With reports of renewed intimidation by Indonesian authorities in West Papua, Wainggai will once again embark on a controversial journey to seek justice for his people. This time, his destination is New York’s UN headquarters to lobby at its 71st General Assembly. “We want to remind the UN they can’t let West Papua be colonized for so long,” said Wainggai in a telephone interview.
But Wainggai’s task will not be easy. The UN has slumbered in its decolonization efforts, with only one state, Timor-Leste, achieving independence in the past 20 years. Added to that, West Papua is currently unrecognized by the world body as a colonized “non-self-governing territory”—it lost this designation over four decades ago, when West Papua was integrated by Indonesia through controversial means.
This leaves West Papuan independence activists in a uniquely undesirable position: fighting to be recognized by a world body that has lost much of its ability and will to bring about decolonization.
Decolonization once defined the United Nation’s very existence. When the UN was first conceived in 1945, a third of the world’s population still lived under colonial rule and many of those territories were agitating for autonomy. Under the heat of global anti-imperial movements, colonial territories disintegrated to form independent states, and the UN’s membership doubled in size in just 20 years. In 1960, the UN General Assembly adopted United Nations Resolution 1514, which declared the “necessity of bringing to a speedy and unconditional end colonialism in all its forms and manifestations.” A year later, the Special Committee of Decolonization formed to carry out the UN’s mandate and help colonized nations achieve autonomy.
But this help came at a price. The UN’s decolonization mandate was often brought in and out of play by its two largest powerbrokers—the United States and the Soviet Union—so they could extend their influence in the post-colonial world. As a result, the UN’s decolonization efforts did not always make the autonomy of colonized peoples its first priority.
West Papuans became one of the first causalities of the UN’s perfidious promise of self-determination. In 1968, under the watch of UN observers and the United States diplomats, Indonesia was handed control over West Papua when its military hand-picked a fraction of West Papua’s population, and ordered them to vote in favor Indonesian annexation in the UN-supervised “Act of Free Choice.” A 2004 report by the International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School explains that “Indonesian military leaders began making public threats against Papuan leaders… vowing to shoot them on the spot if they did not vote for Indonesian control.” The United States, acting both independently and through the UN, tacitly allowed West Papua’s annexation to ensure Indonesia would not fall to communism.
In such a way, the UN’s decolonization efforts were always conditional on the whims of international politicians. As U.S. and Soviet tensions receded, so too did the UN’s ambition to guide colonized territories to independence. The U.K., U.S. and France all moved to abolish the Special Committee on Decolonization in the early 1990s, and the U.K. and U.S. formally withdrew from the committee in 1986 and 1992 respectively. Persistent campaigning from the world’s small territories was all that revived the Special Committee from its deathbed, though doing so compromised much of its function and scope.
“That really left a gap, a vacuum which still exists today,” said Dr. Carlyle Corbin, a former minister of the U.S.-controlled Virgin Islands who serves as an international expert to the UN on self-determination. Though there continues to be a need for the UN to follow its decolonization mandate, particularly in relation to its 17 recognized colonial territories, Corbin says that member states blatantly ignore this duty. Representatives from France, one of the few administrative powers that still interacts with the UN’s decolonization committee, make a point of walking out of discussions whenever the topic is French Polynesia.
UN members accept this lack of commitment since colonization is no longer seen as a modern phenomenon. “Decolonization is not on the radar,” Corbin said. “The idea is that it’s over.” Administrative powers that preside over colonial territories are able to hide behind this misconception, claiming that their dependent territories could not possibly be associated with this evil, outdated practice.
The United States, which currently administers three territories listed by the UN’s decolonization committee, argues that its territories have implied self-governance and therefore should be removed from decolonization talks. Indeed, many of the 17 recognized colonial territories have some quasi form of self-governance—Guam, America Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands all have non-voting representation in the U.S. Congress, and Britain’s overseas territories maintain localized governments, with ultimate constitutional authority remaining with Britain. In some cases, such as in the Falkland Islands and Gibraltar, local populations do not want to concede their dependency relationships.
But for Corbin, this is beside the point. “Colonization by consent is not self-governance,” he said, and if the UN is to follow its own resolution on the rights of indigenous people, then it should work to eradicate any remnant of colonialism, however benign.
For West Papua, where instances of state oppression by Indonesian authorities harken back to more overt forms of colonialism, the UN has still failed to support its independence. The world body does not even recognize West Papua as a colonized territory, thus effectively depriving West Papuans of UN resources to fuel their struggle for self-determination.
The result of this omission is calamitous. There is strong evidence of gross human rights violations in Indonesian-held West Papua, yet the UN is has not yet intervened in this territory. The counterterrorism squad, Detachment 88, which was developed in 2003 by funding through the United States government, is accused of being especially violent toward indigenous West Papuans.
“They can operate independently and together, intimidating, harassing, beating up, and indeed killing people,” said Peter Arndt, executive officer of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of Brisbane. He made the remarks last March following a visit to West Papua. A report compiled by Arndt accuses the Indonesian government of making new, violent incursions into the region, systematically expelling Papuans from their homes in what the report calls a “slow-motion genocide.” Some 30 years ago, 96 percent of West Papua was inhabited by its indigenous population. Today, that number is closer to 40 percent.
In such a state of emergency, the solution for West Papua might be to abandon the UN’s decolonization process all together. Wainggai and other West Papuan activists have chosen to bring their plight instead to human rights organizations, like the UN’s Human Rights Council, to urge change on humanitarian grounds.
There are also regional movements to recognize West Papuan independence—the Solomon Islands and Tonga both articulated support for West Papuans at last year’s UN General Assembly, with the Solomon Islands’ Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare calling for “the full and swift implementation of the 1960 declaration on the granting of Independence to colonized countries and peoples.”
Nevertheless, Wainggai remains hopeful that one day, as the UN’s member states convene for another General Assembly in New York, a free and autonomous West Papua will be included in discussions. “That’s my American dream,” he said. (*)
This article written by Prianka Srinivasan. She is an Australian freelance journalist based in New York. She has spent a number of years working and researching in the Pacific region.
This article was published by The Diplomat
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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