Wednesday, July 21, 2010

PAPUA, Indonesia: TNI "sweeps" Puncak Jaya.

UPDATED 28 July 2010 (below)

As reported in the June issue of the West Papua Report (WPR) 2010, "Tensions are again intensifying in Mulia area in the Papuan Central Highlands region of Puncak Jaya."

According to the WPR, Papuan human rights defenders report that the Indonesian military launched "sweep" operations in the Tingginambut district during the third week of May. Homes in three villages have been burnt, two people killed, one woman raped, and all livestock in the three villages killed by Indonesian military.

The purpose of the "sweep" is allegedly to flush out separatist leader Goliat Tabuni.

As the WPR notes: "In the past such sweep operations have forced civilians to abandon their villages and seek shelter either with relatives or in the surrounding jungles where food shortages and lack of medical care have led to illness and death. Such sweep operations often continue for months, disrupting local trade and preventing villagers from tending local gardens. Despite desperate circumstances, security forces have also prohibited humanitarian relief operations from reaching the besieged civilian populations."

On 18 June, the West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) posted details of the crisis in Papua's central highlands region of Puncak Jaya.

"In May, security force spokespersons warned that if the local OPM leader, Goliat Tabuni, did not surrender by June 28, major operations would be launched to capture him and his small force. Notwithstanding that deadline, it appears that major operations are already underway. The Indonesian government announced in mid-June that additional BRIMOB personnel were being dispatched to the region.

"According to reports from the field, the operations have already caused large numbers of civilians to flee to other villages or into the surrounding forests. Specifically, thousands of people are reportedly hiding in forests, notably some from the Tingginambut Distirct; other residents of Tingginambut District have fled to Kuyawagi Astir, Tiom, and Lani Districts. Civilians from the Districts of Yambi, Agandugume, and Ilaga Peak have fled to Majesty Towogi District.

"These civilians, in particular those who have fled to the forests, face health and possibly life threatening conditions including lack of access to food, adequate shelter, and medical services. In the past such "sweeping operations," Indonesian security forces prevented provision of humanitarian assistance to these besieged populations.

"Reports from the field also tell of security forces targeting of civilians through widespread arrests, also:
• A church in Kayogwebur district Tingginambut has been taken over as headquarters for the BRIMOB. Local people unable to worship there.
• Local people are forced to do labor tasks for Indonesian military.
• In the district of Kampong Tinggineri Tingginambut, a pregnant woman was raped by BRIMOB personnel in the first half of June.
• 12 houses and 2 churches have been burned by security forces in Gwenggu Pilia.
• In Pos Nalime Tingginambut District residents have been forced to clear their gardens and prepare landing positions for military helicopters.
• On June 11, BRIMOB conducted a residential sweep search of all houses on the road between Ilu and Mulia, detaining anyone without identification, putting them on Army trucks. (Most local people do not have ID and now afraid to leave their homes. As a result, gardens are untended and local commerce is crippled.)

"Recalling previous such sweep operations - West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) is concerned that those civilians who have fled their homes are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance."

See also:
By WPNews Puncak Jaya. Jul 16, 2010

If anyone else has a sense of déjà vu, see:
Papua, Indonesia: Crisis in Puncak Jaya
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | No. 417 | Wed 21 Feb 2007

The story is virtually identical.


Complicating the situation is the fact that on 11 March 2010, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group released a highly controversial Asia Report No 188 entitled Radicalisation and Dialogue in Papua.

The ICG report lays the blame for recent clashes firmly at the feet of the KNPB (Komite Nasional Papua Barat - the West Papua National Committee), which ICG describes as militant and radical.

In early July, the University of Sydney's Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, West Papua Project, published a rebuttal entitled Get up, stand up: West Papua stands up for its rights. A rebuttal of the International Crisis Group Report No. 188, Radicalisation and Dialogue in Papua: West Papuans unite against Special Autonomy and for a referendum on independence. By Jim Elmslie and Camellia Webb Gannon with Peter King

According to the West Papua Project's rebuttal, the KNPB is nothing more than a "media and information clearing house that expresses mainstream views held by a wide spectrum of Papuan civil society and political organisations, as well as the armed wing of the OPM."

The West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) also issued a statement rebutting the ICG report. WPAT laments that the ICG report ignores gross human rights abuses in Papuan and the fact that the "government subsidized 'migration' to Papua by non-Melanesian Indonesians will within this generation make Papuans a minority in their own homeland."
(See also: Papua (Indonesia): Genocide by Demographics.
WEA RL News & Analysis by Elizabeth Kendal. Friday 21 December 2007)

The WPP and the WPAT decry methodological problems in the ICG report, particularly ICG's failure to acknowledge the possibility that sources were advancing a particular agenda. I myself had criticised ICG for doing exactly this some years earlier. (See: Papua (Indonesia): Muslim-Christian tensions on a knife edge. WEA RL News & Analysis by Elizabeth Kendal. Thursday 19 June 2008)

All this matters because the ICG report has legitimised Indonesian military violence against the Papuans.

Naturally, mainstream media ran with ICG's authoritative analysis. Elmslie and Gannon fear the ICG report could actually pave the way to further violence in the province.

Mission, Betrayal and Genocide

From the 1950s MAF USA opened up the previously impenetrable mountainous inland of what was then Dutch New Guinea for courageous pioneer missionaries.

Annexed by Indonesia in 1969 and occupied by Indonesian armed forces (predominantly Javanese Muslims), Papua is being purposefully and rapidly colonised by Javanese Muslims for political and geo-strategic purposes. The indigenous Papuans, who are ethnic Melanesians and predominantly Christian, are being marginalised and their land is being Islamised .

Most Javanese Muslims despise the Papuans as racially and religiously inferior. TNI and BRIMOB officers routinely and freely express their racial and religious hatred for the Papuans in unrestrained violence.

The TNI has vast economic interests in Papua, including in the area of protection -- thus it is in the TNI's interests that Papuan "terrorism" and "separatism" be seen as genuine threats (when in reality they are not).
See: Papua, Indonesia, The TNI and the USA.
WEA RL News & Analysis by Elizabeth Kendal. 1 March 2007

Papuan resistance is essentially resistance against racial and religious discrimination, persecution, exploitation, marginalisation, Islamisation and threat of genocide.

In 2001 the Indonesian parliament granted the Papua Province a tokenistic "Special Autonomy" which was never implemented. On 18 June many thousands of Papuans rallied in Jayapura. Declaring "Special Autonomy" a failure, they symbolically "gave it back" to Indonesia and demanded a referendum on independence and renewed dialogue to be mediated by a neutral country.

On 8 July, more than ten thousand Papuans rallied again.
See: Thousands Rally in West Papua: Reject Special Autonomy, Demand Referendum on Independence
By Jacques Friedman. Jul 9, 2010
ALSO: Photo news

Forces, protesters fill West Papuan parliament
By Paul Cleary. The Australian. 10 July 2010

Tensions are extremely high.

Shamefully, just as in the case of some other Christian peoples who have suffered or are suffering gross human rights abuses and facing genocide, the Papuans have been betrayed and abandoned by Western human rights-affirming nations in exchange for lucrative mining concessions, arms deals and other economic and political interests.

The Church, however, must never abandon them.

If you say, "Behold, we did not know this,"
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it
Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it,
and will he not repay man according to his work?
(Proverbs 24:12 ESV)
UPDATE - 28 July 2010
On 22 July, US defence secretary Robert Gates announced that the US will restore ties with Kopassus, Indonesia's notorious special forces unit which is known to have committed gross human rights violations in Papua, including the November 2001 political assassination of the chairman of Papuan Council Presidium, Theys Eluay.
(Regarding Eluay's assassination, see FreeWestPapua and Human Rights Watch).

Doubtless the US is doing this to prevent China from gaining a foothold in the region.
See: U.S. Boosts Asian Defense Ties Amid Growing Challenge From China Military
By Daniel Ten Kate - Jul 22, 2010
Clinton, Gates offer distinct messages on human rights in Asia
By Glenn Kessler | July 22, 2010; 11:23 AM ET

It is a no-win situation for the Papuans. As John M. Miller, National Coordinator of ETAN notes: "For years, the U.S. military provided training and other assistance to Kopassus, and when the U.S. was most involved Kopassus crimes were at their worst. While this assistance improved the Indonesian military's deadly skills, it did nothing to improve its behavior. [. . .] Engaging Kopassus with only token concessions will not encourage reform, respect for rights or accountability. It may do the opposite."

At a Pacific Islands Forum leaders summit meeting due to be held in Port Vila, Vanuatu, on 3-6 August, Vanuatu will support the indigenous Papuans' right to self-determination. The bipartisan motion was put to Vanuatu's Parliament after a petition of the people of Vanuatu called for a clear foreign policy on Papua.
See: Vanuatu to seek observer status for West Papua at MSG and PIF leaders summits