Achieving Freedom and Democracy for West Papua

Image icon morningstar.png1.8 KB

Morning Star flag

Inhabited for some 45,000 years, West Papua became part of the Dutch East Indies in the 17th century. After the second world war, the Netherlands eventually recognised Indonesian claims for independence, excluding Dutch New Guinea. In the latter a national parliament was elected in 1961. Indonesia, under Sukarno, engaged in military interventions in the region without success. But the possibility of a conflict lead to a UN agreement transferring authority to the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA) and then to Indonesia in 1963.

In 1969, the United Nations supervised an "Act of Free Choice", where Indonesian military appointed elders agreed to be part of Indonesia. Released documents show that the decision of the hand-picked individuals to integrate with Indonesia was anything but an act of free choice. (c.f.,

Since then the separatist Free Papua Movement (OPM) was established with the Republic of West Papua (1971) and has engaged in small-scale conflict, with several rebllions and riots. A major study conducted by Australian and local researchers pubilshed by Sydney University in 2005 concluded that security forces where the main source of instability, with an estimated one hundred thousand deaths resulting from the occupation process. Simple acts, such as displaying the "morning star" flag, are illegal in Indonesia.

In 2000, the Wahid government granted West Papua "special autonomy", as a compromise between integration and separation, although there is little evidence of this in practise. In 2004 exiled West Papuan leader Benny Wenda initiated a campaign to encourage the UN to hold an independence referendum in West Papua. The campaign has growing international support from notable figures such as Noam Chomsky Desmond Tutu.

Indonesian security forces which operate in West Papua are trained by the Australian Federal Police.

At a meeting of the Isocracy Network at United Voice Victoria 117-131 Capel St, Melbourne, Victoria on Saturday, 18 May 2013 Louis Byrne and other members of the West Papua Association addressed the meeting outlining the current situation, providing a slides of contemporary events.

Further Reading

Commenting on this Story will be automatically closed on July 22, 2013.


Indonesian counter-terrorist unit accused of mass killing in disputed Papua province

An elite counter-terrorist police unit in Indonesia has been accused of carrying out a mass killing in a village in the central highlands of Indonesia's disputed Papua province.

Activists says 11 people were killed and 20 more are missing after a combined military and police crackdown on support for the Free Papua separatist movement in April.

The names of victims and several grisly photographs have been provided to ABC's PM by the armed wing of the movement.

It is impossible to verify the claims, but Indonesia's Embassy in Canberra has agreed to take up the matter.

West Papua is the least populated but most restive corner of our vast near neighbour.

For 50 years Papuans have agitated for independence from their Javanese masters in a campaign fought bitterly on both sides.

In recent weeks the pace of violence has quickened, especially in the central highlands.

Shootings have become so frequent that locals have taken to calling it the Gaza Strip.

It is from this territory that the shocking claims of extra-judicial killings are emerging.

The ABC conducted an interview with the spokesman for the military wing of the Free Papua organisation, Jonah Wenda, via an exchange of text messages after telephone communications failed.

He said that an entire village was targeted.

More at:

Flotilla to Papua undeterred (The Age, p18, Thursday 22 August 2013)

The Freedom Flotilla activists planning to sail from Australia to Papua New Guinea and then on to West Papua in support of Papuan independence will continue their protest, despite threats from the Indonesian military and being abandoned by the Australian government.

The 20 or so protesters who plan to arrive early next month reaffirmed their commitment to travel and warned the Australian government "against keeping the attitude you did to East Timor for more than 20 years".

"They may have guns, they may have best military hardware, but we are equipped with the most powerful tool, the love and the will of our hearts", an activist said.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr has made it clear that Australia will abandon the activists if they are caught and tried by either Papua New Guinea or Indonesia for illegally entering their territory.

The activists, including Australian Aboriginal and West Papuan protesters, are travelling using indigenous Australian passports as well as visas from the self-declared independent state of West Papua. Neither is an internationally recognised document.

Senator Carr has sent a formal letter to the flotilla’s organisers warning them that they face heavy penalties, including imprisonment, for breaching the immigration laws of two countries, and adding that they will get no consular assist-ance.

"In a case like this, where people have got every choice in the world and they are given an explicit warning by their government, we don't believe we're under any obligation ... to have our diplomats spending whole days of their time seeing them in prison or making representations to the government of Indonesia or Papua New Guinea,” Senator Carr said.

[Senator Carr might have a different point of view if members of the Freedom Flotilla are tortured or killed, as happens to scores of West Papuan independence activists each year c.f.,]

Proxima Thule Press Extracts Service

Two articles, an editorial and three letters, all about West Papua, from The
Age (Melbourne), Tuesday 8 October 2013.

● pages 4 & 5:

Papuan protesters threatened with arrest, activist claims

Michael Bachelard

Indonesia Correspondent

A man who listened in to part of a conversation involving West Papuan
protesters in Sunday’s [6 October] Australian consulate raid says an
Australian male voice was shout-ing at the men in a harsh, arrogant voice
about calling the police.

The Indonesian activist, who does not want to be named, has told
Fairfax Media he heard part of the conversation over an open phone line
after the three people who raided the consulate rang for advice.

The news comes as Prime Minis-ter Tony Abbott strengthened even further
his rhetoric on the troubled Indonesian province, say-ing he wanted in
“flashing neon lights” the fact that Australia “will not give people a
platform to grandstand against Indonesia”.

Three men, Rofinus Yanggam, Markus Jerewon and Yuvensius Goo, climbed a
back wall at the consulate in the early hours of Sun-day morning and
delivered a letter to Australian consul-general Brett Farmer asking for
world leaders attending the APEC meeting to press Indonesia to treat West
Papuans better. They also asked for Indonesia to allow greater free-dom in
the troubled province.

The men left the consulate at 6:46 a.m., but the government is facing
calls from the Greens and others for a full explanation about the
circumstances after claims the men were threatened with arrest.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has said the men left voluntarily,
but the men them-selves later said Mr Farmer had threatened to call in the
Indone-sian police or military - who would have needed his permission to
enter the consulate.

An activist has told Fairfax Media that he was with another person when
the men called to seek advice about whether the Australi-ans could legally
allow police to enter the consulate.

Over the phone line, “suddenly I heard an Australian voice saying,
‘You cannot stay here. You have to leave’. And then, ‘We will call the
police’,” the activist said.

“It was pretty harsh. The tone . . . was quite arrogant, that was my
first impression . . .

“It was shouting, because I could hear it from a distance. It was
pretty loud.”

Soon afterwards the activist received word that the men had left the
consulate in a taxi.

Both the activist and the person receiving the phone call are
con-cerned that if they are identified they might come under pressure from
Indonesian security forces, who are highly sensitive about sep-aratist
sentiment in West Papua.

Greens Senator Richard Di Natale has pressed for a “clear and
detailed” account of events inside the consulate, saying the men had been
forced to leave with “a gun to their heads”.

But asked about the incident at the APEC summit about 30 minutes from
the consular office in Bali, Prime Minister Abbott said Australia had a
“very strong rela-tionship” with Indonesia.

He said he wanted it “absolutely crystal clear” that “people seeking
to grandstand against Indonesia, please, don’t look to do it in Austra-lia,
you are not welcome”.

He added that, “the situation in West Papua is getting better, not

“I want to acknowledge the work President Yudhoyono has done to
provide greater autonomy, to provide a better level of govern-ment services
and ultimately a better life for the people of West Papua.”

Fairfax Media has established that, several hours after the men entered
the building, a taxi was called for them from inside the consulate.

Taxi company records show the men were picked up at the consu-late at
6:46 a.m. and taken to a loca-tion in Denpasar, where they were dropped off
in the company of two other people.

The taxi driver said their con-versation was in a different language
and he could not under-stand it.

Fairfax Media has been unable since to contact the men. Papua activists
in Jakarta have told Fair-fax the men have switched off their phones because
they fear for their safety.

In the week leading up to the APEC summit, Papuan students in Bali had
complained about a num-ber of visits to their dormitory accommodation by
Indonesian intelligence operatives.

An article in a student publica-tion, Aliansi Mahasiswa Papua, quoted
students saying they had been visited by plain-clothes officers asking if
they were intend-ing to protest against the APEC meeting.

Seven West Papuans recently sought asylum in Australia after arriving
by boat to [sic: at] a Torres Strait island but were quickly sent to Papua
New Guinea in a move that activists claim may be illegal.

Asked early on Monday about claims that the three men in Bali had
sought Australia’s protection or asylum in the consulate, a spokesman for
the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs said the men “did not ask to
be taken to Australia”, and he reiterated that they had left voluntarily
and with-out threats.

With Amilia Rosa

About West Papua

■ Indigenous population ethnically Melanesian and majority Christian.

■ Province initially excluded from state of Indonesia during negotiations
with former Dutch colonialists in 1949, leaving The Netherlands in control.
Indonesia remained determined to take it by military force if necessary.
After years of international wrangling, held so-called ‘Act of Free
Choice’ in 1969 under auspices of United Nations.

■ In supposedly democratic process, only 1025 people, hand-picked and
overseen by Indonesia’s military, were invited to vote. Even so, western
powers agreed outcome was legitimate and that Jakarta should take control.
Vote remains source of rancour.

■ Province remains Indonesia’s poorest and worst-served, despite huge
mineral wealth. Large police and military presence suppresses low-level,
50-year separatist movement

■ Many Indonesian policy-makers suspect Australia secretly favours West
Papuan independence, likening it to East Timor. This makes it particularly
sensitive bilateral issue.

Papua “stunt” angers senator

David Wroe

The Abbott government has imper-illed its future relationship with key
crossbench senator John Madigan, whose vote it may need to pass
le-gislation, by its handling of the West Papua protest in Bali.

The Democratic Labour Party sen-ator, a supporter of West Papuan
rights, was furious over a story on News Ltd websites on Monday [7 October]
claiming he had warned Prime Min-ister Tony Abbott of a planned Papuan
protest at Australia’s consu-late in Bali.

He believed the Prime Minister’s office was the source of the story
and that its intention was to discred-it him by making him appear too
closely involved with the West Papuan rights movement.

“The ALP never pulled a stunt like this in the two years and three
months I’ve been in the Senate.” he said. “I tell you, they’re not off
to a good start with me.”

Senator Madigan’s vote could be crucial for the Abbott government to
pass key legislation through the Senate including scrapping the car-bon and
mining taxes.


● page 14 (editorial and letters):

[EDITORIAL: Second Leader]

Embrace Indonesia, but reject abuses

If Australia wants a fair and open relationship with Indone-sia, as it
should, and if Indone-sia seeks the same of this nation, then it is
incumbent on both countries to keep a firm eye on the issues that matter to
their respective peoples. Trade and investment should be ranked highly,
being neces-sary engines for stronger economies, but without proper
attention to hu-man rights considerations we risk in-dulging each other with
false smiles.

The Age is concerned about the treatment the Prime Minister, Tony
Abbott, has indicated his government will afford to anyone protesting about
conditions in the provinces of West Papua. Mr Abbott has said his
gov-ernment takes “a very dim view in-deed of anyone seeking to use our
country as a platform for grandstand-ing against Indonesia [and] we will do
everything that we possibly can to discourage this and to prevent this”. He
says that “on the subject of sover-eignty, we’re fair dinkum about doing
what we can to help Indonesia in every way”.

Mr Abbott seems to think, wrongly, that his government is obliged to stifle
dissent against a friendly neighbour. He is overreaching on this, and
unnecessarily so. It is up to Indonesia to deal with political dissent
within its borders, but when its response in-volves human rights abuses - as
has occurred too often in Papua and West Papua - Australia should be strong
enough to voice its objection and not pass it over as none of our business.

Human rights are an international responsibility. If the Abbott
govern-ment believes it should remain offic-ially silent on such matters,
then it surrenders any right to impose silence on others who do protest.

Successive Australian govern-ments have ignored evidence of human
rights abuses in Indonesia, to our shame. Yet a stock check of viol-ence
wrought by Indonesian forces on political protesters in West Papua includes
multiple shootings, torture, disappearances and detention. Rarely is there
any official investiga-tion, let alone accountability.

Indonesia deserves credit for its substantial reforms of recent years,
but we cannot measure respect for human rights in relative terms. If
Indonesia falls short of our standards, it fails to meet world standards.
When we agree to shut down political dissent, we risk being complicit in
whatever else might follow.



No way to reward care shown to our troops

I am aghast at the comment by our new Prime Minister during his visit to
Indonesia last week that West Papuans could have “the best possible life .
. . as part of an indissoluble Indonesia”.

Mr Abbott’s words reveal how out of touch he is on this issue. Or that
he doesn’t care.

West Papuans who saved the lives of countless Australian soldiers
during World War II are daily tortured by Indonesian troops. Yet we have
abandoned West Papuans to their fate at the hands of the Indonesian
military. This is no way to reward the care and compassion shown to our
troops by Papuan people, Mr Abbott.

Paul Arnott, Ringwood East [Victoria]

World has turned a blind eye

The world has turned a blind eye to the tragic situation in West Papua.

Regardless of the actual death toll, with claims of up to 500,000
killed since the 1960s, torture, rape and killings contin-ue daily only 250
kilometres from our shores.

And what crimes are being committed by West Papuans? A wish for

And Indonesia’s reasons for continuing crimes against humanity?
Maintaining its empire and securing mineral riches.

Human Rights Watch is critical of the administration. Simil-arly, Nobel
peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu has stated that: “The people of West
Papua have been denied their basic human rights, including their right to
self-determination. Their cry for justice and freedom has fallen largely on
deaf ears.” He added that, in an area similar to Spain in size, only 16
United Nations observers officiated in the “act of free choice”, when just
over 1000 handpicked people were coerced into accepting Indone-sian

But we must never upset Indonesia, must we?

Ross Ollquist, Hazelwood South [Vic.]

History of torture is real

Amanda Vanstone writes with conviction about the media-savvy refugees caught
up in the latest drownings off Indonesia, then later admits we won’t really
know what happened until we have evidence about who called whom (Comment, 7

This, plus her assumption that more open acceptance of asylum seekers
would threaten the integrity of Australia, shows a failure to acknowledge
the real risks that asylum seekers face if they do end up in Indonesia.

Why does she, like others on both sides of Australian politics,
conveniently ignore that only desperate people get on to boats and that the
history of abuse, killing, rape and torture endured by West Papuans at the
hands of Indonesians is real?

If Ms Vanstone were on a leaky boat, I wonder whether she would be
equally happy to end up in Java or in Australia - but I forget, she has
citizenship of a country that doesn’t function as Indone-sia does.

George Wills, Mount Dandenong [Vic.]