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The Indonesia’s poorly handled diplomacy toward the small Pacific states



Pacific leaders delivered West Papua issue in the recent UNGA - Jubi

Pacific leaders delivered West Papua issue in the recent UNGA – Jubi

By Hipolitus Yolisandry Ringgi Wangge

INDONESIA’s stance on Papua at the UN General Assembly in New York last month recalled its firm denials of human rights abuses in East Timor in the late 1990s. Pacific countries, including the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, had expressed concern over human rights conditions in Indonesia’s easternmost provinces, Papua and West Papua. Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, for example, said: “Human rights violations in West Papua and the pursuit for self-determination of West Papua are two sides of the same coin.” This attention to Indonesia’s human rights record in Papua prompted nationalistic responses back home, with local media making a star of diplomat Nara Masista Rakhmatia for standing up to the audacious Pacific upstarts (link is external) and accusing them of interfering in Indonesia’s domestic affairs.

What happened at the UN General Assembly was more than just a symptom of ongoing disagreements between the Indonesian government and Pacific countries over human rights abuses and the “internationalisation” of the Papua issue. It was also an example of Indonesia’s poorly handled diplomacy toward the small Pacific states. Defensive Indonesian statements about sovereignty and territorial integrity do nothing to address the humanitarian issues that are, in fact, the primary concerns of state and non-state actors in the Pacific.

The past six years have seen a growing political movement questioning the 2001 Law on Special Autonomy for Papua, the increasing influence of migrants, multinational and national companies, and the massive security presence across the Papuan provinces. There has been an unprecedented mobilisation of citizens in peaceful protests in support of Papuan self-determination, largely coordinated by local student groups (link is external) and civil society organisations, such as the National Committee for West Papua (KNPB). The response of the security forces has been harsh and repressive, and has involved arbitrary arrests, torture and even killing of indigenous Papuans. In one of the most prominent examples over recent years, police arrested thousands of Papuans in a peaceful pro-independence celebration in May (link is external).

On the international stage, the Indonesian government pretends these recent developments have not occurred. Its claims of improvements in human rights and democracy completely ignore the situation on the ground. In addition to reports from international organisations like Human Rights Watch, even the Coordinating Ministry of Politics, Law, and Security Affairs has acknowledged human rights violations in at least three cases (link is external): the Wasior incident of 2001, the Wamena incident of 2003, and the Paniai shooting of 2014. Although endeavours to resolve these cases have stalled, the government is at least prepared to admit to a domestic audience that human rights problems exist.

Papua also remains the most restricted area in the country (link is external) for foreign journalistic activities. Although President Joko Widodo said that he would lift restrictions (link is external) on foreign journalists reporting from Papua, officials backtracked on this within weeks. Any foreign journalist who wants to go to Papua still has to obtain permission through a lengthy and complicated procedure, with no guarantee of permission being granted. If they do make it to Papua, foreign journalists are closely monitored by military and police officials.

The inconsistency in how Papuan issues are represented is the result of the lack of a coordinated policy between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other related agencies about how to defuse the Papua issue. There has been no attempt to coordinate the approach on the ground with the policies and information presented to the international community. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs appears, however, to be on a public relations offensive, with its representatives in Australia regularly posting insipid infographics (link is external) about development in Papua, with facts like “30,000 Papuan football supporters flew the Indonesian flag”.

Similarly, the Indonesian representative at the UN claimed that the allegations of human rights abuses against Indonesia were untrue, and that Pacific countries supported the separatist cause without acknowledging infrastructure development (link is external) in Papua. These blunt arguments lack any substance about the historical, political, economic and security conditions in Papua and subsequently do little to counter allegations of human rights abuses.

Formulation of foreign policy should be based on domestic and international considerations. But Indonesia’s foreign policy is based purely on domestic concerns about sovereignty – a sentiment captured by the military slogan “Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI) is non-negotiable” (NKRI harga mati), variants of which have been repeated by the government on the international stage (link is external). The government pretends that the movement for self-determination does not exist, and seems convinced that it can rely on a supportive international community. But the international community is well aware of the rights abuses in Papua and Indonesian foreign policy needs to be adjusted to reflect this fact.

 The Papua issue also demonstrates how Indonesian diplomacy towards Pacific countries has failed. The small Pacific states are constrained by an international system that favours major powers. To overcome their small size and influence, Pacific countries need to band together and raise their concerns in multilateral forums for their voices to be heard. Human rights issues in Papua have been high on the agenda at recent regional forums, such as the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) and the Pacific Island Forum (PIF), which wrapped up its 2016 meeting last month. Indonesia is an associate member in the MSG and a dialogue partner in PIF. At an earlier MSG meeting, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu proposed sending a fact-finding mission (link is external) to investigate rights abuses in Papua. This call was repeated at the PIF meeting last year.

Increasing attention to Papua in these forums has been driven in part by the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP). Despite being a nongovernmental organisation, ULMWP has observer status in the MSG, and is considered by many to represent the voice of Papuans. The MSG delayed a decision on granting ULMWP full membership earlier this year, although there are strong signs that it will be offered (link is external) at the next meeting in December 2016.

The Indonesian diplomatic response to the internationalisation of the Papua issue has been largely reactive – and has included ad-hoc development assistance to Pacific countries, such as Fiji and Papua New Guinea. The government sponsored a grouping of the five “Melanesian” provinces in Indonesia – Papua, West Papua, Maluku, North Maluku and East Nusa Tenggara – dubbing it “Melindo” and provided support for the Melanesian Arts and Culture Festival to be held in Kupang in 2015.

These were transparent attempts to convince Pacific counties about Indonesia’s commitment to Melanesian heritage across the country, even though the majority of people in East Nusa Tenggara, Maluku, and North Maluku do not share as strong a sense of belonging to Melanesia as do indigenous Papuans. In any case, these efforts have proved ineffective in persuading fellow Pacific societies to defuse the Papua issue in the international arena.

Moreover, many Indonesian diplomats lack the skills to contain the Papuan independence campaign in the Pacific. Diplomats must have the capacity to establish networks at multiple levels, not only with fellow diplomatic officers, but also NGO activists, political leaders, community members at the grassroots – even Papuan self-determination activists – if there are to be supportive discussions on the Papua issue.

Indonesia’s rejection of the Pacific countries’ fact-finding team proposal – without offering to provide comprehensive human rights reports of its own – has raised questions about Indonesia’s role in and commitment to tackling problems in Papua. There is no point in simply telling other countries to stay out of the Papua issue (link is external). After all, the Indonesian government cannot conceal the truth about human rights violations in Papua. That would only provide ammunition for Pacific countries to continue to raise the Papua issue in international forums.

The Indonesian government needs to stop accusing Pacific countries of undermining its sovereignty and start working on finding common ground to resolve the Papua issue.

The author is is a researcher at the Marthinus Academy in Jakarta

This article was published in


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



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

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The ties that bind Papua and Indonesia



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


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



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

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