Friday, April 12, 2019

1) Joint Statement on the 'Act of Free Choice' Judicial Review Submission

1) Joint Statement on the 'Act of Free Choice' Judicial Review Submission
2) Foreign journalists can monitor polls in Papua if they secure permits  
3) GUEST BLOG: Maire Leadbeater – Reflecting on Bougainville and ‘Soldiers without Guns’

1) Joint Statement on the 'Act of Free Choice' Judicial Review Submission
TAPOL and the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) are calling attention to an application for judicial review of the “Act of Free Choice” by the Indonesian Constitutional Court. Recently filed by human rights lawyers on behalf of West Papua customary leaders and churches, the submission states that the highly contested self-determination “referendum” held in 1969 must be deemed contrary to the rights granted under Indonesian constitution, including the rights to freedom of thought and conscience, right to life, right to feel safe, and the right to not be tortured.

The “Act of Free Choice” took place between July 14 and August 2, 1969. It was implemented following the guidelines of the New York Agreement (Agreement Between the Republic of Indonesia and the Kingdom of the Netherlands Concerning West New Guinea (West Irian [West Papua])of August 16, 1962. The New York Agreement set the terms of the self-determination process. The UN was to assist Indonesia in overseeing an exercise of free choice by the people of West Papua on their political status, choosing between independence or remaining under Indonesian control. There was to be full participation by all adults in accordance with best international practice. However, there was no meaningful support from the United Nations to guarantee a freely-held vote. Instead, Indonesia took control of the process and backed by threats from its military, hand-picked 1025 men and women and forced them to vote for annexation by Indonesia.  It is why West Papuans refer to the referendum as “Act of No Choice”. The referendum was by no means a legitimate exercise of self-determination.

This strategic litigation reminds the international community about the root cause of the long-running conflict in West Papua. The right to self-determination is an erga omnes norm which means that every State has the obligation to ensure that everyone’s right to self-determination is fulfilled.

This 50 years of injustice has cost the loss of hundreds of thousands of indigenous West Papuan lives. West Papuans today still suffer persecution for expressing their rights to self-determination. We encourage the Indonesian government to accept the submission and to acknowledge that the vote staged in 1969 was contrary to rights granted under the Indonesian Constitution. 

TAPOL and ETAN believe that the right to self-determination is fundamental and that the people of West Papua have not yet been given the freedom to exercise that right.

TAPOL and ETAN each work to promote human rights, justice and democracy in Indonesia and Timor-Leste. We join West Papuans in calling for an internationally-supervised referendum conducted according to international standards. 

2) Foreign journalists can monitor polls in Papua if they secure permits  
5 hours ago
Manokwari, W Papua (ANTARA) - Foreign journalists and monitoring institutions can monitor general elections in Indonesia, particularly Manokwari, West Papua province, if they secure permits and immigration documents.

The permits can be obtained from the Foreign Ministry, Chief of the Manokwari Immigration Office Bugie Kurniawan said in a press briefing here on Friday.

The foreign monitoring institutions must be official institutions accredited by the Election Supervisory Board (Bawaslu).

"Foreign monitoring institutions can monitor the elections through two ways. One of them is that they are invited by the elections' organizers such as KPU (General Elections Commission) and Bawaslu," he said.

The second way is that they can file applications, while they must meet qualifications as monitoring institutions, he said.

Foreign journalists wishing to cover the elections must secure a permit from the Foreigners' Visits Coordination Team (Tim Pora) at the Foreign Ministry. The team is made up of representatives from the State Intelligence Board (BIN), the National Police (Polri), immigration office and other related supervisory elements.

He said the Manokwari Immigration Office will supervise foreign nationals before and after the April 17, 2019 elections.

The Immigration Office is coordinating and exchanging information with Bawaslu, intelligence officials, and law enforcers and Tim Pora.

"We will supervise foreign journalists and monitoring officers up to a sub-district level before, during and after the 2019 elections,": he said.


3) GUEST BLOG: Maire Leadbeater – Reflecting on Bougainville and ‘Soldiers without Guns’

TDB recommends Voyager - Unlimited internet @home as fast as you can get The new movie ‘Soldiers without Guns’ does a fabulous job of telling the story of New Zealand’s ground-breaking unarmed Truce Monitoring Group 1997-1998.  No guns can be a safer and more effective option than the alternative. The movie is a fitting tribute to the courage and the sensitivity of the soldiers who broke down barriers through the medium of indigenous cultural exchanges.

The new movie ‘Soldiers without Guns’ does a fabulous job of telling the story of New Zealand’s ground-breaking unarmed Truce Monitoring Group 1997-1998.  No guns can be a safer and more effective option than the alternative. The movie is a fitting tribute to the courage and the sensitivity of the soldiers who broke down barriers through the medium of indigenous cultural exchanges.

It was great to see footage from the July 1997 peace talks held at Burnham military camp, when the New Zealand Defence Force brought over more than 70 Bougainville leaders from opposing factions, including many women.  The process took place under the shelter of Maori tikanga and women set the precedent for their men by openly reconciling with their sisters. 

I have a strong interest in this story from my involvement in the 1990s with the Bougainville solidarity movement.  Sadly a similar story of Melanesian resistance to outside control plays out in nearby West Papua. If I could figure out what got my government to step off the fence and take an initiative to help resolve the crisis in Bougainville, maybe it would help me know what to do to get our political leaders to take a stand for  Indonesian-controlled West Papua.

The movie traces the history of Australian colonial control and its legacy ‘gift’:  the giant Panguna copper mine operated by Bougainville Copper Limited, a subsidiary of the Australian  Conzinc Rio Tinto. It devastated the landscape, poisoned the waterways and displaced the tribal owners of the land while PNG drew 17% of its revenue from mine  taxes and dividends. Bougainville landowners mounted a successful sabotage campaign against the mine forcing it to close in 1989. A struggle for freedom from PNG rule under the leadership of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) followed.   Papua New Guinea’s military offensives finessed a divide and rule strategy that exploited differences between communities in the north and the rest of the territory. 

In 1990 Australian citizens were evacuated and PNG proceeded to close down all services, banks, health facilities and schools.  A tight blockade was imposed and later when fighting engulfed the capital Arawa, the main hospital was burnt down. Malaria, childbirth complications and lack of vaccines took their deadly toll.   Thousands of people were herded into ‘care centres’ or detention camps. Education ground to a stand-still. Estimates of the death toll from the decade of conflict are around 15,000 – approximately 10% of the population. 

Activist Marilyn Havini said it was almost impossible to remain neutral during the war: ‘Guerrilla warfare establishes separate groups that can coalesce or split up according to ever-changing circumstances; they can change sides almost overnight.  Families found themselves in need and had to choose sides just to survive…’ 

Missing from the movie is an account of the years when our Government was reluctant to rock the boat.  True, New Zealand assisted with logistics for some of the earlier failed attempts at peace processes, but maintained the position that it was ‘willing to help’ with mediation but only if asked. New Zealand Government Ministers saw the problems as an ‘internal matter for the Papua New Guinea Government to resolve.’  New Zealand did not challenge Papua New Guinea’s assurances that its aid supplies were being widely distributed when the evidence showed that aid was being withheld from areas not under their control. An Auckland nun, Sister Mary Kenny, was more savvy, devoting her energies to an international ‘aid smuggling’ network collecting goods and medicines that were smuggled through the blockade from the Solomon Islands.  

The film points out that New Zealand was acceptable as a peacemaker because unlike Australia it was seen as ‘neutral’.  Australia has major economic interests in Papua New Guinea and in the mid-1990s continued to supply large amounts of military and economic aid to PNG.  The bullets that killed Bougainville people were made in Australia. Moses Havini, Bougainville’s international representative during the conflict once described the war in Bougainville as ‘Australia’s proxy war’. 

New Zealand was not really a ‘clean skin’.  New Zealand mercenary pilots flew with Australians in PNG Iroquois helicopters on strafing missions. These helicopters were essential to PNG’s conduct of the war.  Shockingly, the helicopters were also used to drop BRA suspects into the sea, and to conduct raids on suspected militants within the Solomon Islands. New Zealand’s pilots came in for official criticism but there was never any formal investigation of their potential involvement in war crimes. PNG officers continued to come to New Zealand to take part in training courses and exchange visits and in 1994 at the time of a visit from PNG Prime Minister Paias Wingti a ‘Status of Forces Agreement’ was concluded.

There was, however, some behind the scenes work going on,  as I found out much later when I talked with former diplomat John Hayes. He was New Zealand’s High Commissioner in Papua New Guinea in the early 1990s and found ways to visit the island and to   develop his relationships with key players on both sides of the conflict. By 1997 he had returned to Wellington where his friendly relationships with PNG politicians stood him in good stead. Foreign Minister Don McKinnon also made unpublicized visits to the island in the mid 1990s and both were personally involved in the covert negotiations with Bougainville leaders and other key players that preceded the 1997 Burnham talks.   

When  his helicopter was fired on during a planned visit to revolutionary leader Francis Ona, Hayes  played the incident down lest it disrupt the work of getting maximum cooperation from all sides.

Fortunately for the people of Bougainville, there were many ‘doves’ within PNG civil society and government circles.   These parliamentarians, Church leaders, and officials were behind many earlier negotiation endeavours.  Ironically, however, it was hawkish PNG Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan who gave peace its best chance. He sought to enlist the support of a notorious firm of mercenaries Sandline International, to ‘render the BRA militarily ineffective and repossess the Panguna Mine.’  

In March 1997 Chan’s secretive actions led to a constitutional crisis when  the Commander of the Defence Forces took it upon himself to terminate the Sandline contract.  Demonstrators condemned the mercenary decision and called for peace. Sir Julius was voted out of office not long after, and peace negotiations moved ahead.   

West Papua and Bougainville:  two self-determination struggles with many parallels, right down to the presence in each territory of a giant mine. (West Papua’s is the Freeport McMoran gold and copper monstrostity).  But when it comes to peace mediation the parallels stop. What would encourage New Zealand engagement? 

I come back to the fact that Don McKinnon and John Hayes went to Bougainville on several occasions and were deeply moved by what they witnessed.  McKinnon wrote of seeing ‘ the vacant stares on people’s faces’ and ‘a generation of young people who had received no education of any kind, except on how to clean M16s and how to shelter from mortar shells…’    The problem is that West Papua is under a form of blockade – one that excludes most media , as well as human rights and many humanitarian NGOs. It is not easy for politicians to visit and to my knowledge no New Zealand politician has since my brother, Keith Locke, then a Green M.P. visited in 2005.

Indonesia rebuffs all proposals for official fact-finding missions so it won’t be a cake walk.  However, Soldiers without guns shows us that where there is a will there is a way.  I am hopeful, I have to be, West Papuan mothers and babies are dying because of ongoing military operations. 

Maire Leadbeater is a human rights activist and writer.

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