In Brief... DTE 66 - August 2005

Down to Earth No 66  August 2005

Land of peace for Papua: a basis for rebuilding Papua

On his recent visit to the UK and Ireland, Rev. Socratez Sofyan Yoman, the President of the Alliance of Baptist Churches of West Papua, reiterated the call for peace talks to be held in West Papua. He pointed to the peace talks between GAM (Free Aceh Movement) and the government of Indonesia, which had struck an agreement including troop withdrawal and an arms amnesty for GAM, and said this should become a precedent. Any idea of a similar proposal for West Papua, however, has been rejected by the Indonesian government.

Rev. Yoman believes ending the long-running military offensive would be the first step to restoring the dignity of the West Papuans. Since the 1969 'Act of Free Choice' (AFC), the West Papuans have seen their land being exploited by Jakarta's economic elite, multinational corporations and opportunists looting the region's natural resources, whereas only a fraction of the revenues has 'trickled down' to the local and indigenous population. Under the pretext of securing national integrity, the Indonesian military have been serving investors by protecting their businesses whilst denying the rights of indigenous Papuans to protect the sustainability of their land and resources.

Rev. Yoman fears that Papua's 2001 Special Autonomy Act has become a second-phase AFC, neither representing the voice of West Papuan majority, nor fulfilling demands for self-determination. He believes Special Autonomy cannot offer a solution as it fails to address the root of West Papua's problems.

Fifteen thousand extra troops have been deployed to the region since the partition of West Papua into more provinces in early 2003.

The US, British and Australian governments only continue to support West Papua's inclusion in Indonesia because it is in their economic and political interests, he said. "They want to extract our gold, silver, gas and forest products...They always support the Indonesian government and its military in hunting down, arresting, abducting, torturing, jailing, raping and killing us. They have repeatedly wronged the people of West Papua, denying our basic rights. First, through the New York Agreement of August 15, 1962, without involving indigenous Papuans; then handing over West Papua to Indonesia on May 1, 1963, before the 1969 Act of Free Choice; then legitimising the undemocratic Act of Free Choice, which was accepted by the UN; and finally by supporting the Special Autonomy Law".

In the meantime, the majority of the indigenous community has been struggling to find a means to afford proper education, health services and livelihood security. West Papuans, often labelled as 'backward' and 'primitive' by the Indonesian government and outsiders, have indeed been marginalised in their own land.

Rev. Yoman says West Papuans are now seeking support in the international community for recognition of their rights and for dialogue to address the root causes of West Papua's problems.

(Source: pers.comm; Papers by Rev. Yoman: Special Autonomy is AFC phase II, Jan/05, Systematic genocide of the indigenous peoples of West Papua under Special Autonomy, May/05;TAPOL Bulletin No. 178, Mar/05; DTE 51)

Brutal attacks by Indonesian military personnel against Papuans have been reported near Wamena in the Pyramid area of the central highlands, following a series of military operations in the Puncak Jaya area earlier this year. Meanwhile, due to deep dissatisfaction with implementation of Special Autonomy, Papua's Indigenous Council has decided to'return' the Special Autonomy Law to the authorities on 15 August. (www.freewestpapua.orgTapol 5/Aug/05)


Infrastructure projects for private sector investment

Following an 'infrastructure summit' in January, the Indonesian government has announced that 91 projects valued at US$22.5 billion will be offered to the private sector. The projects include toll roads, gas transmission pipelines, water supply projects, a railway access network and an airport terminal extension project (

The focus on private sector investment in mega-projects has raised concern among NGOs who fear that the rights and interests of local communities and environmental costs will be sidelined or ignored. These concerns have been heightened by the issue of Presidential Regulation 36/2005 which provides for compulsory purchase of land for public facilities (see separate article).


Nuclear power by 2017

Indonesia will develop nuclear power by 2017 for peaceful purposes, including power stations, according to a May announcement by research and technology minister, Kusmayanto Kadiman. "[T]he possibilities include Madura (East Java) or Muria (Central Java), but if these proposals are turned down it will be no problem to move to earthquake-free Kalimantan", he said.

Muria was the site of a planned nuclear power station in the 1990s, during the Suharto era, but plans were shelved after the 1997 economic crisis. In February last year, the national nuclear power agency, BATAN, indicated that the project was being revived with private investment and that a feasibility study would be started in 2004. (Jakarta Post 10/Feb/04, Antara 20/May/05; DTE 60).


Freeport payments report

International campaigning group, Global Witness, is calling for Freeport McMoRan, operators of the giant Grasberg copper and gold mine in West Papua, to be investigated under US and Indonesian laws.

A new report by Global Witness details payments made by the company directly to individual military and police officers, including US$ 247,705 to Major General Mahidin Simbolon, former military commander of Papua, who also held a senior military post in East Timor when atrocities were committed by soldiers and army-backed militias. (Global Witness Press Release 25/Jul/05; see also DTE 57 for more background. The British mining multinational, Rio Tinto, helps finance the mine, which has a long history of environmental damage and human rights abuse associated with it.).