Papua, Jubi – The main organisation advancing West Papuan independence aims abroad has committed to ending the use of child soldiers by armed rebels fighting under its flag.
This comes after revelations boys as young as 15 are fighting in an escalating conflict with Indonesian forces in Papua’s Central Highlands.
The new rules, which are expected to take effect in the next six months, are part of an effort to placate concerns over underage fighters joining the ranks of the West Papua Liberation Army, and comes as the independence movement struggles to gain ground with the international community.
Last month, RNZ Pacific reported the Liberation Army had violated international conventions against the recruitment of child soldiers, a move the rebel group argued was necessary in a region embroiled in near-constant conflict.
On Monday, the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) claimed it was taking political leadership of the Liberation Army and the two other main rebel groups in Papua. According to the ULMWP, the three will form a new grouping dubbed the West Papua Army and will undertake military reforms.
“We want to follow international law. We also must keep little boys in very clear position,” said Jacob Rumbiak, an Australia-based ULMWP spokesperson. He said the changes would restrict active combat operations by the West Papua Army to adult fighters, although he added children would still be trained for combat.
A release on Monday from the office of the ULMWP chair, Benny Wenda, said it was the first time the three major rebel factions had come under a single arm.
“Politically and militarily we are united now. The international community can now see without a doubt that we are ready to take over our country,” he said.
But undermining the new united front, the Liberation Army released a counter-statement on Monday, saying it was “not a part of ULMWP or the West Papua Army.” The statement said Mr Wenda’s claims were “fabrications and lies”.
Experts said the ULMWP assuming political leadership over armed forces was unlikely to carry much sway with rebels already operating with little oversight, especially within the Liberation Army, which is engaged in a chaotic war with Indonesian forces in Nduga regency.
“I don’t know if it can be applied anytime soon given the nature of the Liberation Army is quite fragmented since the 1960s,” Hipo Wangge, a researcher at Marthinus Academy in Jakarta, said of claims the West Papua Army would end the use of child soldiers.
A spokesperson for the Liberation Army couldn’t be reached for comment on the proposed regulations.
Victor Mambor, the editor of Papuan news site Tabloid Jubi, said a meeting in Papua New Guinea last year between the three armed groups and the Liberation Movement had ended with some members “unhappy” over the outcome.
Since then, the Liberation Army has found itself at the centre of a war with Indonesia after its fighters massacred at least 16 Indonesian construction workers in Nduga in December, in the worst bout of violence to strike Papua in years. Hundreds of Indonesian military and police have been deployed in a hunt for the rebel group.
Rights groups have documented a widespread displacement of civilians from Nduga, including hundreds of children who have been forced to take shelter in displacement camps in nearby cities. In April, the Irish human rights group Front Line Defenders said more than 32,000 people had been displaced from the regency since December.
Still, the formation of the West Papua Army shows how Papuan rebel groups are being leveraged to win international support for the independence movement.
The Liberation Movement spokesperson, Mr Rumbiak, said the move was prompted by a request from Vanuatu, which he added had wanted a united front including from military factions in order to make international lobbying easier. Vanuatu’s government has been a staunch supporter of West Papuan independence and its Special Envoy for West Papua last month handed over an application for the Liberation Movement to gain full membership in the Melanesian Spearhead Group. (*)
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
Tabi Province, for whom it established?
Jayapura, Jubi – An intellectual youth figure of Tabi Frangklin Wahey said the establishment of new Tabi province does not benefit the people of Tabi.
“This becomes a current big issue for native people in Tabi, and it needs further clarification from a group of regents and mayors who propose new administrative regions. In this sense, I only focus on Tabi region as the capital of Papua Province lay on it. So, I think it is weird if some native Tabi wants a new split regency. I suggest to those who propose this idea to clarify their specific needs and interest behind this,” he said.
As a native Tabi, he questioned why this regional split issue is becoming a critical issue now while did not get any attention during the first administration period.
“I think it is the interest of people who want becoming a governor in Tabi. If you want to be a governor, I suggest that better you provide a good example (to the public) and be prepared to compete (in the election). For the regent and mayor in Tabi region, I ask you to not making this issue complicated because it may disturb the harmony among indigenous Tabi,” he said.
Further, he said politically, the economy and education of indigenous Papuans in Tabi has long been left behind compared to others. If Tabi becomes a new province, it does not make them better. Instead, they will more marginalise.
“We must allow Mr Lukas to run his duty as a current governor and support him for what he has done in Tabi through outstanding development. He has made the region of Tabi a beautiful place. So, I ask the mayor and regent to build good coordination with the governor, provincial parliament and people’s assembly. Because they have authority and capacity to speak on behalf of the public interest in Papua,” he said.
Meanwhile, a native from Tobati Mrs Nonce Hanasbey hopes the government to be more focus on human resources development and local economic empowerment. According to her, it can improve indigenous livelihood and welfare.
“So far, infrastructure development has significantly progressed, and many primary changes have done. It only needs to support indigenous people in using their potential and existing natural resources for assuring these infrastructures benefit for them instead of other groups. (*)
Reporter: Aguz Pabika
Editor: Pipit Maizier
Carrying Morning Star flags in the worship, four students arrested in Church
Jayapura, Jubi – Four students were taken to Abepura Police station while attending Mass at Gembala Baik Catholic Church, Abepura on Sunday (1/12/2019). Wearing the traditional clothes of Papuan highlands, two of them decorated their faces with the pattern of Morning Star.
The four students are Marvin Yobe, Desepianus Dumupa, Paul Halapok and Devion Tekege. “They brought three Morning Star flags,” said Mario, an Abepura resident who was at the worship.
A police officer who not wear uniform at that time stood to arrest the students when they were about to receive the Host, but hold by the congregation asking him to respect the Holly Communion. Then, the police officer took the students out of the Church after seizing their flags.
Among the four, Desepianus Dumupa (26 years old) said their aim bringing the Morning Flags to the Church was to ask God for freedom. “Our purpose coming to the worship with the flags is to ask for help from God. We ask God to give freedom for Papuans,” said Dumupa.
At the meantime, the Director of Legal Aid Institute (LBH) Papua, Emanuel Gobay, said the police took the students to Abepura police station for questioning. During the investigation, Jayapura Police Chief Gustaf Urbunas came and met with the Coalition Team of Papua Legal and Human Rights Advocates who accompanied the four students.
Urbinas stated the four students would be taken to Perumnas III Waena to inspect their accommodation after the examination for searching other evidence. After that, they would go to Jayapura Police Headquarter for further investigation.
“When asked about the legal status of the four students, the police chief said the police still ask their clarification before taking a decision,” said Gobay, the Coordinator of the Coalition team.
However, Gobay continued, after their inspection to Perumnas III, the police did not found any evidence. Then, the police took the four students to Jayapura Headquarters, took their pictures and fingerprints before continuing the interrogation.
The examination continued until 00.59; Monday, 2 December 2019 before the four students were finally released.
Meanwhile, as quoted by Antara News Agency, Papua Police Chief General Paulus Waterpauw confirmed the interrogation against the four students. “I ordered Jayapura Municipal Police Chief to explore the case, to find out what do their plans,” said Waterpauw.
He stated in general the security situation in Papua is conducive during the commemoration West Papuan Independence Day which held every 1 December. Moreover, he said there were no public activities considered disturbing the security and public order.
“Generally safe, conducive and controlled. We are grateful to all stakeholders. Therefore, the commemoration of 1 December, which is an annual event, can run in a conducive, safe and controlled,” said Paulus Waterpauw on Sunday (1/12/2019). (*)
Reporter: Victor Mambor
Editor: Pipit Maizier
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