Thursday, December 6, 2018

1) ABC radio Interview with Benny Wenda

2) Indonesia halts search for Papua dead after clash with separatists
3) Indonesia steps up search for Papua massacre victims as 16 bodies found
4) West Papua is in turmoil
5) OPM Admits Deadly Attack, Demand Independence
6) Police Chief Says Economic Factors Trigger Papua Shooting
7) Vast palm oil project in Papua must be investigated by government, watchdogs say

1) ABC radio Interview with Benny Wenda 
Investigations continue into Papua Province killings
By Catherine Graue on Pacific Beat
Indonesia's President has ordered the police and military to catch all of those involved in the killing of more than 
30 construction workers in Papua Province earlier this week.
It has been described as the worst violence in decades, in the ongoing conflict between pro-independence West 
Papua supporters and the Indonesian government.
Armed men, believed to be part of a separatist group linked to the Free Papua Movement, stormed a 
government-owned road building project, killing dozens of Indonesian workers.
Local media reports said the violence flared after the workers angered pro-independence supporters by taking 
photographs at a rally on Saturday.
Indonesian military have laid the blame on the Free Papua Movement (OPM).
Benny Wenda, the Chairman of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, said while he does not condone
 the violence, he said the armed men, who he describes as the West Papuan military, are there to "defend 
their sovereignty". 
Duration: 4min 37sec

2) Indonesia halts search for Papua dead after clash with separatists

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian soldiers on Thursday retrieved the bodies of nine construction workers killed by separatists in the province of Papua, where fresh fighting halted a search for the remaining dead, a military spokesman said.

Colonel Muhammad Aidi said efforts to retrieve more bodies from the weekend attack on a Papua construction site were halted after soldiers clashed with fighters from the separatist Free Papua Movement (OPM). 
“We still haven’t been able to recover another seven because there was a shootout between the military and the separatist group,” Aidi said, adding that the bodies of 16 of the 19 workers killed in the attack had been located.

The nine bodies retrieved so far were flown to the town of Timika, he said. Most had gunshot wounds to the chest and head. 
On Monday, members of the same separatist group attacked a military post near the construction site, killing one soldier. 
A separatist conflict has simmered for decades since Papua was incorporated into Indonesia after a widely criticized U.N.-backed referendum in 1969.

In June, three bystanders were killed and a child wounded when Papua separatists fired at a plane transporting security personnel for regional polls. 
“We will give the separatist group the chance to surrender and join Indonesia and we will make sure they are safe. If they resist, they will face our force,” Aidi said. 
The OPM separatists said this week they viewed the construction workers 

On Thursday, Widodo said on his official Facebook page “this incident emboldened us to continue the great task of building the land of Papua”. 
OPM spokesman Sebby Sambon said on Wednesday government efforts to develop the province had marginalized Papuans. 
“We don’t need road construction from Indonesia. When we become independent we can make our own roads that are as good as the ones in developed countries,” he told Reuters by telephone. 
Reporting by Jessica Daminana and Gayatri Suroyo; Writing by Fransiska Nangoy; Editing by Ed Davies and Darren Schuettler

3) Indonesia steps up search for Papua massacre victims as 16 bodies found

Updated Dec 06, 2018 | 18:22 IST | AFP
Indonesia Papua massacre: The dead have not yet been publicly identified and the military did not supply details about how they were killed, saying autopsies would be conducted.

Jakarta: Indonesian security forces Thursday stepped up the grim search for victims of a massacre by suspected separatist rebels in restive Papua province, having retrieved 16 corpses so far, the military said. The fatalities, believed to be of construction workers, mark the deadliest bout of violence in years to hit a region wracked by a low-level independence insurgency. "This was a very cruel act," national military chief Hadi Tjahjanto told reporters in Papua, vowing to catch the "rebels" and "bring them to justice".
The bodies were being sent to the city of Timika from the remote district of Nduga, a mountainous region where the attack happened Sunday, the local military said. The dead have not yet been publicly identified and the military did not supply details about how they were killed, saying autopsies would be conducted. An earlier eyewitness account supplied by the military said at least 19 people had been killed, by execution-style shootings or having their throats slit. Previous local media reports put the number of dead as high as 31.

It was not yet clear whether all the dead worked for a state-owned contractor that has been building bridges and roads to boost infrastructure in the impoverished region, the military said. Another 20 people -- including five employees of the contractor -- have been evacuated from the area, but not all the company workers have been accounted for yet.
Some in Papua view Indonesia as a colonial occupier and its building work as a way to exert more control over a region that shares a border with Papua New Guinea, an independent nation. One soldier was killed and two were wounded earlier this week when they were sent to the remote site to investigate reports about the killings, according to authorities.
- Warning letter -
On Wednesday, the military supplied an account from one survivor identified by his initials "JA" who claimed about 50 rebels entered the workers' camp on Saturday and led them away with their hands tied behind their backs.
The following day, the rebels shot dead a group of workers, while some tried to escape, the account said. The attackers allegedly recaptured half a dozen workers and slit their throats, according to the witness, who said at least 19 employees had been killed in all. A Facebook account purportedly run by the National Liberation Army of West Papua (TPNPB) said the armed group had killed 24 workers on the orders of regional commander Ekianus Kogoya.
Indonesia routinely blames separatists for violence in Papua and conflicting accounts are common. This weekend, about 500 activists -- including an Australian -- were arrested in a nationwide police crackdown that coincided with rallies on December 1, a date many Papuans consider their anniversary of independence from Dutch colonialists.
Papua declared itself independent on that date in 1961, but neighbouring Indonesia took control of the resource-rich region two years later on the condition it hold an independence referendum. Jakarta officially annexed Papua in 1969 with a UN-backed vote, widely seen as a sham.
A former employee of the state contractor, who worked in the area of the weekend attack, said rebels had warned the firm in writing last year that the work camp should be vacated around the independence anniversary. "The letter said 'we're asking that workers not disturb us and we won't disturb them,'" the 38-year-old told reporters in Papua. He did not provide a copy of the letter.
Papua experienced several spasms of violence this summer including the killing of three local people, allegedly by rebels. While construction workers have been targeted in the past, much of the violence has involved skirmishes between rebels and Indonesian security forces.
Some fighting has been centred around a huge gold and copper mine operated by US-based firm Freeport McMoRan -- a frequent flashpoint in the local struggle for independence and a bigger share of the region's resources.   

4) West Papua is in turmoil

Last Saturday marked widespread protests across Indonesia by West Papuan students and other activists.

A Papuan student protester holds a banner that reads, "Free Papuan People". (Image: EPA/Fully Handoko)
West Papua is in turmoil with the killing of 31 construction workers and a soldier, widespread protests and the arrest of 537 West Papuan activists across Indonesia. These events follow what West Papuan sources say have been the killing of numerous villagers in recent weeks.
Taken together, these events mark a significant escalation of the otherwise low-level conflict. In September, 1.7 million Papuans signed a petition calling for an act of self-determination, indicating that the desire for independence among indigenous West Papuans is as strong as ever.
The Indonesian government has blamed West Papuan separatists for the killing of the construction workers, most of whom were from Sulawesi, and a soldier on Sunday. Reports say that the construction workers angered locals by taking photographs of a protest on Saturday that marked the 1961 West Papuan declaration of independence, two years before Indonesia occupied the territory.
Indonesian military spokesman Colonel Muhammad Aidi said the incident occurred after members of an “armed criminal separatist group” held a ceremony to commemorate the 1961 declaration. He said that one of the construction workers a company building a bridge in remote region of West Papua took photographs of the protesters, which triggered the attack the following day.

Troops and police who went to investigate the attack were fired on, leaving one soldier dead and another wounded. United Liberation Movement for West Papua chairman Benny Wenda said there had been numerous clashes between the West Papua Liberation Army and Indonesian forces recently. “Bombing, burning houses, and shooting into villages from helicopters are acts of terrorism,” he said of the Indonesian military’s activities.
The West Papua Liberation Army had not previously been active in the Nduga-Wamena region where the attack took place and had no history of such attacks. However, the area is well known for clan violence. A self-described “faction” of the Liberation Army has, however, claimed responsibility for the attack.
There have also been past acts of violence undertaken by aggrieved locals. In at least one other case, too, a 2010 attack against a mine worker convoy was later shown to have been fomented by the Indonesian military seeking to restore their declining role.
Last Saturday marked widespread protests across Indonesia by West Papuan students and other activists. The protests called for a vote on self-determination in West Papua.
The protests follow the reorganisation of West Papuan activist groups in February under the umbrella United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP). There has been an upsurge in activism since the formation of the ULMWP.
Protests by around 300 West Papuan students in the Javanese port city of Surabaya on Saturday was met by at least as many paramilitary police and soldiers, and a nationalist counter-demonstrators who threw rocks and sharpened bamboo poles. Footage of that protest shows several injured people, with others being arrested.    
In 2015, Indonesian President Joko Widodo declared that West Papua would be opened to outsiders, including the international community. However, the Indonesian military quickly contradicted Widodo’s proposal and the territory has remained all but closed to outside access, and foreign journalists remain restricted.
Papua has vast natural resources, including the world’s largest gold and second largest copper deposit at the $100 billion Freeport mine, but remains the poorest province in Indonesia. Low-level violence has continued in West Papua since the mid-1960s, in the past punctuated by major human rights violations of West Papuans by the Indonesian army and police.
Damien Kingsbury is Deakin University’s professor of international politics.


5) OPM Admits Deadly Attack, Demand Independence

TEMPO.COJakarta - Spokesman of the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) Sebby Sambom, confirmed the harrowing truth that his group the Free Papua Movement (OPM), was responsible for the bloody execution on numerous construction workers in Nduga, Papua.
Sebby maintained that the attack was carried out to express their demand of West Papua's independence from Indonesia.
"We demand our right toward independence and sovereignty," said Sebby in a phone interview with Tempo on Thursday, December 6, 2018.
He claimed that the TPNPB rejects the Trans Papua infrastructure development currently ongoing in West Papua. "Our principle is that we refuse any program related to the development of West Papua. We only demand our independence," Sebby insisted.
Prior to the attack on 31 construction workers, the armed rebel group had attacked the Indonesian Army as a protest against the construction project. However, the first attack did not produce the reaction the group wanted.
Sebby Sambom also said that the execution of the innocent workers in Papua was already planned three months prior to the attack. The TPNPB and OPM had monitored the project from afar before commencing the deadly attack.


6) Police Chief Says Economic Factors Trigger Papua Shooting

TEMPO.COJakarta - National Police Chief Tito Karnavian said that economic factors had triggered attacks in Papua, including the recent shooting of bridge project workers in District Yall, Nduga Regency.
"The main problem of armed groups' attacks is the development projects, the welfare [of the community]," Tito said after attending a press conference with President Joko Widodo at Presidential Palace, Jakarta, Wednesday, Dec. 5.
According to Tito, these groups are eager to show their existence allegedly due to the slow development of infrastructure projects, which is caused by the geographic structure. However, the government does not stop to open road access of Trans Papua for 4,600 km.
"They're waiting for the development; [since] this project opens access for them. But these armed groups can hardly wait [for the project to soon be finished], so they show their existence [by launching attacks]." 
The harsh geographic condition hampers the development process of the Trans Papua project. The police chief said such incidents often used to happen in West Papua but since the development in the region has been running well, the disruptions rarely occur.
On December 2, dozens of Istaka Karya workers were attacked by an armed group in Kali Yigi and Kali Aura, Nduga Regency, Papua. The information on the number of casualties is yet to confirm but previously, reports said it reached 31 people.


7) Vast palm oil project in Papua must be investigated by government, watchdogs say

by  on 6 December 2018

  • Last week, Mongabay, Tempo, Malaysiakini and Earthsight’s The Gecko Project published an investigation into the story behind the Tanah Merah project, an enormous palm oil development in Papua, Indonesia, whose owners remain shrouded in secrecy.
  • Observers say what while Papuans have a right to development, the Tanah Merah project is clearly intended to benefit the wealthy and connected individuals who have coalesced around it.
  • Watchdog groups want Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s administration to investigate the permits underpinning the project with an eye toward cancelling them. They have also called on authorities to implement a new regulation requiring companies to disclose their beneficial owners.
The Indonesian government must put an immediate halt to land clearing in the Tanah Merah project, a vast stretch of land earmarked to become the world’s biggest oil palm plantation, environmental advocates and anti-graft watchdogs say.
Spanning 2,800 square kilometers (1,100 square miles), nearly five times the size of Chicago, the land sits at the heart of one of the world’s last great tracts of unbroken rainforest, on the giant island of New Guinea.
Only 2 percent of the land has been cleared, but if the entire project area is cleared as planned, it will release as much carbon as Virginia does annually by burning fossil fuels.
Well-placed observers argue the project is clearly intended to benefit the cabal of wealthy and connected individuals who have coalesced around it, and will fail to deliver development to the indigenous Papuans living in its shadow. They are calling on Indonesian authorities to cancel the licenses underpinning the project, or subject them to special scrutiny as part of an ongoing review of existing permits.
The Tanah Merah project was the subject of a joint investigation published last week by Mongabay, The Gecko Project, Tempo and Malaysiakini. The article revealed how the ownership of the project has been concealed by a maze of shell companies, front shareholders, fake addresses and offshore secrecy jurisdictions, making it impossible to tell who will benefit from the destruction of the rainforest in Boven Digoel district, Papua province.
Even local government officials are in the dark about who is behind the project, greenlit during a chaotic period in the district. Some of the permits for the project were issued by a politician who was in jail at the time on unrelated charges of corruption, for which he was later convicted.
“The forests of Boven Digoel are immensely important to the indigenous people[s] of New Guinea, whose culture and livelihoods depend on the bushmeat, sago and fruits the forests provide and its clean flowing rivers,” Gemma Tillack, forest policy director at the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), wrote in an email. “The region is also a global biodiversity hotspot with species found nowhere else on Earth.”
She called the Tanah Merah project a “scandal” that “reveals how Indonesia’s rainforests and communities are being sacrificed for the greed of overseas investors and corrupt politicians, pretending to be promoting development.”

Oil palms on the edge of the Tanah Merah project. Image by Nanang Sujana for The Gecko Project.
Indonesia is the world’s top producer of palm oil, an edible oil found in countless consumer products as well as biofuels. At the same time, the country has lost more tropical forest since the turn of the century than any nation but Brazil, largely a result of unbridled plantation expansion. This deforestation has catapulted Indonesia up the ranks of the world’s top greenhouse gas-emitting countries and put it on the front lines of the global extinction crisis.
“Far too often these problems are treated as though they are caused by a group of rogue individuals on the ground,” said Eleanor Nichol, campaign leader at Global Witness, an international NGO that campaigns against corporate secrecy.
“The reality … includes a handful of incredibly powerful and well-resourced multinational companies and elite businesspeople, who hide their identities behind anonymous companies incorporated in secrecy jurisdictions like the Cayman Islands and Singapore. This anonymity allows these people to finance wide-scale destruction of climate-critical rainforests without scrutiny or consequence.”
The identities of some of the investors behind the Tanah Merah project have come to light. Malaysian logging firms Shin Yang and Rimbunan Hijau have stakes in the project. Shin Yang is a major shareholder in the sawmill under construction, and Rimbunan Hijau is a minor shareholder in a company with land for a plantation.
Another shareholder is Chairul Anhar, secretary general of the Indonesia-Malaysia Business Council. And another is Desi Noferita, whose brother, Edi Yosfi, is known as a powerbroker in the National Mandate Party, or PAN, an influential Indonesian political party.
The billionaire Saeed Anam family of Yemen has also been linked to the project, although representatives of the family’s conglomerate, the Hayel Saeed Anam Group, deny involvement.
Most of the companies with land for a plantation in the project are owned by holding companies registered to secrecy jurisdictions in the Middle East or Singapore, making it impossible for observers to identity the true shareholders.
“We need to call time on anonymous companies,” Nichol said. “This year the UK demanded its Overseas Territories open up, and all EU member states are about to introduce public registers of the real owners of anonymous companies, so they won’t be anonymous anymore. The rest of the world needs to follow suit.”

Children fishing in Meto village, Boven Digoel. Image by Nanang Sujana for The Gecko Project.
In March, Indonesian President Joko Widodo issued a regulation giving companies one year to disclose the identities of their “beneficial owners” to the government, although in a young democracy like Indonesia it is not a given that such a regulation will be enforced.
“This case is a clear example of why enforcement of the new regulations on beneficial ownership is so important, to ensure that whoever is behind a project like this is held to account,” said Arie Rompas, a forest campaigner with Greenpeace Indonesia. “If the license review process promised by Jokowi’s government through the palm oil moratorium is to be credible, concessions such as these must be revoked.”
In September this year, President Jokowi, as he is popularly known, declared a freeze on the issuance of new permits for palm plantations and ordered a review of all existing permits. Phil Aikman, campaign director for Southeast Asia at Mighty Earth, called the Tanah Merah project a “case in point” of why the moratorium on new permits “didn’t go far enough.”
“The moratorium should also have applied to rainforest and peatland areas in existing concessions, such as those held by shady shell companies in the Boven Digoel district in Papua,” he said.
Permits issued for palm plantations across Papua, including in Boven Digoel, are marked by “many irregularities” and a “lack of transparency,” said Mufti Ode, of Forest Watch Indonesia.
“The impact is that many companies have emerged who only want to seize natural resources without regard to environmental conditions and the rights of indigenous peoples,” he said. “Companies proven to have violated the licensing process and who fail to recognize the existence and rights of the people must [have their licenses] revoked.”
Eric Wakker, co-founder of sustainability consultancy Aidenvironment, called for the Indonesian government to issue a stop-work order on development within the project and to review the permits underpinning it.
“Given its history, to me it is clear that this Tanah Merah problem is the governments’ of Malaysia and Indonesia to sort out, which minimally begins with a stop work order and subsequent transparent review of the issued permits,” he said. “The current governments are in power because people voted for clean development, so that means they must be seen to undo previous governments’ mistakes as well.”
He said he hoped Indonesia’s anti-corruption commission, the KPK, would take a look at the Tanah Merah project, and even work with Malaysia’s anti-graft agency, the MACC, which is “now much more free to operate than previously” following the ouster of former Prime Minister Najib Razak’s government earlier this year.
“Of course, this is not to deny Papuans the right to development but this [Tanah Merah] project isn’t the way to deliver that to them,” Wakker said.

Moses Wine returns from hunting in the forest in Meto. Image by Nanang Sujana for The Gecko Project.
Tillack, of RAN, called on “any banks, investors or consumer good manufacturing companies connected to actors behind the Tanah Merah project” to “immediately cut ties” with them. She pointed out that Unilever and NestlĂ©, two of the biggest palm oil users, had already stopped buying from the Hayel Saeed Anam Group.
“As the world’s leaders unite in Poland to solve the climate crisis, we must call on political leaders to do what they can to ensure that the Tanah Merah project does not proceed,” she said. “If we lose this fight, if Shin Yang builds its giant sawmill, we will not only lose virgin rainforests that are the thriving heart beat of Indonesia, we will lose the one chance we have to limit temperate increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius [2.7 degrees Fahrenheit] and stabilize our climate.”
Banner: Yanuaris Kobi, a member of the Auyu tribe, with his traditional costume. Image by Nanang Sujana for The Gecko Project.
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