By : Simon Wood
LEADER of the UK’s Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn last month drew attention to the long-suffering and ignored people of West Papua, stating that ‘recognition of human rights and justice should be the “cornerstone” of the UK Labour party’s foreign policy’. He was addressing a group of international ministers and activists, including West Papuan independence leader Benny Wenda. The Indonesian embassy in Australia released a statement dismissing the meeting as a publicity stunt organised by a “small group of Papua separatists and sympathisers”.
Declassified documents published in 2004 by the National Security Archive ‘detail United States support for Indonesia’s heavy-handed takeover of West Papua despite overwhelming Papuan opposition and United Nations requirements for genuine self-determination’.
When Indonesia gained its independence from the Netherlands in 1949, the Dutch government retained control over the territory of West New Guinea. From 1949 until 1961 the Indonesian government sought to “recover” West New Guinea (later known as West Irian or West Papua), arguing that the territory, a part of the former Netherlands East Indies, rightfully belonged with Indonesia.
In late 1961, after repeated and unsuccessful attempts to secure its goals through the United Nations, Indonesia’s President Sukarno declared a military mobilization and threatened to invade West New Guinea and annex it by force. The Kennedy administration, fearing that U.S. opposition to Indonesian demands might push the country toward Communism, sponsored talks between the Netherlands and Indonesia in the spring of 1962. Negotiations took place under the shadow of ongoing Indonesian military incursions into West New Guinea and the threat of an Indonesian invasion.
The U.S.-sponsored talks led to the August 1962 New York Agreement, which awarded Indonesia control of West New Guinea (which it promptly renamed West Irian) after a brief transitional period overseen by the UN. The agreement obligated Jakarta to conduct an election on self-determination with UN assistance no later than 1969. Once in control, however, Indonesia quickly moved to repress political dissent by groups demanding outright independence for the territory.
U.S. officials understood at the outset that Indonesia would never allow West Irian to become independent and that it was unlikely to ever allow a meaningful act of self-determination to take place. The Johnson and Nixon administrations were equally reluctant to challenge Indonesian control over West Irian, especially after the conservative anti-Communist regime of General Suharto took over in 1966 following an abortive coup attempt which led to the slaughter of an estimated 500,000 alleged Communists. Suharto quickly moved to liberalize the Indonesian economy and open it to the West, passing a new foreign investment law in late 1967. The first company to take advantage of the law was the American mining company Freeport Sulphur, which gained concessions to vast tracts of land in West Irian containing gold and copper reserves.
Over six weeks from July to August 1969, U.N. officials conducted the so-called “Act of Free Choice.” Under the articles of the New York Agreement (Article 18) all adult Papuans had the right to participate in an act of self-determination to be carried out in accordance with international practice. Instead, Indonesian authorities selected  West Papuans to vote publicly and unanimously in favor of integration with Indonesia.
The ‘Act of Free Choice’, now habitually referred to as the ‘Act of No Choice’ by Papuan independence advocates, was a farce from beginning to end. The suggestion that almost a million people who had already prepared a flag and an anthem for their imminent independence would unanimously vote for foreign control is derisory.
From New Internationalist:
One of the few journalists there at the time (the world’s media was focused on Indochina), Hugh Lunn, has written an account which records Papuans’ heartfelt and ignored pleas to the outside world. On arriving at his hotel he found a letter soaked in blood which said Indonesia was killing dissenting Papuans. Then a Papuan who came into his room supposedly to repair a light mimed himself being shot in the back of the head while another pretended to be handcuffed. UN staff who spoke to Lunn off-the-record had all experienced but not publicized similar creative requests for international support.
Australia also ignored such pleas. At the request of Indonesia, it arrested two pro-independence activists when they entered Australian-administered Papua New Guinea. They carried testimonies from Papuans calling for independence and for the UN to abandon the Act of Free Choice. These were never delivered – instead the activists were put in jail.
A statement prepared by the US Embassy in Jakarta and presented to Australia before the UN-supervised vote says: ‘Personal political views of the UN team are… 95 per cent of Irianese (West Papuans) support the independence movement and that the Act of Free Choice is a mockery.’
This new evidence confirms that the UN, Australia and the US all knew that the Act of Free Choice was actually what Papuans call the ‘Act of No Choice’. The duplicity is incomprehensible to most Papuans – the UN had embraced many new nations; the US, in its anti-Communist crusade, avowed support for freedom and Australia followed suit. But all these promises and pronouncements were void when it came to their own oppression.
After West Papua was officially proclaimed Indonesian, the small rebel group, Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM or Free Papua Movement) although armed only with bows, arrows and spears, provided the Indonesian military with a rationale to clamp down on the province. An estimated 60,000 troops were deployed. From 1967 to 1972 the military violence is estimated to have caused between 30,000 and 100,000 Papuan deaths. Then, in the late 1970s, a series of ceremonies raising the West Papuan flag in the Highlands resulted in the military bombing and strafing of whole villages, killing at least 1,000 people and causing at least 5,000 to flee and hide out in the forest.
To the lasting shame of the United Nations, not only did it knowingly permit this travesty, but its official stance on the Act of Free Choice remains unchanged, making a mockery of its own charter and the idea that it is independent of the influence of powerful nations.
What could explain this turning of a blind eye by the UN? In an astounding coincidence, the largest gold mine and third largest copper mine in the world is located in this region. The Grasberg mine is 90.64% owned by the US mining company, Freeport McMoRan (formerly the Texas Freeport Sulphur Company). By the mid-1980s, with the original mine largely depleted, Freeport explored for other deposits in the area, identifying in 1988 reserves valued at $40 billion at Grasberg just 3 kilometres from the Ertsberg mine. A 2003–2006 boom caused by extra consumption of copper for Asian electrical infrastructure caused prices to increase from around $1500/ton to $8100/ton, greatly increasing the profitability of the mine.
[As a noteworthy aside, in his book The Trial of Henry Kissinger, Christopher Hitchens wrote:
In 1989 Freeport-McMoRan paid Kissinger Associates a retainer of $200,000 and fees of $600,000, not to mention a promise of a 2% commission on future earnings. Freeport-McMoRan also made [Henry] Kissinger a member of its board of directors, at an annual salary of at least $30,000.]
Environmental groups are concerned with the potential for copper contamination and acid mine drainage from the mine tailings into surrounding river systems and groundwater. Concerns are such that both Freeport and its partner Rio Tinto were excluded from the investment portfolio of The Government Pension Fund of Norway, the world’s second-largest pension fund, due to criticism over the environmental damage caused by the Grasberg mine. Stocks at a value of US$870 million were divested from the fund as a result of the decisions.
According to the Free West Papua campaign, ‘Freeport is Indonesia’s biggest taxpayer, making billions of dollars for the Indonesian government every year. The company reportedly pays the Indonesian military around $3 million every year in “protection money”, ensuring that local West Papuans are kept out of the area. The mine reportedly pumps over 238,000 tonnes of toxic waste into the local river system every day, leading to mass fish deaths and swathes of biologically dead lands’.
Unsurprisingly, the human rights situation is horrific, with numerous incidences of torture, rape and murder:
Many towns and villages have witnessed wholesale massacres of their people. One such example was the ‘Biak Massacre’ in 1998, where over 200 people including women and children were rounded up by the Indonesian military, loaded onto vessels, taken to sea and thrown overboard. In 2010 the UK’s Channel Four News broadcast a [graphic] report on torture in the region. In a public report to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in 1999, the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women concluded that the Indonesian security forces used rape “as an instrument of torture and intimidation” in West Papua, and “torture of women detained by the Indonesian security forces was widespread”.
There are currently hundreds of West Papuan political prisoners being held in West Papua and across Indonesia. Many are serving long prison terms for peacefully protesting against Indonesian rule or for being members of organisations calling for West Papuan independence.
Filep Karma is a particular case in point, serving a 15 year jail sentence simply for raising the West Papuan national flag. He is an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience. Conditions in the prisons are often very poor and maltreatment of prisoners is common with many being beaten and tortured while detained. Prisoners have often developed severe health problems and been denied access to medical care.
Many Papuans live in a constant state of fear and intimidation. People living in villages across West Papua can at any time be subject to military sweeping operations. Under the pretence of looking for insurgents, the military have repeatedly swept through entire rural areas killing arbitrarily and burning whole villages to the ground, destroying subsistence food crops and livestock and forcing people to flee into the forests where they are prone to starvation and disease.
West Papua is currently off limits to international journalists. If discovered without permission they are arrested and deported by the Indonesian authorities. Some have even been attacked and imprisoned.
The ongoing tragedy in West Papua is just one more example out of thousands where human welfare is trumped every time by economic, financial and/or geopolitical interests, where the widespread torture, rape and murder of locals are merely PR obstacles. This is an inevitable consequence of the pursuit of profit, the fundamental principle behind capitalism; a system that is antithetical to preservation of the environment and human rights. (*)
The author is writer with a particular focus on human rights, corporate media criticism and democracy.
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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