Originally published on Zashnain.com
By AK Rockefeller
Despite glaring human rights concerns, western nations are lining up to feed the Indonesian military’s (TNI) thirst for blood in West Papua.
While the TNI engages in ethnic cleansing “sweeps” in remote areas of West Papua where separatists are believed to be hiding and is waging a relentless crackdown on peaceful Papuan activists, the US, Australia, UK, Germany and Brazil have all recently signed deals to supply Indonesia with more advanced weapons and technology in these brutal and illegal efforts.
Indonesia’s claim to West Papua is widely disputed, since it relies on the so-called “Act of Free Choice”. This was a “vote” conducted by the invading Indonesian army where a handful of Papuans were forced at gunpoint to support Indonesia’s occupation or be killed.
Indonesia’s deal to buy 150 tanks from German defense company, Rheinmetall, went through despite human rights concerns. The contract involves the purchase of 100 Leopard main battle tanks and 50 Marder tanks. Earlier in the year, a similar deal was on the table with the Dutch government, but being closer to the issue historically, their conscience prevailed and the deal was scrapped. Evidently the German government has no such concerns with the abuse of indigenous peoples.
The same day the German tank deal was signed, Indonesia made a similar agreement with Brazilian defense company Avibras Inustria Aeroespacial to purchase multiple luanch rockets. The Indonesian Air Force also recently ordered 16 EMB-314 Super Tucano ground attack aircraft from Brazilian company, Embraer.
Indonesian Air Force vice chief of staff Vice Marshal Dede Rusamsi said that they would be used in counter-insurgency and anti-guerrilla operations.
Recently, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudoyono was given a royal welcome by the British government in a visit to the UK. Indonesia’s anti-terror squad, Detachment 88, which has been involved in human rights abuses in Papua, receives British funded training. Human rights organization TAPOL reported:
The unit is trained at the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation, JCLEC, which received a minimum of £400,000 in funding from Britain in the financial year 2011/12, as well as training provided by British officers. These include the UK’s South East Asia Counter Terrorism & Extremism Liaison Officer Detective Superintendent Phil Tucker; former Metropolitan Police Commander Bob Milton, and David Gray, an officer from the Counter Terrorism Command at New Scotland Yard who sits on JCLEC’s Board of Supervisors and has been teaching on the course since August 2009.
In April, UK PM David Cameron visisted Jakarta with executives from BAE Systems and other arms manufacturers to try and boost defense sales to Indonesia. British-made Hawk jets, armoured personnel carriers and water cannons have all been used by the TNI for years to oppress Indonesia’s own citizens.
The British are also helping to ensure that there will be new uses for their war equipment, as Indonesia recently approved a $12 billion expansion of BP’s Taungguh natural gas operation in West Papua. This will undoubtedly involve displacing more indigenous people from their traditional lands without compensation and require the use of military force and terror.
In September, the US announced it is selling 8 AH-64/D Apache helicopters to the Indonesian military. The helicopters are manufactured by Boeing Integrated Defence Systems. Last year, the US gave Indonesia 2 dozen used F-16 fighter planes. In August 2012, a Department of Defense document became available detailing a proposed arms deal between the US and Indonesia. That deal, worth $25 million, called for supplying Indonesia with a large number of missiles to be built by Raytheon Missile Systems.
Hillary Clinton defended the Apache helicopters deal saying:
“This agreement will strengthen our comprehensive partnership and help enhance security across the region”
Since Indonesia is not under any immediate military threat or involved in any conflict, the only use Indonesia has for these Apache helicopters currently is to hunt down and annihilate Papuans living in remote areas. These new helicopters will be very well-suited to assist in TNI “sweeping” operations.
Australia, eager not to lose influence in the Pacific region, is also trying to forge stronger military ties with Indonesia. In September, Australia and Indonesia signed a new defense cooperation agreement committing to future joint exercises and trade of defense equipment. An Indonesian press release about the agreement stated that it would:
“strengthen and develop the relationship and co-operation … on the basis of mutual respect of each other’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, no meddling in each other’s internal affairs, equality, mutual benefit and with a great respect for peace.”
Russian company Rosoboronexport (RoE) is also interested in selling its tanks, air defense systems and combat helicopters to Indonesia.
What the Weapons will be used for
Under the pretext of hunting down separatist fighters and insurgents, the TNI regularly conduct so-called “sweep” operations in remote areas of West Papual where there are no journalists to witness anything. The true purpose of these attacks, however, is to terrorize indigenous Papuans and force them off their traditional lands and away from their livelihoods, so the land can be re-appropriated for use by the military or by foreign companies keen on plundering Papuas many natural resources.
On November 4th, TNI Battalion 756 conducted ethnic cleansing “sweeps” in the area of Wamena, West Papua. West Papua Media reported that soldiers torched houses, bet up Papuan civilians and shot at least one villager injuring him seriously. Regular reports suggest that these “sweeping” operations are ongoing in the highlands around Wamena.
Members of this notorious battalion went on a similar rampage, burning & looting houses and beating residents in June of this year. Similar sweeps were also conducted in Keerom in June, forcing indigenous Papuans to flee from their villages to the jungles.
Elsewhere in Paniai district, the site of a massive gold rush, TNI Battalion 753 was conducting house to house sweeps in remote hill areas outside Wegamo, destroying property and chasing residents from their homes. Often in such raids, food gardens are destroyed and important farm tools are confiscated in an clear attempt to ensure that residents can’t return to their land and survive.
In addition to these operations, there has been a massive crackdown on the non-violent activist organization, KNPB, in recent months. The Indonesian government has branded the KNPB and other peaceful Papuan activists “enemies of state”, so ordinary citizens can be justifiably hunted down as enemy combatants.
Inspector General Tito Karnavian has set up a special “anti-terror” police squad to guard Freeport-McMoran’s mining operations in the district of Mimika, West Papua. The “terrorists” in question are indigenous Papuans who simply want their own land back.
Whitewashing the Bloodshed
A visit to Indonesia from US ambassador, Scot Marciel, earlier in November reiterated US support for Indonesia’s claim to West Papua. The ambassador was apparently also very impressed by the “reforms” that had already been made by TNI. He met with Chief of Police in Papua, Tito Karnavian, patted him on the back for the achievements of the police and said he hoped new joint programs with the US could be established over the coming years.
The Indonesian government continues to deny that there is any problem in West Papua and try to play down reports of human rights abuses. This response isn’t surprising considering Indonesia deals with the claims of discrimination and abuse from indigenous people by refusing to admit they exist.