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