EXCLUSIVE IN-DEPTH INVESTIGATION FROM WEST PAPUA MEDIA
BY NICK CHESTERFIELD
December 27, 2011
Allegations of brutality, corruption, and a failure of the rule of law are being levelled at PNG Police and Customs officers in Wewak, East Sepik, after a small group of West Papuan refugees fleeing from Indonesian violence were subjected to an unauthorised operation and imprisoned on illegal charges.
Procedural failures, responsibility avoidance and accusations of financial exploitation of vulnerable and traumatised refugees have transformed a simple misunderstanding into a major miscarriage of justice. International legal obligations, basic human, refugee and legal rights have been systematically denied as law enforcement officials in Wewak scramble to avoid any personal or legal responsibility for the debacle.
A group of four West Papuan refugees, fleeing to Wewak after the violent crackdown by Indonesian security forces on the Third Papuan People’s Congress, were arrested, beaten and imprisoned by Papua New Guinea police and Customs officers on November 17. Police and Customs officers at the scene refused to hear claims for Refugee status, and several weeks of direct appeals by family members were brushed off by East Sepik police hierarchy.
Pastor Abraham Kareni (51), Judit Kambuaya (61), Esboren Fonataba (30) and Anton Toto (39) were attacked by police and Customs, accused of illegally importing the fuel in their boat while escaping to PNG from Indonesian security forces.
Since their arrest, PNG Police, Customs, Courts and Corrections have all denied the four men medical attention, legal representation and basic procedural fairness, who remain in detention at the notorious Boram prison. This is contravenes the minimum obligations on PNG as a signatory and ratifier of the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.
There is deep suspicion at the timing of the arrest of the four men, as part of an alleged campaign by Indonesia to silence its international critics in the immediate aftermath of its crackdown on Third Papuan People’s Congress. Kareni was a direct witness to the violence, and his testimony was internationally broadcast days after the Indonesian brutality was captured on video and social media.
The men’s families have grave fears for their lives and worry that the Indonesian Intelligence has motivated corrupt PNG authorities to imprison them.
This complex story shines light into the murky layers of a barely functioning state apparatus in a town riven by factionalism and corruption, amid allegations of outright treason against PNG. Where every player is deeply interconnected with a hundred others, the lack of basic accountability is complicating natural justice for the four innocent men.
At the centre of this debacle is the corrupt abuse of power by those who should be enforcing the law in Sepik. Senior Customs and Law Enforcement officials have denied any responsibility, telling West Papua Media that the arrests and beatings were conducted without their knowledge or approval, yet disciplinary action against those involved has still not occurred.
After agreeing to hold publication at the request of the prisoner’s families whilst a legal strategy was in play, and to ensure investigators safety, West Papua Media can now reveal that a deep malaise and tolerance for corrupt practices have enabled PNG law enforcement officials to be utilized for personnel vendettas, Indonesian military objectives, all with the shadowy involvement of local militias loyal to the leading business families of East Sepik province.
A very slow boat to freedom
When a historic announcement was made that West Papuan people would hold the Third Papuan People’s Congress, for only the third time in 50 years, to discuss pathways to West Papuan independence, Wewak based refugees Abraham Kareni, Judit Kambuaya and Esboren Fonataba, together with Anthon Toto (a West Papua supporter from Sepik, PNG), decided they must do whatever they could for their people..
The four men planned to be present to assist exiles to return, and to be on standby as contingency should Indonesian violence mean more had to flee. Like most West Papuans, the four knew that returning to West Papua under Indonesian occupation could mean death, or arrest and guaranteed torture. It could also mean that like many ordinary Papuans, death could come from a random act of an aggressive soldier, a bombing or razing of a village, all acts that are untouchable through entrenched impunity.
Whilst in West Papua, they sourced a large amount of two-stroke engine oil, which was to supply not just their own escape, but also to be a contingency for other boat journeys to assist other West Papuans fleeing for their lives.
All four men had long experience of this. Rather than seeking a more secure life when they escaped, they chose to remain in a frontier town for the sake of others. Like Oskar Schindler in World War 2, who helped thousands of Jews escape Nazi persecution, Abraham Kareni is a man who has eschewed his own security and financial benefit to be on hand should more West Papuan people need to flee for their lives from Indonesian brutality. This was done for the noblest of motivations: pure altruism borne from the empathy of experience. Abraham was often a first point of contact for thousands of refugees who fled Indonesia’s violence.
Despite having to smuggle people to freedom, the men were not people smugglers in the accepted international legal definitions, as they have never sought personal financial advantage. The International definitions of people smuggling are explicit (author’s italics):
Article 3(a): ‘Smuggling of migrants’ shall mean the procurement in order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit, of the illegal entry of a person into a State Party of which the person is not a national or permanent resident. (Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (United Nations) )
With Kambuaya, Kareni set up the West Papua Action Group in Wewak and remained politically active, reminding the often sleepy town of the ongoing human tragedy occurring less than a day’s sailing away in West Papua.
Abraham, from Serui in West Papua, originally fled to PNG in 1984 after joining the armed struggle after brutal Indonesian military offensives right across West Papua. Together with an influx of over 10,000 refugees at the time, he reunited with his wife and two children in Blackwater, near Vanimo, and was then sent to a refugee camp in East Awin, Kiunga. Since then, the family had been living in a small shelter in Wewak, a meeting place that is a cornerstone for the Free West Papua movement from armed struggle to non-violent movement, holding critical meetings and workshops for the formation of West Papuan civil resistance – meetings that were auspiced by Sir Michael Somare .
Judit Kambuayawas originally from Sorong in West Papua and also has living in Wewak for almost 32 years.
He married to a local lady from Lumi in East Sepik Province and has two children, both teenage boys. His activism was through music and culture with his Tabamramu cultural group, which toured PNG speaking (and singing) out about the violence occurring in his homeland. Kambuaya had also been assisting other meetings, workshops and creating safe havens for West Papuan student activists.
Esboren Fonatabais an activist in West Papua’s civil resistance movement from Ambai in Serui. His married and has 3 children.
His from Ambai as well and his family lives in Jayapura. Esboren , also known as Morris by locals around Wewak, is married with 3 young children living in Jayapura. Since early 2000, he has been the boat skipper helping the student activists coming to PNG for meetings, workshops or who are escaping from military repression in West Papua, and has been devoting most of his time and effort in helping activists crossing the border via sea route.
Anthon Totois a human rights activist and West Papua supporter from Warpo village, between Vanimo and Aitape, Sandaun, PNG. With a wife and 4 children, Anthon has been helping his friend Morris assisting civil resistance activists in crossing the border.
On the afternoon of October 19, while thousands of people were celebrating the provocative declaration of the independent Federal Republic of West Papua, Indonesian troops opened fire on the peaceful aftermath of the Third Papuan People’s Congress. At least seven people were shot dead and hundreds severely beaten, with 800 arrested. Both Abraham and Judith were arrested, and severely beaten, but were released the next day because Indonesian forces simply did not have the space to detain them.
All four men went into hiding near Jayapura as Indonesian security forces were hunting them, aware of their need to stay in case a major refugee crisis was about to develop. Most activists eventually chose not to flee West Papua, electing to stay and intensify the civil resistance struggle against Indonesia. However, according to trusted sources, contingency arrangements still had to be made ahead of December 1, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of an Independent West Papua, and the first raising of its now banned symbol of freedom the Morning Star flag. Mass demonstrations had been planned for this day, as Indonesian security forces threatened to arrest and shoot anyone showing the flag, as an act of rebellion. A bloody crackdown was expected, but due to the discipline of the movement inside, the bloodshed was limited and Indonesian security forces were restrained by effective international civil media monitoring (coordinated by West Papua Media).
But for Abraham, Judit, Morris and Anthon, they cast off in mid-November to prepare for the moment when thousands would need to flee. They knew that they had to make that crossing, to test the route for that still inevitable day, when the Indonesian military will launch another bloody crackdown.
Local brutality or extending Indonesia’s war by proxy?
At 5pm on Thursday November 17, several hours after the four men arrived back at Kareni’s house on the beach at Boram, opposite Wewak Airport, Police and Customs stormed the house. Three car loads of police and Customs officers were present and threatened family, and destroyed property. The raid was led by Wewak Police Station Commander, James Wangihomie, who authorised the operation, together with his sister-in-law, Customs officer Maggie Wangihomie. Despite the verbal authorisation, no legal warrant was issued by either Customs or the Police.
According to several witnesses, the police – mainly young recruits from outside Sepik – were drunk, as was a police officer known as Sergeant Tassi, who was alleged to be the main perpetrator of the violence. Tassi assaulted Kareni repeatedly in the house, and witnesses allege police struck Kareni – already sustaining a fractured skull from beatings during the 3rd Papuan People’s Congress – at least eleven times on his head.
Speaking on video interviews provided to West Papua Media, Abraham Kareni described the abuse he and his friends received at the hands of Tassi:
“The policeman slapped me. He didn’t talk to me in a proper way. When he asked me questions he just hit me straight away, left, right. I wanted to explain my journey to the policeman, but I couldn’t explain because he didn’t respond with words but with his fists.”
“Then he said ‘you’re a con-man, you always import cigarettes and weapons’. I wanted to answer his claims but he just slapped me. I wanted to explain but he just responded with violence, just kept punching me.”
No cigarettes or weapons were found by either police or Customs.
Kareni continues: “As the police were hitting me I said, Ouch! Don’t hit me on the face. The policeman said ‘Do you want me to kill you? I can kill you now.’ I said ‘thank you, if you want to kill me kill me now’. I was calm, everything that was happening to me, I said to God, ‘whatever happens to me I surrender to you’.”
Mama Sonny described the violence. “As I was standing I saw Abraham getting slapped in the face, he told him to quickly go up into the house to bring down all the things, so from there Abraham carried the boxes down and they slapped him again when he was going to put them in the police car. Not long after the two guys were going to take things to the boat, but they were hit and kicked and slapped from behind until they reached the boat.”
“I want that policeman to be fired. He is really too evil. Because his actions are so violent against us. What he was doing marching up and down was excessive more than the others?” demanded Mama Sonny.
Tassi, after restraining Kareni, turned his attention onto the other three men.
Jude Kambuaya described the attack on him. “They came up to the house without any notice, smashed our belongings, they took our bags. An army jacket that I had bought was wrapped up in the bag. A policeman by the name of Tassi broke open the bag, took out the jacket and put it on. Then he took the things out of the broken bags, and carried it away with the boxes of oil, our fishing nets, he took them and put them in the police car.”
Esboren Fonataba was dismayed at his treatment. “The policeman was holding a stick and started beating my back with it. Twice the stick broke when it hit my back. The first time the stick broke, the policeman just picked up another stick and kept going. I shouted out ‘God, how can this be happening to me!’. They hit me all the way to boat and told us to push to boat out into the water. While I was pushing the boat he hit me on the face.”
At no stage during the operation did James Wangihomie, the officer in charge, attempt to restrain his officers, and sat in or near his car.
Abraham’s son Ronny Kareni is a musician with the band Tabura, as well as a human rights advocate and community organizer living in Australia since arriving as a student in 2002. He travelled to Wewak to assist his father after performing with Tabura at a major music festival in Port Morseby. While visiting his father in prison, Ronny Kareni attempted to secure some element of responsibility from PNG officials over the situation.
According to Ronny Kareni, “The conduct of the arresting officers wasn’t within the law of PNG. How could an arresting Officer on duty, provide no search warrant, come in a drunken state, not have proper consultation, savagely brutalize suspects, and make a vicious verbal attack on the suspects that they are illegal migrants and trouble makers, without any evidence?
All the men were charged formally on November 19 on one count each of “tax Evasion”. Customs allege that detainees attempted to defraud PNG by illegally importing fuel, notwithstanding the lawful excuse that the two-stroke fuel was being transported and stored to provide contingency as a means to escape persecution for other refugees from recent well-documented Indonesian violence in West Papua.
Customs seized the fuel and the Banana boat and a significant amount of engine fuel, together worth an estimated K6000.
Under accepted refugee practice, items that are means to escape persecution cannot be prosecuted. When Ronny went to inspect the seized goods he was presented with the engine oil boxes, including several that were missing their contents. Customs have yet to acknowledge the seizure of the goods, which could raise upwards of K10000 on the vibrant Wewak black market.
According to Ronny Kareni, Customs would drop the charge for illegal immigration, and instead charge the four men under the Customs Acts, Section 16 (2), alleging the detainees sought to “convey imported goods without customs control and entry.”
Since their arrest, Police have consistently refused any of the detainees medical attention, despite being told by family and advocates of pre-existing head injuries from beings sustained during Indonesian security force crackdown at the 3rd Papuan People’s Congress. Francis Kikoli, a police officer who has been involved in previous attacks on the Kareni family, allegedly refused the four men access to food and medical attention for six days following the arrest, and reportedly told the families that they “were banned from bringing food”.
The conditions that the men are being held in are atrocious. Jude Kambuaya says that after being beaten, “we were brought here, we sleep on the cement floor, mosquitoes bite us all over, when the mosquitoes bite me I feel sick and my back is aching.”
Access to legal representation has been also been consistently denied, as the defendants faced Wewak Court on several occasions without the chance to consult lawyers or even having the opportunity to present a defence, according to the family.
Despite attempts to secure guarantees for the four men’s safety whilst being held at the notorious Boram prison, well known for extremely bad behaviour amongst inmates, they remain under grave risk of attack. A local police officer, sympathetic to the men, expressed to West Papua Media his own deep concern. “The detainees shouldn’t be put in Boram prison, especially Abraham and Judith because the prison is different world altogether where inmates run their own show.”
The East Sepik Police Provincial Commander (PPC) Vincent Pokas was not informed of the operation and was absent in Vanimo at the time, alerted only after West Papua Media contacted him for comment. Pokas initially was outraged, and promised to take action to bail the four immediately upon his return to Wewak, and was adamant that they would be released. Unfortunately, Pokas has yet to take action despite having the power to drop charges.
When a report was received that the men were about to be attacked by prisoners just before Christmas, the PPC did not attend as requested by the family and legal representatives. Pokas has been unreachable for comment ever since.
Arresting police have also claimed to West Papua Media that the West Papuan men cannot be considered refugees as they willingly went back to West Papua. Under PNG law (together with most countries) a person avails themselves of protection if they voluntarily choose to return to country of persecution.
Yet International Refugee law is also explicit on the question of fresh evidence. If a person who has returned to the persecuting country, and is then subjected to new persecution, then it is the new round of persecution that determines the claim. All conflicting evidence prior to the fresh persecution is not considered, under the standard guideline of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. The immediate experience of Kareni, Kambuaya and Fonataba prior to their most recent escape form West Papua all qualify for fresh claims.
Jude still cannot understand why the PNG authorities are treating him in this way, when he was fleeing for his life. “We came here to escape; now the Customs say that we are here illegally, what do they mean by illegal? We have already been here for many years. I have a permissive residency permit; the PNG government gave me that status in 1984. This is equivalent to being a PNG citizen. So why are they doing this to me? I am married to a woman born inside PNG.
A Wewak based community organiser, who contacted West Papua Media but wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, has described the events as “disgusting” and something that “all people who want a new beginning for PNG should hang their head in shame about”. The source described a situation where most locals in the deeply divided town do not want to get involved, and have also turned a blind eye to the plight of men well known as humanitarians.
“The fact that every policeman, every mauswara tukina raskol in uniform, has completely passed off responsibility for this, is one point to be angry about. But the fact that people like these honourable wantoks from West Papua, who are doing nothing more than making sure their countrymen, our countrymen, are able to have a place to land, and save their lives from the Indonesian killers …. The fact that these corrupt thugs are preying on them for an easy bribe is even more shameful.”
“These families have endured so much at the hands of corrupt thugs, and they are still being picked on by cowardly and corrupt people. They should immediately be given their freedom, permanent protection, and have restitution for their losses so they can have some dignity. And those criminal thugs at the wharf (Customs) should be sacked and forced to pay compensation to their victims,” said the organiser.
Indonesian Whispers lead to a chance to make some kina
One source within the PNG police in Vanimo has claimed to West Papua Media that the four men were spotted as they left a secluded cove near Jayapura, and Indonesian intelligence contacted its officers in the Consulate in Vanimo.
According to the Wewak office of Customs, the operation occurred after a tip off was received on the morning of November 17 in Vanimo that the boat was headed to Wewak and would need to be intercepted. It was alleged to Customs that the boat was carrying weapons and marijuana.
Enquiries made by West Papua Media have narrowed the source of the tip off to one of three possibilities: either from a troublesome faction of the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN) based near Vanimo, or directly from the Indonesian military attaché at Vanimo consulate, or both.
West Papuan exiles are no different to any other displaced diaspora in that their politics are factionally riven. However one particular grouping in Vanimo has caused more grief for long term refugees in PNG than any other.
Allegations have long swirled around about both the connections, ease of travel and petulance of certain dual nationals who are aligned with the armed struggle in West Papua, and who had publicly collaborated with the infamous Operation Sunset Merona in January which burnt down refugee camps across Sandaun province.
Internet postings one week prior to Kareni’s arrest – that people associated with the nonviolent struggle were actually seeking to ferry weapons and drugs in and out of PNG – match up with the allegations that Wewak Customs said they received from Vanimo. PPC Vincent Pokas, on the day after the arrests, had confirmed to West Papua Media that the allegation had arisen from a West Papuan in Vanimo. However, when the author asked “was that the Indonesian consulate?”, the PPC answered “Yes”, and then “Look, Sir, I cannot tell you that”.
Whether the statement by Pokas is verifiable is unimportant. Past operations by PNG security forces against West Papuan refugees have left critical questions unanswered about the extent of Indonesian intelligence agency involvement. This is a question that not a single serving officer in Wewak Customs or Police will be drawn upon on the record.
Established Indonesian intelligence practice in many countries has been to manipulate local law enforcement as an extra-territorial extension of its anti-separatist policies. The is despite Jakarta’s double-standard in insisting that no other country interferes in West Papua, yet its agencies are happy to interfere in PNG government processes, using PNG personnel to continue the war against West Papuan activists by proxy.
There is deep suspicion at the timing of the arrest of the four men, as part of an alleged campaign by Indonesia to silence its international critics in the immediate aftermath of its crackdown on Third Papuan People’s Congress. Kareni was a direct witness to the violence, and his testimony was internationally broadcast days after the Indonesian brutality was captured on video and social media. Indonesia’s interests would be well served by indefinitely imprisoning a direct witness.
In November, the Indonesian government manipulated the Interpol Red Notice system to issue a highly controversial international arrest warrant for exiled West Papuan political leader Benny Wenda, to face charges stemming from his alleged involvement in a police station attack in Abepura in 2000, which Wenda denies. According to legal observers present at his trial, no witnessed called by the prosecution were willing to testify. Wenda escaped in 2003, and was sheltered and assisted in his bid for freedom by Kareni. Wenda is now living in the UK, where he leads the Free West Papua Campaign.
PNG has systemic form in denying West Papuan refugees legal representation under pressure from Indonesia. During the Sunset Merona raid, not one refugee was ever afforded independent legal representation after being accused by the Sunset Merona commanders of being armed rebels, and all were promptly bundled away to the Kiunga camps, deep in the jungle on the remote PNG – West Papua border, far from independent communications.
Tony Edwards, a long term supporter of the West Papuans in Wewak, says no-one can say that any of the four are here illegally. “The four guys who came here are not illegal immigrants, they are citizens of Sepik region. They are citizens of Wewak and we regard them as being Sepik people.”
Abraham Kareni is adamant that outside forces have played a role in their detention. “The way I see it, there is involvement from Indonesian Intelligence and the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) in this case.”
“Now they are also using our own people, they reported us to Customs so that Customs would come and arrest us. If Indonesian Intelligence and the CID weren’t involved, then nothing they wouldn’t have arrested us and we wouldn’t be in prison,” said Kareni.
Questions are still unanswered as to why PNG agencies still see fit to carry out Indonesian demands for persecution without any form of accountability or even basic cross-checking for the political motivations of such demands. By refusing to investigate and demand an onus of legal proof from Indonesian authorities, PNG has repeatedly run the risk of handing its sovereign process directly to the Indonesian security forces already physically present in the province.
Murky history of Customs corruption
Are PNG’s security forces, including Customs, in the hands of the Indonesian military? Or is the corruption of the few creating a danger for those honest officers within the forces? With the almost 18,000 Indonesian soldiers along the border being reinforced daily, and deep infiltration of both the former Somare government (too early to tell with the O’Neill government) and PNG’s business elite, massive ongoing corruption in the forestry sector with Indonesian military run logging interests
West Papua Media has been informed by several reliable sources in Wewak that the secretive operation was highly unusual and did not follow procedure. Gunu Gao Yonge, Acting Manager of the Customs Officer in Wewak, kept the operation secret from all other staff members apart from Maggie Wangihomie, the Customs representative that took the Police officers down to the Kareni house at Boram.
Only Gunu Yonge and Maggie Wangihomie were aware of the operation, according to other officers. When asked by Ronny Kareni, Yonge refused to disclose the name of the arresting officers or any of the police officers involved in the arrest, but this information was sourced from witnesses and other officers.
“Yonge is accountable, and must justify why those drunken police officers savagely brutalized four detainees. Her evasiveness to questions show there is a huge level of hidden truth and fraudulent conduct in this operation,” said Ronny.
The Wewak office of PNG Customs has a long documented history of corrupt dealings associated with the logging industry and biased operations and persecutions. Several reports by NGOs and government agencies since 2006 have identified repeated and deliberate failures by Customs to enforce PNG law on Malaysian owned illegal logging operations, the removal and correct labelling of high value hardwood timber, and the correct enforcement on equipment brought from Malaysia, Indonesia and West Papua on Indonesian military connected vessels.
Illegal workers, trafficked prostitutes, undutied imported supplies and contraband for the mainly Indonesian personnel working at the illegal logging sites are also ignored regularly by Customs in Wewak, despite their office being situated in front of the main entrance to the Wewak wharf.
In addition, Taiwanese and Filipino fishing fleets still bring in illegal labourers to their tuna cannery, once again right in front of the Customs office.
Most worrying of all is the selectivity of operations under Customs, and the question of who gets targeted. The blindspots of Customs surveillance is in East Sepik are telling.
Multiple direct complaints have been made to Customs and police by local human rights investigators in the past that their officers have only been present in Kaup, the family village of former Prime Minister and attempted coup leader Sir Michael Somare, whilst being entertained by Arthur Somare, the former East Sepik raskol leader, governor and business figure, and now Member of Parliament. This is despite the unmolested presence of a large timber terminal operated by notorious Malaysian logger Rimbunan Hijau, which is consistently shipping out undeclared timber, and shipping in undeclared contraband, illegal workers and sex slaves.
Local human rights investigators also claimed to the author during a previous investigation that Arthur Somare’s own house allegedly housed a prostitutes’ barracks
that has been a regular haunt of Wewak based Customs and Police officers.
Further allegations have been raised with West Papua Media, but at time of publication no confirmation or denial has been forthcoming if any of the officers involved in the illegal raid had been present in Kaup in the months ahead of the raid.
What is clear is that no contraband seizures or arrests from Indonesian timber vessels have occurred in recent months, despite numerous tip-offs from local investigators. Gunu Yonge reacted angrily when asked about this discrepancy by West Papua Media, and hung up the phone.
Deep internal divisions within both Wewak Police and Customs have also been exposed by the arrests and subsequent mishandling of the case. The PPC, Vincent Pokas, met with Abraham and the others on December 13 at Boram Prison and explained the extent of police and customs corruption and internal conflict, according to Kareni family.
Obed Mathew is the former customs manager in Wewak, and was suspended after Gunu Yonge allegedly engineered his dismissal after he raised discipline and accountability issues at the office. He told West Papua Media that the procedure of customs seizing of goods is outside the normal procedure.
“Usually we hold a briefing for all staff members, then we (Customs) go to the suspects and identify the goods. We then make consultation with the suspects, and seize goods only if they are used for commercial purposes have not been declared. The normal procedure is usually, if the suspect has not reported in 24 hours, there is a breach of customs provisional law. In this case they didn’t wait until after 24 hours”.
Matthew further explained that the operation authorised by Yonge is a clear case of Official Misconduct, as it was conducted without regard to procedure, understanding of the law, or fair process, and well before the expiry of the compliance period. Matthew was so incensed by the treatment of the four defendants that he agreed to become their legal guarantor.
Marryanne Gito, a Customs officer on day leave when the raid took place, told West Papua Media that she had no awareness of the operation. She testified that other staff members were not briefed of the operation beforehand, saying the case is very unusual.
Gunu Yonge told West Papua Media just before she hung up again on the author, that she had no understanding of the legal framework around the arrest, and therefore would have to refer all legal questions to Customs lawyers. However, when West Papua Media requested contact details for Customs legal representatives, officers had no knowledge of those representatives.
On December 14, after receiving the names of the arresting officers from his sources, Ronny Kareni returned to the Customs office to confirm this information with the acting Customs manager.
“When I went to double check with Yonge, she accused me of obstructing Customs, and further mentioned that their office was not handling the case, but the regional office is”.
However, Francis Nipuru, the East Sepik regional Customs Commissioner, was not notified of the operation, nor its outcome, until notified by Ronny on December 13.
“I said to her face that she was lying because the regional office wasn’t aware of the operation until I personally called Francis Nipuru, who followed up with Gunu later on Tuesday”
However, Nipuru also has not attempted to seek clarification or review of the charges laid by Customs on the four men, despite being in a position to drop all charges.
“When Yonge heard what I said, she walked away from me and went straight into her office. Her reaction was childish. By walking away from this conversation is enough proof that she authorised an illegal and corrupt operation to arrest my father and his friends,” Ronny said.
Denial of basic Justice
Since the arrests, none of the defendants have been afforded access to lawyers, and custodial police have actively obstructed lawyers and legal workers from meeting with their clients or having access to even basic charge sheets.
Two court appearances have occurred in this case, but both have been adjourned until January 9. In neither case were the defendants allowed to be present. The Police Prosecutor, Salvado Namtane, has also participated in the denial of justice by by not objecting to the procedural violations and basic court rules by insisting that adequate legal representation has been afforded to the defendants.
Nowhere in the process have either the family members been provided with either a Brief of Evidence or even a charge sheet, nor a Customs version of Facts and allegations against the four men. The police prosecutor has refused to provide any copies of allegations, which have not been formally obtained, however Ronny Kareni reported that he sighted the prosecutor’s Summary.
According to the Summary, the defendants have been categorised by the Provincial Court as Grade 5 suspects. Grade 5 is the most extreme Court categorisation, reserved for suspects in murder or aggravated armed robbery cases and requires a senior magistrate. The minimum cost for bail in such a case requires between 5000-6000 Kina (approx A$2300- A$2800)
Interestingly, the bail price itself has reduced significantly since arrest. Initial bail was set at an impossible 55,000 Kina, ten times higher than the bail set for accused murderers. This amount was promptly reduced to 5,500 kina when objected to.
The families of the detainees have expressed deep concern at what they are seeing as “a cycle of exploitation that has been started”. Ronny Kareni explained “my family feel like everyone is just trying to get on the game, and even the lawyers are just asking money we do not have”
According to Ronny, “3000 Kina has already been paid to the lawyer William Tekwie from Wagambie Lawyers, and he is demanding another 2000 kina as standby for bailout that might happen any day. But the court date has been adjourned to January 9, so my family cannot understand how they are going to get it. They are refugees, not businessmen” *(please see endnote for Correction and clarification of the contentious paragraph)
“We fled from persecution, only to be persecuted by our own blood”
Reliable sources in Wewak, once again seeking anonymity for fear of reprisal, have expressed their belief that the detention is linked high level corruption in the province involving leading Sepik political and business families, and in particular, a development proposal for the land on which the shelters were burnt. The families and individuals have been named by these sources, but West Papua Media has not able to independently source robust supporting evidence or documentation directly in relation to this particular case to consider the identification of those family names. The land is considered prime tourism real estate in Wewak, immediately opposite the airport terminal and lined with a postcard tropical beach.
In 2008, the compound belong to the West Papuan refugees in Boram was attacked by a loosely formed group comprising raskols, who claimed – after 24 years – that compound squatted illegally on their land. All seven houses and fishing sheds in the compound were burned to the ground, and families had to again rebuild from scratch after calm was restored.
Both family members and independent community workers in Wewak have claimed that the land was legally provided by Jerewai clan members to house refugees after the massive Indonesian offensives in West Papua in 1984. The Somare family, who also have extended family land on the east side of the airport, reportedly gave their deep support to the refugees at the time to set up houses on the site in order to maintain their traditional fishermen’s lifestyle.
Just one week before the arrest of the four men in early November, another attack occurred on Kareni’s house.
A Sepik local, who was drinking in the town, allegedly punched a man. He was chased and ran into the Kareni compound to seek shelter, when a group of drunken men attacked the compound to flush out the man.
This attack, carried by children of several serving police officers, smashed up the houses under the cover of darkness. The son of senior police officer Francis Kikoli was allegedly involved in the attack. Kikoli himself has been linked by sources in Wewak to ongoing abuses on behalf of logging interests in the Sepik.
A complete failure of responsibility
According to Ronny Kareni, every office holder in East Sepik can put a speedy end to this embarrassing saga “by making a simple determination of misconduct, and simply dropping the charges to give the men their freedom and dignity. All is requires is for people to face up to their responsibilities”.
Most of all, the corrupt behaviour of the customs officers has turned ordinary people’s lives upside down, people that deserve the protection and not the persecution from the state.
Whatever the outcome of the court hearings, if the family remain in Wewak they will continue to remain in extreme danger. Mama Kambuaya is in a desperate situation.
“Right now we are very worried. I haven’t eaten today. I went there to see them in the prison. It’s a big burden to see them all in prison. It’s a big worry how can we help to release them. We feel really bad about this, we want them to be released and come back home to us.”
Will anyone in a position to take responsibility actually do so, or will this next episode of denial of West Papuan refugee rights be yet another shameful chapter of PNG acquiescence to Indonesian military aims? Will PNGs’ new leaders show resolve in standing up to Indonesia, or will they continue to do the dirty work for Indonesia’s proxy war on PNG soil?
For Abraham Kareni the situation is clear, and he calls on PNG people to not just help his friends, but to stand up for Papua as a whole. “We came to PNG, because we share one island, one culture, we are Melanesian brothers. From Papua New Guinea and from West Papua we are all brothers, we share one skin, that’s why we came here to seek refuge, for them to be aware of our bad situation, to see whether they can help us or not. But I see that they don’t recognise this yet, how we are fighting for our rights.”
Will the people of Papua New Guinea stand up for their wantoks?
To assist the family or the case, please contact Ronny Kareni at ronny_kareni<@>yahoo.com.au or at +61401222177
ENDNOTE: CORRECTION AND CLARIFICATION
WIlliam Tekwie has taken exception to an accurate and direct quotation in the above article from Ronny Kareni who was reporting the fact that the family of Abraham Kareni was concerned at the cost of legal fees. As West Papua Media‘s fact checking systems have verified the accuracy of both the quote and the factuality of what was said, we cannot remove this quote, as this would be unethical. Moreover, West Papua Media did seek comment from Tekwie via his office number, his mobile contact, via personal messages to and from his client’s family, yet he could not be reached for comment prior to publication. Furthermore, the family of the clients made it very clear that Tekwie would not be making comments to the media. We acknowledge that we made an error in not publishing this fact of non-availability, and apologise for this error.
We stand by the correct use of the word “demand” in the quote – as that is the word that was given, and the Oxford English Dictionary definition concurs ( See http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/demand). West Papua Media does not believe it implies that Tekwie attempted duress on the family, nor threat or undue pressure for any personal gain. We certainly had no intention for such an implication. We also believe it to be self-evident that a bail fee would be paid to a court, and not to a lawyer, as is standard practice in PNG, Australia, and in any court in the Anglophone world, and therefore we did not believe a there was a need to editorialise this issue to clarify that a bail fee would not be used by the lawyer personally. We acknowledge that Mr Tekwie believes this is not self-evident and this is a difference of opinion that he is entitled to.
Mr Tekwie has brought it to our attention that he “even offered to return some of the fees I had been paid to assist the Kareni family pay the bail amount!”. This information was not available from any source at time of publication despite checking.. It is also to be noted that Mr Tekwie offered a discount for representation fees to the family.
Therefore West Papua Media is willing to acknowledge William Tekwie’s hurt feelings and apologises unreservedly for any offence he believes we have caused through this paragraph, and for any inadvertent damage to his reputation.
West Papua Media also acknowledges the hard work that Tekwie has done for his clients since the article was published on December 27, and wishes him full success in the case, and his future advocacy work.”
- PNG troops burn down border West Papua refugee camps as refugees flee to the jungle
- Time to change Australia’s involvement in West Papua offensive (westpapuamedia.info)
- Ilps Condemns Indonesian Military and Police Forces for Barbaric Attacks on the People of West Papua (westpapuamedia.info)
- Update on military operations in Paniai and Australian involvement (westpapuamedia.info)
- Australia must act after more conflict in West Papua: Greens (westpapuamedia.info)
- Australia Involved in Military Operations in Paniai, West Papua (westpapuamedia.info)
Speaking on behalf of DAP, Dewan Adat Papua, Forkorus Yaboisembut said that the chief of the Indonesian police, the chief of police in Papua and the commnder of the XVII Cenderawasih Command should withdraw all their troopa who are currently deployed in the vicinity of the mine. He said that it was important for the police and the security forces to stop exerting pressure on the company. They should also be ordered to stop exerting pressure on the workers.
‘The security forces should stop interfering in any way with the company,’ he said. ‘The two sides involved in a dispute must find a solution together. If they are subjected to pressure, the dispute will never be solved,’ he said.
He also said that the Indonesian govrnment should urge the company to provide a clarification about its revenues. ‘If the government can convince the company to review the wages that they pay to the workers, the dispute can be speedily resolved,’ he said.
Meanwhile, the lawyer, Yan Christian Warinussy said that the shooting of Petrus Ayamiseba was a gross violation of human rights, and he hoped that the Papua branch of the National Human Rights Commission would speedily hold a meeting with the chief of police in Papua, Police Inspector-General Bigman Lukkaman Tobing to press for this shooting incident to be resolved in the human rights court. He said that if this does not happen, the police will claim that this was nothing more than a criminal act.
He want on to say that the shooting to death was a breach of Law 39/1998 regarding safeguarding actions undertaken by the people.
Warinussy also said that the company should halt all their provocative actions. ‘The company and the workers should sit down together to discuss the rights of the workers.’
Warinussy said that he was currently in Timika and was carrying out his own investigations and he said that he would be having a meeting with the chief of police in Mimika and with the company. The results would be conveyed to the chairman of the Papuan branch of the National Human Rights Commission. Matius Murib.
Petrus Ayamiseba who was 36 years old died when he was struck by a burning rod of tin belonging to the police while he was taking part in a demonstration at the Gorong-Gorong Terminal.
During the incident, another person was also killed, namely Jamil, a member of Brimob.
- INDONESIA: Police in Timika kill one union protester and injure others at Freeport (westpapuamedia.info)
- Kontras condemns police shooting of Freeport workers (westpapuamedia.info)
- West Papua Report October 2011 (westpapuamedia.info)
The Freeport gold and copper mine in Papua is one of the world’s largest.
10 October 2011
The Indonesian authorities must immediately investigate the use of deadly force by police at a mining protest, Amnesty International said today after one protester was killed and at least six injured.
Indonesian security forces opened fire on striking workers of a gold and copper mine in the eastern province of Papua run by US company Freeport-Mcmoran on Monday. Some 8,000 workers at the mine have been on strike since 15 September, after demands for a pay rise reached a deadlock.
“This latest incident shows that Indonesian police have not learned how to deal with protesters without resorting to excessive, and even lethal, force,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Director.
“The police have a duty to protect themselves and uphold the law, but it is completely unacceptable to fire live ammunition at these protesters,” he said.
“The authorities must launch an independent and impartial investigation into this tragedy, and ensure that the results are made public,” he added.
Mine worker Petrus Ayemseba was shot in the buttocks and died a few hours later. Six other workers – Leo Wandagau, Alius Komba, Melkias Rumbiak, Yunus Nguluduan, Philiton Kogoya and Ahmad Mustofa were also injured from the shooting.
Freeport has accused the strikers of trying to intimidate replacement workers whom the company was trying to move into the mine workers’ barracks.
After the police opened fire, mine workers set fire to two container trucks heading to the mining town and pelted the police with rocks, according to local sources.
Amnesty International has documented numerous cases where Indonesian police have used unnecessary or excessive force or firearms and where no one has been held accountable.
“Indonesian authorities have failed to provide justice and reparations to most victims of excessive use force by the police. They must get to the bottom of this incident quickly and signal that they will impose adequate disciplinary or criminal sanctions on the police and will protect the right of Indonesians to protest,” Sam Zarifi said.
“It is high time the Indonesian police trained and equipped their staff in non-violent methods of crowd control. They also need to ensure that they have non-lethal means of force at their disposal to disperse the protesters if necessary,” he added.
Indonesia must end criminalization of peaceful political protests in Papua (PUBLIC STATEMENT, 14 July 2011)
Indonesia: Arbitrary and excessive use of force and firearms in North Sumatra (URGENT ACTION, 1 August 2011)
- A history of violence at Indonesia mine/AJE (westpapuamedia.info)
- Freeport Strikes Could Just Work (westpapuamedia.info)
- Amnesty International Welcomes Release of Papuan Students in Manokwari (westpapuamedia.info)
- Protester killed in Indonesia mine strike (guardian.co.uk)
- BBC: US Firm Freeport Struggles To Escape Its Past In Papua (westpapuamedia.info)
Jayapura: The efforts being made by the DPRP (the Papuan provincial legislative assembly) to persuade the CEO of Freeport Indonesia to attend a meeting between the trade union, the SPSI, and related organisations, have apparently failed. The CEO Armanda Mahler was not present at the meeting.
According to the chairman of Commission A of the DPRP, the meeting discussed the wages of the Freeport workforce and made several recommendations.The first was that the DPRP, the provincial legislative assembly, should set up a special team to visit the location of the mine in Tembagapura. The second was a decision to write to the management asking the company to stop recruiting new workers as well as other steps that are harmful to the workforce. The third was to call on the Indonesian government, via the intermediary of the US embassy in Jakarta to approach the major shareholder, James Robert Moffet to be held to account for the conflict between the company and the workforce.
Asked about the failure of Moffet to attend the meeting, the DPRP member said that this revealed the arrogance of the American side towards the Indonesian government for not respecting the views of other parties. ‘Our spirits have not been dimmed,’ he said, ‘as we are voicing the aspirations of the Papuan people.’
Meanwhile, the spokesman for the SPSI Julius Pororongan, together with the chairman of PUK-SPSI, told the press after the meting that efforts to recruit new workers was a blatant violation of Law 13/2003 on labour relations, because the company is not allowed to recruit workers while workers are on strike.
It also appears that since the start of the strike by the Freeport workforce, an accident occurred at the mine but the identities of the two casualties are not known. The union said that if they were able to obtain the names of the two casualties, they would announce them to the press.
The union rejects any mediation because the proposal for mediation does not take into account the call for a 25 percent (sic) increase in wages. Our demands, he said, are based on a number of factors. Firstly, the capacity of the company and secondly it income, and thirdly it should take account of the need for compensation for the risks involve in the work, and fourthly, it should take account of inflation.Fifthly it should take account of the educational level and work experiences. He said that the union had held meetings with the MPR and the DPRPand hopes that the provincial government will pay attention to the special autonomy law because the company falls under the authority of this law. While both the company and the workforce are major assets , it is hoped that the government will work together witl all the relevant components and will seriously recognise that the company has been responsible for many violations by sacking workers for no legitimate reason and has intimidated the workers.
‘They hve intimidated our wives and children by sending them sms messages. This is very inhumane because our wives stay at home and dont know anything about what is happening in these industrial relations. The union has suggested that the company should stop violating the stipulations of the Industrial Relations Court .If the labour contracts remain in force a whole year, this means there will be no increase in wages, which will greatly benefit Freeport.’
He said that their efforts in their communications with the MRP and the DPRP as well as with the government were intended to get the government to deal with the problem more speedily.’It is not our intention to destroy the company,’ he said. ‘On the contrary, we want to persuade the company to acknowledge the workers living conditions within the framework of better industrial relations so as to avoid the emergence of new problems that occur when peopl are arbitrarily sacked .
- Freeport strike results in a loss of US$8.2 million a day for the Indonesian government (westpapuamedia.info)
- Deal with the rectification of history first, says Indonesia (westpapuamedia.info)
- Freeport Strikes Could Just Work (westpapuamedia.info)
- West Papua Report October 2011 (westpapuamedia.info)
- Union makes move to end Freeport strike (westpapuamedia.info)
Statement by the Coalition for the Freeport Indonesia Workers’ Struggle – September 28, 2011
We fully support the strike by PT Freeport Indonesia workers for better wages and conditions. The government must guarantee legal protection to the workers and protect them against intimidation and threats while they are on strike and conducting negotiations with the company in accordance with Law Number 13/2003 on Labour.
The strike by around 8,000 PT. Freeport Indonesia employees in Timika, West Papua, is to demand that the management bring their wages into line with PT Freeport Mc Moran wage standards in other countries. Freeport currently pays its workers as little as US$1.50 and hour and workers are demanding that this be increased to US$3 (25,000 rupiah) an hour. Freeport workers in other countries currently receive an hourly wage of US$15 or 128,250 rupiah per hour.
The Freeport management has refused to fulfill the workers’ demands. A tripartite meeting has been held between the government, Freeport management and workers, but the workers have still not succeeded in reaching an agreement.
Since the strike began on September 15, there have been numerous incidents of pressure and intimidation against the workers, either directly by the Freeport management or through the arrogant actions of the police and the Mobile Brigade (Brimob).
This includes the attempted shooting of PT Freeport Indonesia All Indonesia Workers Union (SPSI) chairperson Sudiro on September 11, the removal of employees’ rights through the “No Work, No Pay” letter, pressure on striking workers and apprentices to leave Tembagapura, contract workers being forced to work for 12 hours straight to meet production losses during the strike, replacing contract workers with as many as 100 strike breakers sent from Jakarta by the companies PT. Tri Parta Jakarta and PT. Komaritim, forced removals from the workplace and employees being forcibly picked up at their homes using DS-1643 and DS-1500 vehicles.
There has also been intimidation from PT Freeport Indonesia foreign workers through Deputy President Director John Hollow (a US citizen) who signed a letter stating that 200 permanent workers were to be laid off. The systematic threats of dismissals by the company management have been supported by the police, Brimob and Freeport security.
In one instance this involved a Freeport level 1 staff member “X”, who was not prepared to give their name because they were concerned for their personal and family’s security. X received a letter of temporary release from duties (RFD) dated September 24 from a superior. X was accused of spreading confidential company information in violation of company regulations. X was deemed to be indirectly involved because X provided the confidential company information (related to employee wages) that trigged the dispute between workers and management. Two days later on September 26, X was forcibly picked up at the Tembagapura employees barracks and then transported to Timika by the management at 6.10pm local time escorted by a Brimob officer, a superior who is well known to X, two security personnel and a company driver. X stayed overnight at the PT Freeport base camp near the Timika airport and the following day was then sent back to his home town.
The example above is evidence that the Freeport management is more interested in throwing money at security personnel that comprise members of the police and Brimob to “safeguard their assets” than pay decent wages to their workers who have worked for and served company for decades. In addition to demands for wage increases, the strikers are also reasonable healthcare facilities for workers.
The Coalition for the Freeport Indonesia Workers’ Struggle therefore states:
1. The management must immediately increase workers wages from US$1.5 an hour to US$3 per hour.
2. The management must provide the same facilities to local workers as those given to foreign workers (healthcare services, education for workers’ children)
3. It is the worker’s right to go on strike and the management does not have the right to dismiss workers that are on strike.
4. Foreign employees working at PT Freeport Indonesia do not have the right to become involved in issues between workers and the management. This is in conflict with the legal principles contained in the 2003 Labour Law and if they continue to do so, the government must deport the foreign workers concerned.
5. The police and Brimob do not have the right to become involved in industrial affairs between the management and workers, as regulated under Article 143 of the 2003 Labour Law.
Jakarta, 28 September 2011
Coalition for the Freeport Indonesia Workers’ Struggle:
The Papua Student Alliance (AMP), the Papuan Traditional Social Community Against Corruption (Kampak Papua), the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), the Indonesian Association of the Families of Missing Persons (Ikohi), the Papua NGO Cooperative Forum (Foker LSM Papua), the Working People’s Association (PRP), the People’s Liberation Party (PPR), the National Trade Union Preparatory Committee (KP-KSN), the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), the Indonesian People’s Opposition Front (FORI), the Student Action Union (KAMLAKSI), the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Jakarta), the Indonesian Transportation Trade Union of Struggle (SBTPI), the Student Struggle Center for National Liberation (PEMBEBASAN), Praxis, the Semanggi Student Action Front (FAMSI), the Strategic State-Owned Enterprises Federation (FED BUMN Strategis), the Indonesian Pulp and Paper Trade Union Federation (FSP2KI), the West Java Federated Trade Union
for Justice (FSPK Jabar), the Central Java Indonesian Farmers Federation Union (FSPI Jateng), the Banten Primary Industries Trade Union Federation (FSBKU Banten), the South Sulawesi Nusantara Trade Union Alliance (GSBN Sulsel), the South Sulawesi Indonesian Federated Trade Union of Struggle (FSPBI Sulsel), the North Sumatra Plantation Workers Trade Union (Serbuk Sumut), Perbumi North Sumatra (Perbumi Sumut), the East Java People Based Trade Union (SBK Jatim), the Sidoarjo Independent Trade Union (SBM Sidoarjo), the Malang Independent Trade Union (SBM Malang), the Working People’s Association-Organisational Saviours Committee (KPO-PRP) and the United Indonesian Labour Movement (PPBI).
[Translated by James Balowski.]
- Freeport Indonesia, Union Pay Talks Enter Third Day (westpapuamedia.info)
- Reports of Securicor being used to break the Freeport strike (westpapuamedia.info)
- Union makes move to end Freeport strike (westpapuamedia.info)
- Strike pressures PT Freeport Indonesia into serious negotiations (westpapuamedia.info)
- Freeport Mine Managers turn rabid on Indonesian Grasberg Strikers (westpapuamedia.info)
As leaders gather in Fiji this week for the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Leaders Summit, the Pacific Institute of Public Policy (PiPP) has released its findings from the first ever telephone poll conducted across Melanesia.
Seven questions relating to the “Melanesian family” of nations were posed, including one asking which major “non Pacific island” nation was considered to be the best partner for individual nations in the region.
MSG leaders may be encouraged that a majority (74.9%) of respondents were aware of the regional body to represent Melanesians.
When asked who they considered part of the Melanesian family, a clear majority of respondents included the established members (PNG, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji and New Caledonia) while 42% also included West Papua, 17.1% included Australia, 14.9% included Indonesia and 14.1% included Timor Leste.
Another question posed was “do you support independence for West Papua?” A clear majority of respondents across Melanesia said yes, with very high support in PNG (89.3%) and Vanuatu (88.2%). This suggests a disconnect between popular support and the position taken by governments in the region, except Vanuatu, which has long championed the West Papuan cause at the political level.
Asked to relate the relationship between their country and Australia, the majority of respondents said it was positive except those in Fiji. Australia is also considered to be the best external partner for PNG (40.5%) and the Solomons (40.4%), while for Vanuatu only 14.1% of respondents considered Australia best, whereas China scored 32.9%. Among respondents in Fiji there was a sense that it considered Australia, New Zealand, China and US as all roughly equal in importance.
In relation to engagement with Fiji, a majority of respondents including those in Fiji itself, opted for increased engagement or keeping the level of engagement as it is.
The views expressed by the respondents of this poll may assist MSG leaders as they deliberate on the future of this region. A copy of the poll findings can be downloaded here.
The Pacific Institute of Public Policy is the region’s leading independent think tank and exists to stimulate and support informed policy debate.
For further information please contact Talita on +678 29842 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- AWPA calls on the MSG to give full membership to the Melanesian people of West Papua. (westpapuamedia.info)
- Fiji leader opens Pacific meeting (bbc.co.uk)
Commander Peter Philip says he has raised the issue as a member of the bilateral council administering the Torres Strait Treaty between the two countries, but little has been done.
Only a few kilometres of water separate some Torres Strait islands from PNG.
Police commander Peter Philip says the weapons are in big demand in PNG’s Highland provinces, where marijuana is grown in large quantities.
But he told Queensland correspondent, Stefan Armbruster, PNG police don’t have the resources control the trade.
CLICK ON THE LINK TO HEAR FULL INTERVIEW
(Note: West Papua Media and illegal arms smuggling investigators have long raised this issue with the PNG and Australian governments, however, evidence collected from the ground has implicated INdonesian military sources, not West Papuan opposition sources. The reporting in this piece is disingenuous and misleading by lumping this together with Operation Sunset Merona, implying that West Papuan refugees were involved in weapons smuggling. This has never been the case. Widespread research has documented a pathway of Indonesian military officers exchanging weapons for Marijuana with Raskol gangs from the PNG highlands, and with Indonesian officials in PNG openly flooding the country with small arms via illegal logging networks. Please contact West Papua Media for more background).
BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific
February 21, 2011
Papua New Guinea Raises Concerns Over Arms Smuggling At Indonesian Border
Text of report by Papua New Guinea newspaper The National website on 21
[Article by Isaac Nicholas: 'Weapons smuggling a concern']
Western law enforcement authorities have raised concerns about arms
smuggling into the province from Australia and Indonesia, saying it is
a threat to national security.
Provincial Police Commander Peter Philip said his men had confiscated
arms ranging from high-powered semi-automatic weapons to small arms
He also raised concerns that Operation Sunset Merona refugees had been flown into East Arwin refugee camp without consultations with
provincial authorities, adding that the flight of more than 50 refugees by the PNGDF Casa aircraft into Kiunga was causing further strain on the limited resources in the province.
Philip said the frequency of illegal gun smuggling was higher than
what was happening up at the West Sepik border.
Ningerum Prison acting Commander Wini Nemo also raised similar
concerns that the extra people on the ground would also put pressure
on the jail holding capacity of 30 inmates, adding that the jail was
Similar sentiments were conveyed to Correctional Services Minister
Tony Aimo during a visit to the North Fly township of Kiunga last
Provincial Magistrate Patrick Monouluk said arms smuggling was a
concern for authorities which lacked the capacity to police the vast
Last week, Monouluk sentenced a man to 18 months imprisonment for
smuggling arms and ammunition. Simon Somo Harquart from Mapos Village, Buang, in Morobe, was arrested by police when he attempted to move three firearms from Saibai Island in the Torres Strait into Daru.
Acting on a tip-off, police confiscated a .22 squibman rifle, 303
rifle, self-loading rifle and more than 150 rounds of ammunition.
Monouluk found him guilty and after sentencing, Harquart was
transferred to Bomana Jail outside Port Moresby.
Aimo admitted that arms smuggling and free movement of people across
the border of Indonesia and Australia was a major security concern and
he would raise the issue through reporting to the National Executive
Council to extend the operations from West Sepik to Western.
“We are sitting on a time bomb. There is exchange of guns and drugs
along this Western border which Waigani does not know about,” Aimo
“It is very fragile and a threat to our national security.”
Source: The National website, Port Moresby, in English 21 Feb 11
- RNZI: PNG soldiers storm home of suspended West Sepik Police Commander (westpapuamedia.info)
- PNG troops burn down border West Papua refugee camps as refugees flee to the jungle (westpapuamedia.info)
- Wikileaks – US Government blames Jakarta for unrest in West Papua (westpapuamedia.info)
- AAP: PNG launches border security operation (westpapuamedia.info)
- Parkop Letter to Png Pm Somare: Halt to Police Operation in Sandaun Provinvce. (westpapuamedia.info)
note: West Papua Media is also following this story closely, but has unable to access its sources on the ground in Vanimo. We are gravely concerned as to their safety given the current climate of impunity against witnesses of the confused border security operation Sunset Merona..
RNZI may have better success, but this is not a competition.
Please continue to follow this story closely, updates will be made available when sources are able to safely file.
RNZI: PNG soldiers storm home of suspended West Sepik Police Commander
Posted at 05:06 on 07 February, 2011 UTC
Papua New Guinea soldiers allegedly stormed the home of West Sepik’s suspended provincial police commander Chief Inspector Sakawar Kasieng and threatened his family yesterday.
The newspaper, The National, reports that the ten soldiers were taking part in a border security crackdown called Operation Sunset Merona in and around the provincial capital Vanimo.
The operation has been underway for three weeks with more than 100 people arrested and detained for alleged illegal movement across the border from Indonesia.
Mr Kasieng says that the soldiers pointed guns at his family, ordering them all to stay indoors without any explanation.
He has been told by police from Port Moresby that he is charged with treason, and is due to be questioned at the police command centre in Vanimo today.
Mr Kasieng was reportedly suspended last month after refusing to allow policemen on Operation Sunset Merona entry into his local police station headquarters after one of his men was allegedly beaten up by a group of visiting task force officers.
News Content © Radio New Zealand International
PO Box 123, Wellington, New Zealand
- PNG troops burn down border West Papua refugee camps as refugees flee to the jungle (westpapuamedia.info)
- AAP: PNG launches border security operation (westpapuamedia.info)
- Parkop Letter to Png Pm Somare: Halt to Police Operation in Sandaun Provinvce. (westpapuamedia.info)
West Papua Report
This is the 82nd in a series of monthly reports that focus on developments affecting Papuans. This series is produced by the non-profit West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) drawing on media accounts, other NGO assessments, and analysis and reporting from sources within West Papua. This report is co-published with the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN). Back issues are posted online at http://etan.org/issues/wpapua/default.htm Questions regarding this report can be addressed to Edmund McWilliams at email@example.com. If you wish to receive the report via e-mail, send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
An Indonesian military tribunal failed to properly prosecute military personnel for the torture of two Papuans whose agony was viewed around the world online in October 2010. Instead, the tribunal convicted three soldiers for the minor offense of “disobeying orders,” sentencing them to between eight and ten months imprisonment. This failure to prosecute the soldiers to the full extent of the law and to try them in a civilian court was broadly criticized by Indonesian and international observers, including the U.S. State Department. U.S., UK and Australian organizations called for suspension of foreign assistance to the Indonesian military which continues to violate human rights with impunity, particularly in West Papua. President Yudhoyono’s pre-sentencing description of the torture as a “minor incident” was prejudicial and contributed to an atmosphere of impunity. Papuans, organized by leading Papuan churches and other organizations demonstrated in large numbers calling for abolition of the Peoples Consultative Council (MRP). The body was created by the widely-rejected 2001 “Special Autonomy” law. Prisoners of Conscience Filep Karma and Buchtar Tabuni continue to languish in police custody following a December 3 prison riot. They suffer from health-threatening conditions and do not have regular access to their families or to legal counsel. Papua New Guinea security personnel attacked villages and encampments of West Papuan civilians living in PNG territory near the border with Indonesia. PNG authorities have detained nine of the scores of people displaced, who were moved into camps or have fled into the forests. Their plight, particularly those who were chased into forests, is uncertain.West Papuan students continue to call for dialogue in the wake of the failure of “special autonomy.” They note that the central government has failed to issue implementing regulations required to give the decade-old law life.
A military court in Jayapura on January 24 sentenced three military personnel to eight to ten, months imprisonment for the torture of two Papuans in May 2010. The torture, video of which was posted online in October 2010, had become emblematic of the Indonesian military’s decades of abuse targeting Papuans. The Indonesian government’s failure to prosecute the perpetrators in a civilian court, and its acquiescence to military insistence that the three only be prosecuted for the minor offense of “disobeying orders” showed the persistence of military impunity for crimes against humanity in West Papua. President Yudhoyono reinforced this sense of impunity for military perpetrators by dismissing the torture as a “minor incident” in prejudicial pre-sentencing comments to military leaders.
International condemnation of this miscarriage of justice was swift and universal.
In addition to condemnation from human rights organizations, the verdict prompted unusually blunt criticism from the U.S. Government. U.S. State Department spokesperson P.J. Crowley said the sentences “do not reflect the seriousness of the abuses of two Papuan men depicted in 2010 video.” He added that “Indonesia must hold its armed forces accountable for violations of human rights. We are concerned and will continue to follow this case.”
On January 25, Australian Greens legal affairs spokesperson Senator Scott Ludlam demanded that the Government cut all military ties with Indonesia. He said the conduct of the Indonesian government showed a “total lack of respect for human rights…. What we have here is an open and shut case of severe torture, with video evidence, and the soldiers responsible will spend, at most, 10 months in prison and then continue their careers in the Indonesian army – they won’t even be discharged. It is a disgrace – an absolute disgrace,”
Video of the torture shows the soldiers burn one man’s genitals, suffocate him with a plastic bag, and hold a knife to his throat. One victim said he was beaten for two days, held over a fire and had chillies rubbed into his wounds. “First the Indonesian authorities claimed their soldiers were not responsible, and then charged them with ‘disobeying orders’. It was a pathetic response from a government that couldn’t care less about the human rights of the Papuan people,” said Senator Ludlam.
He called on the Australian Government must cut military and paramilitary ties with Indonesia: “Why are we helping to train and arm these soldiers? Why do we fund the Indonesian National Police when its Detachment 88, a so-called counter-terrorism unit, has been linked to a series of human rights abuses? While human rights abuses, while torture continues in Papua and Maluku, we can not fund and train the people responsible.”
The Australian Greens call for a substantive response by the Australian government was echoed in a joint statement by the U.S. based West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT), the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) and the UK-based TAPOL. They urged the U.S. Government to suspend military assistance to the Indonesian military and called on the U.S., Britain. and the European Union to “promptly and publicly register with the Indonesian government their deep concern over what is only this latest example of decades of failed justice in West Papua.”
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch also criticized the judicial travesty in Jayapura. Amnesty International’s Laura Haigh said “The fact that the victims were too frightened to testify due to the lack of adequate safety guarantees raises serious questions about the trial process.”
Amnesty added that “as a state party to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Indonesia is legally bound to prohibit torture and other ill-treatment in all circumstances.”
Elaine Pearson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division, called the outcome “disappointing” and highlighted irregularities in the court-martial. “There were six men depicted in the video but only three were brought to trial…. The military dragged their feet in this investigation and showed minimum effort, and it shows that they were just trying to get the international pressure off their back.”
The reaction in Indonesia was also damning. Poengky Indarti, executive director of the Indonesian Human Rights Monitor (Imparsial), urged that the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) take over the investigation. “Although this court-martial has concluded, there is still the torture charge and the need to try these soldiers at an independent human rights tribunal,” Poengky told the Jakarta Globe. She also called for systemic reform: “The government and the House of Representatives must amend the law on military tribunals, which has been a major obstacle in prosecuting military officials under civilian law.”
She added that while the Indonesian government had ratified the UN Convention Against Torture more than a decade ago, the Military Criminal Code and its Code of Conduct still failed to define torture as a punishable offense.
The Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) revealed that the Indonesian military did not use all the evidence available. Komnas Ham commissioner Ridha Saleh told the Jakarta Globe that the government agency had offered its own findings to the military “but to no avail.” He added that Komnas Ham was conducting its own investigations, but “whether those investigations will lead to re-prosecution, a recommendation or the formation of a fact-finding team, we don’t know yet.”
Haris Azhar, coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), said that “lenient sentences were proof that the TNI was reluctant to reform.” Kontras member Syamsul Alam Rizal said that the lenient sentencing would “solidify military impunity.” He warned further that “the lenient verdict would “justify torture as a tool in extracting testimonies from civilians.”
Sergeant Irwan Riskianto, deputy commander of Gurage Military Post, was accused of ordering the torture received 10 months in jail. Privates Yakson Agu and Private Thamrin Makangiri – were sentenced to nine and eight months respectively. The charge has a maximum sentence of 30 months.
WPAT Comment: The TNI response to the tsunami of domestic and international criticism – a pledge to ramp up human rights training for its personnel -has been employed before, notably in the late 1990′s when it even engaged the International Committee of the Red Cross to conduct rights training. Such window dressing fails to address the central issue: TNI personnel (and their commanders) know that violating the human rights of civilians, especially Papuans, will merit only a slap on the wrist. President Yudhoyono’s calling the torture sessions, one of which extended over a two day period, a “minor incident” only reinforces the impression among TNI personnel that a uniform provides a license to torture.The resort to a military tribunal to try military personnel for crimes against civilians is a consequence of the 1997 Military Court Law which gives jurisdiction in such cases to the military courts. There is no discernable efforts either within the government or the parliament to reform this Suharto-era law.
Papuans in late January demonstrated peacefully and in large numbers called for the dissolution of Papuan Peoples Assembly (MRP) created by the 2001 Special Autonomy Law, but widely viewed as a powerless institution.
Demonstrations were staged in Sorong, Manokwari, Jayapura, Serui, Biak, Nabire, Merauke, Mimika and Wamena. In Jayapura, demonstrators peacefully occupied the MRP itself. For the first time since Indonesia’s annexation of West Papua, a broad array of Papuan church leaders took the lead in organizing the demonstrations. Among those playing a key organizing role were chairs of various synods including: Rev. Dr. Benny Giay, Chairman of Christian Tabernacle Church (KINGMI), Rev. Yemima Krey, Chairman of GKI Synod, Rev. Socrates Yoman, Chairman of Baptist Church and Rev. Tommy Isfandy, Chairman of Synod Bethel Pentecostal Church.
The MRP, was established in 2005 as a cultural representative institution of indigenous Papuans purportedly to address accusations that the interests of the province’s native population were being sidelined in favor of Java-centric government policies. It has been routinely ignored by the central government. For example, Jakarta refused to consult it regarding the division of West Papua into multiple provinces.
The demonstrators called for cancellation of plans to select new members for the MRP. (The new members of the assembly are being chosen by special committees set up in each district and city. The terms of the current MRP members officially ended last October, but because of delays starting the selection process, they were extended until the end of January.) “We reject the special autonomy for Papua. Consequently, the council, which was established following the granting of special autonomy, should be disbanded,” Reverend Giay told the media. “Special autonomy” had failed to improve the welfare of Papuans and only brought advantages to newcomers from other islands, he added.
The Papuan people, through a council plenary session on June 9-10, 2010, had called upon the provincial parliaments to return the special autonomy mandate to the central government (See West Papua Report July 2010).
In Mimika on January 25, hundreds of Papuans rallied outside the district legislature to protest over the selection of MRP members. Protesters, calling themselves the Papua Solidarity Society, carried banners that read “Disband the MRP;” “All Papuans Declare the MRP a Failure;” and “Send the MRP Back to Jakarta.” Vincent Onijoma, the protest coordinator, said both autonomy and the formation of the MRP had failed to bring to an end to violations of human rights by the security forces. Those taking part in the protest included representatives of churches, student groups, tribal associations, and women’s groups.
Earlier in January,organizers of the demonstrations distributed guidelines setting out their key objectives, also laid out in a January 10 letter to Indonesian President Yudhoyono. The religious leaders called on the central government to respect the decision of the Papuan people to reject “Special Autonomy” as expressed in mass popular demonstrations in June (the “Musyawarah Besar”) and the 11 resolutions which emerged from the mass gatherings (see West Papua Report July 2010). In their letter, the religious leaders called on the governors of Papua and West Papua to forego the selection of new members for the MRP and to sit jointly with the two Papuan parliaments to formally reject “Special Autonomy.” The religious leaders also renewed calls for a central government dialogue with Papuans to address the legal and political status of the region. Finally, the January 10 letter called on President Yudhoyono to order an end to intimidation, terror, and repression of Papuan people.
Filep Karma and Buchtar Tabuni, internationally recognized political prisoners, have faced isolation, inadequate access to food and water, and restricted contact with their families and legal counsel for nearly two months. Police removed the pair from Abepura prison to detention at Abepura police headquarters following a December 3, 2010 riot at the prison (See WPAT/ETAN: Indonesia Respect Rights of Papuan Prisoners Filep Karma and Buchtar Tabuni). Neither has been formally charged in the riot and both contend that they had attempted to mediate between prison authorities and inmates before the riot erupted.
In a January 18 letter to the Chief of Police in West Papua, Tabuni requested that the police explain his legal status, and specifically whether he is a detainee (tapol) or a convicted political prisoner (narapidana). He also asked that if he is being held in police custody for a role in the December 3 riot that he be presented with an arrest warrant. Tabuni also detailed his deteriorating health due to inadequate food, water and access to fresh air and sunlight. He said that during his detention, his father, under pressure of the plight of his son, had “suffered a stroke, fainted and died.” In late January the police sought to declare Buchtar Tabuni a “suspect” in the December 3 riot. Tabuni, who was not accompanied by a lawyer when he was questioned. refused to sign the police document.
The family of Filep Karma has also expressed public concern over the state of his health, also noting the inadequate of food and water.
Under Indonesian law the police may hold a suspect for 60 days without charges. That 60 day limit expires on February 3.
Papua New Guinea security forces have launched an operation targeting purportedly West Papuans living illegally in the PNG town of Vanimo and its environs near the northeast border with West Papua. The operation, named “Sunset Merona,” was originally justified as a law enforcement exercise to counter the illegal flow of goods across the border from Indonesian military (TNI) sources that were hurting indigenous PNG businesses. The operation was also to ensure there were no illegal workers within the logging companies from Malaysia and Indonesia operating in the border region. The operation initially focused on remote border camps and villages and made arrests of logging workers and Indonesian military personnel. Tt is believed these initial arrestees were released to make way for refugee arrests after protest from Indonesian diplomatic representatives in Vanimo.
Various sources located in Papua as well as Australia (notably West Papua Media Alerts edited by Nick Chesterfield) have reported on the ongoing operation by a special “joint military and police taskforce” which has displaced approximately 80 men, women and children, so far. More than 30 homes have been destroyed. PNG authorities have placed many of the displaced in a temporary camp while an unknown number of others have fled to the forest. (See http://westpapuamedia.info/2011/01/28/png-troops-burn-down-border-west-papua-refugee-camps-as-refugees-flee-to-the-jungle/ )
The large number of children among those displaced, reportedly more than a third, has prompted expressions of concern by human rights organizations and observers. The special taskforce police in charge of the camps have reportedly refused to provide food for the displaced, but are permitting the local Vanimo Roman Catholic Diocese to provide meals.
According to West Papua Media Alerts, PNG authorities have charged nine men among those picked up with unspecified charges relating to armed activities. Refugee advocates have denied, however, that these people are resident of the camps raided. West Papua. As of late January none of the nine have yet had access to legal representation.
On January 23, police and soldiers from Port Moresby torched 19 houses at Blakwara refugee camp outside Vanimo and trucked the residents to the Vanimo Police Station. According to Barias Jikwa, coordinator of West Papuan refugees living in Vanimo, security personnel also destroyed food and crops at the camp. In Yako, security forces burned 18 houses and destroyed residents’ possessions and food gardens. Yako camp housed over 50 families forced out of Blakwara camp by threats from local landowners allegedly in league with Indonesian military-linked logging interests.
The task force also attacked the villages of Dawi, Wara Duanda, Musu, Dasi, Warakarap, Ambas, Bebfsi and Skotchiou. Security forces razed houses at Dawi (4 houses), Bebfsi (3) and Musu (at least 4). Local human rights monitors are still attempting to confirm the situation in other villages. According to West Papua Media Alerts, there have been no confirmed reports to date that any person has been shot or any weapons discharged in these operations. There have been allegations of severe mistreatment (beatings) in Blakwara and Yako, with at least ten people still in the Vanimo Hospital being treated for their injuries.
Local sources also report that villagers and refugees fled to the surrounding jungle prior to the raids. Among those fleeing reportedly were large numbers of guerrillas who have been asked by PNG Defense Force to surrender.
Jerry Frank, the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC) commander of the joint forces for Operation Sunset Merona, told media that all the arrested people are separatists despite clear information that almost all refugees at the attacked camps had been registered as refugees and/or “permissive residents” for many years, and many were non-political. Radio New Zealand International reported that PNG authorities have arbitrarily decided that anyone found not be a citizen of PNG will be considered an OPM activist and sent to the overflowing East Awin refugee camp which is under the control of the UNHCR and attended closely by Catholic relief agencies. However, PNG’s acting deputy police commissioner Fred Yakasa acknowledged that they cannot return refugees to Indonesia to face possible arrest or execution. “It would be wrong to send those people back to Papua to an unknown fate,” Yakasa stated.
PNG is home to around 12,000 West Papuan refugees who fled Indonesian state violence in several major waves since Indonesian annexed West Papua in 1962. Several hundred refugees accepted facilitated repatriation last year with guarantees of land. In PNG, “permissive non-citizens” are allowed to work but not to gain any legal certainty in housing, education or citizenship.
The refugee relief NGO WPRRA called for the PNG government to be held accountable for its “inhuman operations against refugees who took refuge in PNG due to Indonesian brutality,” and that the governments of Vanuatu, New Zealand and others assist these displaced West Papuan refugees in seeking asylum in a third country. WPRRA has also called on the international community to assist in “ensuring the fundamental rights of West Papuans in PNG are respected and protected according to the international law on refugees and human rights.”
West Papua Media Alerts reports that the UNHCR is concerned about the attacks on refugees and the potential for inappropriate actions to escalate. “Our PNG Representative is closely monitoring the situation and in contact with the relevant authorities to ensure the principle of non-refoulement is being respected as the situation becomes clearer,” said Richard Towle, Australia/ PNG Regional Representative for UNHCR.
A Jakarta Post report highlights efforts by Papuan students in Jakarta to persuade the Indonesian government to cancel the 2001 “Special Autonomy” law for West Papua. The students accused the central government of failing to properly implement special autonomy and called for dialogue mediated by a third party to find a solution to the many problems plaguing the region.
Marten Goo from the National Forum for Papuan Students demanded a government review of the 2001 law, arguing that Article 78 of the law requires that the implementation of the law be evaluated every year, with the first evaluation conducted three years after the inception of the law. Marten contended that the government was responsible for existing conflicts in West Papua and even created new conflicts to retain control over Papua’s natural resources.
“With so many problems, including poverty, human rights violations and corruption,” he said, “the central government is halfhearted in implementing special autonomy.” Marten added that the government had deliberately not issued regulations to implement the law in order to keep Papua on a leash. “There is no implementing regulation to support the 2001 law. Therefore everything must be consulted with the central government, which has the power to intervene,” he said. Marten also called for the Papua People’s Council (MRP) to be disbanded and to call off its plans to elect members for the 2011 tenure. (See above for details protests across West Papua calling for the abolition of the MRP.)
“The central government never listens to the Council, which represents Papuans. The government also tried to infiltrate the Council through a Home Ministry decree on Jan. 13, which violates the autonomy law,” he said. That ministerial decree defines Papuans as Melanesians from Papuan indigenous tribes and/or those who are accepted and recognized as indigenous Papuans. (WPAT Comment: There have been allegations that the central government sought to infiltrate non-Papuans into the MRP through this decree.)
Agus Kosay from the Central Mountain Papua Indonesia Students Association (AMPTPI) also speaking in Jakarta on January 27, called special autonomy was “a new form of colonialism.” “Special autonomy was touted as a win-win solution to protect Papuans in terms of empowerment and welfare. But what has happened is that we barely feel safe now,” he said. Agus highlighted the fact that many Papuans still faced discrimination. “There are also numerous cases of human rights violations by security forces, including torture and shooting.”
He said Papuan students and activists faced threats for expressing their opinions. Marten agreed, saying that the central government was in violation of its own law. “Articles 43 to 45 of the autonomy law refer to the protection of indigenous Papuans and their rights. But the military keeps torturing and intimidating Papuans,” he said.
- PNG troops burn down border West Papua refugee camps as refugees flee to the jungle (westpapuamedia.info)
- AFP: Papuans Rally for Independence from Indonesia (westpapuamedia.info)
- Parkop Letter to Png Pm Somare: Halt to Police Operation in Sandaun Provinvce. (westpapuamedia.info)
- WPAT/ETAN: Light Sentences for Rights Violators Spark Calls for Suspension of Aid to Abusive and Unaccountable Indonesian Military (westpapuamedia.info)
- AWPA: West Papua 2010 Chronology of events (westpapuamedia.info)
Below is the full letter from PNG NCDC Governor Powes Parkop calling for Somare to immediately halt Operation Sunset Merona. For bode fide media interview opportunities, and the copy of the original letter please contact West Papua Media at wpmedia_admin<at>riseup.net .
Date 28th January 2011
Grand Chief Sir Michael T Somare GCL, GCMG, CF, CL, CH, KstJ
Prime Minister and Chairman of NEC,
Office of the Prime Minister,
National Capital District
Dear Prime Minister,
SUBJECT: HALT TO POLICE OPERATION IN SANDAUN PROVINVCE.
I write to express my deepest concern and reservation against the on going Police Operation in the Sanduan or West Sepik Province otherwise known as Operation “Sunset Merona” .
Since the operation began, I have received many complaints from people in the Sanduan Province as to the conduct and focus of the operations. These Complaints have been received from ordinarily citizens in that Province but more particularly from West Papuan people who live in that Province either as refugees or traditional border crossers exercising their rights under the Border Agreement between the Independent State of Papua New Guinea and the Republic of Indonesia.
From the West Papuan people, I have received complaints of intimidations, harassment, houses being demolished and burnt, food gardens being destroyed and people being detained without being charged for a criminal or migration offence. Those arrested have included West Papuans who have comes to PNG as refuges and who have to fend for themselves due to lack of support from either the PNG Government or from the Office of the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees.
From the evidence and reports I have received and the from the conduct of the operation it has become obvious that this operation is targeted against West Papuan people either as refugees or suspect activist of the West Papuan struggle for independence. In this respect, while I acknowledged that as an Independent State, we are obliged to prevent our borders from being using as a sanctuary for people planning and conducting violent acts against another State, we also risked allowing ourselves to become involved in a dispute that we formally recognized as being the domestic affairs of the Republic of Indonesia. Worst still we will allow ourselves to be used by the Republic of Indonesia to suppress and intimidate West Papuan people from pursuing their legitimate struggle for independence.
Based on these reports and evidence, I appeal to your highest Office to immediately stop the operations as it is becoming obvious that our Government and therefore police are being used by the Indonesian Government to harass and suppress suspected West Papua activist campaigning for Independence of West Papua. This is morally and legally wrong.
While the Government may not support the struggle of West Papuans people to self determination and independence, we have no right to suppress them or deprive them from exercising that right. The right to self determination is universally recognized rights recognized under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and under many United Nations Conventions. This right to self determination includes the right to bear arms and used armed struggle as a means to attain self determination. Many colonized people have used arms struggle as a means of exercising or realizing their rights to self determination where the colonial powers have denied them an opportunity to exercise that right peacefully. West Papuan people as a colonized people, deprived of peacefully exercising their right to self determination have the right to bear arms and used all other means to enable them to realize their rights to self determination.
There is no evidence to date to show that the West Papuan people are using our territory to conduct armed attack against the Republic of Indonesia. The evidence to date shows that all armed attack conducted by West Papuan people has been conducted within the territory of the Republic of Indonesia. If its is an offence to peacefully advocate and support the rights of the people of West Papua to self determination and Independence, than I should be arrested too as I have been a long time advocate of West Papuan rights to self determination and independence. And there are thousands of Papua New Guineans who also support and advocate for the rights of West Papuans to self determination and independence.
I therefore urge you as Prime Minister and a person revered as a leader of Melanesian People and Pacific People to stop our police and security forces from being used as a tool of suppression at the behest of the Indonesian Government. I urge you to recommend to the Commission for Police to put an end to this operation and to release all West Papuan people who have been detained and to compensate those who have their houses and food gardens destroyed.
Further, Prime Minister, I urge you not to deport any West Papuan suspected of being involved in the independence struggle to the Republic of Indonesia. I draw in this respect the recent conviction of three members of the members of the Indonesian Military as a result of torturing of West Papuans. While there three men were convicted for a minor offence, the incident for which they charge was fully exposed in a video posted on the internet which was seen by the entirely international community. This incident confirms that while Indonesia is moving towards democratization, its armed forces are still involved in vicious acts of violence and torture against so called separatist. There is no guarantee that any one deported to the Republic of Indonesia will safe or not subjected to torture or other forms of violence.
Due to public interest in this matter, I will be releasing copy of my letter to the public, including the media.
I look forward to you earliest reply.
HON. POWES PARKOP LLB LLM MP
Governor and Member for NCD Provincial.
by Nick Chesterfield and local sources
January 28, 2011
Scenes of terror and destruction have erupted around Papua New Guinea’s frontier town of Vanimo, as an unprecedented and contentious PNG military operation against unarmed West Papuan refugees has arrested scores and burned over 30 houses to the ground.
79 people (28 Men, 24 Women and 27 Children) are currently being held in cramped and hot conditions at an interim processing facility outside the Vanimo Police Station, which has been taken over by police from Port Moresby after local police refused to cooperate. Special taskforce Police are refusing to provide meals, which are having to be supplied by the local Vanimo catholic diocese, although there are no current allegations of mistreatment whilst in custody.
Nine men have been charged with unspecified charges relating to armed activities though refugee advocates have denied that these people are resident of the camps raided. Enquiries by West Papua Media have found none have access to legal representation at this stage.
On January 23 at Blackwater refugee camp outside Vanimo, 19 houses were set on fire by Police and Soldiers from Port Moresby, while residents were rounded up on trucks and taken to Vanimo Police Station. According to a detailed witness report provided by the coordinator of West Papuan refugees living in Vanimo, Barias Jikwa, the operation began at 1:00 am local time when houses were surrounded, and houses began to be razed at 04:00 am. Troops then used spades and guns to destroy the refugees’ food and edible crops.
Border Security Operation
Confusion and official intransigence has surrounded the border security Operation Sunset Merona. by PNG Defence Force (PNGDF), Police, Customs, and Foreign Affairs officials. Troops from PNGDF’s 1st Royal Pacific Islands Regiment (1RPIR) flew in from Port Moresby in January under the command of Joint Forces Commander Jerry Frank together with out of area general
police officers from Boroko, Bomana, Gordons, and Waigani. The elite and often notorious Mobile Brigade were not included in the operation, although human rights sources have drawn attention to the standard operating procedure of house burnings that Mobile Brigade have employed with squatters and landowners affected by mining and forestry.
Sunset Merona was originally announced as a law enforcement exercise to counter the illegal flow of goods across the border from Indonesian military (Tentara Nasional Indonesia or TNI) sources that were hurting indigenous PNG businesses, and to ensure there were no illegal workers within the logging companies from Malaysia and Indonesia operating at the PNG – West
Papua border. Most shops in Vanimo are owned by non-Papuans, and all sell goods of non-PNG origin at marked up prices, but still vastly cheaper than PNG produced goods. To date, there is no verifiable information that vendors of illegal goods have been caught up the security dragnet.
According to the West Papuan Refugee Relief Association (WPRRA) in Vanimo, a registered NGO, the raids were carried out “after a week of operation on the legal permits and identities of logging workers from Malaysia and Indonesia who spread across Vanimo, Madang and Wewak and besides logging activities, who also dominate the marketplaces of those provinces right now.”
The offensive, dubbed a politically motivated stunt by dissident members of PNG security forces, descended on remote border camps and villages and made arrests of logging workers and Indonesian military personnel, though it is believed these initial arrestees were released to make way for Refugee arrests after protest from Indonesian diplomatic representatives in Vanimo.
Up to 700 personnel are reportedly involved across PNG, though the joint force in Vanimo currently numbers only 150 personnel.
The offensive is exposing deep divisions in PNG security personnel, with several local security officers being stood down during the operation for “refusing to work for Indonesian interests”. One security source who wished to remain anonymous said “This operation is a stunt; a political charade”. He went on to further explain that the sudden change of tactic may have also been created by a hazy early January violent incident between Indonesian and PNGDF soldiers inside Batas, the vast TNI owned shopping complex just metres from the PNG border at Wutung.
After several weeks of rumours and uncertainty surrounding the true purpose of Sunset Merona, the operation has deteriorated into an offensive against Indonesia’s enemies in PNG, the West Papuan people. “Once again, this stunt operation is deeply suspicious in its timing, with Indonesia currently engaged in a systematic sweep and terror campaign for nonviolent activists from Jayapura to the border. The questions PNG people need to have answered is, are these two offensives working in conjunction with one another, and what kind of Melanesians are we to do the Jakarta’s work?”
In Yako village, 18 houses were burned down, and possessions and food gardens were systematically destroyed by troops. Yako camp housed over 50 families forced out of Blakwara camp by threats from local landowners allegedly in league with Indonesian military linked logging interests.
A spokesperson for the Blakwara community, Yalli Jikwa, 39, said “The arrest of villagers and burning of houses is a violation of our rights as refugees, and the PNG government must take responsibility for its actions.”
Also under attack were the villages of Dawi, Wara Duanda, Musu, Dasi, Warakarap, Ambas, Bebfsi and Skotchiou. Houses have been confirmed razed at Dawi (4 houses), Bebfsi (3) and Musu (At least 4), with unconfirmed reports of every other village targeted having burnt houses. Local human rights monitors are still attempting to confirm the situation in other villages.
There have been no confirmed reports to date that any person has been shot or any weapons discharged in these operations so far. Some early allegations of severe mistreatment (beatings) in Blakwara and Yako, with over at least ten people still in the Vanimo Hospital currently being treated for their injuries.
Local human rights sources have reported that all villagers and refugees fled to the surrounding jungle prior to the raids, and have not retaliated. Amongst those fleeing were large numbers of guerrillas who have been asked by PNGDF to surrender, but are so far ignoring the request.
The RPNGC commander of Joint Forces for Operation Sunset Merona, Jerry Frank, has described all the arrested people as separatists despite clear information that almost all refugees at the attacked camps had been registered as refugees and/or permissive residents for many years, and many were non political.
Radio NZ International has reported that PNG authorities have arbitrarily decided that anyone found not be a citizen of PNG will be considered an OPM activist and sent to East Awin refugee camp, which although overflowing, is under the control of the UNHCR and attended closely by Catholic relief agencies. However, PNG’s acting deputy police commissioner Fred Yakasa
acknowledged that they cannot return refugees to Indonesia to face possible arrest or execution . “It would be wrong to send those people back to Papua to an unknown fate,” Yakasa stated. “We respect Indonesia and West Irian as an integral part of Indonesia and that respect is there and we just want to make sure no rebel activity or anything of that nature advances on our side of the border.”
Dissident police officers in Sandaun see it differently. “Far from defending PNGs sovereignty, we are asking `how high’ before the TNI thugs even tell us to jump,” explained a senior security source in Sandaun on condition of anonymity. “It is like somebody fears they lose out on their logging spoils”.
West Papuan refugees spoken with by West Papua Media also paint an entirely different picture to that put forward by Somare’s operation. They have accused the Prime Minister Michael Somare of acceding to clandestine Indonesian demands, and acting preserve his alleged business interests with the Indonesian military.
“How dare he treat his own wantoks like this for the Indonesians. We are not Indonesians, We are West Papuans, which is why we fled from the brutality of the Indonesian military year after year. Our whole lives have been in limbo in Papua New Guinea, denied education, denied jobs, even when some of us have been welcomed as wantoks by good hearted PNG folk. And now this criminal Somare is treating peaceful refugees like this just so he can please his bosses in Jakarta and safeguard his retirement bilas (trinkets),” said one elderly West Papuan refugee who was too angry to give his name when spoken to by West Papua Media by phone yesterday.
PM Somare recently stood aside pending investigation on corruption and official misconduct charges, but has quietly reinstated himself into the Prime Ministership functions with little protest from PNG political figures, many of whom also have documented involvement with Indonesian military business interests. However this operation has been in planning for several months, with almost K2.5 million budgeted for a six week initial operation, with the possibility of extension.
Local Business Complexities
Refugee spokespeople have alluded to local business interests playing a significant role in the evictions, which local security sources have confirmed. Most refugee camps targeted in this operation are surrounded by extremely valuable timber resources, and logging interests and national power politics are playing a significant part in the recent events.
The MP for Vanimo-Green River, Belden Namah, whose family traditionally provide refuge for both the OPM and refugees, has publicly condoned the harsh operations. As the villages were being razed Namah issued a statement criticising the Sunset Merona personnel, not for their harsh treatment of civilians, but for allegedly encouraging local people to demand logging companies pay for timber they remove from forests. “This is very, very disgraceful,” Namah said, “It is a national disgrace for landowners to be told by security forces to set road blocks to collect road levies, when such infrastructures are national assets,” he said.
Under the PNG Constitution, Land belongs to the people, and it is not legally a national asset unless a specific act of Parliament has been enacted. Under these provisions, resource companies must legally pay for compensation for land they damage and resources they expropriate. Somare (and Namah) in June rammed through a change to the Environment and Conservation Act, but that is deemed by many in PNG to be unconstitutional.
“If they are targeting foreign workers for work permits, passports and other related documents, that is fine, but why are they encouraging the landowners to engage in actions that causes disruption and destructive to the smooth operations of companies in the area….. The security forces must concentrate on the core focus of the operation.” Namah explained in his statement that this was to destroy OPM camps on the PNG side of the border.
At this point no allegations have been made to West Papua Media that Namah is influencing the operation, but as the local MP and a member of the Sandaun Provincial Security Committee, Namah is in a unique position to do so. Ironically, Namah came to power on the back of a concerted social movement resisting Indonesian control of logging, helping to create the GVG Moma landowner controlled co-operative ensuring community control and veto over unsustainable logging. “Men, women and children have suffered for a very long time. The Government has abandoned its responsibility to the people, it seems. We must ensure that the benefits to the people are real and sustainable,” Namah explained in 2006.
Despite this, Namah is heavily involved as both a Forestry Minister, and an owner of major forestry businesses in Sandaun which have allegedly perpetrated serious environmental and social abuses against those opposed to unregulated clearance of old growth Papuan Jungle. GVG Moma, which has increased its harvest since 2006 of highly valuable kwila/merbau, teak and other tropical hardwoods, are seeking to exploit the high value forest on which the refugee camps stand. According to local security sources, GVG Moma are also currently utilising the same distribution and personnel networks as when the TNI directly controlled Vanimo Forest Products prior to 2006. The former PNGDF Captain Namah, who was gaoled and pardoned for his leading role in the Sandline mercenary crisis, has attracted significant controversy during his time as Forestry Minster for accruing significant wealth and property across the Pacific.
West Papua analysts have long been concerned about the connection between illegal logging in the area and the Indonesian military business interests having the potential to extend the already serious human rights abuses in West Papua into PNG territory. Wikileaks recently revealed cables from the US Embassy in Jakarta that accused Indonesian military officers of
deep involvement in illegal logging operations on both sides of the border. A 2006 cable details a briefing from a PNG government official reporting the TNI were ”involved in both illegal logging and drug smuggling in PNG”.
Local human rights and security sources are describing the atmosphere across Sandaun province as highly tense following the launch of the offensive. Since before PNG independence, there has long been widespread sympathy and tolerance for given West Papuans forced to flee violence safe refuge in the country. However, PNG also has a strong history of local businesses leaders working closely with Indonesian mercantile interests to clear refugees out of Sandaun, but this is the first time security forces in PNG have acted so blatantly in alliance with Indonesian policy of a military approach to rooting out West Papuan desires for independence.
Rumours are beginning to circulate that many ordinary people supporting West Papuans in Sandaun will take unspecified direct action to protest the treatment of their wantoks.
Local security forces refuse to co-operate.
Reports from security sources on the ground currently in Vanimo have confirmed to West Papua Media that soldiers from the local 2RPIR battalion were sidelined and local units of police were also refusing to cooperate with the operation.
The Provincial Commander of RPNGC in Sandaun Province, Sakuva Kasieng, was suspended by the RPNGC Commissioner for labelling the operation as politically motivated. West Papua Media unsuccessfully attempted to reach Kasieng for comment.
A Memorandum of Understanding was signed in December between Kasieng and the representatives of the Free Papua Movement (OPM – Organisasi Papua Merdeka) based in Sandaun, to allow training of OPM forces in civil resistance techniques. A senior intermediary for OPM units in the area who was responsible for the training, was not available for comment at time of
writing, nor to confirm whether the training was offensive and armed, or for nonviolent civil resistance tactics. Regular civil resistance training of refugees by activists and leaders within the nonviolent movement have been conducted for many years in PNG.
However, refugees have categorically denied that any armed struggle or violence training had been conducted in, near, or with any members of the villages that were targeted by operation Sunset Merona. “The accusation that these villages were National Liberation Army training bases is completely false. These villages attacked have no connection at all to the TPN, and Somare knows it,” explained Yalli Jikwa.
Security and local sources familiar with the MoU have alleged that a senior (and elderly) Papuan resistance figure was displeased with the training program, and allegedly provided a copy of the MoU to Indonesian Special Forces agents stationed at the Indonesian Consulate in Vanimo. The sources described a subsequent surprise inspection by an Indonesian “consultant”
to Blakwara camp in mid-December as a catalyst that changed the officially tolerant PNG government attitude to the camps that has been in existence since 1963.
West Papua and security analysts across the Pacific have long feared that cross border “hot pursuit” operations carried by Indonesian troops may draw other countries into a regional conflict. There is suspicion the TNI has pressured the PNGDF to act as its proxy to achieve its military objectives on neutralising the West Papuan resistance, and therefore avoid the potential for border violation. However, both Jakarta and Waigani deny this.
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs was unable to provide comment prior to deadline.
Uncertainty for Refugees already in Limbo
PNG is home to around 12,000 West Papuan refugees who have fled Indonesian state violence in several major waves since occupation began in 1962. Several hundred refugees accepted facilitated repatriation last year with guarantees of land, cash and non-persecution. However the majority of refugees present say they have a well founded fear of persecution and cannot return. Refugees are deemed by PNG as permissive non-citizens which enables them to work but not to gain any legal certainty in housing, education or as citizens.
The refugee relief NGO WPRRA are demanding that the PNG government are called to account for their “inhuman operations against refugees who took refuge in PNG due to the Indonesian brutalities”, and that the governments of Vanuatu, New Zealand and others assist these displaced West Papuan refugees to seek asylum in a third country. WPRRA have also called on the international community to assist in “ensuring the fundamental rights of West Papuans in PNG are respected and protected according to the international law on refugees and human rights.”
The UNHCR is concerned about the attacks on refugees, and potential for inappropriate actions to escalate. “Our PNG Representative is closely monitoring the situation and in contact with the relevant authorities to ensure the principle of non-refoulement is being respected as the situation becomes clearer,” said Richard Towle, Australia/ PNG Regional Representative for UNHCR.
- AAP: PNG launches border security operation (westpapuamedia.info)
- PNG police say 77 Papuan border-crossers to be transported to refugee camp (aboriginalpress.blogspot.com)
- ABC Radio Australia News:Stories:PNG targets rebel camps along Indonesian border (aboriginalpress.blogspot.com)