By. Dr. Pala Molisa
I write in response to the article titled “Officials rubbish West Papua Protest” on Samoa Observer
Colonizers will always lie to you about what colonized peoples want. And some colonized peoples will parrot this – but this does nothing to change the lies from being lies.
Comments from Tantowi Yahwa, the Indonesian Ambassador to New Zealand, Tonga and Samoa, dismissing the recent Samoan protesters highlighting the plight of West Papuans outside of the Pacific Island Forum Leaders Meeting in Apia are misleading and deeply arrogant.
Saying “[t]he Pacific should stick to the main agenda of the conference which is the Blue Pacific” just shows the ambassador doesn’t even know the history and fundamental concerns of all Pacific island countries.
Since when, since the coming of colonizers into the Pacific – whether European, Asian or other – has decolonization and independence not been on all Pacific peoples agendas? And since when did it stop being the issue that determines all the others we might be concerned about?
If the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting is “not the place” to discuss not just human rights abuses, but also independence and decolonization for West Papua, then it is just a mouthpiece for Western imperialism and Indonesian colonization.
The comments of Albert Joku, on the other hand, a West Papuan wantok who once advocated for independence, should be understood in context as coming from someone who now works for the Indonesian government.
As Indonesian government spokesperson, of course he’s going to try to dismiss any Pacific protests for West Papuan independence.
Of course he’s going to argue that West Papuans should just give up on their dreams for independence, while Indonesia reduces them to a minority on their own lands, and continues to kill them off is the practice of all colonizers.
And of course he has to somehow believe that West Papuans can integrate into the burning house that has always, from the start, been what Indonesia has been and is for the indigenous Papuans of the region.
Reality and belief are two different things though
My wantok, Mr Joku, can shut his eyes and try to believe that West Papuans have now “seen the worst” that Indonesia has inflicted on them, but when did Indonesia stop the routine extra-judicial killings, torture and imprisonment of independence activists?
When did it stop the systematic destruction of rainforests and lands through industrial logging and extractive mining? When did it stop the theft of land dispossession, depriving West Papuans of lands and handing them over to Indonesian occupiers and corporations? When did it stop the trans-migration programs that’s already reduced West Papuans to a minority in their own lands, and will succeed in making them less than 30% of the total population by 2020?
The truth is: it hasn’t.
These forms of systemic violence – the blunt term is genocide – are what Indonesia is still carrying out today. And actually ramping up as the global movement for West Papua independence is picking up as well.
And this Indonesian occupation and genocide isn’t going to stop either because its roots are systemic: driven by capitalist expansion and imperialist greed sanctioned by the U.S.,
Australia and New Zealand. It ensures ongoing Western and Indonesia corporate access to West Papua’s vast mineral resources. It provides new land for displacing Indonesia’s over-population issues. And it helps ensure U.S. geo-political dominance over the region.
Mr Joku can also try to dismiss the significance and principled nature of the West Papuan protests by our aiga in Samoa, but that dismissiveness says more about him than about the protesters.
He talks about “emancipation” as if you can separate it from independence. As if you can find emancipation by subordinating yourself to a colonizer.
When he says “we will not be dictated by anyone” and “we Papuans, in Papua, will decide what we want to do”, he acts as if he speaks for all Papuans, and as if most Papuans are so browbeaten and defeated that all they want to do is accept subordination to a colonizer.
That’s so patronizing. And false.
Some Papuans might be comfortable pushing for colonial integration rather than independence. But the vast majority of West Papuans from the past to the present have always yearned for independence.
And all Pacific people can do no less than to honour this history of past and present struggles by recognizing that aspiration for independence, and doing what we can to fight for that independence.
That’s what the protesters did in Samoa when they carried out peaceful protests outside of the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting, calling attention to the issue of West Papuan independence.
They were standing in the tradition of the MAU movement in standing up for rights indigenous Pacific peoples, and asserting that our independence has been and always will be an inalienable indigenous right.
And when wantok Joku says “the Papua issue has been at the forefront since the late 50s and 60s” and “we’ve never seen Samoans and Fijians”, he acts as if Indonesian government money, media repression, and Western pressure have not had anything to do with keeping the Papua issue from the minds of our Pacific peoples, or to do with the buying off and silencing of Pacific politicians over the years.
He acts as if there is no shared history of Pacific decolonization struggles.
And he acts as if freedom has a timetable.
What wantok Joku doesn’t want to acknowledge is that the Samoan protests are only the latest example of a growing wave of politicization throughout the Pacific where Pacific peoples are starting to find each other again, reconnecting with our shared genealogical and political roots, to fight together for our collective and individual rights as indigenous people who want nothing less than to be independent, sovereign, and free. These struggles are being waged on a number of fronts from nuclear testing to free trade deals to climate change, and we’re reconnecting them back to that basic struggle for independence that have informed decolonization of the past up to today.
So to all those protesters in Samoa that took the time to speak up for our West Papuan wantoks during the Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting that was recently held in Apia, the only thing I can say is: fa’afetai, fa’fetatai, fa’afetai tele lava.
The sons and daughters of Oceania are rising. And we want nothing less than to be independent, sovereign and free.
Dr. Pala Molisa is a Victoria University Lecturer. He is Vanuatuan and Member of the “Run it Straight Collective”/ Activist and advocate for the Free West Papua Movement (NZ)
Who actually benefits from the Trans Papua Highway?
Papua, Jubi – Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI) researcher Cahyo Pamungkas says that the Trans Papua Highway has yet to bring any benefits to the Papuan people.
“The benefits for indigenous people can’t be seen yet. So people ask who exactly is the road for? Because the there is still illegal logging in the central highlands, the highlands are being destroyed, it’s easier for outsiders to exploit natural resources”, said Pamungkas at a press conference on the conflict in Nduga regency at the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH) offices in Jakarta on Thursday July 18.
Pamungkas explained that instead of benefiting ordinary Papuans, the Trans Papua Highway threatens their economic wellbeing.
“Pig livestock from Toraja comes into Wamena. So the Wamena’s people’s pigs don’t sell. This threatens their economy. It is increasingly easy for outsiders to come to Wamena, so Wamena people see the road as a threat to their future”, explained Pamungkas.
Pamungkas said that the Trans Papua Highway project only connects regencies or cities and the benefits of this are not felt by the Papuan people. Meanwhile roads between villages and districts which are in fact what is actually needed are not being built.
“Yet roads like this (between villages and districts) are very important, for example simply to sell vegetables produced by farmers in markets”, said Pamungkas.
According to Pamungkas, the Trans Papua Highway actually facilitates the exploitation of natural resources which can be seen from large number of trees being felled and gold mining.
“Moreover when LIPI researched development on this road, we found many logging camps for logging in the direction of the Papua Lorentz National Park, which should a protected area”, explained Pamungkas.
Pamungkas is of the view that the government should immediately hold a dialogue with Papuan social leaders with the assistance of appropriate mediators.
“Because the most important thing at the moment is liberating the Papuan people from the memory of suffering which has built up over time. Particularly the acts of violence by security forces which has resulted in trauma for the residents of Nduga regency, Papua province”, he explained.
Local people’s rights
Expressing a similar view to Pamungkas, Amnesty International Indonesia researcher Aviva Nababan believes that the Trans Papua Highway does not provide any clear benefits. He also questions the government’s planning process for the road.
“Looking at it again from the process. Did the government design its function by thinking about the rights of the people the road impacts on? Did they really follow the principles of involving local communities? If not, this needs to be fixed. We think it shouldn’t be seen from the perspective of western Indonesia. There’s a road, lovely. There’s a road, great”, said Nababan at Jakarta LBH on Friday July 19.
Nababan warned that Indonesia has a commitment to fulfill the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) meaning that it must involve local communities in all development planning.
He also asked the government to respect the rights of indigenous Papuans. Because according to Amensty’s research, there have been alleged human rights (HAM) violations which have made Nduga residence traumatised and afraid of the security forces.
“When there are problems of HAM violations related to law enforcement in Papua, the tendency is that the cases are rarely investigated. Let alone followed up, or satisfactory accountability”, he explained. (*)
Do you know how vital Papua is for the environment?
By Benjamin Ware
DO you know how vital Papua is for the environment? This province in Eastern Indonesia is home to the last big area of intact forest in the country, and one of the world’s most biodiverse. It is also the poorest part of Indonesia – nearly 30% of people here live in poverty.
Growing palm oil can be a way out of this poverty trap, but it also brings with it the risk of deforestation. In 2018 Greenpeace exposed large-scale deforestation in Papua linked to palm oil business Gama, which was then suspended from our supply chain.
That same year, Nestlé suspended 10 companies for violating our Responsible Sourcing Standard. Three for illegal deforestation in Papua, and one for the same offense in neighboring West Papua. This shows the seriousness of deforestation as a local issue.
What happens after we suspend a company from our supply chain?
Some companies continue with ‘business as usual’, while others sell off their remaining forested lands. Others, like Gama, act to halt deforestation and commit to ‘No Deforestation, No Peat and No Exploitation’ (NDPE) – the basis of responsible palm oil production and a requirement of our Responsible Sourcing Standard.
At Nestlé, we want to support companies like Gama to produce sustainable palm oil. Indeed, efforts are ongoing to develop standard re-entry criteria that suppliers found guilty of illegal deforestation must meet, before buying companies let them back into their supply chains.
Verifying supplier claims
We wanted to see Gama’s commitment to responsible production first hand, which is why Nestlé visited Papua in early 2019 with the NGO Aidenvironment Asia and one of our suppliers.
On the ground, we saw how Gama is implementing its new NDPE commitment, which involves working with Aidenvironment Asia on a remediation strategy for their lands in Papua and other parts of Indonesia.
Their work involves replanting ‘riparian zones’ (transitional zones between land and water) and deforested areas unplanted with palm oil, developing conservation plans for forested lands in Gama’s ‘land bank’, and generating compensation plans for lands cleared and planted.
Using concession maps from the supplier, Nestlé was able to monitor Gama’s sites via Starling. Since September 2018, this satellite-based system allows us to monitor our entire global palm oil supply chain for evidence of deforestation.
Satisfied with what we saw, we allowed Gama back into our supply chain on the condition that it does not clear any more forest or peatland (Aidenvironment will monitor this, and Nestlé also using Starling). Gama must also implement recovery and compensation plans that take account of local community needs.
Safeguarding people and planet
To some people, our move to allow Gama back into our supply chain before it completes its remediation plans might seem hasty. But we took this decision with one of our key Responsible Sourcing objectives in mind – what is best for people and planet.
In Papua, proper planning to support conservation and sustainable economic development is vital. Local communities want Gama to develop their lands. If Gama does not do so, it runs the risk of losing the lands, which another, less scrupulous company could then clear.
At the same time, conservation is vital. Locals we met also want to conserve their local forest, which is central to their culture. Indonesia’s government thinks similarly – it wants to develop the region whilst conserving 90% of its forest cover under the Papua Province Vision.
The situation is complex, and the need to balance conservation and development objectives is not unique to Indonesia. In South America, West Africa and beyond, we face similar challenges.
Nonetheless, if you take one message from this blog – this is it. We can only preserve forests by supporting those companies that embrace forest conservation as part of a sustainable economic development plan.
By excluding those companies that are found guilty of deforestation, but work hard thereafter to do the right thing, we risk endangering the magnificent forests that remain. (*)
The author is Global Head of Responsible Sourcing
Father Neles Kebadabi Tebay – ‘a pioneer’
By Theo van den Broek
THE mass of funerary wreaths on the way up to the High school for Theology and Philosophy (STFT) where Fr Neles Tebay has been laid to rest is impressive. All layers of the society are represented, the government (local as well as national), the religious institutions, the NGOs, the security forces and great variety of persons and just ordinary people. No doubt left that the man who died at the age of 55 after fighting a devastating bone cancer has touched the heart and mind of a lot of people.
Here at the STFT he is back at the place where he has been lecturing from 2007 to 2019. To prepare for that he studied in the Philippines (Ateneo Jesuit) 1995-1998 and in Rome (Pontificia Universitas Urbaniana) 2000-2006. While he was at the STFT during 1998-1999, before leaving for Rome, Father Neles shared the experience of the relative short ‘spring-time’ in Papua after President Suharto was forced to step down and all of a sudden ample room was given to free expression of opinion and aspirations in Papua. Also churches responded to that change with giving more explicit attention to human rights issues and local aspirations and speaking up clearly via its Secretariat for Justice and Peace (SKP) in the Catholic Church and the Institute for Study of Human Rights (Elsham), very much connected with the Protestant Church.
Father Neles joined in with these developments as they challenged his own interest of looking for a way to overcome the often paralyzing socio-political problems in Papua. At his ordination as a catholic priest in 1992 in his home-community in Waghete, where he was born in 1964, the elders of the indigenous community handed him a ‘name with a mission’, Kebadabi, which means: ‘pioneer’, ‘someone who opens up the way’. Within that mission, the recent attention to human rights and related issues in Papua was very appealing to him.
Although he left for Rome in 2000, he nursed a close relationship with SKP and followed developments in Papua. Including landmark events such as the second Papua Congress that proclaimed so loudly the deep aspiration of the Papuan People to become independent. Including also the inspiring effort made during a SKP-organized workshop ‘Building a Culture of Peace moving towards Papua Land of Peace’ in 2002 that involved representatives of almost all the sections of the Papua-society to give more meaning to what “peace” in Papua should stand for concretely. The workshop delivered a rather comprehensive understanding of “Peace” touching very concrete aspects such as: harmony-unity, truth and justice, feeling secure, welfare, participation of all, solidarity and tolerance, recognition and self-esteem, information and communication. At the same time a motto got popularized, “Papua Tanah Damai” (Papua Land of Peace) under which the various sides could join in and meet each other. Fr Neles followed closely these developments and made them an active part of his own agenda.
As interest in Papua was also growing in the European community, Fr Neles became one of the main resource-persons invited to share his insights in the complex situation of Papua in various international conferences and workshops. Over a couple of years he – often in cooperation with SKP and Elsham in Papua – was able to create an impressive network of contacts and international understanding and sympathy for the situation in Papua. And, not surprising, the doctoral dissertation concluding his missiology study in Rome carries the title: “The reconciling Mission of the Church in West Papua in the light of Reconciliation and Repentance”.
Back in Papua (2007) he continued his journey as ‘a man with a mission’. In January 2010 the “Papua Peace Network” (JDP) was set up by a number of activists and Father Neles was named the coordinator for Papua, while Bapak Muridan S. Widjojo, research staff of LIPI (Indonesian Institute for Study and Research) was asked to coordinate the lobbying at the central government level in Jakarta. Developing its agenda JDP provided the motto “Papua Land of Peace” and its ‘comprehensive peace concept’ with a more operational structure and strategy. At the same time they used the results of a study by LIPI, “Papua Road Map: Negotiating the Past, Improving the Present and Securing the Future” (2008) as an analytical base. JDP’s aim can be summarized in just one word: dialogue! In just very simple words: ‘if we just stick to our respective “absolute conditions”, for Indonesia the indisputable political status of the Republic and for the Papuans the demand for independency, we only will stay in a paralyzing deadlock, no way out and finally everything will get lost. We have to open up, we have to look for the truth together and to recognize each other to find a dignified way. Sitting down together and dialoguing truly and honestly will be the sole way towards a solution that meets our human standard of dignity and mutual respect’.
Under the inspiring leadership of Father Neles, JDP organized consultation-meetings all over Papua, gathering Papuan communities, and at a later stage also reaching out to migrant communities, to discuss openly the situation in Papua and ‘what to do?’ The message was spread in Papua and many people started talking enthusiastically about the dialogue as a solution, while also intensive and very demanding lobbying took place in the centre of the national government in Jakarta, where Bapak Muridan accompanied Father Neles to win the heart and minds in the circle of policy-makers, including a listening ear of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Also a wider public was reached by Fr Neles via his writings in the various local and national papers. His way of writing was appealing because it put complex matters in simple language while respectfully addressing anyone who might have a different opinion. He put ‘another Papua’ on the national map, different from what most of readers used to encounter in the national mass-media. Part of his extraordinary personality was Father Neles’ capacity to communicate with just anybody, from the President to his beloved people in the village.
The results of the consultation all over Papua were put together during a “Peace Conference” in Papua in August 2011. This conference got ample support by the central goverment in Jakarta and was therefore promising as an important step in the right direction. The conference delivered an overview of indicators for peace in Papua, identified per sector of attention (economy, health, education, socio-cultural, security and politics). A handy and comprehensive Roadmap for Peace in Papua, ready to be used!
At the end of the Peace Conference and looking to the road ahead, initial remarks were made on how to select the participants for the very much hope-for dialogue. This part proved very sensitive and made some observers from Jakarta rather nervous, asking themselves: are we talking about a dialogue, or are we involved in a process of independency? This uncertainty translated into a lesser involvement of the central government in the further process, its participation decreased significantly leaving Father Neles and the whole JDP-team in a rather difficult position. But they never lost the conviction that they were moving in the right direction: bringing the various stakeholders together to find a solution together, no matter how sensitive the issues to be discussed might be.
A special event in Papua, the Third Papua Congress in October 2011, indirectly pressed again to look for dialogue. The Congress declared its independency as a Papuan Nation and doing so the participants were confronted with a very brutal reaction by the security forces. Some were killed and scores of people were beaten up and taken to the police station. The leaders were put in jail. This brutal action by the security forces triggered a heavy reaction nationwide, including very much nationally respected people who started questioning Indonesia’s policy in Papua, and started calling for a dignified approach to solve problems in Papua. Renewed interest in the dialogue surfaced clearly. Father Neles together with JDP’s efforts had evidently made their mark. Nine consecutive explorative meetings were hold gathering representatives from Papua with representatives from the central government during 2012-2014. Main aim: to get familiar with each other, creating mutual trust and insight in respective policies. Although an official summary of the results has been formulated, the impact of these meetings has been rather limited, partly because there was too much change in persons/representatives of the central government, and therefore no continuity reached or secured.
In the meantime Father Neles’ relentless commitment and struggle for a peaceful solution in Papua, which was already monitored quite intensive by partners in Europe, also gained attention in Asia. In 2013 Father Neles received South Korea’s prestigious Tji Hak-soon Justice and Peace Award. This international recognition probably challenged the Indonesian authorities to give more substantial room to the dialogue with the Papuan people.
At the same time some other developments challenged the popularity of the dialogue pushed for by Father Neles. The developments around internationalization of the ‘Papua-problem’ that materilalized in and after 2013 and which resulted in a strong support by Pacific island states, in uniting the political struggle via a representative body named United Liberation Movement West Papua (ULMWP) and in opening up a discussion on Papua on international forums such as the UN and European Union. These developments didn’t go unnoticed by the indigenous Papuan community and slowly expectations raised high. These expectations were less connected with a dialogue, but more with backing up the agenda of the National Commission West Papua (KNPB) and the related international movement, a call for a new referendum on Papua’s political status. Within this context the presence of human rights violations, including being jailed, beaten up and even killed – the fate of quite some KNPB members – became a kind of ‘sacrifice needed’ and ‘taken for granted’ as the price to be paid.
Calling for peace and dialogue in this new context slowly became a very difficult and complex mission. And once in a while Father Neles was labeled as ‘being in the other camp’ or even mistrusted. Nevertheless Father Neles -and this characterizes him very much- never got discouraged and continued his call against the use of violence and his fight for the dialogue as the only dignified way towards a peaceful solution. It included also a meeting with the President in August 2017, where once again he had a chance to explain the need of a dialogue-process.
The President looked for some constructive steps towards a solution of the Papua-problem, and set up a national commission for dialogue chaired by Father Neles by the end of 2017. The commission was meant to start a ‘sectoral dialogue’, a dialogue on the concrete problems in some specific sectors, i.e. health, education, good governance, and economy. However, certain sectors were explicitly excluded from the mandate of the commission: no discussion on the political and security sector. Although very disappointed about this exclusion, after consulting with the JDP-team Father Neles accepted the nomination by the President as chair of the commission. Some of his friends were not pleased with his decision and told him so. Father Neles respected the difference of opinion and argued that ‘once again there was a small opening, an opportunity and that opportunity should be used in the process for the full and true dialogue he always has in mind. Indeed, not ideal, but a strategy that hopefully leads to more room for opening up the problems in the sectors not yet included in the current offer’.
Father Neles has struggled relentlessly to find a dignified solution to the problems. This is what people have seen and made him a pioneer who was pointing in the right direction. He has met with support and resistance in the process and has appreciated both, not forcing his opinion, but sharing. A spokesman for the National Commission West Papua (KNPB) voiced it in his own way: “Kebadabi (the pioneer) passed away. He left us the peaceful road to end the problems in Papua without killing the struggle of the Papua People”.
His consistent struggle, his never decreasing trust and optimism, his disarming warm laugh and high competence have made him the man who is accepted and loved by so many people, the man who was hoped for to become the first Papuan bishop in Papua, and the man who will be missed dearly. The Papuan People are extremely proud of him, as expressed during funeral speech by his old teacher, Phillipus Degei: “we, a very traditional indigenous Papua community, often looked down at, we, we delivered this great person to Papua, Indonesia and the world”.
Listening to all the people present during the ceremonies around his passing away and funeral, one extraordinary conclusion stands out indisputable: people recognize in Father Neles’ life and struggle their own ‘dream and aspiration’: being recognized and living in peace, peace, peace! That aspiration/dream is embodied in Father Neles and makes him the man to be followed, now and tomorrow! (*)
Author is a social political observer. Living in Jayapura.
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