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Free Papua

From the Jakarta Globe 09-07-2010

Thousands Rally for Independence Referendum in Indonesia’s Papua

Jayapura. Thousands of Papuans rallied on Thursday to urge the provincial legislature to demand a referendum on self-determination, and reject the region’s special autonomy within Indonesia.

An upper house of tribal leaders, the Papuan People’s Assembly (MRP), voted in June to reject Papua’s autonomy status, introduced in 2001 after the fall of the Suharto military dictatorship in Jakarta.

Witnesses said more than more than 2,000 Papuans in Jayapura, some of them wearing traditional outfits, were marching about 17 kilometers from the MRP’s office to the provincial legislative building.

“Special autonomy has failed to protect the rights of indigenous Papuans,” protest leader Markus Haluk said.

“We want to urge Papua’s provincial parliament to hold a plenary meeting to declare that special autonomy is a failure and returned it back to the central government,” he said.

Haluk said the Indonesian government and Papuans, who are indigenous Melanesians, needed to establish a dialogue in which the UN or a neutral country would act as mediator.

“It’s as if Papua is a dark cave, which is always closed and guarded by the government,” he said. “Papuan people want a referendum as a solution to our problem.”

The provincial legislature canceled a meeting that was supposed to be held on Thursday over the referendum request.

“This is a political issue and we’re still waiting for other political groups in the parliament to make their decision,” Golkar party lawmaker Yan Ayomi said.

Papua has been the scene of a low-level insurgency for decades and despite Indonesia’s vast security presence in the region, Jakarta remains extremely sensitive about any sign of separatism.

Indonesia has sent mixed messages about its willingness to loosen its grip on Papua, offering talks with separatist rebels on one hand while jailing and killing their leaders on the other.

Access to foreign journalists in the area has been restricted by the government.

The goverment needs to take these issues more seriously and make concrete efforts to improve the [eoples welfare in Papua.
paul_indo wrote:
The goverment needs to take these issues more seriously and make concrete efforts to improve the [eoples welfare in Papua.
I thought the article was against autonomy for Papua? So there is a strong support for it not to be independent, as well as strong support for it to be independent? The role of the Government may have to be in providing a Referendum?
This is indeed not very clear from this article.

This one may make the situation a bit clearer.

Jakarta Post Sat, 06/19/2010
Around 2,000 Papuans went on a 20-kilometer march Friday to demand the Papua Legislative Council overturn the province's special autonomy status.

The protesters held a peaceful rally, some clad in traditional attire, and marched from the Papua People's Assembly in Abepura to the council building in Jayapura.

They carried banners reading "Special autonomy has failed", "The 2001 Special Autonomy Law has failed" and "There is no solution but a free Papua".

Assembly Deputy Speaker Hana Hikoyabi, who was among the protesters, handed a letter to Council Deputy Speaker Yunus Wonda.

Assembly member Robby Aituarauw said the letter contained the demands raised during a two-day forum held by the Assembly and seven tribal regions in Papua from June 9 to 10.

The demands included that Jakarta and Papua should hold talks mediated by a third party, hold a referendum and demanded the central government recognize West Papua's sovereignty.

Other demands were calls to stop all regional elections in Papua, stop the government-run transmigration program and release all political prisoners both in Papua and West Papua provinces.

Robby said many Papuans were fed up with constantly being disappointed by the failure of the province's special autonomy to improve people's livelihoods.

"They are tired and desperate, so they came up with these demands."

He said there was no need to evaluate the special autonomy's implementation through studies since its shortcomings were clearly visible.

"Look at the villages and the conditions of homes. See whether people have been provided with healthcare and education. They have never benefited from these facilities, so they believe special autonomy has not been effective and should be revoked," Robby said.

The central government granted Papua special autonomy in 2001 in an effort critics call a measure to win the hearts and minds of Papuans while toning down demands for independence.

The special autonomy status and law allows Papua to keep up to 80 percent of revenue generated from the exploitation of its local resources and authorized its name change from Irian Jaya to Papua.

The law also rules the province has autonomy in the social, political, economic and cultural fields, except for defense, foreign policy, monetary affairs and the courts.

Papua is allowed to have its own flag, symbol and anthem representing its own cultural identity and has a bicameral legislature, comprising the Assembly and Council, which are authorized to issue bylaws, policies and control the executive.

The deputy head of the Council's Commission A, Weynand Watori, said the central government had not wholeheartedly granted Papua special autonomy.

"Special autonomy was given because Papuans demanded independence. After giving it to Papua, the government returned to its old position of decentralization, making the implementation of special autonomy a failure," he said.

"People have returned to their earlier demand for independence. If the trust is gone, it is very difficult to get back."

Another council member, Ruben Magai, said his commission would convey the demands to the central government after holding a plenary session. "After this, the ball is in the central government's court."
Thanks for posting the article for clarification paul_indo. It does make it much clearer for me. Do you think Papua is strong enough to stand on its own feet however? Given that the Indonesian Government seems to be autocratic and if Papua should become independent, that it would have to trade with Indonesia. The situation could be like with Canada and the US, which through their strategic position as neighbours are quite dependent of one another in certain areas of the economy, so if the one Government should become hostile to the other, or implement harmful economic policies that it would have a detrimental effect on the other. Except of course in the case of Indonesia and Papua, even if Papua were to be independent, Indonesia may still be able to have a hold on Papua via route of their dependency on an Indonesian dominated economy?
Firstly I think Indonesia will fight hard to keep Papua, although in completely the wrong way so they may eventually lose it.
As far as Papua being able to govern itself and become a seperate nation I would say that it would make a lot of sense for them to accept initial independence but to eventually join with Papua New Guinea as they are the same people and share the same Island.
This would give them the benefit of an experienced democratic government to simply join with and PNG would gain from the increase in population and land area plus the resources.
What I do know about Indonesia tells me that they will not grant independence to any area within the control of the state.
East Timor stands witness to the determination of the Indonesian government - and that wasn't even theirs. Indonesia also knows it can rely on the west to turn a blind eye if it needs to kill a few thousand people to enforce it's will.
paul_indo wrote:
As far as Papua being able to govern itself and become a seperate nation I would say that it would make a lot of sense for them to accept initial independence but to eventually join with Papua New Guinea as they are the same people and share the same Island.
I was unaware that the two are linked, but that would make sense for Papua to join up with Papua New Guinea. Would probably strengthen both as well.
There is currently no political link but they are the same indigenous people basically, although many tribes.

As you said I believe it would strengthen them both.
There are numerous independence movements in Indonesia and South-East Asia.

They include:
- Banda Aceh (Province on island of Sumatra)
- Papua and West Papua aka Irian Jaya (Indonesian half of island of New Guinea)
- Bali (Majority Hindu population)

- Southern Philippines (Significant muslim populations in a majority Catholic nation)
- Southern Thailand (Significant muslim populations in a majority Buddhist nation)
- Malaysian Borneo
Here is a glimpse of the reality in Papua

Nothing has really changed since Soeharto stepped down.

Jakarta. The jumpy video shows a prisoner lying in a jungle clearing in eastern Indonesia moments after troops allegedly sliced open his abdomen with a bayonet, sending intestines tumbling from his stomach.

Using the little life he has left in him, Yawen Wayeni lifts his arm into the air, and says weakly, “Freedom! Papua ... Freedom!”

At the sound of his muffled voice, gun-toting, uniformed officers resting in the shade approach.

“Speak up,” one taunts. “What? You all are never going to get freedom. As long as there are soldiers still.”

One year after the activist’s death, footage being circulated online is providing a glimpse into the actions of Indonesia’s military in Papua, where an estimated 100,000 people have been killed since the former Dutch colony was integrated into the country nearly 50 years ago.

A low-level insurgency in the province remains an extremely sensitive issue for the government, which restricts access to foreign journalists, human rights workers and academics, making it difficult to verify claims of abuse.

Police have said Wayeni, captured for allegedly vandalizing several of their buildings and vehicles, was shot in the thigh and stomach while resisting arrest and that he died on the way to the hospital.

Harkristuti Harkrisnowo, a director general at Indonesia’s Ministry of Law and Human Rights, said on Tuesday that she was unaware of the video but promised to investigate.

Indonesia has made tremendous strides toward democracy since emerging from decades of dictatorship under Gen. Suharto in 1998. Citizens today can vote directly for president and the country has been praised for reforms that have freed the media and vastly improved human rights.

But government critics in Papua are still given lengthy prison terms for peacefully expressing their views, organizing rallies or simply raising separatist flags. Many say they have been tortured in detention with electric shocks, beatings and cigarette burns.

The central government, which granted Papua special autonomy in 2001, denies such atrocities still take place. An Amnesty International report cited incidents of torture, excessive force and executions by security forces in Papua last year.

Others said the killing points to the persistence of violence in governing the far-flung, desperately poor region.

“For all their talk about how things have changed since Suharto’s days, this particular murder is just another example reminding us how much remains the same,” said Richard Chauvel, a senior lecturer at Victoria University in Australia who has written extensively about Papua.

The video also points to broader feelings that special autonomy — which gives Papuans greater control over their budget and economy — has done little to address key issues driving attitudes in the province.

Thousands have turned out in the streets in recent months demanding that candidates for elected office at the sub-provincial level be indigenous Papuans, something senior officials in Jakarta flatly rejected as “discriminatory,” exacerbating tensions.

Sidney Jones of the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think tank, said government leaders, with few exceptions, “do not understand that the only way to stem an independence movement is through serious attention to political issues.

“At the same time, the Papuans themselves tend to blame Jakarta for everything that has gone wrong, without too much introspection what they themselves could do.”

This is a huge gap, she said, that can only be bridged if high-level discussions are held about political issues.

Others believe outside pressure is required.

Fifty members of the United States Congress signed a letter calling on President Barack Obama to make Papua — the half of New Guinea that was invaded by Indonesia in 1962 — “one of the highest priorities of the administration.”

Even so, as part of efforts to shore up influence in the region amid increasing challenges from China, Washington last month lifted a decadelong ban on military assistance to a notoriously violent commando unit, known as Kopassus, which operates in Papua.

The seven-minute video appears to have been made by the Korps Brigade Mobil, or Brimob, the paramilitary police who took part in the arrest. It too has a legacy of abuse in Papua.

It’s not clear how the clip made its way to the Internet, and few here have seen it.

The troops caught up with Wayeni at his home in the jungle village of Matembu on Aug. 3, 2009.

Wayeni’s wife told the Commission for Disappearances and Victims of Violence that they tied his arms and legs to a log and forced him to chant “Free Papua!” before slicing him in the abdomen with a bayonet.

They all but ignored him as he stumbled to the ground, landing in a patch of rough grass and propping his head up on a log.

“Look, he’s tired,” one officer says as the prisoner’s head lolls back, his eyes rolling.

The police ask Wayeni if he is an atheist and call him a “savage,” saying his prayers will never be answered. They then ask how, in his condition, he thinks Papua will ever shake free of Indonesian rule.

“It’s equally surreal and horrific watching as the grievously injured Yawan Wayeni answers teasing questions from uniformed Indonesia security forces about his political beliefs,” said Phil Robertson, a deputy director at the New York-based Human Rights Watch.

Getting medical help, he notes, seems the furthest thing from their minds.

Despite his suffering, however, the dying man refuses to give in.

“This land was promised by God to us, the Papuan people,” Wayeni says. “God, the suffering of the simple people, there are so many! They are crying, oh God!”
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