1) West Papua issue stirs during Jokowi's PNG visit
Updated at 9:35 pm on 12 May 2015
Jamie Tahana, Radio New Zealand International -
The thorny issue of West Papua has stirred controversy during a state visit by Indonesia's President, Joko Widodo, to Papua New Guinea.
Mr Widodo left Port Moresby today after a two-day visit which saw allegations of media gagging and the arbitrary arrest of protesting West Papuan independence activists.
Joko Widodo's plane touched down in Port Moresby on Monday, greeted by a 21-gun salute and military guard of honour. But outside the airport, a group was protesting Indonesian rule in the western half of New Guinea.
That protest was led by the PNG Union for a Free West Papua. Its general secretary, David Dom Kua, said police broke up the protest just before Mr Widodo touched down, and that he and six others were detained for several hours.
The group was later released without charge yet Mr Kua said their detention was illegal and an attempt to hide them from the visiting President.
"We are not in Indonesia, we are in Papua New Guinea," he said. "This is our own country, we are stepping on our own soil and our own laws and so if there is any political interference or influence whatsoever, how can the police or our government think they can do what the Indonesian government has been doing?"
The Oro Governor and MP, Gary Juffa, explained that the PNG Union for a Free West Papua had obtained a court order allowing them to protest, but they were detained arbitrarily. He felt Waigani had been quick to try and please Jakarta by clamping down on peaceful protest.
"We can't allow Indonesia to extend their authoritarian rule into Papua New Guinea which is what seems to be happening," said Governor Juffa.
"In instances when Indonesians visit or when Indonesian officials are here then there's a gag on the media, there's all the military persons, the people are controlled, it's as if we are a province of Indonesia."
The independence aspiration of West Papuans remains a sensitive issue for Indonesia, and one that Papua New Guinea governments have stayed silent on for many years. However growing public concern about reported rights abuses across the border and a geopolitical storm over a West Papuan move for greater regional representation have ensured the PNG government cannot ignore the issue.
A major West Papuan representative organisation is currently applying for membership of the regional Melanesian Spearhead Group, and appears to have the backing of Vanuatu and New Caledonia's FLNKS. It remains to be seen where Solomon Islands and the MSG's two biggest members, PNG and Fiji, stand on the matter.
The United Liberation Movement for West Papua's application will be the special focus of an MSG members' meeting next week, before a possible decision on the bid at the leaders' summit in Honiara in July. Mr Widodo's visit came as Indonesia's diplomatic overtures to Melanesian countries reached top levels, prompting the ULM to argue that the visit was to try and pressure PNG to not support the West Papuan MSG bid.
But at a state dinner for Mr Widodo, Prime Minister Peter O'Neill said he wants to welcome Melanesian brothers and sisters from West Papua to the MSG, but it must be done with endorsement from Jakarta.
RNZI's correspondent in Port Moresby, Todagia Kelola, said the topic was off-limits to media at a breakfast on Tuesday, where Mr Widodo spoke about strengthening economic ties between the two countries and only slightly alluded to West Papua.
"He said the visit in Papua New Guinea provides an opportunity to strengthen ties in both countries. And despite not commenting on the West Papua issue Mr Widodo seeks to ensure that closer relations is far more important for the benefit for the people in Indonesia especially the 11 million melanesians in Indonesia."
Before leaving the country, the leaders of both countries signed new agreements to cooperate in the development of petroleum and energy resources and to prevent transnational crime. At the airport ahead of his departure, however, was another group of West Papua activists burning the Indonesian flag.
2) West Papua activist claims arrest by PNG police illegal
Updated at 9:31 pm on 12 May 2015
A Free West Papua activist who was arrested at a demonstration for the arrival of Indonesia's President Joko Widodo in Papua New Guinea's capital, Port Moresby, on Monday says his arrest was illegal.
The general secretary of the PNG Union for a Free West Papua, David Dom Kua, says he and six others were detained and held without charge for six hours.
He says police told him he was arrested for disturbing the flow of traffic, but he says his organisation had a Supreme Court order that allowed them to protest.
Mr Kua says his detention was illegal and politically motivated, and he plans to take legal action.
"We are not in Indonesia, we are in Papua New Guinea. This is our own country, we are stepping on our own soil and our own laws and so if there is any political interference or influence whatsoever, how can the police or our government think they can do what the Indonesian government has been doing?"
Meanwhile, another demonstration outside Port Moresby's airport on Tuesday, which was intended to coincide with the president's departure, featured the burning of an Indonesian flag.
However President Widodo had left earlier than scheduled.
An outspoken Papua New Guinea MP says the Melanesian Spearhead Group has failed its original mandate and should be disbanded.
Gary Juffa, who is the Governor of Oro Province, says that the MSG's leadership does not act in a way that represents Melanesian voices.
His comment comes after the Indonesian President, Joko Widodo, visited PNG this week as high-level lobbying intensifies over the looming decision on a MSG membership bid by the United Liberation Movement for West Papua.
Mr Juffa says that behind the scenes among officials in MSG member countries there's a growing resentment of the group's treatment of the Papua issue.
"They said disband it, what's the point? If it's going to be there to be dictated to by Indonesia, what's the point? MSG was set up to fight for Melanesian views and issues, not just be a trade agreement conduit, and not just be a muppet and puppet to the will and whim of say Indonesia."
Nethy Dharma Somba, The Jakarta Post, Jayapura | Archipelago | Tue, May 12 2015, 6:07 PM
Eleven Laut Timur Papua employees taken hostage by residents of Kuanom village in Milimbo district, Lanny Jaya regency, have been released after Lanny Jaya Legislative Council member Wenemuk Kogoya, Milimbo district head Timotius Kogoya and Alfred, the company’s representative, met with the hostage-takers on Monday.
“The negotiation team has been successful in securing the release of all 11 people taken hostage, five of whom have been brought to a Timur Laut Papua camp in Lanny Jaya. The remaining six employees are still in Jayapura. They are all healthy,” Papua Police spokesperson Sr. Com. Rudolf Patrick said in Jayapura on Tuesday.
Negotiations reportedly began at 7 p.m. local time on Monday, and shortly after an agreement was reached, the team was allowed to bring the 11 hostages to Wamena at around 3 a.m. on Tuesday.
The hostage-taking incident was reportedly triggered by Kuanom residents’ disappointment over the policy of the Jayawijaya regent, who was rumored to be replacing several village heads in the regency. Their disappointment over the improper distribution of direct cash assistance (BLT) also reportedly aggravated the situation.
“All the problems have been settled. The security situation and the condition in Kampung Kuanom, as in all areas in Lanny Jaya regency, are under control,” Patrick said. (ebf) (++++)
5) Biak Numfor regent seeks forgiveness from RI press
Nethy Dharma Somba, The Jakarta Post, Jayapura | Archipelago | Tue, May 12 2015, 6:48 PM -
Biak Numfor Regent Thomas Ondy has apologized to all members of the Indonesian press over a recent violent incident he committed against a local journalist.
In a letter with the official logo of the Biak Numfor regent, Ondy said he sought to apologize to the Indonesian press for beating Fiktor Palembangan, a journalist with the Cenderawasih Pos newspaper in Jayapura, Papua.
Biak administration spokesperson Agus Filma handed over the letter to Cenderawasih Pos editor in chief Yonatan Randabunga and representatives of several press institutions, namely the Indonesian Journalists Association’s (PWI) Papua chapter, the Indonesia Journalist Network (IJN), the Indonesian Television Journalist Association’s (IJTI) Papua chapter and the Alliance of Independent Journalists’ (AJI) Papua chapter.
“As a form of our regret over the act and also as an effort to fix and build our harmonious relationship with mass media as the working partner of the government, we hereby convey our deep apologies to the related parties and Indonesian members of the press in all areas across the country,” Regent Ondy said in his letter on Tuesday.
“Hopefully, this could be a valuable experience that will not happen again in the future,” he went on.
IJN Papua chairman Robert Isodorus Vanwi said he appreciated the Biak regent’s apology.
“He has a great spirit as he is willing to admit his mistake and to seek to apologize. Hopefully, this will be the last incident [of violence against a journalist] in Papua,” he said.
IJTI Papua chairman Ricardo Hutahaen said the Biak regent’s written apology was a wise move as it showed his efforts to maintain a harmonious relationship between the Biak Numfor administration and the press.
“It’s really wise and this is the first time in Papua that a government official has directly sought an apology over a violence-against-journalists incident via a written letter,” he said.
The attack on Fiktor, which occurred on Saturday, was reportedly triggered by an article written by the journalist on a fire that engulfed the Biak Market, published in the Cenderawasih Post’s Saturday edition.
“The regent was angry because in his article, the journalist did not mention Biak authorities’ efforts to extinguish the fire,” said Yonatan. (ebf) (++++)
Jayapura. The head of Biak Numfor district in Papua province has issued an apology following days of protests after he punched a journalist for what he claimed was unbalanced reporting.
“When the incident happened I was very exhausted due to my tight schedule, therefore I was unable to control my emotions,” Thomas Alfa Edison Ondi said in a written statement released by an administration spokesman on Tuesday.
He expressed his “deepest apology” to Viktor Palembangan, a journalist with the Cenderawasih Pos news portal, whom he punched and threatened on Saturday.
Thomas promised to build a better relationship with the press in the future.
The assault took place on Saturday afternoon during a media visit to a temporary shelter set up by the Biak Numfor district administration for residents whose homes had been damaged in a recent fire.
When Viktor tried to interview Thomas at the scene, the district chief suddenly grew angry with him, according to Yonathan, the editor-in-chief of the Cenderawasih Pos.
“He claimed that the Cenderawasih Pos’s coverage of the initial response to the fire didn’t mention the [relief] efforts by the district administration. He said that because of that reporting, he was admonished by the provincial secretary,” Yonathan said.
He added that Thomas grew increasingly agitated and began insulting Viktor. “He then hit him in the face until his lip was swollen. The fire victims there all saw it, but they didn’t do anything,” Yonathan said.
Even after hitting the reporter, Thomas continued his tirade, Yonathan said. “He said, ‘I’m going to make you disappear, I’m going to burn your house down.’”
7) West Papua: Activist Awarded Gwangju Human Rights Prize
Latifah Anum Siregar was awarded the 2015 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights. She was selected for exemplifying the ideals of human rights and peace, and for her nonviolent endeavors despite multiple threats and kidnappings.
The 2015 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights Committee has chosen Latifah Anum Siregar, a human-rights lawyer, as the recipient of the prize, for her peace movement in the conflict region of West Papua.
West Papua has been under colonial rule since the beginning of the 19th century, under powers such as Japan or Netherlands, and was separated from ‘Papua New Guinea’ in the east after World War 2. In 1969, West Papua had an independence referendum under the supervision of the Indonesian government, but the electorate body was blackmailed into unanimously voting to remain a part of Indonesia. Since then West Papua has voiced its desire for independence, but was met with oppression, resulting in arrests, torture, rape, murder, and other human rights violations.
Latifah Anum Siregar is not only a human-rights attorney, but is also the chairperson of the Alliance for Democracy in Papua, a member of the Papua regional council, and a member of the human rights commission. She has made huge contributions to the maintaining peace in a region of conflict and violence. As the chairperson of the Alliance for Democracy in Papua, Siregar codified traditions to search for a peaceful solution with the government in the territorial dispute, reformed the system for women’s rights activists with the human rights institute, Imparsial, protected Papua human rights activists, reported human rights violations to the UN, supported Papua peace process, and is involved in many activities.
The committee has judged that Latifah Anum Siregar exemplifies the ideals of human rights and peace of the 5·18 movement. Moreover, the fact that she was able to lead the Papua Peace Movement despite multiple threats and kidnappings, suspected to be from the government, has been highly regarded. She has also been recognized for showing the universality of human value by dedicating herself for the predominantly Christian region of Papua, despite being Muslim herself.
Not discriminating despite political, racial, cultural, regional, and religious differences is at the core of protecting and developing human rights. Being a region of conflict and human rights violations of the local populace, the world must give attention to West Papua. We hope that the conflict will end and that human rights will be restored in West Papua, to finally bring peace to the region. We hope that this year’s Gwangju Prize for Human Rights will be a source of good news for those who wish for peace in the region of West Papua, and to also be a source of strength and encouragement for Latifah Anum Siregar who has fought through many hardships to achieve peace.
The 2015 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights Committee has also selected Sombath Somphone, the founder of Participatory Development Training Center, as the recipient of the 2015 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights’ special prize. Sombath Somphone had been running an active campaign against the Laotian government’s project of building the Xayaburi Dam on the Lower Mekong River, until his kidnapping in 2012 by the police. His whereabouts or his current condition is unknown. We hope to bring the government backed kidnapping to light through the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights, and also hope that he will be found as soon as possible. We also hope that this serves as rallying point for the search for Sombath Somphone that will be taking place in May.
8) A look at the Papua conflict - Indonesia's 'low-level insurgency'
Following Indonesian leader Joko Widodo's move to free five political prisoners and lift media curbs in Papua, DW speaks to Gregory Poling about why so little progress has been made in solving the decades-long conflict.
President Widodo announced clemency for five Papuan prisoners while visiting Papua's provincial capital of Jayapura on May 9, 2015. The five men, convicted in 2003 for their alleged role in a raid on an Indonesian Armed Forces weapons arsenal in Wamena on April 4, 2003, which resulted in the deaths of two soldiers, were serving prison terms ranging from 19 years to life imprisonment.
The Indonesian leader also announced the lifting of travel bans for foreign journalists there. "We need to create a sense of peace in Papua. This is just the beginning," he said during his visit to the area, raising hopes of a change of policy towards the resource-rich region and that other political prisoners still held would be freed.
The nongovernmental political prisoners' advocacy organization Papuans behind bars lists a total of 38 Papuans imprisoned, detained, on trial, or awaiting trial on charges that violate their freedom of expression and association. Human rights groups accuse Jakarta of consistently detaining and jailing protesters for peacefully advocating independence or other political change.
Many such arrests and prosecutions are of activists who peacefully raise banned symbols, such as the Papuan Morning Star and the South Moluccan RMS flags. A low-level guerrilla organization called the Free Papua Movement has been leading a secessionist struggle in the region since the 1960's.
In a DW interview, Gregory Poling, a Southeast Asia expert at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, talks about the reasons behind the decades-long conflict, Jakarta's treatment of political prisoners and says that while there is renewed reason for hope, Papua's troubles will take more than visits and promises of economic progress to resolve.
DW: What have been the main reasons behind the ongoing Papuan conflict?
Gregory Poling: There has been a confluence of political and economic tensions that have fueled the conflict. Many Papuans remain bitter about the perceived illegality of Indonesia's takeover of the region half a century ago, which violated both the letter and spirit of a UN-brokered agreement.
Security forces for decades have acted with heavy-handedness and impunity to combat the low-level insurgency, which has resulted in widespread abuses. And then there is the perception among Papuans that their identity is under threat - a perception reinforced by large-scale migration of non-Papuans and suppression of symbols like the "Morning Star" flag that represents Papuan independence.
On the economic front, Papuans see that the region lags behind the rest of Indonesia on most important health, education, and other development indicators. Papua is Indonesia's richest province in terms of natural resources, and the Grasberg mine is not only the largest gold and third largest copper mine in the world, but is also the largest single taxpayer in Indonesia. Yet relatively little of that natural wealth has resulted in development in Papua.
In which ways has the conflict been carried out?
The armed opposition to Indonesian occupation hit its zenith in the 1970s. Since then, conflict remains chronic but low-level. To that end, the banned Free Papua Movement, or OPM, is a useful bogeyman for Jakarta, and does remain active. But the vast majority of pro-independence (or pro-autonomy) gatherings are peaceful, which makes the sometimes-deadly force used by Indonesian security forces to break them up all the more worrying.
What is Indonesia's position on this issue?
Indonesia is willing to countenance increased autonomy for Papua, but not independence. It granted Papua special autonomy over a decade ago, but its scope and implementation have been far short of Papuan demands. Toward the end of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's government, there was a movement toward strengthening Papua's autonomy, but that floundered at the end of his administration and has not been carried forward.
President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has shown more attention to Papuan issues, and the recent announcements that five Papuans would be released from prison and the long-standing restrictions on foreign journalists entering the region lifted are good signs. But his statements still suggest an unwillingness to tackle the political as well as economic roots of Papuan separatism.
How does Jakarta deal with those seeking independence?
Indonesia views any calls for independence as crimes against the state and goes so far as to officially ban the display of the Morning Star flag. Security forces break up any protest at which the flag is raised - which occurs frequently - and arrest those promoting independence.
Indonesian authorities have also been highly active in regional diplomacy in recent years to block attempts by Papuan organizations to gain international recognition. The Melanesian Spearhead Group has been a particular focus of Jakarta's attention, and will soon decide whether to grant membership to a Papuan organization.
How does Jakarta treat its prisoners?
There have been reports of abuse against Papuan prisoners, but the limited access international organizations have been granted makes it difficult to ascertain the real situation. What is clear, however, is that dozens of pro-independence activists are imprisoned. Groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International classify them as political prisoners. Indonesia maintains that they are violent criminals and traitors.
Have any of the two sides signaled any willingness to compromise?
Jakarta has repeatedly proven willing to compromise by giving greater privileges and autonomy to Papua, but has repeatedly failed to follow-through in implementing such agreements. On the Papuan side, it is only a small minority who seems completely unwilling to compromise and insist on full independence.
How do you see this conflict developing in the coming years?
Papuan groups in exile have become savvier, and are helping throw a spotlight on the issue via their international lobbying and publicity. Unrest in Papua remains a thorn in Jakarta's side, blemishing what is otherwise a narrative of a consolidating, stable democratic state.
President Jokowi has so far shown a much greater attentiveness to Papua than any of his predecessors, and that is reason for hope. But Papua's troubles will take more than visits and promises of economic progress to resolve. Whether Jakarta can make the necessary political accommodations remains to be seen.
In your view, why has this conflict been rarely covered by the media?
The lack of foreign media access is one issue. But a more systemic problem is the low level of the insurgency. Levels of violence in Papua never compared to those in Aceh or the Malukus or, for that matter, in Mindanao in the Philippines or southern Thailand.
The foreign press has a limited attention span, and a low-level insurgency in Indonesia's most far-flung and sparsely populated province has proven unable to draw consistent focus, especially given the extra effort needed to cover it because of the restrictions on foreign media access.
Gregory Poling is a fellow with the Sumitro Chair for Southeast Asia Studies at the Washington-based Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS).
Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced over the weekend that his government would allow foreign journalists to report unrestricted from the country's eastern Papuan provinces, breaking a virtual 50-year blackout of international news coverage of the restive region. The announcement raises the prospect of an independent media check on one of Asia's most under-reported civil conflicts between the Indonesian state and Free Papua Movement rebel group. Widodo's announcement coincided with his granting clemency to five political prisoners accused of being members of an ethnic Papuan insurgency that since the 1960s has waged a low-intensity armed struggle for independence from Indonesian rule.