By Jessica Franklin
MORE than 300 different Papuan tribes of ethnic Melanesian origin on the western half of New Guinea have been brutally suppressed by the Austronesian-dominated government at Jakarta since 1963
In December 2018, Survival International began receiving disturbing reports from the Nduga region of West Papua. Church leaders were saying that congregations from 34 churches in the Papuan highlands were missing. A violent military operation by the Indonesian army had forced scores of innocent men, women and children to flee their villages in fear of their lives and seek shelter deep in the forest.
Just before Christmas, things took an unexpected and alarming turn. Survival started to receive disturbing photographs of disfigured bodies, horrific wounds and burns, and of strange canisters that the people say had been dropped on their villages. An Australian newspaper reported that the mysterious canisters appeared to contain white phosphorous, an incendiary and chemical weapon, which “burns through skin and flesh, down to the bone.”
The use of air-dropped incendiary weapons against civilian populations is banned under Protocol III of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. The Indonesian government has categorically denied the use of white phosphorous, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stating on Twitter that the allegation is “totally baseless, non-factual, and gravely misleading.”
Military operations are frequent in West Papua where soldiers and police kill and torture with impunity. West Papua is the western half of the island of New Guinea, colonised and governed by Indonesia, and distinct from the independent country of Papua New Guinea. The indigenous Papuan peoples under Indonesian occupation have endured extraordinary suffering and oppression since Indonesia took control in 1963. Papua’s tribal people are Melanesians: ethnically, culturally and linguistically distinct from the Malay Indonesians who rule them from Jakarta. The government represses political dissent and attempts to “Indonesianize” Papuans, destroying not only lives but also the astonishing cultural and linguistic diversity of more than 300 different tribes.
The highland tribes live by shifting cultivation and hunting; they also keep pigs. During military raids they are too frightened to go to their vegetable gardens or to hunt. According to an independent investigation by Papua’s churches, during a similar military operation in 1998, at least 111 people died from hunger and disease in three villages alone and women and girls as young as three years old were systematically raped and gang-raped.
In the December 2018 attacks, soldiers were searching for militants from the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB), an armed group fighting for West Papua’s independence from Indonesia. The militants had killed an estimated 19 road construction workers in December, believing them to be Indonesian soldiers. In such cases, Indonesian military operations to track down perpetrators disproportionately victimise innocent civilians, who are terrorised, abused, and killed. Even those who escape the army are not safe. Vulnerable villagers, especially the very old or very young, die from exposure and hunger while hiding in the forest.
Despite horrific evidence from the tribes themselves and the appalling history of Indonesian violence and human rights abuses, it has not yet been possible for the alleged use of chemical weapons to be independently verified. International journalists, humanitarian organisations and human rights observers are denied free and open access to West Papua. Survival and other organisations are calling for a halt to the violent and indiscriminate military operation in the Nduga region and for independent investigators, including international weapons inspectors, to be allowed into the area to investigate the alleged use of white phosphorus and other abuses of the civilian population.
As well as the military operations in the highlands, Indonesia’s security forces are brutally repressing peaceful political dissent. In 2018, on December 1, the date commemorated by many as “Papuan Independence Day,” more than 500 peaceful protestors were arrested in cities across Indonesia. On December 31, the Indonesian police and military violently broke up a meeting of the West Papua National Committee (Komite Nasional Papua Barat–KNPB), a non-violent Papuan peoples’ organisation calling for a referendum on the independence of West Papua. More than one hundred police and soldiers stormed and then destroyed KNPB’s office. Nine members of KNPB were arrested and beaten; three have been detained and charged with treason.
West Papuans have described what is happening to them as a ‘silent genocide.’ Its invisibility is, in no small part, due to the restrictions on journalists and the repression of peaceful organisations. The abuse of the Papuan peoples by the Indonesian government is one of the worst atrocities of our times. Papuan voices must be heard; Papuans brave enough to speak out must be protected and the international community must expose and stop the human rights violations that are happening there. (*)
Jessica Franklin is Survival International’s media officer
A tragic story from Deiyai Regent Office
Jayapura, Jubi – A rally to protest racism against West Papuans in front of the Deiyai Regent Office on Wednesday, 28 August 2019, turned to a tragedy. A local parliament member Alfret Pakage told Jubi about the tragic story.
The story began when a young man called Yustimus Takimas died in a car crash involving an Indonesian soldier. His death triggered a mass rampage that ended with the police’s gunshot.
“I don’t have an idea about what was happening at the Regent Office’s backyard because I was standing at the side door watching people coming. After the car accident that killed young Takimai, people killed a soldier who was in the car. Then, all young men joined the crowd. Some entered through the front while others from the back via BKD Office. At that time the joint security force stood at the corner of the Regent Office. I was there too facing the BKD Office,” Pakage told Jubi by phone on Wednesday, (11/9/2019).
Furthermore, he said the mob threw stones to the soldiers, and they responded it with tear gas shots. However, when they found out a soldier killed, they threw bullets against the crowd. “I told the Crime and Investigation Department Chief of Paniai Police to hold. It happened when they (security force) knew a soldier died. They shot their guns to the people,” he said.
Then, the Military District Commandant immediately came out of his office located across the street in front of the Regent Office. “He shouted ‘my soldier is dead. Where’s the Regent? He must be responsible for this. The soldiers took their gun out. Brimob personnel were also there,” he said.
Pakage was alone at the scene, while the regent, deputy regent, local parliament members and all government officials already left their office. The police step on the body of the dead victim lying under the flagpole at the office’s front yard.
“I shouted at them to stop.” While he was confused about how to stop it, he also could not do anything because he was alone and under gun threat.
“I saw people died lying under the flagpole. It’s just me. I was alone. When the soldiers found out that people taken away their guns, they prevented me from being a mediator. They even pointed their guns against me and said ‘you want to back up or not? If not, you’ll be responsible for this’. After that, I backed up. But I still told them not be overwhelming,” he said.
Furthermore, according to Pakage, he moved to a kiosk opposite the Regent Office to join some police officers of Mee origin. It was only 17:12 but already so quiet, and nobody dared to pass. He then saw the ambulance from Deiyai Public Hospital going to the scene.
“I saw the ambulance coming from Deiyai Public Hospital to collect West Papuans who injured and fell because of the shooting. But the police came to block the car, pulled out the victims and took the ambulance’s key. They put their injured friends (soldiers), sent both driver and medical workers home. Then ambulance went to Paniai and left the injured West Papuans,” he said.
It was getting late, so he hurried to go home. He reminded himself that he must keep safe from the danger. Of returning home, he observed that Waghete became so quiet. Only found the security forces standing along the street from the Regent Office to Waghete II until the airport compound.
On the next day, Thursday (29/8/2019), he returned to the scene to check whether the dead bodies are still there or taken to the hospital.
“I only saw the soldiers standing along the street. I didn’t meet any residents. First of all, I checked the Deiyai Public Hospital, but the gate was locked and no activities there. I came inside knocking the door but no one there. So, I went to the scene to check whether the victims are still there or not. So I parked my vehicle at the entrance of the Regent’s office. Suddenly, the joint security force came investigating me with anger.
“They asked, ‘where are our guns?’ I told them I am also a part of this country. Those weapons are the state’s tools; I try to find those losing guns. However, the victims were not there anymore. So I went to Damabagata, Tigi Timur sub-district because I heard from someone that they keep the weapons there. At that time, the Military District Commandant was well-equipped guarding at the intersection of Waghete, Dogiyai and Paniai,” he said.
He continued the story by saying that the Paniai Police then asked him to come to their office as a witness. “At that time, the police acted without thinking. It was a big mistake. They examined me as a witness at the regency police station,” he said.
Meanwhile, Father Santon Tekege Pr said the investigation of the Secretariat of Peace and Justice (SKP) of Paniai Dean – Timika Diocese concludes that a car accident involving a soldier that caused the death of Yustinus Takimai triggered this shooting incident.
“As a result of the gunfire and tear gas shots, seven civilians were dead, while 43 people injured with both minor and serious injuries,” said Father Santon. (*)
Reporter: Abeth You
Editor: Pipit Maizier
JDP: Government must arrange the customary-based dialogue in Papua
Jayapura, Jubi – A dialogue on Papua should represent the people of Papua, Father Jhon Bunay Pr, the Coordinator for Papua Peace Networks (JDP), told reporters in a press conference held in Jayapura on 7 September 2019.
“The dialogue should conduct in seven Papuan territories, namely Mamta, Anim Ha, Lapago, Meepago, Saireri, Domberai and Bomberai and involve each representative of the central government, military and police, liberation army, Papuans living in Papua, Papuans domicile outside of Papua, other residents of Papua, investors and mass media,” he said.
Furthermore, he emphasises that the involvement of indigenous representatives in the dialogue is crucial. He hopes the government does not initiate the discussion with Papuans from outside of Papua because it could make problems difficult to solve.
“We are the same. We are brothers, no suspicion. There shouldn’t be the police or military’s spies or those who have no concern come in this dialogue. It’s important to ensure that everyone is free to express their feeling and thought, and we’ll find a solution together,” he said.
He also reminds the government to not organising the dialogue in the form of a seminar. It would not work in terms of producing a satisfactory result for everyone. “We will never find a real solution (through seminar); the result is null. Instead, we must invite local peoples to speak,” he said.
Moreover, he says the dialogue between Jakarta and Papua would never happen due to the high suspicions amongst stakeholders. “Perhaps we are too suspicious of each other. Talking about Papua’s issues should not be done with another approach, because the dialogue is the best approach,” he said.
Therefore, he said the relevant stakeholders must sit together to recover painful and bitter memories during the long conflict that occurred in Papua, including to put suspicious away.
“We must do reconciliation in the seven Papuan territories with involving all relevant stakeholders in Papua. Meanwhile, other components such as military and police, liberation army, Papuans from inside and outside of Papua, other residents of Papua, and mass media must attend (and involved in the process of) in the reconciliation,” he said.
Therefore, the process of reconciliation will turn out to be a transformation point for Papua to plan the best future for Papua. He also reminds that instead of discussing Papua in or inside Indonesia, it is more important to talk about the indigenous rights in Papua, and the welfare of all indigenous Papuans.
“I believe that the dialogue will solve all the problems from the past. Using guns, arresting and putting people in jail would not solve the problem. Instead, it makes it worse,” he says.
Meanwhile, JDP Deputy Daniel Randongkir said authorities must prioritise the principles of human rights and justice. “Once again, for JDP, the dialogue is the only way to solve the problem in Papua with rights and pure. Therefore it can be solved on behalf of justice and dignity,” he said. (*)
Reporter: Hengky Yeimo
Editor: Pipit Maizier
ULMWP: Military and mass organisation in Surabaya are responsible for demonstration waves in Papua
Jayapura, Jubi – Buchtar Tabuni, the Chairman of Legislative Committee of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), declined that ULMWP was behind the mass protests and rampages in Papua. Instead, he accused the Indonesian military, and local mob committed in persecution and racism against Papuan students in Surabaya are responsible for these incidents.
“Those who should be responsible for these protests and rampages in Papua are soldiers, police officers, municipal police officers and the local mob in Surabaya. Those who attacked Papuan students and called them ‘monkeys’ have triggered demonstrations occurred in Papua,” he told Jubi on Sunday (8/9/2019) in Waena, Jayapura.
He further said that for the couple last weeks, the Indonesian Government has attempted to build a discourse to put the ULMWP as the actor behind the anti-racism movements in Papua. “The Indonesian government is panic, terrifying in addressing the issue of free Papua that currently becomes a headline in the rest of the world thanks to the South Pacific countries,” he said.
He also said the way military and police in addressing the outrage speared amongst Papuans is not right. Instead of acting promptly, the government denied the persecution and racism against Papuan students in Surabaya. They even deployed more soldiers to Papua. “ULMWP considers the current situation is similar to what had happened in Timor Lester ahead to their independence,” he said.
Moreover, Tabuni stated the struggle for a referendum is open for everyone in Papua, including the migrants. He said the migrants have two options to response the growing demand of referendum amongst Papuans. “First, if they want to stay, they must declare their support to referendum for West Papua, just like indigenous Papuans did. Second, if they want to return to their hometowns, they must go nicely, like Papuans student currently did,” he said.
Separately, Victor Yeimo, the Spokesperson of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), said Papuan people are not ‘animals’. They are not easy to provoke by the ULMWP, KNPB, Veronika Koman or Benny Wenda. People go to the street because they want to fight against colonialism.
“The Indonesian Government still perceive Papuans as sub-human (half-animal) who easy to provoke. Up to now they always blame on particular organisations or certain people as the actors. Just asks Papuans whether they go to the street because of being provoked by KNPB? Veronica Koman? Benny Wenda? The answer is not,” he said. (*)
Reporter: Hengky Yeimo
Editor: Pipit Maizier
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