2) Gloves come off as Jakarta confronts Papua rights
6:19 pm today
Johnny Blades - email@example.com
Indonesia's campaign to contain issues of West Papua has entered a new phase.
As diplomatic activity on behalf of the indigenous people of West Papua has recently surged, Jakarta has responded by taking steps that it says will address human rights abuses in Indonesia's troubled region.
This includes establishing a team to lead investigations into historical rights abuses in Papua.
The rights problems however are not confined to Papua's troubled past.
The leading Indonesian human rights organisation KONTRAS recently confirmed it had reports of over 1,200 cases of people suffering from harassment, killings, torture and ill-treatment in the past year.
"We haven't put the other issues into this number - the economic and social rights issues," said the organisation's head co-ordinator, Haris Azhar.
He said these abuses were often made by security forces against Papuans for exercising their right to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and movement.
Now, as Papuan human rights becomes part of the Indonesian discourse, Jakarta become more proactive about responding to its critics.
Concern about human rights abuses in West Papua was given prominence at the UN Human Rights Council's recent 32nd session in Geneva.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association mentioned it, as did a range of civil society groups.
Solomon Islands' diplomat in Geneva urged Indonesia to safeguard the basic rights of West Papuans.
Barrett Salato said his government received regular reports from Papua about arbitrary arrests, summary execution, torture, restriction of freedom of expression, assembly and association, committed mainly by Indonesian police.
"Not much information goes out to the international commmunity about what's happening (in Papua) so we take it here to the right body of the UN to raise the voices of our fellow human beings that does not have a voice in the human rights council," he said.
The concerns were echoed by the Vanuatu government.
The deputy head of Indonesia's Permanent Mission to the UN, Michael Tene, hit back hard, saying Vanuatu and Solomon Islands lacked understanding about Papua.
He told the session that the two Melanesian countries were politically motivated in support of separatist groups which incite public disorder and terrorist attacks against civilians and security personnel.
The Indonesian diplomat read his statement quickly and appeared slightly anxious, perhaps a sign of Jakarta's defensiveness over the way West Papua issues have spilled out into the international domain.
"Indonesia as a democratic country is committed to promoting and protecting human rights, including by taking necessary steps to address the allegations of human rights violations and abuses in Papua."
"No one is perfect," explained Mr Tene, before telling the session how Vanuatu and Solomon Islands were far from perfect on protection of human rights.
He said the two countries still faced serious human rights problems, had rampant corruption in all segments of society and government, human trafficking, mistreatment of children and daily abuse of women.
"It would be for the betterment of their populations if the governments of Solomon Islands and Vanuatu give attention and priority to seriously address their respective own domestic human rights shortcomings."
Solomon Islands is currently occupying the chair of the Melanesian Spearhead Group and, along with Vanuatu, has been vocal in support of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua.
The Liberation Movement was last year granted observer status at the MSG and is seeking full membership in the group, with a decision to be made at a summit of the group's leaders in Honiara next month.
Indonesia, which opposes the Liberation Movement and is itself seeking full membership in the MSG, has been lobbying other countries in the group and appears to have the support of the governments of Papua New Guinea and Fiji, if not the public of those countries.
In the past two months, there's been a surge of international attention on West Papua, particularly through the UK summit of the International Parliamentarians for West Papua.
That summit was attended by a network of politicians from around the world, including British MPs such as the opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, and resulted in a call for an internationally-supervised vote on independence in West Papua.
This prompted Jakarta to immediately send a high-level delegation to London to explain their side of the story.
It was no surprise that the man who led the delegation to London was Indonesia's Political and Security minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan.
Mr Luhut has been fronting international representations on Papua for President Joko Widodo, including the recent visits to PNG and Fiji to drum up support for Indonesia's MSG plans.
As a former commander of Indonesia's Kopassus special military forces, Mr Luhut was a key player in state efforts to prevent East Timor becoming independent in the turbulent months of 1999.
Now, as Indonesia's government scrambles to counter international focus on West Papua, he has emerged as a champion of human rights.
Mr Luhut has been overseeing the creation of a new "integrated team" including human rights commissionaires and police to investigate at least a dozen high-priority historic rights cases in Papua as identified by the Widodo government.
Various Papuan provincial government and civil society figures are doubtful that the team is independent.
The Liberation Movement has rejected the creation of the team, saying violations committed against Papuans are not only murder and torture but are complex, ongoing processes such as the routine denial of democratic space, land grabbing and illegal logging.
It feels that Mr Luhut's team is primarily aimed at improving Indonesia's rights reputation abroad.
Three weeks ago, the minister travelled to Papua with ambassadors from New Zealand, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands for what Indonesian state media said was a chance to observe the handling of human rights cases.
PNG's ambassador Peter Ilau said he was encouraged by what he saw, suggesting that evidence being put forth about human rights abuses in Papua may surprise people about "who the real aggressors are in a lot of these incidents".
He said this while referencing a recent article by a spokesman at the Indonesian ambassador in Canberra that sought to portray the Liberation Movement as a terrorist group.
Mr Ilau also said that the ambassadors heard how people in Papua have had enough of "outside interference" by outside governments and diaspora Papuans.
This is in stark contrast to many representations made by grassroots West Papuans who say they support the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, and that they want access to Papua to be opened up for foreign governments, journalists, researchers and the UN.
Papuans don't just want this - they pray for it.
And in the case of Steven Itlay, a Papuan who held a prayer ceremony in support of the Liberation Movement in Mimika in April, he was put behind bars for this.
Almost three months later, he's still in prison, yet another Papuan incarcerated for expressing his political views.
Taking to the street
Since April, there's been a series of large pro-independence demonstrations by West Papuans in the main cities of Papua region, and even in Indonesian cities outside Papua.
The demonstrations, which have been largely peaceful, have featured mass expressions of support for the Liberation Movement and the International Parliamentarians for West Papua.
There have been mass arrests, with around 2,000 Papuans detained on one day alone for participating in a large demonstration in Jayapura to mark the anniversary of the former Dutch New Guinea's controversial 1963 integration into Indonesia.
Since the start of May, over 3000 West Papuans are understood to have been arrested for participation in these peaceful rallies, the most recent one being just over a week ago.
Tomorrow, 1 July, marks the 45th anniversary of the OPM free West Papua Movement's declaration of independence and another round of demos is expected.
The Papua police commander General Paulus Waterpauw has warned that Papuans should not commemorate the anniversary by raising the Morning Star flag, the Papuan nationalist symbol that is effectively banned in Indonesia.
This is unlikely to stop Papuans taking to the streets, but brandishing the Morning Star is still risky business in Papua as the sad death of a Papuan teenager in Nabire city this week seems to confirm.
The family of 18-year-old Owen Pekei say he died after being shot on a motorbike by security forces but police are saying his death was the result of a traffic accident.
However witness statements that police forces were chasing the victim into an ambush situation, and that he was carrying a noken bag with the Morning Star symbol on it, sound all too familiar to West Papuans.
It may be a new phase in Indonesia's international representations over West Papua, but on the ground the old core grievances remain.