Connect with us

Analysis

The advancement of the West Papuan independence movement inexorable

Published

on

. Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare (in blue) shakes hands with Benny Wenda as other West Papuans look on. He “stage-managed a diplomatic coup, a master class in Melanesian mediation” – Supplied

By Dan McGarry

LAST month, New Zealand-based analyst Jose Sousa-Santos commented on Twitter that “Indonesia’s attempt at buying support from the Pacific region seems to have little to no impact on Melanesia’s stance on [West] Papua.”

That’s one of those pesky observations that’s neither entirely right nor entirely wrong. The truth is: Indonesia is winning almost every battle… and still losing the fight.

Conventional wisdom used to be that Indonesia had built an impregnable firewall against Melanesian action in support of West Papuan independence.

Its commercial and strategic relationship with Papua New Guinea is such that PNG’s foreign affairs establishment will frankly admit that their support for Indonesia’s territorial claims is axiomatic. Call it realpolitik or call it timidity, but they feel that the West Papuan independence doesn’t even bear contemplating.

Widespread grassroots support and its popularity among progressive up-and-comers such as Gary Juffa don’t seem to matter. As long as Jakarta holds the key to economic and military tranquillity, Port Moresby’s elites are content to toe the Indonesian line.

The situation in Suva is similar. FijiFirst is naturally inclined is toward a more authoritarian approach to governance. And it seems that the military’s dominance of Fiji’s political landscape dovetails nicely with Indonesia’s power dynamic.

Many argue that Fiji’s relationship is largely mercenary. It wouldn’t flourish, they say, if the path to entente weren’t strewn with cash and development assistance. That’s probably true, but we can’t ignore the sincere cordiality between Fiji’s leadership and their Indonesian counterparts.

Same seeds

The same seeds have been planted in Port Vila, but they haven’t take root.

Until recently, Indonesia’s ability to derail consensus in the Melanesian Spearhead Group has ensured that West Papuan independence leaders lacked even a toehold on the international stage. In the absence of international recognition and legitimacy, the Indonesian government was able to impose draconian restrictions on activists both domestically and internationally.

Perhaps the most notorious example was their alleged campaign to silence independence leader Benny Wenda, who fled Indonesia after facing what he claims were politically motivated charges designed to silence him. He was granted political asylum in the United Kingdom, but a subsequent red notice—usually reserved for terrorists and international criminals—made travel impossible.

In mid-2012, following an appeal by human rights organisation Fair Trials, Interpol admitted that Indonesia’s red notice against Wenda was “predominantly political in nature”, and removed it.

Since then, however, activists have accused Indonesia of abusing anti-terrorism mechanisms to curtail Wenda’s travels. A trip to the United States was cancelled at the last moment because American authorities refused to let him board his flight. It was alleged that an Indonesian complaint was the source of this refusal.

Independence supporters claim that Indonesian truculence has also led to Mr Wenda being barred from addressing the New Zealand parliament. His appearance at the Sydney opera house with human rights lawyer Jennifer Robinson received a standing ovation from the 2500 audience members… and an irate protest from Indonesian officials.

Not all of Indonesia’s efforts are overt. Numerous commentators made note of the fact that Vanuatu’s then-foreign minister Sato Kilman visited Jakarta immediately before his 2015 ouster of Prime Minister Joe Natuman.

Lifelong supporter

Natuman, a lifelong supporter of West Papuan independence, was a stalwart backer of membership in the MSG for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, or ULMWP. He was unseated barely weeks before the Honiara meeting that was to consider the question.

Kilman, along with Indonesian officials, vehemently deny any behind-the-scenes collusion on West Papua.

But even with Vanuatu wavering, something happened at the June 2015 Honiara meeting that surprised everyone. Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare stage-managed a diplomatic coup, a master class in Melanesian mediation.

In June 2015, I wrote that the “Solomonic decision by the Melanesian Spearhead Group to cut the baby in half and boost the membership status of both the ULMWP and Indonesia is an example of the Melanesian political mind at work. Valuing collective peace over individual justice, group prosperity over individual advancement, and allowing unabashed self-interest to leaven the sincerity of the entire process, our leaders have placed their stamp on what just might be an indelible historical moment.”

Since then, the sub-regional dynamic has undergone a transformation. Kilman’s administration suffered a collapse of unprecedented proportions following corruption charges against more than half of his government.

The resulting public furore seems—for the moment at least— to have catalysed a backlash against venality and personal interest.

If the rumours are true, and Indonesia did have a hand in Kilman’s palace coup, the tactic hasn’t worked since. A pair of no confidence motions—not very coincidentally on the eve of yet another MSG leaders’ summit—failed even to reach the debate stage.

Kanaky support never wavered

Kanaky’s support for West Papuan independence has never wavered, but given their semi-governmental status, and their staunch socialist platform, Jakarta would be hard pressed to find a lever it could usefully pull.

For his part, Sogavare has survived more than one attempt to topple him. His own party leaders explicitly referenced his leadership on the West Papuan question when they tried to oust him by withdrawing their support.

In a masterful—and probably unlawful—manoeuvre, Sogavare retained his hold on power by getting the other coalition members to endorse him as their leader. His deft handling of the onslaught has raised him in the estimation of many observers of Melanesian politics.

Some claim that his dodging and weaving has placed him in the first rank of Melanesia’s political pantheon.

In Vanuatu as well, once bitten is twice shy. Prime Minister Charlot Salwai raised eyebrows when he not only met with the ULMWP leadership, but accepted the salute of a contingent of freedom fighters in full military regalia.

The meeting took place at the same moment as MSG foreign ministers met to consider rule changes that, if enacted, will almost inevitably result in full membership for the ULMWP.

The MSG has traditionally operated on consensus. If these rule changes pass muster, this will no longer be the case. It is a near certainty that Indonesia will do its utmost to avert this.

Sogavare’s inspired approach

Sogavare has demonstrated an inspired approach to the situation: If the MSG won’t stand for decolonisation in the Pacific, he asks, what is it good for? This rhetoric has become a chorus, with senior politicians in Vanuatu and Kanaky joining in.

Sogavare is, in short, embarked on his own march to Selma. And he is willing to allow the MSG to suffer the slings and arrows of Indonesian opprobrium. He is, in short, willing to allow the MSG to die for their sins.

Whether we agree or not with the independence campaign, there is no denying the genius of Sogavare’s ploy. His willingness to sacrifice the MSG for the cause takes away the one lever that Indonesia had in Melanesia.

His key role in orchestrating an end run around the Pacific Islands Forum’s wilful silence is another trademark move. When human rights concerns were simply glossed over in the communiqué, he and others orchestrated a chorus of calls for attention to the issue in the UN General Assembly.

Manasseh Sogavare and his Pacific allies have found a strategy that is making the advancement of the West Papuan independence movement inexorable. As Ghandi demonstrated in India, as with Dr King’s campaign for civil rights showed again and again, anything less than defeat is a victory.

Without losing a single major battle, Indonesia is—slowly, so slowly—being forced from the board. (*)

The author is media director of the Vanuatu Daily Post.

Analysis

Baby Kana, three forgotten people in the story of Puti Hatil and Korowai (Part 3) 

Published

on

Illustration of health crisis of Korowai people where an evangelist Jimmy Weyato is preparing a coffin – Jubi/Agus Pabika

Written by Rev. Trevor Christian Johnson

Jakarta, Jubi – The 3rd and final forgotten person I want to write about during the drama of Puti Hatil’s sickness and healing is Baby Kana, also from Afimabul.

The day that Dakinus led Daniel and his baby son to Danowage, Baby Kana was also carried with them in their group.  She was also brought to Danowage along with Puti Hatil. But she did not heal.

Read: Danil Hatil, three forgotten people in the story of  Puti Hatil and Korowai (Part 1)

Dakinus Wanimbo, three forgotten people in the story of  Puti Hatil and Korowai (Part 2)

Last week (end of December) Puti was flown back to his village by helicopter, his cheek sewn closed and the wound clean and dry and healthy. He was returned to the Korowai region because he was healed and was sick no more.

He is a success story.

But Baby Kana also suffers no more. She also no longer has any illness. Instead of being flown back to her village by helicopter, however, she was returned to the dust of the earth.

She has now been dead for over 6 weeks.

Most people do not know that this other small child was also brought to Danowage from Afimabul during the same trip along with Puti Hatil. They were both carried to Danowage together.

While Puti was being cared for in the VIP Room at Dian Harapan Hospital with many visitors and enjoying much media attention and money was being gathered on his behalf, the baby Kana lay rotting in the ground, buried in a very simple wooden coffin made from rough boards.

She was yet another statistic demonstrating the poor condition of healthcare in this region.

We wanted to help her so bad. We did our best. But she died during the night. When we received her in Danowage she had already been sick for a whole month, and she was just too sick and weak to recover when she arrived.

Maybe the journey was too much for her. We did not have a chance to really treat her or an opportunity to fly her out to the hospital like Puti.

But Baby Kana is just as much a part of this story as Puti. The child Puti Hatil was saved. Baby Kana was not.

But help came because of Puti.

God is using the case of Puti to bless the entire Korowai region. And through Puti’s sufferings, the whole Korowai region seems to be experiencing a blessing of health care.

He became a symbol to rally around and to gather help and support. Because of Puti’s pain, many Korowai children will not need to experience illness or death.

After many long years of waiting for help, we are now being flooded. I can only praise the churches and students and the government officials who are very quick to help.

Upon hearing of the health crisis in the Korowai region, the Governor of Papua Lukas Enembe quickly responded and visited Danowage and promised more help and embraced many of the local people, showing his heart for the interior peoples of Papua.

Many good people are now involved and working together from both church and government to help the Korowai.

But sometimes I fear. Sometimes I fear that it will not be the case of Puti Hatil that is representative of the help that is coming to the Korowai region (a very sick baby who was helped and healed and returned successfully to the city).

Sometimes I am afraid that people will soon forget the trials of the Korowai. Instead of Puti Hatil being a symbol of hope, I am afraid that the case of Baby Kana will become a more fitting symbol – a child who died without help and will be forgotten unless I can keep her memory alive through written articles such as this.

We have two future options for the Korowai. Who will better represent the fate of the Korowai, Puti Hatil and his rescue? Or Baby Kana and her death?

This is the real tragedy of Papua; while 90% of the media is focused on politics in the cities, the interior peoples of Papua go to bed hungry and many die due to neglect.  There are MANY Puti Hatils in my region. Even more sadly, there are many MORE Baby Kanas.

Between the years 2009 and 2015, shootings within the Freeport Mine project area killed 20 people and injured 59. In that same period of time illness and disease has killed much more in just this Korowai region of Papua where I serve.

I pray and plead that this is the last year that their cries will go unheard. (End)

 

Editor: Zely Ariane

Continue Reading

Analysis

The ties that bind Papua and Indonesia

Published

on

By Karim Raslan

Source: South China Morning Post

Maria Hestina, Maria Korwa and Mega Imbiri represent hopes of young Papuans in Sorong – Karim Raslan/scmp

Jayapura, Jubi – Young Papuans in an eastern Indonesian boom town are excited about the future, thanks to a resurgent economy. But will the good times last?

Sorong is booming. With 9.3 per cent GDP growth in 2016 (almost double Indonesia’s average) and located on the westernmost point of Papua, the 300,000-strong city is fast becoming a regional transport and logistics hub, boosted by its proximity to the fabled Raja Ampat islands and the ever-elusive bird of paradise.

However, Sorong isn’t a pretty sight. In fact, the city feels as if it’s still emerging from the scrubland – its urban sprawl stretching many kilometres into the interior, far from the waterfront that’s now bustling with activity.

I was very curious how the younger generation – the city’s millennials – viewed their future.

Were they optimistic? Did they see the new airport, port and Trans Papua Highway as the harbingers of a prosperous future? How were relations between indigenous Papuans and newer communities – the Bugis, Javanese and Minahassans?

I met three 18-year-old students: Maria Hestina, Maria Korwa and Mega Imbiri. All three were studying at the city’s largest tertiary institution, the Sorong Muhammadiyah University.

Maria Hestina is the daughter of transmigrants, her family was originally from Flores in East Nusa Tenggara. Her parents – now divorced – weren’t well-to-do. Her father was a labourer while her mother sold petrol and fruits at the market.

Maria Korwa’s family has been in Papua for generations. She was the product of an interreligious marriage: her father was Muslim while her mother was Christian. In an arrangement that is common in some part of Indonesia, her brothers were Muslim but her sisters and she were Christian.

Mega Imbiri was the daughter of a fisherman and a housewife, both of whom are Papuan natives.

“My father has to go out to sea every day and sometimes comes back with very few fish. He has to brave the rain, the waves and saltwater. … As a child I would hold his hands; they were always coarse.

Papua has long been considered a restive, troubled part of Indonesia.

However, Sorong, on the very “tip” of the island, has largely escaped the turmoil of the interior.

Instead, the city has benefited enormously from the current administration’s focus on strengthening transport links with the rest of the republic – creating a boom that more than matches Timika, the central Papuan town, home to Grasberg, the world’s largest gold mine and second largest copper mine run by the controversial American miner Freeport-McMoRan.

The three young women present a positive “spin” to the Eastern Indonesian region. Their religious diversity is remarkable – Maria Hestina is Catholic, Maria Korwa is Pentecostal Christian and Mega Imbiri is Protestant. Maria Hestina is a first-generation transmigrant while Maria Korwa and Mega Imbiri are natives.

Maria Korwa is unequivocal about the province’s problems.

“There’s a lot of crime in Sorong. Every day, there are muggings, fuelled by alcoholism and drug addiction – including glue-sniffing among youths.”

Maria Hestina adds: “Around 2005-2006, the water supply was very unreliable and we often suffered from blackouts. It has improved since then, but there’s still a long way to go.”

“The price of petrol has also gone up – it’s now 5,000 rupiah per litre. I know because my mother sells petrol; people are finding it difficult to cope.”

Mega Imbiri has her own take.

“Development is difficult in Papua. The terrain is hilly and heavily forested. It will take years before projects see results. What makes me very happy is the attention Jokowi (Indonesian President Joko Widodo) has been giving Papua. He’s visited the island more times than any other president before him.”

The administration’s initiatives have already begun to bear fruit. Maria Hestina noted that under former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Jokowi, primary and secondary education was made free. On December 20, the government announced plans to bring electricity to the whole of Papua and build new roads.

While the two provinces (Papua and West Papua) continue to represent a major challenge to Indonesian unity and stability – the eagle-eyed focus on economic growth has brought tangible gains to their people.

It’s this transformation that may well hold the key to binding the island of Papua to Indonesia.

Admittedly, this is a very positive take – that the current administration’s focus on economic grievances is having an impact. But is it enough?(*)

 

Editor: Zely Ariane

 

Continue Reading

Analysis

Dakinus Wanimbo, Three forgotten people in the story of Puti Hatil and Korowai (Part 2)

Published

on

Evangelist Dakinus Wanimbo – supplied/Trevor Christian

Written by Rev. Trevor Christian Johnson

Jayapura, Jubi – The first forgotten person in this article was Daniel Hatil, Puti’s father. But I now present to you the second person in this article who is a forgotten player in the drama of Puti’s healing.

Read: Danil Hatil, Three forgotten people in the story of Puti Hatil and Korowai (Part 1)

He was one person who was the most instrumental in saving Puti Hatil’s life. He is Evangelist Dakinus Wanimbo, a pastor from the GIDI church (The Evangelical Church of Indonesia) who has served the last 6 years in Afimabul village.

He is the one who delivered Puti and Daniel to Danowage and walked with them and led them on the way to our missionary health clinic so that Puti could be medically evacuated to Dian Harapan hospital in the city.

Evangelist Dakinus entered the Korowai region as an evangelist with the GIDI church in 2009 to help work on the church’s airstrip in Danowage.

Afimabul is very remote. Dakinus explains, “Afimabul is far away and difficult. There is always roofing problem because of thatch roofing and my Bible is always wet and also there is no electricity and at night I must read by the firelight.”

When I asked the Korowai people to give an evaluation of Dakinus’ work as an evangelist, it is clear that all the Korowai people love him. They can see his heart and though his language is limited his actions are clear, “Dakinus loves the Korowai people,” they say.

I ask, “Not a single evangelist can speak Korowai, but Dakinus cannot even speak Indonesian very well. How can he do a good job in your village if he cannot even speak Indonesian?” But they will all defend Dakinus and say that they like him. The Korowai say things like, “He cannot talk well, but his heart is clear, he is a good man who loves the Korowai.

This is a reminder to us that actions speak louder than words.

Dakinus was the evangelist who first became aware of Puti’s sickness and brought them to Danowage to get help. When Puti was sent to Sentani and high-ranking government officials met Puti and newspapers covered the rescue of Puti and took many pictures of him, nobody mentioned the name of Dakinus. He was forgotten.

And Puti is not the only sick Korowai person Dakinus has helped either, he has brought other sick people to Danowage as well.

What are Dakinus’ wishes?  He says, “We must have permanent health workers!”

Dakinus is a symbol of the kind of help that the Korowai have enjoyed up until now. There may be a tendency to downplay and underestimate the role of these evangelists as professional government healthcare workers enter the area and take over much of the work. These evangelists are often poor and barefoot, simple, and limited in many ways.

Before the government ever entered the Korowai region, the church was already there. Already suffering for the good of the Korowai people, sacrificing their health and getting sick as they served the Korowai. Some of the evangelists have lost children during their ministries in the Korowai area and several evangelists have died due to injuries or sicknesses incurred while serving the area or opening the airstrip.

Just this year, an older evangelist from Ujung Batu village, Evangelist Wiyandi, suffered a heart failure after hiking 12 hours from his post to Danowage as part of his ministry.

As Governor Lukas Enembe proclaimed when he spoke in Danowage last month during his visit to release the health team, he said to me, “Before the government ever enters into these remote areas of the interior of Papua, the missionaries and the Church are always there first…to help the people.” And he said that church and the government must work together for the well-being of the Korowai. He thanked me and the evangelists for that. And we are very thankful for him.

So as more educated and professional teachers and nurses enter the Korowai area to help the Korowai, please do not discount or think lowly of the contribution made by these poor and uneducated evangelists such as Dakinus. They have saved many lives in the Korowai region, and have lost some of their own children and peers during their ministries.

Let us not forget men like Evangelist Dakinus Wanimbo.(Continue to Part 3)

Editor: Zely Ariane

Continue Reading

Trending