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Pacific islands stand ground on West Papua push

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YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA – AUGUST 15: A protester from Papuan Students Alliance holds the Morning Star flag during a protest against the signing of the New York Agreement In 1962 on August 15, 2013 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The demonstrations are a show of support for the opening of the Free West Papua Campaign office in the Netherlands which aims to help the current struggle for freedom in West Papau. The New York Agreement was a treaty signed between Netherlands, Indonesia and the UN which was intended to end a territorial dispute between Indonesia and West Papua. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)

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.

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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. (*)

Source: lowyinstitute.org

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DVI Team identifies 10 victims of crashed MI-17 helicopter

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Illustration Helicopter Bell 412 TNI AD. – Doc. Pendam XVII Cenderawasih

Jayapura, Jubi – Some 10 out of the 12 victims of the MI-17 helicopter that had crashed on Mount Mandala, Oksob Sub-district, Pegunungan Bintang District, Papua Province, have been identified, according to a spokesman.

The victims were identified from their uniform, Col. Infantry Binsar Sianipar, commander of the military regional command (Korem) 172/PWY, stated on Saturday.

Only two victims could not be identified owing to the condition of their bodies. The police’s Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) team will identify them, he added.

Sianipar is currently leading the operation to evacuate victims of the crashed MI-17 helicopter.

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The 10 identified bodies belong to 1st Lt Ahwar, the copilot; 2nd Sgt Dita Ilham; Capt. Bambang, the flight engineer; Capt Haris Afik, the pilot; Chief Sgt Suryatna, T/I; 1st Private Asharul, the mechanic; 2nd Private Sudjono Kaimudin; 2nd Private Yanuar; 1st Private Risno; and 2nd Private Tegar.

The Russia-made military helicopter, operated by the Indonesian Army Aviation Center, with 12 passengers aboard, including five members of the 725 Infantry Battalion/WRG, went missing during its flights from Oksibil to Sentani, Papua, on June 28, 2019.

The ill-fated helicopter is believed to be in a mountainous area at 12,500 feet above sea level, with a slope of around 90 degrees, or perpendicular.

A helicopter, earlier deployed to locate the Mi-17 helicopter, managed to spot it only once while being airborne and was compelled to return to Oksibil owing to bad weather, Sianipar stated, adding that most likely, the rescuers must head to the location on foot. (*)

 

Source: ANTARA

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Bad weather caused Indonesian Army’s MI-17 crash in Papua

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Illustration Helicopter Bell 412 TNI AD. – Doc. Pendam XVII Cenderawasih

Jayapura, Jubi – The Indonesian Army’s Mi-17 helicopter that crashed on Mount Mandala in Oksop Sub-district, Pegunungan Bintang District, Papua Province, and killed 12 people aboard, was owing to bad weather, according to an official.

“I think the pilot had attempted to re-direct the helicopter to the original location due to foggy weather, but when the helicopter turned, it crashed into the mountain,” Major General Herman Asaribab, commander of the Regional Military Command (Pangdam) XVII/Cenderawasih, remarked here on Saturday.

In response to the press’ questions, he noted that the weapons carried by the fallen military officers were being kept by local hunters and the weapons would be returned to the authorities.

“The local residents will return the weapons of the military officers killed in the helicopter accident,” he said.

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The commander, who visited the Police’s Bhayangkara Hospital to see the bodies of the fallen officers and meet their family members, expressed his deepest condolences to the families of the victims.

The helicopter reportedly lost contact during its flight from Oksibli to Sentani on June 28, 2019. Since the day it went missing, search efforts have been steadily made to locate the helicopter by involving a Bell Helicopter 206 and Bell Helicopter 412 bearing registration number HA-5177.

However, the SAR’s efforts to locate the missing helicopter had been hindered by factors, including erratic weather conditions and difficulties on ground due to inaccessibility to roads.

The MI-17 helicopter, bearing registration number HA-5138, was carrying 12 passengers and crew members on board, which had earlier flown to Okbibab to deliver logistics to soldiers serving in the area.

The crew members aboard the helicopter were pilots CPN Captain Aris and CPN Lieutenant Bambang, co-pilot First Lieutenant CPN Ahwar, Head Sergeant Suriyatna, Sergeant Dita, Head Private Dwi Purnomo, and Private Aharul.

The passengers, who were members of the Battalion 725/WRG, comprised Second Sergeant Ikrar Setya Nainggolan, Private Yanuarius Loe, Private Risno, Second Private Sujono Kaimuddin, and Second Private Tegar Hadi Sentana. (*)

 

Source: ANTARA

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Stop criminalization over Papuan activists and free political prisoners

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Seven Papuan political prisoners in Balikpapan taking a picture with a representative of Papuan People’s Assembly and their legal counsel team. – Jubi/SPC

Jayapura, Jubi – The rights of freedom of expression in the second administration period of President Joko Widodo have still in concern to human rights activists. Democracy index 2019 released by Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) put the democracy in Indonesia is the category of flawed democracy with index 6.48.

“One of the factors contributing to this low rate index is control and repressive acts such as the restriction over freedom of assembly and expression. The restriction of civil movements including student’s rally, criminalization against activists, farmers and students to restriction on freedom of expression on political free choice of indigenous Papuans,” said the Deputy Director of ELSAM (Institute of Human Rights Studies and Advocacy) Andi Muttaqien in a release received by Jubi on Saturday (8/2/2020).

According to him, the restriction against the freedom of political expression of indigenous Papuans has raised an assumption that the Government of Indonesia had been placing Papuans as “the second-class citizen” who has no rights to express their political view and opinion.

“The human rights issue and conflict in Papua has endured for decades and never been solved until today. The central government seems to neglect indigenous Papuans to be minorities and marginalized in their own land. The security forces have acted repressively to any forms of the political expression of indigenous Papuans by giving them a stigma as a separatist,” he said.

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Based on monitoring and documentation conducted by ELSHAM in the second quarter (August-December) of 2019, the criminalization against the Papuan political activists has increased drastically. The security forces have massively seized Papuans on many occasions. These acts have mostly ended in the arrestation and detention of Papuans.

ELSHAM’s data showed that as per 28 January 2020, there are 100 Papuan political prisoners behind bars.
Earlier, Papuan Behind Bars confirmed 26 political prisoners detained in Papua in 2018, consisted of 25 indigenous Papuans and a journalist of Poland national Jakob Skrzypski. But, the number of political prisoners in 2019 has sharply increased to 77 new prisoners who arrested in civil demonstrations during August and September 2019. The increase happened concerning the incident of racist taunts towards Papuan students on Monday, 16 August 2019.

There are also some cases against Papuan political activists which seized public attention. It includes the case against Septi Meidogda (Gempar Papua Chairman) arrested in Manokwari on 18 September 2019 and charged with Information (ITE) Law by accusing him to provoke the public on Facebook dated 17 September 2019.

Then, the case of Mispo Gwijangge who accused to murder 30 construction workers in Nduga on 2 December 2018. There are flawed aspects related to his arrest, such as he does not understand Indonesian and only speak his local dialect. Mispo is illiterate. He cannot write, read and count nor able to specify the day or date. He does not know his date of birth and his age. During the investigation, he even did not understand any questions posed by the police officers.

Next, the case involved six political prisoners Surya Anta, Charles Kossay, Dano Tabuni, Issay Wenda, Ambrosius Mulait and Ariana Elopere who currently detained at Salemba prison, Jakarta for treason because of raising the Morning Star in front of the Presidential Palace on 28 August 2019. The police arrested them two days after the rally. Currently, most political prisoners are undergoing the trial at court. However, some prisoners are now in home-detention, while others are still in prison.

“The use of treason article and ITE Law against Papuan political prisoners are exaggerated and not necessary. Therefore, each person who considered doing the treason act and brought to court should be released,” he said.

ELSHAM considers that the restriction to the rights of freedom of expression imposed by the treason article has gone beyond the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which ratified by the Indonesian Government. The detention against citizens by state because of their political view also considered violating the rights to freedom of expression and opinion in which protected by Article 28 of the 1945 Constitution and other laws.

“President Jokowi should instruct the Attorney General to immediately stop or withdraw all charges against defendants and or Papuan political prisoners who accused with treason and ITE articles,” he said.
ELSHAM also asked the Indonesian Police Chief to order his staff to use a dialogical approach and stop all forms of discrimination against Papuan activists. (*)

 

Reporter: Yance Wenda

Editor: Pipit Maizier

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