INDONESIA: West Papua 2014 Year in Review

A Statement from the Australia West Papua Association (Sydney) forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission

This report details incidents of human rights abuses and events that occurred in West Papua during 2014. It is by no means exhaustive. In the report AWPA uses the name “West Papua” to refer to the whole of the western half of the Island of New Guinea.  However, “West Papua” at this time is divided into two provinces, Papua and West Papua.

Summary of events

There was no improvement in the human rights situation in West Papua in 2014 The West Papuan people continued to suffer human rights violations from the Indonesian security forces throughout the year which ended tragically when the security forces fired into a crowd of approximately 800 peaceful demonstrators in Enarotali in the Panai regency of West Papua on Monday 8th December, killing five (one dying later from their injuries). Up to 20 others were reported injured some critical in hospital.

The climate of fear in Papua inhibits local people from publicly discussing security force abuses. The Witness and Victim Protection Agency can help Enarotali residents who wish to give their account to do so with greater safety. (Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director Human Rights Watch)

We continue to hear from governments that there is an improvement in the situation in West Papua. That Indonesia is now a democracy and human rights abuses are something that occurred in the past.  Where is the improvement in West Papua?

Throughout the year there were regular clashes and shooting incidents between the Indonesian security forces and armed gangs and although many of the clashes were with the OPM, some were with armed groups who were not identified. These incidents usually resulted in security sweeps by the military and police resulting in human rights abuses against the civilian population in the areas of operations. Many reports have pointed out the security forces have great difficulty distinguishing between what the term separatists and the general public. It is not uncommon during these operations for houses, food gardens and livestock to be destroyed leaving the local people traumatized and in fear for their lives.

There was also a crackdown by the security forces on the numerous peaceful rallies called by civil society groups in 2014 and in particular on the West Papua National Committee (KNPB). These peaceful rallies were met with an excessive use of force by the security forces with arrests and incidents of police brutality against the demonstrators. In fact, all aspects of society in West Papua including lawyers, human rights defenders, activists, clergy and journalists faced regular intimidation or the threat of arrest.

In its end of year report, the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) said that the majority of human rights violations in 2014 were committed by police officers. In a Jakarta Post article (15 Dec.) Kontras deputy coordinator Chrisbiantoro said the police were the dominant actors in violations throughout the year, particularly in cases related to natural resources, or in conflict zones like Papua.  “Police did many repressive acts on people and they always supported businessmen and state authorities instead of ordinary people,” Chrisbiantoro told a press conference on Sunday. Kontras revealed there were 67 cases of violations that occurred in Papua in 2014, a large number of which were perpetrated by police officers.  “We found out as many as 27 cases [in Papua] were involving police members,” Chrisbiantoro said, adding that other perpetrators were military, civilian, or from unidentified groups.

Election of Joko Widodo as President

There was some hope that the election of Joko Widodo as President (or Jokiwi) as he is popularly know) would bring an easing of tension in West Papua. However, there is concern with a number of appointments in his cabinet. Ryamizard Ryacudu appointment as Defense Minister is of concern to West Papuans. The new Minister for Defense Ryamizard Ryacudu was Army chief of staff between 2002 and 2005 and chief of the Army’s strategic command (Kostrad) between 2000 and 2002. He was involved in operations against the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and the Free Papuan Movement (OPM). He has held a hardline view on what are termed separatists in Indonesian. When Chief Theys Eluay (chairperson of the Papuan Presidium Council) was killed by Kopassus soldiers on 10 November 2001, shortly after attending an event at the Kopassus base near Jayapura, General Ryamizard Ryacudu who was chief of staff at the time is quoted as saying,  ‘I don’t know, people say they did wrong, they broke the law. What law? Okay, we are a state based on the rule of law, so they have been punished. But for me, they are heroes because the person they killed was a rebel leader.

The Minister for Home Affairs Tjahjo Kumolo said that Papua would be a priority for the government and could be divided into one or two provinces. Tjahjo said the reason for choosing Papua as a priority was because of the need for a good control of the region. Moreover, the reach of the people to the government is getting closer to be able to ensure better service.  “I think this region is essential for equitable development. I will try to consult with all parties. Adding at least one or two provinces in Papua,” he said. (A case of divide and rule). However, the Jakarta Post (29 Dec.) reported that the government announced that it would halt the establishment of new administrative regions in Papua as the current ones had yet to improve people’s welfare. The Minister for Home Affairs said, “The establishment of new [administrative] regions will be postponed to avoid a greater burden on the state budget.”

It was also reported that the Minister of Rural Development of Disadvantaged Regions, and Transmigration, Marwan Jafar is considering encouraging more migration to West Papua. Marwan believes that people are not interested in going to West Papua because of tribal conflict but with the help of the security forces a stable atmosphere could be created. ”

It is not only activists in West Papua that reject such a policy but also the Governor of Papua Province, Luke Enembe, also rejected the proposed transmigration program plan (Jubi 2 Nov.).  Jubi also reported (2 Nov.) that the Governor of Papua Province, Luke Enembe also rejected the proposed transmigration program plan. The Governor believes a transmigration program from outside Papua would have a big impact on communities, especially indigenous Papuans. They would be marginalized and become a minority in their own land and could also as a result, there lead to conflict between indigenous Papuans and non-Papuans.

West Papua Leaders ‘Summit on Reconciliation and Unification in Vanuatu

At a historic meeting of West Papuan leaders in Port Vila, a new organisation called the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) was formed. The new organization will re-submit a fresh application for membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG). The groups who have united include the Federal Republic of West Papua (NRFPB), National Coalition for Liberation (WPNCL) and the National Parliament of West Papua (NPWP). An external secretariat consisting of five elected members from the various groups will co-ordinate the ULMWP activities. Octovianus Mote has been elected as General Secretary, while Benny Wenda is the spokesperson and three other elected members are Jacob Rumbiak, Leone Tangahma and Rex Rumakiek. The meeting was moderated by the Pacific Council of Churches. The “West Papua Leaders ‘Summit on Reconciliation and Unification” was in response to the MSG leaders inviting all West Papua groups to form an inclusive and united umbrella group to work on submitting a fresh application for membership after their (MSG) special summit in Port Moresby in June 2014.

Full report at

About the Australia West Papua Association (Sydney) : The Australia West Papua Association (AWPA) is a human rights organisation focusing on the territory of West Papua.  AWPA’s role is to lobby both the Australian Government and the International Community to raise concerns about the human rights situation in West Papua. The West Papuan people face great challenges including ongoing human rights abuses, the exploitation of their natural resources with little or no benefit to themselves, the danger of becoming a minority in their own land and a HIV/AIDS epidemic. AWPA raises awareness in the international community about the historical wrongs and history of West Papua and supports the right of the West Papuan people to self-determination.