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  • Writer's pictureMerdeka Secretariat

Bagaimana Tanahku Papua


Indonesia has intensified its information blackout on West Papua. Just within a month, internet and communications have been cut in the Indonesian-occupied nation and the crackdown on critical voices has heightened, in addition to the continuing restriction of entry in West Papua against foreign journalists, humanitarian workers, and even UN rapporteurs. Despite this and because of this, international support continues to grow for West Papua.

In this context, the online forum “How is my Land Papua?” was organized by the Merdeka West Papua Support Network, in partnership with the ILPS Commission 10 (On Indigenous Peoples), and the IPMSDL, to consolidate current support as well as to introduce West Papua to individuals who are only learning about the issue for the first time.

The objective of the webinar (web-based seminar) was to provide an avenue for West Papua support groups, civil society organization, as well as individuals to be informed on what has happened in West Papua since the wave of protests started in mid-august which is now popularized as the West Papua Uprising, as well as to explain how these protests are a response not only to the issue of racism, but to the more than 50 years of oppression under Indonesian occupation.

Mr. Octo Mote, current ULMWP Vice Chairperson, discussed the historical context that shaped West Papua and Indonesia’s relations, that is, how the former came to be occupied by the latter. Meanwhile, Papuan novelist and journalist Ms. Aprila Wayar talked about how Papuans continue to suffer from all kinds of rights violations, especially political repression, under the present Jokowi Administration. The webinar highlighted the youth’s significant role in leading the West Papua movement.

By the end of the webinar, participating organizations gave expressions of solidarity and action to amplify West Papua’s issues and its primary call for self-determination through various means: echoing the call for a referendum, lobbying with governments, engaging in UN processes, and most of all – recognizing the importance and supporting the Papuan people’s movement on the ground.

Map of the Independent Republic of Indonesia (1949). West Papua was marked as a separate country.

History of West Papua

Ever since the beginning, West Papua has never been part of Indonesia although both were previously Dutch colonies. West Papua wasn’t part of Indonesia during the latter’s proclamation of independence in 1945 and even Indonesian Founding Father and Former Vice President Mohammad Hatta has recognized West Papua as a separate nation.

Since 1949, Indonesia and Netherlands have argued over who has the right to colonize West Papua. When the Dutch realized they are at the losing end, they started to “empower” Papuans. Previously, the Dutch has never really cared for Papua’s development but in 1961 onwards, they have seemingly become keener in providing education to Papuans.

In April 1961, West Papuans started to form their own parliament called Dewan New Guinea.

In 15 August 1962, Indonesia and Netherlands signed the New York agreement which didn’t recognize West Papua. The independence referendum referred to in this agreement was implemented in 1969 but was manipulated by Indonesia - instead of allowing all eligible people out of the 800,000 West Papuan population to vote, the Indonesian Government only handpicked a thousand and thirty two people whom they threatened to vote in favor of the annexation. This same tactic was used in East Timor when the Indonesian Government coerced a couple of Timorese to sign a declaration that essentially invited Indonesia to enter Timor.

In 1 July 1971, after Papuans were left out in the New York Agreement and in the Act of No Choice, they declared their independence on the territory of West Papua, refusing to recognize the bogus Act of No Choice. Prior to July 1, there were already rebellions in many areas in West Papua such as Manokwari, Paniai, and Biak but after the declaration of independence, the resistance has also expanded to the border areas, and established bases in every regency.

Roots of the Conflict

  1. West Papuans were never allowed a proper act of self-determination that is warranted by the Right to Self-Determination that is expressed in the UN Human Rights (1962)

  2. West Papuans continue to suffer horrendously under Indonesian rule. All kinds of human rights violation has happened in West Papua while the Government of Indonesia continues to be under impunity.

  3. The Indonesian state, settlers, and foreign companies have slowly assumed control over every aspect of West Papuans’ lives. While the South Pacific faces the threat of climate change causing our islands to sink, West Papuans also suffer from Indonesia’s systematic invasion.

  4. West Papuans are ethnically, politically, and culturally part of the Melanesian Pacific, not of Southeast Asia. Papuans are black-skinned Melanesian people like Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands. Any rational nation or person wouldn’t allow another nation to occupy them and dictate to them their nationality.

The Movements in West Papua

From 1971 to 1997, during the struggle against the Indonesian dictator Suharto, West Papuans used the opportunity to call for independence. The Habibie Administration then opened to dialogue with West Papuans where the latter expressed their demands to be free and left alone.

In 2000, the Papuan People’s Assembly was formed. Many of the members were assassinated including the chairman, Theys Eluay.

In 2011, the late catholic priest Neles Tebay initiated the Papua Peace Conference in Jayapura wherein 5 Papuan exiles were elected as negotiators. There has been many attempts to call for a dialogue between Papuans and the Indonesian Government but Jakarta has ignored the calls from both inside Papua and those from other countries.

In 2014, the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) was formed with lobbying at the international level as its main focus. Octo Mote led as its Secretary-General for 3 years, followed by Benny Wenda who currently leads as the Chairman. Under the ULMWP leadership, Papuans have become united in the agenda, not only those who were based outside, but most importantly, the ones inside Papua. Many countries, especially in the Pacific, as well as parts of the Carribean and Africa, have also supported the West Papuan struggle.

West Papua Today

The current situation in West Papua today is primarily about the call for a referendum which is being led by the young generation.

In the past weeks, many people were arrested and killed. Many Papuan students in Java, Manado, and Makassar are returning to Papua as they don’t feel secure anymore with the ongoing intimidation and harassments from the Indonesian police. There is no more democracy in Indonesia as Papuans are living in fear as they have been since being annexed by Indonesia in 1969.

The biggest problem between Indonesia and Papua is the land – it’s about the natural resources. In February this year, President Jokowi talked about how he wanted more investments for Indonesia and this could only mean more investors coming in the resource-rich Papua.

What happened in Nduga was just the start. The Government needed to finish the Trans-Papua Highway before the end of this year because the investors can only come in after the infrastructure is done in the highlands of Papua. Now there’s a military operation happening in Nduga causing a humanitarian crisis with thousands of displaced people forced to flee to neighboring regencies. The governor, and the people of West Papua are already calling for Jokowi to withdraw his troops but he refuses. Now with the uprising, the Indonesian Government is even less likely to withdraw its troops as it is also gearing for West Papua’s Flag Day on 01 December.

In the city, the Indonesian Government continues to crackdown on activists they’ve already been targeting before, whether or not they participated in the recent uprising. Many activists have already been arrested and many more are forced to go into hiding. In the highlands, such as in Deiyai, security forces are are conducting house-to-house searches, terrorizing the people in the communities. The state has taken advantage of this situation to and used it as an excuse to criminalize Papuan leaders especially the young ones.

The response of the Indonesian President regarding his security officers calling Papuan students ‘monkeys’ shows his indifference towards Papuans – he only needs the Papuans’ land. Instead of apologizing to the Papuans and condemning the perpetrators, he called for forgiveness on both sides while referring to Papuans as pace and mace, the local dialect for brother and sister. However, his use of these words was only regarded by Papuans as insensitive given what the people had just gone through.

Another humiliating thing that Jokowi did was the dialogue with 61 Papuan “representatives” in the Presidential Palace. This extravagant ceremony was covered by a lot of media groups and broadcasted by big television companies but this too was only regarded by the people as a scam. As West Papua is getting more support from the international community, Indonesia intensified its hoax propaganda and even shut down the internet in West Papua.

Indonesia is doing to West Papua what the Dutch has also to done to them. Papuans have the right to be free, and have the right to a referendum. The slow-motion genocide experienced by Papuans are because of conflicting interests between the Papuan people and the Indonesian state: Papuans stand for humanity while the colonial state plunders Papua’s resources.

Discussion during the Question and Answer for this webinar can be read here.

Our Calls

  1. Allow the entry of media, journalists, and humanitarian aid workers in West Papua

  2. Uphold freedom of press

  3. Stop criminalizing activists and human rights lawyers

  4. Hands-off the youth

  5. Free the political prisoners

  6. Implement the PIF’s recommendation to Indonesia to let the UNHRC conduct an investigation on human rights violations in West Papua before the next PIF

  7. Pull-out Indonesian troops from West Papua

  8. Address the root cause of the conflict: Uphold West Papua’s right to self-determination!

Expressions of Action

  • Will hold more educational discussions of this kind, that could be webinars, newsletters through online platforms, and offline discussions with organizations to raise awareness and support for West Papua;

  • Will include the issues of West Papua in the global campaign to protect human rights defenders;

  • Will be more vigorous in spreading information about the realities in West Papua in the context that Indonesia’s pacification measures have gotten more aggressive. The government is not only cracking down on Papuans and Indonesian critics, but is also vilifying other nationalities who are attempting to speak on West Papua.

  • Will be organizing the 2nd International Peoples Conference on Mining in April 2020 in Southeast Asia;

  • Is inviting West Papua organizations to do a workshop on Freeport’s plunder of Papua’s natural resources and environmental devastation

  • Documenting human rights violations in West Papua through The Civicus Monitor;

  • Gave an intervention at the UN after the Commissioner on Human Rights’ speech;

  • Currently looking at how to support political detainees in Jakarta

  • Will be holding a discussion on self-determination

  • Adopted specific resolutions in relation to supporting the West Papua struggle during its international assembly last June

Bahasa, Spanish, and French translations to follow.


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