Tuesday, January 22, 2019

1) International Coalition for Papua on Nduga Case – Rescue team publishes first report on massacre and military raids

2) Free Papua Movement looks to PNG to push for negotiations
3) Indonesia Takes a Page Out of China’s Playbook to Cement Control Over West Papua
4) West Papuans: An indigenous people that the world forgot



1) International Coalition for Papua on Nduga Case – Rescue team publishes first report on massacre and military raids

JANUARY 22, 2019
A rescue team consisting of church leaders, Nduga government representatives, local parliament members and civil society figures have published a report on the killing of 17 government contractors. The report also contains information on the rescue mission, which was launched on 13 December 2018  to evacuate the bodies of four more employees who were still missing since the killing. The rescue team collected information on the military raid between 4 and 10 December 2018 and the situation of affected indigenous communities in the districts Mbuwa, Dal and Mbulmu Yalma.
Case Narrative
The company PT Istaka Karya was contracted by the Indonesian Government to build parts of the Trans Papua Road in the Nduga Regency. In 2017, members of the West Papuan National Liberation Army (TPN-PB) came to an agreement with workers of the road construction company PT Istaka Karya that every year all construction workers must leave the work camp on 24 November. The agreement was made to prevent that the workers would disturb the commemorations of the Papuan National Day on 1st December. Notwithstanding the agreement, the project management did not allow the workers to leave the camp before 24 November 2018. Only a few workers decided to leave work camp, fearing that the TPN-PB feel provocated by their presence.
On 1 December 2018, PT Istaka Karya project supervisor, Joni Arung, and one of his colleagues participated in a worship ceremony and subsequently watched the collective cooking of a pig at the Congregation of the Papuan Tabernacle Church (KINGMI Papua) in Wuridlak Village. The ceremony was also attended by TPN-PB leader Egianus Kogoya and his men, who had donated a pig for the commemoration.
As Joni Arung took pictures of the TPN-PB fighters, Egianus Kogoya became angry. He suspected that Joni Arung was cooperating with the Indonesian security apparatus and would share the pictures of him and his men to the military and state intelligence. The TPN-PB leader seized his mobile phone, checked the pictures and threatened to kill Joni Arung if he would refuse to unlock his mobile phone. Egianus Kogoya checked the pictures and messages on the phone while questioning Joni Arung about the content of messages. As Joni Arung refused to answer, Egianus Kogoya gave the order to arrest all workers at the PT Istaka Karya camp.
On 2 December 2018, the TPN-OPM fighters went to the work camp and arrested 24 PT. Istaka Karya employees. The resistance members tied up the workers’ hands and brought them to the Kabo Mountain, which is located between the districts Yigi and Mbuwa of Nduga Regency, where the TPN-OPM members killed all employees which they suspected to be members of the Indonesian military. A few workers were allegedly released because the resistance leaders believed they were civilian workers. While the exact number of executed workers is uncertain, security forces evacuated 17 bodies, all of them employees of PT Istaka Karya.
On 3 December 2018, at 6.00 am, TPN-PB members attacked the 756 military post in Mbuwa Regency. The exchange of fire lasted until 6.00 pm in the evening. On 4 December 2018, at 11.30, joint security forces launched a military offensive in response to the attacks on the workers and the military post in Mbuwa district. Ground troups were closing in from the Jayawijaya regency, while four military helicopters from a military base in Timika were deployed to Kenyam, the main city in the Nduga regency. Eyewitnesses claimed that one helicopter dropped seven explosives in two locations named Opmo and Ditbobo, while the other three helicopters fired large caliber machine guns at various targets, including several villages in the Mbuwa District. It is unclear which types of explosives were used. Eyewitnesses claimed that the projectiles exploded in the sky and subsequently produced a dense smoke. The military raids continued until 10 December 2018 in various districts of the Nduga regency.
Rescue mission to evacuate bodies and meet victims
On 13 December 2018, a team consisting of church leaders, Nduga government representatives, local parliament members and civil society figures launched a rescue mission to evacuate the bodies of four more employees who were missing since the massacre at Kabo Mountain. The team collected information on the military raid and met with witnesses. Security forces were excluded from the team in order to avoid further exchange of fire.
On the first day of the mission, the evacuation team went to Sombeloma village of Mbuwa district. The team found two dead indigenous Papuans named Nison Umangge (18 years) and Mianus Elokbere (18 years) and returned the bodies to their families. Mianus Elokbere’s body was found in the Otalama village, Mbuwa District. Both victims were allegedly killed by bullets as they tried to flee into the forest when helicopters attacked the village on 4 December 2018.
Several indigenous villagers stated that approximately ten military members came to the village and intimidated the villagers. A military member allegedly threatened several families by saying ”You have killed members of our families so we are going to kill you as well”. The military officers gave the order that the villagers were not allowed to leave their houses between 5 and 12 December 2018. Indigenous villagers with long hair and dread locks were allegedly forces to cut their hair.
Further attempts to find the bodies of workers on the 14 and 15 December 2018 were cancelled after joint security forces followed the rescue team to the Kabo mountain. However, the team managed to meet with a victim named Mentus Nimiangge (21 years). He sustained a bullet wound near the right side of the neck during a ground military attack near the Saidlema mountain, which is located in the district of Dal. The bullet had pierced the body and exited on the left side of the back. Mentus Nimiangge died as a result of the injury on 15 December 2018, after security forces were not able to evacuate him with a helicopter. A further villager named Yarion Kogoya died in the Mbulmu Yalma district due to an alleged heart attack. Witnesses stated that he tried to leave the house and then collapsed as he heard the shots during the military raid on 4 December 2018.  
A further villager named Rabu Gwijangge was allegedly shot dead by military members as military members launched an attack on Wuridlak Village, Yigi District, on 5 December 2018. Rabu Gwinjangge, his son and a group of villagers watched several military members climbing out of a  helicopter. As the soldiers saw the villagers, they allegedly opened fire at them. According to eyewitness reports, Rabu Gwijangge died during the attack, while his son and the other villagers were able to flee. The evacuation team did not find Rabu Gwinjangge’s body because the rescue mission to Yigi had to be aborted.
The team was able to interview Yulianus Tabuni, an active church member who was initially reported dead a few days after the first attacks. Yulianus Tabuni was able to flee an attempted execution by military members. Military members intercepted him and three other villagers at gunpoint, threatening to execute them as an act of revenge. Yulianus Tabuni managed to escape the execution by jumping down a ravine when the military members asked him to speak his final prayer. One of his thighs was injured because of the impact of the landing. The soldiers allegedly released multiple shots in an attempt to kill him after the jump.
It is till uncertain how many indigenous civilians have been injured or killed in the areas Yigi, Dal, Mugi, Mam, Kagayem, Koroptak, Mapenduma, Paro, Yenggelo, Kilmid, Geselema, Meborok during the attacks. Since the initial incident on 2 December 2018, education facilities and activities in these areas have been stopped. According to the rescue team, the health care institutions in the affected areas are dysfunctional or have been abandoned after the armed clashes between the TPN-PB and Indonesian security forces.

Displacement of villagers and missing civilians
Pastors in three affected districts Mbuwa, Dal and Mbulmu Yalma reported that many villagers decided to flee their homes. They feared repressive acts by military members and were unable to collect food from the gardens during the military raid. Cases of displacement were reported from seven KINGMI Papua church congregations of the Mbuwa District and seven congregations in the districts Mbulmu Yalma and Dal. Eye witnesses reported that the refugees could not find any food in the forest. Particularly, children and and elder people carried the burden of the food shortage and extreme weather conditions. Several children reportedly became sick because they only drank water without eating for several days.
In the district of Mbulmu Yalma, five male indigenous villagers – Leniut Gwijangge (19 years), Imanus Nimiangge (21 years), Anol Nimiangge (15 years), Netes Nimiangge (16 years), Alinus Nimiangge (40 years) – are still missing since the beginning of the military offensive on 4 December 2018. They panicked and ran into the forest to hide in the woods. According to the rescue team it was the first time for many indigenous people in the Nduga regency to see helicopters or hear gunfire. Accordingly, the incident caused a panic and trauma among the indigenous peoples in the attacked villages.
On 14 December 2018, joint security forces again launched a large offensive between the villages Iniknggal and Nitkuri, in the Yigi District. A large number of indigenous peoples in the area reportedly fled into the forest and neighboring regencies because they feared repressive acts by Indonesian security forces.
About International Coalition for Papua (ICP): ICp is a faith-based coalition of civil society organisations focusing on human rights abuses in Papua and West Papua. Their extensive research and reporting can be found at www.humanrightspapua.org


2) Free Papua Movement looks to PNG to push for negotiations

7:27 am today  

The Free West Papua Movement, or OPM, says it has political support in Papua New Guinea to push for negotiations with Indonesia.
Along with its armed wing, the West Papua Liberation Army, the OPM plans to hold a press conference in PNG's capital next week

The Port Moresby press conference scheduled for the last day of January is expected to unveil the OPM's plans for proposed negotiations with Indonesia.
It will also address a humanitarian crisis in the central Highlands of Indonesian-ruled Papua.
It's in this remote region where the Liberation Army's fight with Indonesian security forces escalated significantly late last year.
OPM and Liberation Army spokesmen gathering in Moresby said the conflict must be ended peacefully.
Port Moresby's governor, Powes Parkop, is expected to join them at the conference to directly invite Indonesia's government to the negotiating table, they said.
In recent weeks, Mr Parkop has publicly called for PNG to push for an independence referendum for West Papuans.
However, Jakarta has previously refused to negotiate with either the OPM or the Liberation Army, branding them criminal groups.


3) Indonesia Takes a Page Out of China’s Playbook to Cement Control Over West Papua

Nithin Coca Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019

Earlier this month, the Indonesian military raided and destroyed the offices of the West Papuan National Committee, a separatist group in the country’s easternmost region, which has long agitated for independence. The raid came amid allegations that the military had used chemical weapons in airstrikes on separatists in West Papua in late December. The Indonesian government has responded harshly after at least 17 construction workers were killed by West Papuan militants in early December, the deadliest such attack in West Papua in years.

This surge in unrest in the region is the outcome of a harder line that the Indonesian government has taken on West Papua in recent years. During the United Nations General Assembly last September, the prime minister of the tiny Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, Charlot Salwai, criticized that approach. Referring directly to West Papua, he said the Indonesian government needed to “put an end to all forms of violence and find common ground with the populations to establish a process that will allow them to freely express their choice.” 

The reaction from Indonesia, which is usually quiet at the U.N., was fierce. President Joko Widodo hasn’t even bothered to attend the General Assembly in his five years in office, but his government immediately lambasted Salwai. Jakarta’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Dian Triansyah Djani, declared that “Indonesia will not let any country undermine its territorial integrity.” Referring to separatist and independence groups in West Papua, he said Indonesia also “fail[ed] to understand the motive behind Vanuatu’s intention in supporting a group of people who have [struck] terror and mayhem [on] so many occasions, creating fatalities and sadness to innocent families of their own communities.”

West Papua was not part of Indonesia when the country gained independence from the Netherlands in 1949. The region, which has a distinct ethnic and linguistic identity from mostly Polynesian Indonesia, was formally annexed in 1969 after what Indonesians call the “Act of Free Choice,” when a group of hand-selected Papuans voted unanimously in favor of Indonesian control in a vote marred by allegations of blackmail and coercion.

Since then, West Papua has been the site of regular violence, either from one of the many separatist groups on the island, or, more often, the Indonesian military. The island is rich in minerals, the revenue from which make up a significant portion of Indonesia’s budget. Freeport-McMoRan’s huge Grasberg mine alone provided more than $750 million in revenue in 2017.

Many West Papuans, either living in Indonesia or abroad, have been advocating for self-determination for years. But what was primarily a local conflict has now become more regional, as both sides have attempted to internationalize the issue. West Papuans are ethnically Melanesian, like the citizens of Vanuatu and other Pacific Island nations, such as the Solomon Islands and Fiji. West Papuan activists have been working to build connections with these countries, with the goal of having them speak up for Papuan independence, like Salwai did at the General Assembly. 

“West Papua is a regional issue, because we are part of Melanesia, connected culturally and linguistically,” Benny Wenda, an exiled leader of the Free West Papua organization currently based in the United Kingdom, told WPR. “The majority in the Pacific islands, they don’t see West Papua as distant. It’s close to them.” 

The main entity for cooperation in the region is the 18-nation Pacific Islands Forum, founded in 1971, and the Melanesian Spearhead Group within it, which counts the four Melanesian nations as members. West Papuan advocates have used the forum to push for global recognition, including formal membership for West Papua as an occupied country.

The core problem is that the Indonesian government is refusing to engage peacefully with West Papua, instead allowing the military to take the lead.

Indonesia, however, has been pushing back by sowing discord among the forum’s members. It provided military support to Fiji after the island’s 2006 coup, which had led to the imposition of Western sanctions, and offered significant aid to Papua New Guinea. With both countries’ support, in 2011, Indonesia was granted observer status in the Melanesian Spearhead Group. Since then, attempts by the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, an umbrella organization of independence groups, to get a similar status have proved futile. Now, both Fiji and Papua New Guinea say they support Indonesia’s full membership in the group, which would push the West Papua issue to the sidelines.

Since Indonesia got its observer status, “the MSG has become an empty house,” says James Elmslie, a political scientist with the West Papua Project at the University of Sydney. “The MSG is now split on the issue.”

Indonesia’s pressure tactics resemble the actions of a much bigger power in Asia dealing with territories it considers its own: China. Having long sought to isolate supporters of Tibet, China regularly pushes countries to refuse access to the Dalai Lama, as both Russia and South Africa have done in recent years. Beijing also uses a carrot-and-stick strategy to shrink the number of countries that recognize Taiwan, which it sees as a breakaway province. In the past year, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic have dropped their diplomatic recognition of Taiwan in favor of China. Like other countries that have done this, they can expect to be rewarded with aid, investments and more. Conversely, countries that refuse to switch, like Palau, have been squeezed by China and seen their tourism industries suffer.

Unlike China, though, Indonesia is a democracy, one that is often hailed as a model for both Asia and the Islamic world. There was a small window of opportunity, right after the fall of the three-decades long Suharto dictatorship in 1998, when newly democratic Indonesia was engaging with pro-independence activists in West Papua. At the time, East Timor was permitted to hold an independence referendum, and there were calls for something similar in West Papua. 

But when reformist President Abdurrahman Wahid—facing corruption allegations, economic woes and political unrest—was forced to step down in 2001, that window slammed shut. The Indonesian military reasserted control, killing Papuan independence leader Theys Eluay, and things went back to the status quo of repression. Indonesia continued to exploit the region for resources and suppress the voices of Papuans. Democracy may have transformed Indonesia, but it brought little change to West Papua.

Now the situation is only getting worse. The core problem is that unlike a decade ago, the Indonesian government is refusing to engage peacefully, instead allowing, either implicitly or explicitly, the Indonesian military to take the lead. 

Getting an independent view of what’s taking place in West Papua remains as difficult as ever. For decades, the Indonesian government has essentially closed off the region to journalists, international observers and NGOs. The few who do enter face risk of arrest, like Jakub Fabian Skrzypzki, a Polish citizen who is now on trial for alleged ties to Papuan separatists and faces potential life imprisonment in Indonesia if convicted.

It looks like another move out of China’s playbook. Why would democratic Indonesia go that route? Because so far, it’s working.

Nithin Coca is a freelance journalist who focuses on social, economic, and political issues in developing countries, and has specific expertise in Southeast Asia.


4) West Papuans: An indigenous people that the world forgot

By Jessica Franklin Last Updated: Tuesday 22 January 2019

More than 300 different Papuan tribes of ethnic Melanesian origin on the western half of New Guinea have been brutally suppressed by the Austronesian-dominated government at Jakarta since 1963
In December 2018, Survival International began receiving disturbing reports from the Nduga region of West Papua. Church leaders were saying that congregations from 34 churches in the Papuan highlands were missing. A violent military operation by the Indonesian army had forced scores of innocent men, women and children to flee their villages in fear of their lives and seek shelter deep in the forest.
Just before Christmas, things took an unexpected and alarming turn. Survival started to receive disturbing photographs of disfigured bodies, horrific wounds and burns, and of strange canisters that the people say had been dropped on their villages. An Australian newspaper reported that the mysterious canisters appeared to contain white phosphorous, an incendiary and chemical weapon, which “burns through skin and flesh, down to the bone.”
The use of air-dropped incendiary weapons against civilian populations is banned under Protocol III of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. The Indonesian government has categorically denied the use of white phosphorous, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stating on Twitter that the allegation is “totally baseless, non-factual, and gravely misleading.”
Military operations are frequent in West Papua where soldiers and police kill and torture with impunity. West Papua is the western half of the island of New Guinea, colonised and governed by Indonesia, and distinct from the independent country of Papua New Guinea. The indigenous Papuan peoples under Indonesian occupation have endured extraordinary suffering and oppression since Indonesia took control in 1963. Papua’s tribal people are Melanesians: ethnically, culturally and linguistically distinct from the Malay Indonesians who rule them from Jakarta. The government represses political dissent and attempts to “Indonesianize” Papuans, destroying not only lives but also the astonishing cultural and linguistic diversity of more than 300 different tribes.
The highland tribes live by shifting cultivation and hunting; they also keep pigs. During military raids they are too frightened to go to their vegetable gardens or to hunt. According to an independent investigation by Papua’s churches, during a similar military operation in 1998, at least 111 people died from hunger and disease in three villages alone and women and girls as young as three years old were systematically raped and gang-raped.
In the December 2018 attacks, soldiers were searching for militants from the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB), an armed group fighting for West Papua’s independence from Indonesia. The militants had killed an estimated 19 road construction workers in December, believing them to be Indonesian soldiers. In such cases, Indonesian military operations to track down perpetrators disproportionately victimise innocent civilians, who are terrorised, abused, and killed. Even those who escape the army are not safe. Vulnerable villagers, especially the very old or very young, die from exposure and hunger while hiding in the forest.
Despite horrific evidence from the tribes themselves and the appalling history of Indonesian violence and human rights abuses, it has not yet been possible for the alleged use of chemical weapons to be independently verified. International journalists, humanitarian organisations and human rights observers are denied free and open access to West Papua. Survival and other organisations are calling for a halt to the violent and indiscriminate military operation in the Nduga region and for independent investigators, including international weapons inspectors, to be allowed into the area to investigate the alleged use of white phosphorus and other abuses of the civilian population.

As well as the military operations in the highlands, Indonesia’s security forces are brutally repressing peaceful political dissent. In 2018, on December 1, the date commemorated by many as “Papuan Independence Day,” more than 500 peaceful protestors were arrested in cities across Indonesia. On December 31, the Indonesian police and military violently broke up a meeting of the West Papua National Committee (Komite Nasional Papua Barat–KNPB), a non-violent Papuan peoples’ organisation calling for a referendum on the independence of West Papua. More than one hundred police and soldiers stormed and then destroyed KNPB’s office. Nine members of KNPB were arrested and beaten; three have been detained and charged with treason.
West Papuans have described what is happening to them as a ‘silent genocide.’ Its invisibility is, in no small part, due to the restrictions on journalists and the repression of peaceful organisations. The abuse of the Papuan peoples by the Indonesian government is one of the worst atrocities of our times. Papuan voices must be heard; Papuans brave enough to speak out must be protected and the international community must expose and stop the human rights violations that are happening there.
(The author is Survival International’s media officer)

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