Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Summary of events in West Papua (17 Feb- 6 March 2019)

Australia West Papua Association (Sydney)

Summary of events in West Papua  (17  Feb- 6 March 2019)

Church leaders raise concern over human rights
The World Council of Churches visited Indonesia and West Papua between February 13 – 22. The members urged the Government of Indonesia to take firm action to uphold the rule of law and hold accountable those who have
committed human rights violations in the past.  As a part of the “Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace“ the delegation was hosted by the PGI (Communion
of Churches in Indonesia) and by the GKI (Protestant Church in Papua) and met representatives of churches, civil society and government in Jakarta, Java and in the provinces of Papua and Papua Barat. Parts of the delegation visited churches and communities of other religions in Surabaya, and met with authorities, churches and civil society representatives in Port Numbay, Merauke, Wamena and Manokwari.   https://pacificconferenceofchurches.org/west-papua-freedom?fbclid=IwAR0O2e2c_YoJWzFUjuCgCaZwrZhIFrIC3FOc5CMxLQpZDjE2hJExeWgTWI0

A RNZI report on the visit at https://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/383445/west-papuans-systematically-marginalised-say-christian-churches

Members of a team from the World Council of Churches allowed by Indonesia to visit Papua province in 2019. Photo: WCC (In RNZI report)

UN experts condemn racism and police violence against Papuans
In a media release (21 Feb 2019), the UN condemned racism and police violence against Papuans including the use of a snake being used against a Papuan boy
while being  interrogated by Indonesian police.  The UN also urged the Indonesian Government 
“to take urgent measures to prevent the excessive use of force by police and military officials involved in law enforcement in Papua. This includes ensuring those, who have committed human rights violations against the indigenous population of Papua are held to account,” the experts said. “We are also deeply concerned about what appears to be a culture of impunity and general lack of investigations into allegations of human rights violations in Papua.”.........

West Papua: The genocide in Nduga continues
Rex Rumakiek February 20, 2019 Green Left Weekly  Issue 1210 
The word genocide is simple enough to understand, whether in Nazi Germany, Rwanda, Bosnia, Pol Pot’s Cambodia or in West Papua. The stories and intent are the same, a policy to annihilate the people considered the enemy of those in authority. Describing the horrifying methods used in these countries to eliminate people by state-sponsored activity is mind-boggling. The genocidal activities of the colonial government of Indonesia against the people of West Papua is benign to the level of subjugation and will take time to achieve maximum effect but will produce the same result, the obliteration of the Papuan people. The program is called Operasi Tumpas or Operation Annihilation. Spearheaded by the military, it is an operation of total obliteration of not only the people but also the resources that sustain their existence as a social unit. In the long run these methods will alter or destroy the social infrastructures that maintain the existence of the people. The current military operations in Nduga District in the Highlands of West Papua (West New Guinea) is yet another “tumpas” because there have been many during the past 57 years.

Infrastructure decimated
Whenever an area is declared a DOM (an area of military operation) no one, not even family members and churches are allowed to enter the area to deliver humanitarian assistance. It is strictly off limits to international contact.
The people have grown used to this cycle of military operations. That is why whenever it happens the whole population abandons their villages to the safety of the cold mountains and the jungle. They move with full knowledge that when it is safe to return there will be nothing left for them to return to. Their homes, churches, schools, clinics, including crops and animals will have been destroyed. While in hiding, exposed to the elements, many of their members, especially the young and the old, will die from exposure and malnutrition. Military operations are a major factor, but there are other contributing factors, such as colonial settlers called transmigrasi. They arrive every week in their thousands, facilitated by the authorities to occupy traditional lands and marginalise Papuan owners.
Other contributing factors include poor health and less education. The people have demanded improvement in these areas but instead the government has put infrastructure, including road construction, as its priority to mainly benefit its military operations and colonial settlements. Permanent military operations have been Indonesia’s legacy in West Papua for years and are the reason why the international media is banned from the territory. Direct requests for fact finding missions by the Pacific Islands Forum and the Melanesian Spearhead Group have been flatly denied for this very reason. Calls for Indonesia to end human rights violations by the United Nations Human Rights Council and major international agencies such as Amnesty International, the Red Cross, World Council of Churches, Franciscan International and others, including governments, have all been ignored. Meanwhile human right abuses continue to be more devastating than ever, with the use of chemical weapons.

Crimes Indonesia wants hidden
It is well established that there is an undeclared war of resistance against Indonesian occupying forces. The indiscriminate use of chemical weapons dropped from helicopter gunships against fleeing Villagers of the Nduga region in the Highlands of West Papua indicates the intensity of the war. The colonial army is using these banned weapons in desperation to terrorise the Papuans and reduce resistance. The tactics are well rehearsed. If the resistance does not create an incident the army will produce one as a pretext to launch a major operation. Such pretexts have included, firstly, the death of so-called “civilians”. It is well-known that the TNI (Indonesian National Armed Forces) has long been involved in businesses in West Papua. This is part of their strategy to monitor and defeat the OPM (West Papua Independence Movement). Dressing as civilians is part of their concealed strategy to secure success. Secondly, the people in the Nduga area are opposed to the decision by Indonesian President Joko Widodo to grant a permit to a TNI contractor to build the Trans Papua Highway. The highway will run through Nduga District — a stronghold of the TPN (West Papuan Liberation Army). Tensions have been high since they entered the area and conflict of this magnitude was bound to happen. In late November the contractor was advised in writing by the regional commander of the TPN to cease activities on December 1 [the anniversary of the first raising of West Papua’s flag of independence, the Morning Star] and advising that employees should not interfere with the activities of people celebrating December 1, including the flag-raising ceremony. In spite of this advice, a company employee made a video of the flag-raising ceremony — an action considered very serious by the TPN. The people asked him to stop and even followed him to their camp demanding that he delete the video, but he refused to do so.

The action by TPN troops on December 2 was a surprise to the people of Nduga but they accepted the rationale of self-defence by the TPN, because the video would have been used by the military as evidence against the people. The making of the video proved beyond doubt that employees of the company are members of the military. Some even carry weapons.
Tensions in this district have remained high ever since the massacre in Mapenduma in 1996. In the Mapenduma case, TPN commander Kelly Kwalik reached agreement with church leaders to release hostages, including foreigners, which were being held by his group. The people came together to witness a traditional ceremony on the day of the release. People, especially children, gathered excitedly to welcome the Red Cross helicopter that they thought would be bringing an official to receive the hostages. But there was no official, instead the military arrived with machine guns blazing, mowing down unsuspecting women and children. The incident was documented in a 1999 ABC Four Corners report, “Blood on the Cross”.

Repressive military operations are a government policy of annihilation. Whether armed or not, Papuans must be eliminated. UK-based Amnesty International documented in its 2018 report, Don’t bother, just let him die: Killing with impunity in Papua; the abuses, arbitrary arrests and unlawful killings that have been carried out by members of the Indonesian military against the people of West Papua. This has been going on for the past 57 years and with the current instructions issued by the president, who is the highest commander of the armed forces of Indonesia, we are expecting the worst.
[Rex Rumakiek is the Secretary of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua.]

                Rex Rumakiek (Secretary of ULMWP) with a local Resident raising the flag on Leichhardt Town Hall 30 Nov 2018

Hundreds of students flee violence in Papua
News Desk Agence France-Presse Jakarta  Wed, February 20, 2019  
Hundreds of students have fled fighting in Indonesia's restive Papua province, a local NGO said, amid unconfirmed reports of violent military reprisals after a massacre of civilian workers by separatist rebels. The deaths of 16 government-linked employees at a remote jungle work camp in early December, marked a dramatic escalation from decades of mostly sporadic skirmishes between poorly armed and disorganised guerrillas and a powerful Indonesian military.
Subsequent clashes prompted the Nduga district government to evacuate more than 400 students to the neighbouring Jayawijaya district, according to Humanitarian Volunteers for Nduga and a local education agency official.
"Some of the students are suffering from trauma," said Ence Geong, a coordinator at the NGO, told AFP. "When the military came to the school in uniforms, some of the students ran" in fear.

Scores of other residents are believed to have fled to neighbouring districts or into the jungle amid allegations soldiers carried out arson, harassment and the killing of livestock and civilians, residents and activists said. Local resident Sripona Nirigi told AFP her elderly father Gemin -- a priest -- was shot dead in December during a sweep of the area by the military. His burned corpse was found by one of her siblings some two weeks later, she added. Her account could not be independently verified. Papua military spokesman Colonel Muhammad Aidi rejected claims the military had fired on civilians, calling it a "hoax".
"If there are claims of civilian victims, they're definitely not ordinary civilians," Aidi told AFP.  "They are part of the (separatists) that are attacking the military."
Aidi said the army had investigated the alleged killing of the priest and denied he was shot by soldiers, saying it was still unclear whether he was alive or dead. He added that two soldiers have been killed and several more were injured in clashes with rebels since the December massacre of workers who were building bridges and roads in Indonesia's most impoverished region. The rebels claimed they were legitimate military targets. Local commander Binsar Sianipar separately confirmed the students had been evacuated, but said it was due to a teacher shortage in the area not the military presence.  Indonesian security forces have long been accused of rights abuses against Papua's ethnic Melanesian population including extrajudicial killings of activists and arrest of peaceful protestors. Papua, which shares a border with the island nation Papua New Guinea, just north of Australia, has been the site of low-level insurgency since the 1960s. The former Dutch colony declared itself independent in 1961, but neighbouring Indonesia took control of Papua two years later on the condition it hold an independence referendum. Jakarta annexed the mineral-rich region in 1969 with a UN-backed vote that is widely seen as a sham.

Social Affairs Ministry deploys counsellors to Papua after conflict
News Desk The Jakarta Post  Sat, February 23, 2019   
Children in Jayawijaya regency, Papua, who have been traumatized after fleeing a recent armed conflict between the Indonesian Army and a rebel group in Nduga regency, are receiving social and psychological assistance from the central government, a senior official at the Social Affairs Ministry confirmed on Saturday. Social Security and Protection Director General Harry Hikmat said that a psychology counseling team had arrived at the camp for the displaced people.
“Our team is already at the camp. We have also sent some supplies and logistics to the location,” he said, as quoted by state news agency Antara. Harry said the ministry was currently providing counseling to 210 children at the Sinakma Church through recreational activities and sports. He added that the counsellors were also listening to the local school teachers’ concerns and offering suggestions and recommendations, particularly in relation to the upcoming national exam. An armed rebel group is believed to have been responsible for the killing of dozens of construction workers on Dec. 1, 2018, in Nduga regency, prompting the security authorities to launch a military crackdown to hunt down the suspected perpetrators. (das/swd)

No military operation in Nduga district: Papua police chief
Reporter: Antara 
Jayapura, Papua, (ANTARA News) - Chief of the Papua Provincial Police, Inspector General Martuani Sormin, has stated there is no military operation in conflict-plagued Nduga district, Papua province.Only law enforcement operation code-named "operasi Nemangkawi" is currently being conducted in the district, he said here on Friday.The "operasi Nemangkawi" was launched after an armed criminal group shot dead civilians in Nduga, he said.Therefore, he asked local residents not to take refuge and believe in hoaxes.The security agencies will continue to conduct law enforcement operations in the district because the armed criminal group attacked not only civilians but also security personnel. As a result, construction projects in the district were disrupted, he said. Asked about the residents who have fled their homes, he said their number could not be known exactly because the security personnel were denied access to meet them. "Right now, military and police personnel are not allowed to meet the so-called refugee community," he said. Last year, the armed criminal group led by Egianus Kogoya shot dead and murdered tens of civilians in several parts of Nduga district including employees of construction firm PT Istaka Karya. Reporting by Evarukdijati Editing by Suharto

600 soldiers dispatched to safeguard construction of Trans Papua road
Reporter: Antara 
Makassar, S Sulawesi, (ANTARA News) - Chief of the Hasanuddin Regional Military Command XIV Major General Surawahadi dispatched 600 military personnel to safeguard the construction of the Trans Papua road project on Sunday. The personnel comprised 450 from the Battalion Infantry Raider 431 of the Army`s Strategic Reserve Command (Kostrad) and 150 from the Combat Engineers Battalion, he noted on the sidelines of a ceremony marking the dispatch of military personnel at the Soekarno-Hatta container terminal in Makassar. He called on the soldiers to perform their duties optimally while safeguarding the construction of the bridge on the Trans Papua road where armed criminal group members had killed dozens of workers building the bridge on Dec 2 last year. The duties serve as honor and trust that the state lays on the soldiers, he remarked. "You have heavy tasks and responsibilities to safeguard the construction of the Trans Papua road, including dealing with security disturbance from the armed separatist group," he emphasized.

However, the heavy tasks will become easy if they are done sincerely, wholeheartedly, and responsibly, he added. The government has decided to suspend construction work on several parts of the Trans-Papua road following the shooting of workers building the bridge over the Yigi River in Nduga District, Papua. President Joko Widodo had stated in December 2018 that the government will go ahead with construction of the 4,600-kilometer Trans Papua road despite the shooting of construction workers. Reporting by Suriani Mappong Editing by Suharto. 
Editor: Suharto

Two KNPB activists arrested in Bitung for carrying morning star t-shirts
Tabloid Jubi. Published on 23 February 2019  By pr9c6tr3_juben

                                                      KNPB activists detained in Bitung. – Jubi / Dok KNPB Consulate 

Jayapura, Jubi – The police arrested two activists of the West Papua National
Committee (KNPB) in Bitung, North Sulawesi Province for carrying clothes with a morning star logo. The activists Yus Iyai (Chair of KNPB Dogiay) and Siska Auswe (KNPB Consulate member) who were going to return home to Nabire arrested at the port on Sunday (17/02/2019). “The police checked our bags and found seven pairs of clothes with ‘morning star’ logo among 23 pairs of clothes, two books about the struggle of Free Papua. It is a wrong act because the police cannot distinguish between flag and logo,” Iyai told Jubi by phone on Tuesday (19/02/2019).

Meanwhile, according to officials, both activists carried the Morning Star Flag. Therefore, they were interrogated and stayed one night at the police detention before being released. As a result, they forced to delay their travel because their ticket was forfeited. “We produced these clothes for sale in Papua because we need extra money for tuition fee. They interrogated us with silly questions, “Are your OPM? Do you have a Papuan flag? Do you want Papua to be free? When do you think you’ll be free?” In regards to this case, Bitung Police Chief Adjunct Commisionaire Stefanus Michael Tamuntuan refused to give information when contacted by Jubi via cellular phone. He asked the reporter to confirm him directly. “I am sorry, the issue like this cannot be confirmed by phone. So, I cannot give further information,” he said. (*)  Reporter: Piter Lokon Editor: Pipit Maizier

West Papua Liberation Army destroys digger in renewed violence
RNZI 1 March 2019 
The attack on Istaka Karya's operations in Nduga regency follows the killing of at least 16 of its employees there by the Liberation Army in December. The Liberation Army has claimed the staff were actually Indonesian military in disguise. In the aftermath of the massacre, hundreds of Indonesian military and police forces deployed to the area in a hunt for the armed group.
Military spokesman Colonel Muhammad Aidi said Liberation Army fighters burned an already-broken excavator in Yigi district and fired shots in the area. He said when military soldiers arrived, the rebels fled without a gunfire exchange. A spokesperson for the Liberation Army, Sebby Sambon, disputed this account, saying an unknown number of military and police were injured in a shootout which took place on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.
However, he said he had only received an initial and unverified report from Liberation Army officials. Mr Sambon said the battle took place after an ultimatum the Liberation Army gave to the military and police, which included demands that all non-Papuans leave Nduga and that Indonesia's flag be lowered across the regency. In a statement, Liberation Army Commander Ekianus Kogeya said if the ultimatum was not complied with, there would be another attack.

Free Papua Movement calls for international mediation
RNZI 21 Feb 2019
The Free West Papua Movement, or OPM, has called on the international community to mediate negotiations with Indonesia's government to end conflict in Papua region.

OPM Free West Papua Movement members alongside two PNG MPs at a press conference in Port Moresby, February 2019. Photo: Supplied

Armed conflict in Papua's Highlands between the OPM's armed wing, the West Papua Liberation Army, and Indonesian security forces has intensified since last year. Indonesia's military has increased it operations in the region after the Liberation Army massacrednineteen Indonesian road construction workers in December. According to its co-ordinator for negotiation, Akouboo Amatus Douw, the OPM is willing to negotiate a peaceful settlement of the conflict.
But he said it would only negotiate with the government of Indonesia through an internationally mediated process. Mr Douw said the OPM rejected other forms of internal "dialogue" or "consultation" with Jakarta, citing the controversial referendum through which Papua's incorporation into Indonesia culminated in 1969. "In that 'consultation' (the Act of Free Choice), 1025 men and women selected by the Indonesian military were threatened to accept incorporation into Indonesia," he said. "That process, orchestrated by Indonesia with the support of the United States and the Netherlands via the United Nations, violated all internationally recognised principles of self-determination and was hence illegitimate.”

Indonesia's government insists its territorial sovereignty over Papua is final, and has vowed to crush the Liberation Army which it brands a criminal armed group.
The Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs, Wiranto, recently ruled outany negotiation with the OPM or its armed wing. He warned that OPM was spreading misinformation through propaganda that was creating anxiety about the situation in Papua. Meanwhile, the OPM welcomed current efforts by the UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet to send a team from her office to visit Papua. Noting concerns about human rights abuses in Papua, Ms Bachelet last month said her office was talking to Indonesiain the hope of securing permission to access the remote region. Mr Douw said that the OPM hoped Ms Bachelet could make recommendations for addressing the conflict towards a final peace agreement. The OPM also urged the Netherlands, as West Papua's former colonial power, to accept moral responsibility and support the call for internationally mediated negotiations.

Police Name Former Laskar Jihad Leader a Suspect in Religiously Charged Assault Case in Papua
BY : FAROUK ARNAZ & DION BISARA  Jakarta Globe MARCH 01, 2019 
Jakarta. Police have named firebrand cleric Ja'far Umar Thalib, former commander of the disbanded Islamist militant organization Laskar Jihad, a suspect in a case of assault in Jayapura, Papua.  Ja'far, who is at the forefront of spreading a puritanical form of Islam in Indonesia, has a long history of involvement in sectarian conflict. 

According to media reports, the Jayapura chapter of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) had raised concern over the past three years that the actions of Ja'far and his followers could harm the delicate religious harmony in Indonesia's easternmost province. On Wednesday, these concerns materialized. Police said Ja'far – who runs the Ihya As-Sunnah Islamic boarding school in Keerom district, 30 kilometers south of Jayapura – allegedly incited his followers to attack the house of Jayapura resident Henock Niki.  Niki was reportedly confronted at around 5:30 a.m. by several sword-wielding people dressed in white. The pretext for the alleged attack was that he played his music too loud and that it disrupted the morning prayers at a nearby mosque.  "The perpetrators then severed the cables of the victim's speakers. They told him that the loud music was disturbing worshipers in the mosque," National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Dedi Prasetyo told reporters in Jakarta on Friday.

However, according to Dedi, the homeowner told his alleged attackers that the morning prayer was at 4:15 a.m., which should have been over by that time. They subsequently fled south in a minibus. The incident sparked tension among Jayapura residents on Wednesday but police were quick to diffuse the situation before it could escalate. They named seven suspects in the case on Thursday, including Ja'far, who, unlike his co-accused, was not detained over health concerns.  Ja'far is a former student of the Islamic and Arabic College of Indonesia (Lipia), a Saudi-backed university in Jakarta that teaches Salafism, a revivalist movement that demands that its followers return to the practices of 
the Prophet Muhammad and the early generations of Muslims, which it considers the purest form of Islam.

He continued his studies in Yemen, which further strengthened his hardline views. In 2001, Ja'far led Laskar Jihad to help defend Muslims in Ambon during a violent sectarian conflict on the islands. He disbanded the group after the conflict over concerns that politicians may use it for their own gain.
He later established the Ahl Sunnah Wal Jama'ah Communication Forum (FKASWJ) to ensure that Laskar Jihad's former members remain in touch.  
However, Ja'far has been involved in many disputes with Salafists participating in Indonesian politics, according to a report by NU Online, the publication wing of Nahdlatul Ulama, the country's largest Islamic organization.  
Ja'far moved to Keerom in 2015, following the Tolikara incident, during which a mosque was burnt down in the Papuan town. He allegedly launched a jihad, or holy war, against the perceived enemies of Islam in Papua following the incident, while insisting that his continued presence in the province and the building of Islamic schools there were solely for preaching Islam.

Papuans call for expulsion of Muslim cleric
Ja’far Umar Thalib is threatening to turn Indonesian province into a battleground, Christian leaders say
Benny Mawel, Jayapura  Indonesia  March 5, 2019

Protesters march to the Papua governor's office in Jayapura on March 4 carrying a banner that reads 'Dissolve and expel Jafar Umar Thalib and his group from Papua, because it is the land of the Gospel.' (Photo by Benny Mawel/ucanews.com)

A radical Muslim cleric faces being kicked out of Papua after more than 2,000 Christians in Indonesia’s Christian-majority eastern province demanded his expulsion.  Members of the minority Muslim community have also called for Ja’far Umar Thalib, a cleric who gained notoriety in a deadly conflict between Christians and Muslims in Ambon, in the Maluku Islands, almost 20 years ago to be kicked out. The cleric recruited a “jihadist army” in the unrest that claimed the lives of about 5,000 people between 2000 and 2003.The demand to expel him from Papua was made during a protest outside the Papua governor's office in the provincial capital Jayapura on March 4. Protesters said that if the governor did not expel Thalib they would do it themselves. They accused the cleric of violence against Christians since he arrived in the area in 2015, with the latest case occurring on Feb. 27 when he and some followers attacked a Christian man in his home for playing music next to a mosque. The mob also attacked and injured the man’s 14-year-old son.

Protest organizer, Rev. John Barangsano of the Evangelical Christian Church of Papua, said the local government should return Thalib to Java. "We are all here to drive him away peacefully," Barangsano said."His presence has damaged interreligious harmony in Papua, and if no action is taken he will turn this place into a land of conflict," said Rev. Dorman Wandikbo, president of the Evangelical Church in Indonesia.“ He should not be here,” he said, adding that Thalib's influence was spreading in Papua. "We don't want him to create another conflict like the one that devastated Ambon."Theo van der Broek, a Dutch-born Catholic leader, said Thalib and his group pose a serious threat to the people of Papua.

"Papuans want peace, not fighting. So, before any conflict escalates, the government must seriously respond to this appeal," he said.Victor Tibul, chairman of the Papuan Christian Students Movement, said Thalib has the potential to transform Papua from a “land of the Gospel” into a headquarters for terrorist groups. “No one should be allowed to turn it into a battleground,” he said.Several local Muslim leaders were in full agreement.

Taha Alhamid, a Papuan Muslim leader who was also present at the rally, said his community also believed that Talib should be returned to his home town. "We want the police to immediately remove him from Papua," he said.Provincial secretary Herry Dosinaen agreed with the protesters that Thalib had outstayed his welcome. "The government is ready to take action,” he said. (UCANEWS.COM)

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