Fighting for a Land of Peace: Surviving the Military Mafia of Indonesian Terror in West Papua and beyond
Talk at International Indigenous Solidarity Gathering CERES Melbourne October 25 2008
Surviving the Military Mafia of Indonesian Terror in West Papua and beyond
Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you all here at this inspiring gathering. I must obviously begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of country on which I now stand, the Wurundjeri of the Kulin nations. As a man of proud Kaurna descent, I am humbled also for the opportunity to speak on the situation of our Melanesian wantoks in West Papua and PNG, and their attempt to resist the brutality of the Indonesian military’s genocide. I am honoured also to meet with strong and proud indigenous warriors for peace and justice, and activists from both sides of our Pacific. I greatly hope that we can truly start putting into place alternatives based on traditional Law and custodianship to the world of capitalist greed and destruction that is falling down around us as we speak.
Wantok means family, one talk, and Papuan people are our family. Our Lands have only been separated by a shallow gap for the last 8000 years since the water rose, but our connections and trade have continued for a lot longer, and to this day. Aboriginal people and Papuan people share the same stories, a lot of common language, and many of the same animals and plants are present on the Lands we care for. Our experiences of colonialism have been intertwined, and our want to reclaim our Lands is identical.
Of course it is this difference in the way we look after our Land as our own family that is the reason that those who seek to subjugate and plunder always come into conflict with the peaceful and nurturing ways of Indigenous people. It is the wish to preserve what is not only sacred but absolutely critical for human survival that drives all of our peoples’ here to fight for justice and freedom, not just for our own lives, but for the future of all humanity and the planet. Our survival across this planet is entirely dependent on West Papuan people being able to protect the forests: it is where our oxygen, and our rain comes from. Without Papua, no monsoons, no climate, no rain in China or Australia, nothing to temper the warming waters, the cyclones that get fiercer. No rain, no food. No Food, No economy. No economy, No civilisation, no humanity. Nothing much, just the air we breathe, and the substance that is more precious than gold. No one else but West Papuan people know how to look after the ground of their ancestors, so they must manage it. At this stage of Emergency Planet Earth it is critical to realise that the people best placed to manage our Mother Earth’s second largest primary forests . Free West Papua or death for the planet – why is there still an argument?
Today I wish to speak with you about the role of the Indonesian military in repression and genocide, especially in regard to what they continue to subject West Papuan people to, and the imminent threat that this heavily armed mafia pose to peace and human security and dignity right across the wider Pacific region. The Invasion of West Papua in 1963 came about from the underhanded involvement of neo-colonial mining interests in the US and UK – Freeport and Rio Tinto – using John F Kennedy to force the former colonial power Holland to hand over to the new Javanese colonial oppressor. Using the Cold War threats of the then Indonesia President Sukarno to ally himself with Russia, the US informed him of the existence of the world’s largest copper and gold deposits centred around the highest and scared mountains of our continent (which of course is the Australian continent). The Freeport mine today is the largest on Earth, and is also the site of some of the worst mining devastation on the planet, and the cause of a genocide which probably exceeds even that of the devastation suffered here. It is acknowledged that it is not mass killings and incinerators with death camps, however it has been described as a slow genocide by suffocation.
The “accepted” international figure is a highly conservative 100,000 people since the 1960s, though the true number may never be known. However if we consider that prior to invasion West Papua’s population was neck and neck with PNG, we can examine the demographic realities that even Indonesia census data can attest to. Since 1971, West Papuan population growth has been at an average rate of only 1.67% per annum, when compared to the Indonesian “Settler” growth of 10.5%pa. Across the border in PNG however, relatively free at this stage from Indonesian brutality (though not entirely), the growth has been at 2.6%. According to Jim Elmslie at the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at Sydney University, who has examined the demographics of genocide in West Papua closely, “If the Papuans under Indonesian control had enjoyed the same growth rate as those in independent Papua New Guinea, 2.6%, their population would be 2,122,921, or 564,126 more than it was in 2005. This demographic discrepancy can be directly attributed to Indonesian rule.”
There have been several major phases of the genocide in West Papua, and the Indonesian machine has become smarter in its execution over the years. From the direct air bombardments of Highland villages right through the 1970s by the OV10 Broncos – which was many highlanders first contact with an outside snivelisation – to the widespread parasite introduction in pigs (the main food source) which is still ongoing; to the introduction of a poison drink called Alexander in the vast oil palm plantations which have been cleared out of people’s traditional lands, to the direct shooting and disappearances; there are many ways in which the Javanese terror empire is attempting to empty the land of its custodians.
Papuan people often remind me that the reason the white man and his Javanese proxies are so brutal in their naked greed to remove Papuan’s from their land is for what lies beneath. “Papua is a mountain of gold sitting on an ocean of oil, and clothed in the most luxuriant timber, home to the most beautiful animals this world has to offer.” Since the days of the Portuguese, colonialism has been blinded by Papua’s gold, a curse of nature to the custodians.
The Indonesian military, whose corruption and Java King warlordism lies at the core of all human rights abuses in our immediate region, has long sought to profit off the natural resources of Papua. This is driven by the TNI‟s need to find operational funding (only 30% of its budget is from the Indonesian government, the rest is from TNI owned and controlled business). Primarily operated by the elite and brutal Kopassus special forces, the balance of their budget is made up through extra curricular activities, such as illegal logging, drug manufacture, prostitution, money laundering, human trafficking and illegal mining.. Every sector of the legal and illegal economy is controlled by TNI figures.
Putting aside the fact that the President, General Yudhoyono, is an indicted multi millionaire war criminal, even he is leading a charge to cease the TNIs involvement in business. Having a military of hundreds of thousands of soldiers with a mercantile focus is a very very dangerous thing for peace anywhere in the world, as they create conflict to make money.. As the TNI is divesting itself of Indonesian illegal business interests, it is increasing interests in countries outside the DPRs jurisdiction. It is this prime motivation that corrupt elements of the TNI have sought to control a great deal of the lucrative trading opportunities the Western Pacific offers, especially in natural resource exploitation. It has been operating so brazenly in violation of local and international laws with such a high degree of organisation that it can legitimately be called Organised Crime. Our region is now faced with a rogue militarised criminal force that operates as a Mafia in uniform.
The TNI is the lead facilitator of logging in both West Papua and PNG. The entire infrastructure, security, logistics, labour, shipping, protection rackets, corruption, intimidation, village burning and random killings that is required for illegal logging can only be carried out with the involvement of an organisation with the capability of a foreign occupying national military force.
A particularly insidious aspect of the industry is the alleged creeping involvement of Indonesian military personnel (serving or retired). Anecdotal evidence suggests that TNI influence has spilled over the border from Indonesian occupied West Papua and into the money trough of PNG‟s forests. Heavily involved in all aspects of the economy in West Papua, the TNI now seems to have „expanded‟ its operations into PNG. Indeed the „democratization‟ of Indonesia since Suharto‟s fall has led to civilian attempts to reign in the TNI‟s business interests; now the TNI is under pressure to find new sources of funding outside of Indonesian government control, such as in PNG‟s valuable forests.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that TNI forces are acting in PNG just as they are in West Papua: providing security and logistical support to commercial operations and savagely repressing landowners when they complain about or try to oppose the loggers. Besides direct security concerns for the welfare of villagers there are reports of associated criminal activities connected with the logging companies including: sexual exploitation and slavery; the intentional spreading of HIV-AIDS; smuggling of guns into PNG; corruption of PNG public servants – customs; police; politicians etc. Allegations of corruption to the highest levels are rife, and they all swirl around the logging industry.
To back up the threat the TNI have made to PNG, there have been over 15 incursions and cross border incidents this year alone. There is genuine fear that Kopassus and TNI will seek to consolidate control in Papua, and even spread into PNG formally. There is a significant military build up at Skou and Arso near the border, and the regional PNG police commander has warned PNG citizens not to travel into West Papua lest they be murdered by the TNI.
According to information received by our networks, the identical situation is happening right across Papua, in areas identified as being support bases for the independence movement (ie, from the border to the sea, and in areas where there exists a major economic interest of the TNI, such as the oil palm plantations). Furthermore, with the proposed expansion of the military run oil palm industry in Papua, we will see more and more resource based conflict. On the ground, the temptations are too great to allow full transparency and discipline from the military oil palm companies. We have seen many instances in which the oil palm industry is deliberately fostering unrest in the areas in which it is operating, albeit on a scale of gradual attrition rather than mass murder. Members‟ previous work has uncovered a pattern of systemic and systematic abuse of local traditional owners by the companies operating in the area, most specifically by the KorIndo plantations in the Boven Digul and Mappi areas close to the border, but also in the Arso and Wembi districts adjacent to the northern border. Our network is concerned that the placement of militarised and paramilitarised mega oil palm plantations so close to the border is not simply for reasons of ideal plantation conditions and naked profiteering, but is also being used as a pretext for territorial (read economic) expansion into adjacent border areas of PNG. It is clear what happens when people without guns stand up to people with guns, and the flow on effects of this for our region will be disastrous.
Of course no systemic killings, dispossession or genocide would be happening without the blind consumerism of the West and those who seek to emulate the West’s materialism. The lovely red timber that is the latest must have outdoor furniture is that colour because it contains the blood of Papuan people.
It should come as no surprise to learn that the Australian Government supports the genocide in West Papua. Our interests are purely in maintaining the billions of dollars for Australian companies’ profit from Indonesia, and our mining companies such as Rio Tinto and BHP are the prime. The Lombok Treaty passed after our wantoks arrived on Cape York, which outlawed the support of “separatist” movements in West Papua. SO I must say that this gathering is illegal and you are all separatists now for even being in the same room as anyone who walks with West Papuans, sorry for not telling you before you committed an offence So any gubbas here better arrest us all now or your l.o.r.e. is worthless.
Indonesian and Australian defence companies will jointly build military equipment for both countries in the near future under a partnership that may ease Indonesia’s dependence on weapons imports. SO THIS IS WHAT THE KRUDD GUBBAMENT IS ALL ABOUT. Instead of stopping or even raising concerns about human rights atrocities by the Indonesian military, we are helping them make them guns, bombs, tanks and bombers to slaughter innocent people across Indonesia and West Papua. I think the time has come to legitimize every form of non-violent action to stop this immoral trade from occurring any more in our name. I have my monkeywrench ready.
In the face of the absolute greed and brutality that the Indonesian military cannot seem to shake itself out of, the merest sign of resistance is enough to bring the full force of terror on any West Papuan. Raising the banned Morning Star flag continues to be a fundamental focal point for all expressions of cultural identity for West Papuan people. West Papuan people are routinely subjected to harassment and harsh treatment by the TNI for practicing traditional cultural beliefs. During the recent World Indigenous Day gathering On August 9, which was the UN World indigenous day, West Papuan people were holding a massive, but peaceful celebration of their identity in Wamena in the Baliem Valley, which of course is the site of the world’s oldest continuous civilisation and agriculture for the last 30,000 years. As a community leader was ending a welcoming ceremony, a group of West Papuans spontaneously unfurled four flags: The flags of the United Nations, Indonesia, and the Morning Star, and an SOS banner. The crowd of over 30,000 people reacted with hope and showed their happiness, whereupon without warning the Police opened fire into the crowd and above their heads. They shot dead a Papuan tribal and civil society leader, Opinus Tabuni, 35. It is testament to the peaceful intent of West Papuan people that despite repeated provocations by the intelligence personnel and police, the crowd remained peaceful, as they have already seen too much bloodshed. It was only after thousands of people had gathered and the police saw a Morning Star waving that they opened fire on the crowd, accusing them of separatism. Indeed, it has become a habit of the security forces in Papua to legitimise the use of the word separatism in order to silence and murder Papuans, because the word separatism is used as a highly effective and untouchable shield.’
As the late Papuan tribal leader Theys Eluay (murdered by Kopassus in 2001) said, “why this talk of separatism. We were never a part of Indonesia, so how can we separate?”
Since March 3 of this year, a major militarised crackdown on peaceful dissent is occurring in West Papua, as West Papuan people have begun rolling demonstrations and peaceful action publicly rejecting Special Autonomy and calling for a referendum on West Papuas future. Hundreds of activists have been rounded up, and the TNI‟s counter operations are causing great fear and displacement amongst the population, amid worrying signs of major crackdown occurring across West Papua. Family and tribal members of detainees have been targeted and terrorised by special joint task forces of Police, Intel and TNI. So far, over 100 people are languishing in inhuman conditions and facing torture daily across West Papua after being charged with Rebellion (Makar), Sedition, and threatening the security of the state. Their trials are still ongoing, and it is likely that they will be sentenced from 20 years to life for peacefully raising a flag.
West Papuan’s have been consistently defying new laws banning the display of the Morning Star Flag. Colonel Bahiruddin Siagian – who was Indicted by the UN Serious Crimes Unit for Crimes against Humanity, specifically for his role in the carnage in East Timor of 1999 – has hosted meetings and mobilisation of militias together with special joint task forces to attack and detain any persons displaying the outlawed Morning Star flag even a patch or picture of a Morning Star, or even crown pigeon feathers. This is contrary to Indonesian law, which under Law 77 which specifically allows the display of cultural symbols. Jakarta’s new edict on banning these symbols contravenes their own law. Our networks are receiving multiple reports from the border regions that indicate the militias present in these areas are stepping up their activities in light of a “green light” for public operations by the TNI. According to the head of the POLRI for Papua province, “The Morning Star flag is the separatists’ flag and the separatists are the enemy of the State. The Indonesian people will confront any enemy of its State, and the TNI as the main component of the State certainly will fight against the enemy”.
This became Operation Mambruk (after the crown Pigeon, a cultural icon amongst those banned above), led by the Indonesian intelligence service (BIN) and involving the military and police, sweeping villages for any “separatist symbols”. The Head of Jayawijaya Police, AKBP Marolop Manik, said this was necessary because “the voice of freedom which blows like a wind is a threat to the State disintegration and is dangerous for community security and stability in Papua and West Papua province, especially in Jawijaya regency”
One positive happened though. After this meeting, we campaigned internationally on Siagian’s status, and Interpol put him on the Red List, when he was finally removed from command just a few months ago. Of Course Jakarta will not hand him over, but it means that he cannot enjoy his large business holdings in Australia, and New Zealand.
However, even the Indonesian government has tried to rein in the brutality of the police and military. The defence minister recently said in a joint press conference that raising the flag should be considered an attempt to seek attention rather than an act of separatism, and that Jakarta must address the roots of the Papuan’s discontent rather than simply punish them. “We should seek a dialogue with them instead of punishing them. Only through dialogue will we know what they want. Punishing them will only spark antagonism”.
Which is precisely the point West Papuans have been trying to make for years. It is indicative of the fragile state of so-called democracy in Indonesia that the TNI are not interested in listening.
The question has to be asked though, if the “civilian” government in Jakarta has consistently been attempting to discipline the military and temper its brutality, corruption, business interests and culture of impunity, and has failed in all attempts, does this indicated that the TNI is by definition, a rogue military out of control. The world needs to recognise this, and the danger the TNI pose to the rest of the planet.
The tide is turning however. West Papuan people are daily taking to the streets, with mass mobilisations. They are not fearful anymore, and have heard that voice of freedom coming from their own throats. They have heard that people are listening, and they are emboldened.
Freedom will come, and the bird of paradise will fly free. Papua Merdeka!
STOP PRESS: the flagraisers who had been held in inhumane conditions for raising the Morning Star in Manokwari, were last night sentenced to eight months prison (instead of the prosecution’s call for twenty years), and with time already served, will be out in the next two weeks.