Flag-raising-raising the "Morning Star" banner to symbolize an independent Papua-has been the most common form of non-violent protest by Papuans for thirty years. The flag hoisted during pro-independence protests is the one that flew openly in the region for eight months in the early 1960s. When Indonesia gained independence from the Netherlands in 1949, the region then known as West Irian remained a Dutch territory. In the 1950s, the Dutch began a decolonization process there; in 1961, an elected council comprised mostly of indigenous Papuans commissioned the creation of a national anthem and flag. On December 1, 1961, the "Morning Star" flag was flown beside the Dutch tricoleur for the first time. Full independence was envisioned for 1970.
Indonesia, however, viewed the decolonization process as a Dutch effort to create a puppet state within its rightful boundaries. Nearly all of Indonesia's nationalist leaders viewed all Dutch possessions in the region, as well as the Portuguese colony of Timor and British possessions on Borneo and the Malay Peninsula, as rightful parts of Indonesia. On December 19, 1961, Indonesia's leader, Soekarno, launched a campaign to "return" West Irian to Indonesia. Termed the "Three Commands of the People" (Tri Komando Rakyat or Trikora), this aimed "to sabotage the Netherlands colonial government's intention to set up its own puppet government in the region, to fly the Indonesian flag in West Irian, and to mobilize the Indonesian people in defense of the independence of Indonesia."3 On January 11, 1962, Soekarno appointed then-colonel Soeharto (who was to replace him as Indonesia's leader in 1965) as head of the Mandala Command to "liberate" West Irian.4 Indonesian troops were soon parachuting into its jungles.
Skirmishes between Dutch and Indonesian forces escalated tension in the region, and the Dutch government, under strong pressure from the United States, abandoned its plans for West Irian. On August 15, 1962, the Netherlands signed a U.S.-brokered agreement in New York, under which West Irian was brought under a temporary U.N. trusteeship, the UNTEA, in October 1962, then transferred to Indonesia on May 1, 1963.
Under the New York Agreement, Indonesia was required to hold an Act of Free Choice (Penentuan Pendapat Rakyat, or Pepera) to enable the inhabitants of West Irian to determine their own future. This was held in July 1969but, according to many Papuans and others, was far from free. Some 1,025 Papuan representatives, reportedly hand-picked by Jakarta, were convened under Indonesian military supervision, and asked to choose whether or not they wanted integration with Indonesia. The result was unanimously in favor of integration. Papuans assert that it should have been conducted on a one-person-one-vote principle but the procedure had not been specified in the New York Agreement, which called for the popular consultation to be held "in accordance with international practice."5 According to Indonesia, the method used was appropriate given the formidable geography and what they saw as the low level of social, economic, and cultural development then existing in West Irian. A Bolivian diplomat, Fernando Ortiz-Sanz, and sixteen support staff oversaw the process for the United Nations; on September 6, 1969, Ortiz-Sanz reported to the U.N. Secretary General: "I regret to have to express my reservation regarding the implementation of Article XXII of the Agreement, relating to the rights, including the rights of free speech, freedom of movement and of assembly, of the inhabitants of the area. In spite of my constant efforts, this important provision was not fully implemented and the Administration exercised at all times a tight political control over the population."6 Despite this report, the United Nations accepted the results in Resolution No. 2504, adopted on November 19, 1969, with thirty abstentions and no negative votes.
In September 1969, West Irian was officially incorporated as the twenty-sixth province of Indonesia; Indonesia renamed it Irian Jaya in 1973. Also in 1969, West Irian was declared a Military Operations Area (Daerah Operasi Militer, or DOM), ostensibly to combat armed opposition to Indonesian rule by guerrillas of the Free Papua Movement (OPM), a low-level resistance movement that never coalesced into the united or organized front its name implies. The military operations zone in Irian Jaya was the longest in Indonesian history. DOM status remained in effect in the province until October 1998, five months after the fall of Soeharto, when DOM status was lowered one degree to the category of Critical Control Area (Pengawalan Daerah Rawan.)
Between 1969 and 1998, the province was the site of low-level armed conflict between government forces and OPM guerrillas-disparate bands of insurgents often armed with traditional weapons. The OPM's principle tactics weresporadic attacks on army posts and hostage-takings. Two OPM acts achieved international notoriety, however, by effecting foreign individuals and interests. In 1977, insurgents cut a copper slurry pipeline from the old Ertsberg mine site owned by the U.S. company Freeport McMoRan. (The nearby, gigantic Grasberg mine, in operation since the early 1990s and also owned by Freeport, has the world's largest proven gold reserves and the third largest copper reserves.) In January 1996, an OPM group kidnapped a group of scientists and other civilians from various countries who had been conducting research in highland forests. Thirteen people were held for four months while guerrillas demanded money and international recognition for the independence cause. After negotiations by the International Committee of the Red Cross failed to win the hostages' release, the Indonesian army began an extensive assault on the Mapnduma region, killing many civilians. A few days later, the hostages ran for freedom after two of their number, both Indonesian, were killed, apparently by guerrillas or by people avenging family members killed in the army operation.7
Government counterinsurgency operations targeted not only armed groups but also civilian opposition groups. As a result, the independence movement was driven underground, local groups reported a stream of atrocities, and fear was pervasive.8 As elsewhere in Indonesia, civilians suffered disproportionately during army operations. Investigators affiliated with local churches and human rights organizations, as well as international NGOs, have documented many atrocities by government troops in the province. In 1999, for example, the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights and the Abepura-based Institute for Human Rights Studies and Advocacy (known locally by its Indonesian acronym ELSHAM) documented cases of rape, and other forms of sexual violence against local women and girls by the Indonesian military in villages in the Central Highland region of the province.9 The number of civilian casualties that resulted from nearly three decades of military impunity in the isolated province is not known; no comprehensive independent investigation has ever been attempted. In late 1999, the director of ELSHAM told a newspaper he had documentation of 921 deaths resulting from military operations conducted in various parts of Irian Jaya between 1965 and 1999.10 Many Papuans believe the actual number is at least several times that figure.
In an unpublished article exploring Papuan attitudes toward outsiders, Benny Giay, a priest, has described incidents of military brutality in the Paniai region of the remote interior mountains of Irian Jaya which appear to have indelibly traumatized the communities that experienced them, achieving a near legendary status, though it is not clear how common they were. According to one account, a man was strung up by soldiers on an archway erected and decorated to celebrate Indonesian independence day, and then bayoneted to death when they were not satisfied with his answers when they interrogated him about the OPM. In another incident, three young men, whose screams couldbe heard in neighbouring villages, are alleged to have been killed by soldiers by having metal rods inserted through their anuses and out of their mouths.11
This period was also marked by aggressive economic development, led by Freeport McMoRan's massive mineral extraction operations in the mountains near Timika (located in the south-central section of the province), but which also included the creation of plantations, fisheries, and burgeoning retail trade. The overwhelming majority of entrepreneurs and shop owners were immigrants from other parts of Indonesia. Papuans widely and repeatedly protested the manner in which the Indonesian government had, in their view, ceded traditional lands and other resources belonging to Papuan communities to foreign and other non-Papuan investors and to Indonesian immigrants, including hundreds of thousands of non-Papuan settlers supported by the Indonesian government's official transmigration programs. Papuans also noted the disproportionate distribution of benefits - monetary, political, social and otherwise - associated with these business operations, which accrued financial profits, social status, and political power to non-Papuans. Papuans have continued to insist that these government policies and practices made them virtual strangers and second class citizens in their own land by destroying independent indigenous governance structures, livelihoods, cultures, and the social fabric, and by displacing the Papuan population through immigration and other state-sponsored schemes. Papuans also reported widespread ethnic and racial discrimination. Many Papuans complained to Human Rights Watch that they were routinely denigrated as "stupid" or "primitive" by Javanese and other ethnically non-Papuan employers. 12
By the end of the Soeharto era, spontaneous immigration and government transmigration programs had shifted the composition of the provincial population to the point where, in some places, indigenous Papuans had become a minority. Transmigrants received government-built houses and financial assistance, while immigrants dominated the economy as taxi drivers, bank clerks, shop keepers, and government employees. Extractive industries such as mining, logging, fisheries, and palm-oil plantations flourished, while locals found their food sources polluted and their ancestral lands concessioned. Indigenous tribe members often learned that their lands had been sold off by the government only after earth moving equipment had already disfigured the landmarks by which they defined its boundaries.13
Many Papuans have also long claimed that little has been done to prepare the region's indigenous residents for a greater role in the government or economy. Under Soeharto, indigenous languages and cultural forms were considered backward or threatening to national unity.14 Development ideology, school curricula, and the media emphasized an Indonesian national culture instead. But rather than inculcating a sense of "Indonesian-ness," the approach led many in Irian Jaya to conclude that Indonesian society had no place for them.
In the euphoria following Soeharto's resignation in May 1998, anything seemed possible in Indonesia. Demonstrations that had never been allowed before, discussions on topics that were previously taboo, even fundamental changes in the political landscape and a restructuring of the highly centralized political system of Soeharto's "New Order" were thinkable for the first time in recent memory. In Irian Jaya, the expectation of change was perhaps even greater than elsewhere, as the accumulated resentment of three decades of harsh and often discriminatory Indonesian rule, and the shared belief that international politics had cheated them out of having their own country in the 1960s, combined to give many a sense that it was time to revisit the question of independence.
It is unclear how many bonafide members of the OPM remain active in the post-Soeharto era. On August 12, 1999, Indonesian military spokesman Brigadier General Idris Gasing told a visiting Japanese diplomat that there were about 287 armed guerrillas on the Irian Jaya-PNG border.15 A December 1999 Internet posting by a person claiming to represent "the people fighting in the jungle" sought donations to fund a "first time ever" meeting of 250 rebels from three regional commands "fighting separately for the same goal."16 Sporadic attacks by OPM rebels continue to be reported. In May 1999, an OPM group seized eleven hostages near Arso, a town on the Papua New Guinea border, in an attack on a commercial plantation. The attack left four dead and three wounded. The leader took the hostages across the border and demanded money and weapons from the PNG government. PNG soldiers succeeded in rescuing the hostages unharmed on May 31.17 In late 1999 and early 2000, there were also increasing reports of incidents involving armed Papuan neighborhood patrols (Satgas Papua), including clashes between such patrols and security forces in Nabire and Merauke.
In the past two years, however, the most significant development has been the emergence of a broad civil-society-based independence movement that goes far beyond an insurgency led by a handful of rebels. The civilian movement, as described below, has repeatedly expressed its commitment to pursuing its goals through peaceful means- an aim it has not always achieved, as flag-raisings repeatedly led to clashes with police and minor outbreaks of communal violence. After Soeharto resigned, Papuans, for the first time during their history as Indonesian citizens, were able to discuss their grievances openly.3 History of the Republic of Indonesia, Library of the Indonesian Embassy, http://www.permias.org/okki/library/history.phtml 4 Ibid. 5 Agreement Between Indonesia and the Netherlands concerning West New Guinea (West Irian), signed at U.N. Headquarters, New York, August 15 1962. Article XVIII of the agreement states: Indonesia will make arrangements, with the ssistance and participation of the United Nations Representative and his staff, to give the people of the territory the opportunity to exercise freedom of choice. Such arrangements will include. . .the eligibility of all adults, male and female, not foreign nationals, to participate in the act of self-determination to be carried out in accordance with international practice, who are resident at the time of the signing of the present Agreement and at the time of the act of self-determination. . . ." 6 Report by the Representative of the Secretary-General in West Irian, submitted under Article XXI, Paragraph 1, of the Agreement between the Republic of Indonesia and the Kingdom of the Netherlands Concerning West New Guinea (West Irian). UN Document No A/7723. The New York Agreement had called for UN experts to remain in the territory from the time of the transfer of West Irian to Indonesia to the Act of Free Choice to assist with preparations for the vote. However, no U.N. representative was present from May 1, 1963 to August 23, 1968 due to the temporary withdrawal of Indonesia from the U.N. during that period. The agreement also called for the participation of local "representative councils" in designing the Act of Free Choice, but in practice, as described by Ortiz-Sanz, the central goverment designed the act and then brought it to the councils for approval. The government rejected Ortiz-Sanz suggestion that at least the more accessible and politically aware coastal populations be polled using a one-person-one-vote method. Instead, Indonesia expanded existing provincial councils into "consultative assemblies," according to a formula whereby each 750 people would be represented by one person. Additional council members were popularly elected, though UN observers were able to attend the election of only 20 percent of the members, or 195 people (after Ortiz-Sanz insisted that at least some of the elections be repeated.) No opposition members were allowed to join the councils because, Ortiz-Sanz wrote, Indonesia's position was that "only those political groups which existed legally would be represented." In a letter to him the goverment explained: "those few people - possibly existing -'not in favour of retaining the ties' with the Republic of Indonesia are ... not organized in legally existing groups or parties in West Irian." The Act of Free Choice was carried out in serial sessions of the consultative assemblies between July 14 and August 2, 1969. The procedure consisted of so-called "musjawarah" (consensus) deliberations rather than voting. Each session began with pro-Indonesia speeches by government officials and, beginning at the fourth assembly, a telegram from Soeharto was read in which the president expressed gratitude for the pro-Indonesia results of the previous assemblies. At each meeting some 20 assembly members spoke, then all were asked to rise to signify their consensus. 7 The Institute for Human Rights Study and Advocacy, which conducted a long investigation of the incident, suggests that the army may have purposely derailed negotiations by other parties so it could take credit for ending the crisis, as it eventually did. Soeharto's son-in-law Prabowo Subianto was in charge of the army operation. Operasi Militer Pembebasan Sandera dan Pelanggaran Hak Asasi Manusia di Pegunungan Tengah Irian Jaya, Lembaga Studi dan Advokasi Hak Asasi Manusia (ELSHAM) Irian Jaya, Jayapura, Agustus 1999. 8 Human Rights Watch interview, Benny Giay, September 27, 1997. Mr. Giay explained that the fear was strongest among Papuans in areas where the army was active, but that a climate of fear prevailed even for those in urban areas. He recounted the following anecdote: "In December 1996, all schools and offices were closed for two days. There was a panic. [It was said that] the OPM had come and would invade Abepura [a town located near the provincial capital and home of the province's leading university]. A woman had a garden in the hills. People heard a noise, shouting in the hills and said that the OPM was coming. Children were sent home from school and everything closed down. It wasn't the OPM, but highland students working in the woman's garden. It's typical for people from the highlands to chant while they work." Giay concluded: "The government tells us it wants stability, but it encourages rumors. I wrote a letter to the local paper, saying there is no `trigger' for such a panic, no mastermind, it's in all of us. The military presence creates an internal thought, `they're here to protect us,' an atmosphere of fear of rebels. The kindling is there, just light a match, [say] `OPM,' and everyone scatters." 9 RFK Memorial Center for Human Rights, Rape and Other Human Rights Abuses by the Indonesian Military in Irian Jaya (West Papua) Indonesia (Washington, D.C.: RFK Memorial, May 1999). 10 "Menghitung Korban, Menarik Dukungan," Tekad No. 5/Tahun II. 29 November - 5 Desember 1999. 11 Dr. Benny Giay, "Masyarakat Hidup di Bawah Teror dan Tekanan," 1999, unpublished. 12 Human Rights Watch interviews, Jayapura, September 1 and 2, 1997. 13 "Dialog Nasional Papua: sebuah kisah `Memoria Passionis' (kisah ingatan penderitaan bangsa)," Sekretariat Keadilan dan Kedamaian, Keuskupan Jayapura, March 1999. 14 An extreme example is the case of Arnold Ap, an ethnomusicologist at Cenderawasih University in Jayapura who founded a troupe in the early eighties to perform indigenous music and dance. When the group, Mambesak, and Ap's compositions became popular, he was arrested and jailed without charges, on November 30, 1983. He remained in police custody until his death; his bruised body, with bullet wounds in the stomach, was discovered in a hospital by a Papuan employee in April 1984. The police claimed Ap was shot during an escape attempt, but Papuans widely believe the escape to have been a set-up, a version supported by a fellow prisoner who later escaped to Papua New Guinea. See TAPOL Bulletin 61, January 1984. 15 "Sekitar 287 Anggota OPM Bersenjata," Cenderawasih Pos, August 13, 1999. 16 The pitch was contained in an E-mail sent from an address in the United Kingdom to a listserv disseminating general Irian Jaya news. The author cited a total budget of $815 US dollars for a three day meeting to be attended by 250 people. It also said the real name of the armed movement was National Liberation Soldiers (Tentara Pembebasan Nasional). 17 There have been reports that Hans Bomay, who led the hostage-taking, was being supplied with weapons and alcohol by the Indonesian army each month. Andrew Kilvert, "Settlers rescued after being held hostage in PNG," Sydney Morning Herald, March 6, 1999.