West Papua: The crackdown aftermath – finding a dignified solution

LAST MONDAY, Indonesian police arrested more than 1600 people in Jayapura, Papua. They were rallying in support of a coalition of groups representing West Papuans’ aspirations for independence.

The police stopped the protesters, who were heading to the local parliament, forced them to board military trucks, and took them to the Mobile Brigade compound.

The protesters were demonstrating their support for the United Liberation Movement of West Papua’s (ULMWP) bid to gain full membership in the grouping of Melanesian countries, the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG).

The ULMWP holds observer status in the group, which consists of Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands. Last year, Indonesia was granted associate membership.

To prevent further violent mistreatment of protesters, together with several Papuan councillors and church leaders, that day I [May 2] went to the Mobile Brigade’s compound to negotiate with the security forces to release the detainees peacefully.

Monday’s arrests were the largest in the West Papua independence movement’s history.

Why did thousands of people in Papua take to the streets to support ULMWP?

Public discontent in West Papua is a result of a complicated past. It is a product of historical manipulation and repression of the right to self-determination of West Papuans.

Over the past five decades, the Papuan people have not moved from their position in relation to Indonesia. They have struggled to make progress in their predicament as the oppressed people. They are marginalised, suffering from various forms of violence, and being pushed from their own land.

Solving the problem of West Papua in a dignified manner should involve not only Indonesian authorities but also Papuans and the international community. In that sense, ULMWP and the popular support for ULMWP within West Papua are part of the solution and should not be repressed.

The silenced truth
Ever since West Papua was transferred into the hands of Indonesia in the early 1960s from being a remote outpost of the Dutch, it has become the land of “mourning and grief”.

Gross human rights violations have been taking place in West Papua since Indonesia, backed by the United Nations, annexed the western half of the island of New Guinea in 1963. In 1969, Indonesia gained complete rule of West Papua via a sham referendum.

West Papuans have looked to their Melanesian brothers and sisters to assist them in seeking resolution of past abuses by the Indonesian government and to build a new Papua. But they are still confronted with many challenges.

Last September, countries in the Pacific Islands Forum, a grouping of 14 countries that includes Australia and New Zealand, agreed to send a fact-finding mission to investigate human rights violations in West Papua.

The Indonesian government refused to accept such a team. Indonesia’s co-ordinating minister for politics, law and human rights, Luhut Pandjaitan, instead held two focus group discussions at a luxury hotel in Jayapura for the so-called “settlement of human rights issues”.

But West Papua is a nation that grew up with and is shaped by experiences of living under Indonesia’s military operations. These cannot be solved simply with focus group discussions.

Sadar Operation (1962, 1965-67), Wisnumurti Operation (1963), Wibawa Operation (1969), Pamungkas Operation (1970-1971), military operations in Jayawijaya (1977-80), Sapu Bersih Operation (1979-82), and Tumpas Operation (1983-84) are only a few of a series of violent acts of oppression that have confronted ordinary Papuans.

Today, Indonesia’s militaristic approach in West Papua remains intact. This approach has resulted in a series of acts of intimidation and terror committed by security forces.

They are involved in land expropriation and natural resources extraction under the banner of development and investment, in the name of Papuan welfare.  

Diplomatic pressure from Indonesia
Following the increasing concern and solidarity from the Pacific region and support from the MSG for a resolution of West Papua’s problem, the Indonesian government is aggressively lobbying countries and political leaders in the Pacific.

Upon his return from a visit to PNG and Fiji last month, Pandjaitan boasted that Indonesia had the support of the two countries and could handle the MSG.

At the same time, he argued that foreigners should not interfere in matters of human rights in West Papua.

Meanwhile, environmental destruction and rampant militarism walk hand-in-hand in West Papua.

Papuans are continuously stigmatised as backward, ignorant and poor. This has become a pretext for what Indonesian authorities call “the acceleration and expansion of development”.

Pressed against waves of Indonesian migration, Papuans are not given any chance at all to develop themselves. They are a minority in their own land, not only in terms of number but also in terms of power.

Every protest and negotiation effort by indigenous people is met with brutal responses and security operations.  

Dignified resolution
In talking about West Papua, the Indonesian government often uses language that obscures past abuses. Papua’s relationship with the outside world is heavily controlled.

The Indonesian government makes it difficult for international journalists to cover Papua and bans international researchers from studying the region. Indonesia’s solutions for West Papua are based on shallow reflections and fear of the West Papuan people.

A genuine resolution for the West Papuan problem will only come from Indonesia’s willingness to listen to and stop oppression of West Papuans.

Indonesia should welcome the support from international communities, such as the MSG and the United Nations, as mediators in finding a resolution on West Papua.

Sorgente: Café Pacific – David Robie | Media freedom and transparency: West Papua: The crackdown aftermath – finding a dignified solution


Mass Arrests in West Papua

Mass Arrests in West Papua.

West Papua Action Canterbury and West Papua Action Auckland call on the Minister of Foreign Affairs to take action over the latest mass arrests of peaceful demonstrators in West Papua.

‘Mass arrests of activists are becoming an all too common fact of life for the people of West Papua. But this latest wave is so large it sends an ominous signal. New Zealand should let Jakarta know in no uncertain terms that it upholds the rights of free speech and assembly. Wellington should also press for a fact-finding mission to the territory in line with the Pacific Island Forum request for a mission which Jakarta has yet to respond to.’

‘The visit next week of West Papuan human rights defender and Church leader Rev Socratez Yoman is very timely and we are hoping parliamentarians including Government parliamentarians will take advantage of the opportunity to meet with this important guest.’
Letter follows:

3 May 2016

Hon Murray McCully,
Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Parliament Buildings,
Fax 04 817 6510

Dear Mr McCully,

We are shocked and deeply troubled to learn of the mass arrests of peaceful demonstrators over the past few days. While security forces in West Papua have a notorious reputation for arbitrary arrests, these latest arrests are on mass scale and send an ominous signal of increased repression.

We understand from numerous reports that the police have arrested at least 500 and possibly over 1000 demonstrators during a rally in the capital Jayapura. Reports also state that dozens were arrested in the Papuan regional centres of Merauke, Manokwari, Wamena and Sorong and even at solidarity demonstrations in Central Java and South Sulawesi. Last month peaceful rallies held on the 13 and 29 April also ended with over 40 arrests on each occasion.

This severe crackdown was prompted by nothing more than peaceful demonstrations calling for popular support for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, (ULMWP) and its and its effort to reach full member status of the regional Melanesian Spearhead Group. The demonstrators also showed their support for the meeting of the International Parliamentarians for West Papua (IPWP) in London on 3 May.

This is an outrageous situation. The people of West Papua are entitled under international law to the fundamental rights of freedom of speech and assembly. The Indonesian authorities need to be told by all democratic governments, especially those like New Zealand who are near neighbours of West Papua, that these breaches of fundamental rights must stop.

As you know the last meeting of the Pacific Island Forum resolved to request Indonesia to permit a fact-finding mission to go to the territory. New Zealand should now pressure Jakarta to allow this mission to take place as soon as possible so that the West Papuan people can tell the outside world their stories.

We are understand that your commitments currently prevent you from meeting Papuan Church leader Socratez Yoman when he visits Wellington on the 10th and 11th May but should any other Government Minister or MP be free to meet with him on your behalf we would be pleased to arrange that.

Yours sincerely,

Maire Leadbeater and Brian Turner
For West Papua Action Auckland and West Papua Action Canterbury.

Sorgente: Mass Arrests in West Papua | Scoop News

Global day of action to raise the Morning Star

Calling on ALL our supporters to take part in the biggest global day of action for West Papua.

flag foreheadThis year on 1st December the Free West Papua Campaign is calling on people all around the world to take pictures of themselves holding or raising the West Papuan Morning Star flag in solidarity with the people of West Papua. Please take part and share the photos on social media to build a truly global picture of the support for a Free West Papua. You can buy flags to raise on the day or you can simply print out this image of the flag. Be imaginative and have fun by thinking of an eye catching or significant location or why not try to get as many people as possible all holding images of the flag in one photo. The campaign team will also send a Free West Papua poster signed by Benny Wenda to the person or group who we think has taken the best/most dramatic photo.

A number of town halls around the world have also been symbolically raising the Morning Star flag on 1st December over the last few years. Please ask your town hall if they are willing to join in.

flag in front riot policeThe 1st December marks West Papua’s original independence day when the Morning Star flag was first raised in 1961 before being invaded by Indonesia. The flag is recognised as the national flag of West Papua and continues to be the defining symbol for a Free West Papua. Today, Papuan’s who raise the flag face arrest, torture and long jail sentences. Filep Karma is currently serving 15 years in prison for raising the flag on 1st December 2004. Flag raising ceremonies have been attacked by Indonesian police and military, shots fired into crowds and violently dispersed. Despite this level of repression the Morning Star flag will again be raised by West Papuans this year on 1st December and we want all supporters around the world to join them in a huge show of solidarity and awareness raising.

Join us to make this 1st December the biggest day of global action for West Papua. Raise the Morning Star and stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of West Papua. Share your pictures via social media to show your friends, family and the world that you support Freedom for West Papua.

Please share all photos with us via our facebook or twitter (use #risemorningstar) accounts or email them to office@freewestpapua.org.

For more inspiration here are some of the flag raising actions that have previously happened around the world:

Christian  Welponer a world famous mountaineer flies the Morning Star flag on the peak of the highest mountain in West Papua in defiance of the Indonesian authorities.

Flags are flown in large numbers in Melbourne.

A daring flag raising ceremony in the central highlands of West Papua.

The Morning Star flag flies above Oxford Town Hall.

The Morning Star flag proudly held under the seas of Vanuatu.

The West Papuan flag is hoisted from the city hall in the capital of Papua New Guinea.

The Morning Star flag is raised in Jayapura/Port Numbay the capital of West Papua in defiance of the Indonesian authorities.

Thousands of people raise there fists in support at Blue King Brown hold the Morning Star flag on stage at the East Coast Blues and Roots Festival in Australia.

Morning Star flags flown off the coast of West Papua.

The Morning Star proudly held aloft in Auckland.

Can you beat this?

thanks to: Free West Papua Campaign

As President celebrates ‘Sail Raja Ampat’, one of his critics is abducted, killed and dumped at sea

(Apologies for the delay in Posting to the site (all news still is being delivered to journalists direct as it breaks). WPM has been under severe security threat from Indonesian agents in Papua and Australia, associated with the arrests of French journalists).

Reports from our network partners at AwasMifee

On 19th August, Martinus Yohame in his role as the chair of the Sorong Branch of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) held a press conference, explaining his organisation’s opposition to the Indonesian President’s visit to the area to open the Sail Raja Ampat event aimed at promoting tourism to Papua. He also raised the issue of illegal logging. The next day he disappeared.

As friends and colleagues spent the subsequent days searching for him, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono opened the sailing regatta, where he once again promised extra funds to develop infrastructure for infrastructure in Papua, and also inaugurated a statue of Jesus Christ on Marsinam Island near Manokwari.

Then on the 26th, a fisherman found the body of Martinus Yohame floating by the shore in at Nana Island, near Sorong. He had been shot in the chest, his face smashed up, and with another wound in his stomach. He had been placed in a sack, with his arms and legs tied. His abductors remain unknown.

This story has not yet received widespread coverage in the Papuan media, and at the time of writing the KNPB had yet to issue a statement on its website. Tabloidjubi however has picked up the story – here is a translation of one of their articles:

Deceased Sorong KNPB Chair believed to have been disappeared.

Jayapura, 26/8 (Jubi) – Martinus Yohame, Chair of the Greater Sorong area branch of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) was found found dead floating near the shore of Nana Island, in the Doom Island area of Sorong. He is believed to have been disappeared.

A spokesperson for the Papua-wide KNPB, Basoka Logo made this clear to tabloidjubi.com. He said that previously on the evening of Wednesday 20th August, the KNPB had received information that Martinus Yohame had been abducted.

“But we can’t be sure yet who his captors were. Now today we have heard the news that he has been found dead. We cannot yet say which group is responsible for his diasppearance.  At the current time we are
still unsure,” Basoka Logo said via his mobile phone on Tuesday (26/8).

He explained that the late Martinus Yohame was responsible for the Bird’s Head peninsula area of West Papua. He could not give any further information at the time as he had not received a full report from his colleagues in Sorong.

“Just now we only received a short report about the death of the Sorong KNPB Chair – what I know is that he was found near the Kota Baru area, and his body is currently lying at the Sorong KNPB secretariat”, he said.

At present, according to Logo, colleagues in Sorong are still collecting data and statements about the death of the Chair of the KNPB in Sorong. “Only when this is done will we be able to give a full statement. The First Chair of the KNPB central organisation, Agus Kosay just arrived in Sorong by plane. It was him that officially reported to us that it was true the Chair of the KNPB in Sorong had been found,” he said.

The chair of the KNPB in the Bird’s Head region, including Greater Sorong, Martin Yohame, was tragically found dead some time before, his body was discovered by a fisherman on Tuesday morning (26/8) at around 7.00 am local time floating near Nana Island, not far from the Doom Island area. When found, Martinus’s body had been tied up tightly in a sack. Both his legs and arms had also been tied, presumably hoping his body would sink to the bottom of the ocean.

According to the Sorong City General Hospital’s examination, a gunshot wound was found on the left side of his chest. The victims face was also smashed up by being hit by a hard object, “We found a gunshot wound in his left chest. His face was destroyed,” said Yori, a worker at the hospital.
The Sorong police chief Adjunct Commissioner Harri Golden Hart confirmed that a body had been found. “We are still in the process of identification, and finding out whether it is true that he was killed,” Harri said.

After the autopsy, the victim’s family and KNPB members brought the victim’s body to be laid out in the house of mourning in Malanu village, in the Papua Christian University complex.

From data collected by tabloid jubi, the external examination conducted at the Sorong City General Hospital revealed a hole in the left chest 1x1cm, and another in the right side of the stomach of around 2x3cm. The man’s height was 179 cm and he had dreadlocks.

Before his body was found, the KNPB had issued a statement with some further details of the press conference and what happened afterwards, along with their guesses for possible abductors and their motives. This is an excerpt from that statement, as published on umaginews.com:

We believe that the Sorong KNPB chair was abducted by Kopassus [army special forces] or BIN [state intelligence agency] because on the 20th he received a phone call from someone and went outside. Now five days have passed but he hasn’t been found.

Previously on 19th August Martinus Yohame and other KNPB officials held a press conference at 15.00 Papuan time in front of the Sorong Mayor’s office, attended by several reporters from the Sorong area, in connection with the Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s visit to Papua and in particular to the Sorong area to open the Sail Raja Ampat event in Waisai, on Saturday 23rd August 2014.

Martinus Yohame, supported by the deputy chair of the KNPB, Kantius H, invited journalists from several print media organisations to use information from the press conference in their reports about the president’s visit KNPB used the opportunity to express their opposition to President SBY’s visit to the land of Papua.

At the same time they expressed their opposition to illegal logging, exploiting Papua’s natural riches and developing Raja Ampat as a Global Marine Tourism centre, all of which they judge to be stealing from and destroying Papua’s ecosystems and forests with no benefit for the people of Papua as a whole who own the land and resources.

This is why the KNPB and the PRD (People’s Regional Parliament) are clear in their opposition. We believe he was abducted by the security forces or the intelligence agency as part of their efforts to secure SBY’s visit, which the KNPB opposes.

Just two minutes after the press meeting finished at 3.15, a woman telephoned the KNPB Sorong chair. This woman claimed to be from the National Human Rights Commission in Jakarta, and she wanted to meet.  Several moments later, she came to meet the KNPB chair and his group outside the mayor’s office in a red Avanza. Inside was a man with a large Canon video camera, and they invited Martinus Yohame to accompany them to the Sorong Mega Mall, at the 9km post. The woman then took them to eat in a cafe next to the Megamall, and while they ate they held a meeting, although it is not known what they spoke about in this meeting.

Before the meeting broke up, he and the woman exchanged mobile phone numbers. The woman then said that “the next meeting will take place on Wednesday 20th August and we will get in touch”.

Afterwards they maintained communication via telephone and text message, with the last message on Wednesday 20th at 12.00 Papua time. That night they told Martinus to leave his house and it was on the street that they abducted him. He has not been found until now….

Source: Umagi News

The West Papua National Committee is an organisation that believes West Papua should have the right to self determination. It was formed in around 2009, but after it gained prominence with a series of large demonstrations demanding a referendum on independence there was a major crackdown, with many leaders around Papua jailed or killed, especially in 2012.  Since that wave of repression, the KNPB has found it difficult to organise, as local leaders are often detained a day or two days before a planned demonstration or significant event.

If elements of the Indonesian State were indeed responsible for Martinus Yohame’s disappearance, it is likely that he was targeted for his pro-independence stance. However, it is worth remembering that in the press conference before he disappeared Martinus Yohame also spoke of the problems of illegal logging and the tourism industry, and he is not the first KNPB leader have raised the issues of natural resource development that marginalises the Papuan people.  At the same time, indigenous people are threatened by state security forces of being treated as separatists when they state their opposition to development projects. The climate of intimidation in Papua is not limited to the independence movement alone, but impacts all areas in which Papuan people need to assert their needs and desires for a more just future.

As Martinus Yohame was being brutally beaten, or maybe he was already dead by that time, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was nearby on Raja Ampat celebrating the progress made in his development-focussed strategy for Papua, making statements such as “ lets keep going with the positive development that has already been achieved in Papua and West Papua”.  His audience of civil servants and tourism executives listened and watched as a flotilla of boats including 14 Indonesian navy ships as well as warships from the US, Australia and Singapore joined a sail past. Media hailed the event as a great success.

West Papua Media has highly credible but unconfirmed reports that Martinus Yohame was also targeted by Indonesian intelligence for potentially having contact with the two French Journalists still being detained in Abepura.  Many of our people are currently in danger because of this situation.

thanks to: West Papua Media Alerts

WEST PAPUA: Disturbing report reveals details about ‘genocide’ in Highlands

West Papuans of the mountain areas in the 1960s.
Image: United Nations Photo

Friday, October 25, 2013

HONG KONG (Asian Human Rights Commission / Radio New Zealand International / Pacific Media Watch): The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has released a report into human rights abuses against West Papuans by the Indonesian military in 1977 and 1978, saying what occurred amounted to genocide.

The Hong Kong-based organisation called for an ad hoc human rights court to be set up to hear the allegations and try those responsible.

The organisation conducted field visits, interviewed witnesses and examined historical records over three years to collect the names of more than 4000 people it believed were killed.

It also claimed more than 10,000 people died as a result of torture, disease and hunger.

The report, entitled The Neglected Genocide, said West Papuans in the Central Highlands were victims of napalm bombings and random shooting from the air, sometimes by aircraft supplied to the Indonesian military from Australia and the United States.

It contained details of West Papuans being burned or boiled alive, being forced to eat their own faeces and perform sexual acts in public.

The report named 10 Indonesian senior military leaders as responsible, including former President Suharto as Supreme Commander.

Children killed
The report discussed violations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and said it aimed at “truth-building”.

It revealed that children younger than 10 years old, and elderly over the age of 60, were among those who were killed.

The AHRC said on its website that The Neglected Genocide also told the stories of survivors who witnessed the brutality and inhumane treatment perpetrated by the Indonesian military at that time.

One victim told how the arrested West Papuans were forced to stand in line in a field before being shot indiscriminately by the Indonesian military. The victim himself managed to survive by pretending to be dead.

Sexual violence against West Papuan women was also reported to have been common during the military operation around the Central Highlands in 1977–1978, as described by one of the interviewed female survivors.

“Breasts of some women were cut and they died. We were raped, abused and killed… Some women were only raped but others were raped and murdered.”

Genocide in West Papua
In the report, the AHRC argued that the series of atrocities described in the report amounted to genocide as defined by the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.

Director for Policy and Programme Development of the AHRC Basil Fernando said the “publication of the report is aimed at raising awareness amongst the general public, particularly in Indonesia, on the history of violence in Papua”.

“The long period of authoritarianism under Suharto has profoundly silenced the Indonesians from discussing its dark history related to Papua,” Fernando said.

He pointed out that available sources examining the abuses in the Central Highlands during 1977–1978 in Indonesia was very limited.

“Without any recognition from the government and the public at large in Indonesia on the state-sponsored wrongdoings in Papua, the ongoing conflicts in the area will only continue,” he said.

“There should be genuine efforts from the government to provide justice for the Papuans, one of which is by fulfilling their right to truth.”

One of the recommendations proposed by the report was the establishment of a local truth and reconciliation commission in West Papua as called by the Special Autonomy Law enacted in 2001.

It also called for the Indonesian government to comply with its international human rights obligations by lifting unreasonable and disproportionate restrictions on freedom of expression in the country to encourage an open discourse on the history of violence in West Papua and by ensuring the safety of any individual speaking up on the issue.

Read the full report here

Audio report about Australia’s involvement

thanks to: Pacific Media Center Te Amokura

Papuans Behind Bars: September 2013


In brief

At the end of September 2013, there were at least 53 political prisoners in Papuan jails. In Waghete, a civilian was killed and four were arrested in a sweeping operation by police Mobile Brigade special  forces. There were scores of arrests of civilians and activists in relation to demonstrations celebrating the International Day of Democracy. Well-known activists were targeted in Biak and Yapen islands where processions were held to welcome the sacred water and ashes delivered by a Freedom Flotilla from Australia. In Waena, a civilian was arbitrarily detained and tortured by police.

Boas Gombo and Dipenus Wenda have both been released. There have been reported concerns for the mental health of Yohanes Borseren and Obeth Kamesrar. A report by KontraS Papua revealed pressing concerns about the health of prisoners and living conditions in Abepura prison. The parole application  by the five detainees in the case of the Wamena ammunitions store raid has been rejected, while the four detainees in the Yalengga flag-raising case are seeking remission.


Civilian fatally shot and four arrested by Brimob officers in sweeping operation in Waghete

An article by Tabloid Jubi reported the fatal shooting of civilian Alpius Mote in Waghete by  police Mobile Brigade (Brimob) officers who were conducting a sweeping operation on 23 September. The two  officers were reportedly involved in a stop and search operation in Waghete market when they stopped two elderly men in a search for weapons. This caused protests from people who had gathered, leading to stones being thrown at the two officers. In response, the two officers fired into the crowd, causing the death of Alpius Mote, a university student, and injuring three others – Aprida Dogopia, Alex Mote and Frans Dogopia.

There were also reports that the officers targeted men with dreadlocks and beards. A statement by political prisoner Selpius Bobii described this tactic as an attack on indigenous Papuan customs. It is allegedly used by officers  to single out those they claim are ‘separatists’. The statement by Bobii also reported the arrests of four civilians following the shooting, although it is unclear if they remain in detention. Human Rights Watch has called for Indonesia to investigate the possible use of unnecessary  lethal force by police officers.

Scores arrested across Papua for celebrating the International Day of Democracy

Several Papuan human rights sources and news sites  reported that on 16 September  at least 94 people were arrested and  then released without charge as police moved to disperse demonstrations across Papua celebrating the International Day of Democracy on 15 September. Thousands of Papuans took part in the demonstrations,  which also supported Vanuatu’s intention of raising the question of West Papua’s political status at the 68th session of the  United Nations General Assembly in September.

The Papuan National police had issued a ban on demonstrations on 11 September, rejecting a notice  by the West Papua National Committee (Komite Nasional Papua Barat, KNPB) of their intention to demonstrate in several cities on 16 September, reportedly because the KNPB logo used in the notice contained a symbol of the Papuan Morning Star flag.  Sources on the ground and news sites  reported that tear gas was used in the Jayapura suburb of Waena to disperse demonstrators.


According to a comprehensive report  by a local human rights investigator, there were two separate incidents in the Jayapura suburb of Sentani which led to the arrests of 29 people. A KNPB activist quoted in the report stated that at 07.00 Papuan time, nine demonstrators consisting of four KNPB activists and five civilians were arrested in Sentani Sektor Toladan by the Sentani Sub-District police. Other local activists reported that police  used intimidatory tactics on the peaceful demonstrators and  blockaded the demonstration at several spots in efforts to disperse the demonstration. The nine arrested were detained in Sentani Sub-District police station before being released without charge several hours later.

In a separate arrest in Sentani Sektor Gunung Merah, Jayapura Regional police arrested 20 demonstrators at approximately 07.15. The demonstrators were led by KNPB leader Alen Halitopo, who was one of the 20 people arrested. An article on the KNPB website stated that demonstrators were kicked and ill-treated by the police who confiscated items used in the demonstration. They were detained in Jayapura Regional police station for  more than an hour before being released without charge.

The KNPB  source also stated that in Sektor Prodadi the police dispersed demonstrators  who were heading towards the Old Market in Sentani. They confiscated megaphones, KNPB flags and banners.


Reports were received of two separate arrests in Waena where a total of 10 people were detained before being released without charge. The  comprehensive report mentioned above detailed the arrest of three KNPB activists – Agus Kosay, Ucak Logo and Jon Komba – at around 07.00  in front of the campus of Cenderawasih University where orations were taking place as part of the demonstration. They were released from Papua Regional police station without charge five hours later.

The West Papua online news magazine, Majalah Selangkah reported a second round of arrests at 09.00,  when a joint army and police task force arrested seven KNPB activists – Warius Warpo Wetipo, Henny Rumkorem, Uum Himan, Anton Gobay, Yas Wenda, Yufri Wenda and Rinal Wenda. Police allegedly beat the activists on arrest and confiscated their brochures and banners. Demonstrators  allegedly tried to negotiate with the security forces, who had set up blockades, before they were forcibly dispersed. Sources on the ground and news reports  stated that police  used tear gas to disperse the demonstrators in Waena. The Head of the Jayapura Regional police, Kiki Kurnia, told Tabloid Jubi that before using teargas, the security forces  gave the demonstrators five minutes to disperse as the demonstration had not been given  “permission” to go ahead by the authorities.

Taman Imbi, Jayapura

According to the same article by Majalah Selangkah, 14 KNPB activists were detained in Taman Imbi, Jayapura, before they could deliver speeches at the demonstration planned there. They were released without charge at 11.40 after being detained at Jayapura Regional police station for four hours.


The  report mentioned above also detailed two separate arrests in Sorong where a total of 27 people were detained before being released without charge. At around 9.00, Sorong Regional police arrested 20 people, most of them KNPB activists. KNPB Sorong leader Martinus Yohami led the march towards Toko Tio. Police allegedly stopped the demonstrators and made the arrest when they unfurled a banner which stated “Indonesia Open Democratic Space in Papua, Stop the Violence.” The 20 people arrested were detained for six hours in Sorong Regional police station before being released without charge. A separate arrest  took place in front of the King Mosque in Sorong city where seven people were arrested and also detained in Sorong Regional police station. They were released at the same time as the other 20.


Local activists reported the arrests of 14 KNPB activists in Nabire by joint army and police forces at demonstrations held on 16 September. They were reportedly beaten on arrest, with five of the activists – Otto Kudiai, Yafet Keiya, Anipa Pigai, Agustina and Yulianus Nawipa – receiving particularly severe beatings which resulted in serious injuries. Items used in the demonstration were confiscated. Upon pressure from the Head of Parliament for the Meepago Region, Habel Nawipa, the 14 activists were released from Nabire Regional police station without charge.

In Timika,  local activists reported the Mimika Regional police using intimidatory  tactics against demonstrators.  Celebrations of the International Day of Democracy also took place in Dogiyai, Yahukimo, Merauke, Timika, Manokwari and Biak, though no arrests have been reported in these areas.

Dozens of Biak and Yapen islands activists arrested in connection with planned procession welcoming Aborginal sacred water and ashes delivered by Freedom Flotilla

According to reports from human rights sources in Papua, four activists were arrested and  released in Biak, while Edison Kendi and Demianus Burumi were arrested and subsequently released in Yapen in police attempts to hinder processions on both islands. The processions were planned – on 20 September in Biak and 26 September in Yapen – to welcome the sacred water and ashes which were delivered by the well-publicised Freedom Flotilla from Aboriginal leaders in Australia.

Biak island

A report received by  email and an article posted  on the Freedom Flotilla  website described the arrest of four community leaders in Biak on 18 September. The four men – Piet Hein Manggaprouw, Klemens Rumsarwir, Yoris Berotabui and Yan Piet Mandibodibo – had arrived at the Biak Numfor Regional police station  to request an acknowledgement of their  notice to demonstrate  submitted two days earlier on 16 September. Upon arrival at the police station, they were separated into different rooms and were interrogated for 17 hours.

During the interrogation, they were threatened with charges of treason reportedly because the  notice had used a letterhead containing the logo of the pro-independence movement of the Federal Republic State of West Papua (Negara Federal Republik Papua Barat, NFRPB). Throughout their interrogation, the four men were denied food and communication with their families. Their handphones were also confiscated. At around 02.00 on 19 September, they were driven back home by a police truck guarded by three fully-armed police officers and one plainclothes officer.  Later that morning at 11.00, they were again brought in to be interrogated at the Biak Numfor regional police before being released 12 hours later at 23.00. Police  allegedly instructed them to cancel all plans to carry out the procession, and  told them that they  had to report to the police once every 24 hours.

Despite a heavy police and military presence, the procession  went ahead as planned on 20 September. On this day, as Piet Hein Manggaprouw and Yoris Berotabui were on their way to report to the Biak Numfor Regional police, they were stopped by several intelligence officers and forced into a vehicle. While observing the procession from within the vehicle, the intelligence officers allegedly forced the two men to identify NFRPB activists  in the procession. They then drove to the airport where the two men were  forced to identify Dr Frans Kapisa, who had flown in to Biak to deliver the sacred water and ashes.

The intelligence officers  reportedly communicated with other police authorities via walkie talkie on possible plans to shoot Kapisa upon his arrival and to shoot other activist leaders involved in the processions welcoming the sacred water and ashes. Amongst the activists mentioned were Edison Kendi, Markus Yenu and Marthinus Wandamani. The officers  also allegedly discussed strategies to disperse demonstrators forcefully, including beating or shooting demonstrators who disobeyed orders.

We understand that the four community leaders have not been charged with any offence and are not currently reporting to the police.

Yapen island

On 25 September, at around 17.00, Yapen Regional police  reportedly aired an announcement via Indonesian national radio instructing civilians not to go ahead with their planned procession on 26 September. Later that evening, at around 20.30, 20 plainclothes police officers and 2 Kopassus army special forces officers, some armed with M-16s and pistols, arrived at the residence of Edison Kendi in Serui, Yapen island, to arrest him. He was  detained reportedly because of his involvement in  the procession  on 26 September. The police  allegedly stated that in accordance with the Law on Mass Organisations, consent to demonstrate would not be given to groups that were not registered with the Department for National Unity and Politics (Kesatuan Bangsa dan Politik, Kesbangpol), a government body within the Interior Ministry. The arrest was led by the Head of Criminal Investigation within the Yapen Regional police. Kendi is currently undergoing investigations in Yapan Regional police station. Following his arrest, at around 22.10, two police trucks arrived at Kendi’s house and reportedly ransacked the residence in search of documents related to pro-independence activity.

The following day, on 26 September, at around 07.25, Yapen Regional police arrested Demianus Burumi as he was on his way to Serui airport to welcome Dr. Frans Kapisa who had come from Biak island, carrying with him the sacred water and ashes.

The latest information indicates that Kendi and Burumi have been released from detention.

A report from a human rights investigator stated that the procession in Mantembu village on 26 September was forcefully dispersed at around 11.30 by a joint army and Yapen Regional police task force. The police attempted to arrest Kapisa and Markus Yenu but the crowd positioned themselves in a way that allowed the two men to escape arrest. According to the report, security forces are still on guard in Mantembu village.

Online Papuan sources report that police are also targeting other Yapen activists for arrest, including Tinus Wandamani, Yan Piet Maniambo, Hendrik Warmetan, Pieter Hiowati and Heppi Daimboa. As reported in the August update, police employed similar tactics in Sorong city, where four community leaders – Apolos Sewa, Yohanis Goram Gaman, Amandus Mirino and Samuel Klasjok – were arrested after a prayer session and statement to the press in solidarity with the Freedom Flotilla. The four men were also instructed to report to the police and have been charged with treason and incitement.


Boas Gombo released following mental health decline

Information  from a local human rights source  expressed concern about the declining  mental health of Boas Gombo, who was released on parole on 27 September. Boas Gombo was arrested on 28 February 2013 and  sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment in Abepura prison after being convicted under  Article 66 of Law 24/2009 on the Flag, Language, Symbols of the State and the National Anthem.  His mental health has declined rapidly since 11 September 2013, reportedly due to the severe beatings he  suffered, including multiple blows to the head, during his detention in Muara Tami District Police station. He did not reportedly receive adequate medical treatment whilst in Abepura prison, and was instead only given sedatives.  He will be required to report to authorities for two months.

Dipenus Wenda released after almost ten years in prison

Human rights lawyers have reported the release of Dipenus Wenda on 19 August. His release was part of the 17 August Independence Day remissions.  Wenda was arrested on 28 March 2004 while giving out leaflets campaigning for an election boycott. He spent nine years and seven months in detention in Wamena prison.

Political trials and cases overview

Parole application for case of Wamena ammunition store raid rejected

The Democracy Alliance for Papua (Aliansi Demokrasi untuk Papua, ALDP) has reported that a parole application submitted by one of its lawyers on behalf the five detainees in the Wamena ammunition store raid case has been rejected. The authorities at the Directory General of Correctional Facilities (Direktor Jenderal Permasyarakatan, Dirjen Pas) reportedly stated that the parole application was not  received despite the lawyer’s insistence that it was submitted last year. When asked for  clarification,  the authorities at Dirjen Pas explained that a complete application was necessary for  the matter to be considered. This meant that two documents had to be submitted – a Letter of Assurance and a Statement of Loyalty to the Republic of Indonesia –  as the five detainees were charged with treason. The detainees rejected signing a Statement of Loyalty, which therefore disqualified their application for parole. Applications for parole go through different stages of consideration, starting from prison authorities to the Regional Office for Law and Human Rights in Papua and finally to Dirjen Pas.

The five men – Apotnalogolik Lokobal, Kimanus Wenda, Linus Hiel Hiluka, Jefrai Murib and Numbungga Telenggen – were charged with treason under Article 106 of the Indonesian Criminal Code. They were arrested in April/May 2003, as part of sweeping operations by the military in which nine people were killed and 38 tortured.

Yalengga flag-raising detainees seek remission

ALDP has reported that the four men in the Yalengga flag-raising case – Meki Elosak, Wiki Meaga, Oskar Hilago and Obed Kosay –  sought remission as part of the 17 August Independence Day remission deal. When an inquiry was made into their situation, Wamena prison authorities reportedly stated that the four men will receive remission from Dirjen Pas. This arrangement was therefore not part of the 17 August remissions which are instead administered by the Regional Office for Law and Human Rights in Papua. Lawyers for the four men will also appeal for clemency. The four men continue to be detained in Wamena prison.

Concerns of mental health of 1 May detainees

Information received from human rights sources in Papua reported concerns for Yohanes Boseren in the Biak 1 May case and Obeth Kamesrar in the Aimas 1 May case. Both men were arrested this year in relation to the peaceful activities commemorating the 1 May 50th anniversary  of the administrative transfer of Papua to Indonesia. Borseren was severely beaten on arrest,  and received multiple blows to the head. Obeth Kamesrar, an elderly detainee at 68-years old, has reportedly been silent since his arrest and appears to be suffering from trauma.

Cases of concern

Civilian arbitrarily detained and tortured by Waena police

The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Desk of the Protestant Church in Papua (GKI-TP) has reported the arbitrary arrest and torture of a civilian in Waena. On 26 September, Nahor Stefanus Yalak was arrested by Waena police allegedly because of complaints by residents  that he was making too much noise in the area. At 19.00, the police brought Yalak to a nearby police post where he was tortured. Yalak was reportedly made to lie on the floor with his hands tied as the police wearing heavy boots stamped on his hands, and kicked and beat him on the back of his hand, face, back, thighs and knees. He was also whipped on the back with a thick cable. An officer also reportedly ripped a crucifix necklace from Yalak’s neck.  An hour later,  he was taken to the Abepura District Police station where he was detained overnight before being released at 07.30 the following morning. Yalak sustained serious injuries and has difficulty walking.

KontraS Papua report reveals concerns of inadequate medical care and living conditions in Abepura prison

A report received from the human rights organisation, KontraS Papua, on their visit to Abepura prison in August has revealed pressing concerns about inadequate medical healthcare and living conditions in Abepura prison. Jefrai Murib,  reported in  the July update as requiring immediate treatment for his stroke, is making a slow recovery despite the inadequate medical care he is receiving. He is now able to move his hand and is regaining his sense of touch. Prison authorities still do not  comply with recommendations concerning the required number  of hospital appointments. The KontraS Papua report stated that prison authorities often cited reasons of lack of transport, staff or time to postpone sending Murib to  hospital.

The report also reveals other concerns, including the lack of nutrition in prison meals, inadequate bedding and clean water, and faulty toilet facilities. Prisoners often have to lift containers of water from tanks when the bathroom pipes stop working. Ferdinand Pakage, who suffers from severe headaches, is reportedly unable to carry heavy items due to this condition and often experiences harsh pains  if forced to do so. The report states that Pakage is given inadequate medicine to treat his headaches which do not heal him of his pain. According to one doctor at Abepura prison, Pakage’s headaches are caused by a clogged vein and further treatment should be sought. However when KontraS Papua staff asked for further details, other Abepura staff were not aware of any plans to seek further medical treatment for Pakage.  The condition of Filep Karma, who has been suffering from the effects of heart disease, has reportedly improved.

Police raid residence of ex-political prisoner Buchtar Tabuni

Majalah Selangkah reported a raid on the residence of Buchtar Tabuni in Jayapura by a joint army and police task force on 26 September. The raid was led by the Head of the Jayapura Regional police, Alfret Papare, the Head Police Commissioner, Kiki Kurnia, and the Head of Abepura District police,  assisted by  Infantry from the Regional Military Command. The security forces reportedly arrived in four vehicles and were fully armed. They searched the whole house,  looking for Buchtar Tabuni. A few KNPB members who came to the residence seeking answers to why the house was being raided, were  then threatened  by the security forces. They left at 16.00 and headed to Jayapura city. Apparently, no reason was given  why they were conducting the raid.


16 political prisoners in Abepura prison sign a letter of support in response to Vanuatu’s General Assembly statement on human rights in Papua

On 28 September 2013, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Vanuatu, Moana Kalosil Carcasses, called on the UN to investigate human rights abuses in West Papua and the territory’s political status. 16 political prisoners in Abepura prison signed a letter of support  for the statement and expressed their thanks to the Prime Minister and the Republic of Vanuatu for their commitment and consistency in supporting the West Papuan cause.

September 2013 Papuan political prisoners

  Prisoner Arrested Charges Sentence Case Accused of violence? Concerns reported re legal process? Prison
1 Victor Yeimo 13 May 2013 160 3 years  (handed down in 2009) 2009 demo; 13 May Jayapura demo No Yes Abepura
2 Astro Kaaba 3 May 2013 Treason Unknown Yapen police death Yes Trial pending Serui police station
3 Hans Arrongear Unknown Treason Unknown Yapen police death Yes Trial pending Serui police station
4 Oktovianus Warnares 1 May 2013 106, Emergency Law 12/1951 Unknown Biak flag-raising, 1 May commemoration No Yes Biak police custody
5 Yoseph Arwakon 1 May 2013 106, Emergency Law 12/1951 Unknown Biak flag-raising, 1 May commemoration No Yes Biak police custody
6 Yohanes Boseren 1 May 2013 106, Emergency Law 12/1951 Unknown Biak flag-raising, 1 May commemoration No Yes Biak police custody
7 Markus Sawias 1 May 2013 106, Emergency Law 12/1951 Unknown Biak flag-raising, 1 May commemoration No Yes Biak police custody
8 George Syors Simyapen 1 May 2013 106, Emergency Law 12/1951 Unknown Biak flag-raising, 1 May commemoration No Yes Biak police custody
9 Jantje Wamaer 1 May 2013 106, Emergency Law 12/1951 Unknown Biak flag-raising, 1 May commemoration No Yes Biak police custody
10 Domi Mom 1 May 2013 Treason Unknown Timika flag-raising, 1 May commemoration No Trial pending Timika
11 Alfisu Wamang 1 May 2013 Treason Unknown Timika flag-raising, 1 May commemoration No Trial pending Timika
12 Musa Elas 1 May 2013 Treason Unknown Timika flag-raising, 1 May commemoration No Trial pending Timika
13 Eminus Waker 1 May 2013 Treason Unknown Timika flag-raising, 1 May commemoration No Trial pending Timika
14 Yacob Onawame 1 May 2013 Treason Unknown Timika flag-raising, 1 May commemoration No Trial pending Timika
15 Hengky Mangamis 30 April 2013 106, 107, 108, 110, 160 and 164 Trial ongoing Aimas shootings, 1 May commemoration No Yes Sorong police station
16 Yordan Magablo 30 April2013 106, 107, 108, 110, 160 and 164 Trial ongoing Aimas shootings, 1 May commemoration No Yes Sorong police station
17 Obaja Kamesrar 30 April2013 106, 107, 108, 110, 160 and 164 Trial ongoing Aimas shootings, 1 May commemoration No Yes Sorong police station
18 Antonius Safuf 30 April2013 106, 107, 108, 110, 160 and 164 Trial ongoing Aimas shootings, 1 May commemoration No Yes Sorong police station
19 Obeth Kamesrar 30 April2013 106, 107, 108, 110, 160 and 164 Trial ongoing Aimas shootings, 1 May commemoration No Yes Sorong police station
20 Klemens Kodimko 30 April2013 106, 107, 108, 110, 160 and 164 Trial ongoing Aimas shootings, 1 May commemoration No Yes Sorong police station
21 Isak Klaibin 30 April2013 106, 107, 108, 110, 160 and 164 Trial ongoing Aimas shootings, 1 May commemoration; accused of being TPN/OPM No Yes Sorong police station
22 Yahya Bonay 27 April 2013 Unknown Unknown Yapen policedeath Yes Trial pending Serui police custody
23 Atis Rambo Wenda 4 April 2013 170 10 months Accused of violent crime Yes Yes Abepura
24 Yogor Telenggen 10 March 2013 340, 338, 170, 251, Emergency Law 12/1951 Awaiting trial Pirime shootings 2012 Yes Yes Papua Provincial police station
25 Isak Demetouw(alias Alex Makabori) 3 March 2013 110; Article 2, Emergency Law 12/1951 Trial ongoing Sarmi arrests No Trial pending Sarmi
26 Daniel Norotouw 3 March 2013 110; Article 2, Emergency Law 12/1951 Trial ongoing Sarmi arrests No Trial pending Sarmi
27 Niko Sasomar 3 March 2013 110; Article 2, Emergency Law 12/1951 Trial ongoing Sarmi arrests No Trial pending Sarmi
28 Sileman Teno 3 March 2013 110; Article 2, Emergency Law 12/1951 Trial ongoing Sarmi arrests No Trial pending Sarmi
29 Andinus Karoba 10 October 2012 365(2), Law 8/1981 1 year 10 months Demak activist accused of theft Yes Yes Abepura
30 Yan Piet Maniamboy 9 August 2012 106 Trial ongoing Indigenous people’s day celebrations, Yapen No Yes Serui
31 Edison Kendi 9 August 2012 106 Trial ongoing Indigenous people’s day celebrations, Yapen No Yes Serui
32 Jefri Wandikbo 7 June 2012 340, 56, Law 8/1981 8 years Accused of violent crime in Wamena Yes Yes Abepura
33 Timur Wakerkwa 1 May 2012 106 2.5 years 1 May demo and flag-raising No No Abepura
34 Darius Kogoya 1 May 2012 106 3 years 1 May demo and flag-raising No No Abepura
35 Bastian Mansoben 21 October 2012 Emergency Law 12/1951 Trial ongoing Biak explosives case Possession of explosives No Biak
36 Forkorus Yaboisembut 19 October 2011 106 3 years Third Papua Congress No Yes Abepura
37 Edison Waromi 19 October 2011 106 3 years Third Papua Congress No Yes Abepura
38 Dominikus Surabut 19 October 2011 106 3 years Third Papua Congress No Yes Abepura
39 August Kraar 19 October 2011 106 3 years Third Papua Congress No Yes Abepura
40 Selphius Bobii 20 October 2011 106 3 years Third Papua Congress No Yes Abepura
41 Wiki Meaga 20 November 2010 106 8 years Yalengga flag-raising No Yes Wamena
42 Oskar Hilago 20 November 2010 106 8 years Yalengga flag-raising No Yes Wamena
43 Meki Elosak 20 November 2010 106 8 years Yalengga flag-raising No Yes Wamena
44 Obed Kosay 20 November 2010 106 8 years Yalengga flag-raising No Yes Wamena
45 Yusanur Wenda 30 April 2004 106 17 years Wunin arrests Yes No Wamena
46 George Ariks 13 March 2009 106 5 years Unknown Unknown No Manokwari
47 Filep Karma 1 December 2004 106 15 years Abepura flag-raising 2004 No Yes Abepura
48 Ferdinand Pakage 16 March 2006 214 15 years Abepura case 2006 Yes Yes Abepura
49 Jefrai Murib 12 April 2003 106 Life Wamena ammunition store raid Yes Yes Abepura
50 Linus Hiel Hiluka 27 May 2003 106 20 years Wamena ammunition store raid Yes Yes Nabire
51 Kimanus Wenda 12 April 2003 106 20 years Wamena ammunition store raid Yes Yes Nabire
52 Numbungga Telenggen 11 April 2003 106 Life Wamena ammunition store raid Yes Yes Biak
53 Apotnalogolik Lokobal 10 April 2003 106 20 years Wamena ammunition store raid Yes Yes Biak 

Papuans Behind Bars aims to provide accurate and transparent data, published in English and Indonesian, to facilitate direct support for prisoners and promote wider debate and campaigning in support of free expression in West Papua.

Papuans Behind Bars is a collective project initiated by Papuan civil society groups working together as the Civil Society Coalition to Uphold Law and Human Rights in Papua. It is a grassroots initiative and represents a broad collaboration between lawyers, human rights groups, adat groups, activists, journalists and individuals in West Papua, as well as Jakarta-based NGOs and international solidarity groups.

Questions, comments and corrections are welcomed, and you can write to us at info@papuansbehindbars.org

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“We Want To Be Free”: An Interview With Four Women From The West Papuan Movement For Freedom

In 2012 Alex Rayfield and Claudia King had the privilege of interviewing four extraordinary West Papuan women, all active in the nonviolent movement for freedom in West Papua, a Melanesian nation-in-waiting occupied for more than five decades by the Indonesian military. All four women had known deep pain as a result of the occupation of their homeland and the corrosive fear of being targeted for extermination.

Some wrestled with hate of Indonesians that at times threatened to overwhelm them. All had imagined, even desired, to wage armed struggle against the Indonesian government. But instead of being pacified by terror or succumbing to cravings for revenge these four young women refuse to give into hatred or relinquish their dreams of freedom (merdeka). All are engaged in efforts to realize their hopes for a restored Papua without resort to weapons or violence. How could this be possible? King and Rayfield travelled into Indonesia and West Papua to learn about why they joined the Papuan movement for freedom, what they long for, why they had chosen to struggle nonviolently, some of the challenges they faced and about the experience and role of women in the movement.

Since interviewing the four one of the women, Fanny Kogoya, the Director of Friends of the Earth Indonesia, Papua (WALHI Papua) and a former central committee member of the West Papua National Committee (Komite Nasional Papua Barat or KNPB), has had to flee the country. Another KNPB member Rina Kogoya, Secretary of the Port Numbay (Jayapura) branch, has decided to remain in West Papua but has gone into hiding as the Indonesian police systematically try to destroy the organisation through a campaign of summary execution (22 KNPB members were killed in 2012 alone), arrest, torture and trumped up charges of treason, hatred of the state, bomb making and murder. The other two women are Heni Lani, from the Alliance of Papuan Students (Aliansi Mahasiswa Papua or AMP) and Ice Murib, Chair of the Movement of Papua Women (Gerakan Perempuan Papua).

When and why you got involved in the movement?

Fanny Kogoya, Director, Friends of the Earth, Papua

My name is Fanny Kogoya. I am a Lani woman from the Dani Tribe, Wamena, West Papua. I am now the Director of the Papua office of Friends of the Earth Indonesia.

I first became active in the struggle in 2000. At that time I was 20 years old. I joined in a number of forum discussions with student activists from the Papuan Student Alliance (Aliansi Mahasiswa Papua). It was first semester of university but before I moved to Jogjakarta.

For years the Dani people experienced repression from the Indonesian military. Prior to 1998 – when Suharto was overthrown – the Dani’s homeland was in a military operations area (Daerah Operasi Militer). During reformasi, in 1998 and 1999 there were lots of demonstrations and my friends and I felt like we could do something. But when I was in high school, before 1998, we could not speak openly about freedom for West Papua. It was even difficult to buy or sell Papuan music. If you spoke about freedom during these times you were accused of being a part of the GPK (Gerekan Pengacau Keamanan) “the movement of security disturbers” [a police and military code for the OPM or Papua Freedom Movement]. As a child I often saw people beaten-up by the police, often without any reason at all. When I moved to Jogja I started to remember all of these things that had happened to me as a child and for the first time I was able to talk about that with other people. It was like a lid was lifted off of a boiling pot.

One of the things I we talked about was when the biologists were kidnapped by Kelly Kwalik [a legendary Papuan guerilla leader killed by Detachment 88 in December 2009]. Prabowo, one of the Kopassus [Indonesian Special Forces] commanders tried to release those hostages but what happened was that a whole lot of people were killed up in the highlands. I started reading about the history of West Papua’s integration with Indonesia, the so-called integration and I began to realise just how much wrong, how much injustice the Papuan people had experienced at the hands of others.

As a student I started to compare the policies, the government policies, with what was actually happening on the ground. On the one hand you had the constitution which talked about freedom and the Pancasila which talked about social justice but in reality there was very little political space for us Papuans. When I was living in Java I could compare the health and education system with what we had in West Papua and it was just so different. Things were so much better in Java. What is happening in Papua now is just like the New Order under Suharto and just like the reformasiperiod after Suharto. There is very little political difference for Papuan before or after Suharto. After Suharto we thought there would be more space for us but Papua has yet to experience a real democratic space. These kinds of things make me really emotional. I realized I had to resist. I can’t be silent. I have to resist.

When I was a student studying in Jogja I came to understand that I am a person who possesses land; that my life is very different from other Indonesians. The connection to land, to Papuan culture, to Adat, is quite different from what is in Java. Our relationship to our ancestors is different from those in Java. Papua is not Indonesia. Indonesia is very different from Papua.  Papua is something completely different from Indonesia.

Rini Tabuni, secretary of KNPB, Jayapura-Sentani

The first time I got involved in the struggle was in 2008. I had just finished my university studies. This was already 10 years on from Suharto and in the period of reformasi, so people felt freer to talk about the issue of freedom. The hopes embodied in reformasi gave me spirit [semangat] and encouraged me to get involved in the movement.

My mother would often speak about the things that she experienced in her life. She talked about what happened in Wamena in 1977 when there were massive military operations. My parents were pastors of the Kingmi church in Wamena at that time.

Actually my father was one of the victims of 1977. Indonesian soldiers cut open his chest with knives. They took out the contents of his stomach and they removed his heart. My grandfather saw this happening with his own eyes. As the soldiers were cutting open my father’s chest they were saying, “Where is your God now? Who is here to save you?” My grandmother and my grandfather then fled to the forest where my mother and I were hiding. They told us what had happened. And of course this event really traumatized my mother. Even now when she tells this story she always cries.

So that’s one reason I’m involved in the movement, that’s one reason why I struggle. After this we moved to Jayapura. We lived in Dock 5 with Benny Wenda’s people. In 2000 Benny started to become more active in the movement. Benny and all of my family had to flee. We ran to Papua New Guinea. After a little while, when it was safer, my older brother, who was working in the civil service, brought us back to Jayapura. Of course Benny got refugee status in England. We watched what he did from the outside; how he continued to struggle. That inspired those of us who lived inside Papua to continue to struggle in the movement. It was in this context that KNPB entered. My friends and I said let’s stay with this organization, let’s sit down with them and see what we can do together.

Heni Lani, Aliansi Mahasiswa Papua

My name is Heni Lani, I am from the Dani tribe of Wamena.

I was 18 years old when I got involved in the struggle. That was in 2003. But before that, as a girl, you know, I had experiences like Fanny and Rina. When I was in primary school the police came to my house and arrested my father. Even as a little girl, I could see the way the police treated my father was not respectful. It really made us angry. At that time my father was a principal of a primary school. Back then I had no idea that in addition to being a principal my father was also organising indigenous people in Wamena. So in the beginning I had no idea why my father had been arrested. And I guess that is what really made me angry. Two days after the police arrested my father he came home. For a week my father just stayed in the room with my mother. As children we had no idea what had happened.

I stayed with my family in Wamena until Middle-High School when I went to a Catholic boarding school. Every Saturday we’d have a chance to go home and be with our family. One Saturday night when I was at home, two police officers came around to my house. They were in plain clothes but they were carrying weapons. They arrested my father again. I still remember it. We were sitting down having dinner and the police came into my house. They grabbed my dad and they dragged him outside.

The next thing that really influenced me occurred when I was in Senior high school. Actually Rina and I were at the same school. One afternoon, around the time Benny Wenda was arrested,  I was hungry so I went outside the boarding school to buy some cake. I was still wearing my school uniform. I bought some cake from a street seller and I put it in a big plastic bag. This man was standing next to me and he said, “ hi younger sister, good day. What’s your name.” I told him “my name is Heni.” He asked me where I was from but because I didn’t know him I said, “Father would you like some cake?” He took some cake then I crossed the road.

I crossed the road and I noticed there were lots of police. Suddenly the police ran across the road and grabbed the guy I had just given cake to. The police dragged him by his hair and beard. It was only then I realized it was actually Benny Wenda. Benny Wenda shouted out in Lani, “quick, help me, grab this bag”. There were no other people from Wamena there so they did not understand what he was saying but I understood. Then he said it again: “help me, grab this bag”. But I didn’t do anything. I just stood there watching him cry out.

The next day in the Cendrawasi Post [the main daily newspaper in Jayapura, the capital of West Papua) there was a big photo of Benny Wenda on the front cover. The newspaper sellers were calling out “C-post, C-post, Benny Wenda arrested, Benny Wenda arrested.” I bought a paper and started reading it.  In the article it said in his bag were a whole lot of sensitive documents; the morning star flag, his passport, all sorts of things. After reading the C-post I realized, wow it really was Benny Wenda that I met yesterday. Before that I only knew his name. I had never met him before. I can’t tell you how guilty I felt, like I had done some really wrong. I didn’t go to school that day. For the next three days I was carrying this burden. I kept on thinking to myself, why didn’t I do anything? Perhaps if I knew it was Benny Wenda I would have gone and helped him, grabbed his bag to keep it from the police. That was the third experience that influenced my political development as an activist.

After school I started studying at University but I continued to stay at the Catholic dormitory. I would often witness demonstrations on the main road in Abepura. At our campus there was a small discussion group led by Jeffrey Pigawak. I started to attend and began to ask questions; why did the police do this and why did the police do that? I wanted to try and understand the things that I had witnessed as I was growing up. Bit by bit I became more active in the discussion group. That was between 2002 and 2003. In 2003 I made a decision that I would become more active. The first group I got involved in was the street parliament (Parlamen Jalanan), which was set-up by Filip Karma and Yusak Pakage.

On the April 5 2004 I got my political education from Filip Karma. I remember it was at the beach in Hamadi. Filep Karma told me all the things that happened in our history, the whole history of our struggle. He told me everything going right back to the time of the Dutch, about Angganeta Manufandu in Biak during the 30s and 40s, the role of Mama Yosepa in the highlands, all these things. Before I received my political education from Filip Karma it was like I was sitting in this small dark room with little rays of light coming through. These rays of light were like my father getting arrested and Benny Wenda getting arrested. When I got my education it was like the door of this room was flung open. It was as if I went outside for the first time and saw what was really happening. The day on the beach in Hamadi was the first time I saw the Morning Star flag. I grabbed it and held it. Finally, I realized, I’m not an Indonesian, I’m a Papuan!

All these events culminating with the political education I received from Karma and Pakage strengthened my commitment to this struggle. Since then my friends have been arrested, some have died in jail, some have fled to Papua New Guinea. It’s like we are migrants in our own land. So many people from Java, from Sulawesi, from Sumatra have come to our land. We don’t have space to do anything. I finally discovered that the reason my father was arrested was because they wanted to take his land to build a stadium. My father was defending his land but they took his land to build a stadium. My father had said if you want to take my land to build a school, well then okay, we can talk about it but they didn’t care. When I became involved in the movement my father told me all these things. So I have no reason to sit down and be quiet.

Ice Murib, Chair of the Papuan Women’s Movement

I first got involved in the movement in 2008 but something happened to me in 2006. I was in Jayapura in class three of senior high school at the time. The date was March 16 2006. There was a big action in Abepura. Lots of students were involved including Heni. My friends and I were in Kotaraja. We tried to get a taxi home but the road was blocked everywhere so we had to walk. It was quite a distance, maybe 20 kilometers. When we passed the road between the University of Cendrawasih and the Trikora football field,  I saw students burning tires, they were blockading the road, and I saw Heni speaking. Suddenly I heard shooting. Students were running everywhere. I joined them. We ran and ran. I still had my school clothes and I was running for my life. The police were arresting people. There were soldiers everywhere but I kept running. I ran all the way home. The following day I didn’t go to school. I heard they were looking for students. Their pictures were everywhere including Heni’s. Her face was posted on the wall, along with other people who were wanted by the police.

At that time I felt sick in my heart. I thought, this isn’t right, this isn’t just. That is why I joined the Alliance of Papuan Students from the Central Highlands. But you know, the events of March 16 2006 were not the only thing I have seen. I have also experienced some of the things that my friends Fanny, Rina, and Heni have experienced. My parents and grandparents were involved in the events of 1977 in Wamena. The repression then was so heavy…

At that time in Tiom my grandfather would see the military come and take pieces of iron. They would heat them up in water and use them torture people. The soldiers would stab people with these hot pieces of iron until they died. The police would go through and sweep the village, searching for people. Helicopters hovered above while the police and army went house to house searching for people.

One morning everyone hid in the church. The children, the women, and the men, they all tried to hide in the church. And then the Army came. Other people from other villages also came. The army and police asked people to come out of the church. My grandfather came out of the church and ran. He took my father who was still young and hid in the forest.

The army forced everyone to come out of the church. The men were forced to strip down, to take off all of their traditional clothes until they were naked. At that moment one of the soldiers came up to one of my grandfather’s friends and in front of including the children, he slit his throat. Other people were killed that day too. I don’t know how many but I can tell you that my grandfather’s friend’s throat was slit. And then they made everyone eat his head. We can eat pigs, but we can’t eat human beings. That is why my grandfather and father fled to the forest. Everyone was grieving.

In 2000 when I was in second grade middle school Morning Star flags were being raised all over the Baliem Valley. Every morning the members of satgas, a kind of unarmed militia set-up by Papuan Presidium Council, would raise the morning star flag at various posts throughout the valley. The president at the time, Gus Dur gave an order that the Morning Star flags had to come down. On the morning of October 6 2000 I went to school in Wamena city. The police and military were everywhere, travelling from post to post to try and take down the flags. I remember feeling confused. When I got to school it was so quiet, everyone had gone so I went home. As I tried to go home a man from Biak asked me, “Who are you? Where are you from? You’ve got to go home, you can’t be here, you have to go home.” I ran down the main road all the way home. As I ran I saw police and military everywhere. I pass a satgas post where the police and soldiers are trying to force the flag down. I see a woman trying to defend the flag. She had her  arms wrapped around it. I saw them beat her. They just beat her until the blood ran down her face. Along the side of the road people were being beaten and tortured. Of course seeing all of these things I was so scared.

So I just ran. I ran all the way home. But when I got home nobody was there except my two younger sisters. At that time they were about 4 years old and 1 ½ years old. I was asked them, “Where is everyone? Where did everyone go?” My sisters told me that my mother was sick and my father was taking her to the hospital. She didn’t know what she should do, everyone was fleeing to the forest, everyone was running. My sister looked at me and said, “What should we do?” Nobody was there. Nobody was coming to help them. Then one of my grandmothers came she told me, “you can’t stay here, you can’t stay here, you’ve got to go, it’s not safe here.” So I got some powdered milk for the baby, some clothes for them and some food. I also got some shirts and shorts for my sisters. I grabbed a couple of things of my fathers, some documents that were important. Then I wrapped my youngest sister who was 1 ½ years, in a sheet and I wrapped and put her in a noken (string bag).  I took my other sister who was 4 years old, by the hand. By this time it was already night and there was heavy rain. In the beginning I didn’t know where I should go. It was really quiet. We went to the forest, in the direction of a village. It was a fair way to that village and I felt really scared. I felt so little. I am taking my two younger sisters into the forest, it was the middle of the night and I didn’t know where my parents were and what had happened to them. Finally we arrived at the village and stayed in one of the houses there. I cared for, looked after my younger sisters. Early morning the next morning I could hear the planes flying overhead, looking for people. There was nothing we could do. We just had to stay in that room. We couldn’t do anything.

When my father came back to the house from the hospital he looked for us but couldn’t find us. Finally he found us and we stayed there in that village for a week. When my mum came back from the hospital we returned home to our house and the situation started to get a bit better.

Two years later in 2002 something else happened. There was a raid on the military post in Wamena. Some people stole a couple of guns. This happened one Saturday night. I remember we were getting ready to go to church. When the priest began preaching the army suddenly burst in and forced everyone out of the church and into the front yard where they pointed guns at us and told us to sit down. The soldiers kept asked us if we knew what happened. This man raised his hand and said something but it was dark and there was heavy rain.  I heard the noise of footsteps but I didn’t see anything. Then before I knew it a soldier hit him and dragged him off to a patrol vehicle. After that everyone was too scared to say anything. The soldiers continued to ask us what happened but everyone was too scared to say anything. Finally the army left. When the army went people started to tell stories. Some people said that the many who raided the military base was Yustinus Murib and his friends. And of course my father was scared for us to go to school because our clan name is Murib. My father told us, if people ask you what your family name is, don’t tell them it’s Murib. Just go home if they ask. Don’t say anything because it’s really dangerous for you.

These are some of the reasons why I got involved in the AMP-PT. I joined in demonstrations. In 2008 I also joined the demonstrations organized by KNPB. At that time, the highland students were being hunted down. Fanny and I had to flee. We lived in the forest for 5 months with other students, hiding from the police.

Later I stayed with Reverend Sofyan Yoman. This was around the time his book was banned. I was at his house when officers from the national intelligence agency (BIN) and the police came to his house. They wanted to arrest Reverend Sofyan but he said, “This is my land, this is my place. I am the master of my own land. If the president orders you to arrest me, you have to ask, you have to tell the president to come here because I am the president of my own land.” The police and the people from the national intelligence agency left. They didn’t know what to do!

I have witnessed all these things. They are part of the reason why I joined the movement.

Why are you struggling nonviolently? Where does the courage to do that come from?

Fanny Kogoya, Director, Friends of the Earth, Papua

We have to acknowledge that if you are going to struggle nonviolently there will also be victims just the same as if we were to take up arms. It would be a mistake to commit to nonviolent just to avoid suffering. Even though we’re struggling nonviolently the Indonesian state continues to respond violently. They arrest people, beat people, kill people. Often my activist friends say, “What’s the point. If we struggle nonviolently they’re going to beat us, arrest us … if we struggle violently they’ll do the same things”.

Often people join the armed struggle because of their experiences. They’ve had these traumatic experiences and they make a decision to join the armed struggle. Often it’s an emotional reaction. Of course in our culture we also have a history of fighting back, a history of tribal warfare. All Papuans have courage, we are a courageous people. So with these three things – our memories of suffering,  our history and culture and our courage – armed struggle is a real option for us. And there are many people who believe we can only get self-determination through violence.

But Papuans are also a very practical people, we’re not a theoretical people. We know civil resistance can also work. So my dream is to learn more about civil resistance and how it works. I want to go back to the victims of violence, whether they are people who have been involved in the armed struggle or not, and I want to say, “There’s another way, there’s a different way”. Of course it’s difficult to influence those in the jungle who are fighting as a part of the armed struggle but I can influence those in the city and in places where I live to struggle nonviolently.

We have to understand that the Indonesia military receives support from the Americans, from the Australians, from the Dutch. Papuans will never be able to match the weapons the Indonesians have. Unless all of these foreign countries that support the Indonesian state come and take all of their weapons away … but at this stage there is just no way we could ever compete.

So the realistic option that I have is to organize people to struggle nonviolently. If we struggle through civil resistance more people can be involved, old people, young people can be involved. Involving all types of people, the whole Papuan society, can give us a tremendous amount of strength.

Rini Tabuni, secretary of KNPB, Jayapura-Sentani

Actually everyone thinks we Papuans need to take up arms. There are so many reasons why people want to take-up arms and fight back. Some people want to take up arms because they don’t have any trust that the Indonesian government is going to resolve the conflict peacefully but a lot of people want to take up arms because of the experiences that we have, they don’t know any different. But we do. If we take-up arms against Indonesia the response will be so fierce, so sharp, so heavy. But I understand why people feel they have to reply a death for a death, why they want to respond with violence.

If I struggle through violence I am going to experience a number of problems. I’m going to lose a lot of my rights. I’m going to lose my best friends. And people are going to come and steal my rights, steal my land, and kill me. There are other people that are going to come and take over and possess our land. But now I see that there’s an opportunity to resist through nonviolent struggle. People at the grassroots need to know that nonviolent action can be really successful and I can give them evidence of that. We can learn from the examples of other countries. Lots of other countries have gained freedom through nonviolent struggle. People who have faced the same kind of problems as us have found a way through. When people know this they are going to be touched deeply. We can use our culture, our way of life to help our friends understand that actually they can struggle through nonviolent means. I can do this but I can only do all of these things because God is involved, because God’s hand is involved in all of this.

Heni Lani, Aliansi Mahasiswa Papua

The first thing that I have to do is acknowledge is that there is a part of me that sometimes wants to take-up arms. But then I imagine what would happen. I think about the numbers of people that will be wiped out.

Like Fanny and Rina said we also need to compare the strength of Indonesia with the strength that we have. The Indonesian army is trained 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And their knowledge of military warfare is so far advanced from any knowledge of armed struggle that we have. I can only be brave enough to take up arms when we have the same military strength to face them. But I don’t feel brave to take up arms before then.

I choose to struggle nonviolently. I have experienced these terrible things that have made me strong. But not just I, everyone in Papua have memories of suffering. These experiences are a source of courage for us.

I feel certain that we have to struggle nonviolently. I feel strong when we resist with nonviolent strategies and tactics and our movement isn’t labeled with negative stigmas. People on the outside can see that we’re struggling nonviolently. I don’t feel scared to struggle nonviolently. One of the sources of strength of nonviolent resistance is that it is not only me who is struggling, it’s all of us Papuans working together. We also have amazing leaders, particularly religious leaders who have made us realize that also West Papua is going to be a better place if people struggle nonviolently. More people will be involved. We’re not just talking about forming a new nation we’re also talking about how we can live in the midst of that struggle and you know civil resistance is a better way, it allows us to live better in the midst of struggling for something better. Maybe because I’ve got an understanding and knowledge of civil resistance that I feel brave.

Ice Murib, Chair of the Papuan Women’s Movement

If we could get lots of arms, I think Papuans would struggle violently. But we really don’t have lots of arms. We have some. But it’s nothing compared to what the Indonesia military has.  I know that civil resistance can bring about change but sometimes I have doubts. Maybe we can’t do it through civil resistance because the Indonesian government is a type of tiger. It is a really bad type of tiger that we’re up against. And you know their thinking is, they should just kill us.

What are you struggling for? What do you want?

Fanny Kogoya, Director, Friends of the Earth, Papua 

Speaking personally, we’ve got to get freedom quickly and that has to be through political means. But if I speak from the position of a WALHI Director, we need the support of various groups around the world who love the environment. Papua has the third largest forest. We love the forest and if this forest is destroyed that will have a global impact. People need to realize that what is happening in Papua is not just happening to Papua itself, it is something that is happening to all of us. We need people to work with us. We need institutional support. And we want people to campaign about Papua. We want people to campaign to stop the violence and if we work together we will be successful.

We really need technical assistance with media. We also need to influence other countries, particularly the U.S. America has a big influence so the US should have a really clear and strong policy about Papua. That would be a really good thing. Obviously we want that policy to be in support of freedom. And of course if you look at the history of Papua the US has been really involved. I want to ask all Americans, all U.S citizens, to pressure their government to take responsibility for the fact that Papua is not free.

Rini Tabuni, secretary of KNPB, Jayapura-Sentani 

I want you to know that I want to be free. I want freedom. That’s it. I want to be free.

Heni Lani, Aliansi Mahasiswa Papua

The BIG thing that I want, is for all the Papuan people to be involved in the civil resistance struggle. We have to work together. People can help by doing little things, making shirts and stickers and little things like that. We can start from little things like that.

Tell your friends in Australia and the U.S., “Stop sending military weapons to Indonesia. Stop.” Because whenever we do things we face the military with those arms and those arms are sent by your countries and the military and D88 are being trained by your countries to kill us.

Ice Murib, Chair of the Papuan Women’s Movement

We want to be free. We want you to help us be free. Indonesia doesn’t care about us as people. So the only thing that we want is to be free. We want to be free to live our own life in our own land. 

What is the role of women in the movement?

Fanny Kogoya, Director, Friends of the Earth, Papua 

Women have a really big role in the movement. Sometimes women feel like they are the enemy, that the military and the state see women as the enemy. We have a double challenge that we’re facing. We struggle against Indonesia but we also struggle against patriarchy in the movement. Se we have two enemies: the way women are treated within the movement and the evil and injustice of the state. We are definitely fighting against some of the men within the movement who think we aren’t capable.

We need to struggle so that women are the same within the struggle. I never feel that women are better than men in the struggle. I’m just as great as they are, just as great as the men are. We need to get rid of this view that men are somehow better in the struggle. We need to erase that view. If men and women can have this same view then we will just have one enemy, not two.

In terms of being elected as the director of WALHI, there were actually 2 people going for that position, a man and a woman, but I got the position. I feel proud about that. We are also supported by men’s organizations as well. So you know, this is a sign of our strength.

Rini Tabuni, secretary of KNPB, Jayapura-Sentani

I agree with what Fanny said, we are not just struggling for freedom we’re also struggling for equality within the movement. We can’t retreat from these two things.

Heni Lani, Aliansi Mahasiswa Papua

And of course, the evidence is before you now. These four women here are all providing leadership. The same is true in AMP and KNPB. Women are in leadership positions and telling men what to do, so yeah, we’re already there, we’re already playing positions of leadership in the movement.


All this is just a fraction of what was happening. We could write down our whole history and send it to you but it would be a book! We carry all of the stories of what happened to us and what came before us in us. If we don’t do something, the next generation after us will experience even worse things.

Fanny: But for me, of all of these terrible things that I’ve experienced, the worst thing was the killing of Mako. Mako was a really good friend of mine. And because of Mako’s death we have to struggle. Mako Tabuni really supported me to take a leadership position in WALHI. I became the director on the 13th and Mako was shot down on the 14th. At 5 o’clock I was elected to the position of director, and then at 7 o’clock Mako shook her hand and said, well done, fantastic. And then 8 o’clock the next morning he was shot down.

There are many other things too, Kelly Kwalik’s killing, the killing of Arnold Ap, Theys Eluay’s killing, all those in the forest who have been killed.

Heni: But Indonesia can’t do anything without the assistance of countries like Australia and the US. So we need to put pressure on them. Stop sending arms to Indonesia.

Interview by Alex Rayfield and Claudia King. Photos taken by Javiera.


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