Thursday, October 27, 2011

Papua, Indonesia: from 'Peace Child' to genocide. Indonesian Army storms Third Papuan Congress; 6 dead, dozens wounded, hundreds arrested.

The indigenous ethnic Melanesians of Papua (formerly Irian Jaya) turned from shamanism to Christ in the early part of the 20th Century as Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF) USA opened the mountainous region up for courageous pioneer missionaries, several of whom shed their blood, becoming martyrs for Christ, that these remarkable people might know the LORD. It is one of the great missionary stories of the 20th Century.

Unfortunately, however, the story doesn't end there.

In 1962, the US convinced the Netherlands (the colonial power in Dutch/West New Guinea, which had wanted West New Guinea to be independent) to cede the territory to Indonesia in order to prevent Indonesia moving into the Soviet sphere of influence. The treaty between the Republic of Indonesia and the Kingdom of the Netherlands is known as the New York Agreement.

In 1963, Indonesia invaded and occupied Papua, ultimately annexing the territory in 1969 after a rigged plebiscite, the ironically named "Act of Free Choice". [NOTE: The 1969 "Act of Free Choice" may yet be challenged at the International Court.]

Since then the government of Indonesia has facilitated the rapid colonization of Papua by Javanese Muslims for political and geo-strategic purposes. The result: the Papuans have suffered decades of exploitation, increasing political marginalisation, Islamisation, racial and religious hatred, discrimination and violent persecution -- all of which, in many estimates, is amounting to genocide.

So the great missionary tale that starts with Dutch missions, expands through the sacrificial ministry of MAF USA and Australian missionaries, and blossoms -- thanks to God's preparation of the people -- with mass conversions to Christ, may yet end in tragedy.

But the story that goes from "Peace Child" (Part 1, Part 2) to genocide within a century involves not just the victims (the Papuans) and not just the killers (the Indonesians), but all those who, on account of greed, arrogance, power-lust and/or indifference, have betrayed and abandoned the Papuans to their terrible fate.


On 16-19 October 1961, before the Papuan people found themselves being traded like a common commodity they held a historic Papuan Congress. Richard Chauvel explains (SMH, 23 Oct): "The political manifesto of October 19, 1961, was issued at the time when the United Nations was debating a Dutch proposal to internationalise the administration of West Papua, then Netherlands New Guinea, and secure the UN's support for Papuan self-determination.

"Papuan leaders who formulated the manifesto supported the Dutch proposal, but they wanted to introduce a Papuan voice into a decade-long dispute between Indonesia and the Netherlands about their homeland and their future."

At that first Papuan Congress, a declaration of Independence was read and the Morning Star flag raised.

The event was re-enacted on 16-19 Oct 2000, when Abdurrahman Wahid was president of Indonesia and the prospects for Papuan autonomy were good, the mood was positive and hopes were high.

To mark the 50th anniversary of the first Papuan Congress, a Third Papuan Congress was held -- with government approval -- in Jayapura, Papua from 17-19 October 2011. Of course today the overwhelming sentiment in Papua is despair: despair at the total failure of Special Autonomy; despair at the creeping systematic genocide; despair at living with daily anxiety on account of the perpetual gross human rights abuses being committed at the hands of the Indonesian military -- abuses committed with impunity and in darkness as Papua remains closed to the outside world.


After failing to get permission to use either Cenderawasih University auditorium or the GOR sports stadium in Jayapura, the Third Papuan Congress opened not on 16 October as planned, but on 17 October in the open air at Lapangan Sakeus (Sakeus Field, also spelled Zakeus). The event had the approval of the central government.

Opening with prayers, the congress included several Christian leaders amongst the speakers, including Rev Benny Giay, Rev Socrates S. Yoman and Rev Yemima Krey. The theme of the congress was: “To uphold the basic rights of the Papuan people now and in the future.”

It appears, however, that as far as Jakarta is concerned, the basic rights of the Papuan people exist within the confines of subjugation. For as it turned out, the Papuans would not be permitted to dream too vividly.

The Jakarta Globe reports: "Anxiety was apparent among the participants of the Third Papuan People's Congress on Wednesday [19 Oct] as they marched toward the event venue in Abepura, passing by lines of military and police officers in full combat gear and holding assault rifles.

"By 8 a.m. that morning, the final day of the three-day congress, security officers were standing at the ready. Five Barracuda armored jeeps were parked not far from the Zakeus oval, the site of the event, as were seven police trucks and three trucks from the region’s Cendrawasih Military Command."

See: At Papuan Congress, a Brutal Show of Force
Oktovianus Pogau, Jakarta Globe, October 22, 2011 reported: "One Papuan video activist sent a text message to Engage Media this morning (19 Oct): 'Good morning, brother, I’m down at the field, and we’re surrounded by the military. Please pray so the congress is safe.'

The Jakarta Globe continues: "As the congress drew to a close, the 3,100 officers sprang into action, marching toward the venue with their fingers on the triggers of their Pindad SS1 assault rifles. As the prospect of a full-blown attack became evident, fear could be seen in the eyes of many congress-goers.

"Minutes later, the situation descended into violence.

"Soldiers from the Armed Forces (TNI) and police officers fired bullets into the air and ordered the participants to disband. Some of the officers pointed their weapons directly at the unarmed civilians.

"As the crowd dispersed in panic, the troops pressed forward."

At 3:30pm (Jayapura time) the Papuan video activist sent another text message: "Brother, they’ve opened fire … to us all."

The Jakarta Globe describes the violence and brutality wielded by the Indonesian police against these unarmed civilians.

As Chauvel (SMH, 23 Oct) reports, "At least six people were killed, more than 300 were taken into custody [pictured], the leaders accused of treason, and many others were beaten by police and soldiers."


The trigger for this heavy-handed crackdown? As in the 1961 and 2000, a declaration of independence was read and the now-banned Morning Star flag raised.

"On this day, 19 October 2011, we declare our complete Independence and Sovereignty as the Papuan people and the state of West Papua", read Prokorus Yaboisembut, the newly elected President of West Papua.

see: Report by GKI on Third Papuan Congress and Declaration of Independence
[Full translation by TAPOL of the report received from KPKC, Synod of GKI, Indonesian Christian Church on 21 October 2011]

With that, the military and police stormed the congress ostensibly to put down the "coup".

Armed soldiers also stormed a nearby monastery, terrorising the residents for two hours. Oktovianus Pogau reports that "Later, bullet holes could be seen in some of the walls, and bullet fragments were found in some bedrooms.

"'Dozens of officials forced their way into the monastery and walked back and forth for two hours in front of us,' the Rev. Adrianus Tuturu said. 'We were so afraid we hid in our rooms.'"

According to Pogau, the chairman of the House of Representatives commission on defense, Mahfudz Siddiq, said security forces "should have been firmer" and refused to issue a permit for the congress.

"The Jayapura Police chief said he would do whatever it took to quash subversion. 'Whoever supports separatism or subversion activity, I will do the same as yesterday [19 Oct]. I’ll finish them,' Adj. Sr. Comr. Imam Setiawan told state news agency Antara."

See also: Rights Bodies Grill the Police Over Beatings, Deaths at Papua Congress
Banjir Ambarita, Jakarta Globe, October 25, 2011


"While visiting Indonesia, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta reiterated the U.S. commitment to closer ties with Indonesia and voiced support for Indonesia's strong stance against a separatist movement in the eastern province of Papua.

"But U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell says the warming relationship has not stopped the U.S. from speaking out against possible human rights abuses by the military in Papua.

"'We have made very clear where there are allegations of abuse or problems associated with excessive violence,' said Campbell. 'We want those circumstances thoroughly explored. And if there is indeed cause for subsequent remedial action, we would expect a legal process to be followed accordingly.'"

See: US Officials Back Indonesian Stand Against Papua Independence
Voice of America, 25 October 2011

But of course we have seen this before. For as was noted in Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin 119 (3 Aug 2011) "On 24 January [2011] an Indonesian court sentenced three soldiers to eight, nine and ten months imprisonment for insubordination after video footage emerged showing the soldiers torturing Papuan civilians -- beating, burning, knifing and suffocating them. [See also, Papua: evidence of human rights abuses]. Whilst the US expressed regret over the leniency of the sentences, they praised the fact that the soldiers were tried at all, hailing it as 'progress'. (Without the trial, the US would have been obliged by its own laws to withhold military aid.)"

And the above was not an isolated incident, for TNI crimes and human rights abuses are routinely covered up or whitewashed so as to ensure that they do not negatively impact Indonesian or US mining or strategic interests.

On 23 Oct 2011, the Jakarta Globe featured a photo of Indonesian Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro smiling broadly with his counterpart Leon Panetta, US secretary of defense. "We clearly explained", said Purnomo, "that the [gathering] was a separatist movement. Everywhere it's the same -- separatism has to be put down. The Indonesian government will not tolerate separatists.”

And according to Purnomo, Panetta "completely agreed".

See: Jakarta Gives US Its Side of Story in Papua Deaths
Made Arya Kencana, Banjir Ambarita & Ulma Haryanto,
Jakarta Globe, 23 October 2011

It appears that US policy concerning whether "separatism" be put down (as were the Papuans in Papua) or supported (as were the Albanians in Serbia) depends entirely upon an assessment of US economic and strategic interests; nothing more.

The Jakarta Globe(23 Oct) continues: "A photograph of a body purported to be that of Daniel Kadepa, a 25-year-old university student, was obtained by the Jakarta Globe. It showed the body of a man lying face down with a wound to the back of his head.

"'I talked to the forensic doctor who checked the body and he told me that Daniel was killed by a gunshot to the head,' said Oktovianus Pogau, a member of the Papua Solidarity Society. 'A relative of his also told me that she saw with her own eyes a military officer shoot him.'

"Other photos showed bodies purported to be those of Max Asayeuw, 31, and Yacob Samonsabra, 54. Both men were part of the Papuan Caretaker Movement (Petapa) and were guarding the congress. Yacob had a gunshot wound to the chest, while Max’s face was bruised and bloodied."

The lone voice of moral outrage came from US Congressman Eni Faleomavaega, a Democrat from American Samoa.

The crackdown prompted the Congressman to ask Indonesia’s ambassador to the United States for guarantees of safety for those arrested last week.

"'It has been reported that the Indonesian Armed Forces [TNI] fired shots during the meeting where a crowd of thousands of defenseless and unarmed civilians were engaged in peaceful political assembly,' he wrote.

"Faleomavaega said the reports gave evidence of crimes against humanity, adding: 'I have very serious concerns in the matter and I do not condone the serious acts of violence by the TNI and police on the peaceful demonstration by unarmed civilians who were simply voicing their opinions about the failure of the government of Indonesia to seriously implement the Special Autonomy Law for West Papua.'" (Jakarta Globe, 23 OCt)

With six Congress leaders facing charges of treason, many Congress participants have fled into hiding.

See: Papua Congress participants hiding from Jayapura police
Interview with Ferry Marisan, director of the Institute of Human Rights Study and Advocacy in Papua. Radio Australia, October 20, 2011

Today, Friday 28 Oct 2011, ABC Lateline released an excellent video report.
See: Video shows aftermath of Papua crackdown
By Hamish Fitzsimmons, 28 Oct 2011

John Baransano, a Protestant minister in Jayapura who was at the rally, appealed through ABC Lateline for international help.

"I call on the churches around the world to care about this," he said. "I'm calling for an intervention for us because today's events show that we need a transitional government and this needs to happen to help the people of Papua," he said.

"We are now in a dangerous situation . . ."

Anglican minister Peter Woods, who lived in Indonesia for many years, was in Jayapura during the Congress and filmed interviews with many of the independence movement's leaders. Reverend Woods told ABC Lateline that he believes the violence on October 19 was premeditated.

For more on Papua;
See Religious Liberty Monitoring, label: "Papua"
Includes articles on Islamisation, colonisation, political marginalisation, gross human rights abuses, and Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold Inc.
ALSO: Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin, label: "Papua"