Papua is already free, rights protected



Sade Bimantara

Old article on Papua by Indonesian diplomat Sade Bimantara from Jakarta Post published on Monday, May 9 2016



President Joko Widodo in Papua

Reading the stories and claims put forward by a group calling itself the United Liberation Movement for West Papua ( ULMWP ) is like reading a piece of fiction. There are so many mistakes and outrageous claims by this group that it makes the magical land in The Wizard of Oz seem believable.

The group’s name itself is pretentious: “Liberation”. One may ask, “liberate” whom or what? They claim that the people of the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua are not free. Wrong.

The people of Papua together with their brothers from other parts of Indonesia fought together in the war for independence from the Netherlands. In 1969 the people of Papua once and for all reaffirmed that Papua is an irrevocable part of Indonesia. A decision recognized by the UN and the international community. Since then, Papua has developed significantly and grown into two administrative provinces with 42 districts and cities with a combined population of 3.9 million.

Anyone who visits Jayapura and other Papuan cities can see that development is comparable with, and in some cases exceeds, other cities in the South Pacific.

Papuans routinely participate in elections that are internationally regarded as free and fair. For instance, the millions of Papuan registered voters, including those overseas outside Indonesia, participated in the 2014 presidential and legislative elections together with 184 million fellow voters across Indonesia, the third-largest democracy in the world.

They have voted for their president and their lawmakers to represent them in Jakarta and in the provincial capitals of Papua and West Papua. The people of Papua and West Papua also directly and freely elect their governors and regents. They are free. Free to vote. Free to govern. Free to determine their future. With its special autonomy, no person other than ethnic Papuans are eligible to be governors and regents in Papua. No other Indonesian provinces enjoy this right.

The ULMWP’s claim that Indonesia is “committing genocide” and “killing dissidents on a daily basis” is absolutely baseless and unsubstantiated slander. The 1948 International Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defined genocide as acts “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group as such”.

After reviewing two reports on human rights in Papua ( by Yale Law School students and by Sydney University ), the International Crisis Group ( ICG ) in its 2006 report concluded that “Neither of the reports provides any evidence of intent on the part of the Indonesian government or military to destroy the ethnic Papuan population as such in whole or in part.”

Unfortunately, violence is committed both against civilians, armed separatists, individuals and groups as well as against the security forces. Cases of violence in 2013-2014 shed light on the nature of the situation in Papua. In those two years, there were 42 reported cases of violence that left 21 civilians, 18 members of the police and the military and nine members of an armed separatist group dead. Just last March, a separatist group of 20 armed people ambushed and killed four workers who were building roads to connect the cities of Sinak and Mulia.

Any cases of violence are treated seriously by the police. The government is strongly committed to protecting the basic human rights of Indonesians including those living in Papua. The highly respected National Commission on Human Rights and many human rights NGOs provide the necessary checks and independent reviews to make sure the rights of the people are properly protected.

The ULMWP has been calling to oust Indonesia from the Melanesian Spearhead Group ( MSG ). Indonesia is a Pacific country. Eleven million Indonesians of Melanesian descent call five provinces of Indonesia home: East Nusa Tenggara, Maluku, North Maluku, Papua and West Papua. This makes Indonesia home to the largest population of Melanesian ethnicity in the world, by comparison, the Melanesian population in other Pacific nations number about 8 million people.

Indonesia’s engagement and membership in the MSG is intended to add value to the organization by supporting the group’s work to develop a stronger cultural, political, social and economic identity and link. We have committed ourselves to being a responsible associate member of the group including through constructive participation in meetings as well as financial contributions.

Through membership in the MSG, Indonesia wants to further open ways and strengthen connectivity, promote greater contacts and exchanges and valuable activities in which we can share our experiences with our Melanesian brothers in the South Pacific. Indonesia’s 250 million population and its large middle class-60 million and projected to reach 85 million people by 2020-will also be a lucrative export destination for MSG products and services as well as a large investment source.

The ULMWP presence in the MSG on the other hand, is disruptive because its political goal and routine robotic statements calling for “Papuan separation from Indonesia” is contrary to the Agreed Principles of Cooperation of the MSG: “the principles of respect for each other’s sovereignty”.

If members allow the ULMWP to dishonor such revered principles, crafted by the founders of the MSG, the unity and even the existence of the MSG may be at risk because there is the possibility that other organizations with ill-intention may follow suit and question the sovereignty of other members over their respective territories. While other members focus on developing the group with initiatives, programs and projects, the ULMWP has not been adding much value to the MSG’s works and instead is blinded by its fantasy of seeing Papua separate from Indonesia.


The writer is spokesperson for the Indonesian Embassy in Australia, Canberra. The views expressed are his own.

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