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Urgent Alert ! West Papua
17 August 2000
Indonesian military build-up in West Papua
PCRC Action Alert - 16 August 2000
Following moves towards independence in West Papua, the Indonesian armed forces are moving towards a violent response, with the introduction of new Indonesian troops into West Papua and the arming of anti-independence militias. West Papuan leaders are calling on the international community to speak out against this militarisation.
Between 29 May and 4 June 2000, the Second Papuan People's Congress was held to discuss the issue of a transitional government for West Papua (the western half of the island of New Guinea, which has been occupied by Indonesia since the 1960s). Over 3,000 West Papuans attended the People's Congress in the capital Jayapura (Port Numbay), including representatives from the central government and provincial administration, Papuan leaders living in exile, supporters of the OPM (Free Papua Movement) as well as observers from other parts of Indonesia. The Congress issued a Declaration of Independence on 4 June 2000. Independence activists stressed West Papua has been independent since December 1961 and that the subsequent Indonesian take over through the 1969 Act of Free Choice was illegal.
Indonesia has responded with a major military build up. In the first week of August 2000, about five hundred KOSTRAD (Land Command Strategic Troops) were deployed to each of the thirteen regencies in West Papua (amounting to 6,500 new troops). The troops were deployed six hours after Indonesian President Wahid's statement to the Indonesian Parliament outlining his willingness to offer West Papua autonomy, but not independence. On 8 August, Indonesia's MPR (Provisional Peoples Consultative Assembly) agreed to reject the West Papuan Congress demands for independence, and instead to grant autonomy to West Papua.
Indonesian troops normally based in West Papua include several thousand regular and special forces (Kopassus) troops. Indonesia is also planning a new naval base for 3,000 marines in the district of Sorong in West Papua. There are also plans, announced in July, to send 2,000 troops of the police mobile brigade (Brimob) from Jakarta.
Already, the Indonesian military are supporting the creation of new anti-independence militias in West Papua, such as the pro-Jakarta Satgas Merah Putih (Red and White Taskforce - the colours of the Indonesian flag). In 1999, this tactic led to massive human rights violations in East Timor, and the death of thousands. The OPM (Free Papua Movement) fears that the Indonesian military is bringing guns from overseas to provoke West Papuans into responding with violence.
West Papuan NGOs and churches call for support:
Militias armed by Indonesia caused a human tragedy in East Timor in 1999. This year, thousands have also died in clashes in Maluku, in militia attacks supported by elements of the Indonesian military. There is an urgent need for the international community to act to halt a similar tragedy in West Papua. Melanesian countries (through the Melanesian Spearhead Group) and the wider Pacific community (through the South Pacific Forum) can play an important role in the peaceful resolution of the current crisis.
West Papuan activist Jacob Rumbiak writes: "West Papuans urgently request international institutions, especially the United Nations, to protect West Papuans in West Papuan territory, so that another human disaster in the Indonesian Republic can be contained. West Papuans hope that the international community will not wait until West Papua is destroyed by the Indonesian government (that is still dominated by its own military) before it addresses the rapidly deteriorating situation. West Papuans consider that direct intervention is the duty of the United Nations, which must protect indigenous West Papuans. The problem is not an 'internal' political problem, but rather one that has to be addressed by the international community. Thank you for your attention. Please help avoid our disaster."
Senior church and NGO leaders in Jayapura have issued a statement this week seeking international support. Bishop Leo Laba Ladjar for the Catholic Diocese; John Gobay Chairman of the Synod of the GKI Church of Irian Jaya; Robert Korwa for the Jayapura Legal Aid Institute; and other NGO leaders have stated:
"In the interests of upholding human rights and democracy, we offer the following recommendations:
"Firstly: The name Papua represents the cultural identity of the people of Papua land and the unfurling of the Papuan flag throughout the land is a symbol of the aspirations of the Papua people that were repressed during the New Order. We feel that the right of all people individually and collectively to express their opinions should be respected, and this includes the right of Papua people to call themselves Papuans and to unfurl their flag. We vigorously protest against the policy of the government, in this reform era, to repress this.
"Secondly: We reject the proposal to amend Article 29 of the Indonesian Constitution, which would allow the state to interfere in people's religious freedom.
"Thirdly: We call on the government, both civilian as well as the TNI and police, and the regional government to respect the principle of dialogue. The government and the legislature should not open the way for the re-emergence of militarism in Indonesia. We therefore demand the immediate withdrawal of all the newly arrived non-organic troops. We are totally convinced that violence will never resolve our problem; on the contrary it will only bring new problems.
"Fourthly: the wishes of members of the MPR to adopt a law on special autonomy for Papua should be postponed and there should first be dialogue regarding the matter with the Papuan people,
"Fifthly: We call on all sections of the community, in particular the Papuan Presidium Council, religious leaders, traditional leaders, Satgas Papua, Red and White Satgas and the general public to stress the need for dialogue in resolving the conflicts. We should do everything possible to restrain ourselves so that we are not dragged into violent conflict, which can only result in loss of life and property for the ordinary civilians.
"Sixthly: We urge the central government and the various components of the Papuan people to enter into dialogue to seek an overall solution to the Papuan problem."
Actions you can take:
Militias armed by Indonesia caused a human tragedy in East Timor in 1999. It is not too late for the international community to act to halt a similar tragedy in West Papua. Melanesian countries (through the Melanesian Spearhead Group) and the wider Pacific community (through the South Pacific Forum) can play an important role in the peaceful resolution of the current crisis.
Please write today to member governments of the South Pacific Forum, to request that this important issue be discussed at the next Forum meeting (to be held in Kiribati in October 2000).
Ask your government to support efforts to carry the issue of West Papua to international bodies, such as the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonisation and the United Nations Commission of Human Rights.
Write to the Indonesian Embassy calling for the withdrawal of Indonesian troops from West Papua and peaceful dialogue over self-determination for the people of West Papua.
Pacific Concerns Resource Centre, Fiji. PCRC is the Secretariat of the Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific (NFIP) movement. It is registered in the Fiji Islands under the Charitable Trusts Act. PCRC is a Non-Governmental Organisation in General Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
Contact details in Aotearoa / New Zealand
a) Indonesian Ambassador: Mrs Titiek S Rustaman, Embassy of Indonesia, PO Box 3543, Wellington, tel (04) 475 8699, fax (04) 475 9374.
b) NZ government contacts:
* Phone calls and faxes (all to be prefixed by 04 by those of you out of Wellington) - Helen Clark, Prime Minister, office - tel 471 9998, fax 473 3579; Jim Anderton, Deputy Prime Minister, office - tel 471 9011, fax 495 8441; Phil Goff, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, office - tel 471 9370, fax 495 8444; The Cabinet (collectively), office - tel 471 9743, fax 472 6332.
* ideally you should send a copy of your correspondence to Matt Robson, Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, tel (04) 470 6561, fax (04) 495 8462; Keith Locke, Green Party Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs, tel 470 6709, fax 472 6003; and a copy of your correspondence and of any replies to PMA for our files.
* Letters - all letters should be addressed to the relevant person and posted (no stamp needed) to Parliament Buildings, Wellington.
c) You could also write to the national / nationally distributed media: Christchurch Press, fax (03) 364 8492, firstname.lastname@example.org; Dominion, fax (04) 4740257; Evening Post, fax; (04) 474 0237, email@example.com; New Zealand Herald, fax (09) 373 6434, firstname.lastname@example.org; Sunday Star Times, fax (09) 309 0258; Press Association, fax (04) 473 7480; Radio New Zealand, fax (04) 473 0185; Listener, fax (09) 360 3831, email@example.com