Pacific Scoop

Political Stigmatisation Towards Indigenous West Papuans

Press Release – Selpius Bobii – Front Pepera Papua Barat

An effort of the Republic of Indonesia to kill Self-Determination for the People of Papua . By Selpius A. Bobii 25 February 2013POLITICAL STIGMATISATION TOWARDS THE STRUGGLE OF THE INDIGENOUS WEST PAPUAN COMMUNITY :

An effort of the Republic of Indonesia to kill Self-Determination for the People of Papua
By Selpius A. Bobii
25 February 2013
“We are shocked that the Head of Police in Papua after just moving into the position, immediately accused the KNPB of being terrorists and a division of the insurgents. This is absolutely excessive”(as translated) Reverend Socrates S. Yoman, the General Chairperson of the Fellowship of Baptist Churches in Papua (Source : Bintang Papua, Friday 25 January 2013, pg 3). The perception of this well respected Church leader Reverend Socrates S.Yoman, (S.Th. M.A) in response to the accusation of terrorism by the Head of Police in Papua towards the Papuan activist group the National Committee of West Papua (‘KNPB’) forms the voice of the church to reject out of hand the accusation of terrorism by the State of Indonesia through the Head of Police in Papua. The opinion of this well known church leader also states to the State of Indonesia and to all other countries and to the United Nations (UN) that Papuans are not terrorists, that Papuans are not carrying out crimes of treason, are not separatists, are not insurgents and are not undermining the unity of the Republic of Indonesia ( NKRI).

The political strategies and tactics of stigmatisation that have been accelerated by the State of Indonesia continuously against independence Papuan activists constitutes the extent of the State’s efforts to cover up all the various forms of humanitarian atrocities committed by NKRI against the Papuan people. These strategies and tactics provide ‘justification’ to extinguish those indigenous Papuans who struggle for the sovereignty of West Papua.

There are 3 types of large scale humanitarian atrocities in the world – firstly the annexation of the independent sovereignty of another people; secondly the carrying out of a war against a people; and thirdly the annihilation of an ethnic race including by massacres and other means. The State of Indonesia has continually until the present continued to carry out all three of these categories of humanitarian crimes against the people of Papua. After the State of Indonesia succeeded to annex the sovereign independence of the nation of Papua, the State of Indonesia has relentlessly applied military operations both overtly and covertly. The result of which is leading towards the destruction of the ethnic Papuan race in West Papua, slowly but surely. That annexation was commenced with the declaration of the Operation TRIKORA (refer footnote) by President Soekarno on 19 December 1961 which was implemented by a military and political invasion.

The practice of NKRI to stigmatise Papuan Independence activists with labels of ‘Treasonists’ and ‘Separatists’ has been legalised by the Criminal Law Act (KUHP) articles 106-110 which is a piece of archaic legislation that has remained from the Dutch colonial era. The application of this code has seen the loss of so many lives. The treason articles in the KUHP have been applied as an attempt to justify and legalise NKRI’s military operations against Papuan activists by arbitrary arrests and imprisonment. The personal and material sufferings that the people of Papua have endured to date are beyond one’s imagination. What has been most horrifying has been the sacrifice of souls of the community of Papua that has been so great as a consequence of NKRI’s military and para-military operations. The stigmatisation has been used as a shield to protect NKRI from various potential threats from the international community for the humanitarian atrocities they have been committing against indigenous Papuans in the interests of the unity of the Republic of Indonesia.

The most recent stigmatisation of Papuan Independence activists and in particular against the OPM/TPN-PB and the West Papuan National Committee (Komite Nasional Papua Barat (KNPB), has been the accusation that they are ‘terrorists’. This accusation did not arise accidentally either in terms of timing or tactics but rather was part of a broad scenario that NKRI has had planned for some time to wipe-out the Papuan peoples movement. A plan that would ‘enable’ the continuation of the severe oppression and which would cause the Papuan Independence Movement to become seen as an ‘enemy’ of the world. This heightened level of stigmatisation is but one of a number of means that have been engineered by NKRI to undermine the international community’s confidence in the Papuans struggle for independence and has arisen due to the failure of previous efforts applied by NKRI against the West Papua people to deliver the final broadreaching results that NKRI has been after. Ed McWilliam in his recent article (McWilliams, Ed ‘ Response to Call to Apply Indonesia’s Anti-Terrorism Law in West Papua’, 2 February 2013 commented “Criminal activity by some alleged members of the KNPB is generally not well corroborated and usually reflects efforts by the State to undermine the organization. The KNPB, and many other Papuan organizations and individuals are indeed ever more strongly pressing for Papuan rights, importantly including the long-denied Papuan right to self determination. But these efforts are largely nonviolent.”
The root of the problem in West Papua is not a problem about food or water. Neither is it a problem about education or health. Rather it’s about the right of the Papuan people to sovereign independence. Unpacking the stigmatization that has been engineered against Papuans to date, we need to ask who is the real ‘troublemaker’? Is it not the State of Indonesia which annexed the independent sovereignty of the nation of Papua into NKRI? A takeover which following NKRI’s invasion saw it reinforced by the act of Free Choice in 1969 which we stress was flawed legally and morally. An annexation process that was totally supported by the USA to meet nothing but their own economic and political interests. It has been NKRI in fact through its ‘machinery’ of oppression that has been the troublemaker in the land of Papua.

And who is it that has really committed treason in Papua? The annexation of the sovereign independence of the nation of Papua into NKRI in 1961 was an act of treason carried out by the State of Indonesia against the then State of Papua. Since then NKRI has continued to intensify the level of military and political invasion to actualize the Declaration of TRIKORA.

Regarding the accusation against Papuans of being accused of ‘trying to create a state within a state,’ if we look back in history who was it in fact that created a state within an already existing state? In one of the Three Commands in the Declaration of TRIKORA the then President Soekarno commanded “Dismiss the establishment of the Dutch colonial-made state,” (as translated) (“Bubarkan negara boneka Papua buatan kolonial Belanda”). In this Declaration:

a) The State of Indonesia formally acknowledged there was in existence a State of West Papua
b) The State of West Papua was insulted as being a ‘puppet state’ of the Dutch by the President
c) It was stated that the State of West Papua must be dismantled.

The Declaration of TRIKORA was in itself authentic proof of the annexation of a legitimate and legally existing State of Papua into the NKRI. Was this not the expansion of the Indonesian state into an area that was already a state?

In terms of the accusation against Papuans of ‘undermining state sovereignty’, of course the indigenous peoples of Papua are not struggling to annex or snatch the land of Java, of Sulawesi or Madura or any other part of Indonesia. Rather the people of Papua are struggling for the full sovereignty of the land of their ancestors, just as other free nations of the world have done throughout modern history. Indigenous Papuans are not undermining the sovereignty of the lands of Indonesia. Rather they are struggling for the recognition and return of their most basic rights including their right to sovereign independence as the people of Papua which is guaranteed by International Law (and in fact even under the opening paragraph of NKRI’s own 1945 Constitution.)

Let’s look more closely at the most recent stigmatisation, being the accusation of ‘terrorism’ against Papuans. It is important to note that Papuans hold in deep respect the teachings of their ancestors and elders and indeed they have never practiced or taught their children and grandchildren to terrorize or to kill civilians arbitrarly. That is unheard of in the Papuan community. Whilst indeed tribal wars occurred in Papua’s history, both sides of the conflicts always strictly complied with the rules of war which had been agreed to by both sides. There has never in Papuan history been arbitrary acts of violence against civilians.

An overwhelming majority of Papuans that are involved in the Papuan Liberation Movement, struggle in strictly peaceful ways and have a firm commitment to non-violence. At the Papuan Community Congress III in the year 2000 it was agreed and decided formally by all components of the Papua Liberation Movement that the community of Papua would struggle strictly therein with non-violence. In actual fact this was in accordance with the way the majority of Papuans had already been struggling for many years before that. However nevertheless there have continued to be a number of OPM/TPN-PB groups of small numbers living in the forests that often use resistance tactics involving weapons when they consider that necessary to defend the land from seizure and and their local communities from slaughter by NKRI through their armed forces. To really understand why in spite of this wider community decision to struggle non-violently that the OPM/TPN has persisted in using resistance tactics that frequently involve opposing the Indonesian armed forces using violence, we need to consider a number of aspects.

Firstly the history of the OPM/TPN. These groups firstly began resisting with arms in 1965 in Manokwari (before the civilian movement for freedom had even started) immediately following the annexation of Papua into Indonesia in 1961. The OPM/TPN tactics were a response intended:

i) To reject the annexation of Papua into the Republic of Indonesia and to struggle for the return of the sovereign independence of Papua.
ii) To reject the presence of NKRI in the land of Papua.
iii) To protect and defend both the land and indigenous people of Papua at a time when so many indigenous Papuans were being killed by the TNI / Police and when our ancestral lands was being seized and despoiled by NKRI arbitrarily.

The need to protect ones land and people is of course the reason nations the world over have armies.

For the OPM/TPN – as for all of us in the struggle – the Papuans’ very race has been under very real threat from the time Papua was annexed by Indonesia. The systems of NKRI have never recognised the Papuan culture and have hoped that Papuans would forget their customary ways and beliefs – which Indonesians consider to be ancient / archaic and ‘outdated’ – and that we would just surrender our land. Indeed it has always been the underlying desire of the State of Indonesia that the Papuan race would become extinct in Indonesia. This was alluded to by General Ali Murtopo who had been appointed by the then Indonesian President to lead the initial military operations that were to ensure that the annexation of Papua into NKRI was ‘successful’ when he said “We don’t need indigenous Papuans. We only need the land and natural resources of Papua. And if Papuans want independence then go ahead let them ask God for an island in space or on the moon so that we can shift Papuans to that place”. This statement by the Indonesian military leader hurt us so very deeply. We quickly realised the extent of the threat we were facing. It was this intention that had become so clear, that caused to arise a motivation amongst indigenous Papuans to struggle to save our people.

The General’s statement was to become actualised against the indigenous people of Papua in the many forms of tyranny and oppression that followed and have continued until this date. In order to take-over the land and to seize its natural wealth, the police and Indonesian military have killed countless indigenous Papuans . Researchers from Australia and USA have already shown that the process of extinction of the ethnic race of Papua inside West Papua is already happening slowly but surely. And the ‘actors’ bringing that about are the Indonesian military and police. From the start indigenous Papuans have known the goal of Indonesia is to take the land of Papua by force and to wipe out the indigenous peoples of Papua, just as General Murtopo’s stated. It was OPM/TPN PB which were the first groups formed to resist in a real way these acts of NKRI intended to annihilate our race and that causative factor has never changed.

The convictions of the OPM/TPN is that there is no other way for them to avoid the threat of being killed by the armed forces but to live in the forests. There to defend their land and their local communities with if need be, the use of violence at those times when their communities and lands are under immediate threat by the armed forces. Yet it’s to be emphasized that the OPM/TPN do not carry out offensive actions but rather their actions are always defensive to protect their lands and people.

What is not widely known is that OPM/TPN have for so long been asking NKRI :
a) To pull out all their troops from the land of Papua (i.e. to demilitarize the area).
b) To stop seizing the lands and natural wealth of Papua.
c) To stop creating more divisions into provinces, regencies and districts in the land of Papua.
d) To stop terrorizing and intimidating the indigenous peoples of Papua and carrying out humanitarian crimes against them
e) To end the political status of Papua by holding dialogue as between two equal nations.

Although the OPM/TPN has for so many years now been asking both in writing and orally again and again, their requests have never even been regarded by the Republic of Indonesia. In fact the reality is that NKRI does not want to stop these actions and is doing quite the opposite .The State of Indonesia through their systems have created and imposed one form of violence after another against Papuans and whenever the door to dialogue or consultations through the facilitation of neutral third parties has appeared as a possibility, those doors have been immediately closed by NKRI with reasons that are never clear. Yet the community of Papua including the OPM/TPN remain ready to enter into consultations and dialogue with NKRI.

The Recent Incident on 21 February 2013

The incident that occurred on 21 February 2013 at Puncak Jaya with the killing of 8 members of TNI and 4 civilians as a result of gunfire suspected to be that of the TPN-PB, indeed was a terrible tragedy. At this time the accusations against the TPN/OPM cannot be verified as it has not yet been possible to get official information from the TPN leader General Goliat Tabuni. Although the OPM/TPN website states that they claim responsibility for the shooting and the civilian media also says the same as was published in the local ‘Suara Pembaharuan’ (supposedly based on a phone call with General Goliat Tabuni), yet it is incredibly difficult to accept this as fact. Firstly as the area where General Goliat Tabuni and his forces have been located since the incident on 21 February being Tingginambut, is an area which always experiences extreme difficulty getting a mobile phone signal. Secondly as the OPM/TPN never intentionally killed civilians and what more never act in a way to intentionally terrify the wider community. Their targets are strictly only the Police / TNI and not civilians. It is the Writer’s opinion that such information could well have been engineered by certain parties which have until this time been creating conflict by various means in order to attain their political and economic interests. With the aim of creating further ‘cover’ for them to intensify military actions in those mountain regions.

Not only is the incident of these killings of soldiers and civilians on 21 February 2013 most saddening indeed, but what has been most distressing has been the very widespread violent retaliation by the armed forces and the extreme suffering that has caused against the entire civilian community in that area of the mountains. Not only at the location where the Feb 21 shooting occurred in the village of Tingginambut in Sina but also in Paniai and the other surrounding regions (areas which so often suffer from military operations carried out in retaliation for incidents between the TPN PB and the Indonesian armed forces). The majority of the wider community of indigenous Papuans who struggle peacefully always feel most saddened if they hear of people being killed no matter which side of the struggle the victim is from.

Although the use of violent actions by the TPN/OPM are with the intention of saving the people of Papua from ethnic annihilation and all forms of oppression by NKRI through its systems, nevertheless the mutual acts of violence against each other by the Indonesian armed forces and the TPN/OPM will never bring an end to the problems in the land of West Papua. These incidents of violence actually create new levels of problems which make it even harder to create peace in the land of Papua. Every time violence is answered with violence it brings deep anguish to the wider indigenous community of Papua both at a personal level and also at a wider community level. As throughout our entire lives we have been victims of the violence of the Republic of Indonesia and we so deeply want to see an end to the violence for everyone on all sides. We deeply long to see justice reached peacefully through consultations / dialogue and through the channels of international law or alternatively through decolonization to achieve recognition of Papua’s sovereign independence through the law courts under the United Nations.

Turning back to the allegation of ‘terrorism’ against Papuans, once again it is stressed that the TPN PB’ s target is the Indonesian police/ military and never civilians. Discourse in the past about TPN PB intentionally killing civilians is not true and is something that’s been engineered by the Indonesian armed forces to create a lack of confidence in the international community towards the Papuan cause. In those instances where civilians have been killed/shot in instants of gunfire, these incidents have occurred where people have acted as individuals and not under the command of the leaders of the TPN PB or else due to ‘games’ by certain other parties. On a number of grounds it makes no logical sense and is not justifiable for the State of Indonesia to refer to TPN PB or Papuan Independence activists generally as ‘terrorists’.

According to Sidney Jones in her recent lecture at the International Policy Studies program of Stanford University, Papuan ‘separatists’ vs Jihadi ‘terrorists’: Indonesian policy dilemmas, Jones, Sidney 5 Dec 2012, as amended 22 January 2013 (, there are two categories of ‘terrorism’ in Indonesia today, being Islamic Militants (“Jihadis”) and West Papuan “ethno-nationalists/separatists”. Categorizing Papuans in this way is both bizarre and shameful. Categorizing Papuans struggling to defend their land in this way effectively legitimizes Detachment 88 and the Indonesian military (TNI) which are at present trying to extinguish Papuan Independence activists who have struggled for many years since before the term ‘terrorist’ was even born.

The State of Indonesia hasn’t yet applied anti-terrorist laws in Papua, however if they do then NKRI’s action will only attract criticism and disgrace towards the name of Indonesia in the international arena. As the international community already understands that the struggle of the people of Papua is not just ‘troublemaking’, is not ‘treason’, is not ‘separatism’ and they are not ‘terrorist’ acts intended to terrify the civilian population, but rather is a Struggle of the people of Papua to save their race and for the restoration and return of the sovereign independence of the nation of Papua which was annexed unilaterally onto NKRI in the 1960’s.

There used to be a well known motto by a military strategic specialist named Flavius Vegetius Renatus that basically means ‘If you want to bring about peace you must be ready to face war first’. This saying has not been used for many years now as it is not considered ‘proper’ in this era when humans are considered to be more advanced with the various humanitarian institutions and where humanity is ‘equipped’ with international laws that are intended to uphold justice in the form of world peace. A saying which could be considered more appropriate in this day might be ‘If you want peace then uphold justice’. Violence answered by violence shall never bring an end to problems but rather will create new problems. To bring about peace in Papua let us struggle together to uphold justice by peaceful means.

By Selpius A. Bobii

General Chairperson
Front Persatuan Perjuangan Rakyat Papua Barat
(and as a) Political Detainee in Abepura Prison, Jayapura, West Papua


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