West Papua’s struggle for independence from Indonesia has long been ignored by the international community. A number of recent high profile events are helping to change this.
Indonesia annexed West Papua in 1969 under controversial circumstances. The Dutch had initially retained West Papua after WWII even after Indonesia won its independence. Independent Indonesia continued to claim sovereignty over West Papua but the Dutch disagreed and prepared West Papuans for independence throughout the 1950s. In late 1961 West Papua declared its independence over Indonesian opposition, creating a national anthem and raising the Morning Star national flag (though the extent of this independence is questionable as the Dutch continued to be present).
Nearly immediately Indonesia, backed by the Soviet Union, began launching military operations to try and forcibly retake the region. The United States, concerned that Indonesia was being dragged into the Soviet sphere, intervened in the conflict and brokered the “New York Agreement,” which was agreed to by Indonesia, the Dutch and other international parties in August 1962. The following year it was ratified by the UN.
The New York Agreement called for West Papua to briefly become a UN protectorate after which time would be placed under Indonesia’s administrative control until a referendum could be held where the West Papuan people would decide whether to become an Indonesian province or an independent state. After taking control of the region in 1963, however, Indonesian authorities launched a widespread crack down on internal dissent and began strictly regulating outsider access to the region. Ultimately the long promised referendum on independence was held in 1969. “The Act of Free Choice,” as it was ironically called, consisted of about one thousand elders the Indonesian military had hand-selected voting unanimously to become a part of Indonesia. West Papuans have been rebelling against Indonesian rule ever since.  
At times violent, but overwhelmingly peaceful, the West Papuans’ quest for autonomy has been met with relentless brutality by the Indonesian regime.  Estimates of the number of Papuans killed by Indonesian authorities range from 100,000 to 400,000 with some West Papuan activists claiming that the number is actually over 500,000.  There are also allegations of widespread torture, rape and political imprisonment sometimes for crimes as simple as raising the Morning Star Flag – widely recognized as a symbol of West Papuan independence.
The international community has largely ignored West Papuans’ pleas for sovereignty and Indonesia’s human rights abuses against them. This is due in no small part to Indonesia’s four-decade media blackout in the region. With journalists and human rights groups essentially barred from entering two of Indonesia’spoorest provinces (in 2003 “West Papua” was split into two provinces – Papua and West Papua), the suffering of those indigenous to the region has been largely hidden from the international community. This has allowed Indonesia to act with impunity in the region without sparking a backlash from abroad.
However, recent events have seemingly propelled the issue of West Papua onto the international stage at last. 
This began back in August with the “Freedom Flotilla” that attempted to travel from southern Australia to West Papua. The aim of the flotilla, which was manned by West Papuan exiles and Australian activists, was to raise awareness of the human rights abuses in West Papua and the region’s quest for independence. The flotilla received much media attention after the Indonesian government forbade the flotilla from entering its waters because of national security concerns, and threatened to use force to ensure compliance if it became necessary.
Then, last month, three West Papuan activists scaled the walls of the Australian consulate in Bali, Indonesia hours before Australian PM Tony Abbott arrived there for the APEC summit. Once inside the consulate the activists delivered a letter addressed to the Australian people in which they asked Abbott and other leaders attending the APEC summit to stand up for West Papua. The letter also called for greater press freedom in the region. 
Around the same time, two prominent West Papuan independence leaders  — Benny  Wenda who was granted political asylum in the UK in 2003 and Filep Karma who is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence for raising the Morning Star Flag in 2004 — were announced as nominees for the Nobel Peace Prize. Although there were 259 nominations, Wenda and Karma’s nomination raised the international community’s awareness of the West Papuans’ freedom struggle, and added newfound legitimacy to their cause.
The most significant development however, was Vanuatu’s Prime Minister Moana Carcasses Kalosil’sspeech at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in September. During the speech Kalosil called for the appointment of a UN special representative to investigate human rights abuses in West Papua and for another investigation into the circumstances surrounding Indonesia’s annexation of West Papua in the 1960s. Kalosil’s speech basically questioned the legitimacy of Indonesia’s rule over West Papua, and in doing so at a UN meeting, paved the way for future diplomatic discussions on West Papua’s right to independence. 
While these high profile events do not ensure immediate change for West Papuans, they have served to increase awareness of their cause internationally and provided West Papuans with hope for the future.  As Rex Rumakiek, the general secretary of the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation, exclaimed:“Everybody understands that West Papua is next.”
2) Students reject special autonomy plus bill

Nethy Dharma Somba, The Jakarta Post, Jayapura | Thu, 11/07/2013 8:33 AM | Archipelago
Hundreds of students from various universities in Jayapura, Papua, continued protesting against the Papua administration bill, also known as the special autonomy plus bill, which is still in draft form and will soon be submitted to an assistance team at the Home Ministry in Jakarta.

The students blocked the entrance to Cenderawasih University (Uncen) in Waena, Jayapura and forced the suspension of activities at the biggest campus in Papua.

“We returned home because the campus was blockaded, so we couldn’t attend lectures today [Wednesday],” said Joni, a school of natural sciences student.

The students planned another long march to Jayapura but were tightly guarded by police personnel from the Jayapura Police. 

Earlier on Monday, thousands of students marched from Abepura to Jayapura in protest against the Papua administrative bill.

The students claim the bill, if passed, would not improve the welfare of Papuans but would follow the same path as Law No. 21/2001 on Papua special autonomy, which is considered to have failed to significantly improve the welfare of indigenous Papuans. 

The students pointed to the fact that Papua is ranked 32nd out of 33 provinces on the Human Development Index in Indonesia.

Besides opposing the bill, the students also demanded that 29 Uncen lecturers involved in the assistance team on the bill resign.

Rally coordinator Yason Ngelia said Uncen had failed to properly oversee the drafting of Law No. 21/2001 on Papua special autonomy and yet was involved once again in formulating and disseminating information about the special autonomy plus bill. 

“Uncen must stop being involved in state crime. The Papua special autonomy plus bill will only kill 
Papuans,” he asserted.

Yason urged Uncen to explain the involvement of the 29 lecturers and warned that failure to do so would result in more protesters taking to the street.

Uncen lecturer Paul Homers criticized the behavior of students who blockaded the entrance to the campus in protest.

“They can express their aspirations, but don’t disrupt the teaching and learning process as it is also undemocratic,” Homers told The Jakarta Post.

He said that the Papua administration bill was aimed at giving wider access to Papuans to improve their welfare. Homers acknowledged that there was a lack of dissemination of information about the bill among students and said it had led to them rejecting it due to a lack of understanding.

Separately, West Papua Governor Bram Octovianus Atururi held a meeting with Papua Governor Lukas Enembe in Jayapura to discuss the bill. The bill, if passed into law by the House of Representatives, will come into effect in both Papua and West Papua provinces.

3) Jakarta rally rejects creation of new administrative area in West Papua

Suara Papua - November 4, 2013

Tolak Pemekaran, AMP Demo ke DPR RI dan Kemendagri - Suara Papua. November 04, 2013 <http://suarapapua.com/2013/11/tolak-pemekaran-amp-demo-ke-dpr-ri-dan-kemendagri/>

Oktovianus Pogau, Papuan, Jakarta -- On Monday afternoon scores of youth and students from the Papua Student Alliance (AMP) held a peaceful demonstration at the House of Representatives (DPR) building to declare their opposition to the creation of 33 new operational areas (DOB, new administrative areas) in Papua.

Elias Petege, one of the speakers said that the majority of ordinary people in Papua and West Papua provinces do not want the creation of 33 new DOBs, including three new provinces, as agreed to recently by the DPR.

"The creation of 33 DOBs in the land of Papua will not answer the problems. We explicitly reject this plan. The DPR must cancel the RUU [draft law] that has been drafted", said Petege in a speech in front of the DPR building.

According to Petege, with the creation of new administrative areas, it will in fact allow for the establishment of more military complexes such as district military commands, battalions, sub-regional military commands and sectoral, district and regional police administrations, which will proliferate and threaten the existence of indigenous Papuans.

"We explicitly call in the DPR and Commission II [overseeing regional autonomy] to cancel the plan. The [political] elite who are working for this decentralisation are in fact seeking money, jobs and positions, not for the interests of the ordinary people", asserted Petege.

"Decentralisation will further marginalise the Papuan people. Right now the population of indigenous Papuans and non-Papuans are the same, what will happen is there is decentralisation. Migrants will continue to flow into the land of Papua, and of course Papuans will be further pushed aside from their own traditional lands", said Jigibalom.

According to Jigibalom, decentralisation in Papua will only destroy the identity of indigenous Papuans and further open up opportunities for military businesses.

"We are not convinced that decentralisation is in the interests of indigenous Papuans. Decentralisation will be a disaster for indigenous Papuans and because of this we strongly oppose the plan", said Jigibalom in a speech.

Satisfied with giving speeches in front of the DPR, at around 11.30am the protesters continued the action at the offices of the Ministry of Home Affairs (kemendagri) on Jl. Merdeka Barat in Central Jakarta.

In front of the home affairs ministry, the protesters, who came from Jakarta and the West Java cities of Bandung and Bogor, again declared their opposition to the creation of 33 new DOBs.

Frans Tomoki, one of the speakers, called on the home affairs minister (mendagri) not to accept the DPR recommendation for the decentralisation of Papua because it was decided unilaterally and is in the interests of the political elite.

"At the DPR we called on Commission II to withdraw the RUU creating 33 DOBs, and here at the Kemendagri we are calling on the mendagri to reject the unilateral creation of new regions. The majority of Papuan people have explicitly rejected decentralisation" said Tomoki.

Tomoki added that decentralisation would in fact give rise to new conflicts between local communities, including between the people and the central government.

"Already there are many examples of new regencies that have failed. And always end with tribal wars, this is a consequence of the creation of new regions that are done without coordination with local communities", asserted Tomoki.

After giving speeches for around 30 minutes, representatives from the protesters were invited to meet with several home affairs department officials and to present their position and demands. After meeting for around 1 hour, the representatives left the home affairs ministry offices. Action coordinator Jhon Wakerkwa then read out a statement and the protesters disbanded peacefully.

[Slightly abridged translation by James Balowski for the Indoleft news service.]


INDOLEFT News service