Thursday, July 31, 2008


Date: Thursday 31 July 2008
Subj: Philippines: Government to sign deal with MILF.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal

The provincial government of North Cotabato, a predominantly Christian province of Mindanao, Southern Philippines, has petitioned the Supreme Court to issue a Temporary Restraining Order to stop the Philippine government signing a secret deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on 5 August that would expand the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and give the Muslim entity all the elements of a state. MILF rejects accusations that the deal is secret, saying that the details will be released as soon as the deal is signed.

The expanded Muslim area -- which will be called the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity -- will not be under the jurisdiction of the Philippine government and is set to incorporate some 712 villages (subject to plebiscite) across swaths of North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay and Palawan as well as the cities of Cotabato and Isabela, the capital of Basilan island.

North Cotabato Governor Jesus Sacdalan and Vice Governor Emmanuel Pinol want the court to compel government negotiators, particularly presidential peace adviser Hermogenes Esperon, to release details of the agreement for consultation before it is signed. (Link 1)


On Thursday 24 July, representatives from the Government of the Republic of Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) met in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to finalise a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) on Ancestral Domain and set a date for its official signing.

Despite the breakthrough that had been made on 16 July, the negotiations broke down and MILF walked out. But the government negotiators drew the rebels back to the table and at 8:15pm on Sunday 27 July GPR chief negotiator Rodolfo Garcia and his MILF counterpart, Mohagher Iqbal, signed a joint communique settling the issue of ancestral domain. Ancestral domain -- the final and most contentious aspect of the Tripoli Agreement of 2001 -- has been in the agenda of GRP-MILF Peace Talks since December 2004.

Failing a Supreme Court intervention, the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) on Ancestral Domain will be formally signed in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday 5 August. Theoretically this should pave the way for a Comprehensive Compact Agreement (CCA) between the GRP and MILF. However the path between the MoA and a future CCA is fraught with obstacles that could themselves be triggers for conflict.

In January 2008 the Philippines' Department of Justice (DOJ) warned that some provisions of the draft MoA were unconstitutional and threatened the sovereignty of the Philippines. (Link 2)

Emmanuel Pinol, the vice governor of North Cotabato province, recently warned that if the MoA is signed, "There will be chaos and it will be bloody." (Link 3)


The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) was first established in 1990 pursuant to a constitutional mandate to provide for an autonomous area in Muslim Mindanao Southern Philippines. In a 1989 plebiscite held in thirteen provinces and nine cities of Southern Philippines, only four provinces -- Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi -- elected to be part of the new province of ARMM. Cotabato City was designated the capital.

In 2001 a law was passed to enable the expansion of the ARMM subject once again to plebiscite. Only Marawi City and Basilan -- but not its capital, Isabela City -- elected to be integrated with the ARMM. Understandably, Christian dominated provinces have repeatedly rejected incorporation into the ARMM.

MILF has long demanded that some 1,000 barangays (villages) in Central Mindanao be added to the ARMM and that this not be subject to plebiscite. The breakthrough in negotiations came on 16 July when the government agreed to adding 712 barangays, subject to plebiscite, to the Muslim entity in exchange for MILF dropping the word "freedom" from the draft MoA, supposedly to indicate a rejection of separatism.

MILF agreed to stay silent on "freedom" after talking with Datuk Othman Abd. Razak, Adviser to the Prime Minister of Malaysia, who reminded them that all the previous documents, including the General Framework of Intent signed on 27 August 1998 and the Tripoli Agreement of 2001, contained the word "freedom".

As the Philippine Daily Inquirer notes: "The insistence by the MILF Panel on the inclusion of the phrase 'non derogation of prior agreements' more than makes up for the silence on 'freedom' because this binds both parties to all previous agreements in which freedom is cited as a major principle." (Link 4)

The GRP's insistence that all prospective new territory be subject to plebiscite has also long been a sticking point for MILF. Past plebiscites have not worked in MILF's favour. Initially the GRP had insisted that a comprehensive peace deal be signed before the plebiscites were held. The compromise agreement dictates that plebiscites will be held in the 712 villages within 12 months of the signing of the MoA.

Another sticking point has been the GRP's insistence that it work within the "constitutional process". This has been such an obstacle that MILF demanded the government implement the MoA first and deal with the legal and political hurdles later. Amazingly, government negotiators appear to be agreeing to do just that. Hermogenes Esperon, a peace adviser to President Arroyo told reporters after the 16 July "breakthrough" in negotiations, "The final political solution will still be negotiated, and, if needed, we will amend the constitution to reflect what was agreed upon with the rebels." (Link 5)


In January 2008 the Philippines' Department of Justice issued a five-page memorandum to the government peace panel warning that a draft MoA on ancestral domain would result in a separate government for the separatists. Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez warned that not only do some provisions in the draft agreement violate the 1987 Constitution, they threaten to dismember the nation. (Link 2)

The MoA recognises the Bangsamoro people as the natives of Mindanao "distinct from the rest of the national communities". Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez warned that this provision "suggests that the Bangsamoro people are not Filipinos."

The MoA also grants the Bangsamoro people their own "distinct territory" (Bangsamoro Territory) and "government" (the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity) along with international recognition. The Bangsamoro Territory will "not form part of the public domain" -- that is, it is "not within the jurisdiction of the Philippine government". As Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez pointed out in January, this is "tantamount to the surrender of a part of the territory and sovereignty of the Republic of the Philippines".

Justice Secretary Gonzalez, highlighting the necessity of "constitutional process", also warned that this entity cannot be given juridical personality in the absence of an enabling law passed by Congress. However, according to a 30 July 2008 article entitled "Transition gov't seen for Muslims" in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, MILF political affairs chief Ghadzali Jaafar says that the Comprehensive Compact Agreement (CCA) will contain details of how the BJE would be governed, i.e. "who will run it". According to Jaafar, once the CCA is signed "a transition government will immediately take effect". (Link 6)


The Department of Justice is not the only place where anxiety is simmering. There is also considerable anxiety in Christian communities in the Southern Philippines. They fear that the MoA may actually trigger unrest and even the displacement, dispossession and persecution of Christians.

North Cotabato vice governor Emmanuel Pinol told the South China Morning Post (21 July, link 3) that some Muslims in his province who had simply abandoned their lands or sold them during the Mindanao conflict in the 1970s were now returning and demanding their land back. He anticipates bloodshed and chaos will follow the signing of the MoA.

Furthermore, analysts such Fr. Eliseo Mercado, a former Chairman of the government's peace panel that negotiates with MILF, and Camilo Montesa, a lawyer and policy adviser of the Cotabato-based think-tank the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG), have warned that the MoA threatens to open the door to a MILF declaration of independence.

According to ABS-CBN news, Fr Mercado said that if the Arroyo government fails to implement the ancestral domain accord [i.e. by failing to secure a congressional mandate to amend the constitution] then MILF can claim the moral high ground and declare independence while accusing the government of negotiating in bad faith. "This is the first time that I've seen a document as such", said Fr Mercado. "You have all the elements of a state. That entitles the Bangsamoro to a self-declaration [of independence]. Because it's all there: you've been recognised, you have territory, you have self-determination, your ancestral domain is your birthright, it's not part of the public domain." (Link 7)

There is also the likelihood that the MoA will lead to division along ethnic and religious lines in mixed areas.

In January, Mayor Celso Lobregat of Zamboanga City reiterated to a peace advocacy forum his position that Zamboanga City (which is around 75 percent Christian, mostly Catholic) be excluded from the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) or any proposed Bangsamoro homeland. According to one report, "His stand was directly opposed to the popular clamour of the Bangsamoro residents of Zamboanga City which the Bangsamoro participants during the peace advocacy forum have openly advocated. They presented to the MILF Peace Panel members a position paper/petition for the inclusion of the Bangsamoro dominated Barangays before the end of the forum."

Hadji Abdulla U Camlian spoke to the forum of the historical role played by the Bangsamoro people of Zamboanga City in the history of the Mindanao region and the role they have to play in the current peace talks. According to the report: "He recalled the historical fact that Zamboanga is home to the Sama-Bangingi Bangsamoros and other Islamised Moros since time immemorial. The arrival of migrant-settlers from the Visayas and Luzon has altered the demography of the City. He therefore urged his fellow Sama to unite in order to restore the Bangsamoro hegemony in the City." (Link 8)

Furthermore, a prospective plebiscite on status can of itself be incentive for violent intimidation and even ethnic cleansing.


It remains to be seen whether a land-for-peace deal can bring peace and prosperity to the Southern Philippines. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo seems to believe it will. But why should creating a de facto Muslim state -- the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) -- bring peace and prosperity to the Southern Philippines when after 18 years the establishment of the ARMM has brought neither?

Will the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity eventually employ Sharia Law? Or maybe a Malaysia-style system where Islamic courts decide all matters pertaining to Islam? This would be a profoundly regressive move, one the BJE's excited prospective Muslim citizens may profoundly regret, especially as radicalisation and its consequential Talibanisation spread unhindered, challenging rights long taken for granted -- rights guaranteed in the Philippine Constitution.

Recently on Basilan Island, where 96,000 Catholics form 30 percent of the population, Christians were issued with threatening letters from "mujahidins". They contained the classic Islamic ultimatum to convert to Islam, submit and pay Islamic jizya (protection money) or face violence. (Further details: see link 9)

Concerning this, the Catholic Explorer reports that in Manila on 21 July, Hamid Barra, the Muslim convener of the Bishops-Ulama Conference and an expert on Islamic law, explained that non-Muslims who are protected by an Islamic government are required to pay jizya, which, he says, the state uses to support the poor and the needy. (Actually jizya is little more than protection money to secure protection from Islamic jihad, and to compensate for the fact that non-Muslims cannot serve in a Muslim Army.) Barra added that in a non-Islamic country like the Philippines, "there is no such payment required of non-Muslims". (Link 10)

By his own testimony, Hamid Barra would have to agree that extracting jizya from Christians in a de facto Muslim state such as the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity would be quite legitimate.

It is difficult to know whether the MoA will lead to the Balkanisation of the Philippines (a tearing apart along ethnic-religious lines), or to the headache of yet another Muslim FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Area, as in the "tribal bad lands" of north western Pakistan's FATA).

Looks to me more like "covenant with death" (Isaiah 28:15).

Elizabeth Kendal


1) North Cotabato execs ask SC to stop GRP-MILF peace signing
By Leila Salaverria, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 30 July 2008

2) Ancestral Domain Claims violate 1987 Constitution -- DOJ
By Jomar Canlas, 18 January 2008
See also:
What is the GRP-MILF agreement on ancestral domain?

3) Christians fear Muslim land grab after deal with Manila, leaders says.
Raissa Robles in Manila, 21 July 2008
South China Morning Post (subscription)

4) AFP sees peace, clergy get threats
By Kristine L. Alave, Alcuin Papa
Philippine Daily Inquirer 20 July 2008

5) Philippines Muslim area to expand. 17 July 2008

6) Transition gov't seen for Muslims
By Charlie Senase, Edwin Fernandez, Nash Maulana, Jeoffrey Maitem
Mindanao Bureau, 30 July 2008

7) Ancestral domain accord opens door to MILF declaration of independence: analysts
By Isagani de Castro Jr. 24 July 2008

8) Peace Advocacy Forum held in Zamboanga City. 9 January 2008

9) Southern Philippines: Terror on Basilan Island
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | No. 488 | Wed 23 July 2008
Basilan Catholics get threats to convert. 19 July 2008

10) Philippine bishop reports receiving threat to convert to Islam
By Catholic News Service. 22 July 2008

Friday, July 11, 2008

Yemen: Christian arrests may herald new era of persecution.

Date: Friday 11 July 2008
Subj: Yemen: Christian arrests may herald new era of persecution.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal


On 18 June Yemeni news source Al Sahwa reported that Yemeni political security forces in Hodiada province had arrested a "missionary cell" of seven people and charged them with promoting Christianity and distributing the Bible. One of those arrested, Hadni Dohni, stands accused of converting to Christianity.

According to Sahwa Net, ". . . the suspects were transferred to Sana'a in order to investigate them to know who support them." (Link 1)

BosNewsLife subsequently reported on 2 July that according to International Christian Concern ( ) the Yemeni Christians were still in detention and at risk of mistreatment and torture at the hands of Yemeni authorities. (Link 2)

Hodaida is Yemen's third largest city. It is the capital of Hodaida Province which is located on Yemen's western Red Sea coast and home to more than two million Yemenis. (See map at link 3)


These arrests may well herald an era of more intense and systematic persecution. They came hot on the heels of an Islamist media campaign (foreign, terrorist, and local) that claims Islam in Yemen is under threat due to Christian missionary activities; and at a time when the hugely unpopular, corrupt, abusive, dictatorial regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh is struggling to hold the state together.


On 11 October 2007, Catholic World News reported: "The Palestinian newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi is reporting 2,000 conversions from Islam to Christianity in Yemen.

"Many of the converts are reportedly living abroad in fear for their lives. Yemen adheres to Shari'a law, which forbids conversions from Islam on pain of death.

"The World Muslim League has appealed to Yemen's government to stem the tide of conversions, placing the blame on schools administered by foreigners." (Link 4)

On 13 January 2008, Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) reported: "On January 13, 2008, Islamist websites posted the first issue of Sada Al-Malahim [Echo of Wars], the e-journal of Al-Qaeda in Yemen. According to its editor, the journal was established in response to a call by Ayman Al-Zawahiri, who urged '[those] who are engaged in Islamic media jihad to strengthen their resolve . . . in the face of the fiercest Crusader attack that the Islamic nation [has ever known]." (Link 5)

Then on 18 February 2008, the Yemen Post reported: "Yemeni Researcher Dr Abdul Qawi Al-Tab'ee warned of the growing organised Christian movement in Yemen, hinting the missionary work of foreign agencies focus on young youth to build its movement and spread Christianity in Yemen.

"This news comes in shock to a country known to be free from Christians as only very few Christian Yemenis exist in Aden, which officials say that they are not of Yemeni root.

"Meanwhile, the Islamic World League in its report warned of growing missionary work in Yemen and indicated that the missionary agencies have managed so far to turn over 120 Yemenis in Hadramout into Christianity. It also hinted these agencies are also active in Eritrean and Somali refugees' camps located in southern part of Yemen.

"The league attributed the success of Christianity campaign in Yemen to the absence of attention by Muslims . . ." (Link 6)

It is difficult to see how the above article, written by Yemen Post staff writer Hakim Almasmari, could fail to cause anxiety and outrage amongst apostaphobic Yemeni Muslims.

Almasmari asserts that Christians use international organisations -- especially those involved in education, health or humanitarian relief and development -- as fronts for their missionary work. He specifically mentions the Jibla Baptist hospital without condemning the 30 December 2002 terrorist attack which claimed the lives of Dr Martha Myers (57), hospital administrator William Koehn (60) and supply purchaser Kathleen Gariety (53), as well as critically wounding pharmacist Donald Caswell. He also fails to mention the great outpouring of grief in Jibla that followed the slaying of the three Christians who, having spent 62 years in Yemen between them, had brought health, hope, joy and friendship to multitudes. As distraught mourner Malka al-Hadhrami told Salah Nasrawi of the Associated Press, "All Jibla weeps for them." The terrorist, Abed Abdel Razzak Kamel (35), a member of a group called Islamic Jihad, confessed to having shot the Americans "because they were preaching Christianity in a Muslim country". (See Link 7)

Almasmari adds that while Christian missionary work is strictly forbidden "books and literature about the Christian faith have been widely noticed to be distributed in the Old City of Sana'a".


The 1990 creation of the unified state of Yemen brought together North Yemen which was 66 percent Shi'ite and had traditionally (until a 1962 military coup) been ruled by a Shi'ite Imamate, and South Yemen which was 99 percent Sunni, Marxist and until 1990 was sponsored by the Soviet Union. The already aggrieved religiously conservative Shi'ites then became a 30 percent minority in a Sunni dominated socialist ("apostate") republic. North Yemen's President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, an Arab Socialist revolutionary and nominal Shia, was elected as the president of the unified Republic of Yemen.

It is difficult to imagine a more potentially fraught marriage. Indeed, not long after the honeymoon ended, civil war erupted.

As a secular socialist, Saleh was no admirer of religious fundamentalists -- unless of course they could be exploited and employed to his advantage.

During the 1994 civil war, Saleh, who had to fight against disaffected southerners to keep his country unified, employed tens of thousands of "Afghan" Arabs (Sunni fundamentalist Arab veterans of the 1980s Afghan jihad) in a "jihad" against the "infidel" southern separatists. The government-jihadi alliance crushed the southern separatists, and the previously more open and liberal Aden (capital of the south) was left helpless before an incoming tide of Islamisation. This of course has only caused the disaffection and grief of the more liberal and secular southerners to intensify.

The 1994 civil war marked the beginning Saleh's pragmatic alliance with Sunni fundamentalists and militants, including al-Qaeda. It is an alliance that mirrors the alliance between al-Saud and al-Wahhab: a pragmatic alliance built on quid pro quo deals. Saleh does not interfere with al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda preserves Saleh's socialist dictatorship, at least for as long as it is convenient. Al-Qaeda-perpetrated terror under this arrangement is Government-controlled but it gives Saleh grounds to cry out to the West for funding for his war against terror. However Saleh's relationship with the US in the War on Terror (even if it was/is a confidence trick) gave the Shi'ite rebels of the north grounds to accuse him of being pro-American, the ultimate sin.

When the Shi'ite rebellion erupted in 2004, President Saleh employed his Sunni fundamentalist militants and al-Qaeda puppets alongside his army in his war against the al-Houthi Shi'ite rebels.

Thus Saleh is fighting Shi'ite rebels in the north and liberal pro-democracy and separatist forces in the south, by feeding and partnering with Shi'ite-hating, democracy-hating, liberty-hating, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, anti-infidel, anti-apostate, Wahhabi Sunni fundamentalist militants including al-Qaeda.

This has not resulted in the defeat of the al-Houthi Shi'ite rebellion (which has cost thousands of lives) or the repression of dissent in south. The result has been escalating radicalisation, terrorism, disaffection, rioting and a dangerous broadening of the sectarian conflict as the warring Islamic sects receive support from their co-religionists abroad. Yemen is now in the grip of a Sunni v Shi'ite sectarian conflict which most analysts believe is fast becoming a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

In such an explosive environment it is common for Muslim leaders to try and generate popularity and Islamic solidarity by deflecting hostilities onto a common "enemy": Jews, "Zionists", "Crusaders", Christians, missionaries, apostates. The Jews come first and then the Christians -- as the Muslim war chant goes, "Baad a- Sabt biji Yom al-Ahad": "After Saturday comes Sunday", meaning after we deal with the Saturday people -- the Jews -- we'll deal with the Sunday people -- the Christians.

The Jews have already been dealt with. As reported by WEA RLC News & Analysis in February 2007: "On 10 January [2007] the 45 Jews of al Haid, Sa'ada (north Yemen) received letters from a Shi'ite rebel militia. The letters accused them of promoting vice and demanded that they leave the province. According to the Yemen Observer, the 45 Jews have been forced to flee their homes in fear of their lives." (Link 8)

As fighting flared again in April 2008, the Shi'ite rebels finished the job by destroying the homes abandoned by the al Haid Jews some 15 months earlier. They also looted the former home of Rabbi Yehia Youssuf. Israel absorbed some 50,000 Yemeni Jews who were forced to flee Yemen in the immediate aftermath of the creation of the state of Israel. Some 1,600 Jews left Yemen in the 1990s, leaving a remnant of only around 400 Jews in Yemen today. (Link 9)

Maybe "Sunday" has arrived.

Insecurity, terrorism, separatism, rioting and sectarian conflict are not President Saleh's only problems. He is an unpopular dictator who after 27 years in power still imprisons his critics and rules over a state with high levels of illiteracy, unemployment, poverty and malnutrition.

So Islamic fundamentalists will not be the only ones to benefit from a state-sponsored crackdown on Christian missionary activity and apostasy. The Islamic media, with its anti-Christian propaganda and disinformation, has no doubt made persecution of Christians a real vote-winner. Protecting Islam by arresting missionaries and apostates is one way the embattled Saleh-the-secular-socialist can bolster his Islamic credentials -- important in a Muslim state undergoing radicalisation -- and generate some popularity. Saleh releases convicted Islamic terrorists from prison for similar reasons: not only to keep al-Qaeda happy, but to bolster his anti-US credentials for political gain. While the state's prisons maintain a revolving door for Islamic terrorists, they remain full due to a continual intake of journalists, comedians, singers, dissidents, pro-democracy activists, justice advocates -- and now Christians.

If the arrests are part of a deal with Islamic fundamentalists and/or a grab for grassroots popularity and Islamic solidarity, then we have grounds to expect more arrests and an escalation in very public persecution.

. . and when President Saleh saw how much it pleased the Muslims, he proceeded to arrest more Christians . . . (Adaptation of Acts 12:3)

Elizabeth Kendal


1) Yemeni security arrests missionary cell in Hodaida. 18/06/2008

2) Yemeni Christians Remain Detained; No Americans Among Them
By BosNewsLife News Center, 2 July 2008

3) MAP. Note -- Hodaida here is spelt Hodaydah. ).

4) Conversions reported on the rise in Yemen. 11 Oct 2007

5) Al-Qaeda in Yemen Launches New E-Journal -- Sada Al-Malahim
13 January 2008 MEMRI

6) Researcher Warns Christianity Growth in Yemen
By Hakim Almasmari, 18 February 2008

7) Yemeni Town Mourns U.S. Missionaries
By SALAH NASRAWI. The Associated Press
JIBLA, Yemen. 31 December 2008
Religious Liberty 2003
WEA RLC News & Analysis by Elizabeth Kendal, 6 January 2003

8) Yemen: Shi'ite rebellion resurfaces -- Yemeni Jews threatened.
WEA RLC News & Analysis by Elizabeth Kendal, 16 February 2007

9) Yemen -- Empty Jewish homes destroyed. 7 April 2008

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


Date: Tuesday 8 July 2008
Subj: Indonesia: Islamising Papua
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal

Islamising Papua
-- a history of violation, equivocation and the betrayal of Christian people.

On Tuesday 1 July the Jakarta Post reported: "All factions in the House of Representatives have agreed to pass legislation giving a legal basis for the implementation of special autonomy in the new province of West Papua." (Link 1)

NOTE: Papua, Eastern Indonesia, was formerly Dutch New Guinea. It is the western portion of the island of New Guinea and is not to be confused with Papua New Guinea (PNG), the eastern portion of the island. When Indonesia assumed control of Dutch New Guinea they changed the name to Irian Jaya. On 25 December 2000, President Wahid officially endorsed the name change from Irian Jaya to Papua. The province of West Papua (also known as Papua Barat, Irian
Jaya Barat, or West Irian Jaya) is a recent Indonesian government creation comprising the westernmost portion of Papua. (See map)

While the indigenous predominantly Christian, Melanesian Papuans are still the majority in Papua -- although only barely (see Genocide by Demographics) -- decades of government-sponsored transmigration has made the province of West Papua majority Javanese Muslim. Legalising its status as an autonomous province distinct from Papua, will effectively consolidate West Papua's Islamisation and establish it as a vassal of Jakarta.

This unconstitutional and unilateral act is a betrayal of the Papuan people and a violation of the 2001 Special Autonomy Law which was designed to bring confidence, peace and stability to Papua, as well as cultural and religious liberty protection. It will only further exacerbate the frustration, anger and despair of the indigenous Papuans who are helpless to prevent their unique and precious land from being exploited, Islamised and dismembered.

It is flabbergasting that the Indonesian government's appalling abuse of power and human rights receives so little attention in international media or international forums. But then again, the most profound betrayal of all has been perpetrated by the governments of the free and rights-affirming "Christian" West that have themselves betrayed and abandoned the Papuans for political expediency and economic gain.

Whilst the Papuans turned from shamanism and internecine warfare to Christ through the 20th Century, Papua is now being Islamised and the Papuan people are facing genocide. This is not what so many courageous, faithful, pioneering Dutch, American and Australian missionaries sacrificed their lives for.



In May 1998, protests and rioting forced President Suharto out of office. Vice President B J Habibie subsequently assumed the Presidency and the "New Order" era was succeeded by the so-called "Era of Reform". In line with the spirit of reform the New Order legislation Law No. 5/1974 on decentralisation was replaced with Law No. 22/1999 on Regional Government. (See Link 3)

Law No. 22/1999 provides a five-step legal process for the division of a region into two or more smaller regions. Step One: "With the approval of the respective Regional Parliament, the Head of the respective Region (Kepala Daerah), i.e. the Governor of a Province, the Head of a Regency (Bupati) or a City Mayor (Walikota), sends an official letter to the President." That is, a request, which must have the approval of the regional parliament, goes out from the region (where it emanates) to the President (who then commissions research before considering the request).


In September 1999 the central government in Jakarta directly violated Law 22/1999 by unilaterally issuing Law 45/1999, dividing Papua into three provinces -- West Iranian Jaya, Central Irian Jaya and Papua -- against the will of the Papuan people.

International Crisis Group (ICG) explains that after B J Habibie assumed the presidency in February 1999, a delegation of 100 Papuan community leaders travelled to Jakarta to meet with him in a "National Dialogue" on the future of Irian Jaya. Habibie however was shocked to hear them express a desire for self-determination. Unfortunately for the Papuans, their independence movement was growing in strength at the same time as Aceh, Sulawesi and the Molluccas were descending into conflict. Indonesian repression of Papuan independence advocates quickly escalated. On 30 August 1999 the people of East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia. It is widely believed that the September 1999 Law 45/1999 was mandated as a divide-and-rule tactic to weaken the Papuan independence movement. (ICG report: Link 4)

Papua's Provincial Parliament (DPRD) immediately rejected Law 45/1999 and demanded that it be repealed. ICG explains: "Partly as a result of the DPRD's rejection, partly due to the multitude of other issues claiming Jakarta's attention, including the transfer of the presidency from President Habibie to the democratically elected Abdurrahman Wahid, the division of the province was never implemented." (ICG, page 3)

During Wahid's presidency, Law 45/1999 drifted into legal limbo -- rejected but not repealed. Meanwhile, as President Wahid advanced good will in Papua his opponents in Jakarta and in the security forces (TNI) accused him of encouraging separatism. To drive home their point, the security forces (which profit from both conflict and their business interests in Papua) increased their provocation of "incidents" and escalated their repression of "separatism".

Eventually the Indonesian parliament (MPR) proposed "special autonomy" be mandated for Papua as a means of winning over the Papuan people. Work began on the Special Autonomy Law in late 2000.

Meanwhile however, escalating violence, much of which was incited by the TNI for economic gain, was heating up around the extremities of the archipelago, and President Wahid's opponents (including Islamists) were exploiting this for political gain. In July 2001, Megawati Sukarnoputri replaced Abdurrahman Wahid as President of Indonesia.


Law 21/2001 on Special Autonomy for Papua was passed on 22 October 2001. The full text of Law 21/2001 can be found at link 5.

Law 21/2001 did not give the Papuans everything they wanted, but it did give them the right to develop their own cultural institutions and fly their own flag as long as it was not a symbol of sovereignty. It mandated the establishment of a Papuan People's Council (MRP) made up of ethnic Papuans chosen from religious and traditional leaders, both men and women, to be an advisory body to the provincial parliament. Article 76 mandates that any division of Papua have the approval of both the MRP and the provincial parliament. Article 77 mandates that proposed amendments to the law are submitted by the people of the province through their local assemblies to the President.

Independence leader Theys Eluay doubted Jakarta could be trusted. He rejected the special autonomy package and was kidnapped and assassinated by Kopassus Special Forces officers three weeks later.

However, a significant number of the Papuan elite believed special autonomy could be beneficial to all if fully implemented and they should give it a chance.

It was widely assumed that Law 21/2001 on Special Autonomy for Papua superseded Law 45/1999 on the division of Papua, rendering it null.


Special Autonomy had been in force for little over a year when, in January 2003, President Megawati Sukarnoputri unexpectedly and unilaterally issued her "Inpres", Law 1/2003 on the Acceleration of the Implementation of Law 45/1999.

As ICG noted in their April 2003 report, "Dividing Papua: how not to do it" (link 4): "A presidential instruction (Inpres) issued in January 2003 to divide Papua, Indonesia's easternmost province, into three parts has done more to create tension and turmoil there than any government action in years. The instruction undercuts a special autonomy law passed by the parliament in November 2001 that assumed the province to be a single territorial unit, and
it has thrown Papua's administrative status into legal limbo. It undermines moderate intellectuals who saw special autonomy as a way of strengthening Papuan institutions and encouraging independence supporters to work within the Indonesian state. It has infuriated many Papuans, pro-independence and pro-autonomy alike, who have a deep attachment to Papua as a single political unit with a distinct history and who see the decree as a divide-and-rule
tactic by Jakarta. All major religious leaders in the province have come out against it." (ICG; page 1)

On 12 November 2003 Dr John Ibo, the then head of the Papuan Provincial Parliament, launched a challenge in the Constitutional Court to test the legality of Law 1/2003.

On 13 November 2003, despite strong opposition from Papuans and others and despite the issue being before the Constitutional Court, Indonesia's House of Representatives (DPR) endorsed the government's division of Papua.

Furthermore, on 14 November 2003, the Indonesian Minister of Home Affairs, Hari Sabarno, installed Brig. Gen. (ret) Abraham Octovianus Atururi as the governor of West Irian Jaya province, despite controversy over its status.

On 15 November 2003, the Jakarta Post reported that Atururi's inauguration "marks the official split of West Irian Jaya from Papua."

For a full report on the consequences of the division of Papua see:
The Islamisation of Papua: the betrayal of a Christian people.
WEA RLC News & Analysis, Friday 21 November 2003
By WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal


On 11 November 2004 Indonesia's Constitutional Court ruled Law 45/1999 unconstitutional and thus invalid as at the date of the verdict. However, in its legal considerations the Court stated it was of the opinion that the Province of West Irian Jaya, that had been established based on Law 45/1999 and the corresponding implementing legislation, was valid.

Constitutional law expert Sri Soemantri criticised the ruling as "Completely weird", noting, "What then is the legal basis of West Irian Jaya province? If the court declares Law No. 45/1999 violates the Constitution, how can it approve the establishment of a province that has no legal basis?"

Judge Maruarar Siahaan agreed with the verdict (that Law 45/1999 is unconstitutional) but held a different opinion regarding the legal considerations on the result of the Court ruling. He reasoned that the ruling should mean that everything resulting from Law 45/1999 needed to be annulled, and that the existence of the Province of West Irian Jaya should be declared null and void and all corresponding institutions should be dissolved.

The then head of Papua's Indonesian Christian Church, the Reverend Herman Saud, expressed his opinion that the ruling was based on political considerations rather than legal arguments: "The ruling was made to save the central government's honour as it has already set up West Irian Jaya province. It's no secret that the government always intervenes in the legal process."

And so, while Law 45/1999 was deemed "unconstitutional and thus invalid", the province created by that unconstitutional and invalid law was to be considered "valid" simply on the grounds that it had already been established. (Link 6)


The ruling of the Constitutional Court created a new problem. Law 21/2001 -- the Special Autonomy Law that the Papuan's collaborated on and accepted -- granted special autonomy to Papua as a single territorial entity. The now "valid" province of West Papua was not covered by Law 21/2001 and as 45/1999 had been deemed unconstitutional and invalid, the province, while "valid", had no legal basis.

So in July 2006, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) agreed to evaluate the Special Autonomy Law and amend Article 76 which stipulates that the establishment of new provinces must get the approval from the MRP and the Regional Parliament. This however, would be yet another violation of the Special Autonomy Law as Article 77 mandates that amendments are the prerogative of the province, not the central government.


On 16 April 2008, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono violated Articles 76 and 77 of Law 21/2001 on Special Autonomy for Papua by unilaterally amending Law 21/2001 and dividing Papua by means of a Presidential Decree. According to the Jakarta Post, the decree amended two items: "Article 1(a), which stated Irian Jaya province would officially become Papua province, was replaced with Irian Jaya officially becoming Papua and West Papua provinces. Article 7(a) on the duty of the Papuan legislature to elect the governor and vice governor, was
dropped." (Link 7)

Not only has Special Autonomy failed in Papua, it is now something quite different from what was originally agreed to by the Papuans.


So Papua now consists of two autonomous provinces: the majority Javanese Muslim province of West Papua, and the majority Melanesian Christian province of Papua. Papua has been divided against the will of the Papuans, in violation of Law 22/1999 on Regional Government; in violation of Law 21/2001 on Special Autonomy; and in spite of the Constitutional Court's 11 November 2004 ruling that deemed Law 45/1999 unconstitutional. The Indonesian government has acted
in bad faith towards the Papuans. How can this advance peace, confidence and stability?

The consequences of this betrayal are enormous: it marks the end of Special Autonomy Law 21/2001. Papua is being Islamised and plundered while the Melanesian predominantly Protestant Christian Papuans are being robbed, abused and marginalised.

Furthermore, there is no reason to assume Jakarta will stop now. With the oil and gas-rich province of West Papua thus secured as a vassal of Jakarta, it will surely only be a matter of time before copper and gold-rich Central Irian Jaya is likewise secured. In fact Jakarta could continue this process of land division and law revision until Papua is little more than a poor and remote outpost for displaced and dying Papuans; an outpost that would ultimately be deemed non-viable. Then the genocide will be complete.

Elizabeth Kendal


1) House to pass W. Papua autonomy bill
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta, Tuesday 1 July 2008

2) Papua (Indonesia): Genocide by Demographics
WEA RLC News & Analysis, 20 Dec 2007
By: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal

3) Conference "Autonomy for Papua – Opportunity or Illusion?" 4-5 June 03
Local government in Indonesia. The case of Papua, By Harun Alrasid

4) Dividing Papua: How not to do it. ICG, 9 April 2003


6) Constitutional Court's ruling on the partition of Papua
By von Petra Stockmann
Watch Indonesia! Information und Analyse, 24 Nov 2004

7) President 'breaches' autonomy law. 4 July 2008
Angela Flassy, The Jakarta Post, Jayapura