Senin, 09 Juli 2012

27 JUNE 2012


                                                         Al Jazeera

Jennifer Robinson 
 London-based human rights lawyer

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

 In the 1960s, West Papuans were sacrificed in the name of Cold War politics - and the UN did nothing about it.

Jennifer Robinson
  London, United Kingdom - Thousands have taken part in rallies across West Papua and in Australia to mark the UN Secretary-General's (UNSG) visit to Indonesia, calling on Ban Ki-moon to revisit UN mistakes that lead to the denial of West Papuans' right to self-determination and to assist inresolving ongoing human rights abuses in Papua.
 UN peacekeeping was at the top of the agenda of the UNSG's visit to Indonesia on Tuesday. West Papua was not, but many argue that it should be. After all, West Papuans are asking that the UN revisit its first - and flawed - administration of a post-conflict society. Observers hailed the success of the UN administration of East Timor and its successful transition to independence.

But few are aware of the UN's failure in its first attempt at administration in West Papua more than 40 years earlier. East Timor got a democratic vote. West Papua got a sham vote. East Timor got independence. West Papua became part of Indonesia - against its will and in breach of its right to self-determination under the UN Charter.  

Had the UN properly discharged its mandate back then, West Papuans would have celebrated more than 40 years of independence instead of having endured nearly 50 years of oppression. In that time, it is estimated that as many as 500,000 Papuans have been killed at the hands of Indonesian security forces. Yale and Sydney Universities report that the situation is approaching genocide. Papuan activists campaigning for self-determination are routinely arrested and jailed for peacefully expressing their political opinions.

The recent conviction of the Jayapura Five - including Forkorus Yaboisembut, a Papuan tribal leader - drew international condemnation from lawyers and human rights groups. Speaking from prison, Yaboisembut - a recognised political prisoner - called upon Ban Ki-moon to organise peace talks with Indonesia and to use his visit to Jakarta's new Peacekeeping Centre to negotiate the release of all political prisoners in Indonesia.

 The UNSG made no public supportive comments about West Papua during his visit.
But he may have been dissuaded from doing so given the controversy caused by his comments at the Pacific Islands Forum last September.

Controversy over West Papua

At the Forum, Ban was pressed to support peaceful dialogue between West Papua and Indonesia, to put an end to human rights violations, and "to find a strategy to get Indonesia out of a land that isn't theirs". In response to media questions, Ban said that West Papua should be discussed at the Decolonisation Committee of the UN General Assembly. He emphasised that the UN would "do all to ensure" that human rights will be respected in West Papua and that "whether you are an independent state or a non-self-governing territory or whatever, the human right is inalienable and a fundamental principle of the United Nations".

Ban's comments implicitly recognise that there is a legitimate case for review of West Papua's legal status, as well as an acknowledgment that there is basis for concern regarding the human rights situation. West Papuans welcomed Ban's comments in the belief that, after a long history of UN betrayal, the UN may finally act in their interests and protect their rights under the UN Charter.

The UN act in accordance with the UN Charter? Seems a pretty reasonable expectation. But, sadly, Ban's comments were highly controversial - representing "a remarkable shift" by the UN chief on West Papua since Ban was "the first head of the UN to come out and say that". Fifteen human rights and social justice movements immediately called on Banto appoint a special UN representative to investigate alleged human rights violations in West Papua and its political status.

But the shift in position was apparently too radical to countenance. Days later, and no doubt in response to Indonesian complaints, an unnamed "Official Spokesperson for the Secretary-General" announced in New York that his "off-the-cuff response may have led to the misunderstanding that he was suggesting the matter of Papua should be placed on the agenda of the Decolonisation Committee. The Secretary-General wishes to clarify that this was not his intention." While the correction let stand the UNSG's apparent endorsement of the need for the UN to "do all to ensure" human rights are protected in West Papua, no action has yet been taken.

It appears the UN has let West Papua down - and this is not the first time.

The UN's history in West Papua

West Papua is the western half of the island of New Guinea, just 300 km north of Australia. The other, better-known half of the island is the independent state of Papua New Guinea (PNG). The Melanesian peoples of West Papua and PNG share similar ethnicities, cultures and religions. It is merely their different colonial past that sets them apart.

West Papua (then West New Guinea) was colonised by the Dutch, but for convenience's sake was loosely administered as part of the Dutch East Indies - modern-day Indonesia. When Indonesia obtained independence after World War II, West New Guinea remained under Dutch control and was prepared for independence, as was PNG by Australia. West Papua was a Dutch colony and Non-Self Governing Territory on the path to independence. More than 50 years ago, on December 1, 1961, West Papuans raised their flag and sang their national anthem as they formally announced their independence from the Dutch.

Soon after, Indonesia invaded with political support and arms from the USSR. The US - concerned about losing Indonesia to the Russians and keen to secure lucrative mining contracts - intervened. Under US pressure, the Dutch agreed to a UN- and US-brokered settlement, the New York Agreement of 1962, providing for a UN-supervised Indonesian administration and vote for self-determination by which Papuans could choose independence or integration with Indonesia.

West Papuans were not consulted.

Under the terms of the agreement, West Papua was transferred by the Netherlands to a United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA). Between 1962 and 1963, UNTEA had full authority to administer the territory, to maintain law and order, and to protect the rights of the West Papuans. The territory was then transferred to Indonesian administration in 1963, but on condition that it remained under UN supervision until the vote for self-determination in 1969.

Media reports from around the world at that time highlighted the need for UN vigilance in ensuring a free and fair vote. In 1962, one editorial emphasised, "there is no doubt at all about the United Nations' responsibility under the agreement - quite apart from its moral responsibility - to ensure the Papuans are allowed to exercise a free choice" and that responsibility "should need no stressing".

But the UN turned a blind eye - both to human rights abuse and the fact the voting practices did not meet international standards. The 1969 "Act of 'Free' Choice" is popularly known as the "Act of 'NO' Choice". A handpicked group of 1,022 West Papuans were coerced, under threat of violence, into voting unanimously for integration with Indonesia.

During the period of UN supervision and in the lead-up to the vote, the Indonesian military is estimated to have been responsible for the deaths of 30,000 West Papuans. Frank Galbraith, US Ambassador to Indonesia at the time, warned that Indonesian military operations "had stimulated fears… of intended genocide". Australian journalist and eye-witness Hugh Lunn reported that Papuans carrying signs saying "one man, one vote" in protest against the voting procedures were arrested and jailed. Others were killed.

The UN was aware of the repression - but did nothing about it. And, worse, it collaborated with Indonesia to prevent international criticism.

 Papuans concerned over renewed US-Indonesia military ties

Meantime, the US and Indonesia were busy carving up West Papua's rich natural resources. Having signed concession agreements with US mining company Freeport in 1967, two years before the scheduled vote, Indonesia had no intention of allowing West Papuan independence (Freeport is a major contributor to Indonesia's GDP, and Kissinger was later rewarded with a place on Freeport's board).

The US agreed, but diplomatic cables reveal that it was worried that UN members might "hold out for free and direct elections" (as required by international law), frustrating Indonesia's intentions. The US discussed the need to meet with the UN Representative, Ortiz Sanz, to "make him aware of political realities" but later reported, with relief, that Ortiz conceded "that it would be inconceivable from the point of view of the interest of the UN, as well as the [Indonesian government], that a result other than the continuance of West Irian within [Indonesia]". In July 1969, a US diplomatic cable reported that the "Act of Free Choice... is unfolding like a Greek tragedy, the conclusion preordained".

West Papuans were sacrificed in the name of Cold War politics and natural resources. 

UN officials admitted in private that 95 per cent of Papuans supported independence. But as UN Representative Ortiz Sanz told Australian journalist Hugh Lunn, "West [Papua] is like a cancerous growth on the side of the UN and my job is to surgically remove it". And remove it he did. In 1969, Sanz reported the vote's outcome to the UN General Assembly, noting only that "Indonesian" and not "international" voting practice was adopted. West Papua formally became a province of Indonesia.

Former UN Under-Secretary General Narasimhan has since admitted the process was a "whitewash". British diplomatic correspondence admitted "the process of consultation did not allow a genuinely free choice to be made". Distinguished international jurists dismiss the 1969 vote as a "spurious exercise", amounting to a substantive betrayal of the principle of self-determination.

Yet no action has been taken by the UN - or the international community - to redress this injustice. A growing number of international parliamentarians are calling upon their governments, through the UN, to give effect to West Papua's right to self-determination. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a supporter of West Papua's campaign to have the UNSG instigate a review, has asserted, "[a] strong United Nations will be capable of, among other things, acknowledging and correcting its mistakes".

Rights groups have urged the UNSG to appoint a Special Representative to investigate the situation in West Papua, including the outcome of the 1969 "Act of Free Choice" and the contemporary situation, and ask that he use his good offices to negotiate the release of political prisoners and persuade the Indonesian government to lift the ban on access to West Papua for international organisations and journalists.

But will Ban Ki-moon act?

No UN action forthcoming - yet

Since his comments last September, the UNSG has remained silent on West Papua. At his talk in Indonesia on March 20, Ban recalled his own experience as a young boy in South Korea - where he said that UN peacekeepers had been "the beacon of hope" for his people.

Like Ban, the people of West Papua once saw UN peacekeepers as their hope. But as Dr John Saltford, author of The United Nations and the Indonesian Takeover of West Papua, 1962-1969: The Anatomy of Betrayal, has said: "The Papuans had a great deal of trust in the UN, and the UN betrayed them and continues to betray them because, so far, it has refused to review its position on the issue."

As the Human Rights Council is preparing for Indonesia's Universal Periodic Review, submissions have poured in with evidence of widespread human rights abuse in West Papua - evidence that many hope will spur the UN into action. But given its history on West Papua, should Papuans place further hope in the UN?

The UNSG's remarks in Indonesia this week also urged hope in the UN, drawing on his own experience in South Korea: "Please have a bigger sense of hope, don't despair! It may be very difficult for you. But look at me. As a young boy, I was very poor. [South Korea was] almost on the verge of collapse… But because there was the United Nations, because there is still the United Nations, you can have hope... This is my message to you."

Let's hope he is not encouraging more false hope from West Papuans in the UN. Let's hope the UN will act - because if it does not, then it is simply not the organisation that its leader believes in.


30 DECEMBER 2011


Radio New Zealand International

The West Papua National Coalition for Liberation has announced the establishment of the West Papua Decolonization Committee.

The coalition says the Committee will petition the United Nations Decolonization Committee for the re-inscription of West Papua in order for it to be granted the due process of decolonization.

Membership of the Committee will consist of the coalition’s leaders and dignitaries of Vanuatu including former Presidents and Prime Ministers.

Membership would be open to people with relevant expertise from other countries.

The coalition’s Vice Chairman, John Ondawame, says the establishment of the Committee is their response to the ongoing violence committed by Indonesian forces in Papua.

Dr. Ondawame says the violence has continued despite years of pleas by Papuans for peaceful dialogue. He has called upon the people of the Pacific and the International community to support the diplomatic effort.

18 NOVEMBER 2011

Abuses in Papua and Moluccas persist

Pacific Media Centre

17 November, 2011
ANALYSIS: Overall, Indonesia has made great strides in democracy and human rights since Suharto's day. Sweeping reforms have freed up the media, wiped repressive laws off the books and led to the direct election of leaders in the predominantly Muslim nation, making it a potential model for Egypt and other Arab Spring countries. But abuses still copntinue in West Papua, reports Michael Holtz from Jayapura.
Indonesia, hosting President Barack Obama and other world leaders this week, has earned praise for democratic reforms achieved since longtime dictator Suharto was ousted a decade ago. A man serving 15 years in prison for raising a flag wants the dignitaries in Bali to know how far the nation still has to go.

In remote corners of the archipelago, dozens of demonstrators have been killed in recent months, and anti-government activists continue to be thrown in jail for peacefully expressing their views. There are least 100 political prisoners, most in Papua and the Molucca islands, many of whom complain of being tortured.

"Indonesia says, 'We're brothers, we're equal,' But you see? It's meaningless," said Filep Karma, a prominent political prisoner with nine years left on his sentence for raising a pro-independence flag. He said he has endured severe beatings by guards who mock him for his Christian faith and spit out insults like "dog."

The 52-year-old spoke to The Associated Press on October 23 from a location that he insisted remain secret, after he was granted a brief reprieve from prison to get medical attention.

Outside, convoys of troops rumbled down the road and soldiers stood on street corners with rifles dangling from their shoulders. Inside, others in the room nervously checked doors and windows.

Overall, Indonesia has made great strides in democracy and human rights since Suharto's day. Sweeping reforms have freed up the media, wiped repressive laws off the books and led to the direct election of leaders in the predominantly Muslim nation, making it a potential model for Egypt and other Arab Spring countries.

Obama arrives

Obama arrived in Indonesia for the East Asia Summit today. To the US, the nation of 240 million where Obama spent part of his childhood is a potentially powerful counterweight to China's growing military and economic influence in the Asia-Pacific region.

The US has launched an aggressive wooing campaign, ending a ban last year on working with an Indonesian special forces unit accused of some of the worst atrocities during East Timor's 1990s-era independence struggle. The ban, hugely embarrassing to Jakarta, was the final obstacle to normalising military ties.

Abuses continue, however, in areas including West Papua, where the government has struggled to put down a low-level insurgency that has claimed tens of thousands of lives, most at the hands of the military, according to human rights workers.

"It's Indonesia's dirty little secret that they still put people like Filep Karma behind bars," said Elaine Pearson of the New York-based Human Rights Watch.

The international community shares some of the blame, she said, because of its eagerness to present the nation as a democratic success story.

Since late July, 34 people have been killed in Papua and five have been arrested and charged with treason, which carries a maximum sentence of life, according to police and rights workers.

Days before Karma's interview, security forces broke up a pro-independence gathering in the nearby town of Abepura, opening fire on the crowd and beating participants with batons and rattan canes. Three people were killed and dozens injured.

'Same rights'

Bambang Sulistyo, a spokesman for Indonesia's legal and security affairs ministry, said Papuans enjoy the same rights as everyone else to stage rallies, protest or hold a congress. But the government will not tolerate any movement to separate from Indonesia or provocative acts like raising a flag known as a symbol of separatist group.

For that reason, he said, the gathering in Abepura was illegal.

"It was deliberately provocative," Sulistyo said, adding that police fired several warning shots to control the crowd. Authorities are still investigating the circumstances around the deaths of the three civilians.

Karma and others who have been imprisoned complain of severe abuse.

"They treat us like animals," said Yusak Pakage, a Papuan activist who was arrested in 2004 for killing a government official during a protest, a crime he says he didn't commit.

Pakage was blinded in his right eye after being brutally beaten by jail guards, and was released from prison after accepting a conditional pardon last year.

Liberti Sitinjak, current chief at Abepura prison, denies that inmates are beaten or otherwise abused.

Open letter

On Monday, 50 members of the US House of Representatives sent Obama a letter urging him to raise the issue of abuses in Papua with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono during his visit. But during his own Indonesia trip last month, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that the US would keep a watchful eye on rights abuses, but largely supports the government's strong stance against the pro-independence movement.

Papua is the most remote region in Indonesia and the last to be relinquished by its Dutch colonial masters a half century ago. It was incorporated into Indonesia in 1969 after a UN-sponsored ballot of tribal leaders that has been widely dismissed as a sham.

Activists are regularly given 10 years or more in jail for anti-government rallies, unfurling banners or raising pro-independence flags, while soldiers who commit abuses have received much less time, if any. Even those captured on video burning genitals of one suspected separatist in Papua last year and running a sharp knife across the neck of another were sentenced to just a few months for "disobeying orders."

The seeds of dissent were sown into Karma - who comes from an upper-class family of civil servants - in 1965 when Indonesian soldiers arrived at his home just after midnight and kicked in the door. He was 6 at the time.

"They were shouting, 'Wake up! Wake up!' as they overturned furniture, smashed everyone in sight," said Karma.

"It hurt, deep in my heart," he said. "This is where it began for me. I started to believe if Papua didn't get away from Indonesia, we'd all spend the rest of our lives suffering."

Even so, he remained largely removed from the independence movement until 1998, when he got involved in nationwide protests that eventually helped sweep Suharto from power. It was only after taking part in flag-raising ceremony in his hometown of Biak in July that year that it dawned on him that Papua might not benefit from the dramatic changes yet to come.

Opened fire

He was injured in both legs when Indonesian troops opened fire at a rally, and was thrown in jail for a year on charges of sedition.

His second arrest, the one he's now serving time for, came in 2004. His Christian faith was openly ridiculed in court, and his 15-year sentence was three times what prosecutors had demanded.

Karma's daughter, Audryne Karma, said the blood-drenched head of a dog was dropped off on the doorstep of his lawyers, with a note attached: "We will kill Karma."

"We thought that the Indonesian authorities, wary of martyring my father, would grant him an early release," she wrote in a letter that appeared last month in The Wall Street Journal. "Instead, they transformed a humble civil servant into an icon of political persecution."

Some longtime observers remain hopeful, however, that momentum is shifting and that Karma could be freed early.

"There's a sort of critical mass of key players who are coming together behind the issue," Eben Kirksey, author of an upcoming book about the Papuan independence movement, said of Karma.

Karma has rejected several offers to be set free, saying he will accept nothing short of unconditional release.

"I also want an apology to the people of Papua," he said, "because many civilians have been killed by Indonesian soldiers."
Michael Holtz is an Associated Press reporter. 

See also: 

New Papuan protests demand Indonesia take responsibility for human rights abuses

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