Jakarta Onews,-- Papua continues to be plagued by violence. Last month gunmen shot at
an army helicopter, as the military was to evacuate victims of an
ambush which killed eight soldiers and four civilians. Activists say the
solution lies in a mediated comprehensive dialogue, but the government
rejects any attempt to revisit history.
The Jakarta Post’s Prodita Sabarini reports on the political dynamics after a visit to Wamena in Jayawijaya regency.
Describing the violent political situation affecting his people, a young
indigenous Papuan man quoted a Latin saying: Homo homini lupus.
is a wolf to [his fellow] man,” said Demianus Wasage, 28, a Papuan from
the Yali tribe. The provinces of Papua and West Papua are Indonesia’s
part of New Guinea, a resource rich, bird-shaped archipelago north of
Australia. The region has a history of social unrest and has been home
to rampant military abuses since part of it officially became part of
the country in the early 1960s. More than four decades later, and after
being given special autonomy status, the provinces remain gripped in a
spiral of violence, with external and internal discord permeating Papuan
Demianus was born in a rural village in what is now
Yalimo regency. He said that earlier generations still practiced
cannibalism when he was growing up. He wore the koteka, Papua’s penis
gourd, until he was in elementary school. He said he was glad that
missionaries brought Catholicism to his village when he was growing up,
so he did not have to follow the ancient practices he disagreed with.
was proud of his traditional garb, which he sometimes used when
accompanying foreign tourists in Papuan villages. "I’m not ashamed of
wearing a koteka, I’m proud of my culture,” he said.
Papuans believe that their black skin and Melanesian culture distinguish
them from the Malay majority in Indonesia. Academics say gradual
preparations for Papuan independence by the Dutch in the 1950s also
developed a Papuan sense of nationhood. But the US, eager to stave off
Soviet influence in Indonesia, brokered a New York agreement between the
Dutch and Indonesia in 1962 that officially transferred Papua to the
control of the Indonesian government. What is widely believed to have
been a sham of a referendum in 1969 stopped short of any chance of Papua
being recognized as an independent territory by the United Nations.
Demianus said that Papuans were not included in the negotiations that
decided their fate. "Even until the end of time, Papuans will always
want to be free,” he said.
In February this year, an attack by
the Free Papua Movement’s (OPM) military wing, the Papua Liberation Army
Front (TPN), killed eight Indonesian soldiers and four civilians in
Puncak and Puncak Jaya regency, strongholds of the TPN, authorities said
the attack was the latest incident in four-decades of sporadic fighting
between the Indonesian Military (TNI) and Papua’s rebels.
rights defender Theo Hesegem from the Justice and Human Rights Advocacy
Network said that OPM personnel hiding in the jungle viewed the
military and the police as their enemies.
"They [the Indonesian
security forces] are armed and the OPM are armed too,” he said. "But
[...] whether people passing by are soldiers, construction workers, or
business people, as long as they have straight hair the OPM sees them as
Indonesians and shoots at them,” he said.
Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) researcher Adriana Elisabeth,
unlike the former Free Aceh Movement (GAM), which had a centralized
command, the OPM is fragmented into several guerrilla groups and small
organizations. The organization is heavily based on the tribal
identities of the leader and members.
Yulianus Hisage, the
Baliem area head of the Papuan Indigenous Council (DAP), an organization
of customary and tribal leaders that advocates for indigenous rights
and Papuan culture, said studies showed that Papua had around 250 ethnic
tribes. "In reality there’s more than 300,” he said.
between tribes in Papua were complex, Yulianus said, with conflicts
settled through tribal warfare. In the Baliem Valley alone, in the mid
highland region, a hotbed for OPM guerrillas, there are 14 tribal
In 2011, when the third Papuan People’s Congress was
held, declaring Papua and West Papua independent from Indonesia, the
congress appointed DAP leader Forkorus Yaboisembut as president.
However, Lambertus Pekikir, an OPM/TPN leader in Keerom regency, Papua
Province, did not acknowledge the congress. Forkorus is now imprisoned
for treason and three people were killed during the authorities’
crackdown on the congress.
More moderate groups gathered under
the Papua Peace Network (JDP) believe that dialogue is the key to peace
in Papua. The LIPI’s Adriana said that for this to work, the Indonesian
government should first halt its military approach to the provinces.
Theo said international mediation was required to resolve the issue. "If
it’s just Indonesia, the odds [for resolution] are slim. We’re talking
about ideology. Indonesia wants a unified Indonesia, while Papuans want
independence. The dispute would never end,” Theo said.
lack of cohesion in Papuan communities, the National Committee for West
Papua (KNPB), an independence campaign movement led by young Papuans,
has emerged as a formidable component, with strong connections to the
Papua independence movement overseas. Catholic priest and award-winning
human rights activist John Jonga said the group was "Quite a brilliant
"They have a lot of creativity, they can gather
people together and they are very firm in their stances. It’s clear they
have overwhelmed the government — especially the military and the
police — because their number is huge,” John said.
Wantik, a self-styled touring ambassador for the KNPB, said that the
organization was born after seeing the Papuan independence movement lose
its leader with the assassination of Theys H. Eluay, who was the leader
of the Papua Presidium Council in November 2001.
"The KNPB was
born because we saw that Papua needed a rational political leader. Not
someone who is factional, egoistic and doesn’t stand with the
grassroots,” he said.
In its heyday, the KNPB organized
independence rallies across the Papua region, with thousands of people —
many in traditional garb — taking part. Their grass roots campaign in
2011 was connected to the Free West Papua campaign led by British-based
Papuan exile Benny Wenda, and the rallies coincided with an
international conference of parliamentarians on Papuan independence.
connection with Benny is very strong. We work based on his instructions
with the International Parliament for West Papua and International
Lawyers for West Papua,” Melianus said.
But since the killing of
KNPB leader Mako Tabuni, the organization has adopted a low profile in
rallies. In 2011, Papua was wrought with cases of violence that the
police dubbed as being perpetrated by "unidentified assailants”.
spate of killings in June and August 2011 saw more than 20 people
killed. The police have linked the violence to the KNPB and have said
they would use the 2003 Terrorism Law against those attacking police
stations. However, Melianus said there was no evidence and the
allegations were only aimed at discrediting the movement.
rights activists have criticized the police’s heavy-handed approach
toward KNPB members. KNPB leader Victor Yeimo reported that in 2012, 22
KNPB members had been killed. Papua Police chief Insp. Gen. Tito
Karnavian has defended the Terrorism Law in Papua by saying that it was
required to ensure that criminals did not hide behind veneer of the
Benny recently toured Australia, New Zealand
and the Pacific island countries to rally support for Papuan
independence. But in Papua, the KNPB held no rallies. "We should have
shown support because every time Benny visits these countries, we should
go on the street and rally, but our room for democracy is blocked. The
Indonesian government sees us as terrorists, [guilty of] treason and
separatism. Our room for movement is shrinking,” Melianus said.
priest John said that in Jayapura, during Mako Tabuni’s leadership, the
KNPB sometimes used intimidation so that people would join the rallies.
"In Jayapura, they forced Papuans to follow them. Sometimes it involved
beating people. Some journalists were not only intimidated but also
beaten,” he said.
But John strongly doubted that the killings
and bombings in Papua were linked to the KNPB. "They’re the ones who are
getting shot at,” he said.
John, who has served in Papua for
more than 25 years, said that Papuans wanted independence. "This spirit
of independence is supported by social and economic problems, violence,
violations of human rights and indigenous peoples rights, as well as the
exploitation of resources. So in meetings, they express that,” he said.
The priest also spoke of another big problem plaguing the
provinces — the corruption of local Papuan politicians. Since Papua
received special autonomy (Otsus) status in 2001, only indigenous
Papuans are eligible for regional head positions in the provinces.
government has so far disbursed Rp 30 trillion (US$3.08 billion) in
Otsus funds to West Papua and Papua provinces to speed up development.
But more than a decade later, Papuans remain the poorest in Indonesia.
The Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) found that Otsus funds of Rp 66 billion
in 2010 and Rp 211 billion in 2011 were unaccounted for.
to John, pro-independence Papuans must also face their own political
elites that are benefiting from their current positions as regional
heads. "A small number of people will feel that their finances or
positions are being threatened. If their main concern is their own
welfare, then these people might even kill their own people,” he said.
said that in Indonesia, people supported and opposed Papuan
independence for various reasons. "But Papuans themselves say that
whatever happens, be it famine or civil war, these are problems that can
be dealt with later,” he said. "So, the future is full of question
Source: The Jakarta Post