witnesses refused to come in the trial today because they were afraid and still trauma.
“Victims did not come to witness because of fear. But they have given information to the police which already recorded in the police investigation report. We would try to present other witnesses in the next hearing on Wednesday,” he said.
Another trial against Dorothy Kawena also held on Monday to examine witnesses. The hearing would continue on Wednesday to question the offender. At the same day, the witnesses hearing would also resume in the case against the defendant Ferius Entamon.
For a meantime, the trial against the defendant Pandra Wenda was suspended until Wednesday this week because the public prosecutor was not able to present a witness. Concerning this issue, the judges demanded the state prosecutor to be more cautious in arranging witnesses in the trial. Judges also ordered the prosecutor to present three witnesses in the case against Ronal Wandik, Mikha Asso, Persiapan Kogoya, Jhonny Weya. Meanwhile, the hearing against the defendant Yusuf Marthen Bonay would start to examine on Wednesday next week. (*)
Reporter: Hengky Yeimo
Editor: Pipit Maizier
Hundreds of people were detained in Papua ahead to 1 December
Jayapura, Jubi – Around 112 people were arrested by police in several towns of Papua and Papua Barat provinces within a week ahead to 1 December 2019 under the treason article concerning the Morning Star flag-raising.
Five days before 1 December which commemorated as the Papuan political manifesto by Papuans, a young Papuan activist Pilipus Robaha arrested by police in his house on 26 November 2019. The police questioned him in association with a letter posting on social media appealing people to attend the commemoration worship of 1 December at Trikora Square. Lack of evidence to accuse his involvement connected to the report, the police released him the next day.
A day after his arrest, the police detained eight people in Manokwari at around 3 in the afternoon of local time. The Regional Police Chief of Papua Barat Province, Brigadier General Herry Rudolf Nahak, said during the police seized twenty-nine big-sized Morning Star flags, some posters and pamphlets and two cars.
“During the interrogation, these eight people admitted that they participated in the event after reading the pamphlet about a rally at Borasi Square, Manokwari on Wednesday morning,” said the police chief.
Until Thursday (5/12/2019), they are still under the custody of Manokwari Police. So far, the police declared none of these eight persons named suspects. However, the police have charged seven detainees under the treason article, according to Yan Warinussy, the Executive Director of Legal Aid Research, Study and Development Study (LP3BH) Manokwari. Meanwhile, another one only named as a witness.
Another arrest occurred in Sentani City of Jayapura Regency. The police detained thirty-four people on Saturday evening (30/11/2019) while marching towards Trikora Square, Abepura to participate in a flag-raising ceremony. The police also accused them as the members of the West Papuan National Liberation Army from Demta sub-district and Sarmi Regency after finding evidence of their membership cards.
Jayapura Police Chief Adjunct Commissionaire Victor Makbon said “We already released fourteen of them, but twenty people have named suspects. We charged six of them under the Emergency Law on the possession of sharp weapons and the Treason Article 106 and Article 2 verse (1) of the Criminal Code.”
In the meantime, there are 13 people charged under the Treason Article 106 of the Criminal Code, while one also charged under the Treason Article 106 and Article 160 on incitement.
Regarding this case, Yohanis Mambrasaar, a lawyer from Papua Human Rights Advocates Association (PAHAM), confirmed that the report on twenty people charged for treason. Currently, he said PAHAM is preparing the power of attorney to provide legal assistance for detainees.
Separately, the police arrested four students at Gembala Baik Church in Abepura on Sunday Morning. Marvin Yobe, Desepianus Dumupa, Paul Halapok and Devion Tekege wore the Papuan highland traditional clothes and pained their bodies with the Morning Star pattern. They also brought the Morning Star flags to the Church during the worship time.
The arrested student Desepianus Dumupa said the purpose of their act was to ask God for freedom. “Our purpose carrying the flag in the worship was to ask God’s help, ask Him to liberate our nation,” said Dumupa.
However, the police then released these four students after being interrogated until 1 morning on Monday. They first questioned at Abepura Police Headquarters, then at Jayapura Police Headquarters after the police had not found any evidence at their accommodation.
By Monday morning, the police called Father James Kosay who led the worship at Gembala Baik Church on 1 December to question related to the arrest of four students. “At the time of arrest, there were twenty police officers, both without and with uniform, entered the church during the worship that made people panic,” said Father James.
A day before the incident in Gembala Baik Church, the police also called Markus Haluk, the Executive Director of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) in connection with The Call for Communal Worship on 1 December 2019. The police interrogated Haluk with twenty-nine questions for six hours.
Another detain also occurred in Fakfak. The local police of Fakfak arrested 54 people in Warpa, Pikpik and Mabuni-Buni villages of Kayauni sub-district at around 3 in the afternoon on Sunday (1/12/2019). The police accused them intending to raise the Morning Star flag at the residence of Fakfak Regent. Also, the police claimed the fifty-four detainees as the members of TPNPB after finding their membership cards during the arrest.
Fakfak Police Chief Ary Nyoto Setiawan said that the Morning Star flag was already raised in Warpa village by twenty-three people with sharp weapons. When the arrest took place, according to the chief, the police also found the amount of IDR 88 million on the scene.
“The money was about to send to their highest rank leader in Jayapura,” said the chief.
Based on their investigation, the police has officially named twenty-three people as suspects.
The Recherche and Crime Investigation Chief of Fakfak Police, Misbahul Munir, said, “ These twenty-three people wanted to come to Fakfak to wave the flag at the official residence of Fakfak Regent.“
A picture of the arrest in Fakfak widely spread in social media
A photo of the arrest in Pikpik village of Fakfak raised criticism among Papuan people following its circulation on social media. In the picture, almost naked, some people tied up together and remained sitting by the road.
“The right word for the picture is slavery. Only those who experienced colonialism can do this. They experienced the same oppression before their independence. So, they want to practice the same thing against the oppressed people,“ said Filep Karma to comment on the photo that goes viral on social media.
However, Fakfak Police has not yet confirmed about the picture. So far, the Recherche and Crime Investigation Chief of Fakfak Police has not answered the phone and WhatsApp message to clarify the photograph allegedly describes the arrest in Pikpik village. However, several Fakfak residents confirmed that the circulated photo about the detain in Pikpik village on 1 December 2019 is valid.
“They arrested on 1 (December). A man with white hair body on chess was my classmate, Yance Hegemur,” said a Fakfak resident by phone to confirm the photograph.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of Domberai Customary Council Finsen Mayor also believes the same way. “Yes, it was the picture of the incident on 1 December in Fakfak. They transported to Fakfak Police Headquarters in the evening,” said Mayor.
From Tuesday (26/11/2019) to Wednesday (4/12/2019) afternoon, there are 101 people arrested and interrogated by police in connection to 1 December. So far, 82 people are still detained in Fakfak, Manokwari and Sentani, while the rest already released by police. At least 27 people have named suspects under the treason article, in which twenty people in Sentani and other seven in Manowakri.
In the sense of police acts to anticipate 1 December by arresting Papuans, according to Yan Warinussy, it would only worsen the image of the Indonesian Government among Papuans as Papua has a different historical background to other regions in Indonesia. This recognition is implicitly acknowledged the verse e of the Law 21/2001 about the Special Autonomy for Papua.
“1 December should be used as a milestone to create constructive efforts to straighten the history of Papua by the people of Papua and the state for the sake of peace,” said Warinussy.
He further asserted that every social and political movement of Papuan people, which contain different aspirations, should be responded with the kind response and accommodated through peaceful dialogue. (*)
Reporter: Victor Mambor
Editor: Pipit Maizier
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