Should West Papua join Papua New Guinea

Support from the Pacific - for freedom and human rights in West Papua -

December 8th, 2015: Article by Ibrahim Peyo from West Papua

This article describes the struggle of the Papuan people, which has entered a new phase in the past two years. It has become more organized and systematic through a process of reconciliation and unification. The Deklarasi Seralana was formulated and signed in Port Vila in December 2014. Thus the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) was brought into being as the official political organ of the Papua. This movement is a symbol of the Papuan struggle.

1. The struggle for freedom on the basis of factions and ethnic groups.

The struggle began in the early 1960s. It has cost innumerable lives and done a lot of damage. But he also had various successes until the current movement came about. Strong nationalism has built up over the years, it has grown and evolved. He became the soul of resistance that could not be broken by Indonesia. There is a grassroots movement across the country of Papua, especially among the younger generation. Unfortunately, at the higher level of the Papuan leaders, this unit did not yet exist. They got caught up in polarizations and divisions caused by ethnic differences. This gave the suppressor the opportunity to maintain the status quo and to exercise power for over 50 years. The polarization and fractionation has also prevented international support.

2. The founding of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP)

The Republic of Vanuatu is only a small country in the South Pacific. But this small country had a heart for the fate of the Papuan people and has shown solidarity for many years. It did not fear the great power of Indonesia with its militarist and fascist government. It has high morals and has been a challenge to big countries calling themselves democratic. It has raised its voice again and again and spread the truth about the suffering of the Melanesian siblings in West Papua and dried their tears. Vanuatu has recognized that there is a problem in Papua which must be solved for the sake of a better future: overcoming the divisions and forming an inner unity. Vanuatu acted as mediator and host for various meetings aimed at reconciling the quarreling Papuans. So it came to the Deklarasi Seralana on December 6th, 2014. So far there have been three major blocs in which many groups have gathered, namely (1) the Parlemen Nasional West Papua (PNWP), (2) the Negara Republic of Federasi West Papua (NRFWP) and (3) the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation (WPNCL). These three groups established the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) as their common umbrella organization. The Deklarasi Seralana is also accepted and supported by the Liberation Army, which operates hidden in the Papuan forests. The various factions of these fighters also formed a unit two years ago in Biak in order to be able to operate more professionally. The ULMWP has a collective management structure with five people: Octovianus Motte was elected Secretary General and Benny Wenda was elected spokesman. In addition, three people joined the management team: Leoni Tanggahma, Yakob Rumbiak and Rex Rumakiek. This is the official representation of the Papuan people and unites all factions and groups involved in the struggle. The ULMWP is the symbol of the Papuan liberation struggle and is to be seen like the PLO in Palestine, the Fretelin in Timor Leste and the FLNKS in Kanaky, New Caledonia, which have already fought for their freedom. This opened a new chapter in the Papuan struggle. The echo of the departure can be heard everywhere. The solidarity of the people in the Melanesian countries grew faster than ever before. Solidarity groups formed everywhere, in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, the Solomon Islands, Samoa, New Zealand and Australia. Groups later joined them in South Africa, Nigeria, and in the USA in California, e.g. in San Francisco. These groups put pressure on their respective governments.

At the political level there was support from individuals as well as from parties and governments. I will mention the Liberal Party and the opposition in Fiji, the opposition and three governors in Papua New Guinea. In early February, PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill said the time had come to clearly state the oppression of our siblings. â € œEvery day we see the brutal images in the media, but we do nothing. We have a duty to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. We have a duty to see what those blindfolded cannot. As leaders of the countries in this region, we have to speak openly with our friends.â € The prime minister also called on the Indonesian government to keep the promises made by former president SBY to finally reduce the military in Papua . Parliamentarians from the Solomon Islands also support Papua. The Green Party and three MPs in New Zealand said they want to join the International MPs for West Papua (IPWP). The IPWP is an association of parliamentarians across the parties and nations that advocate the independence of West Papua. The association was founded in London in 2008 and now has 130 members. The Minister of Justice of England also joined the association. The Parliament of Scotland officially declared its support for the independence of Papua.

3. The Indonesian Government's Response.

The worldwide response to the Deklarasi Seradala was viewed as a serious threat in Indonesia. The government reacted nervously. The former Commander in Chief of the Army said the ULMWP should be taken very seriously. â € œNow they have come to an agreement and are well organized. It will be easier for them to get international support and funding for diplomatic activities.â € In Papua, the military reverted to traditional methods: in the Paniai region, five students were shot and 21 people wounded. Other violent attacks occurred in Yahukimo, Kaimana, Nabire, Paniai II, Merauke, Kamoro counties and in Timika, where a student was killed. At least 13 Papuans were killed during this time. In addition to the acts of violence by the military, the Indonesian government reacted with diplomacy against the ULMPW: From February 26th to 28th, the Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi visited Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Fiji and New Zealand. Indonesia made US $ 20 million available for these countries - to improve governance and promote economic cooperation. The Ambassador of Indonesia told the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, Manasseh Sogavare, in Honiara that Indonesia had a human rights commission that would bring human rights violations in Indonesia, including Papua, to justice. He asked the Solomon Islands government to support Indonesian policy in Papua. But Manasseh Sogavare replied that the Solomon Islands were themselves members of the United Nations Human Rights Council. The problem of human rights violations in Papua is being negotiated there and must be investigated according to international standards.

On March 30, 2015, the Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu and the Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi rejected the request of the Prime Minister of PNG, O'Neill. They called on the Papua New Guinea (PNG) government not to interfere in Indonesia's internal affairs. They also sent the two (pro-Indonesian) Papuans Frans Albert Yoku and Nicolas Meset to PNG to speak to Prime Minister Peter O'Neill. The meeting took place in secret at a hotel in Port Moresby. The secret meeting was announced by the solidarity coordinator PNG Union for Free West Papua. After that meeting, the PNG government changed its stance on the Indonesian occupation of Papua. When Benny Wenda tried to enter Port Moresby a little later, he was denied entry. In May 2015, President Jokowi visited Port Moresby, before visiting Papua and announcing the release of five political prisoners and the opening of Papua to foreign journalists. But some ministers, senior military officials, and parliamentarians disagreed with the president. So Jokowi was pursuing a dual strategy against Pacific support for Papua and international reporting. With that he had achieved his goal. This dual strategy (diplomacy and violence) convinced the governments of Papua New Guinea and Fiji, which have always been pro-Indonesian. In addition to this external diplomacy and internal violence, the Indonesian government also threatened the PNG government: four Sukhoi fighter planes violated the airspace of this country. Two armed forces helicopters also entered illegally and landed in Bewani, Papua New Guinea.

4. The applications of the ULMWP and Indonesia for membership in the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG)

Vanuatu was completely different from PNG. Prime Minister Joe Natuman assisted the Papuans and led the formation of a common leadership that led to the creation of the ULMWP. Unfortunately, Vanuatu was hit by the tornado at this very time and suffered heavy damage to property and human life. This natural disaster was used by Indonesia by sending rescue teams and giving financial aid (approx. 2 million euros). When aid money was being raised for Vanuatu all over Papua - students in particular were very active - the military cracked down on it. Obangma Giban was killed in Yahukimo County and 487 activists arrested across Papua. The Indonesian government's disaster relief has been turned over to Vanuatu's Foreign Minister, Sato Kilman. But Sato Kilman has long been one of those who approve of the Indonesian occupation of Papua.

Indonesia tried various strategies to weaken Vanuatu's Prime Minister Joe Natuman. Finally, Sato Kilman was invited to Jakarta to attend the Asia-Africa conference in Bandung. It was here that the plan to overthrow Prime Minister Joe Natuman matured. The two foreign ministers Sato Kilman and Retno Marsudi announced that Vanuatu would open its own embassy in Jakarta and that the two countries would work together economically. The Vanuatu Prime Minister rejected this plan, the government had no such plans. Sato Kilman, however, came back from Jakarta, reached an agreement with the opposition and overthrew Prime Minister Joe Natuman on June 11, 2015. Sato Kilman took over the government. It is believed that Sato Kilman paid the members of parliament with money from Jakarta. So later they came to court.

After that, Indonesia adopted a new strategy. The group of five Melanesian-Indonesian provinces (Malindo) was founded. It is a mummy, formed for the sake of political interests, on the basis of a uniform culture. All scientific studies confirm that the three regions: the provinces of Nusa Tenggara Timur, Maluku and Maluku Utara do not belong to Melanesia. Racially, they are completely different, a mixed population of Polynesians, Malays and Melanesians. Scientifically, they cannot be assigned to Melanesia. These three provinces applied for membership in the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), including the two Papua provinces. The application was supported by PNG and Fiji. That was an Indonesian strategy aimed at eliminating the ULMWP's motion. Indonesia was now certain that Vanuatu's posture was weakened. All that remained was New Caledonia. The Solomon Islands had not yet committed themselves. Indonesia was certain that the ULMWP's application would be denied. It hoped that the two governors of Papua and West Papua - Lukas Enembe and Abraham Ataruri - would represent the â € œFive Provinces Groupâ € (Malindo) at the MSG General Assembly in Honiara, and thus the ULMWP's proposal to fall would bring. But the two governors never showed up. The general assembly of the MSG took place from June 18th to 26th in Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands. Indonesia, which had long had observer status in the MSG, was represented by a delegation that was able to hand over a lot of money to influence the decisions. But the delegation was unsuccessful in the interests of Indonesia. The truth prevailed. Although the governments of PNG and Fiji are the main supporters of Indonesia, they have come under tremendous pressure from their own people and civil society. The governments of the Solomon Islands and Vanuatus as well as the freedom movement of New Caledonia support the ULMPW's proposal. A compromise was finally found: Indonesia was accepted as an associate member, but the ULMWP was given observer status as a representative of Papua. Although only in observer status, this is a first step towards international recognition of the struggle of the Papuan people. Indonesia was clearly disappointed with the decision. Deputy Foreign Minister Abdurrahman Mohammad Fachir expressed the disappointment of Indonesia. He said Indonesia could not be represented by two different groups in the MSG. He also denies the allegations of human rights abuses made by the so-called ULMWP. The disappointment was also evident in Jakarta: A group of parliamentarians asked why the government was unable to eliminate this small group (the ULMWP). The government had spent billions of rupees in vain to prevent the OPM from taking this step.

The Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, Manasseh Sogavare, spoke out clearly for the independence of Papua in his speech at the opening of the General Assembly of the MSG. He said the MSG is the official representation of this region beneath the UN. It makes its decisions according to international law and on the basis of Christian teaching. â € œIf we are looking for truth, peace and the protection of life, it is our duty to support this process. The Solomon Islands government therefore supports the ULMWP's admission to the MSG as an observer.â € After the ULMWP was admitted to the MSG, its Secretary General Octavianus Mote turned to various other member countries of the Pacific States Forum. On July 14, 2015, the governments of Samoa and Tonga declared their support for the independence of Papua. On August 10, the Solomon Islands government followed suit with a declaration that West Papua should become a member of the Forum of Pacific States. Solomon Islands Member of Parliament Matthew Wale has been appointed Commissioner for West Papua. The Forum for Development of the Pacific States met in Suva, the capital of Fiji, at the end of August. Octavianus Mote was allowed to participate as a member of the Solomon Islands delegation. But Fiji refused to attend. Mote then visited New Zealand and PNG and participated in the General Assembly of the Forum of Pacific States in Port Moresby. Benny Wenda was refused entry to PNG for the second time, while Yakob Rumbiak and Rex Rumakiek had previously been in PNG and contacted the leaders of the Pacific states.

5. Activities in the Pacific Island Forum (PIF) countries

More than 35 civil society solidarity groups in the Pacific became active and stood up for their Melanesian siblings in West Papua. They managed to put the West Papua issue on the agenda of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) General Assembly in Port Moresby. Papua became one of five important topics of this meeting in early September 2015. This opened another chapter in the diplomatic struggle with Indonesia after the MSG meeting in Honiara. Three points about West Papua should be addressed: (1) The Pacific Islands Forum should send a fact-finding mission to West Papua. (2) It is intended to induce the UN to send a special envoy to Papua. (3) West Papua is to be placed on the list of countries to be decolonized. On September 5 and 6, 2015 - shortly before the start of the state summit - representatives of civil society gathered under the umbrella of the Pacific Islands Association of NGOs (PIANGO) in Port Moresby. Two recommendations were made for negotiation at the summit: the climate problem and the West Papua problem.Civil society also officially asked the Papuan people to forgive them for ignoring the Papuans' suffering for more than 50 years.

Emele Duituturaga, the director of PIANGO, said that since Papua was annexed by Indonesia, the connection to the Pacific has been cut, â € œ so we donâ € ™ t know whatâ € ™ s going on there. But today social media allows us to inform one another. That is why we want to stand by our siblings in Papua. We will not be silent until Papua is freed from Indonesia's colonialismâ €.

After learning about the agenda of the PIF meeting, Indonesia sent delegations to the Pacific again. PNG, Fiji, New Zealand and Australia support the Indonesian position anyway. The Solomon Islands, Tonga, and several other small countries pushed for a fact-finding mission to be sent to West Papua. On the other hand, there was people`s power as a movement that gives the history of the struggle in West Papua a special color. There were big demonstrations in PNG that shut down some big cities for hours. Similar demonstrations took place in Honiara, Port Vila, Suva, New Zealand, Australia and Samoa. On September 10, 2015, the General Assembly of the Pacific Islands Forum decided to send a fact-finding mission to Papua. PNG's prime minister, Peter O'Neill, has been tasked with reaching an agreement on this with the Indonesian government within the next 12 months. Indonesia itself was, of course, very disappointed. This is shown by the reaction of the Deputy Foreign Minister Abdurrahman Mohammad Fachir on September 11th in Port Moresby, when the resolution became known. He said the Pacific Islands Forum is not the place to negotiate Papua's problems. Some parliamentarians in Jakarta made the same point.

In Papua, Indonesia responded with a new scenario. Allegedly two Indonesians were kidnapped by strangers on the border with PNG. Of course, it was suspected that the kidnapping was initiated by the Indonesian secret service. The local media reported that the kidnapping was carried out by a group of employees from the Hanurata logging company. This company belongs to the Kopassus military special unit. The kidnapped people are workers from another timber company owned by an officer of the Mobile Police Brigade (Brimob).

The official reaction of the Indonesian government to the decision of the General Assembly of the Forum (PIF) was rejected by the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, Manasseh Sogavare. He said, â € œWe made this decision in accordance with the principles of the forum. We have always lived together as a Pacific family here, and Papua is part of the Pacific Islands. On the one hand, our membership in the UN shows that we recognize Indonesia's sovereignty over West Papua. On the other hand, the UN has established solid principles on human rights and the right to self-determination for those peoples who do not yet have their own government. So if a member state of the UN commits human rights violations, it is not an internal affair of that state, but affects all members of the UN. Indonesia has abused its powers in West Papua.â € The prime minister said that the next step would be to take West Papua to a higher level at the end of September, namely at the UN General Assembly will. His government, along with the Pacific and other countries, would bring West Papua to the UN Commission on Decolonization. Before that, however, the Solomon Islands would enable a meeting of global civil society in solidarity with Papua. At this meeting the steps for registration with that commission would be prepared.

6. The West Papua problem at the United Nations General Assembly in New York

At the end of September the issue of West Papua was also raised in the UN General Assembly. On September 29, 2015, Tonga's Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva raised the issue of human rights violations in Papua. Tonga is a small country in the Micronesia region. Pohiva said all leaders are called upon to work together against injustice and the violation of human rights and dignity around the world, particularly with regard to West Papua in Melanesian, where the most brutal assaults would occur. He asked the UN to take steps to end these conditions in West Papua.

The next day, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare spoke of the Solomon Islands. He called on the UN to enforce the 1960 resolution that gave all colonies independence and the right to their own government. He stressed that the principles of human rights are universal. All states have a duty to observe and enforce these in accordance with the rules of the UN. Violators of these rules should be punished under international law. The United Nations should become aware of the human rights violations in the two ethnic-Melanesian provinces of Papua and West Papua. The Solomon Islands and the Pacific Islands Forum would seek an honest dialogue with Indonesia. The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva was called upon to conduct thorough investigations into human rights violations and acts of violence in the two provinces mentioned. The Prime Minister called on the Indonesian government to grant free access to a fact-finding mission decided at the PIF General Assembly in Port Moresby. Finally, he said that the UN could not be relieved of responsibility, since they themselves are the root of today's problems, they created these problems.

On October 3, 2015, the Indonesian delegation responded to the speeches given by the two prime ministers of the Solomon Islands and Tonga. Indonesia denied allegations of human rights abuses. Indonesia has its own human rights commission, which investigates all cases fairly, truthfully and transparently and brings them to justice. There are therefore no human rights violations in Papua. The Mission from Tonga replied again. She made three points: (1) The government of Tonga will work with the Indonesian government to end the human rights violations. (2) The government of Tonga will work with the Pacific Islands Forum to document human rights violations in Papua. (3) The government of Tonga will act according to international law. This position was confirmed once again on October 12, 2015 by the Tongan government. The Tonga Foreign Minister said his government would work with Indonesia by participating in the Pacific Islands Forum dispatching a fact-finding mission to West Papua. The Representation of the Solomon Islands responded in a similar way to Indonesia: They emphasized three points: (1) Our government welcomes the cooperation with Indonesia and with all people in this world to end the human rights violations in West Papua. (2) Our government will work with the Pacific Islands Forum for the same purpose. (3) Our government will cooperate with the UN Human Rights Council in accordance with UN agreements and declarations, using applicable international mechanisms.

7. Closing remarks

The Indonesian government keeps emphasizing two things: (1) It keeps repeating that there are no human rights violations in West Papua. (2) She emphasizes that Indonesia has its own human rights commission. However, these two allegations do not eliminate the acts of violence that keep happening in Papua. This also does not prevent international pressure. Because the Indonesian Human Rights Commission by no means meets international standards. The cases investigated by the commission were passed on to the prosecutor, but never went to court. Nonetheless, Indonesia repeatedly asserts false facts, thereby lying to the international community. International attention to the Papuan problem is therefore urgently needed. In order for this to happen, two measures are important: (1) The United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) must be strengthened and financially supported by the Papuan people so that the necessary steps can be taken on an international level. (2) The activists and supporters of West Papua around the world should plan their visions and actions together with the ULMWP. It is the official political representation of the Papuan people.

Ibrahim Peyo from West Papua is currently studying anthropology in Munich.