West Papua Council of Churches: Indonesian government is denying its responsibility for the deteriorating situation in Papua

For the past two years, the West Papua Council of Churches has been actively issuing open statements and calls for support regarding the human rights situation in West Papua. In its most recent moral call, the WPCC criticises the response of the Indonesian government to the United Nations Special Mandates regarding allegations of the excessive use of force by the Indonesian military in the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua. The allegations include several instances of extra-judicial killings, including of young children, enforced disappearance, torture and inhuman treatment, and the forced displacement of at least 5,000 indigenous Papuans by security forces between April and November 2021. “We condemn the attitude of the Indonesian government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
which continuously denies the facts of the hit and run killings, torture, displacement and disappearances carried out by the security forces against God’s people in Papua, especially the latest facts regarding the situation of God’s people in 6 conflict areas, Nduga Regency, Puncak Papua, Intan Jaya, Maybrat, Yahukimo and the Star Mountains”, stated the representatives of the WPCC.

Besides condemning the response of the Indonesian government, which places the responsibility for human rights violations solely on armed criminal groups, the WPCC expresses its concern that the expansion through new autonomy regions in Papua responds to a policy of occupation and control and would also facilitate the exploitation of Papuan natural resources. Moreover, the WPCC keeps calling for the visit of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to Papua and for a stop in the deployment of additional military troops to Papua. The Council also continues to urge dialogue between the Government of Indonesia and the ULMWP (United Liberation Movement for West Papua). The moral call (download PDF) reads as follows:

“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God”
(Mathew 5:8)
“No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.”
(Lukas 8:16)

Verses from the Gospel of Matthew 5:8 and the Gospel of Luke 8:16 push us to experience together with the real situations, joys and sorrows experienced by the congregations we pastor in Papua. As we enter the middle of March 2022, the situation in Papua has not changed very much. We are still in a situation of mourning. The suffering, drops of blood and tears of the people in Papua are still flowing. We are still experiencing the same situations as in previous years on our own land.

Based on our experience and based on what we have heard and seen so far, we must convey the fact that the expansion of the New Autonomous Region in Papua is a way to accelerate the extermination of Papuans and facilitate the exploitation of Papua’s natural resources. We continue to be concerned about the increasing trend in the number of Indonesian migrants into Papua. We have reviewed reports of various research experts and the official results of reports and analyses of the Central Statistics Agency and the Central Bureau of Population over the period of 59 years that Indonesia has occupied land and people in Papua. From what we read and what we have actually experienced, year after year the Papuan people continue to be increasingly excluded and marginalized on their own land.

The migration of the Indonesian population continues to flood the Land of Papua. In 1971 the Indonesian population in the Land of Papua was 36,000 and Indigenous Papuans were 887,000. At the beginning of 2022, the number of Indigenous Papuans in the Land of Papua Tanah Papua (Papua and West Papua Provinces) is 2,300,0001 people out of a total population of 5,770,000 people2. The division of regencies, cities and provinces in Papua has become a powerful weapon for the government in the carrying out of the politics of control and occupation in Papua. As a result of 59 years of expansion, Papuans have been taken over economically and socio-culturally and controlled by migrants from Indonesia. The migrants have also started to gain control of parliamentary politics and governance in Papua. Currently, out of the 42 regencies of the city in Tanah Papua, 14 Regencies are controlled migrants from Indonesia.

As in the West Papua Church Council research dated April 9, 2021, entitled Facts in Papua: Violent Conflicts, Human Rights Violations, Environmental Crimes and Control of Papuan Lands Through Infrastructure Development3, on this occasion we again emphasize that the Government of President Joko Widodo since the first period (2014-2019) until the middle of his second period in power (2019-2024) has organized various development programs in Papua as a tactic to control the Land of Papua. The formation of new Provinces and Regencies (Government Administration Infrastructure or State Bureaucracy) is an integral part of the politics of occupation and control of the Land of Papua.

In addition to the formation of Provinces and Regencies, in the context of controlling Papua, the government is also increasingly aggressively promoting the development of:

  1. The Trans-Papua road, ports, airports, and railway line plan (Transportation and Logistics Infrastructure);
  2. Control of natural resources (land, forest, and minerals), determination of concessions and granting of permits for resource exploitation (Infrastructure Investment);
  3. Formation of new military and police command structures at province, regency, district and community levels (Kodam, Korem, Kodim, Koramil, Kogabwilhan and Polres, Polda, etc.), including Military Police and Intelligence as well as deployment of war troops (security infrastructure);
  4. Independent mobilization and movement of population to Papua, especially to the new areas and investment centers (social infrastructure/demography);
  5. Control over data, information, and communication (Infrastructure of Communication and Information).

Through Presidential Decree No. 21/2019 concerning the Establishment of the Joint Regional Defense Command (Kogabwilhan III), the Government designated Papua as part of the Joint Regional Defense Command III (Kogabwilhan Papua and Maluku) based in Timika. This Kogabwilhan operates directly under the Army (TNI) Commander for the affairs of military deployment operations in Papua. In addition to combat troops, the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) is also a central element of this Kogabwilhan III operation. In addition, new military centers have been built and are being prepared, such as:

  1. Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI): Kodam (Military Regional Command), Korem (Military Area Command), Kodim (Military District Command), Battalions, and other units. The TNI itself planned to establish at least 31 new Kodim in Maluku and Papua during 2020-2021. Departing from the statement by the TNI Commander General Andika Perkasa, there will be the addition of new Kodim in the Kasuari Kodam area in West Papua Province, and the Cenderawasih Kodam in Papua Province.
  2. Indonesian Navy: Naval Command Bases, Koarmada (Fleet Command), III Marines, other naval command units.
  3. TNI Air Force addition of Pangkoopsau (Commander of Air Force Operations Command), Air Bases, Radar Troops, and other units.
  4. Police of the Republic of Indonesia: addition of Polda (Provincial level), Polres (Area level), Polsek (District police) and local Police Posts. As well as the Police combat troops, the Military Police (BRIMOB) has expanded from their headquarters to set up companies in Papua.

In addition to this, the Indonesian government continues to add troops in the Central Mountains and other parts of Papua. According to our records, since 2019, more than 10,000 Army and Police troops from outside have been deployed to Papua every year. This security operation goes hand in hand with bureaucratic control from the Ministry of Home Affairs, which is currently led by the former National Police Chief General Tito Karnavian.

The State Military Operations Policy in the Land of Papua, which began in December 2018 in Nduga Regency, and which increased after the 2019 Protests on Racism, have created conflicts in areas that are stigmatized as Conflict Prone Areas in 6 regencies in Papua, namely Puncak Papua Regency, Intan Jaya, Maybrat, Suru-Suru District in Yahukimo Regency and Kiwirok District, Star Mountains Regency. The violent conflict between the Indonesian government through the Army and Police who fight for the integrity of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia and the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) who fight to defend the Land of Papua from the politics of State control, continues to this day. As a result of this conflict, around 60,000 civilians have fled their homes to other locations, including to neighboring Papua New Guinea.

We have received reports of torture, hit and run killings and enforced disappearances experienced by people including God’s servants in Ndugama, Intan Jaya, Star Mountains carried out by the Army and Police personnel. Several facilities belonging to church members and belonging to the church have been taken by the army and police troops. We continue to witness and mourn the suffering of our congregations in the interior of Papua, especially in the 6 areas that we have mentioned.

In view of the situation in Papua which has become a site of State violence and in order to save God’s people in Papua, in the midst of the pre-Easter period, ahead of the celebration of the story of the passion, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we express our concerns and appeals:

  1. We appreciate the letter requesting clarification to the Government of Indonesia submitted by the UN Special Rapporteurs on Human Rights in the Field of Enforced Disappearances, Torture and Internal Displacement. Likewise, the UN Human Rights Council’s open statement in February 2022 regarding the torture of 7 children in the Puncak Regency of Papua. As a follow-up, we urgethe UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit the Land of Papua to conduct a direct investigation of the Human Rights situation in Papua.
  2. Departing from the historical experience of living with Indonesia for 59 years (1 May 1963), we express our disappointment, sadness, and anger at the attitude of the Indonesian government which has not been honest or objective in answering questions from the UN Special Rapporteurs on Human Rights, regarding the situation. Human Rights in the Land of Papua. We condemn the attitude of the Indonesian government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which continuously denies the facts of the hit and run killings, torture, displacement and disappearances carried out by the security forces against God’s people in Papua, especially the latest facts regarding the situation of God’s people in 6 conflict areas, Nduga Regency, Puncak Papua, Intan Jaya, Maybrat, Yahukimo and the Star Mountains.
  3. We express deep concern and condolences to the families of the 7 children who are victims of torture (1 person died), perpetrated by members of the Army in Puncak Papua Regency. We express condolences to the families of 2 people who were shot dead by the police during a peaceful demonstration in Dekai, Yahukimo Regency. We also express our deep condolences to the families of the 8 victims who were allegedly killed by the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB).
  4. We are following efforts by the State to take steps to resolve conflicts in the Land of Papua by encouraging the process of establishing a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), filing of the 2014 Bloody Paniai case file with the Attorney General’s Office, and a statement of willingness to dialogue with TPNPB which is being pursued by the Indonesian National Human Rights Commission (KOMNAS HAM).
  5. The proposal of the Human Rights Commission for dialogue between OPM and the Government, in our opinion, should begin with the following steps: (a). the withdrawal of the military from Papua, including stopping the addition of
    troops that are constantly being deployed and the program of senior Army officials to build new military posts; (b) Urge the government to help the return more than 60,000 internally displaced people to their respective villages; (c). Stop the legal process against Haris Azhar and Fatia Maulidiyanti and the criminalization of other human rights activists in Indonesia who are fighting for human rights in Papua; (d) The proposed dialogue must also have the support of civil society. If this does not happen we believe that this dialogue proposal from the Human Rights Commission, will be seen as a way to divert the international spotlight on the Indonesian government regarding human rights violations in Papua. We also believe that the steps taken by the Human Rights Commission have been taken in order to improve the political image of the Indonesian state.
  6. We ask the President of the Republic of Indonesia, the Coordinating Minister for Politics, Law and Security, the Minister of Home Affairs, the State Intelligence Agency and Commission II of the DPR RI to stop all political maneuvers for the expansion of 4 new Provinces in Papua.
  7. We request that the Governors, Regents and Mayors throughout the Land of Papua and various interest groups such as universities and academics in Indonesia and Papua, Papuan community leaders, Papuan youth leaders, women leaders, and also NGOs who are carrying out Jakarta’s political agenda to immediately stop all maneuvers and efforts to expand Provinces in Papua.
  8. We also ask the Head of Police and Military Commander in Chief to stop all repressive actions against the people who express their aspirations for the rejection of Special Autonomy and the expansion of new Provinces, as happened during 2021. Once again we witnessed the arbitrary actions of the Army and Police officers in dealing with civilians who held a peaceful demonstration against the division of new provinces in Dekai, Yahukimo on 15 March 2022. This repressive action resulted in 2 people shot dead, 8 people suffering from gunshot wounds; 3 people are in critical condition, and 5 others are injured and being helped as outpatients, 2 people have been detained at the Yahukimo Police Station
  9. To resolve the protracted conflict in Papua, we remain consistent in urging a dialogue between the Government of Indonesia and the ULMWP (United Liberation Movement for West Papua), as was carried out by the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement GAM) in resolving the Aceh conflict.
  10. We express our gratitude to all the faithful and the leaders of the Church, Politicians, Cultural leaders, Academics, Mass Media in Indonesia, Melanesia, Asia, Pacific, Australia, Aotearoa-New Zealand, the African Union, the Caribbean, the European Union, and the United States of America who have become lke Simon from Cyrene, walking with us carrying the cross of the Papuan Nation. The cross that we carry is still heavy, the road we are on is still bumpy, our bodies are full of thorns. Therefore we still need the widest possible solidarity and support.

Thus we issue this moral call. Lord Jesus loves us all.
Jayapura, Papua, 15 March 2022
Pendeta Beny Giyai (Moderator), Pendeta Dorman Wandikbo (Member), Pendeta Socrates S. Yoman (Anggota), Pendeta Andrikus Mofu (Anggota)