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Analysis

Blocking Papua from the Truth

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Illustrated – Supplied

By Andre Barahamin

 On 20 December 2016, Legal Aid Foundation for Indonesia Press (LBH Pers) was staging a press conference. It highlighted the censorship done by The Indonesia Ministry of Information and Communication (Kominfo) towards Suara Papua, a local news outlet based in Abepura, Papua. With no prior notification, Suara Papua was silently to be put together with the list of 11 websites that blocked by the government. Those websites allegedly has violated the principles of journalism, promoting hoax and hate.

Soon after the press conference, late evening that day, Rudiantara, the Minister of Information and Communication called Asep Komarudin from LBH Pers by phone. He promised if the censor will be pulled out the next day.

In 21 December, Suara Papua finally can be accessed the next day but not for those using Telkomsel, the largest telecommunications service provider in Indonesia. In Papua, Telkomsel is the main player and controls more than 65% of the market for mobile phone services users. When I published my piece in Suara Papua couple weeks ago, dozens of people told me that they could not read it because the Kominfo block.

Arnold Belau, Suara Papua’s Editof in Chief says that there were no reasons behind censorship. There was no early warning, official letter of notification or so on. He found out if their website has been put under censorship since 14 November 2016 based on the screenshots sent by the readers from different region of Papua. Belau strongly believes that access blocking and censorship is repressing the freedom of press and violated public rights to get information, in particular for Papuans.

Franky Samperante, the Executive Director of PUSAKA Foundation says that the censorship towards Suara Papua, shows how Joko Widodo (Jokowi) is once again following the footstep of his predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. He believes that the censorship towards Suara Papua is an act of repression against the alternative voice for raising facts, concerns and awareness regarding the ongoing human rights violation, land grabbing against indigenous people, the massive environmental destruction, education and health problems, poverty and so on, which rarely mentioned by the mainstream news outlets in Indonesia.

The statement has similar tone with the 2015 report of Human Rights Watch (HRW), “Something to Hide?: Indonesia’s Restrictions on Media Freedom and Rights Monitoring in Papua.” The 75 page report shows the government’s roles in obstructing access to the provinces of Papua and West Papua. Phelim Kine, the Asia Director of HRW says that government access restrictions have for far too long made Papua as Indonesia’s “forbidden island” for foreign media and rights monitors. Foreign journalists describe an opaque and unpredictable permit application process in which they often never received a final response. Many have waited fruitlessly for months –and in some cases years– for approval.

Some journalists who went to Papua with tourist visa will face the threat of arrest by the security forces as it experienced by Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat in 2014. The pair -who were working for Franco-German TV channel Arte- was arrested by Indonesian security forces on 7 Augusts while interviewing Areki Wanimbo, a local indigenous leader. Dandois and Valentine were sentenced to 2.5 months prison and 200 USD fined and was released in 28 October 2014. But Wanimbo -who was charged with conspiracy to commit treason- has to wait for nine months before released from the prison.

Suara Papua at that time was one among few who regularly providing updates on Wanimbo when all eyes were focusing on Dandois and Bourrat only.

When Jokowi announced to open Papua and easing the access for foreign journalists and monitors body, strong resistance came from some senior government and security forces officials. The promised never been in real because Jokowi did not followed the announcement with a specific written directive, which opened space for non-compliance by state agencies and security forces opposed to loosening restrictions on foreign observer access to Papua.

Various senior officials have since publicly contradicted the president’s statement. Then the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Luhut Binsar Panjaitan ,which has announced that the government will take serious action towards those who are trying to limit journalists access and works in Papua. However, in contrast to the statement, HRW found out that no significant changes on the ground. Andreas Harsono, the Indonesian researcher of HRW has confirmed that prior to police permission, the foreign journalist who seeking to travel to Papua is still required to provide details of their likely sources and dates of travel in advanced. Those details are believes to be used by the security forces to keep an eye upon the journalists’ works and preventing bad news goes out from Papua.

Terrifying with bad news from Papua is similar with one that imposed upon Suara Papua, as media who promoting separatism and doing black propaganda against Indonesia. On the same line, this baseless assumption of Kominfo also tarnishing the legacy of the late Oktovianus Pogau, founder of Suara Papua whose name was recently taken to name after an award for Indonesian journalist who shows bravery on reporting issues regarding human rights violation. (*)

The author is an researcher for Pusaka Foundation, Jakarta

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Analysis

Indonesia’s pressure tactics over West Papua issue resemble the actions of China over Tibet

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Protest lead by National Committee of West Papua were always faced repressive measures by the security forces – Jubi

By Nithin Coca

EARLIER this month, the Indonesian military raided and destroyed the offices of the West Papuan National Committee, a separatist group in the country’s easternmost region, which has long agitated for independence. The raid came amid allegations that the military had used chemical weapons in airstrikes on separatists in West Papua in late December. The Indonesian government has responded harshly after at least 17 construction workers were killed by West Papuan militants in early December, the deadliest such attack in West Papua in years.

This surge in unrest in the region is the outcome of a harder line that the Indonesian government has taken on West Papua in recent years. During the United Nations General Assembly last September, the prime minister of the tiny Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, Charlot Salwai, criticized that approach. Referring directly to West Papua, he said the Indonesian government needed to “put an end to all forms of violence and find common ground with the populations to establish a process that will allow them to freely express their choice.”

The reaction from Indonesia, which is usually quiet at the U.N., was fierce. President Joko Widodo hasn’t even bothered to attend the General Assembly in his five years in office, but his government immediately lambasted Salwai. Jakarta’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Dian Triansyah Djani, declared that “Indonesia will not let any country undermine its territorial integrity.” Referring to separatist and independence groups in West Papua, he said Indonesia also “fail[ed] to understand the motive behind Vanuatu’s intention in supporting a group of people who have [struck] terror and mayhem [on] so many occasions, creating fatalities and sadness to innocent families of their own communities.”

West Papua was not part of Indonesia when the country gained independence from the Netherlands in 1949. The region, which has a distinct ethnic and linguistic identity from mostly Polynesian Indonesia, was formally annexed in 1969 after what Indonesians call the “Act of Free Choice,” when a group of hand-selected Papuans voted unanimously in favor of Indonesian control in a vote marred by allegations of blackmail and coercion.

Since then, West Papua has been the site of regular violence, either from one of the many separatist groups on the island, or, more often, the Indonesian military. The island is rich in minerals, the revenue from which make up a significant portion of Indonesia’s budget. Freeport-McMoRan’s huge Grasberg mine alone provided more than $750 million in revenue in 2017.

Many West Papuans, either living in Indonesia or abroad, have been advocating for self-determination for years. But what was primarily a local conflict has now become more regional, as both sides have attempted to internationalize the issue. West Papuans are ethnically Melanesian, like the citizens of Vanuatu and other Pacific Island nations, such as the Solomon Islands and Fiji. West Papuan activists have been working to build connections with these countries, with the goal of having them speak up for Papuan independence, like Salwai did at the General Assembly.

“West Papua is a regional issue, because we are part of Melanesia, connected culturally and linguistically,” Benny Wenda, an exiled leader of the Free West Papua organization currently based in the United Kingdom, told WPR. “The majority in the Pacific islands, they don’t see West Papua as distant. It’s close to them.”

The main entity for cooperation in the region is the 18-nation Pacific Islands Forum, founded in 1971, and the Melanesian Spearhead Group within it, which counts the four Melanesian nations as members. West Papuan advocates have used the forum to push for global recognition, including formal membership for West Papua as an occupied country.

Indonesia, however, has been pushing back by sowing discord among the forum’s members. It provided military support to Fiji after the island’s 2006 coup, which had led to the imposition of Western sanctions, and offered significant aid to Papua New Guinea. With both countries’ support, in 2011, Indonesia was granted observer status in the Melanesian Spearhead Group. Since then, attempts by the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, an umbrella organization of independence groups, to get a similar status have proved futile. Now, both Fiji and Papua New Guinea say they support Indonesia’s full membership in the group, which would push the West Papua issue to the sidelines.

Since Indonesia got its observer status, “the MSG has become an empty house,” says James Elmslie, a political scientist with the West Papua Project at the University of Sydney. “The MSG is now split on the issue.”

Indonesia’s pressure tactics resemble the actions of a much bigger power in Asia dealing with territories it considers its own: China. Having long sought to isolate supporters of Tibet, China regularly pushes countries to refuse access to the Dalai Lama, as both Russia and South Africa have done in recent years. Beijing also uses a carrot-and-stick strategy to shrink the number of countries that recognize Taiwan, which it sees as a breakaway province. In the past year, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic have dropped their diplomatic recognition of Taiwan in favor of China. Like other countries that have done this, they can expect to be rewarded with aid, investments and more. Conversely, countries that refuse to switch, like Palau, have been squeezed by China and seen their tourism industries suffer.

Unlike China, though, Indonesia is a democracy, one that is often hailed as a model for both Asia and the Islamic world. There was a small window of opportunity, right after the fall of the three-decades long Suharto dictatorship in 1998, when newly democratic Indonesia was engaging with pro-independence activists in West Papua. At the time, East Timor was permitted to hold an independence referendum, and there were calls for something similar in West Papua.

But when reformist President Abdurrahman Wahid—facing corruption allegations, economic woes and political unrest—was forced to step down in 2001, that window slammed shut. The Indonesian military reasserted control, killing Papuan independence leader Theys Eluay, and things went back to the status quo of repression. Indonesia continued to exploit the region for resources and suppress the voices of Papuans. Democracy may have transformed Indonesia, but it brought little change to West Papua.

Now the situation is only getting worse. The core problem is that unlike a decade ago, the Indonesian government is refusing to engage peacefully, instead allowing, either implicitly or explicitly, the Indonesian military to take the lead.

Getting an independent view of what’s taking place in West Papua remains as difficult as ever. For decades, the Indonesian government has essentially closed off the region to journalists, international observers and NGOs. The few who do enter face risk of arrest, like Jakub Fabian Skrzypzki, a Polish citizen who is now on trial for alleged ties to Papuan separatists and faces potential life imprisonment in Indonesia if convicted.

It looks like another move out of China’s playbook. Why would democratic Indonesia go that route? Because so far, it’s working.

Nithin Coca is a freelance journalist who focuses on social, economic, and political issues in developing countries, and has specific expertise in Southeast Asia.

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Analysis

Baby Kana, three forgotten people in the story of Puti Hatil and Korowai (Part 3) 

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Illustration of health crisis of Korowai people where an evangelist Jimmy Weyato is preparing a coffin – Jubi/Agus Pabika

Written by Rev. Trevor Christian Johnson

Jakarta, Jubi – The 3rd and final forgotten person I want to write about during the drama of Puti Hatil’s sickness and healing is Baby Kana, also from Afimabul.

The day that Dakinus led Daniel and his baby son to Danowage, Baby Kana was also carried with them in their group.  She was also brought to Danowage along with Puti Hatil. But she did not heal.

Read: Danil Hatil, three forgotten people in the story of  Puti Hatil and Korowai (Part 1)

Dakinus Wanimbo, three forgotten people in the story of  Puti Hatil and Korowai (Part 2)

Last week (end of December) Puti was flown back to his village by helicopter, his cheek sewn closed and the wound clean and dry and healthy. He was returned to the Korowai region because he was healed and was sick no more.

He is a success story.

But Baby Kana also suffers no more. She also no longer has any illness. Instead of being flown back to her village by helicopter, however, she was returned to the dust of the earth.

She has now been dead for over 6 weeks.

Most people do not know that this other small child was also brought to Danowage from Afimabul during the same trip along with Puti Hatil. They were both carried to Danowage together.

While Puti was being cared for in the VIP Room at Dian Harapan Hospital with many visitors and enjoying much media attention and money was being gathered on his behalf, the baby Kana lay rotting in the ground, buried in a very simple wooden coffin made from rough boards.

She was yet another statistic demonstrating the poor condition of healthcare in this region.

We wanted to help her so bad. We did our best. But she died during the night. When we received her in Danowage she had already been sick for a whole month, and she was just too sick and weak to recover when she arrived.

Maybe the journey was too much for her. We did not have a chance to really treat her or an opportunity to fly her out to the hospital like Puti.

But Baby Kana is just as much a part of this story as Puti. The child Puti Hatil was saved. Baby Kana was not.

But help came because of Puti.

God is using the case of Puti to bless the entire Korowai region. And through Puti’s sufferings, the whole Korowai region seems to be experiencing a blessing of health care.

He became a symbol to rally around and to gather help and support. Because of Puti’s pain, many Korowai children will not need to experience illness or death.

After many long years of waiting for help, we are now being flooded. I can only praise the churches and students and the government officials who are very quick to help.

Upon hearing of the health crisis in the Korowai region, the Governor of Papua Lukas Enembe quickly responded and visited Danowage and promised more help and embraced many of the local people, showing his heart for the interior peoples of Papua.

Many good people are now involved and working together from both church and government to help the Korowai.

But sometimes I fear. Sometimes I fear that it will not be the case of Puti Hatil that is representative of the help that is coming to the Korowai region (a very sick baby who was helped and healed and returned successfully to the city).

Sometimes I am afraid that people will soon forget the trials of the Korowai. Instead of Puti Hatil being a symbol of hope, I am afraid that the case of Baby Kana will become a more fitting symbol – a child who died without help and will be forgotten unless I can keep her memory alive through written articles such as this.

We have two future options for the Korowai. Who will better represent the fate of the Korowai, Puti Hatil and his rescue? Or Baby Kana and her death?

This is the real tragedy of Papua; while 90% of the media is focused on politics in the cities, the interior peoples of Papua go to bed hungry and many die due to neglect.  There are MANY Puti Hatils in my region. Even more sadly, there are many MORE Baby Kanas.

Between the years 2009 and 2015, shootings within the Freeport Mine project area killed 20 people and injured 59. In that same period of time illness and disease has killed much more in just this Korowai region of Papua where I serve.

I pray and plead that this is the last year that their cries will go unheard. (End)

 

Editor: Zely Ariane

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Analysis

The ties that bind Papua and Indonesia

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By Karim Raslan

Source: South China Morning Post

Maria Hestina, Maria Korwa and Mega Imbiri represent hopes of young Papuans in Sorong – Karim Raslan/scmp

Jayapura, Jubi – Young Papuans in an eastern Indonesian boom town are excited about the future, thanks to a resurgent economy. But will the good times last?

Sorong is booming. With 9.3 per cent GDP growth in 2016 (almost double Indonesia’s average) and located on the westernmost point of Papua, the 300,000-strong city is fast becoming a regional transport and logistics hub, boosted by its proximity to the fabled Raja Ampat islands and the ever-elusive bird of paradise.

However, Sorong isn’t a pretty sight. In fact, the city feels as if it’s still emerging from the scrubland – its urban sprawl stretching many kilometres into the interior, far from the waterfront that’s now bustling with activity.

I was very curious how the younger generation – the city’s millennials – viewed their future.

Were they optimistic? Did they see the new airport, port and Trans Papua Highway as the harbingers of a prosperous future? How were relations between indigenous Papuans and newer communities – the Bugis, Javanese and Minahassans?

I met three 18-year-old students: Maria Hestina, Maria Korwa and Mega Imbiri. All three were studying at the city’s largest tertiary institution, the Sorong Muhammadiyah University.

Maria Hestina is the daughter of transmigrants, her family was originally from Flores in East Nusa Tenggara. Her parents – now divorced – weren’t well-to-do. Her father was a labourer while her mother sold petrol and fruits at the market.

Maria Korwa’s family has been in Papua for generations. She was the product of an interreligious marriage: her father was Muslim while her mother was Christian. In an arrangement that is common in some part of Indonesia, her brothers were Muslim but her sisters and she were Christian.

Mega Imbiri was the daughter of a fisherman and a housewife, both of whom are Papuan natives.

“My father has to go out to sea every day and sometimes comes back with very few fish. He has to brave the rain, the waves and saltwater. … As a child I would hold his hands; they were always coarse.

Papua has long been considered a restive, troubled part of Indonesia.

However, Sorong, on the very “tip” of the island, has largely escaped the turmoil of the interior.

Instead, the city has benefited enormously from the current administration’s focus on strengthening transport links with the rest of the republic – creating a boom that more than matches Timika, the central Papuan town, home to Grasberg, the world’s largest gold mine and second largest copper mine run by the controversial American miner Freeport-McMoRan.

The three young women present a positive “spin” to the Eastern Indonesian region. Their religious diversity is remarkable – Maria Hestina is Catholic, Maria Korwa is Pentecostal Christian and Mega Imbiri is Protestant. Maria Hestina is a first-generation transmigrant while Maria Korwa and Mega Imbiri are natives.

Maria Korwa is unequivocal about the province’s problems.

“There’s a lot of crime in Sorong. Every day, there are muggings, fuelled by alcoholism and drug addiction – including glue-sniffing among youths.”

Maria Hestina adds: “Around 2005-2006, the water supply was very unreliable and we often suffered from blackouts. It has improved since then, but there’s still a long way to go.”

“The price of petrol has also gone up – it’s now 5,000 rupiah per litre. I know because my mother sells petrol; people are finding it difficult to cope.”

Mega Imbiri has her own take.

“Development is difficult in Papua. The terrain is hilly and heavily forested. It will take years before projects see results. What makes me very happy is the attention Jokowi (Indonesian President Joko Widodo) has been giving Papua. He’s visited the island more times than any other president before him.”

The administration’s initiatives have already begun to bear fruit. Maria Hestina noted that under former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Jokowi, primary and secondary education was made free. On December 20, the government announced plans to bring electricity to the whole of Papua and build new roads.

While the two provinces (Papua and West Papua) continue to represent a major challenge to Indonesian unity and stability – the eagle-eyed focus on economic growth has brought tangible gains to their people.

It’s this transformation that may well hold the key to binding the island of Papua to Indonesia.

Admittedly, this is a very positive take – that the current administration’s focus on economic grievances is having an impact. But is it enough?(*)

 

Editor: Zely Ariane

 

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