Friday, February 16, 2018

AWPA West Papua update January -17 Feb 2018

Australia West Papua Association (Sydney)
PO Box 28, Spit Junction, NSW 2088

                                       Summary of events in West Papua for January  -17 February 2018

Melanesian Spearhead Group leaders summit
The 21st Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) leaders summit was held in Port Moresby from 10th to 15th February. The United Liberation Movement for West Papua  (ULMWP) which has observer status at the MSG attended the meeting. The ULMWP lobbied hard for full membership of the MSG. However, the Leaders of the MSG countries referred the West Papuan application for full membership to its secretariat for processing. Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, and chair of the MSG said the leaders of Melanesia have approved new criteria guidelines for observers, associate members and full members to the sub-regional grouping.

EMTV  (15 Feb.) reported that the ULMWP Leader, Benny Wenda was pleased with the outcome. When addressing Melanesian Leaders, Benny had called on the MSG to support West Papua, in the same way that the MSG had shown support for the FLNKS in New Caledonia in their push for independence.

In his statement at the 21st MSG Leaders Summit in Port Moresby, the Vanuatu Prime Minister Charlot Salwai said the MSG chair would agree the MSG originated from a vision backed by strong political desire to strive for the entire decolonisation of the sub region and freedom of the Melanesian people still under the colonial rule.
Prime minister Salwai recalled the leaders agreed at their inaugural meeting held in Goroka, Papua New Guinea on July 17, 1986 that it was important to have common positions and solidarity in spearheading regional issues that are of common interest, including the FLNKS cause for political independence in New Caledonia and the rest of the Melanesian countries that are still struggling for political liberation.
                                                                                                      Photo from ULMWP post

“It is important to remind ourselves as leaders of this organisation that in the quest to be the leading organisation in advancing socio-economic development and political interest of Melanesia and the wider Pacific, we must not lose sight of the core founding principle of this grouping, the achievement of political independence for our Melanesian brothers and   sisters,” said PM Salwai. “This is the raison d’etre for this group, and it must not be diluted in our wider consideration. I therefore encourage the MSG to work in collaboration with parties concerned and encourage dialogue between Indonesia and West Papua to progress the issue forward, as this has been the case with France and FLNKS.”

A report by Johnny Blades at

It was no surprise that Indonesia warned the MSG countries about interfering in other countries affairs. Antara News (15 Feb.) reported that the Director General of Asia-Pacific and African Affairs of the Indonesian Foreign Ministry, Desra Percaya, has warned Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) members against meddling in other countries` affairs in realizing regional cooperation programs.
Desra made the remarks while addressing a MSG ministerial meeting in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, on Tuesday, in his capacity as chief of the Indonesian delegation to the meeting. "We remind member states (of their obligation) to continue to implement the mandate in accordance with the principles of forming MSG, including refraining from meddling in other countries` businesses much less than their sovereignty," he stated in a press statement released on Wednesday.

In a RNZI report (16 Feb.),  a spokesman for Indonesia's embassy in Australia, Sade Bimantara said the Liberation Movement's bid is at a dead end."I don't think they qualify to be a full member of the MSG," he said. "They are not a state, and as opposed to Kanaks, they are not on the C24 (UN) Decolonisation Committee, they are not on the list, West Papua. And also the separatist group does not obtain full support from all the West Papuans." Sade Bimantara said West Papuans were politically free under Indonesia's democratic system. In the report Benny Wenda said  "I want to send my people a message that this is another positive," he said of the MSG's referral of the application for processing. "Step by step, we are in the right diorcetion, so please pray. We hope that the secretariat will discuss our application very soon."

From the Diplomat 16 Feb.

Regardless of the specifics, the MSG saw the inclusion of Indonesia as a participant in the forum as an opportunity to engage Jakarta on their concerns about human rights abuses in West Papua. Their participation also provided a formal international forum where the Indonesian government and ULMWP are able to hold discussions outside domestic constraints. Since both parties have begun attending the MSG, the issue of West Papuan independence has come to dominate the forum’s agenda.

Indonesia also continues to lobby countries in the Pacific trying to counter progress made by the West Papuan cause. ANTARA News reported (1st Feb.) that A number of Southern Pacific island countries have expressed appreciation for Jakarta`s new initiative in developing Papua and West Papua, the Indonesian part of the Melanesian island of Papua. The people of the southern Pacific island countries belong to the same Melanesian race of Papua.  "We support every step taken by the government of Indonesia for the prosperity of the people of Papua and West Papua," Nauruan President Baron Divavesi Waqa said after a meeting with an Indonesian delegation headed by Coordinating Minister for Law, Security and Political Affairs Wiranto at the Government House of the Republic of Nauru, on Wednesday, a government release made available to ANTARA News Agency said.

The Nauruan President said he was confident that the government of Indonesia is sincere in developing Papua and West Papua.  "We people of Nauru will continue to see Indonesia as friend," he said, adding what Jakarta has done is to bring modernity to the country`s most backward regions.
Meanwhile, Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga said his country would not interfere in the affairs of Papua and West Papua, saying that he only want to see human rights are protected and the Papuan culture is preserved.   "We don`t want to interfere with the Indonesian policy. We highly value human rights as well as cultures, but Tuvalu is in no position to interfere in that issue," Enele Sopoaga said.

Health crisis
Much of the reporting on West Papua in the past month revolved around the tragic measles (and malnutrition) epidemic in the Asmat region. Figures vary slightly but it has been reported approximately 72 people, manly children have died in the region. A Voice of America report (7th Feb.) said about 650 children still had measles and at least 223 suffer from malnutrition.

Al Jazeera visited the region.
Al Jazeera's Step Vaesse, reporting from Asatat, said that police and military are helping health workers brought from Jakarta in reaching out to remote villages which have yet to receive any help. Al Jazeera visited Agats village, where a church has been turned into an emergency hospital as other clinics are already overfull with patients.

"We found heartbreaking scenes in the village of Asatat where many children had died; it’s one of the hardest hit villages," Al Jazeera's Step Vaesse, reporting from Asatat, said. Our correspondent said that the malnourished children were "vulnerable to diseases like measles and chicken pox", and "none of these children had actually had proper vaccinations". Report and video footage at

In a statement (Jan 22) by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) it said it  “is concerned about the health crisis facing Asmat regency in Papua, Indonesia. So far, 68 children have died from measles and serious malnutrition in Asmat. As reported by national media, the measles and malnutrition epidemic has affected 11 districts of Asmat regency: Swator, Aswi, Akat, Fayit, Pulau Tiga, Kolf Branza, Jetsy, Pantai Kasuari, Safan, Unirsarau, and Siret. Being the most remote areas of Asmat regency, victims in these districts have faced serious difficulties in obtaining access to medical facilities. Even in the regency’s capital, Agats, the Agats General Hospital (RSUD) is not equipped to deal with all the patients of measles and malnutrition. A category D hospital with limited facilities, paramedics and doctors, the hospital at present needs more medicine due to limited stock, and due to limited space, some patients have been hospitalized in the nearest church building”. Full statement

PHOTO: Sick children wait for treatment at a hospital in Agats, Asmat District. (Reuters: M Agung Rajasa/Antara Foto) ABC News 25 Jan.

An editorial In the Jakarta Post “The death of Papuans” (19 Jan),
Pointed out That “warnings and reports of low immunization coverage and malnutrition reached the Health Ministry in September, officials said. What happened between September and January? Apart from low immunization coverage — not only against measles — many breastfeeding women were known to be malnourished”, and  
In Jakarta the blame game quickly began, with the Health Ministry insisting that under regional autonomy the primary responsibility lay with the local governments — and Papua’s provinces and regencies have received huge sums of special autonomy funds, derived from their rich natural resources, for education and health servi

For all the talk by Indonesian officials that West Papua is now open, an Australian journalist covering the tragedy was expelled after her tweets angered the military.  Authorities said BBC Indonesia bureau chief Rebecca Henschke was escorted out of the province after her social media posts "hurt the feelings of soldiers". One of the tweets shows a photo of supplies sitting on a dock and says, "This is the aid coming in for severely malnourished children in Papua - instant noodles, super sweet soft drinks and biscuits." Another tweet says "children in hospital eating chocolate biscuits and that's it".

The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) criticized the government for banning the three BBC Indonesia journalists from reporting on the measles and malnutrition outbreak in Papua because of the tweets posted by one of them.  
“We condemn the expulsion of the BBC journalists. The incident shows that the government is afraid of foreign reporting of the conditions in Papua,” AJI chairman Abdul Manan said on Saturday. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) also urged the Indonesian authorities to allow journalists to report freely in the troubled region. Indonesia is ranked 124th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2017 World Press Freedom Index.  A BBC report with photos on the crisis  (13 Feb.) “Indonesia's Papua province children starving in a land of gold” at

News in brief
The month began with a clash between an armed group and the security forces.  The shootout occurred at mile 61 in Tembagapura, Mimika District on the 1st Jan. According to the Amole police thee were no casualties. Before the clash the armed group shot at two PT Freeport vehicles which were carrying officers. The cars were slightly damaged.  The police claim the attackers were members of the Waker group.

The Free West Papua Campaign reported (10 Jan) that 14 KNPB activists were arrested on 7th January for raising a KNPB flag. The activists were arrested by the Indonesian military and police in Kisor and were taken to the Indonesian police station in Aifat. They were finally released after about 5 hours in custody. 

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights will send a team to investigate reports of human rights violations in Papua
Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Visited Indonesia between 4 and 7 February. At the end of his visit he announced his office will send a team to investigate reports of human rights violations in Indonesia’s Papua province where a separatist conflict is underway. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said there were reports of serious human rights abuses and it was important to probe these allegations. “I am also concerned about increasing reports of excessive use of force by security forces, harassment, arbitrary arrests and detentions in Papua,” he was quoted as saying by Efe news. Hussein said large mining and logging companies have committed serious human rights violations against farmers, workers and indigenous communities from the island of Sumatra to the island of Papua, including illegal appropriation of land and the criminalization of nearly 200 activists since August last year. He issued a statement on his visit at

The Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Secretary General, Dame Meg Taylor visited Canberra in early February.  The Secretary General was in Australia for regional policy consultations and her discussions will focus on ensuring that people are at the centre of development across the Pacific region.  The agenda over the next two days will focus on the role of the Pacific Islands Forum and theregion more generally within Australian Foreign Policy. AWPA release on her visit at

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) released an U/A  (6 Feb.)  concerning the case of the torture to death of Mr. Isak Dewayekua (23), an indigenous Papuan. Three army personnel of Yonif 755/Yalet illegally arrested and detained Isak and tortured him to death in Kimaam, Merauke Regency, Papua Province. The army personnel forced Isak’s family to accept monetary compensation and sign a letter which demanded that the family drop the case. Currently, the Investigation is still being conducted by the Military Police of Merauke Regency. Later, the case was transferred to the higher Military Police Institution in Military Regional Office (Pomdam) XVII/ Cendrawasih from December 29, 2017. Full U/A at

A 60-year-old woman was fatally shot by Indonesian paramilitary police in a clash between security forces and stone-throwing villagers in the troubled Papua region. The police were transporting an 18-year-old man suspected of theft when villagers intervened to help him. In a statement, they said police fired warning shots during the incident on Saturday. The woman, who was in the crowd, died from a gunshot to the head. Conflicts between indigenous Papuans and Indonesian security forces are common in the impoverished region, which Indonesia annexed more than half a century ago. (SMH 5 Feb./AP).

According to a police spokesperson, five members of a  separatist criminal group, armed with pistols and machetes, attacked members of the Indonesian military at a market in Sinak, Puncak Jaya regency . One soldier was killed in the attack. The attack occurred on Monday the 12th February. The West Papua National Liberation Army claimed responsibility for the shooting.

Dutch-born Franciscan bishop dies aged 96 in Papua
Outspoken human rights champion was said to be suffering from cancer
Katharina R. Lestari, Jakarta  Indonesia February 8, 2018. A Franciscan bishop emeritus from the Netherlands known as a vocal defender of human rightspassed away in Papua province, Indonesia on Feb. 7 at the age of 96.
Bishop Herman Ferdinandus Maria Munninghoff of Jayapura was treated for a month at a hospice in his native Netherlands recently. He was said to be suffering from cancer. Special Masses were held for Franciscan communities on Feb. 8 in the capital of the Indonesian province he served.

Bishop Emeritus Munninghoff was born in Woerden in the central Netherlands on Nov. 30, 1921. He was ordained a priest in 1953 and installed as the bishop of Jayapura in 1972 — a role he inhabited until 1997. Prior to being appointed bishop he served as secretary to the first bishop of Jayapura, Rudolf Joseph Manfred Staverman OFM. Father Gabriel Ngga leads the Franciscans in Jayapura said he visited the bishop at the hospice two weeks ago.  "When I asked him if he was being well taken care of, he said: 'I am happy to stay here. All the staff are good. But I can feel my death is imminent,'" he said.  Father Ngga said the Papuan people would remember him fondly. "He was an outspoken bishop who often spoke out about human rights violations in the region," he said (UCAN News 8 Feb.)

Opinion pieces/press releases/reports etc

Indonesia: strategic threat or strategic partner?

West Papua 2017 Year in Review

A Former Political Prisoner’s Fragile Freedom in Indonesia

Palm Oil Association Urges Gov't to Revive Suharto-Era Transmigration Program

In a Papuan district, tribes push to revive a legacy of sustainability


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