State Violence and Insurgency in West Papua – The Organization for World Peace
April 27eUnion of Catholic Asian News reported that separatists affiliated with the Free Papua Movement (Papua Merdeka Organization, OPM) in the Indonesian province of Papua murdered a construction worker, most likely in response to the killing by security forces of an OPM commander a few days earlier. Father John Bunay, coordinator of the Papua Peace Network, worries that civilians are paying a terrible price for a rapidly escalating insurgency.
Rather than being answered with careful or insightful investigations, this killing will force Indonesian security forces to engage in collective retaliation. In December 2018, after members of the armed wing of the OPM captured and murdered Indonesian construction workers in Nduga, the military burned local homes, displaced hundreds of civilians, targeted non-combatants and killed dozens of people. Political scientist Hipolitus Wangge argues that this strategy has only alienated West Papuans and reminded them of their seemingly endless struggle to free themselves from foreign domination.
Since the end of the 19e century, Papuans endured unimaginable suffering at the hands of various regimes. Cultural Survival claims that the Dutch imperialists, while claiming to uphold international law in The Hague, launched punitive military expeditions into rural areas of West Papua between 1907 and 1915. Anthropologists and explorers like Luigi D’Albertis emerged of the jungle with the severed heads of the local inhabitants. Papuans, kept in jars like a plant. The Dutch police, after taking full control of West Papua, refused to train Papuan recruits because they did not consider them “human beings.” At least not as full human beings,” according to Jurriaan Koning.
The gradual colonization of West Papua by Indonesia since the 1960s has also been exceptionally cruel. Kjell Anderson says that the Indonesians, like their former Dutch overlords, perceived the Papuans as primitive savages hindering the inevitable progress of “modernity”, namely the exploitation of West Papua’s vast oil and copper reserves. Whenever Papuans attempted to resist Jakarta’s transmigration programs, which flooded thousands of Javanese settlers into West Papua and turned the indigenous population into a minority in their own territory, the Indonesian military responded with extreme violence and blind.
Yale Law School scholars have compiled a damning study of the barbaric misconduct of the Indonesian National Army. In May 1970, for example, soldiers shot dead a pregnant villager, dissected her fetus and warned terrified passers-by that the army had massacred 500 Papuans in the district.
Jakarta eventually moved away from large-scale troop deployments and relied on more subtle means to decimate uncooperative Papuans. Indonesian authorities made “peace offerings” laced with deadly and highly infectious diseases like cysticercosis to the Ekari people, and while public health clinics often refused to distribute oral contraceptives to indigenous Dani women, they injected them with eagerness of dangerous sterilization drugs like Depo-Provera. In the United States, ethnic studies expert Bayan Abusneineh claims that hospitals were administering Depo-Provera to black and disabled women “as a method of population control”.
Australia has also been complicit in Jakarta’s ruinous crackdown on West Papuan nationalism. The Asian Human Rights Commission reported in 2013 that Canberra supplied Iroquois helicopters to the Indonesian military in the late 1970s, which used them to machine-gun villages and mow down innocent civilians in the remote highlands. of West Papua. Royal Australian Air Force personnel participated in “mapping exercises” alongside their Indonesian counterparts in West Papua at the time. Napalm and cluster bombs wiped out entire communities as Indonesian soldiers threw Papuans into wells, boiled or buried suspected insurgents alive, tortured victims with razors and forced people to eat their own excrement. Canberra officials denied having any information about Australian involvement in the crimes.
Yet Australia’s Special Air Service (SAS) regiment is still conducting counter-terrorism drills with Indonesian troops from Kopassus – a unit that spends more time spying on and harassing peaceful Papuan political and religious activists than arresting armed separatists of the OPM, according to Human Rights Watch. Investigative journalist Peter Cronau pointed out that SAS counter-terrorism training included helicopter assault courses and specialist weapons practice. The Kopassus could very easily repurpose these tactics for brutal counter-insurgency operations in West Papua.
Additionally, researcher Jaap Timmer noted that the Kopassus enabled Islamic fundamentalist militias like Laskar Jihad (LJ), until its disbandment during the War on Terror, to sow chaos and division among the predominantly Christian locals. of West Papua. Fanatical LJ members opened offices in several Papuan towns, held provocative rallies and generally terrorized local Papuans – much to the satisfaction of the Jakarta authorities. The Kopassus may even have passed on the lethal techniques it learned from the Australian SAS to allies in the Laskar Jihad.
Despite Jakarta’s decades-long rampage in West Papua, Australia shows no sign of severing its extensive ties with Jakarta police units guilty of gross violations. Although the Australian Federal Police insists it “delivers training programs in a way that reflects and supports Australia’s strong support for human rights”, according to ABC News, observers on the ground do not agree. The police tend to have a lot more in common with death squads than with normal law enforcement.
The West Papua Defense Team revealed in 2014 that the Indonesian military was contracting out its law enforcement apparatus to police officers from Densus (“Detachment”) 88. The Solomon Star alleged that Densus 88 murdered Mako Tabuni, a leader esteemed by the National Committee for West Papua, a peaceful pro-independence organization. Indonesian NGOs like KontraS have also published reports exposing the detachment’s widespread use of physical violence and arbitrary detention.
If Jakarta hopes to calm the simmering animosity between Indonesians and Papuans, it should consider establishing a truth and reconciliation commission. Historians, political scientists and jurists like Paul Antonopoulos, Drew Cottle, Elizabeth Brundige and Xiang Yuan all agree that Indonesian governments have been responsible for the murder of around 500,000 Papuans since 1969. Jakarta can no longer afford to ignore or minimize this genocidal toll. Indonesian soldiers have destroyed countless lives and must be held accountable for their actions.
Papuan activists and advocates should look to the truth and reconciliation process currently underway in Aceh for inspiration. The 2005 Helsinki Accord ended Jakarta’s thirty-year war against the Free Aceh Movement. Just like in West Papua, Indonesian soldiers committed heinous atrocities and murdered thousands of civilians to quell this rebellion. The agreement required both sides to cooperate with a truth commission to dispel any lingering hostility and mistrust.
The Helsinki Accord contains many provisions that could serve as models for a lasting peace settlement in West Papua. He decreed that Jakarta should grant amnesty to imprisoned insurgents, demobilize separatists, withdraw Indonesian security forces, reintegrate fighters into society through employment and apprenticeship programs, implement systemic institutional reforms to restore the rule of law and allow the Acehnese to create their own political parties. without interference.
However, transitional justice expert Galuh Wandita warns that Aceh’s truth commission is flawed: the commission has no jurisdiction to collect evidence or take testimonies from people and organizations outside Aceh. A genuine Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in West Papua must avoid these pitfalls at all costs: the mining and forestry activities of American companies such as Freeport or Scott Paper have displaced Papuan tribes towards disease-ridden coasts, fostered an economy plantations that have deprived the Papuans of their traditional agricultural practices and are dumping toxic waste into the rivers. This irreparable environmental damage is proof that foreign companies have collaborated with Jakarta to deliberately impose “living conditions calculated to destroy the indigenous West Papuans as a group”. It would be a monumental insult to the survivors to allow these companies to escape justice simply because they are based outside of Papua.
Additionally, as recommended by the Lowy Institute, a West Papua TRC should incorporate distinctively Melanesian customs of reconciliation. Sociologist Marcus Campbell has amply demonstrated that before the arrival of Christian missionaries, ritualized gift-giving ceremonies restored harmonious relations between warring tribes and were essential to understanding the building of peace in Melanesian society. The Melanesian Spear Group, made up of Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Kanaks from New Caledonia, could even send customary chiefs or elders to West Papua as consultants in the process. CRT.
Unfortunately, authorities in Papua New Guinea and Fiji are currently unlikely to participate in this endeavor. Port Moresby and Suva will not sacrifice lucrative trade or development aid deals with Indonesia to defend West Papua’s right to self-determination.
Finally, given its history of conflict resolution in the Pacific, New Zealand can be instrumental in brokering peace in West Papua. Journalist Mark Scott recounted how Kiwi diplomats and unarmed soldiers helped end Papua New Guinea’s relentless siege of Bougainville in the late 1990s. Wellington even provided vital logistical and security support during Bougainville independence referendum in 2019.
A New Zealand eager to exercise its soft power in the Melanesian islands cannot turn a blind eye to the continuing human rights abuses in West Papua. A Kiwi intervention could strengthen Wellington’s position in the region and potentially lay the groundwork for West Papua’s autonomy – whether inside or outside Indonesia.