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West Papua Report February 2013

Article – WPAT and ETAN

West Papua Report February 2013: Buchtar Tabuni Released, Militarization of Security, Anti-Terrorism Law, MIFEE, Pedaling for PapuaWest Papua Report February 2013: Buchtar Tabuni Released, Militarization of Security, Anti-Terrorism Law, MIFEE, Pedaling for Papua

West Papua Report February 2013
This is the 106th in a series of monthly reports that focus on developments affecting Papuans. This series is produced by the non-profit West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) drawing on media accounts, other NGO assessments, and analysis and reporting from sources within West Papua. This report is co-published by the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN). Back issues are posted online at Questions regarding this report can be addressed to Edmund McWilliams at If you wish to receive the report directly via e-mail, send a note to The Report leads with “Perspective,” an opinion piece; followed by “Update,” a summary of some developments during the covered period; and then “Chronicle” which lists of analyses, statements, new resources, appeals and action alerts related to West Papua. Anyone interested in contributing a “Perspective” or responding to one should write to The opinions expressed in Perspectives are the author’s and not necessarily those of WPAT or ETAN. For additional news on West Papua see the reg.westpapua listserv archive or on Twitter.

In this edition of the WPAT Report we are pleased to publish Jeremy Bally’s PERSPECTIVE. Bally has carried his campaign for Papuan human rights across Canada by bicycle. In UPDATE we report the release of Papuan political leader Buchtar Tabuni and call attention to the growing militarization of security policy in Indonesia. In the CHRONICLE section Ed McWilliams takes issue with Sidney Jones’s recent argument that Indonesia should apply its “anti-terror” law to address “separatism” in West Papua. We highlight a recent analysis that questions whether fascism is a threat in Indonesia; we note new reports on the devastating impact of the MIFEE project. We also highlight new videos, one from Al Jazeera English on repression in West Papua and two new video reports offering Papuan perspectives on life in a transmigration zone the human rights environment in the Wamena area. On its Silver Jubilee, the Melanesian Spearhead Group is urged to support West Papua.


by Jeremy Bally

As a young, white, economically-advantaged male who has made West Papua a centerpiece of his life, Martin Pelcher’s recent article struck a chord with me. He writes that: “The international West Papua solidarity movement is in need of platforms for exchange that do not center the voices and perspectives of white people.”

On April 27, 2012, I left Victoria, British Columbia, on my bicycle, heading east. It had been nearly three years since the name West Papua was first spoken to me by a concerned friend. Much of that time, aside from organizing the occasional movie night or coffee shop concert to raise awareness, had been spent timidly planning this forthcoming journey. Eventually, and thankfully before the rubber hit the road, I realized that it would be inappropriate to execute such a campaign without first getting permission, and stories, from West Papuans.

I arrived in Manokwari by boat from Surabaya, in the wake of the Third National Congress, held in October 2011 and violently concluded on the 19th of that month. Not having enough experience at that point to even know that I should have brought a voice recorder, I opted to write those early conversations into my travel journal:

“Adrian told us that his uncle was one of the people that’d been killed there, and it looked like he’d been tortured. He was apparently working in a community watch as a security guard, and nobody really knows what happened to him, but his body was found with the eyes gouged out, the feet removed, and a large gash cut into his chest.”

Three people died that day, and indeed I was able to confirm later through news reports that one was a security guard, and most likely the uncle of my new friend Adrian. This experience was one of many that I eventually transformed into a story. West Papuan voices were transcribed, often verbatim (luckily, voice recorders are sold in Manokwari), into a multimedia presentation that paired narrative with live music, shadow puppetry, spoken word, and storytelling. Why not make it fun? I thought – just because it’s brutal doesn’t mean it can’t be entertaining.

So I hit the road, and the reviews were good. People seemed to be genuinely engaging with the issue. Still, the road is a thoughtful place, and I found myself constantly struggling to justify this strange path I’d chosen. What right did I have to this story? Did the permission I was granted from a few West Papuans justify me towing word of their complex struggle into these distant communities? Was I telling it well? Or right?

Over 7500 km and 31 presentations this thought never left my mind. Neither, however, did it overwhelm my judgment, or compromise my pursuit. In Jason MacLeod response in West Papua Media Alert’s to Pelcher’s article, I am reminded that, “Our role as solidarity activists is to continually emphasize that the struggle is being led by Papuans and that the role of outsiders is to support their efforts and amplify their voices.” In 2012, the story I told, while drawing hugely on the translated transcripts of my interviews, was essentially a journal narrative – my journal narrative. But what else was I to do? How, in our advocacy, do we allow the voices of Papuans to shine through, when it is inevitably our own experience that informs us? How do we, in part tactfully and selectively, exclude our own voice while bringing forth another’s; the latter having been so stubbornly silenced by a dangerous and unbending occupation?

This video, produced by Canadian artists Chloe Ziner, Jessica Gabriel and Janet Walker of Mind of a Snail, is an animation of an edited version of one of my interviews in West Papua. It was played at the end of the 2012 presentation, billed as “my last interview.” It became more and more clear to me throughout the journey, from both audience feedback and my own intuition, that it was perhaps the most important piece in the presentation. I eventually came to realize that, to some degree, it also addressed the questions I was struggling with. It is from this video that I am drawing a huge amount of inspiration for yet another ride.

In 2013, I will be cycling once again through Canada, but also (with a bit of luck and a lot of support) the U.S., UK and Australia. I am currently in the early stages of producing a performance for this tour, which will feature newly animated recordings of English language interviews I conduct with West Papuans from both within their home region and abroad. Original music, live puppetry and story-telling will tie these voices together in a narrative which traces a history of struggle towards a future with hope.

If there is one thing I learned while in West Papua, it is that the Indigenous peoples of that land are diverse, strong, creative in their resistance and resilience, and hopeful. Theirs is a story that needs to be told. The struggle on this end is how to do so respectfully, thoroughly, and engagingly. My goal is that, with the support and permission of those I interview, that challenge can be met this year with Pedalling for Papua 2013. I hope you will all join me in making this the year that tips the scales – where deep partnership brings change, and solidarity transcends borders.

Peace and bike grease,
Jeremy Bally, twitter: @pedalforpapua


Buchtar Tabuni Released from False Imprisonment

Buchtar Tabuni, Chair of the pro-independence National Parliament of West Papua, was released unexpectedly from Abepura prison on January 19, to a waiting group of about 50 of his supporters from the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), according to a report by West Papua Media. His supporters KNPB members then escorted Tabuni on a long march to the site of the assassination of his friend, former KNPB Chairman Mako Tabuni. He was shot in broad daylight by the U.S. and Australian-funded and trained Detachment 88 counter-terror officers in Waena on June 14, 2012.

Buchtar Tabuni was arrested on June 6, 2012, during an upsurge in mysterious OTK (Orang Terlatih Khusus or “specially trained persons”) shootings, and publicly linked by then Papua Police Chief Bigman Tobing to the shootings. However, Tabuni’s lawyer called the entire case “nothing more than a set up” during Tabuni’s criminal trial in September. The lawyer, Gustaf Kawer, said at the time, “Buchtar had been linked to the shooting of Miron Wetipo but that case has already been solved, so it was clear that the authorities were trying to make a scapegoat of Buchtar.”

Tabuni was in custody when more shootings occurred. Kawer said during the trial that Tabuni “was not in any way connected with those shootings. So instead of being charged with the shootings he now faces the charge of inflicting damage on the Abepura Prison in 2010, which means that he should have been arrested in 2010.” In a trial closed to independent witnesses and marked by significant intimidation of journalists by police and court officials, Tabuni was convicted on a charge of “having allegedly inflicted damage on the Abepura prison in December 2011” and “exchanging harsh words with prison warders.”

In recent months, Tabuni’s health had suffered from his incarceration in atrocious and unhygienic conditions. He suffered respiratory illness, gastric diseases and dangerously low blood pressure.

The Militarization of Security

The Jakarta Post, January 30, reported an agreement between the Indonesian military (TNI) and the national police that will give the military a greater role in dealing with communal conflict. The “Memorandum of Understanding” allows the TNI to deploy its personnel to areas at high risk of conflict without the consent of the local police. If the police request support of the military, the police will be in command of the operation, but if the military deploy without a police request, the military will command the operation. National Police chief Gen. Timur Pradopo said that under the MoU the police will be able to call on military assistance to deal with communal conflicts and demonstrations.

Rights activists are critical of the military-police agreement. Coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) Haris Azhar said that the MoU could create a chaotic management of security that could lead to more human rights violations. Haris said that the mechanism for military assistance should be regulated by a law, instead of an MoU: “Because it is an MoU, it is as if the police and the military want us to think that other institutions should not be involved in its deliberation, including civic groups and the House of Representatives.”

Imparsial’s Al Araf of rights watchdog placed the MoU in the context of Presidential Instruction No. 2/2013. Issued on issued January 28, the instruction calls for better coordination to handle communal and social disputes. Araf said human rights advocates were concerned over possible abuse of the new memorandum and presidential instruction. “Don’t make ground rules that only provide a blank check for the military to deal with security problems; it’s dangerous,? he said.

WPAT Comment: The separation of the military and police provided entailed empowerment of police to address civil affairs. The new memorandum of understanding and new Presidential Instruction significantly erode this important reform and reflects a trend of re-militarization of Indonesian society. This trend is most obvious in West Papua.


Response to Call to Apply Indonesia’s Anti-Terrorism Law in West Papua

Ed McWilliams responded to an analysis by Sidney Jones, which discussed the Indonesian government’s unwillingness, thus far, to categorize the Papuan “ethno-nationalists/separatists” as “terrorists.” Her analysis focuses on the different approaches employed against the West Papuan “ethno-nationalists/separatists” and Islamic militants (“jihadists”) by prosecutors and the security forces (police, military and Detachment 88). Jones contends that “the discrepancy between the way the two groups are treated by the legal system is untenable.” She considers two alternatives: One would be to employ anti-terrorism law in West Papua, and the other would entail moving away from the use of anti-terror law against “jihadists.” She argues against the latter approach of “pulling back from the use of the anti-terror law.”

Jones cites various incidents of violence in West Papua that she claims were committed by these “ethno-nationalists and separatists.” While Jones “summarily credits recent violent acts in West Papua to the ‘ethno-nationalists and separatists’…. She knows, or should know, that the authors of violence in the Indonesian archipelago — especially violence with complex motives — are never so clear cut as her lecture implies. This is especially true of West Papua where police-military rivalries over access to resources and sources of extortion monies is well known. Jones should know also that military, police and intelligence agencies, have long played the role of provocateur, orchestrating acts of violence which advance agendas that are invariably obscure. “Employing the “terrorist” label against “ethno-nationalist and separatist” groups and individuals in West Papua could have direct legal implications for international solidarity movements,” writes McWilliams.

Edmund McWilliams is a retired U.S. Foreign Service Officer who served as the Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta 1996-1999. He received the American Foreign Service Association’s Christian Herter Award for creative dissent by a senior foreign service official. He is a member of the West Papua Advocacy Team and a consultant with the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN).

Read McWilliams full response here: Posted here:

“Is Indonesia Headed Toward Fascism?”

An analysis from the “ Kontinum” website examines a raft of already ratified laws and under legislation still under consideration and raises the question: Is Indonesia Heading Towards Fascism? The analysis has particular relevance for West Papua where groups could be targeted by the new legislation. New laws on Dealing with Social Conflict and Intelligence have already passed. Three similar regulations are in process. These concern national security, military reserve forces, and civil society. Groups would need government permission to form and would have to disclose their activities and sources of funding. The legislation, taken as a whole, would limit key civil liberties such as the right to free speech and to assembly and greatly broaden the power of the military to act independent of civilian control. State security forces would have the right to abduct, arrest or spy on citizens, as part of their mandate to uphold the social order, and this can also include armed intervention.

English Translation:

Al Jazeera Offers Powerful West Papua Program

People & Power investigates the West Papuan struggle for independence featuring interviews with KNPB Chair Victor Yeimo and human rights activist Socratez Sofyan Yoman. The 25-minute documentary filmed in 2012 by Dom Rotheroe and Sally Collister documents growing repression in the region.

Papuan Views

Papuan Voices/Engage Media has recently produced two short videos: Hidup di Trans (Life in the Transmigration Zone) is the story of a Papuan man from Merauke who has faced discrimination as a result of transmigration programs. Suara Piluh di Wamena is a reflection on the human rights situation around Wamena in 2012

UN Special Rapporteur’s Visit Hampered

In mid-January, WPAT called on the Indonesian government not to prevent UN Special Rapporteur Frank La Rue from visiting political prisoners in West Papua and Ambon, which were to be central to his visit. WPAT urged LaRue to postpone his trip if he were to be prevented from visiting West Papua and Ambon. Though Indonesia had agreed to the visit last May, the government’s proposed restrictions would preclude La Rue from visiting West Papuan and other political prisoners held in Jayapura and elsewhere. At the end of January, Metro TV ran a 25-minute program on political prisoners in Papua and Ambon. The program (in Bahasa Indonesia) describes how La Rue’s visit was hampered by the Indonesian government. He was scheduled to arrive in Jakarta on January 14; the visit has yet to be rescheduled.

Government MIFEE Scheme Devastating Lives of Local Papuans

A January 20 report by Brooke Nolan in the Jakarta Globe offers a devastating critique of the Indonesian government’s MIFEE development plan in the Manokwari area of West Papua. The project has disrupted the lives of local people, destroying local food resources, and causing grave pollution which has damaged the health of the local residents, notably the children. Promises of jobs for local people have evaporated as employment opportunities instead have gone to transmigrants, non-Papuans brought into the area to work in the project. Contrary to important promises by the Government, pristine forest has been cut to support the $5 billion dollar project.

The local people have sought the support of local NGOs and presented their concerns to the United Nations Human Rights Commission. The Indonesian government has refused to discus the project and its impact on the local people with the UN.

Down To Earth has posted a detailed summary of recent developments related to the project.

MSG Should Support West Papua

The Australia West Papua Association (Sydney) urged the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) to “support for the people of West Papua.” The MSG was celebrating its Silver Jubilee as it met in Vanuatu. Joe Collins of AWPA said “the MSG showed its visionary policy in supporting the people of Kanaky (New Caledonia) to be a member of the MSG represented by the Front de Liberation Nationale Kanak et Socialiste (FLNKS).” AWPA urged “the MSG to support those representatives of the West Papuan people involved in the self-determination struggle [by] being granted full membership at the next MSG Summit.”

The MSG brings together the four Melanesian countries, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, and the FLNKS.

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