Monday, September 9, 2019

Summary of events in West Papua (12 August - 9 September 2019)

Australia West Papua Association (Sydney)

AWPA update
Summary of events in West Papua  (12 August  -  9  September 2019)

Its rare that stories about West Papua go viral in the mainstream media but the mass demonstrations over the past weeks certainly did. The rallies were triggered by the arrest of 43 West Papuan students in Surabaya Indonesia on the 17 August, Indonesia Independence Day.
The incident occurred because it had been reported that an Indonesian flag had been vandalised near a student hostel for Papuans. (It’s not unusual for Papuans to further their education in Indonesia.) in this case Surabaya. Nationalists groups believed that the Papuan students had vandialised the flag and that the students were refusing to take part in Indonesian Independence celebrations. The Jakarta Post (19 August) reported that security personnel and members of Indonesian Nationalist groups attacked the Papuan students throwing stones at the dormitory and chanting “Kick out the Papuans!” and “Slaughter the Papuans!”  The mob also called the students monkeys, pigs and dogs. As they stormed the building the Police fired tear gas into the building and arrested the students. The students were later released after questioning. They had denied any knowledge of the damaged flag.

Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in anti-racism rallies in all the major cities and towns not only in West Papua but also Indonesia. They were not only showing solidarity with the arrested students but also protesting against the racial abuse, both verbal and physical that occurred during the arrests.

                                                          The Jakarta Post 30 August 2019

In Timika, Police arrested 34 people and accused 13 of them of being members of a separatist group. The local people were simply holding an antiracism protest.  In Fak Fak local residents clashed with a rival group of protesters armed with machetes and iron bars.  During the demonstrations shops and a market were set on fire and a Local government building was torched in Manokwari 

A local parliament building burns during a protest in Manokwari Photograph: STRINGER/EPA (The Guardian 19 Aug.)

Protest march in Jayapura against racism towards Papuans in Indonesia, 19 August 2019 Photo: Supplied (RNZI 21 Aug.)

                                                                                 Protesters in Jayapura. Photo: Whens Tebay (RNZI 31 Aug.)

Security forces watch as a building burns after hundreds of demonstrators marched near Papua’s biggest city Jayapura on Thursday night. Photograph: Indra Thamrin Hatta/AFP/Getty Images (In the The Guardian 30 August)

It’s also of great concern that Indonesian militia groups such as the  Red and White Militia were involved in the demonstrations. Two West Papuans were gravely injured by Militia in Fakfak. The Red and White Militia groups have been trained by the Indonesia security forces to intimidate and attack West Papuans. Shades of East Timor.

Jakarta sent in 6000 extra troops to quell the protests.  Extra troops is the last thing  West Papua  needs and they are more likely to escalate a situation and potentially lead to more human rights abuses against the local people.

Jakarta also cut off Internet access to West Papua. Jakarta claimed it was to prevent fake news posts online.  However, the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) Indonesia, and media groups overseas condemned the Internet shut down as an attack on free speech. By blocking the Internet Indonesia hoped to stop the reporting of human rights abuses, which is what Indonesia fears most, attention being brought to the territory.

The Deiyai Deputy Regent reported that  “eight civilians were killed, and 16 people injured and are in the Paniai Public Hospital in Madi for treatment?  However, there is concern that  some victims have not yet been found yet as people fled into the bush.
Footage of security forces firing at West Papuans who appeared to have their  hands above their heads was reported  in both the main stream and on social media. 

Indonesia of course has tried to lay the blame of the recent events  on West Papuan independence groups. 
From a RNZI report
“The United Liberation Movement for West Papua and its leader, Benny Wenda, have been singled out for orchestrating the unrest of recent weeks in Indonesian-ruled Papuan provinces. The turmoil was sparked by Papuan protests which began as anti-racism rallies last month and quickly developed into demonstrations demanding independence. The largest public mobilisations in decades in Papua have prompted the deployment of 6000 extra security personnel to the region, while dozens of activists have been arrested, and at least ten people have been killed in the ensuing violence. The national police chief Tito Karnavian told mediain Jakarta that the unrest had been driven by pro-independence groups and Mr Wenda in particular. He said the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) and the National Committee for West Papua were both responsible for the unrest, and vowed they would be caught. Police said diplomatic channels would be used to hold Mr Wenda to account”.

ULMWP Chairman calls on Widodo and Wiranto to hold a referendum, stop personal attacks  September 5, 2019 in Statement
Hundreds of thousands of West Papuans are rising up for an independence referendum. The people of West Papua are calling for the UN to be allowed in to West Papua, for the root causes of the crisis in West Papua to be addressed through an internationally-supervised referendum on independence. This is what the events of the past three weeks are about. General Wiranto and other leading Indonesian officials are trying to turn this into a personal issue, accusing me of ‘masterminding’ the demonstrations. I do not care what Wiranto, who is wanted by the UN for crimes against humanity in East Timor, has to say about me. He must address the real issue, which is the need for a peaceful transition to independence in West Papua to restore peace, stability and freedom for my people.

Indonesian Government restricts foreigners, journalists intimidated, 

Govt Restricts Foreigners' Access to Papua: Wiranto
TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The Indonesian government has officially announced that it will curb the access of foreign nationals to Papua and West Papua following the recent findings suggesting foreign intervention in the massive demonstrations across the regions in the past several days. “During a meeting with Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi, we agreed not to open the access for foreign nationals as wide as possible in Papua and West Papua,” said Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Wiranto in Jakarta on Monday.
The minister said that transparent and non-restrictive access would be regranted after the government quelled “several elements” that had exacerbated the situation in Papua. “[We will allow it again] after the conditions improve,” said Wiranto..

West Papua journalist faces intimidation, files appeal to UN
West Papua journalist Victor Mambor claims he has faced intimidation and harassment for reporting on the internet blackout sanctioned by the government amid escalating protests in Papua and West Papua. The Indonesia Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI Indonesia), of which he is a member, reported that Victor, the editor of Jubi newspaper and a correspondent for The Jakarta Post, had fallen victim to "doxing" by a social media user with the Twitter handle @antilalat on Thursday. Doxing refers to the publishing of private or identifying information about individuals on the internet, usually with malicious intent.  A day later, UK-based law firm Doughty Street Chambers announced that Victor had filed an urgent appeal to UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression David Kaye regarding internet blocking in the provinces amid protests that have occurred since Monday.  AJI Indonesia's advocacy head Sasmito Madrim said that @antilalat had accused Victor of having links to the Free Papua Movement (OPM) in the provinces and abroad, as well as being an informant for Indonesian lawyer Veronica Koman, who is a lawyer for the West Papua National Committee (KNPB). Sasmita said the accusations against Victor were groundless since Victor had merely been doing his job as a reporter objectively while complying with the journalism code of ethics. "The AJI would like to remind social media users and law enforcers that journalists, in doing their jobs, are protected by Law No. 40/1999 on the press. If anyone thinks there is incorrect journalistic material published in the media, the Press Law regulates the mechanisms that ensure a journalistic right to reply and corrections, and allow the filing of complaints to the Press Council," Sasmito said

Intimidation of students continue
Snake - Filled Bags Reportedly Thrown Into Papuan Dormitory
Translator:  Ricky Mohammad Nugraha Editor:  Petir Garda Bhwana
9 September 2019 
TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Several unknown people reportedly attacked the Papuan dormitory in Surabaya on the early dawn of Monday, September 9. Witnesses claimed that two people riding a single motorcycle threw four bags into the dormitory which was filled with snakes. The Papuan community’s spokesman in the dormitory, Alince Takege, said that the intimidation happened while most of the students were asleep. He also said one of the bags was filled with a 15-20 kilogram python snake. “Someone screamed snake, snake, and then was followed by a commotion. I, myself, immediately woke up,” said Alince to Tempo today. Furthermore, Alince said the students captured the harmless snakes which eventually escaped the bag but some managed to escape to a nearby drainage system. “We were scared since the snakes were quick. We don’t know whether [the escaped snakes] are poisonous or not, the entire students from the dorm are still hunting the snakes down,” he said. Prior to the intimidation, one of the students saw a number of unknown people monitoring the Papuan dormitory from a distance. “One of them even watched us with binoculars,” said one of the dorm’s residents. The East Java Police Department’s Spokesman, Grand Commissioner Frans Barung Mangera said that he has yet to received an official report regarding the incident as he is still in Jakarta for the past month. KUKUH S. WIBOWO

Four Australians to be deported for allegedly taking part in West Papua rally
Four Australians who allegedly took part in a pro-independence demonstration in West Papua are being deported, Indonesian immigration authorities have said.
The four Australians will be deported via Bali after they were detained during a protest in Sorong, West Papua’s largest city, on Tuesday. The arrests came amid weeks of escalating protests and violence. Indonesian police have now banned demonstrations and speeches promoting separatism, and about 6,000 police and military personnel have been flown in.

Papua activist Surya Anta kept in isolation, bombarded by nationalist music – September 5, 2019
and Yosea Arga Pramudita – Civil Society Coalition for Democracy spokesperson Suarbudaya Rahadian has revealed that Paulus Surya Anta Ginting or Surya Anta has been placed in an isolation cell. Anta, the spokesperson for the Indonesian People’s Front for West Papua (FRI-WP) is being held at the Mobile Brigade (Brimob) headquarters in Kelapa Dua, Depok, on charges of treason for his involvement in the raising of the Morning Star flag during an anti-racism action. Not only that, the cell where Anta is being held is constantly being bombarded by nationalist songs from a loud speaker including the songs Garuda Pancasila and Independence Day. “Surya is being held in an isolation cell which does not have any windows. Nationalist songs such as Independence Day and Garuda Pancasila are being played all day long in the cell”, said Rahadian in a press release on Thursday September 5. Earlier, Metro Jaya regional police public relations head 

Senior Commissioner Argo Yuwono denied that Anta had been placed in an isolation cell saying that police have no such cells. “It’s not true that the suspect Surya Anta has been placed in an isolation room because Polri [the Indonesian police] do not have any isolation cells”, said Yuwono. Yuwono said that they have not treated him any differently than the other six suspects that are being detained, adding that Anta has been given permission to pray while he’s been in detention at the Brimob headquarters. As has been reported, as many as six people have been declared suspects in relation to the flying of the Morning Star flag in front of the State Palace on Wednesday August 28. The six people being detained at the Brimob headquarters are Dano Tabuni, Charles Cossay, Ambrosius Mulait, Isay Wenda, Surya Anta Ginting and Wenebita Wasiangge. All of the suspects have been charged under Articles 106 and 110 of the Criminal Code (KUHP) on treason. [Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Lagu Garuda Pancasila Terus Diputar di Sel Surya Anta Fri West Papua”.]

A Global Action for West Papua was held from  the 5th to 7th September around the world.

In Sydney the "Anticolonial Asian Alliance” organised a rally  at Dacey Gardens in Kingsford on the 7 September where community groups joined in solidarity with West Papua.

Photos at

She tweeted about the attack on Papuan students. Now, she is state enemy No. 1Karina M. Tehusijarana The Jakarta Post   Jakarta  /   Fri, September 6, 

Human rights lawyer Veronica Koman is firmly in the government’s crosshairs after the East Java Police named her a suspect for allegedly provoking protests and riots in Papua and West Papua.  The government’s focus on Veronica was in evidence on Thursday, when Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto mentioned her as “the most important part” of his press conference regarding the situation in Papua.  “I think it’s already viral, what she said as provocation, inciting [Papuans] to continue to carry out resistance, to conduct violent demonstrations. She has been named a suspect,” Wiranto said, adding that she was being “pursued by Interpol” because she was currently outside the country.  On Wednesday, the East Java Police announced that they had named Veronica a suspect for allegedly violating four different laws, including the 2008 Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) Law. East Java Police chief Insp. Luki Hermawan said the activist had “aggressively provoked” citizens via twitter account @VeronicaKoman by giving out information on the recent protests and riots. Veronica, who is also a lawyer for the National Committee for West Papua (KNPB), has regularly tweeted videos of marches and rallies in various cities and regions since protests first broke out in Papua and West Papua on August 19. 

News from the Region
Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General on events in West Papua
2.45 pm (Fiji Standard Time) Monday 02 September 2019 
Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General, Dame Meg Taylor has expressed her concern at escalating violence in West Papua (Papua) including reports of several deaths, many injuries, arrests and damage to property. “I am deeply concerned about the situation in West Papua, and I call for calm, and restraint by all parties. “We reiterate our calls for all parties to protect and uphold the human rights of all residents and to work to address the root causes of the conflict by peaceful means. “These events make the proposed visit of the UN High Commissioner for Human rights to West Papua even more important.
“I repeat the recent call by Forum Leaders in Tuvalu for the parties to finalise the timing for a mission of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to West Papua (Papua),” said Dame Meg Taylor. [ENDS]

FLNKS calls for West Papua self-determination, condemns violence
By PMC Reporter -  

FLNKS ... "FLNKS renews its unwavering support for our brothers in West Papua and calls on its militants and supporters to remain vigilant." Image: FLNKS/FB

September 4, 2019 Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk
The New Caledonian-based Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front or FLNKS has condemned the ongoing human rights violations in West Papua and has called for the Papuan right to self-determination to be recognised. In a press release the pro-independence group consisting of mostly indigenous Kanaks said that the recent attacks on protestors and the mass mobilisation of Indonesian troops in Papua had prompted it to “call on all parties to work for lasting solution”. “The FLNKS recalls and supports the constructive dialogue effort with Indonesia initiated by the Pacific Islands Forum – of which New Caledonia is a full member – and calls on the Indonesian Government to work closely with the UN Human Rights Commission to finalise the Commission’s visit to West Papua,” the press release said.

 “Furthermore, the FLNKS renews its unwavering support for our brothers in West Papua and calls on its militants and supporters to remain vigilant in the face of any move to discredit the West Papua liberation movement.”

It called on supporters to denounce any efforts to intimidate solidarity movements for West Papua. Part of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, FLNKS is familiar with the independence struggle, having fought a long, and at times violent campaign for Kanak self-determination from France. The group was formed from a congress of various political parties and unions in 1984, the same year as the Hienghène massacre where 10 unarmed Kanaks were killed by a group of white and mixed-race settlers, or Caldoches.A few years later, 19 Kanaks were slaughtered on Ouvéa Island after an offensive by the French military to free captured gendarme hostages. Then in 1989, the then leader of FLNKS Jean-Marie Tjibaou, and his deputy Yeiwene Yeiwene were assassinated not long after negotiating the Matignon Accord. The right to Kanak self-determination has been acknowledged by the French government and was entertained through an independence referendum last year, which resulted in an anti-independence vote. Two more independence referendums will be held in the next three years in accordance with the Noumea Accord.

West Papua Solidarity March Today
Vanuatu Daily Post By Jason Abel Sep 6, 2019
 The Vanuatu Government has voiced great concern over the deteriorating human rights situation in West Papua and calls for urgent intervention by the international community. “While the deployment of military was deemed necessary to quell recent protests in West Papua, actions are disproportionately heavy-handed, and have already resulted in several causalities,” the Office of the Prime Minister conveyed in a statement yesterday. “Also, and according to early reports received, the Military continues to unfairly target protestors of Papuan origin-through arbitrary arrests and detentions.” “Although, given the communication ‘blackout’ in West Papua, the human rights situation could be much worse.”

Forum Leaders in their meeting in Tuvalu have acknowledged the reported escalation in violence and continued allegations of human rights abuses in West Papua and agreed to re-emphasize and reinforce the Forum’s position of raising its concerns over the violence. The Vanuatu government echoes the recent call by Forum leaders for intervention by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in urging urgent intervention. In other West Papua updates, Lai Sakita, Chairman of VANGO has confirmed a West Papua Solidarity March will be held today at 3PM from Fatumauru Bay to the Parliament House, where a petition will be presented to the Vanuatu government. All members of the public in Port Vila are welcome to join the march in solidarity for West Papua.

Wale: MSG failed West Papua
 05/09/2019, Solomon Islands
The Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) has miserably failed its members and the Melanesian people of West Papua who are fighting for their freedom. That’s the view of Opposition leader Mathew Wale. Wale joined a local gathering of West Papuan supporters in Honiara Thursday to call for the liberation of West Papuans from Indonesian rule. The gathering came at the back of the violent protests staged in Papua and West Papua, which have escalated in recent days.
 “MSG was established to serve the needs of Melanesian countries,” Wale stated.
 “But it has failed its members, including the Melanesians of West Papua,” he told a crowd of West Papuan supporters. He said MSG has a duty to collaborate and dialogue with Indonesia for an independence referendum to be conducted in West Papua. He added the current violent protests in Papua calls for an independence referendum. 

PNG urges UN visit to West Papua
RNZI 9:54 am on 4 September 2019 
Papua New Guinea has reiterated a call for UN representatives to visit West Papua amid widespread protests. Indonesia has banned violent protests and separatist speeches in the two Papuan provinces, where at least 10 people have been killed and dozens arrested. The Southeast Asian country has been struggling to contain unrest since widespread pro-independence demonstrations began two weeks ago. PNG's Foreign Minister Soroi Eoe told parliament in Port Moresby on Tuesday that the latest unrest in Papua was a "sad situation".
He said PNG respects Indonesia's sovereignty, but the issue needs to be addressed by the office of the UN Human Rights Commissioner. "Vanuatu has taken a step but Papua New Guinea has to be very careful as to how we address the issue because of the fact that we share the border," said Mr Eoe. "On the other side is West Papua, on this side is Papua New Guinea. So, our responsibility first is to our own people." Responding to Soroi Eoe, opposition MP Garry Juffa warned Papuans displaced by the conflict could spill over the border to PNG.

In January, Indonesia made an invitation in principle to the Human Rights Commissioner's office, but this has not yet eventuated. PNG Prime Minister James Marape on Monday condemned the violence in Papua saying "No human beings deserve to be killed, especially on their own land," in a televised press conference. Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor called for calm in Papua, saying the recent turmoil made a UN visit even more important, according to a statement released on Monday. At the forum's August meeting in Tuvalu, Pacific leaders called for the UN visit to be finalised. Meanwhile, PNG's former prime minister has called on Indonesia's leaders to prevent killings in West Papua. Peter O'Neill expressed sadness at the unrest, saying that the killing of citizens in West Papua was unacceptable. He urged Indonesia's government to open up dialogue with West Papuan leaders to resolve the issue. Mr O'Neill, who was removed as prime minister in May, said Pacific Islands countries must continue to stress the need for a peaceful response from Indonesia's authorities.

PNG Governor warns Indonesian president Widodo over West Papua 
Papua New Guinea's Port Moresby Governor Powes Parkop has strongly called on the President of the Republic of Indonesia Joko Widodo not to take Papuans for granted. Parkop says today that if President Joko Widodo won’t take heed of what our people are asking him to peacefully solve the issue, East and West Papuans are going to stand united and nothing is going to stop them.

Powes Parkop has long been a supporter of the Papuan call for recognition as an independent state.

Governor Parkop says mobilization of Papuans has started because we are not taking this ill treatment anymore and alerts President Widodo that if he will take Papuans for granted he is to expect something more to come.

“I want to have peace with you (Widodo) because you are my neighbor, I want to exchange with you, I want to interact with you and build relationship. We don’t want to live with hate, discrimination, and in division”, Parkop said.

Parkop says as much as Papuans want to share their wealth and resources with Indonesia, but there is so much hate now because of the killings, rape and torture of Papuan people.

Port Moresby residents, churches, and few parliament leaders stand in solidarity and marched today from Kone field to Jack Pidik Park with some West Papuans after reports of an incident in Surabaya last week where Papuan students were harassed by a mob and later arrested.

The students were released, but the government response to the harassment, and lack of an apology to Papuans, has met with criticism in the Pacific Islands.

Governor Parkop’s call is supported by Northern Governor Gary Juffa, and Vice Petroleum Minister and Komo Magarima MP Manasseh Makiba.

Meanwhile Radio New Zealand reports Indonesia's President Joko Widodo says he will invite prominent Papuans to his palace in the wake of the recent violence there.

The president's office says an invitation will go out to traditional, community, and religious leaders.

Jokowi says the meeting will discuss ways to accelerate prosperity in Papua and West Papua provinces.

FM100/PNG Today

NZ 'deeply concerned' by West Papua violence
RNZI 6 September 2019 
New Zealand's government says it's "deeply concerned" by recent violence in Indonesia's West Papua during protests which have rocked the country.
At least 10 people have been killed in separate clashes between Papuan demonstrators, security forces and vigilante mobs. Dozens of protestors and activists have been arrested by Indonesian police, which have deployed thousands of extra personnel to the region. New Zealand's Foreign Ministry said it was closely monitoring the security situation and has raised concerns with Indonesian authorities. It said it has encouraged Indonesia to facilitate a visit to Papua by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, reiterating a call from the Pacific Islands Forum. "We have urged Indonesia to respect and protect the human rights of all its citizens," a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson said. "New Zealand recognises Papua as part of Indonesia's sovereign territory. We continue to encourage Indonesia to promote peaceful social and economic development in Papua."

AWPA letter to Australian Foreign Minister Senator the Hon Marise Payne at

The Australian Government should call on Jakarta to
-release all West Papuans that have been arrested and charged with treason for simply raising their national flag or taking part in anti-racism rallies.
-call on Jakarta to withdraw the extra security forces it sent to West Papua as a way of easing tension and potentially saving lives. 
-Canberra should re think its ties with the Indonesian military
-encourage Jakarta to finalise the visit by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to West Papua as a matter of urgency.
Its also of concern that the  Indonesian police have named the Indonesian human rights lawyer, Veronica Koman of   spreading ‘fake news’ and inciting unrest. She could  faces up to six years in jail if found guilty. This  move has been criticised  by Amnesty International Indonesia. Canberra should raise the matter with Jakarta urging Jakarta to drop any charges against her as a matter of urgency.

Indonesia complains to Pacific Forum over Wenda participation
Indonesia has complained to the Pacific Islands Forum secretariat over West Papuan leader Benny Wenda's participation at this year's Forum summit.
Leaders of Forum member states are meeting in Tuvalu this week, with Vanuatu's government including West Papuan representatives in its delegation. As the chairman of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, Benny Wenda has been a most active lobbyist for greater regional representation for his people.Vanuatu, the key regional supporter of Papuan aims for independence from Indonesia, has included Mr Wenda and other Liberation Movement representatives in its forum delegation. A spokesman for Indonesia's Foreign Affairs Ministry says it has lodged a protest with the Forum secretariat. He said that by allowing Mr Wenda, with his separatist aims, to participate in the summit, the Forum was not showing neutrality on the Papua issue. Eager to grow connections in the Pacific, Jakarta says it has no desire to talk with unfriendly countries, but rather those that seek economic development co-operation. (RNZI 14 August 2019) 

The Communique In relation to West Papua
West Papua (Papua)

35. Leaders reaffirmed recognition of Indonesia’s sovereignty over West Papua (Papua).
Leaders acknowledged the reported escalation in violence and continued allegations of human rights abuses in West Papua (Papua) and agreed to re-emphasise and reinforce the Forum’s position of raising its concerns over the violence.

36. Leaders called on all parties to protect and uphold the human rights of all residents and to work to address the root causes of the conflict by peaceful means. Further, Leaders agreed to maintain open and constructive dialogue with Indonesia on the issue of alleged human rights abuses and violations in West Papua (Papua).

37. Leaders welcomed the invitation by Indonesia for a mission to West Papua (Papua) by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and strongly encouraged both sides to finalise the timing of the visit and for an evidence-based, informed report on the situation be provided before the next Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting in 2020. 

Surge in Papua violence prompts stronger stand from Pacific leaders
RNZI 29 August 2019 
Jamie Tahana, RNZ Pacific Journalist

As thousands of Papuans took to the streets for a second week of mass demonstrations, Pacific leaders have conceded that, to date, their stance on West Papua has achieved little. The last 10 days have seen some of the largest public mobilisations in Indonesia's easternmost regions for years, with tens of thousands taking to the streets across Papua and West Papua provinces.
Dozens have been arrested and there has been rioting in some areas, with the Parliament building in Manokwari razed. More than 1000 police and military personnel have been deployed to bolster an already significant military presence in the region. On Wednesday, there were reports that up to six people were killed when the military opened fire on a rally in the Deiyai regency. At least three others were injured, and the military said one soldier had been killed. Indonesian police disputed those numbers, saying two civilians and one police officer were killed.

Protesters burned tyres during demonstrations in Manokwari on 19 August, 2019. Photo: Ucu Sawaki

The recent surge of protests and violence has prompted a reckoning among Pacific leaders, who for years have considered the struggle in their neighbourhood, but done little as they stood divided over the extent of their support. "Something more has got to be done because the human rights situation is worsening," said Ralph Regenvanu, the foreign minister of Vanuatu, whose country has been the most ardent supporter of the West Papuan independence movement.

The western half of New Guinea has been the scene of a low-level independence conflict for decades, but in the past year, the human rights situation has deteriorated significantly. Conflict between rebels and the military has raged in the Highlands regency of Nduga. At least 100 civilians have been killed, aid organisations said, and thousands more have been displaced as fighting moved from village to village. Many are now living in squalor in ramshackle refugee camps in the rugged and remote interior. Pacific Council of Churches general secretary Reverend James Bhagwan who visited Papua earlier this year said the situation among indigenous Papuans was dire. "The trauma that they are dealing with which is decades old just keeps compounding because they are marginalised, [and] they struggle for a sense of hope," he said in an interview at this month's Pacific Islands Forum leaders summit in Tuvalu.

The general secretary of the Pacific Council of Churches, James Bhagwan. Photo: RNZ / Jamie Tahana

Mr Bhagwan was in Tuvalu representing the region's community sector organisations and met with the presidents and prime ministers. For Mr Bhagwan, the deteriorating situation in West Papua was one of the most prescient issues. West Papua has long been a festering sore for the Pacific's leaders and has pitted countries who support Papuan independence - like Vanuatu - against Indonesia's allies like Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand. And with the forum's need for consensus, that's meant nothing has happened on the issue for decades. "We know the stand of Fiji, of Australia. We know the influence that Indonesia has in the Pacific, but that's not the issue," Mr Bhagwan said. "The issue is that people are suffering. We are Pacific people, and in the Pacific when someone is suffering you do something. You don't let your Pacific brothers and sisters suffer, that's not the Pacific way." Mr Regenvanu said the forum's default stance on West Papua, which usually involves "noting" concerns about the human rights situation and little more, was becoming increasingly untenable. But that stance appears to be shifting, if only slightly. In Tuvalu this month leaders, including prime ministers who have been reticent to wade into the debate, seemed to agree with Mr Regenvanu, their frustrations finally seeming to boil over.

The Tongan prime minister, 'Akilisi Pohiva, at the 2019 Pacific Islands Forum summit in Tuvalu.  Photo: RNZ / Jamie Tahana

At the meeting with Mr Bhagwan and other community representatives, Tonga's prime minister 'Akilisi Pohiva delivered an emotional response.
"The case has been repeatedly raised and discussed and yet nothing happens," Mr Pohiva told the meeting. "We have become so dependent on other people to control our territory we have lost our sense of selves and self-reliance. Violence will continue to go on and on and on and look at us do nothing."We will continue to discuss the same problem over and over again while our brothers are left behind. We must make sure no one is left behind," he said.
Samoa prime minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi added: "The challenges facing West Papuans have not reduced, and we cannot continue to ignore this issue … we need to review the positions we have taken up until now." What followed in the leaders' communique was the strongest stand on Papua from the region's leaders in years. They unanimously called for the UN Human Rights Commissioner to visit West Papua within the next year to investigate.

The prime minister of Samoa, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, at the 2019 Pacific Islands Forum Summit in Tuvalu.  Photo: RNZ / Jamie Tahana

They "strongly encouraged" Jakarta to finalise a visit by the commissioner Michelle Bachelet's office to investigate abuses including torture, extrajudicial killings, and systemic violence by the police and military, acknowledging the deterioration. Plans for a visit by the commissioner's office were finalised more than a year ago, but a visit has not yet happened, which has prompted a series of complaints from the UN and human rights groups. The Indonesian government insists a visit is still on the table, and discussions are ongoing.
The communique signed in Tuvalu also said the Pacific Islands Forum itself should push for the visit to be finalised, and that a report on the situation in West Papua should be submitted for consideration at next year's forum, which will be held in Vanuatu. Reflecting a shifting dynamic on the issue, Mr Regenvanu said this regional stance on West Papua had the support of all the region's biggest countries - including Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Papua New Guinea.
"The onus is on the secretariat and the member states of PIF, including the members that are … on the human rights council, that they need to make sure the commissioner gets to go," Mr Regenvanu said. (Australia and Fiji are the only Pacific countries on the UN Human Rights Council).

"Indonesia should see that there is a very clear concern and we hope that this statement will make them come to the table and make them work with the UN Human Rights Commissioner to make sure that mission does happen," he said.
While a visit ultimately falls between the UN and Indonesia, which regards West Papua as a purely internal matter, a unified position from the Pacific - where Indonesia is trying to gain more influence - is a significant development, one that longtime West Papuan independence campaigner Benny Wenda welcomed.

The West Papuan independence campaigner Benny Wenda.  Photo: RNZ / Jamie Tahana

"We feel that this is a starting point," said Mr Wenda. "We are fighting for a very long time to recognise the human rights violations in West Papua. This is the first time the leaders have agreed and support[ed] the Vanuatu proposal." But ultimately, like the thousands of West Papuans taking to the streets of Jayapura, Wamena, Manokwari and other places, Mr Wenda wants an independence referendum. That's unlikely, though, and the Pacific backing refused to go that far. While calling for action on human rights abuses in West Papua, the Pacific Islands Forum communique still affirmed Indonesia's sovereignty over the region.

Comment by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Indonesia (Papua and West Papua)
Published on 04 Sep 2019  

Geneva, 4 September 2019 “I have been disturbed by escalating violence in the past two weeks in the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua, and especially the deaths of some protestors and security forces personnel. This is part of a trend we have observed since December 2018, and we have been discussing our concerns with the Indonesian authorities. There should be no place for such violence in a democratic and diverse Indonesia, and I encourage the authorities to engage in dialogue with the people of Papua and West Papua on their aspirations and concerns, as well as to restore internet services and refrain from any excessive use of force. Blanket internet shutdowns are likely to contravene freedom of expression and limiting communications may exacerbate tensions”. “I welcome the appeals made by President Widodo and other high-level figures against racism and discrimination – a long-standing, serious issue in Papua and West Papua provinces – and their calls for dialogue and calm. I note that some arrests have been made and some members of security forces have been suspended in relation to the original violent attacks on Papuan students in Surabaya and Malang, but I am concerned about reports that nationalist militias and groups are also actively involved in the violence. Local human rights defenders, students and journalists have been facing intimidation and threats and should be protected”. ENDS

UN rights chief unable to secure West Papua visit
RNZI 9 Sept 2019 
The UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet says her office has so far been unable to secure a trip to Indonesia's West Papua. In January, Indonesia agreed in principle to allow a visit by the rights chief, but this has not yet eventuated, despite international backing for it. Amid violent unrest which has rocked Papua since mid-August, Ms Bachelet last week urged Jakarta to enter a dialogue with Papuans. Her statement on Wednesday didn't directly address a visit by her office to the region. But in previously unreported comments made after a public talk in Geneva, Ms Bachelet said it hadn't moved forward.
"We have been working with the authorities, but we haven't been able to progress it. But we will continue to talk to them because they promised to my predecessor the visit to West Papua but afterward we try to make it work and it hasn't worked yet but I hope it will work." "The [Indonesian government] have told me that they're looking forward to it," she added*.
*These comments were reported by Samuel Pablo

Indonesian gold miners killed in West Papua
Five gold miners in West Papua's central highlands were killed by local residents on Monday. National police spokesperson Dedi Prasetyo said 74 miners were evacuated from Yahukimo regency after being attacked. Three miners were also injured by the residents, who were armed with machetes, bows and arrows.
Mr Prasetyo told Reuters it was unclear whether the incident was linked to growing unrest across Papua. A spokesperson for the West Papua Liberation Army, a rebel group operating in the highlands, said the gold miners were Indonesian immigrants, killed because they "came to Papuans lands and stole the gold from indigenous Papuans lands". The Liberation Army did not claim responsibility for the attack but warned against further gold mining in the region. (RNZI 5 September 2019)

Opinion pieces/reports/media releases etc.

East Timor-style referendum could happen in Papua too

Pacific leaders want action on West Papua human rights issues 

20 years of freedom for Timor, but Papua is still bleeding

NZ must learn the lessons of East Timor, and break our silence on West Papua

Why West Papua's latest protests are different from the ones before

AWPA letter 23 August 2019 to Foreign Minister

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  2. Fifty students from university of timor-Leste were arrested for protesting the refusal of the government to permit a speech by a visiting west P apuan. This happened on Monday 26th August. It was four days before the 20th anniversary of popular consultation (independence referendum).

    1. Freedom of speech is protected under section 10 of the t-L consitution).
    2. Student demo was not illegal. They only have to notify police before March. They did this task. There is no need to wait for permission.
    Please send request to drop all charges to police minister and prime minister Taur Martin Ruak.
    Jeff Lee in Dili 9.9.19