Conditions in Papua1 today reflect an extraordinary three years in which Papuan independence sentiment, long violently suppressed, was allowed to come above ground and find embryonic organizational form. From the beginning, a central demand of Papuan leaders has been to revisit the events surrounding Indonesia_s incorporation of the territory in the 1960s, including the roles played by the Netherlands, the United States and the United Nations.
Conflict over the political status of Papua dates back to the Indonesian independence struggle in the late 1940s, when the outgoing Dutch colonial power insisted on retaining Papua, and to the series of still controversial events in the 1960s when, after having promised Papuans independence, the Dutch were persuaded to transfer control over Papua to Indonesia in a U.S.-brokered, U.N.-supervised process.
The western half of New Guinea, then Netherlands New Guinea or West New Guinea, was part of the Dutch East Indies colony. Until the 1940s, the ethnically and linguistically diverse territory was a hinterland of the colony, with little Dutch presence apart from missionaries. When Indonesia gained its independence, the Dutch insisted on retaining West New Guinea as a continued foothold in their former colony and as a potential site for the resettlement of pro-Dutch Eurasians and other former colonial subjects.2 So, although the rallying cry of Indonesian nationalists during the war for independence was _Sabang [Aceh] to Merauke [West New Guinea],_ and although some Papuan leaders were strongly opposed to the Dutch and supported the Indonesian revolution, West New Guinea remained a Dutch colony.
In the 1950s, the political status of the territory remained the subject of controversy, with Indonesia continuing to lay claim to the territory, which it called West Irian. As anti-colonialist sentiment in Indonesia increased in the late 1950s, and popular support in the Netherlands for a continued Dutch presence in southeast Asia waned, pressure grew for a political solution. At that time, the Dutch began to prepare West New Guinea for independence, to the point of reserving half of the seats in the colony_s legislative council for indigenous representatives and encouraging the design of a national flag.
A turning point came on December 1, 1961 when, during a formal ceremony inducting Papuan legislators, the new "Morning Star" flag was raised for the first time. Today, this flag is a potent symbol of Papuan cultural and political aspirations. Less than three weeks later, on December 19, 1961, Indonesian President Sukarno, who had increasingly used Indonesian claims to the territory to whip up nationalist fervor and smooth over domestic political differences, announced a military invasion. A strong Indonesian military presence has been a permanent fixture in Papua since then.
The Indonesian invasion initially caused an international outcry, but U.S. diplomat Ellsworth Bunker and the Kennedy administration pressed the Dutch to accept a U.S.-brokered settlement. The agreement called on the Dutch to formally transfer the territory in October 1962 to an interim U.N. administration, which would then turn it over to Indonesia on May 1, 1963. Then, at the end of 1969, more than six years later, Papuans would be given the chance under a U.N.-supervised _Act of Free Choice_ to decide whether or not they wished to stay under Indonesian rule. No Papuans were consulted or otherwise involved in setting up this scheme. Rather, Cold War considerations were dominant: Sukarno had turned to the Soviet bloc for assistance with arms for the invasion and the U.S. was eager to wean Sukarno from communist influence. In the 1969 plebiscite, all but universally viewed as fraudulent in Papua today, 1026 electors, largely hand-picked by Jakarta and constituting far less than 1 percent of the Papuan population at the time, voted unanimously in favor of joining Indonesia amidst widespread intimidation and terror. These events are now widely cited by Papuan activists who assert that Indonesian rule is illegitimate.
In the three decades of Indonesian rule following the _Act of Free Choice,_ small groups of OPM (Free Papua Movement) guerilla fighters continued to launch small-scale attacks on Indonesian troops. In response, Papuans were rounded up by the Indonesian military in often brutal campaigns that made little or no distinction between combatants and civilians.3 The guerrillas never made large-scale attacks and never coalesced into a united and organized front, yet their presence has long been used by Indonesian military and police authorities to justify a large security force presence in Papua and periodic military and police operations. Guerrilla activity in the 1970s led to major Indonesian military operations in the Jayawijaya highlands in 1977-78, a definitive account of which has still to be written. According to local Papuans, Indonesian military tactics included requiring that each captured rebel go out and kill a compatriot to prove his loyalty to Indonesia, bringing back a hand, foot, or head as evidence of success. If nothing else, the continued currency of such accounts is clear evidence of the distance the Indonesian government must travel if it is to reestablish public trust in the region.
For much of Soeharto's rule, the name _Papua_ itself was forbidden, as were many forms of cultural self-expression. One human rights violation that became seared into the Papuan consciousness was the army killing in 1984 of anthropologist Arnold Ap. He had started a band to revive traditional music, championed Papuan cultural self-expression, and hosted a popular radio program in which he often criticized Indonesian policies in the province. His killing was part of an indiscriminate retaliatory campaign by Indonesian forces against a pro-independence uprising in Jayapura; the campaign contributed to a large exodus of refugees into Papua New Guinea, where some still remain. Another such event was the mopping-up operation by the army in 1996, in Mapnduma district in the mountains outside Wamena, after the OPM took hostage a group of young Indonesian and foreign scientists. In the ensuing military and police sweeps, civilians were killed, others were arrested, and subsistence gardens and livestock were destroyed. The campaign went on for two years after the army mounted its hostage rescue operation.4 A further important case was the killing of demonstrators at independence rallies in Biak in early July 1998.5
More than the specific abuses associated with any one military campaign, however, it was the day-to-day experience of being treated like inferior human beings, having their culture denigrated and demeaned, and seeing waves of non-Papuans coming in to displace them that led many Papuans to become political activists. Indigenous Papuans, both highlanders and coastal Melanesians,6 are darker-skinned than the numerically and politically dominant Javanese and members of most other ethnic groups in Indonesia, and have been subject to ethnic and racial discrimination. While Indonesian rule brought unprecedented economic development, it also resulted in an influx of immigrants from other parts of Indonesia and caused resentment among Papuans as the benefits went disproportionately to foreign investors and these immigrants. When Soeharto was forced from power in May 1998, many of these long repressed sentiments could be made public for the first time.7
As elsewhere in Indonesia, the fall of Soeharto opened the floodgates of open expression. After Soeharto was forced to resign, students across Java, Sumatra, and Sulawesi leading the reform movement continued to call for an end to _corruption, collusion, and nepotism._ In Papua, where the seeds of ethnic nationalism had been planted decades earlier when the Dutch still ruled the territory, the demand quickly turned to independence.
When he took over following Soeharto's resignation, President B.J. Habibie initially made efforts to recognize and apologize for the human rights violations committed under his predecessor. But the new administration's willingness to acknowledge past abuses in general terms was not accompanied by concrete measures to establish justice or redress for the victims. In the meantime, demands for independence mounted.
A Catholic priest in Papua, reflecting in late 1998 on the causes of the increased calls for independence, cited the following factors as responsible: a pattern of human rights violations; the notion of a distinct Papuan culture reduced to the production of handicrafts; both planned and spontaneous transmigration, making the Papuans feel like a minority in their own land; no obvious benefits to Papuans from the exploitation of natural resources; no development of human resources of Papuans themselves.8
In 1998 and 1999, Papuan demands were greeted by a confused response from Jakarta. On the one hand, the central government endorsed a so-called _National Dialogue_ on the history and current status of Papua, acknowledging that certain unspecified wrongs had been perpetrated against Papuans. But when the leaders of the Papuan side of the dialogue showed up in Jakarta for an audience with President Habibie on February 26, 1999, they presented him with a single demand: Papua's independence. The National Dialogue process was immediately suspended and security authorities launched a crackdown in the territory.9
Raising the _Morning Star_ flag, the symbol of independence from 1961, had become a popular means of expressing opposition to continued Indonesian rule over Papua since the early 1970s. It was also a virtually assured route to arrest on rebellion charges _ and to hero status for those imprisoned. As the post-Soeharto freedoms increased on Java, more and more Papuans sought to demonstrate their support for independence by raising the nationalist flag. Sometimes, the Indonesian authorities tolerated this; at other times, they responded with violent crackdowns.
In October 1999, following the first real democratic elections in over thirty years, a new government took office in Indonesia under President Abdurrahman Wahid and promptly initiated a number of reforms. Openly acknowledging the errors of the past, the new administration moved quickly to release political prisoners, allow greater freedom and to permit the open, peaceful expression of pro-independence views. Peaceful Papuan flag-raisings, which had been broken up under Soeharto and Habibie, were now permitted and were held without police interference in at least a dozen places in Papua on December 1, 1999. The next day, however, police and demonstrators clashed violently at a flag-raising in Timika. Six people were shot and wounded by police and dozens were injured. On December 31, 1999, when he met local community leaders at Jayapura, President Wahid assured them that flag-raisings and other peaceful expression of pro-independence views would be considered protected acts of free speech. At the same time, Wahid stated unambiguously that the Indonesian government was not prepared to accede to Papuan demands for independence.
The President also subsequently agreed to use state funds to help finance a Papuan congress, at which, for the first time, Papuan popular representatives could gather together to air their concerns. The congress was preceded by a large meeting of Papuans from across the province in February 23-26, 2000, called the Great Consultation (Musyawarah Besar, or commonly, the Mubes). By no coincidence, the final day of this fell on the first anniversary of the Papuan leaders_ 1999 meeting with President Habibie in which they had demanded independence. The Mubes itself was a major undertaking that brought together some four hundred mostly regional representatives as well as representatives of the guerilla fighters and Papuans living abroad. Indonesian officials attended as observers.10
The Mubes was significant as the first time representatives of the Papuan community had been allowed to meet as a single body and discuss their concerns openly. Observers said that the discussions centered on three issues: the perceived need to _rectify history,_ including the process of Papua_s incorporation into Indonesia in the 1960s and the legal significance of December 1, 1961, Papuan members of the Netherlands New Guinea legislative council were inaugurated and the Morning Star flag was first flown; the need to devise a political strategy for the pro-independence movement; and the need to consolidate the movement. As a result of the Mubes, the Papuan Council Presidium (Presidium Dewan Papua; hereafter, Presidium) was created to lead the movement. Eighteen persons were appointed to serve on the Presidium, comprising two representatives each from the following groups or themes: tradition (adat), history, professionals, politicians, women, students, religions, youth, and ex-political prisoners. Initially, representatives of the guerrilla movement, including both the OPM and TPN were to be included, but they were left out after _heavy discussion._11
The Mubes was followed by the Papuan congress from May 29 to June 4, an even larger gathering prepared by the Presidium. In many ways, it was an extraordinary event. Thousands of Papuans came to the capital from all corners of the province, including some 500 as official delegates and many more as supporters. Representatives of Papuan exile communities based in neighboring Papua New Guinea, Pacific nations, and Europe also attended. The congress dealt with the same themes as the Mubes and included sometimes heated discussion among different factions. When the congress adjourned in Jayapura on June 4, delegates adopted a resolution asserting that West Papua -- as independence supporters prefer to call it -- had been a sovereign state since it proclaimed independence on December 1, 1961, and that its incorporation into Indonesia in 1969 was legally flawed and therefore null and void. The congress also called on Jakarta to recognize the sovereignty and independence of West Papua.12
President Wahid subsequently stated publicly that, although his government helped finance the event, it did "not recognize the congress," and considered it "illegitimate," because it had failed to represent all sectors of society in Irian Jaya.13
Immediately following the congress, the police interrogated key Presidium leaders and congress organizers. Many Papuans, however, concluded that independence was imminent. Papuan youth groups called Satgas Papua (Satuan Tugas Papua, literally _Papuan Taskforce,_ but akin to civilian militias), that had initially formed in the Jayapura area to provide security for the Mubes and congress, spread to towns throughout the province. In many cases the Satgas Papua units served as an outlet for expression of Papuan pride; in others, however, members turned to gangsterism, intimidation, and extortion, often targeting small businesses run by migrants.
Jakarta politics also played an important role in shaping the aftermath of the congress. Even as the congress met, President Wahid faced growing political difficulties in Jakarta. His political enemies seized upon his support for the congress to argue that he supported the separatists and that his actions could precipitate the break up of Indonesia. At a national parliamentary session in August 2000, legislators rejected Wahid's proposal to change the name of the province to Papua. Increasingly, the government adopted a more uncompromising stance. More troops were sent to the province, Hawk fighter jets based in Biak reportedly flew low over some towns as part of a larger show of force, and provincial authorities once again prohibited the raising of the Morning Star flag.14
In the highland town of Wamena, long a center of resistance to Indonesian rule, the combination of popular expectations of imminent political change and the government_s return to a _get tough_ response was to prove a volatile mix.
1 Note on terminology: Irian Jaya, Papua, West Papua, West New Guinea, Netherlands New Guinea, and West Irian all name the same place: the western half of the island of New Guinea. The official name of the province remains Irian Jaya, though Papuans now overwhelmingly are demanding that the name be changed to West Papua. President Wahid and the speaker of the Indonesian House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat) have agreed to rename the province simply Papua, but any official change requires action by the full parliament (Majelis Permusyawaratan Rakyat) in Jakarta. Legislators rejected a proposal to make the change at their most recent session in August 2000. Other names for the province, and the historical context in which they have been used, are discussed in the text below.
2 John Saltford, _Irian Jaya: United Nations Involvement with the Act of Self-Determination in West Irian (Indonesian West New Guinea) 1968 to 1969" (Ithaca, New York: Indonesia No. 69, April 2000); Terrence Craig Markin, The West Irian Dispute: How the Kennedy Administration Resolved that _Other_ Southeast Asian Conflict, unpublished PhD dissertation, 1996, UMI Dissertation Services, (copy on file at Human Rights Watch).
3 Though the guerrillas were initially organized under the name OPM, some subsequently adopted the name TPN (Tentara Pembebasan Nasional or National Liberation Army), presumably to emphasize their role as the armed faction of the broader independence movement.
4 "Human Rights Violations and Catastrophe in Bela, Alama, Jila and Mapnduma, West
5 Human Rights Watch, _Indonesia: Human Rights and Pro-Independence Actions in Irian Jaya,_ A Human Rights Watch Short Report, Vol. 10, No. 8, December 1998.
6 Highlanders tend to have darker skin and be shorter in stature than coastal Melanesian peoples, who have a longer history of contact and intermarriage with people from neighboring islands.
7 These developments are described in greater detail in a prior report, Human Rights Watch, _Indonesia: Human Rights and Pro-Independence Actions in Papua, 1999-2000,_ A Human Rights Watch Short Report, vol. 12, no. 2(c), May 2000.
8 Office for Justice and Peace, Jayapura Diocese [Sekretariat Keadilan dan Perdamaian, Keuskupan Jayapura], "Recent Developments in Papua: Irian Jaya, Post-Soeharto Perspectives for Reconciliation," Jayapura, July 1999 (copy on file at Human Rights Watch).
9 Human Rights Watch, _Indonesia: Human Rights and Pro-Independence Actions in Papua, 1999-2000,_ A Human Rights Watch Short Report, May 2000, pp. 10-15 (description of the National Dialogue process and ensuing crackdown).
10 Office for Justice and Peace, _Recent Developments in Papua: Musyawarah Besar Papua 24-26 Februari 2000 serta Suasana Pasca-Mubes,_ April 2000 (copy on file at Human Rights Watch).
12 Office for Justice and Peace, _Recent Developments in Papua: Papua Congres II 29 May - 4 June 2000 and The Situation Pasca-Congress,_ January 2001 (copy on file at Human Rights Watch).
13 "Indonesian President Backs Off Support for Papua," Agence France-Presse, August 12, 2000.
14 See _2,000 Mobile Brigade troops to be sent to Irian Jaya,_ Jakarta Post, July 6, 2000; TAPOL, the Indonesian Human Rights Campaign, "TAPOL Bulletin No. 160,_ November/December 2000.