Wikileaks Reveals U.S. Embassy Assessments of West Papua Are Far More Critical of Indonesian Authorities than Offered to U.S. Congressional Committee
On December 23, 2010, Australia’s The Age reported that the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, in classified cables to Washington, confirmed longstanding Papuan and NGO contentions regarding the devastating role of the Indonesian military (TNI) in West Papua.
The detailed and remarkably candid U.S. Embassy report is far more explicit regarding TNI corruption and abuses and Indonesian government malfeasance than the assessment offered by a senior U.S. Department of State official who testified before Congress in September 2010.
The Embassy describes Indonesian government neglect, rampant corruption, and human rights abuses leading to instability and ”chronic underdevelopment” in West Papua.
The article cites a September 2009 cable from the U.S. embassy which assesses that “the region is politically marginalized and many Papuans harbor separatist aspirations.”
An October 2007 Embassy message quotes claims by an Indonesian foreign affairs official about military influence in Papua: “The [Indonesian official] told the Embassy that the Indonesian military (TNI) has far more troops in Papua than it is willing to admit to, chiefly to protect and facilitate TNI’s interests in illegal logging operations.”
The official adds that Papuan Governor Barnabus Suebu “had to move cautiously so as not to upset the TNI, which operates as a virtually autonomous governmental entity within the province.”
A 2006 message cites a briefing from a briefing offered by a government official of neighboring Papua New Guinea who contends that the TNI also was ”involved in both illegal logging and drug smuggling in PNG.”
A second 2006 embassy report offered an example of the “history of miscarriages of justice in Papua.” Describing Indonesian security authorities reaction to the killing of Indonesian officials by an angry mob the report observes: ”It is clear that the police rounded up a miscellany of perceived troublemakers and random individuals and that the prosecutors and judges then railroaded them in a farcical show trial.”
The Embassy’s blunt reports to Washington also focused on Jakarta’s unfair treatment of West Papua including the failure to ensure revenue generated by mining is distributed fairly. This malfeasance contributes to unrest in West Papua. A September 2009 cable says that ”Most money transferred to the province remains unspent although some has gone into ill-conceived projects or disappeared into the pockets of corrupt officials.”
A March 2006 cable cites a senior official of the U.S. owned Freeport McMoran mine as telling the Embassy that ”average Papuans see few benefits from the royalty and tax payments by Freeport and other extractive industries that should go to the province under the Special Autonomy Law.”
“Many central government ministries have been reluctant to cede power to the province. As a result, implementation of the Special Autonomy law has lagged and Papuans increasingly view the law as a failure,” a September 2009 cable says.
In early 2006 a senior manager from the mining operation run by the Freeport-McMoRan told the Embassy the company pays the Indonesian military and police officers who help secure its operations. Such payments were first revealed by Global Witness in 2006. Freeport later admitted that “t pays towards ‘government-provided security’ at its mine in Indonesia but refused to say where the money goes,” according to Global Witness. (See also WPAT/ETAN: Statement on the operations of the Freeport McMoran Mine in West Papua, Indonesia).
An April 2007 cable reports that Freeport continues to pay ”voluntary support allowances” to police. This report has drawn complaints from at least one Indonesian legislator who has pledged to question Defense officials about private company payments to the security forces – a practice he claims would render the security forces as agents of those corporation’s interests.
Indonesian National Commission for Human Rights Reports Increasing State Violence Targeting Papuans in West Papua
A December 7 Jakarta Post report cites the Papuan chapter of the National Commission for Human Rights (Komnas HAM) as contending that over 2009-2010 there has been a 70 percent increase in the number of cases of violence in Papua. Komnas HAM adds that most of that violence has been the work of the Indonesian security forces. Komnas HAM deputy Matius Murib said that increasing violence from 2009 to 2010 mostly involved security officers in Puncak Jaya.
The Jakarta Post report quotes Murib “The highest number of cases were recorded in 2010. Most of the perpetrators were reportedly TNI [Indonesian military] and police officers.” He told the media that the increasing violence dated back to 2004 when the authorities accused Papuan resistance figure Goliat Tabuni of involvement in attacks on security officers in and around the Puncak Jaya region. Based on these accusations, Murib explained, security officers launched a continuous series of raids that caused civilian deaths. The raids and exchanges of gunfire have forced some 5,000 Papuans to flee to the forests, where many people have died because of illness or hunger, Murib added. “We ask the XVII Trikora Military Command and the Papua Police to cease all operations and attempts to add to the number of troops, which would only worsen the civilian trauma and exert further tolls upon them, especially people living in Puncak Jaya and its surrounding areas,” he said.
The Revolving Door: U.S. Officials Retire to Sinecures in Firms with Bad Reputations
Sinar Mas Group, a huge Indonesian conglomerate with interests in coal mining, logging and wood-pulp production, oil plantations, real estate, and other industries, has hired Cameron Hume, the former U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, as an adviser, according to Detik.com. Sinar Mas is notorious for the environmental practices of some of its holdings, notably Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) and PT Sinar Mas Agro Resources & Technology (SMART), a palm oil company.
Sinar Mas is involved in illegal land clearing in many parts of Indonesia including in West Papua. Greenpeace has revealed Sinar Mas destruction of sago and nipah trees in the Lereh area near Jayapura. Sago is an essential food source and nipah key to construction of homes for local people. Sinar Mas’s wholesale destruction of these natural fauna severely impacts the local communities that depend on them. Sinar Mas is also involved in the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate project (MIFEE) which envisions destruction of vast areas of virgin forest. The Indonesian military, notably the Kopassus, is heavily involved with Sinar Mas in the MIFEE project and elsewhere, acting as enforcers and protectors for the company’s often illegal logging and plantation development.
Hume’s role in Sinar Mas has yet to be announced but would appear to be intended to help the conglomerate with with international firms which have cut ties with Sinar Mas over its environmental practices. Another former U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia, J. Stapleton Roy, became a member of the board of Freeport McMoran upon retirement. Freeport McMoran has long relied on the U.S. Government to protect it from critics of its human rights and environmental policies.
TAPOL: Contends “Continued Detention of Papuan Prisoners Violates Basic Rights”
The highly regarded U.K.-based TAPOL, an organization that promotes human rights, peace and democracy in Indonesia, issued a press release on December 23 that pointed out that the continued detention of Papuan prisoners of conscience Filep Karma and Buchtar Tabuni (among others) violates basic human rights.
Freedom Now, a Washington, DC-based human rights group that represents Papuan political prisoner Filep Karma, also has reacted to latest developments in Filep Karma’s case. It sent a letter to the Justice and Human Rights Minister Patrialis Akbar to appeal for Filep’s release. Freedom Now voiced concern that since Karma’s recent transfer from Abepura Prison to Jayapura Prison he has been denied legal counsel. The group asked the minister to restore Karma’s Filep’s rights as stipulated in “Principle 18 of the UN Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment.” Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International continue to petition on behalf of the rights of Karma and other political prisoners. ETAN and WPAT also called publicly for their release in a December statement.
Filep Karma, 51, is serving a 15-year sentence for taking part in a 2004 peaceful protest where demonstrators raised the Papuan national flag, the Morning Star. He was charged with makar or treason, an offence used over the years against scores of Papuans involved in raising the flag. Buchtar Tabuni, 31, is serving a three-year sentence for his involvement in a public event to welcome the launch in October 2008 of International Parliamentarians for West Papua.
The Tapol release noted that the two prisoners while imprisoned for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression now face criminal charges arising from a riot at Abepura prison on 3 December. Tapol wrote that since that incident, the two prisoners (and three other prisoners) were transferred from prison to police custody, where they have had limited or no contact with their lawyers and families in contravention of international standards on the treatment of prisoners and persons in detention. Tabuni was due to be conditionally released at the time of the December 3, 2010 arrest on criminal charges.
The TAPOL release said in part:
“TAPOL calls for the release of the two men and all others jailed for peacefully expressing their political views. It urges the Indonesian authorities to investigate the disturbances at Abepura prison and for the prisoners to be given proper access to their lawyers to contest their transfer to police detention and prepare a defence to any charges against them. The investigation should include a consideration of the conditions at the prison and the events leading up to the disturbances on 3 December.
“The disturbances followed the fatal shooting of Miron Wetipo, who had escaped from the prison. Reliable reports indicate that Filep Karma and Buchtar Tabuni, alarmed at the consequences of the disturbances for all the prisoners, tried hard to calm down their fellow prisoners. According to a report in the local daily, ‘Bintang Papua’, on 14 December, the director of the prison, Berthy Sitinjak, and 14 of his staff were responsible for acts of violence and abuse of prisoners.
“‘Anyone in authority responsible for violence against the prisoners and other offences, including the killing of Miron Wetipo, should be vigorously prosecuted if the evidence indicates that crimes were committed,’ said (TAPOL’s) Carmel Budiardjo.”
KontraS Papua, the Commission for the Disappeared and the Victims of Violence and a team of lawyers representing the prisoners suggest that the conditions at the prison may have led to the prison escape and earlier ones. (WPAT Note: With regard to the KontraS claim, a 2007 UN report by UN Special Rapporteur Dr. Manfred Novak described horrendous conditions in Indonesian prisons.)
Papuan Women Note Continuing Prevalence of Crimes against Women and Decry Impunity for Perpetrators
A Bintang Papua report from 10 December 2010 (translated by TAPOL) noted a December 10 ceremony in Jayapura organized around the theme of “The Day to Combat Violence against Women.” The ceremony was convened by a number of civil society organizations, as well as by the government’s Institute to Empower Women and a number of religious bodies. Agus Alua, chair of the MRP keynoted the affair.
Everywhere, we are being raped and subjected to sexual molestation, in prisons, out in the fields, whenever seeking refuge, whenever the army and the police conduct operations in the name of security, and even in our own homes. We are victims of violence. And when we scream for help, they reply that it’s a family matter.
The deputy chair of the MRP, Hana Hikoyabi, noted that marking the day of violence against women was closely associated with the history of the Papuan people during which women have been the persistent victims of military acts of violence “Everywhere, we are being raped and subjected to sexual molestation, in prisons, out in the fields, whenever seeking refuge, whenever the army and the police conduct operations in the name of security, and even in our own homes. We are victims of violence. And when we scream for help, they reply that it’s a family matter.” She added there was no place where women can find protection against violence. “Everywhere, we are increasingly facing the danger of HIV/AIDS and our lives are being lost. For how much longer will this situation continue?”
Recently a book was published by MRP titled It Must Stop!, which documents 261 cases of violence. The book identified three types of violence: violence by members of the security forces which made up 138 cases of women who experienced sexual violence; violence within the family with 98 cases, and cases of physical violence or serial violence.
Another speaker was Lucia Erni who said that even the chief of police in Papua had expressed his astonishment about the large number of cases of violence against women perpetrated by members of the security forces.
WPAT Comment: the late human rights champion Asmara Nababan once told a WPAT member that crimes against women in West Papua were systematically ignored. He cited the failure to pursue multiple charges of rape committed by security force personnel in 1995 landmark investigations of human rights violations in West Papua conducted by the Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights. The Komnas Ham investigation had drawn on evidence from research carried out by John Rumbiak and the Catholic Church in West Papua, among others. Military authorities refused to allow charges against their personnel presenting the racially biased argument, according to Nababan, that the Indonesian troops would not be interested in Papuan women.
This is the 81st in a series of monthly reports that focus on developments affecting Papuans. This series is produced by the non-profit West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) drawing on media accounts, other NGO assessments, and analysis and reporting from sources within West Papua. This report is co-published with the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN). Back issues are posted online at http://etan.org/issues/wpapua/default.htm Questions regarding this report can be addressed to Edmund McWilliams at email@example.com. If you wish to receive the report via e-mail, send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.