By Olivia Tasevski
This year marks 50 years since West Papua was officially incorporated into Indonesia via 1969’s ironically named Act of Free Choice, whereby less than 1 percent of Papuans were forced to vote in favor of West Papua’s incorporation into Indonesia. To the dismay of Indonesian government officials, 50 years later, a West Papuan pro-independence movement persists and has made some significant gains. Despite these successes, for the foreseeable future, the movement will continue to be hamstrung due to Indonesia’s opposition to an independent West Papua and successive American and Australian governments supporting Indonesian rule over the province.
Since 1969, Papuans have sought to obtain independence through pacifist actions and, in the case of the Free West Papua Movement (OPM), armed struggle against the Indonesian army. Key pro-independence organisations, such as the pacifist United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) and the OPM, argue that Papuans should obtain independence on the grounds that, unlike Muslim-majority Indonesia, Papuans are predominantly Christian and Melanesian. Pro-independence sentiment among Papuans is also motivated by Indonesia’s repressive rule in the province, which the ULMWP labels a form of “colonialism,” and the fact that human rights violations have been perpetrated by Indonesian forces in West Papua since the 1960s. These violations include imprisoning pro-independence Papuans for participating in protests, assaulting Papuan journalists, and killing Papuans alongside allegations of torture and rape of Papuan women.
Papuan independence activists have successfully managed to gain support from multiple Melanesian Pacific Island states. Vanuatu in particular has been a longstanding supporter of an independent West Papua. It has provided asylum to pro-independence Papuans and advocated in favor of West Papua’s independence in international fora, including the United Nations. Furthermore, in 2015, the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), consisting of Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, and the Solomon Islands, granted “observer” status to the ULMWP, led by Benny Wenda, a Papuan who obtained asylum in the United Kingdom after fleeing Indonesia in 2003. The MSG conferring this status upon the ULMWP was significant as it boosted the ULMWP’s legitimacy and marked the first instance in which a Papuan pro-independence group was represented at an international organisation.
Beyond Pacific Island states, pro-independence activists have also gained support from prominent British and Australian politicians. Britain’s Labor Opposition Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, arguably constitutes the most high-profile supporter of the Papuan independence movement, which is not supported by the British government. Richard Di Natale, a senator in the Australian Parliament and leader of the Australian Greens political party, supports Papuan self-determination. In 2017, Di Natale publicly condemned human rights abuses that have occurred in West Papua, notably the fact that multiple Papuans have been imprisoned for raising the Morning Star flag, which is banned in Indonesia as it is the flag of the Papuan independence movement. Moreover, in 2018, Di Natale publicly asserted that the Indonesian government has denied Papuans right to self-determination “for so long,” a reference to the authoritarian and unrepresentative manner in which the so-called Act of Free Choice was conducted.
A small pro-Papuan independence lobby also exists outside the Australian Parliament. For example, in 2017, a pro-independence activist raised the Morning Star flag on the roof of the Indonesian-Consulate General in the Australian state of Victoria. This action unsurprisingly provoked strong condemnation from Indonesia’s foreign minister, Retno Marsudi, and saw West Papua re-emerge as a source of tension in the Australia-Indonesia relationship. In 2017, three Victorian local councils held ceremonies where they raised the Morning Star flag and expressed support for the Papuan independence movement.
Pro-independence Papuans have also effectively drawn international attention to their demands and human rights abuses perpetrated by Indonesian forces against Papuans. Notably, in 2019, Benny Wenda presented the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, with a petition signed by 1.8 million Papuans advocating in favor of a UN investigation into alleged human rights violations occurring in West Papua. The petition also called for an internationally supervised vote on Papuan independence.
Despite these gains, since 1962, all Australian governments and Australia’s major political parties, the Liberal Party and the Labor Party, have supported Indonesian sovereignty over West Papua. This support is, in part, motivated by Australia’s desire to maintain good relations with neighbouring Indonesia, which constitutes the largest economy in Southeast Asia and the fourth most populous state in the world. Bipartisan support for Indonesian rule in West Papua stands in contrast with Australia’s support for Timor-Leste’s independence from Indonesia in the 1990s, which created tension in the Australia-Indonesia relationship.
The Australian government’s support for Indonesian rule in West Papua was codified in 2006 when the Australian and Indonesian governments signed the Lombok Treaty. The treaty stipulates that Australia and Indonesia would not “support or participate in activities by any person or entity which constitutes a threat to the stability, sovereignty or territorial integrity of the other Party, including by those who seek to use its territory for encouraging… separatism in the territory of the other Party.” The treaty’s reference to separatism is an implicit reference to the Papuan pro-independence movement, which Indonesian governments have repeatedly labelled as a separatist movement. As a result, via signing the treaty, the Australian government, then led by John Howard, formalised Australia’s policy of supporting Indonesian rule over West Papua.
Similarly, successive U.S. governments have supported Indonesian sovereignty over West Papua. Thus, the efficacy of the pro-independence movement is and will continue to be limited as it lacks support from either the global hegemon, the United States, or the regional hegemon in the South Pacific, Australia.
Interestingly, even governments of Timor-Leste, which was an Indonesian colony from 1975-99 and had a pro-independence movement that fought against Indonesian rule, have refused to support the Papuan independence movement. This policy is likely motivated by a desire to maintain positive relations with Indonesia as it constitutes Timor-Leste’s largest and most important neighbour. This support is demonstrated by the fact that Jose Ramos-Horta, who served in the upper echelons of the Timorese pro-independence party, FRETILIN, during Indonesian rule and served as the prime minister, president, and foreign minister of Timor-Leste, has consistently supported Indonesian sovereignty over West Papua and thus refused to demonstrate solidarity with pro-independence Papuans.
Arguably the most important factor limiting the effectiveness of the movement for an independent West Papua is the fact that all Indonesian governments have opposed Papuan independence. Opposition toward Papuan independence is motivated by a deeply held belief among successive Indonesian governments that West Papua is rightfully part of Indonesia as West Papua and Indonesia were both Dutch colonies and together constituted the Netherlands East Indies.
Indonesian governments’ refusal to entertain an independent West Papua is also motivated by the fact that West Papua is a resource-rich province that raises considerable revenue for Indonesian governments. West Papua contains the Grasberg mine, the world’s second-largest copper mine and largest gold mine, which is run by the U.S. mining company, Freeport McMoRan, the largest taxpayer in Indonesia.
Finally, Indonesian government officials likely fear that an independent West Papua may bolster the pro-independence movement in Maluku, which has existed since the 1950s and has been repressed by Indonesian governments.
In 2019, Indonesia’s Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu stated in relation to West Papua, “[They’re] not allowed independence. Full stop.” Despite the efforts of pro-independence Papuans, for the foreseeable future, an independent West Papua will remain prohibited and improbable. (*)
Olivia Tasevski is an International Relations and Asian Studies tutor at the University of Melbourne, where she completed her Bachelor of Arts (Honours) and Master of International Relations. She specialises in human rights issues in Indonesia, Australia-Indonesia relations, and the history of U.S. foreign relations.
Thousands of Papuan joins the rally condemning racism
Jubi, Papua – Monday, 19 Augusts 2019. Thousands of students from the Faculty of Social and Political Science of the University of Cenderawasih closed the university’s gate, the only access to its Waena Campus in Perumnas 3, Heram Sub-district of Jayapura Municipality.
The gate became the point of a mass rally in responding to the acts of violence and racism against Papuan students in Malang and Surabaya a few days ago. In addition to the University of Cenderawasih, masses also gathered at some points in Expo Waena, the University of Science and Technology Jayapura, Abepura suburb and Jayapura City
Thousands of Papuan communities of different backgrounds ranging from students, KNPB activists, community-based organisations, the association of regional student dormitories in Jayapura, and ordinary people including children, joined the rally. Their number grew bigger and bigger as people united the crowd on the road. Walking and riding motorbikes, they walked towards the governor’s office located in the central of Jayapura City.
Before reaching their end, first, the crowd stopped by the office of Papua’s People Assembly (MRP) in Kotaraja. There, Victor Yeimo, the KNPB spokesperson for international affairs, asked assembly members to join the crowd.
“If MRP wants to protect the dignity of Papuans, let’s join us. Indonesia mocked us by calling Papuans ‘monkey’. This humiliation was not coming from the local mob, but soldiers and the police as well,” said Yeimo, who was the General Chairman of the Central KNPB in his five-minutes oration.
The crowd then continued their long march passing Skyland and Entrop roads. All Papuans whose houses nearby were very supportive of the protesters by giving bottled mineral water. They also showed their support by clenching their hand and yelling ‘free Papua nation’. Along the road, people chanted “we are nor red and white, but the morning star” and yell out ‘freedom’ and ‘referendum for Papua’, while around hundreds of police and dozens of military personnel stayed close to them.
When the crowd arrived in Taman Imbi in the central of Jayapura City, hundreds of protesters made up activists, residents and youth communities have waited for them. Meanwhile, hundreds of police officers also deployed to the scene. All stores and shopping centres in Jayapura City mostly closed.
The city almost entirely occupied by indigenous people. Only one or two non-Papuans appeared standing near the protesters. Jayapura City, the centre of business where homes for mostly non-Papuans, seemed entirely belong to Papuans. “This is our land. If they call us ‘monkey’, Indonesia must get out from here,” yelled the crowd.
Finally, the crowd arrived in the governor’s office where Governor Lukas Enembe already waited. It took seven hours for them to walk 16 kilometres from Waena to the governor’s office. Here, students, youth and customary leaders alternately gave speeches in front of the crowd.
People incessantly hailed the name of Victor Yeimo asking him to speak. Along with some other activities, he got on the stage. The audience cheered on him. “Papuaaaa?” he screamed over the crowd. “Freedom!” the group replied. He repeated the same yell three times.
In front of the crowd, Yeimo stated that today was a big moment for Papuans. People gathered together for not only about racism against Papuan students in Java, but many factors that accumulated into Papuans’ outrage.
“We are gathering here for not only because we are called ‘monkey’. Moreover, but also justice for our brothers in Nduga who fled to the jungle. We urge the Indonesian government to investigate the human rights violations that had never settled. We ask them to stop exploiting our natural resources and forests!” said Yeimo. Further, he said Papuan people no longer care about infrastructure development because it was not what they asked. “Road constructions have damaged our forest! What about Special Autonomy? Does it give us benefits for the last 19 years running in Papua,” he added.
Then, the Papuan Governor Lukas Enembe got on the stage to express his anxiety on what was happening to Papuan students in East Java. We are not descendants of apes. Therefore, I deeply regret why in Indonesia, which is already 74 years old, there are people still acting small-minded like that. Malaysia is a lot better, though they are from the same root, Malay,” he said.
In addition to his children who are studying overseas, he said his administration sends more than a thousand Papuan students to study abroad. “So, we have dignity. I stated to the Governor of East Java that Papuans love Gus Dur (former president from East Java origin – red) as he loved us. Gus Dur was very protective towards Papuans in East Java. Why did Banser (Ansor Front) not deployed to calm down the mob persecuting Papuan students yesterday?” he questioned.
Moreover, Enembe also released a five-points statement on behalf of the Papuan Government. First, it says that the Provincial Government of Papua expresses its anxiety and concern about the incidents in Surabaya, Semarang and Malang, which caused the arrest of Papuan students by security forces. The provincial government also appreciates the legal enforcement by the security force when it’s done proportionally, professional and fairly. The security forces were expected not to neglect persecution or any vigilant acts either by groups or individuals that potentially hurt the feeling of Papuans. People should avoid doing oppressive actions that can cause casualties, political conflicts and destroy the spirit of nationalism among citizens.
Second, Papua is the territory of the Republic of Indonesia, known as the real miniature of Indonesia. It represents the diversity of Indonesian multi-ethnic, cultures, and religions living in harmony. The indigenous people of Papua welcome and treat non-Papuans with respect and equality. Therefore, we wish that Papuans are treated in the same respect in many parts of Indonesia. This should become our mutual commitment as a nation to create a peaceful Indonesia that politically, economically and culturally safe for everyone.
Third, the Provincial Government of Papua asks all Papuan communities in Papua Province and other provinces in Indonesia to respond to the incidents in Surabaya, Semarang and Malang appropriately without any single act violating the cultural norms and laws.
Four, we expect non-Papuan communities throughout Indonesia to maintain peace and not to conduct unconstitutional acts such as persecution, oppression, racism, discrimination, intolerance and other actions that can harm the feeling of Papuan communities and disturb the tolerance and harmony among citizens. In our 74th anniversary, we should not let the acts of intolerance, racism and discrimination in our country.
Finally, as the Governor of Papua, I invite all governors, regents, and mayors throughout Indonesia to protect Papuan students who studying in their regions, as much as we do to non-Papuan students and communities in our region. This is our mutual effort to prevent a similar incident occurred in the future as well as to maintain our nationalism, unity and togetherness as a nation.
Meanwhile, the General Chairman of the Central KNPB Agus Kossay stated the rally was a manifestation of Papuan peoples’ perception towards the meaning of 74 years of Indonesian independence which they found it useless due to racism. It shows that Papua is not part of Indonesia. They said we were monkeys. And the statement came from military and police culprits. So, lets us get out of Indonesia,” he said.
Further, he continued that they want all Papuan students studying in Java will be guaranteed safe. “If there is no guarantee, a similar incident might be repeated. When it happens, it would be better sending them home,” he said.
People were still gathering in the lawn of the governor’s office until 6 p.m. They were gradually dispersed and going home at around 7 p.m. (*)
Reporter: Kristianto Galuwo
Editor: Pipit Maizier
A story of Nduga refugees: giving birth in the jungle
Jayawijaya, Jubi – The shooting over some construction workers of PT Istaka Karya in Yigi, Nduga Regency on 2 December 2018 has still left a scarce in the heart of local people. They are now still living with physical and mental injuries.
Among many innocent victims and refugees, there is a young woman who is leaving with trauma. She previously chose to not living her village located in Mugi sub-district when the incident occurred in the early of December 2018. But the twenty-one aged woman had to make a decision. With six children whom one was still inside her womb, at that time she was in two months pregnant, she must flee to a safer place.
“My husband went first and took two our children to a safer place,” she told Jubi in a refugee camp settled in Jayawijaya on Saturday (3/8/2019).
But when her village was surrounded with gunfire and house burning, terrifying she decided to take her other three children to the forest since January 2019. Like other refugees, she and her family eat what they could find in the jungle to survive. “Sometimes, we ate leaves or whatever we can fund to stay alive,” she said.
She lived for nearly six months in the jungle that made her not aware of her time to give birth. One day she experienced bleeding and chose to take a rest. Then in the evening, she gave birth to a boy without assistance from anyone. “The baby was born under a big tree. I was alone. My family came when it just has done,” she said.
Because of a difficult time while in the jungle, she thought her baby was not safe in her womb. “I thought this boy already dead. But when I pushed my belly down, he still alive. It’s all God blessing,” she said.
After taking birth, she took fern leaves that she found in the jungle to wrap her baby’s body. If the weather was remarkably cold, she counts on the campfire and would hold him close to her body. After spending days in the jungle with her baby, she continued to walk and arrived in her family’s house in Jayawijaya where she lives now in June 2019.
When Jubi came to see her, her son remains not wearing clothes. She admitted that she and her family still do not want to accept the government’s aid because the military helps its distribution. Until now, she is still traumatic seeing soldiers.
“I witnessed the soldiers shot my family. It made me scared of them. Soon when they heard gunfire, people run away. But I witnessed that incident. I am traumatized by the sound of gunfire,” she said.
Now, she only counts on her breast milk to feed her son, though sometimes it’s not enough.
Meanwhile, another woman who came to the refugee camp earlier said she and the other three families flee because soldiers have come to their village.
“We had to sleep in a cave. There was no tent or shelter to cover us. After we felt a bit safer, we built a hut from woods and leaves in the jungle. While for food, we counted on leaves we found to be cooked” she said.
For this article, Jubi met a woman who was also pregnant when fleeing from her village and gave birth to her eighth child in the forest. “My baby is a girl. She was born in the refugee shelter,” she said.
Every day she saw the armed conflict between the Papua liberation army and the Indonesian military. Like other refugees, she and her family also count on what they found to survive.
“When I was tired to walk while in the running to avoid gunfire, I ever thought it was fine if I got shot but not my child. She must stay alive even I was shot dead,” she said. (*)
Reporter: Islami Adisubrata
Editor: Pipit Maizier
Papuan students’ rally protesting New York Agreement in Malang ended in a riot
Jayapura, Jubi – Students joined the Papuan Student Alliance (AMP) and People’s Front of Indonesia conducted a peace rally in Malang on Thursday morning (15/8/2019). The protest ended in a riot after a local mob came to the scene.
John Gobay, the Chairman of Central AMP, confirmed the incident involved a local mob and Papuan students in Malang. He said it occurred at around 9:00 p.m. at the local time when the students conducted a rally in Jalan Basuki Rahmat approached by the local mob.
“The mob shouted at the students. They have beaten them with helmet, mocked and called them with some animal’s name. They also threw stones and kicked the students. Police were there when the incident happened, but they did not do anything. They only asked the mob to disperse when they saw some students have injured because of the torture,” said Gobay.
According to him, five students reportedly injured. Further, he admitted that some students also threw the stones back the mob. “Some protesters threw back the stones. The police were already on the scene with three motorbikes and a police truck,” he said. However, some police personnel on the scene later grew.
“They then directed the injured students to get on the police ambulance though there was an ambulance from a public hospital,” said Gobay.
Besides the police, he said a military vehicle came to the scene. The truck drove racing and almost hit the protesters. “One of the protesters were arrested by the police, while our friend Niko Jigibalom was still reportedly missing.”
Meanwhile, an activist who involved in the rally, Pangkrasia Yeem, explained the rally is to protest against the New York Agreement which considered a beginning of many human rights violations in Papua. The New York Agreement is a treaty signed by the Netherlands and Indonesian Governments on 15 August 1962. “Papua becomes integrated with Indonesia because of a unilateral agreement between Indonesia and the Netherlands,” said Yeem.
He also accused this agreement had neglected the right of indigenous Papuans when it was signed. “The New York Agreement is a treaty of fraud, an instrument of annexation, murder and genocide against the West Papuan Nation by scarifying West Papuans. Therefore, we ask the governments of the Netherlands, Indonesia, and the United States as well as the United Nations to take responsibility immediately for the people of West Papua,” explained Yeem.
In this sense, Gobay said the statement that Indonesia has taken control over Papua was not a mistake. Indonesia had violated the New York Agreement, which stated that the Papua’s self-determination in 1969 should involve all Papuans. Ironically, Indonesia also signed a contract with Freeport McMoRan on 7 April 1967.
“The contract with Freeport signed before the public vote of 1969 conducted. In 1969, there were 809.337 Papuans who recorded as legal voters, but the vote ended with1, 026 voters who had previously been quarantined by the Indonesian Government. Therefore, on the 56th anniversary of the New York Agreement, we demand the Jokowi-Kalla administration, the Netherlands, the United States as well as the United Nations to immediately grant the right to self-determination for Papuan people,” said Gobay.
Furthermore, the Papuan protesters also urge the Government of Indonesia to immediately close down the mining activities of giant transnational companies in Papua, including Freeport, BP and LNG Tangguh. They also ask the United States to be responsible for advocating the New York Agreement that accused as the gate of oppressive acts by the Indonesian security force against Papuans.
Moreover, in their protest, the students asked the Government of Indonesia to determine Papua as a free military zone and to guarantee the freedom of Papuans to gather and express their opinion in public. They also asked the government to allow foreign journalists to cover the issue of Papua. Lastly, the students expressed their supports towards the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) that conducted on 13-16 August 2019 in Tuvalu. In this forum, the Pacific leaders are planning to address the West Papua issue. (*)
Reporter: Hengky Yeimo
Editor: Pipit Maizier
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