West Papua: Military report confirms desire for freedom

By Ash Pemberton, Green Left Weekly
August 21, 2011 -- A leaked report from the notorious Indonesian special forces unit Kopassus detailing information about the West Papuan independence movement has drawn attention to Indonesia's brutal occupation of the region.
The report is titled “Anatomy of Papuan Separatists” and is believed to have been written in 2009. It profiles opponents of Indonesian rule, including political activists and guerilla fighters.

It also listed foreign politicians and journalists who supported Papuan liberation.

Indonesia occupied West Papua in 1963. The Suharto dictatorship organised a fraudulent “act of free choice” in 1969, in which a small number of handpicked Papuans voted to support Indonesian rule.

The Kopassus report acknowledges that West Papuans do not identify as Indonesian, which causes them to be “easily influenced by separatist ideas”.

It also blamed “irrational demands for customary rights to land and limited transportation infrastructure hampered economic growth” for ongoing calls for independence.

The report sidestepped Indonesia's decades of human rights abuses and the robbing of the region's wealth ― while locals remain the poorest in Indonesia.

Statistics in the report expose Indonesia's claim that it needs to maintain its huge military presence in West Papua to combat pro-independence guerilla fighters.

The report shows there were only 1129 independence fighters in 31 groups across West Papua. The groups possessed a combined total of only 131 guns and four grenades.

Several groups had performed “no conspicuous acts”, the report said.

Indonesia is thought to have about 15,000 soldiers in West Papua, and thousands more police and paramilitary troops.

The Indonesian military tried to downplay the report.

Rear Admiral Iskandar Sitompul said the leak was an attempt “to disrupt the 'currently improving relationship' between the military and indigenous Papuans”, the Jakarta Globe said on August 15.

Sitompul's comments come just weeks after big rallies across West Papua demanded a referendum on independence from Indonesia and an end to the “special autonomy” system.

Indonesia also recently launched a military crackdown on fighters from the Free Papua Movement (OPM).

Three Indonesian soldiers who tortured and decapitated Reverend Kinderman Gire in March last year were given lenient sentences, the Jakarta Post said on August 11.

They received between six and 15 months in jail for the crime of “disobeying orders”.

There is growing pressure within Indonesia for the government to change tactics in West Papua.

A group of 18 professors from Indonesian universities called on the government to use dialogue instead of military force to resolve issues in West Papua, the Post said.

However, the government seems determined to keep its current course.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono convened a meeting on August 8 to discuss further dividing West Papua by creating a new central province, the Post said on August 7.

The region of West Papua was divided in 2003 into the provinces of Papua and West Papua.

Retired Rear Admiral Dicik Henks Wabiser was proposed as acting governor of the new province, the Post said.

British based human rights group Tapol said on August 7 this suggested that the military were behind the push to create the new province in order to increase their control of the area.

In an August 15 statement, the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation called on foreign governments to stop funding Indonesian military.

It called for West Papua to be put on the UN list for decolonisation.

The statement said: “It is the West Papuans who have maintained their integrity and consistently pursued a peaceful solution through direct negotiation to be facilitated by a third party.

“The government of Dr. Susilo Bambang Judhoyono has not reciprocated, and there is no indication that it will.”

Indonesia's occupation of West Papua has allowed foreign and Indonesian corporations free reign to exploit local people and the region's vast natural wealth.

But one recent attempt to exploit the area around Merauke on West Papua's south coast may have fallen flat.

A proposed huge industrial farming project may be shifted to the Indonesian province of East Kalimantan due to lack of progress in Papua, the Globe said on August 15.

The Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE) was due to transform up to 1.6 million hectares of forest into corporate-run farmland.

Berry N Furqon, director of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment, said MIFEE had already disenfranchised local people, Tempo Interactive said on August 15.

Whether or not the project goes ahead, Furqon said more than 100,000 hectares of forest had already been cut down, including a sago forest that the community depended on.

Dr Sudirman, an agricultural expert at the provincial administration of Merauke district said: “a significant part of the ecosystem was lost and much of it is already dead”, Jubi said on August 11.

[Reprinted from Green Left Weekly.]

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