By : Roshni Kapur
The province of West Papua continues to be shrouded in secrecy from the rest of the world. West Papua’s struggle for independence from the Indonesian government has been simmering for half a century. The conflict has received little media coverage since the Indonesian government has managed to block and censor information. The government has also implemented a policy that bars foreign journalists from entering West Papua, hence preventing stories of human rights violations from being reported and reaching the outside world.
West Papua was the only territory of the East Indies Empire which the Dutch did not give to Indonesia. In 1961, the Dutch formed a national assembly and the Morning Star flag was hoisted declaring its independence. Soon after, Indonesia invaded West Papua with the military support of the Soviet Union.
The US intervened by brokering the New York Agreement without consulting or involving the indigenous people. The agreement gave Indonesia interim control of West Papua until the 1969 Act of Free Choice, a UN-sponsored referendum to vote for either independence or integration will be held. Instead of holding a universal referendum, only one per cent of the population was handpicked to vote. Those selected by the authorities were intimidated with force which resulted in a unanimous vote that was in favour of joining Indonesia.
Although the outcome of the referendum was unopposed around that time, many West Papuans think that their mandate was not taken into account on whether they want to be a part of Indonesia. The Indonesian government wrests their control of West Papua through the New York agreement.
The West Papua resistance is the most protracted conflict in the Pacific which is a highly sensitive issue for Indonesia. Almost 500,000 people have been killed since Indonesia’s annexation in 1969. The province is the most heavily militarised place of Indonesia with around 45,000 military personnel currently deployed. In 2012, security forces deployed in Wamena ambushed civilians and burned down houses and vehicles. The violence continued where in May 2015 some 487 activists were arrested for taking part in the signature-raising campaign, where some were subjected to torture.
There have been high hopes that the incumbent Indonesian president Joko Widodo may bring in new reforms on Indonesia’s policy towards West Papua. He granted release to five West Papuan inmates and removed restrictions on international media during his visit to the province in May 2015.
“The Jokowi administration has been trying to improve the human rights, economic, and security conditions in Papua,” DrIkrar Nusa Bhakti, a research professor at the Research Centre for Politics was quoted in an online article on ABC.
“Mr Jokowi has visited Papua four times and become the first Indonesian president (to) spend his time and attentions on Papua,” he added.
Although Widodo has tried to pacify Melanesian leaders that Indonesia upholds democracy, the police continue to use unrestrained force on West Papua.
The UN now faces regional pressure to probe the alleged human rights violations in West Papua. In March 2017, seven Pacific countries, led by Vanuatu, pushed for an UN inquiry into the alleged human rights abuses such as extrajudicial executions, fatal shootings and beatings of nonviolent protesters.
The appeal on behalf of the seven states was made by Vanuatu’s Justice Minister Ronald Warsal during a session in the UN Human Rights Council who requested for a detailed report from the high commissioner for human rights.
“To date the Government of Indonesia has not been able to curtail or halt these various and widespread violations,” he said.
“Neither has that Government been able to deliver justice for the victims. Nor has there been any noticeable action to address these violations by the Indonesian Government,” he added.
In response, Indonesia has denied that human rights abuses are rife in West Papua and criticised the countries for meddling into its affairs.
“The Indonesian Government has always endeavoured to address any allegation of human rights violation as well as taking preventative measures and delivering justice,” an Indonesian Government spokesperson told the Human Rights Council.
Some think that chances remain slim for an UN supervised referendum without approval from the Indonesian government who is ferociously against holding another referendum. West Papua’s mandate for liberation is the government’s biggest nightmare.
“The TNI (Indonesian Armed Forces) has made very clear it will not allow it, and no president has sufficient political will or capital to push it that hard,” Damien Kingsbury, Professor of International Politics at Deakin University in Melbourne was quoted in an online article on Pasifik News.
On the other hand, others think that the heightened awareness from the unwavering and persisted self-determination struggle may be a positive step.
“We need to look at what the movement has been able to achieve in recent years in terms of raising the profile of this issue not just in our region but across the world,” said Tess Newton Cain, political analyst from the Vanuatu-based TNC Consulting.
High-profile politicians such as Britain’s opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn have also backed the resistance movement, calling for a political strategy for West Papuans.
“It’s about a political strategy that brings to worldwide recognition the plight of the people of West Papua, that forces it onto a political agenda, that forces it to the UN, and ultimately allows the people of West Papua to make a choice about the kind of government they want and the kind of society in which they want to live,” he said during a meeting of the International Parliamentarians for West Papua at the House of Commons in the UK.
The mountainous region, comprising the provinces of Papua and West Papua, is home to more than 250 Melanesian ethnic groups. The tribes have not shown any inclination to join Indonesia, a country with which there is no common culture, history, ethnicity or religion. West Papuans belong to the Melanesian race. In 2007, the province’s name changed from West Irian Jaya to West Papua to fulfil the aspirations of the indigenous people.
Indonesia’s sovereignty of West Papua is recognised by most countries including the US and Australia. Australia has said that Indonesia’s rule over the region Papua provinces is defined by the 2006 Lombok Treaty. However, many Pacific island countries think that another referendum should be held to decide West Papua’s sovereignty.
The province is a poverty-stricken region even though it is one of the most mineral-rich areas in the world. According to the Australian Institute of International Affairs, the poverty level in the province is thrice more than Indonesia’s national average.
Indeed secession movements against an occupation are a tall order where the propensity of achieving full secession is grim. The self-determination resistance will continue until West Papuans are not given the freedom of choice to decide about their political future. Getting outsiders involved in the movement might be one way to push for democratic reform that will restore the dignity, freedom and respect for them. (*)
Roshni Kapur graduated from the University of Sydney where she specialised in Master of Peace and Conflict Studies. Her research interests are in the areas of women’s rights, civil society, and migration, conflict transformation and reconciliation.
Baby Kana, three forgotten people in the story of Puti Hatil and Korowai (Part 3)
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.
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
The ties that bind Papua and Indonesia
By Karim Raslan
Source: South China Morning Post
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
Dakinus Wanimbo, Three forgotten people in the story of Puti Hatil and Korowai (Part 2)
Written by Rev. Trevor Christian Johnson
Jayapura, Jubi – The first forgotten person in this article was Daniel Hatil, Putis 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.
He was one person who was the most instrumental in saving Puti Hatils 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 churchs 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 Putis 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
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