Pacific Scoop

Indonesia’s Manoeuvres in West Papuan Struggle and the MSG

Article – Selpius Bobii – Front Pepera Papua Barat

The political manoeuvres of the Republic of Indonesia in facing up to the Struggle of Papua for freedom, have intensified continuously since the III National Papuan Congress (NPC III) in Jayapura on 17-19 October 2011.

Indonesia’s Manoeuvres in Facing up To the West Papuan Struggle and the MSG

By Selpius Bobii
21 July 2013

The political manoeuvres of the Republic of Indonesia in facing up to the Struggle of Papua for freedom, have intensified continuously since the III National Papuan Congress (NPC III) in Jayapura on 17-19 October 2011. One of the results of the NPC III was the Declaration of the Nation of Papua in the State of West Papua, which was read at the Congress by President Forkorus Yaboisembut, S.Pd. This Declaration was the highest legal foundation and on that was born the State of the Federal Republic of West Papua (SFRWP). This step was critical in the Struggle and something that had been delayed since the time of the II National Papuan Congress in the year 2000.

RI failed to prevent the Declaration of the Restoration of Independence for West Papua that day (19 October) when some 12,000 people attended the NPC III (refer footnote) then one hour after the official closure of the proceedings joint Indonesian forces of the Police and Military in full war apparel broke through the gate to the Catholic Mission and attacked the remaining approximate 1000 Papuans who were singing and dancing. There were around 300 Papuans arrested that day and 3 participants shot dead. The 300 persons arrested were treated in a brutal and inhumane way using torture, intimidation and insult. There was also significant loss of property and money that day by participants which is no small thing in a province where poverty rates remain very high. Most were released the following day with 6 persons left to be prosecuted as responsible for the NPC III and in particular the Declaration of the Restoration of Sovereign Independence for West Papua. The ‘Jayapura Five’ would be each sentenced to 3 years imprisonment, including Forkorus Yaboisembut, S. Pd (President of the State of the Federal Republic of West Papua (SFRWP)), Edison Klaudius Waromi, S.H (Prime Minister SFRWP), Selpius Bobii (Chairperson of the Organising Committee and Chairperson of the Session during which the Declaration was made and the Federation created), Dominikus Sorabut (Member of the Leadership of that same Session) and Agus Sananay Kraar (Coordinator of the Logistical Organising Section). Gad Wenda, one of the Papuan guards at the Congress was also sentenced to 4 months 15 days for carrying a kitchen knife. There was widespread international criticism of the attack by the joint Indonesian police and military forces against unarmed civilians.

At this time the politics of West Papuan are really ‘heating up’ both inside Papua and overseas. On 19 November 2011 the West Papuan National Coalition for Liberation (WNPCL) acting on the heightened momentum following the NPC III, launched the Committee for Decolonisation of West Papua in Port Villa, Vanuatu; That was followed by WPNCL lodging an application for membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) for West Papua.

The Republic of Indonesia (RI) is by no means waiting quietly on the sidelines watching support grow more each day around the world for the West Papuan Struggle. Rather, Indonesia has been actively manoeuvering to influence other nations of the world, the United Nations (UN) and in particular the nations of the Pacific region to not support the push for Papuan Independence. RI succeeded in lobbying for Observer status at the MSG Forum in 2011 then in 2012 assigned Michael Manufandu to become an Ambassador for the entire region of the Pacific nations, actively moving between the Pacific nations to drum up support for RI retaining hold of Papua and at the same time developing bilateral and unilateral partnerships in the region to the same end.

Prior to the major Papuan conference in June 2010 followed by the Papuan Peace Conference in July 2011 and the NPC III in October of that year, Indonesia had actually not regarded it as important to work together with nations in the Pacific region. Clearly that has now all changed. Suddenly Indonesia is finding itself forced to pay attention to the growing international support for Papua in a way never seen before and a number of definable approaches have been undertaken by RI to respond to this increasingly hot political climate.

RI’s efforts at influencing the different nations of the Pacific region have had varying levels of success.Two nations in particular where RI has been most successful in influencing the governments against supporting the call for Papuan independence are Australia and New Zealand. On a number of occasions the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Bob Carr has stated that the stance of the Australian Government is that it does not support the movement of indigenous Papuans for independence. He has even gone so far as to say that indigenous Papuans are not capable of managing their own nation. He suggested that if Papua received independence that Australia would later experience problems in handling relations with Papua. So that in his government’s opinion it was better that West Papua remains within the Republic of Indonesia.

The Australian Foreign Minister statements however are but a repeat of statements frequently made by Indonesian Officials, indicating to what extent he has allowed himself to be influenced by RI rhetoric. In Papua we are constantly hearing Indonesian Officials saying that Papuans aren’t capable of running their own affairs. It’s their usual line. It’s worth remembering that very similar statements were made by RI of Timor Leste before the 1999 referendum. But of course Indonesia’s statements have not been upheld by history as since Timor Leste has become independent the world has seen that Timor Leste is quite capable of developing their own nation. Even the previous USA Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on her visit to Timor Leste in 2012 stated that Timor Leste provided a model for a new democratic state that was developing well. Indeed the Timor Leste lesson was a hard one for RI and they are not going to take any chances of seeing a similar occurrence with West Papua which is known locally as the ‘kitchen of Indonesia’ due to the massive gold and copper mine, natural gas, oil and rainforest timber sources there.

In regards to the respective attitudes of the Pacific nations towards the issue of Papua, firstly that of the New Zealand Government was conveyed by the Ambassador David Taylor during his visit to Jayapura in April 2013 when he stated that the Government of New Zealand supports the sovereignty of the Republic of Indonesia (inclusion of Papua implied). It’s interesting in light of this, that nevertheless the New Zealand Government has indicated support for Jakarta and Papua coming together to find a solution so as to bring an end to the existing problems. The attitudes of the Australian and New Zealand Governments are both purposely neglecting the voices of their majority populations that are in support of the West Papuan Struggle. During the recent visit of the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to Jakarta on 5 July 2013 the issue of Papua was one of the 3 main agenda items. Prime Minister Rudd conveyed the Australian Government’s support of Indonesia in taking steps to bring to an end the problems in Papua. Kevin Rudd is indeed well aware of the problems in Papua and it is the sincere hope of the nation of Papua that if the Australia Government truly supports Indonesia in bringing an end to the problems in Papua that he will strongly urge RI to enter into dialogue between Jakarta and Papua immediately.

Support for the application for MSG membership by West Papua was indicated by the previous Chairperson of the MSG, Fijian Prime Minister Commodore Bainimarama when he received the West Papuan delegation on 28 March 2013. According to reports from the WNPCL the Fijian Prime Minister expressed that for a long time the MSG hadn’t given attention to the fate of their Melanesian brothers and sisters in West Papua but that the moment had now come for them to help their people. He gave his assurance that the issue of West Papua would be included on the agenda of the MSG meeting in June Noumea and that the problems noted in WPNCL’s application would be debated and the results of the MSG discussion conveyed after that meeting. Although relations between the governments of Fiji and RI are good, nevertheless the Fijian Prime Minister has made clear that the problems in Papua must be brought to an end in a dignified way.

Recently in Vanuatu the world saw an overthrow of the previous Prime Minister Sato Kilman as a result of pressure from the people of Vanuatu due to intense concern that he was ignoring the urging of the Vanuatu community and Vanuatu Officials who wanted to see West Papua given full support. He was removed by the Vanuatu Parliament and replaced by Moana Carcases Kalosil who is seen as a vocal supporter of independence for Papua. When the new Prime Minister Kalosil met with Otto Ondawame of WNPCL on 3 April 2013 in Vanuatu he stated that within 100 work days under his leadership that the working relationship with RI established by the previous Prime Minister would be discontinued. Vanuatu’s government has made a commitment to support the recognition of full independence for West Papua and the new Vanuatu Prime Minister has been incredibly supportive in seeing the problem of West Papua and WPNCL’s application discussed at the recent MSG Forum.

New Caledonia’s Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS) has most actively urged for West Papua to be given full MSG membership. The FNLKS leader Victor Tutugoro recently appointed as the new MSG Chairperson, on 11 April 2013 at a meeting with the WPNCL expressed that they opened their hearts and extended their hands to receive West Papuans back into the Melanesian family. It was FLNKS as the host for the 19th Summit of the MSG that invited 5 representatives of West Papua to attend the MSG Summit.

In regards to the Solomon Islands, during Dr Ondawame’s visit there on 24 April 2013 to meet with the Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo, the Prime Minister stated that the case of West Papua was a decolonisation issue that has gone on far too long and which now needs to be brought to an end. He also voiced his support for the application for West Papua to become a member of the MSG.

Turning to PNG, whilst the PNG Prime Minister prior to the MSG Summit had not yet indicated his support for West Papua being given full MSG membership, nevertheless the PNG community and virtually all senior PNG officials fully support the WPNCL application . RI has been making a lot of effort these last months to improve relations with the PNG Government. At a state visit to Indonesia on 17 June 2013 the PNG Prime Minister together with President SBY signed off on a bilateral working agreement, with one of the matters agreed to being an agreement on extradition. This caused significant protest from the Opposition Party in PNG lead by Belden Naamah, which absolutely rejected an extradition agreement being put into effect that will act against West Papuans fleeing for their lives to PNG due to consequences of their involvement in the Papuan Independence Struggle. The Manus Island Governor Powes Parkop clarified that the extradition agreement would not be applied against those fleeing across the border to PNG due to their political activities. The reality is yet to be seen however if the extradition agreement is to be implemented in that way such that West Papuan independence activists are given an exemption, then that certainly points to their being real support from the PNG Government towards the Independence Struggle of West Papua.

Whilst support is rapidly increasing for West Papua’s application for MSG membership, RI is at the same time intensifying its political ploys to work against that. The visit of the Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Djoko Suyanto to Fiji on 3 June 2013 to meet with the Fijian Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama, was clearly intended to obstruct West Papua’s application for MSG membership. It was at that meeting – before the MSG Forum was held – that Djoko Suyanto strategically invited members of the MSG Forum to visit Jakarta and West Papua. Then on 7-8 June 2013 RI sent a delegation to Australia including Nick Meset, Frans Albert Yoku, General Mulyana and General Leonard to make efforts to block any strengthening of support for the Struggle for the nation of Papua. Indonesia’s visit to Fiji was successful to an extent in that the decision regarding West Papua’s application for MSG membership was postponed until after a visit to Jakarta and Papua by MSG member Foreign Ministers, thus buying time for Indonesia. Time and opportunity for RI to influence the MSG member nations and especially to bring pressure to bear through the MSG Delegation of Foreign Ministers that plan to visit Jakarta and Papua in the coming months. At the surface Indonesia is choosing to not say too much publically but at the same time is going to great effort to lobby each of the Pacific nations.

Indeed Indonesia was angry about the open discussion concerning Papua in the MSG Forum and they indirectly indicated their protest in various ways, but nevertheless they faced up to it with a cool head. RI’s representative Maikel Manufandu admitted that the decision of the MSG Forum concerning West Papua was a challenge for the state of Indonesia. It’s interesting to compare this cool headed stance with RI’s heated reaction to the recent opening of an office of the Free West Papua Campaign in Oxford, England. The latter caused such a response throughout the entire Indonesian community with RI officials conveying their protest to the U.K Ambassador and sending a high level delegation to England to lobby the English Government (in vain) to close the newly opened office. Why the Indonesian Government doesn’t have a more open attitude towards discussing the problems in West Papua in the MSG Forum is itself very telling.

Of course RI has the means available to it in every way to bring about this influence around the Pacific, compared to the indigenous community of Papua that struggles with restrictions on every level to have its voice heard under the repressive hand of the armed forces of Indonesia. The politics of money are bound to come into play as RI continues to efforts to prevent support developing in the Pacific for independence for Papua and of course those resources are at RI’s fingertips.

As Indonesia’s political manoeuvres inside Papua continue to intensify in their efforts to silence the Papuan peoples cries for freedom, we are seeing basically four ‘approaches’ being applied – security, legal, socio-cultural and the welfare illusion approach. Implementation of the ‘security approach’ has been assigned to the Territorial Military Command, whilst implementation of the ‘legal approach’ has been assigned to the Papua Provincial Police and the socio-cultural approach to both police and military. At this time there is absolutely no room being given in Papua for anything that even resembles democracy. At the time of writing brutally harsh military operations are continuing to take place in the regions of Puncak Jaya and Paniai and ‘orderly legal’ operations have been put into effect by the Police throughout the land creating terror and intimidation in every corner of Papua.

The welfare illusion is being handled by provincial, city and kabupaten levels of government and in this regard in order to avoid attracting attention of the international community to the failures of Special Autonomy, RI has now changed it to ‘Special Autonomy Plus’. This ‘new’ political package is nothing more than an effort by Indonesia to ‘put-off’ bringing an end of the problems in Papua and a means of securing SBY’s position until he stands down from the presidency at the end of his final term on 20 October 2014.

The range of political manoeuvres that RI has been playing out both domestically and overseas are intended to not only ensure that the applications for membership for West Papua to the MSG and the Pacific Islands Forum fail, but also to prevent arising any legal recognition by other countries and the UN of the State of the Federal Republic of West Papua as created at the NPC III. All efforts being to extend their hold on Papua and its rich natural resources.

Are we going to see in the coming months Papua sacrificed yet again as a result of a number of countries of the world prioritizing their working partnerships with RI about saving a race of people now under threat? Is not the saving of the ethnic West Papuan peoples that are now being annihilated by the consequences of cruel colonial domination by RI far more urgent? Surely the upholding of democracy, truth, honesty, justice, human rights and peace is more important than neglect of these values just for the sake of achieving ones political and economic interests.

Though many of us are presently incarcerated by RI as a consequence of the West Papuan Struggle for Independence, we will continue from behind iron bars to follow closely the above political dynamics and will continue our struggle for liberation without ceasing.

There was a lot of inconsistency in the months following the III National Papuan Congress regarding numbers of Papuan that attended the Congress, due to the extent of human rights violations that occurred at the closure of the Congress and as the Chairperson of the organising committee who had overseen the issuing of invitations and all aspects of organising had been arrested at that time. Accordingly informed estimates are now made available as follows: Official Participants attending with invitations 4000; Observers 500; Organisers 500; Papuan Guards/ Security 2000; Student Security personnel 1000; Security personnel from Papuan Unit Koteka Taskforce 1000,; Participants from the general Papuan community other than those who received particular invitations 3000. Giving a combined estimated total who attended of approximately 12,000 persons.

Related articles:

1) Contention between representatives of West Papua and Indonesia at the 19th MSG Summit.
Indonesian version:; English version:

2)Commitment of the MSG regarding West Papua to be put to the Test.
Indonesian version: ; English version: :

3) Keputusan Para Pemimpin Negara MSG Terkait Papua. Indonesian version:

4) Papua, Victim of a Conspiracy of Interests. Indonesian version:;

5. The Challenge of the MSG Delegation visit to Jakarta and Papua. English version:


Selpius Bobii is the General Chairperson of The United Front of the Struggle of the Nation of Papua. He is a Papuan Freedom Political Detainee in Abepura State prison, Jayapura.

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