Australia West Papua Association (Sydney)
AWPA Update No 3/ 2023
17 May 2023
Armed clashes have continued between the Free Papua Movement and the Indonesian security forces. West Papuans continue to be arrested at peaceful demonstrations and Papuans risk being charged with treason for taking part in the rallies. There has been no improvement in the human rights situation in the territory for West Papuans.
New Zealand pilot Philip Mehrtens has been held by the West Papuan National Liberation Army (TPNPB) for just over 3 months.
In an ABC News report (Apr 26, 2023) Philip said the Indonesian army has been dropping bombs in the area where he’s being held. The TPNPB released a new video showing Phillip Mehrtens alive and well, a week after an ambush on a rescue effort from Indonesia's military left several dead. ABC Indonesia correspondent Anne Barker tells The World Mr Mehrtens claims to be on the move.
Church and Civil society groups are urging that the hostage situation be resolved peacefully and through dialogue and negotiation.
In an open letter to NZ Prime Minister Hipkins and Foreign Minister Mahuta,
by West Papua Action Aotearoa and signed by Maire Leadbeater, Rev. Brian Turner and Catherine Delahunty,
They appealed to the NZ Govermnent to
take up the call of the Church leaders for the withdrawal of forces and a “humanitarian pause” in your ongoing negotiations with the Government of Indonesia and the TPNPB aimed at the release of New Zealand citizen Philip Mehrtens.
Call on Indonesia to allow the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit West Papua urgently because of the gravity of the present situation.
Call on Indonesia to allow an external party to be involved in the talks with the West Papua Liberation Army (TPNPB) in order to achieve a peaceful solution to the impasse.
The letter was endorsed by local and international organisations, community leaders, and individuals…………
Much of the media coverage on West Papua has been on the hostage taking. Some below.
Dangerous for me and the people: Philip Mark Mehrtens responds to Indonesian Military dropping bombs in Nduga
28 April 2023
Susi Air pilot Captain Philip Mark Mehrtens (seated second from left) was taken hostage with TPNPB armed groups. - doc ist
Jayapura, Jubi – Susi Air pilot and New Zealand national Capt. Philip Mark Mehrtens has called on the Indonesian government to stop military operations in Nduga in an effort to free him from hostage-taking by the West PapuaNational Liberation Army (TPNPB) led by Egianus Kogoya.
According to Mehrtens, last weekend, the Indonesian Military (TNI) dropped bombs on the area where he was with other Nduga residents. “Indonesia dropped bombs on this area [Nduga] last weekend, and it was unnecessary because it was dangerous for me and the people here,” Mehrtens said through a video recording made on Monday, April 24, 2023, and received by Jubi on Thursday. In the 1-minute 38-second video, Mehrtens was seen wearing a black t-shirt and shorts. He was sitting and flanked by two men, allegedly TPNPB members. He also explained that he was in good health. “Today, April 24, 2023, it has been almost three months since the TPNPB captured me in Paro. I am alive and well. I live with the people here, sit together, walk together, rest together, there is no problem with me,” Mehrtens said in the video, alternating between two languages, Indonesian and English…………………………
Video ABC News 17 April
More than 30 Indonesian soldiers are missing or feared dead after they came under fire from separatist rebels in Papua. The soldiers were part of a group searching for a New Zealand pilot who was taken hostage by the rebels in February.
Video West Paupuan independence leader calls for NZ hostage pilot to be released | The Pacific
The decades-long conflict in West Papua has been thrust back into the spotlight after separatist rebels kidnapped Aotearoa pilot Philip Mehrtens in February. Benny Wenda, leader of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, spoke with The Pacific’s Tahlea Aualiitia.
Video Media ABC NEWS Australia
Memberitakan Tentang Pilot Selandia Baru Yang Disandera Pasukan TPNPB.
Another open letter
OPM leader calls on Biden to take proactive role in ending West Papuan ‘holocaust’
By APR editor - May 17, 2023 Asia Pacific Report
Free Papua Organisation (OPM) leader Jeffrey Bomanak has appealed to US President Joe Biden for a “proactive role” in ending Indonesia’s “unlawful military occupation and annexation” of West Papua. He claims this illegal occupation led to the subsequent US “foreign policy failure” in protecting six decades of crimes against humanity.
Bomanak made this appeal in an open letter to the President — a harrowing 22-page document citing a litany of alleged human rights violations against Papuan men, women and children by Indonesian security forces — days before Biden’s arrival in the Papua New Guinea capital Port Moresby next week for a vital summit with Pacific leaders.
Other West Papua reports “Six decades of callous betrayal and abandonment – my people enslaved, imprisoned, assaulted, tortured, raped, murdered, massacred, poisoned, impoverished, and starved and forcefully relocated; villages bombed . . . every day of every week,” wrote Bomanak in the letter dated May 17.
He said that when West Papua was part of the Dutch colonial empire for 500 years, “we were never abused and mistreated . . . we were never subjected to crimes against humanity”. However, under Indonesia’s colonial empire, “we have lived in a slaughterhouse with hundreds of thousands of victims — men, women, and children…………………….
Dialogue, not combat, ready
Editorial board (The Jakarta Post) Jakarta ● Fri, April 28, 2023
Misinformation is rampant in this digital era, but the lack of transparency on the part of the government regarding the ongoing attempts to rescue a New Zealand pilot who was abducted by Papuan separatist rebels almost three months ago is equally disturbing. Worse, it could send the wrong message that it has deliberately misled the public, the taxpayers who will demand accountability of every rupiah spent on the operation to release the foreigner. First of all, the Indonesian Military (TNI) played down any use of force and instead supported negotiations to bring Phillip Mehrtens back home safely.
The reality is military troops deployed for the joint operation in Papua called the Peaceful Cartenz, which replaced the Nemangkawi Operation last year, have been combing the jungles in the hilly Papuan regency of Nduga to hunt down members of the West Papuan Liberation Army (TPNPB) and locate Mehrtens.
The hostage-taking took place on Feb. 7 in Paro airport in Nduga after the TPNPB guerillas burned the Susi Air aircraft Mehrtens piloted. All passengers on board were let go unharmed. In the latest video released on Monday by Mehrtens’ captors, the pilot said he was alive and healthy and called on the Indonesian authorities to stop the airstrikes. The New Zealander said Indonesia had dropped bombs in the area where he was being held, putting him and other people’s lives at risk.
The TNI denied on Thursday that they had used bombs, saying the report was part of the separatist group’s propaganda to discredit Indonesia. In 2021, the London-based Conflict Armament Research told Reuters the purchase of thousands of mortar bombs from Serbia by the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) for use in Papua. A local reverend told Reuters he bore witness to bomb attacks by drones on several Papuan villages in October of that year, but BIN flatly denied such allegations. Notwithstanding the accusations, the military’s hostage release mission is underway and looks set to intensify, following a firefight in the Mugi-Mam area in Nduga on Saturday ..............
Viktor Yeimo was sentenced to eight months in prison because of his involvement in the anti-racism protests in West Papua in August 2019. Victor’s lawyer said that the article used by the panel of judges of the Jayapura District Court to sentence Victor had in fact been revoked by the Constitutional Court in 2007. Civil society groups including Amnesty International has called for his immediate and unconditional release
Amnesty International Indonesia and Amnesty International USA said in a statement that the Indonesian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Papuans and those detained solely for their peaceful expressions following the guilty verdict and prison sentence against Victor.
“The fact that he and many Papuans have been arrested and detained for peacefully expressing their political opinion represents the state’s neglect on human rights protection,” said the Amnesty International Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid.
“At the same time, unfair trials are underway. In 2007, the Constitutional Court had revoked Article 155 of the Penal Code and today, the same article is being used against peaceful activists such as Viktor Yeimo. Is the law enforcement moving backward?”
The Jayapura District Court’s Panel of Judges convicted Yeimo of violating Article 155 of the Penal Code related to broadcasting or showing letters or pictures that contain expressions of feelings of hostility, hatred, contempt or humiliation against the government. Previously, the Public Prosecutor charged Yeimo with Article 106 concerning treason, Article 110 Paragraph 1 concerning conspiracy to treason, Article 110 Paragraph 2 on preparing for treason, and Article 160 on sedition.
“What’s been happening to Yeimo and other Papuan activists who spoke up is a form of arbitrariness, misdirection and discrimination,” added Usman. “It will also send a message to other activists and protesters that dissent and peaceful expression of their views are not welcome.”............
West Papuan student charged with treason
Susan Price March 31, 2023 Issue 1378
A West Papuan university student was charged with treason in Jayapura’s District Court on March 28, arising from a November 2022 protest rally that was violently repressed by police. Yoseph Ernesto Matuan, a student of the University of Science and Technology Jayapura (USTJ), was charged for simply calling for a referendum and raising the Morning Star flag at the rally. Two other USTJ students will appear before the court to face charges on April 3.The rally was held to commemorate the 22nd anniversary of the assassination of Papua Presidium Council leader Theys Hiyo Eluay on November 10, 2001. Eluay was murdered by military personnel. The soldiers responsible received jail sentences of just two years……………………
The 1st May was International Labour Day and also the day the UN handed over the administration of West Papua to Indonesia. At a rally in Makassar 5 students from the Democratic Struggle Alliance were arrested because they were suspected of being provocateurs. In Bali the Papuan Student Alliance (AMP) held a demonstration which resulted in a clash with the Nationalist group, The Patriot Garuda Nusantara (PGN).
May Day rally by Papuan students in Makassar broken up by police, 5 arrested
CNN Indonesia – May 1, 2023
Makassar – A demonstration commemorating International Labour Day on May 1 by a group of Papuan students from the Democratic Struggle Alliance has been broken up by police. Five people were arrested because they were suspected of being provocateurs.
During the protest action, which was held on Jalan AP Pettarani in the South Sulawesi provincial capital of Makassar, the scores of demonstrators unfurled a banner with the message "Revoke the Ciptaker [Job Creation] Law, Golput [boycott] the 2024 elections and build a political alternative". However because the protesters we considered not to have informed the police of the action beforehand, it was immediately broken up. "They held (the action) without a notification. Then of course we asked them to disperse in a persuasive manner. There were five people that were arrested", said Makassar metropolitan district police chief Senior Commissioner Mokhamad Ngajib on Monday May 1. Ngajib accused the five who were arrested of being part of a group that caused a riot…………. https://www.indoleft.org/news/2023-05-01/may-day-rally-by-papuan-students-in-makassar-broken-up-by-police-5-arrested.html
Labor Day, AMP Demonstration Demands Free Papua Clashes Again with PGN
May 1, 2023
DEMO: Demonstration by the Papuan Student Alliance in the East Parking Lot of Niti Mandala Renon Field. Agubg Bayu/Bali Express
DENPASAR, BALI EXPRESS – The Papuan Student Alliance (AMP) held a demonstration during the May Day (Labor Day) moment at East Parking, Niti Mandala Renon Field, Denpasar, Monday (1/5) morning. The demonstration was marred by commotion with the Patriot Garuda Nusantara (PGN) community organization.
Based on the monitoring of the Bali Express Newspaper (Jawa Pos Group) in the field, there were around 30 AMP people who wanted to hold a demonstration in front of the Hang Tuah Roundabout, Renon at around 09.00. Before heading to the activity point, they gathered at the Renon Square East Parking. However, they faced challenges from PGN. Given the history of confrontation between the two parties that had clashed only a few weeks earlier, the situation immediately heated up. So the security forces tried to lead the demonstrators back to their gathering point. Until there was tension again in the form of pushing each other. In the end, after tough negotiations, AMP delivered his oration which essentially demanded Papuan independence.......................
The previous rally and clash between the Papuan Student Alliance (AMP) and the Patriot Garuda Nusantara (PGN). Occurred on the 1st April in Bali City .
West Papuan rally in Bali targeted by nationalists
Green Left Susan Price April 3, 2023 Issue 1378
The Australian West Papua Association (AWPA) reports that the Papuan Student Alliance (AMP) held a rally in Bali City, on April 1, calling on the Indonesian government to hold a referendum on self-determination for the Papuan people. The theme of the rally was, "Democracy and Human Rights Die, Papuan People Suffocate"…..
Around Australia Unions and community groups also highlighted issues of concern at the May Day rallies, no nuclear submarines etc. West Papuan supporters also joined the rallies to highlight the issue.
Photos of Sydney May Day at https://awpasydneynews.blogspot.com/2023/04/
POSITION STATEMENT FROM THE CHURCH LEADERS IN THE LAND OF PAPUA
To Mr. President, and all government officials of good will.
Allow us, the leaders of the largest churches in Papua, to express our concern regarding the current situation in Papua. We as leaders of the religious community in Papua want to share our hearts with all of you, because the current situation is a human tragedy that has kept us all away from seeing the image of every human being as the 'face of God on earth'.
To illustrate the situation in Papua, let us start by quoting a portion from a recent Kompas article: "Amnesty International Indonesia noted that from 2018 to 2022 there were at least 91 cases of extrajudicial killings involving the Army, Police, corrections officers, and Papuan pro-independence groups that killed at least 177 civilians. Meanwhile, the number of army and police members who became victims in the same period was 44 people, and members of the pro-independence group were 21 people.
The Institute for Policy Analysis and Conflict Studies (IPAC) data also shows that the number of incidents of insurgency-related violence from 2010 to 2021 continues to increase, exceeding 80 cases in 2021. These incidents killed at least 320 people, mostly civilians (178 people), members of the security forces (92 people), and armed groups (50 people). As many as 98 percent of deaths (316 people) occurred in Papua Province. Research from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) also reveals that violence in Papua is four times greater than the national average. This is very ironic considering that Papua has one of the highest ratios of security forces per population compared to other provinces.”
The escalation described in the general data above is compounded by a number of other recent events. There was a killing by army members in Timika [4 people died], there was shooting incident by the security forces at the mob in Wamena [9 people died], there was the killing of a number of soldiers by TPNPB-OPM in Nduga [5 people died]. Meanwhile, at the grassroots level, a number of residents became victims – some died – in a sweeping operation by the security forces, their homes were destroyed, their security was removed, and in the end………….
Pusaka reports 26 cases of violations to freedom of expression in Papua
Jubi 5 May 2023. News Desk - Freedom Of Speech
Timika, Jubi – The Pusaka Bentala Rakyat Foundation (Pusaka) has released a report titled “Dong Penjarakan Tong Pu Suara dan Pikiran” (They Silence Us), highlighting 26 cases of alleged violations of freedom of expression in Papuathroughout 2022.
Pusaka’s director, Franky Samperante, revealed that the violations occurred during protests against the Papua Special Autonomy policy and the formation of the New Autonomous Region, as well as other efforts to voice injustices in Papua.
The violations were reportedly committed in Jayapura, Nabire, Merauke, Wamena, Jayawijaya, Manokwari, Kaimana, and Sorong, and involved the dispersal, violence, arrest, and criminalization by the Indonesian Military (TNI) and Police.
The report claims that these violations resulted in three deaths and 72 injuries, with 361 people arbitrarily arrested. Of those arrested, 26 are currently undergoing legal proceedings, with 18 of them charged with treason and facing life imprisonment.
Samperante criticized the administration of President Joko Widodo, stating that the most serious and repeated violations against freedom of expression have occurred during his tenure.
The report has been widely covered by local media outlets and has sparked discussions on the state of freedom of expression in Papua.
“The most serious and repeated violations to freedom of expression have occurred in Papua during the administration of President Joko Widodo,” Samperante said in a written statement received by Jubi on Wednesday, May 3, 2023.
Samperante said the suppression of the right to freedom of expression in Papua could deprive people of their right to life. He added that such restrictions also violate Indonesian law, including the guarantee of human rights as stipulated in Law No. 39/1999 on Human Rights, Law No. 9/1998 on Freedom of Expression in Public, Law No. 34/2004 on Indonesian Army, and National Police Chief Regulation No. 1/2009 on the Use of Force in Police Actions.
Pusaka called on the Indonesian government and state security forces to respect and protect the right to peacefully assemble and express opinions, including those who voice their right to self-determination, civil and political rights, socio-economic and cultural rights, and express their disagreement with national government policies in Papua.
The foundation also asked the government to evaluate its security approach in handling and controlling protests in Papua.
In addition, Pusaka urged the government to enforce the law on alleged human rights violations, restore the rights of victims, and conduct effective peaceful dialogue.
Samperante said that the security approach and military operations currently used to handle armed conflicts in Papua have led to the loss of lives, the right to security as well as the right to economic welfare. “The government has the responsibility to fulfill and promote human rights in Papua,” he added. (*)
At least 19 victims killed, and one forcefully disappeared in West Papua in 2022
Human Rights News, Reports / Indonesia, West Papua / 10 May 2023
The ongoing conflict in Papua has resulted in numerous human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, torture, and arbitrary arrests. Over the past years, there have been several reports of such abuses and Human Rights Monitor (HRM) has compiled a list of victims of enforced disappearance and extra-judicial killings between January and December 2022. The chronology of events and witness testimonies allege thatIndonesian police or military members committed these crimes. All but one of the 19 victims are indigenous Papuans and three of them are minors. This reflects the continuing pattern of state violence, violations of the right to life and the persistent racial discrimination that indigenous Papuans face in Indonesia. Most cases have not been followed up through independent investigations and the prosecution of perpetrators in transparent and public trials.
It is essential that the Indonesian government takes immediate action to investigate these incidents, hold those responsible accountable, and work towards a just and peaceful resolution of the conflict in Papua.
In memory of the victims and in solidarity with their families, who continue to seek justice, the Human Rights Monitor has compiled the following section with short case narratives of all reported cases of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances in West Papua throughout 2022:……………………..
Support Runners for West Papua: IDP and Refugees t
Thankyou again for your generous donations as we almost reach our target. The funds raised so far will help towards supporting our local field workers who have identified some immediate needs such as clothing and blankets other basic essential needs to take it nearby districts to give to the IDPs. There is risks involved in the logistics of things as the central highlands region are heavily militarized with show of force on the streets. Nonetheless, our local field workers remain steadfast to visit the areas that are safe enough to meet with the internally displaced Papuans.
While we put 30 days as a timeframe on this page, the fundraising effort will evolve to various support network and friends of West Papua to organise information sessions about this Reilience Initiative.
The reason is that we recognise that it is not just a one-off effort but a sustainable effort to support local field researchers with logisitical and technical needs and supporting the needs of the IDPs and refugees.
Contact me (email@example.com/401222177) if you have the capacity to organise a fundraisng event within your community or to contribute with your skillet in helping with our team.
Support Runners for West Papua: IDP and Refugees to raise awareness of West Papua: Internally Displaced Person and Refugees. https://chuffed.org/project/85dlx210a47n?fbclid=IwAR3_drlSYrz9SX2Z1MJcGfSpe2YxlV43SlVfc55Ua9LPiwQyI40Xn6kWM6s
Public lecture calls for nonviolent alternatives in resolving Papua conflict
Jubi 15 May 2023
The atmosphere of the public lecture "Finding Alternatives in Armed Conflict in Papua organized by BEM USTJ in Jayapura City, on Saturday (13/5/2023).- Jubi/Theo Kelen
Jayapura, Jubi – A public lecture titled “Exploring Nonviolent Alternatives in Papua” was organized by the Student Executive Board of the Jayapura University of Science and Technology (USTJ) in Jayapura City on Saturday, May 13, 2023, where several prominent individuals and human rights activists participated in the discussion.
During the lecture, Melpayanty Sinaga, the Head of the International Relations Program at the Cenderawasih University, said that the longstanding approach of addressing conflicts in Papua by deploying security forces and conducting various military operations, such as the Sadar Operation (1968), Sapu Bersih Operation (1978-1982), and Cartenz Peace Operation (2022), has only served to exacerbate the conflict rather than resolve it.
Sinaga emphasized that the ongoing escalation of conflict has had the most significant impact on the inhabitants of various regions in Papua, including Intan Jaya, Puncak, Puncak Jaya, Yahukimo, Bintang Mountains, Nduga, and Maybrat. According to data compiled by the Papua Task Force of Gadjah Mada University, from January 2010 to March 2022, 468 lives were lost due to violence and conflicts in Papua.
“I conducted research in Sorong Regency and interviewed residents from Maybrat Regency who had sought refuge in Sorong. The conditions they were facing were truly dire. I witnessed how they were forced to leave behind their comfortable homes and either live in the forest or seek temporary accommodations,” Sinaga said.
According to her, it is crucial for the Indonesian government to prioritize addressing the underlying causes of the conflict in Papua as identified by the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), namely the failure of development, the marginalization and discrimination against indigenous Papuans, state violence and alleged human rights violations, as well as the historical and political status of Papua.
Helmi, from the Democracy Alliance for Papua (ALDP), emphasized that the government’s security approach in Papua has consistently relied on deploying a significant number of troops that serve three primary purposes: pursuing the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB), securing border areas, and safeguarding vulnerable areas or national strategic assets.
ALDP’s observations indicate that during the year 2022 alone, a total of 9,205 members of the security forces with combat qualifications were sent to Papua. This figure comprises 7,850 soldiers of the Indonesian Military (TNI) and 1,355 members from the National Police……………………………..
Awyu environmental activists file for intervention to protect land and forests
News Desk - Jubi 10 May 2023
Demonstration against oil palm plantation companies operating on the Awyu tribe's customary land. - Doc. Pusaka Foundation
Jayapura, Jubi – In a bid to protect their land and forests, a group of environmental activists from the Awyu region has filed for intervention at the Jakarta Administrative Court. They submitted an application to participate as intervening defendants in a state administrative dispute brought by PT Megakarya Jaya Raya and PT Kartika Cipta Pratama against the Minister of Environment and Forestry. They wanted to represent the interests of the Awyu tribe in the dispute. Hendrikus Woro, an environmental activist belonging to the Awyu tribe, said his party wanted to become an intervening defendant to highlight that Papua is not a vacant territory.
“We came all the way to Jakarta to support the government in safeguarding our forests against companies that are seeking to demolish them,” Woro said in a written statement received by Jubi in Jayapura on Tuesday, May 9, 2023.
According to Woro, the state administrative lawsuit initiated by the two companies against the Minister of Environment and Forestry could impact the well-being of the Awyu tribe, and as such, they must participate in safeguarding their rights. In a related matter, Woro previously filed a state administrative lawsuit on March 13, 2023, concerning the issuance of an environmental permit for PT Indo Asiana Lestari by the Papua Investment and One-Stop Open Service Office. The permit is situated in Boven Digoel, South Papua.
He said permits granted to several palm oil companies had put the customary forests and living space of the Awyu Tribe at risk. As an indigenous community, the Awyu tribe relies heavily on natural resources such as land, forests, rivers, swamps, and others to sustain their way of life. “These are the sources of our livelihood, food and medicine, as well as our socio-cultural identity. The forest is an ‘eternal asset’ for us indigenous people,” he said………………………………
Papuan rebels have released Telecom workers taken hostage: Police
The Star Monday, 15 May 2023
JAKARTA (The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network): A group of telecommunications workers taken hostage by an armed rebel group in the Papuan Highlands has been released, the local police have said, in the latest kidnapping crisis in the restive region.
Reports emerged on Friday (May 12) that four workers from PT Infrastruktur Bisnis Sejahtera (IBS) who had flown to the province’s Okbab district to inspect the construction of a base transceiver station (BTS), were taken hostage by armed men thought to be members of a Papuan rebel group. Five armed men reportedly approached the group immediately after they landed in Okbab. A physical altercation ensued in which some members suffered injuries. The armed group reportedly demanded Rp 500 million (US$33,600) in ransom for the workers’ release.
Papua Police chief Insp. Gen. Mathius D. Fakhiri claimed on Saturday that authorities had managed to resolve the issue by Saturday night and that only two workers were ultimately taken hostage, both of whom had been released. “There were a total of four people [in the group], three were [workers from PT IBS] who were harmed [by the rebel group], while the other was a local who was allowed to escape unscathed. One [worker] who was harmed managed to flee, while the remaining two were taken hostage,” he said, as quoted by Kompas.com.
“Thanks to the efforts of local leaders and religious figures, the two hostages were [freed] and have been taken to the local community health center [Puskesmas] to receive treatment. That was the report we received from the Pegunungan Bintang deputy regent and its police chief,” he said. Matthias added that the authorities did not know who the kidnappers were and that residents of the district claimed not to recognize them. “[We] strongly suspect that armed rebel groups [were responsible], but we still need more evidence,” he added. Resource-rich Papua has been plagued by severe underdevelopment and exploitation, which has galvanised a separatist movement that has simmered in the background for decades.
In February, the West Papua Liberation Army (TPNPB) – an armed separatist group linked to the Free Papua Movement (OPM) – captured New Zealand pilot Philip Merhtens following a routine flight to the Papua Highlands province’s Nduga regency on Feb 7. The incident caught international attention and has exacerbated tensions in the area amid skirmishes between security forces trying to free Mehrtens and separatists. It remains unclear if Saturday’s incident was the work of the TPNPB.
Last month, Indonesian Military (TNI) commander Adm. Yudo Margono raised the status of the rescue operation to “ground combat ready” after one soldier was reportedly killed in combat. The TPNPB claimed a far higher casualty count, suggesting that at least a dozen were killed, though Yudo dismissed the claims. The combat alert status puts the troops in Papua on par with military personnel stationed in the North Natuna Sea, where various illegal fishing vessels operate and skirmishes with Chinese coast guard ships periodically occur. Even so, the TNI chief said the military was continuing to allow local religious and tribal leaders to negotiate with the hostage takers.
The AAPS conference “To Hell With Drowning” was held at the ANU (11 -14 April 11, 2023 ). It was great to see so much mention of West Papua at the conference including on a number of panels. Ronny Kareni (ULMWP – Pacific Representative) was one of the Keynote panellists. A very informative conference and congratulations to all the hard workers who made it a success.
Photos at. https://awpasydneynews.blogspot.com/2023/04/the-aaps-conference-to-hell-with.html
Special operations needed to counter guerrilla warfare in Papua
D. Nicky Fahrizal (The Jakarta Post) Jakarta ● Fri, April 28, 2023
Soldiers from the Army’s Raider unit board KRI Banda Aceh, a Navy vessel, in Palembang, South Sumatra, on March 24. (Antara/Nova Wahyudi)
Last weekend’s fatal attack by an armed criminal group on Indonesian Military (TNI) soldiers who were on a mission in the Papua Highlands regency of Nduga to free New Zealand-national pilot Philips Mehrtens calls for meticulous evaluation by the government. This situation is of the utmost significance considering the rise in the frequency of attacks by such groups, the apparent consolidation of the armed wing of the Free Papua Movement (OPM) and their full use of guerrilla warfare strategies. In terms of evaluation, policymakers must delve deeply into the factors that contributed to the unsuccessful rescue operation and identify the individuals or entities responsible for assessing the hostage rescue policies.
Two main recommendations have arisen related to the handling of the armed group in question. The first is firm and measured action to deal with the group, which should not be implemented randomly, so as not to trigger adverse reactions from the local people.
The second is giving priority to dialogue and negotiation involving community leaders whom both parties trust (Kompas, April 19). Furthermore, The Jakarta Post editorial on March 2 warned that the use of military-heavy approaches would extend the cycle of violence and instill fear and resentment toward the government among indigenous Papuans. Therefore, the optimal action for the government would be to delegate the job to release the New Zealand national to a negotiation team consisting of acting Nduga regent Namia Gwijangge and religious leaders. Taking the aspirations into account, special operations are needed to neutralize the armed group’s warfare capacity and secure the release of Mehrtens, involving skilled, experienced and capable personnel, who must receive solid and legitimate support.
To prevent further loss of security personnel, it is necessary to consider three crucial factors. First, the heightened frequency and intensity of attacks by the armed group indicate improvements in their mobility, combat proficiency and innovative warfare tactics. Furthermore, they have demonstrated an increased capability in guerrilla warfare, which includes rapid mobility, surprise elements, ambush tactics, propaganda and local community support. The pyramid of resistance approach helps us understand the OPM movement and its military factions. In this case, the OPM’s movement is both overt and covert.
On the overt level, activities consist of civil-political and armed activities. Civic activities require negotiating with governments, organizing shadow governments, engaging in political dialogue and communicating strategically with the international community. Meanwhile, the category of armed activity involves small-scale and large-scale military actions. On the covert level, the main activities consist of espionage, antigovernment campaigns, agitation and propaganda, acts of terror and sabotage, as noted by Tompkins (2013) and Kilcullen (2019). Adopting the resistance pyramid approach, efforts to increase combat readiness in response to the death of a TNI soldier last week may prove counterproductive. Engaging in battle could result in civilian casualties and destruction of civil infrastructure. This use of force is unlikely to neutralize the separatist movement; instead, it will exacerbate the frustration of the indigenous Papuans, which stems from their political, legal, economic and cultural marginalization. Second, the mobility factor and element of surprise in guerrilla war require policymakers to have a clear, focused mindset and proactive mentality. There is a need to plan and prepare special operations to counter guerrilla warfare and rescue the hostage.
During the planning and preparation of the special operations, policymakers have to identify targets, conduct intelligence analysis, develop action plans and ensure the availability of resources. The policymakers need efficient mobilization of special forces to free the hostage. It is important to note that special forces are a strategic asset that can be adapted to meet specific demands and policy objectives. They have a tactical advantage, a reputation for effectiveness and the ability to identify and exploit enemy vulnerabilities (Gray, 1999). To neutralize the capabilities of the armed group, an optimal strength of light infantry troops is needed, because of their high mobility. These units used to be deployed within a counterinsurgency framework and possess a high degree of cultural awareness that enabled them to implement doctrines to win the hearts and minds of the Papuan people. Finally, light infantry units can conduct offensive operations and direct actions inside the opponent's lines of defense or lines of communication and logistics, as well as long-range penetration patrols.
The success of the Wingate Chindits tactics during World War II in the China-Burma-India (CBI) Theatre, where jungle warfare was prevalent, demonstrated the effectiveness of disrupting the opponent's defense and decision-making processes and damaging logistics and communication lines of the Japanese army through modified penetration warfare, specifically long-range jungle penetration (Anglim, 2010). Third, to deal with the armed group, secure the release of the hostage and address the roots of separatism in Papua, it is vital to have a clear policy that can lead to the right strategy. In line with Article 5 of Presidential Regulation No. 68/2019 on the organization of state ministries and Articles 5 and 13 of Presidential Regulation No. 94/2022 on the Defense Ministry, the defense minister is responsible for developing and implementing defense policies. In the context of policy evaluation, the responsibility lies with the Directorate General of Defense Strategy.
Therefore, within this legal framework, the defense minister has the authority to formulate policies and strategies to respond to the activities of the Papuan armed group. The hostage-taking has revealed three essential policy needs. First, political communication and coordination must occur between the Defense Ministry, TNI, National Police and intelligence agencies to formulate cohesive policies and actions.
Second, adopting special operations requires clear and measurable policies, which can provide political and legal justification and minimize political sensitivity. Furthermore, through policy clarity, special forces and counter-guerrilla tactics can avoid potential human rights violations. Third, the defense minister must issue clear policies to demonstrate democratic control over military capabilities and responsibilities in the defense sector.
To conclude, there is an urgent need for special operations to counter guerrilla warfare in Papua and rescue Mehrtens. Special operations represent a concrete and immediate response, given the armed group’s increasing proficiency in commando and guerrilla combat, emphasizing mobility, surprise and evolving tactics. Of course, special operations are the last resort, considering the gravity of the Papua issue. Making the mission a success is as crucial as minimizing the risk of unintended consequences.
*** The writer is a researcher specializing in law and security at the Department of Politics and Social Change at the Jakarta-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.
Christian leaders come together for peace in Papua
By UCA News reporter Published: April 27, 2023
They want an end to military operations in the crisis-hit province following the move to implement a 'combat alert operation' In a rare gesture, Catholic and Protestant leaders in Papua have come together to appeal to Indonesian President Joko Widodo to stop military operations in the crisis-hit province following the latest move to implement a 'combat alert operation.' Bishop Yanuarius Theofilus Matopai You of Jayapura said, "We don't want any civilian casualties." "Therefore, we respectfully ask the President of the Republic of Indonesia to withdraw troops and take steps for negotiations and a humanitarian approach," Bishop You said at a press conference on April 26 along with other Christian leaders……………………..
Posts falsely claim 'United Nations to lead Papua independence boycott'
AFP Indonesia Published on Tuesday 16 May 2023 at 20:35
A video has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times after it circulated alongside a false claim that the United Nations will lead nations to boycott Papuan independence. But the clips used in the video show unrelated events. As of May 16, 2023, the UN has not made any statement in relation to boycotting Papuan independence. An international relations expert called the claim "irrational and sensational".
The claim was shared in a video posted here on Facebook on May 9, 2023, where it has been viewed more than 179,000 times before it was removed.
A narrator can be heard in the video saying in Indonesian-language: "The UN will bring 193 nations to boycott Papua's independence! Jokowi will terrorize the allies of the criminal armed groups!"
The post's Indonesian-language caption repeats the claim.
The 10-minute, 17-second video contains clips showing Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo meeting UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, a summit between Jokowi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, and leaders from other countries……………………
Opinion pieces/reports/media releases etc.
Words matter in telling West Papuan news https://asiapacificreport.nz/2023/04/01/words-matter-in-telling-west-papuan-news-stories/
Vila-based Indonesian ‘troll’ page targets Papuan advocates
West Papua Tensions Building
Australia and New Zealand in the West Papua Conflict
Indonesian military cracks down on soldiers selling weapons to Papuan rebels
AWPA Statement – West Papua-danger of increase in military operations
Australian advocacy group condemns Indonesian crackdown on Papuan ‘democracy’ rally in Bali
Indonesian security crackdown in West Papua – ‘traumatising raids, torture’
PAPUA 2023 APRIL ( Report in Bahasa)
PAPUA 2023 MARET ( Report in Bahasa)
Last AWPA Update 30 March
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