Separatist rebels have ramped up attacks on Indonesia’s Trans-Papua Highway, a 4,320-km project that aims to spur development in the contested region
The West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB), the armed wing of the separatist Free Papua Movement (OPM), now appears to be specifically targeting the construction of the Trans-Papua Highway, one of President Joko Widodo’s flagship infrastructure projects.
In the latest incident last week, rebels killed three government soldiers, all members of the elite Indonesian Special Forces (Kopassus), in a firefight that went on for more than five hours in Papua’s Central Highlands district of Nduga. Military spokesmen claimed seven to 10 rebels also died in the attack on a 25-man patrol, but only one body was reportedly recovered. Local TNPB commander Egianus Kogoya insisted on the movement’s website that his 50-strong force suffered no losses.
The March 7 shooting took place not far from the bridge where TPNPB fighters massacred 19 road workers last December in the bloodiest single incident since the controversial United Nations-administered 1969 Act of Free Choice made the former Dutch-controlled territory part of Indonesia.
The government has responded by sending in 600 troops from a South Sulawesi-based infantry battalion and a combat engineering unit which it says will take over construction of 20 bridges that have still to be built between Nduga and Wamena, the quasi highland capital. The rebels first signaled their intentions when they killed a road worker in December 2017. Three months later, four workers died in an attack on a section of the highway in Nduga’s neighboring district of Puncak Jaya, 120 kilometers northwest of Wamena.
Pin-prick attacks continued through June 2018 local elections, when gunmen also opened fire on a small transport plane which had brought Police Mobile Brigade reinforcements into the Nduga district capital of Kenyam to guard ballot boxes.
The way the poorly armed rebels were able to sustain the latest contact for so long suggests they have either found a new source of ammunition or, as is more likely, they have developed a better appreciation of fire discipline.
But it also shows that they are determined to slow construction of the road on its path from the coastal city of Sorong in the western Bird’s Head region across the rugged mountain chain to Merauke on the southeast coast bordering Papua New Guinea.
The targeting of the highway is reminiscent of the efforts by Communist Party of Thailand (CPT) insurgents to stop construction on a border road in northern Nan province in the 1970s which threatened to cut off infiltration routes from neighboring Laos.
More than 200 soldiers and road workers died before the work was finished in 1981, about the same time as the CPT started to fall apart as a result of internal disputes and a falling out between the communist parties of China and Vietnam.
The 4,320-kilometer Trans-Papua Highway promises to bring important economic benefits, including lower costs for basic necessities, but Papuan leaders have long worried about the social impact of a project that will open up the Central Highlands for the first time to new settlers. They say nothing has prepared the tribes for an influx of migrants from Sulawesi and other parts of eastern Indonesia who now outnumber indigenous Papuans by as much as 60-40 across the once-roadless territory.
More importantly, the rebels are well aware that the road will allow security forces easier access to areas that once could only be reached by helicopter or after days of slogging through difficult mountainous terrain. While the TPNPB is only a shadow of the CPT and will never enjoy any level of outside support, it can tie up government security forces by making use of its local knowledge of the terrain and focusing its armed struggle on a single objective.
Previously, that objective had been Freeport McMoRan’s giant Grasberg copper and gold mine, 130 kilometers to the southwest, which still experiences pin-prick attacks despite being guarded by a police and military task force since the late 1990s.
The government has sought to play down the recent attacks, but presidential chief of staff General Moeldoko, a former armed forces commander, has objected to the TPNPB being referred to in official statements as an “armed criminal group.”
Moeldoko said last week that the rebels should be called separatists, a term that justifies military involvement, and not likened to a protection racket at Jakarta’s Tanah Abang textile market, which falls under the purview of the national police.
In TPNPB propaganda videos, the fighters appear to confine themselves to only one or two shots a minute, something they only can do by picking the time and place of their engagements. Younger and more militant, Kogoya’s followers are part of a faction previously led by former OPM military commander Kelly Kwalik, who was killed in 2009 by the Detachment 88 counterterrorism unit then led by Tito Karnavian, the current national police chief.
It is believed the 200-strong group is armed with an assortment of 50 military-grade assault rifles, an estimate largely based on the number of weapons lost by the military and police in engagements over the past few years. But their ammunition is still extremely limited, judging by recent engagements, and without external support they will likely never pose a serious military threat beyond stalling road construction projects designed to open their once-safe remote sanctuaries
2) Rights group slams Papua police for shaming 'sex workers’
News Desk The Jakarta Post
Jakarta / Wed, March 13, 2019 / 05:31 pm
The Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR) on Tuesday called for the National Police chief to investigate police officers in Wamena, Papua, for "arbitrarily" shaming alleged sex workers. The rights group also urged the Home Ministry to assess Jayawijaya Regent Jhon Richard Banua, who had condoned "the violation of human rights".
Police arrested 11 women on suspicion of prostitution on Monday in Wamena. It was reported that the police then "dunked" the women, along with their alleged pimp, into a large muddy pond on the premises of the regent's office in front of a crowd.
"We also arrested several students during the sting operation. They had not had sex yet," said Jayawijaya Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Tonny Ananda Swadaya as quoted by local news portal ceposonline.com.
He added that the police regularly shamed people who indulged in morally questionable activities.
Jhon, the Jayawijaya regent, witnessed the punishment and said the local administration and police force took stern measures to end "such behavior".
The ICJR, a Jakarta-based rights group, condemned the police's action as "inhumane".
“What they did was an arbitrary action carried out without any legal basis. It violates human rights,” ICJR executive director Erasmus Napitupulu said in a statement sent to The Jakarta Post, stressing that no Indonesian law existed that criminalized sex workers.
“Even if there are indications of the criminal act of sexual exploitation involving child victims, all legal proceedings must be based on criminal procedural law, which protects human rights,” Erasmus said.
Jhon said on Monday that the the shaming was intended "for the public good", adding that if the "prostitutes" were not punished in some way, it would be impossible to change their behavior.
"We are not only punishing the prostitutes, but also the pimp, who runs a kiosk as a front. We will revoke his business permits," he said, adding that the Jayawijaya administration had also returned dozens of women suspected of prostitution to their homes in December 2018.
"This time, the pimp must send them home," Jhon said.
The National Police spokesman did not respond when the Post contacted him for a comment on the incident. (das)
"They were employed as illegal gold miners in Nabire District and were found guilty based on the Nabire district court's Verdict No. 100 -- 102/Pid.Sus/2018/PN.Nab, dated December 12, 2018. (Before being deported), they had been sentenced to five mon
Timika, Papua (ANTARA) - The immigration authorities in Mimika District, Papua Province, deported 12 foreign nationals for misusing their stay permits.
Chief of the Mimika Immigration Office Jesaja Samuel Enoch remarked on Wednesday that a total of 21 foreign nationals had committed criminal offenses by misusing their stay permits based on the immigration law.
"They were employed as illegal gold miners in Nabire District and were found guilty based on the Nabire district court's Verdict No. 100 – 102/Pid.Sus/2018/PN.Nab, dated December 12, 2018. (Before being deported), they had been sentenced to five months' imprisonment and fined Rp10 million (each)," he noted.
Nine other foreign nationals are still serving jail term and will be deported after their prison term ends, he revealed.
The 12 foreign nationals comprise 11 from China and one from South Korea. They had completed their jail term on March 11, 2019. Reporting by Jeremias Rahadat, Suharto
Last week, Trade Minister Simon Birmingham was in Jakarta to sign Australia’s long-awaited free trade deal with Indonesia. Already our most important security ally in the region, Indonesia is now set to become a trade partner of comparable significance. But throughout the eight months of negotiations,violence has escalated in the Indonesian province of West Papua, with allegations surfacing that the Indonesian National Armed Forces (aka Tentara Nasional Indonesia or TNI) deployed a chemical weapon, white phosphorous, on civilians.
In response to the worsening situation, which includes cases of torture, UN human rights experts have issued an unprecedented declaration condemning a “culture of impunity” surrounding human rights abuses in the region. More than ever, the conflict appears to be mirroring another from our recent past: the Indonesian genocide in Timor-Leste.
Late last year, The Saturday Paper published images of Papuan villagers with severe chemical burns consistent with the use of white phosphorous, in the remote highland region of Ndgua. Tensions in the area were already high, due the continual presence of the TNI, who accompany Indonesian road workers constructing the Trans Papuan railway. Violence broke out after locals took part in a flag raising ceremony in support of independence (flying the Morning Star flag is an arrestable offence), which left 31 Indonesian workers dead.
TNI forces responded with a three-pronged retaliation — artillery, ground troops and an air-bombing campaign, which included the alleged deployment of white phosphorous bombs. White phosphorous is listed as an incendiary weapon in the UN’s Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, which prohibits its use in areas with a high concentration of civilians.
The Indonesian government has officially denied the allegations, calling them“propaganda” and “fake news”. When asked for comment, a spokesperson for Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Marise Payne responded that “our officials have also engaged with a wide range of non-government contacts in Indonesia, including those with first-hand experience of the situation in Nduga, and none have provided any information that would corroborate the original allegation”.
But Ronny Kareni, a spokesperson for the Free West Papua Campaign, cast doubt on this claim, explaining to Crikey that no Australian officials have even been allowed into the area where the alleged chemical attack took place.
“There are two survivors from the bombing, but unfortunately because of security and limitations to access in the region, it has made it very difficult for them to get access to medical supplies, let alone the medical support to obtain scientific findings to prove the alleged use of chemical weapons,” said Kareni. “Local and provincial governments have been restricted to enter the area, so if they want to enter they will have to be followed by Indonesian security forces, which is the military and the police.”
This is not the first time that the analogy has been made, but the similarities between the current conflict in West Papua and that in Timor-Leste are increasingly difficult to deny. It is now known that Indonesia utilised napalm in its fight against Timorese independence, with secret documents released in 2015 revealing that the Australian government was aware of this during the conflict.
Like the profits it obtained from resource-rich Timor-Leste, Indonesia makes billions of dollars from gold and copper in West Papua (mining company Freeport McMoRan is Indonesia’s biggest taxpayer). And just like Timor-Leste, there is overwhelming support for an independence referendum in West Papua — a recent petition delivered to the UN in support of such a vote contains the signatures of 1.8 million West Papuans.
While the 25-year war over Timor-Leste is now widely considered a genocide, the ongoing conflict in West Papua doesn’t appear to yet register as a concern to either side of Australian Parliament. Both the government and the opposition’s official responses emphasise a recognition of Indonesia’s territorial sovereignty over West Papua, and reiterate Australia’s commitment to the Lombok Treaty. The treaty, signed in 2006, had Australia and Indonesia pledge not to support “in any manner” any activities that threaten the “stability, sovereignty or territorial activity” of the other.
The violence in West Papua is arguably even bloodier than it was in Timor-Leste — since Indonesian occupation began in 1963, it is estimated that 500,000 civilians have been killed. Occupation started what has become a sharp decline in the indigenous Papuan population, which Kareni attributes to many seeking refuge in neighbouring Papua New Guinea, and the continuing legacy of a transmigration policy, which created Indonesian settlements in West Papua to alleviate overpopulation on islands like Java. Making up 96% of the West Papuan population in 1971, Indigenous Papuans made up only 48% in 2016, and if this rate continues, the rate will fall to 29% by 2020.
As Australia commits to the free trade deal, strengthening our relationship with Indonesia into the future, West Papuans continue to ask what it will take for the Australian government to intervene, like they eventually did in Timor-Leste. “Part of this trade deal that they are discussing will focus on livestock,” said Kareni. “But what about human lives?”