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West Papua’s quest for independence

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Papuans take part in a parade in Surabaya, Indonesia commemorating the independence day of Papua from Dutch colonial rule, Dec. 1, 2018. -AFP

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.

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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.

Source: pina.com.fj

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Hundreds of people were detained in Papua ahead to 1 December

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One of four students who arrested by police at Gereja Gembala Baik, Abepura on 1 December. – Courtesy of LBH Papua

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.

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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

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Tabi Province, for whom it established?

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Illustration. -Doc

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.

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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

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Carrying Morning Star flags in the worship, four students arrested in Church

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Four students were taken to Abepura Police station while attending Mass at Gembala Baik Catholic Church, Abepura on Sunday (1/12/2019)

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.

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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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