Indonesia and West Papua

15 Oct 2001
Carmel Budiardjo

Presentation to the West Papua Solidarity Meeting in Germany, 15 - 17 October 2001

Indonesia is today confronted by two serious challenges to its commitment to preserving its territorial integrity, to preserve NKRI, the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia. These challenges come from Aceh, the most westerly province and from West Papua, in the east. The people in both these regions have strong historic reasons for challenging their inclusion within the Republic. They have also been inspired by the decision of the people of East Timor to reject integration with Indonesia and have become increasingly alienated from Jakarta by the bitter experiences of prolonged human rights abuses and the stealth of the proceeds from their abundant natural resources.

Aceh has been in a state of open warfare since the presidential instruction issued in April this year by President Wahid, and recently renewed for four months. Although Inpres IV/2001 provides for a ‘comprehensive six-point programme’, the only point being practised is the ‘security’ element, the campaign to crush GAM and undermine support for it among the common people. The death toll since the beginning of 2001 is now estimated at 1,500, the vast majority non-combatants. While GAM, the Free Aceh Movement, has been waging armed resistance for years, civil society has since 1999 rallied round the call for a referendum as the peaceful and democratic way to resolve its dispute with Jakarta. Under Wahid, the central government entered into dialogue with GAM, accepting the good offices of an international body, something unprecedented in Indonesia’s history of dealing with regional unrest. (East Timor was a special case as it was on the UN agenda ever since the Indonesian invasion in December 1975.)

Since the downfall of Suharto in May 1998, there have been three Indonesian presidents. The first, Habibie, was a true product of the Suharto era but ironically, there were significant positive moves under his presidency to promote reformasi and resolve regional conflicts. The most important was his decision to allow a ballot to take place in East Timor, but he also set up an investigation commission into human rights violations in Aceh, and agreed to hold a dialogue with a team of one hundred West Papuan leaders. Under his presidency too, a law on regional autonomy was drafted. One has to admit that he achieved far more than his successor, the reform-minded Abdurrahman Wahid.

Wahid came to power in October 1999 with the help of some of his most outspoken rivals, in a move to prevent Megawati from becoming president. He insisted that she was incompetent while the Muslim coalition that intrigued with him didn’t want a woman to become president. This disgraceful intrigue was to dog him throughout his presidency and to lead eventually to his impeachment, initiated by the very politicians who helped him come to power.

Wahid took power determined to reform the armed forces (TNI). At first it appeared that he was succeeding when he sacked General Wiranto, but that was because the TNI was still disunited and was being heavily criticised for the first time ever by victims in many parts of the country with bitter complaints about human rights abuses during the Suharto era.

Wahid was able to initiate a dialogue with GAM and showed a willingness to acknowledge the legitimate claims of the people of West Papua by supporting the Papuan Congress in May-June 2000, as well as allowing the kejora flag to be unfurled. In both cases - in Aceh and West Papua - he was opposed by the TNI. And it was his vice-president, Megawati Sukarnoputri, who prevailed on him not to keep his promise to give the opening address at the Congress.

In those days, indeed at the time of our first solidarity meeting in the Netherlands a year ago, the PPC was pursuing a strategy of collaborating with Wahid in the hope that this would give them the political space to consolidate their gains. But his position was already weak and his tolerate policy towards West Papua was being undermined by the armed forces. Our meeting last year was held under the shadow of the Wamena Tragedy of 6 October, when the police provoked the local population into carrying out deadly strikes against the non-Papuan population in their midst. Wamena also turned the tide in the fortunes of the PPC.

We now know that the very successful Papuan Congress in 2000 prompted military intelligence, the security forces in general and key sectors of the administration in Jakarta to design and put into practice a covert operation to counter the upsurge in the pro-independence movement. (See the summary of this operation, recently posted to the Tapol website.) It is for others here to give an assessment of the impact of that operation on developments in West Papua during the past fifteen months.

In November last year, the police force in West Papua launched a special operation code-named Operasi Tuntas Matoa 2000 to take ‘preventive and repressive’ action against the ‘separatist’ movement. Far from being a force to protect the community and create a sense of security, the Indonesian police is taking the same repressive approach as the Indonesian army has taken for decades. The operational plan calls in particular for extra reinforcements from outside West Papua from the police strike force, Brimob, a force that is notorious for its brutality and is directly involved in grave violations in Wasior. The aim of the operation, as stated in a secret document which is in our possession, is ‘to crush the activities of the separatists and their sympathisers’. This is clearly a serious departure from what the police force should be doing and shows that the decision taken two years ago to separate the police force from the armed forces and place it under civilian control has had no effect in changing the nature and operations of the force.

The Megawati presidency

Megawati can be described as a conservative nationalist, dedicated like her father to Indonesia’s territorial integrity but, unlike her father, very pro-West. Also, unlike her father, she has got where she is now, as chairperson of the PDI and now the PDI-P, thanks to a strong alliance with elements in the armed forces. The armed forces leadership were careful not to get too involved in the impeachment proceedings, preferring to wait in the wings till Megawati was elected. But there had been many acts of insubordination against Wahid which most people prefer to forget. Now we have the spectre of Western leaders heaping praise on the TNI for allowing a peaceful transition to take place.

Unlike her predecessors Wahid and Habibie, we cannot expect her to take any initiatives to resolve the conflicts in Aceh and West Papua. She cannot be expected to pursue any policies that bring her into conflict with the armed forces. Several key positions in her cabinet are occupied by retired officers. Lt General Hari Sabarno, a military hardliner, is minister of the interior. This was the ministry that took the initiative to convene the meeting that drew up the secret intelligence operation which I mentioned earlier.

She has also appointed an army officer with an atrocious human rights record to head the national security agency, BIN, and has given him a seat in the cabinet. I refer to retired Lieutenant-General Hendropriyono, the man responsible for an atrocity in Talangsari, Lampung province in February 1989 when defenceless villagers were butchered, resulting in up to two hundred deaths. His Badan Inteligen Negara or BIN is now the umbrella for all intelligence agencies including the army’s BAIS. It has a role in policy-making and decision-making. With so much attention now on the US-inspired ‘war against terrorism’, his powers are likely to be further strengthened and collaboration with US intelligence will be greatly enhanced. When Megawati met Bush on 19 September, they agreed that ‘their respective officials would soon discuss ways to strengthen cooperation on counter-terrorism’. This is certainly not confined to uncovering the networks of support for Osama bin Ladin that are said to exist in Indonesia. Hendropriyono was largely responsible for designing the concept of forming armed civilian militias, a concept that is now being used in both Aceh and West Papua.

The anti-foreign and anti-US demonstrations now taking place in Indonesia are in part aimed at undermining Megawati and she is being criticised by the same politicians who ousted her predecessor. But there is no reason, for the present at least, to think that her position is under threat.

There is a strong push at present for parliament to adopt a law on special autonomy for West Papua along the lines of the law already adopted for Aceh. The draft under consideration differs markedly from a draft prepared in West Papua in May this year which described the province of Papua as a ‘self-governing territory’ that would have its own flag and anthem. It also provided for the creation of a truth commission ‘to clarify the history of Papua and verify and resolve human rights abuses since 1963’. Even so, it found little support among the people of West Papua.

What are the objectives of the Megawati government in relation to West Papua?

Firstly, to press ahead with granting West Papua special autonomy, hoping that this will reduce the demand for a re-enacted act of self-determination.

Secondly, to conduct a campaign of repression and violence against the OPM and against the pro-independence movement in general and undermine support for the Papuan Presidium Council.

Thirdly, to persuade the international community to support Indonesia’s territorial integrity and counteract all moves to re-consider the fraudulent act of free choice. The most recent example was the arm-twisting that led Nauru to refuse to allow Papuan representatives to attend the August meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum, which Indonesia attended for the first time as an observer.

Little progress has been made to build a meaningful solidarity movement in Indonesia with West Papua. Many activists who threw their weight behind the campaign to support East Timor’s right to self-determination have hang-ups about West Papua; ignorance about what happened there in 1963 is widespread in Indonesia even among human rights activists. We need to find partners in Indonesia to promote the cause of West Papua and regularly monitor the human rights situation there.

Megawati has used several state occasions to apologise for past abuses in Aceh and West Papua and has given the impression that she is determined to ensure that the security forces do not commit human rights violations. But do these statements amount to anything more than empty rhetoric? And can we expect any moves to end impunity which has protected army officers against being made accountable for so many years?

It was recently announced that an ad hoc court on East Timor will be convened in November this year, although its powers will be restricted to considering a few atrocities in April and September 1999 and not cover the entire year. This is clearly a move to help the Bush administration which is still unable to end the congressional embargo on arms sales to Indonesia under the terms of the Leahy amendment which requires action on trials for crimes against humanity in East Timor before the embargo can be lifted. But it remains to be seen how far up the army hierarchy these trials will go.

The man chosen by Megawati as attorney-general has been widely condemned by human rights activists. M.A. Rahman was responsible in his earlier post at the attorney-general’s office for delaying trials about East Timor and is not likely to bring top-ranking officers to court . He also seems to be delaying the process to bring to trial the police officers named by a Komnas HAM team following its investigation of the Abepura atrocity last December.

Faith in the credibility of the judiciary has sunk to a new low with a decision by the Supreme Court to revise its own decision about Tommy Suharto, and acquit him in a corruption scandal.

As for the Komnas HAM, its performance in the past year has been worse than usual. In particular, it has failed to send a mission to East Aceh to investigate a massacre at a plantation in August when thirty-one men were shot dead by the security forces. Disputes abound over the appointment of new members and earlier this month, the major human rights NGOs, including the YLBHI, called on the entire commission to resign.

I would suggest that we make the following demands to the Megawati government:

    1. Call on the government to halt the special intelligence operation being conducted in West Papua and the Tuntas Matoa 2000 operation of the police and immediately cut back the number of troops and police special forces in the territory.

    2. Allow an open discussion to take place about Jakarta’s plans for special autonomy. Any decision about the status of the territory should not be taken without full consultation with the people of Papua.

    3. The security forces must stop persecuting members of the Papua Presidium Council; the government should recognise the PPC as a legitimate body to represent the people of West Papua and with which to engage in dialogue.

    4. The government must take firm measures to end human rights abuses by the security forces, and bring to justice all those responsible for such abuses.

    5. The human rights court in Makassar must be convened immediately to hear the cases of senior police officers identified as being responsible for the atrocity in Abepura last December.

    Thank you.