Thursday, February 20, 2003

PAPUA: A Conflict-in-waiting

Date: Friday 21 February 2003
Subj: Papua: A Conflict-in-waiting.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty E-mail Conference
From: Elizabeth Kendal, Conference Moderator


On 19 February 2003, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) published an article by John Martinkus, entitled, "Islamic extremism gains a foothold in Christian Papua." This article confirms widely held suspicions that while the Laskar Jihad did disband in Maluku, it did not disband in Papua. In fact the SCMP article paints a picture of escalating levels of co-operation between the Indonesian military, Korpussas and the Laskar Jihad.

Commenting on the co-operation between the Indonesian military and the Laskar Jihad, Johannes Bonay, the head of ELSHAM - a group that monitors human rights abuses in Papua says, "The rhetoric of the Laskar Jihad groups fits comfortably with the aims of the Indonesian military in Papua. One of their objectives is to protect the unity of Indonesia in Papua. They are using Islam to claim they are fighting against the Kaffir here in Papua." (Over 90% of the indigenous population of Papua is officially Christian - mostly Protestant. Operation World 21st Century Edition.)

The Indonesian military is using the issue of separatism (which in Eastern Indonesia is very non-threatening) as their reason for pursuing increased powers. In Papua, both the military and the Islamists are motivated by their humiliation and anger over the loss of East Timor. Clearly, predominantly Christian Papua is a conflict-in-waiting.

Also in this posting - The Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri has signed a controversial presidential decree to expedite the dividing of Papua into three provinces, weakening its autonomy and opening the door for the isolation of the Christian majority in one eastern province, enabling the other provinces, and eventually the entire region, to be gradually Islamised.

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"ISLAMIC EXTREMISM GAINS A FOOTHOLD IN CHRISTIAN PAPUA."

'The following paragraphs are excerpts from the SCMP article:
Islamic extremism gains a foothold in Christian Papua,
by John Martinkus, 19 February 2003, South China Morning Post (SCMP)

'The mainly Christian Papua province-PNG border area has become home to Islamic fighters of Muslim extremist group Laskar Jihad, Papuan militia groups trained by Indonesia's Kopassus special forces, and Free Papuan Movement (OPM) guerillas.

'What has emerged (from police investigations) is that the northern area of the Papua-PNG border is now a training area for Islamic militants backed by the Indonesian military.

'"Laskar Jihad is now in several forms," says Thom Beanal, head of the pro-Independence Papuan Presidium Council. "They can be militia or a kind of military supporting group, with some local Papuans recruited by the military," he said. "Laskar Jihad is consolidating itself here. When they said they disbanded in the Malukus after the Bali bombing, it does not mean that they have stopped their activities here."

'The Islamic militants of Laskar Jihad have been arriving in Papua from the conflict in Ambon for the past two years. The setting up of an office in the town of Sorong last year was a front for their activities in that area which locals say included the establishment of 12 training camps that were in remote areas and guarded by members of Kopassus. According to presidium member Willy Mandowen, the office in Sorong was visited by members of Jemaah Islamiah before the bombing in Bali last October.

'Now they are operating in the border area with Papua New Guinea. "They have weapons from the Indonesian military. They are trained in these camps by Kopassus," says Lawrence Mehui, who has carried out an investigation of these groups for the presidium.

'In the transmigrant settlements near the town of Arso, close to the border, the Javanese members of Laskar Jihad have been recruiting and training transmigrants and local Papuans in conjunction with members of Kopassus. "We have information from when Kopassus had a meeting with the local people in Arso in November. The local people come and tell us that there is a direct connection with the Kopassus members and the Islamic groups," says Lawrence Muhui.

'ELSHAM says the groups of Laskar Jihad and locally recruited militia on the border are being formed into operational support groups for military operations trained by Kopassus. "If we analyse the reports made by the people and the investigations made by the police we can ascertain that Kopassus is behind this," Mr Mehui said. "The rhetoric of the Laskar Jihad groups fits comfortably with the aims of the Indonesian military in Papua. One of their objectives is to protect the unity of Indonesia in Papua. They are using Islam to claim they are fighting against the Kaffir here in Papua," says Mr Bonay.'

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DIVIDING PAPUA

Reverend John Barr is the Executive Secretary for Unity and International Mission for the Uniting Church in Australia National Assembly. In his June 2002 report "The Future Could be Genocide", Reverend John Barr alluded to the issue of dividing Papua. 

"Population distribution throughout Papua is not even with at least three of Papua's major centers now demonstrating a Muslim majority (Sorong, Timika, Merauke). Informants indicate the TNI (Indonesian army) are now proposing the possibility of establishing a number of new military districts based on Sorong, Timika, Merauke and Jayapura. A long established practice in Indonesia where military and civilian government structures mirror each other would see the creation of a majority of districts/new provinces in Papua that are dominated by Muslim migrants. Papuans see this as a sinister strategy designed to isolate indigenous Christian majorities in the eastern section of Papua while most of Papua would then come under the control of newcomers. Many Papuans see this as another strategy aimed at the eventual Islamisation of Papua." 

In early February 2003, Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri signed a presidential decree (Law No. 1/2003) that called for the implementation of a 1999 law to divide Papua into three provinces - Papua, West Irian Jaya and Central Irian Jaya. It had been widely believed that the 1999 law (Law No. 45/1999) had been rendered void by the 2001 special autonomy law (Law No. 21/2001).

Papuan religious leaders from the Catholic, Protestant and Islamic congregations have issued a joint statement opposing the plan. Church and human rights groups, as well as Papuan political and community groups see this move as a direct violation of the special autonomy law of 2001 and as a strategy to dilute autonomy and increase military control. (SCMP "Papuans say a plan to split their province is aimed at diluting autonomy" by Marianne Kearney in Jakarta, 8 February 2003)

It is interesting to note that demonstrators in the largely Indonesian Muslim western regions of Manokweri, Fak Fak and Sarong are in favour of the division of Papua, saying it would be good for development.

According to the Jakarta Post, 21 February 2003, Bram Atururi, a political leader in Manokweri, has already been appointed acting governor of the unilaterally declared West Papua province. Aturuni has suggested that those opposing the division of Papua should be labelled separatists.

MILITARY MOTIVATIONS

The Indonesian military is presently facing a huge challenge - not from separatists (as claimed), but from popular pressure to get out of politics, and return to the barracks and let the police look after internal security. The military's political role is scheduled to end by 2004 and in 2000 a decree was issued that limited the military's role to defence (under Suharto is was security and defence). This explains much of the impetus behind the troubles in Eastern Indonesia - the military wants its former powers reinstated it and is even willing to incite conflict in order to justify its existence on the security front.

Generals Hartono and Wiranto have expressed concerns about "serious problems of separatism" in Papua and they are using this as their excuse to pursue increased powers for the military. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ryamizard Ryacudu has also said that the military's security role should be reinstated due to the threats of separatism and other security disturbances.

Military analyst Ikrar Nusabakti of the National Institute of Science (LIPI) criticized the Army's view on its security roles, saying that the officers were likely frustrated after they once had omnipotent influence, both in politics and security, which is now being pared down before their eyes. (Jakarta Post "Army wants power again" by Tiarma Siboro, 21 Feb 2003)

Maluku has suffered, Central Sulawesi has suffered - can we prevent Papua being next?

- Elizabeth Kendal

Monday, February 17, 2003

Hong Kong: Judging by Beijing's standards.

Date: Monday 17 February 2003
Subj: Hong Kong: Judging by Beijing's standards.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty E-mail Conference
From: Elizabeth Kendal, Conference Moderator


In September 2002, the Hong Kong government signalled it would move towards enacting controversial anti-subversion legislation. For a full report on the gradual erosion of freedom in Hong Kong, see a previous WEA RLC report entitled: "Tracking freedom in Hong Kong" 19 September 2002.

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UNVEILING ARTICLE 23

The high level of anxiety over the anti-subversion law known as Article 23, comes from the fact that it is the National People's Congress in Beijing that has the final word on all matters pertaining to constitutional issues and the interpretation of Basic Law in Hong Kong. Article 23 therefore puts Hong Kong's autonomy under threat by opening a door through which mainland China's legal principles can be imported into Hong Kong. This seriously threatens the "one country, two systems" structure. Most political analysts believe that religious and pro-democracy or rights groups will be most at risk from the anti-subversion legislation.

After five months of consultations, deliberations and debates, the government of Hong Kong has now released their blue bill on Article 23. The security secretary of Hong Kong administration, Regina Ip, said the proposed bill would be introduced into the legislative council before the end of this month. The Hong Kong government wants the legislation passed by July 2003.

BANNED IN BEIJING - BANNED IN HONG KONG

The most controversial element of the legislation is the provision that decrees the banning of any Hong Kong group that receives funds, direction or leadership from a group that is outlawed by Beijing. Article 23 will therefore threaten all religious groups outlawed in mainland China.

On Friday 14 February 2003, the South China Morning Post published an analysis by Chris Yeung entitled, "Now we will have a clearer picture of the price to pay for upholding national security." Yeung expressed the fear that the "one country, two systems" structure is under threat.

"Despite the improvements to the original proposals, the anti-subversion bill announced yesterday (13 Feb) has demonstrated the impossible task of reconciling conflicts between safeguarding national security and preserving civil liberties.

"As a senior official admitted privately, it is politically impossible for the SAR (Special Autonomous Region - HK) not to act over a local group if it has clear links with one that is outlawed across the border.

"Regardless of efforts to avoid abuses of such power in Hong Kong, the political imperative of providing a system to trigger the process of banning organisations will blur the two systems."

BEHIND CLOSED DOORS

On 15 February, South China Morning Post published an article entitled, "New rule allowing closed-door court appeals attacked," by Jimmy Cheung. According to this article, when appeals are brought by organisations that have been banned under the proposed national security laws, those appeals may go ahead behind closed doors in the absence of group leaders and their legal representatives.

Prominent Hong Kong lawyers are protesting that this would actually breach the Basic Law, in particular Article 35, which guarantees the right to representation before the courts.

"The blue bill made public on Thursday allows such appeals to be taken to court, rather than the special tribunals that were originally proposed. But it also empowers the chief justice to make rules that provide for some cases to be held behind closed doors, and for those bringing the appeal to be barred from the hearing if necessary. These rules could also see the legal representatives of the organisations banned from the court."

South China Morning Post (SCMP) quoted former chairman of the Bar Association, Alan Leong Kah-kit, as saying "One can't even have access to what evidence the prosecution side has given. This is something that Hong Kong has never heard of."

On 16 October 2002 the SCMP quoted Leong as saying "This (Article 23) is a very dangerous hole drilled in the wall that separates the two systems." (SCMP. "Lawyers identify deep flaws in Article 23." By Cliff Buddle. 16 Oct 2002)

BISHOP ZEN

As a bishop in a church that is banned in mainland China, Hong Kong's Catholic Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun is a vocal opponent of Article 23. He has labelled it "not acceptable" and "undemocratic".

In his Christmas message, Bishop Zen said, "We are living through a difficult time in our history. Prosperity seems to be a distant memory. Let us not surrender to the situation but work together to improve it. By sharing our difficulties they become smaller; by sharing our joy, it grows."

"An unjust situation made stable by oppressive structures is not peace but a state of violence. The prophets of God try to awaken the conscience of people by destroying false peace in order to correct an unjust situation." (SCMP "Bishop Zen warns of tough times ahead." 24 Dec 2002)

- Elizabeth Kendal

Articles

CNN "HK unveils controversial security law." 13 Feb 2003
http://asia.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/asiapcf/east/02/13/hk.law.reut/index.
html

"Bill targets subversives." By Bill Spencer in Hong Kong 15 Feb 2003
http://theage.com.au/text/articles/2003/02/14/1044927798161.htm

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

IVORY COAST: DECISIVE HOUR

WEA Religious Liberty Prayer List - No. 206 - Wed 12 Feb 2003

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IVORY COAST: DECISIVE HOUR
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By Elizabeth Kendal

Ivory Coast has reached a critical juncture. The recent French-brokered, UN-backed peace accord was in essence a 'constitutional coup' for the militant Islamist rebels, who started the internal conflict with a failed political coup. Ivory Coast's president, Laurent Gbagbo (a Christian) had agreed to a government of national unity. However, French President Chirac, his foreign minister de Villepin, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Gabon's Muslim President Omar Bongo promised crucial government positions to the rebels. Now, five of Ivory Coast's six main political parties, traditional chiefs and the army all refuse to legitimise militant rebels with rewards of government power, and want the accord re-negotiated.

President Gbagbo has told the nation he supports the 'spirit' of the accord. He has however promised to negotiate the details according to the constitution. The rebels are of course demanding what the 'international community' has promised them. They refused to attend talks held on Monday 10 February, saying there is nothing more to negotiate. They have given President Gbagbo until Friday 14 February to 'implement the accord in full' or they will resume
their war.

Evidence abounds that the rebels have received training, funds and arms from Burkina Faso, Libya, al-Qaeda and other Islamist networks. The rebels' agenda is not only political (a coup to install their choice of leader) but Islamist. They have threatened to 'slaughter' some Christian leaders and pastors. Many Christians, concerned about a violent rebel advance, are taking their families out of the country to safety.

Ivory Coast has been a haven of peace, liberty, stability and prosperity in West Africa. Because it has full religious freedom it has been the base of much West African Christian mission. The integrity of the nation is now at stake. But the conflict has implications beyond Ivory Coast: if these rebels succeed in Ivory Coast then what is to prevent similar foreign and network sponsored Muslim rebels revolting in other ethnically and religiously mixed nations such as Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria. The rebels have blamed their lack of success so far on the prayers of Christians.

Let's have the same confidence in the power released through our prayers that they have! Let's pray!

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR

* God to guide and protect President Gbagbo and his family,
Christian leaders, pastors, workers and their families, and
anxious believers. 'The Lord will be our Mighty One. He will be
like a wide river of protection that no enemy can cross.' Isaiah
33:21 NLT.

* God to bind demonic forces, frustrate the plans of the wicked,
and prevent a rebel takeover of the nation. 'And everyone will
know that the Lord does not need weapons to rescue his people. It
is his battle, not ours.' David to Goliath - 1 Samuel 17:47 NLT