My short statement on Friday to PM, James Marape, on health & education

mediaOn Friday morning, the Prime Minister, James Marape called  members of the media and the public relations practitioners to a breakfast meeting in Port Moresby.  It was the first time in  which the media was allowed to interact  with the PM outside of  our usual operations.

Below is a short transcription of what I conveyed to him after an address by  Neville Choi, EMTV’s  Head of News & Media Council President.

“Prime Minister, thank you for this opportunity to talk to you directly.

“I want to raise a few issues that we have raised and continue to raise.  I want to also points out a blockages that need to be addressed.

“First on health and education… The Free Education policy has failed our people.  There are still many, many schools that do not receive funds on time. Many more do not receive it at all.  Our teachers have been intimidated and threatened  by provincial and school administrations  to not speak out.

“The problem continue to linger because people are too afraid to speak out.

“For health…The people tasked to deliver medicines to our hospitals and clinics continue to fail.  You don’t have to go far to see those failures. In our five urban clinics in Lae, there are shortages of  anti-malarial drugs, antibiotics,  TB drugs and family planning drugs.

“Even the consumables needed for health workers to do their jobs are in short supply.  The gloves,  needles and other supplies. If urban clinics have shortages, what about rural clinics?

“Our health workers are also being intimidated and told to shut up.  What we need, Prime Minister, is an admission that there is a problem. Not a cover up! We don’t need department secretaries who are too afraid to face the facts and admit publicly in the media that there is a problem.  Many are too timid.

“I want you to use the information that the media has available during natural disasters.  Use the information available. Journalists are specialists in information  gathering and dissemination. Use that mechanism that is available free of charge.

“We were in Tari during the earthquake in 2018. You were in the conference room when we walked in. We were putting out information and making it available. And while the death toll stood at 63,  the  government mechanism chose to ignore the first hand information and were quoting a figure of 100 plus.

“We need aircraft for our defense force for disaster operations. I’ve spoken to the senior members of  the PNGDF Air Transport Wing, there is an aircraft that is sitting idle because it needs a gearbox replacement that will cost K2 million.

“…there are many in government who have been unhappy with the recent coverage that has been embarrassing for them.   But I want you to know that We will continue to challenge you and the government on the issues that matter.”

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Civilian militia being LEGALLY assembled for operations in #Wamena

jihadOver the last week, increasingly strong evidence from multiple sources have come to light that Islamic groups are mobilizing volunteers for what they are calling a  ‘Jihad’ (holy war) against the ‘OPM’ in Wamena in the central highlands of the West Papua region.

One of the groups is the Front Jihad Islam (FJI).

FJIA banner  hung up on a recruitment post announced the  “Open registration for Islamic paramilitary groups throughout Indonesia to send [qital] jihad to wamena Papua to defend Muslim brothers in Papua who were slaughtered by…infidels…and to maintain the integrity of the Unitary Republic of Indonesia from the OPM hordes…”

This has come about because of recent laws passed by the Indonesian Government that authorizes the use of civilian militia in the defense of state interests. The rational behind this controversial law is that the country cannot depend entirely on the Indonesian National Army (TNI) and the Indonesian National Police (POLRI) to defend the country in the far flung regions of the country.

On the 23rd of September, more than 30 people were killed in Wamena and Jayapura  in independence protests by West Papuans. More than 5000 were displaced prompting the Indonesian  Military to evacuate people to Jayapura.

The paramilitary groups make no secret of the fact that they are recruiting  to ‘defend,’ there is no guarantee that there will be no escalation of violence.

The implications on the West Papuan people are frightening.   In the last 36 hours, militia groups emboldened by the new laws have begun recruiting people for operations in Wamena.  The possibility  that all this could turn into a widespread, government supported ethnic cleansing in the guise of a religious war is now very real.

While Indonesian sovereignty should be respected, the aspirations of a people who feel oppressed and have suffered more than 50 years of brutality and racism must be heard.

The United Nations can right the wrongs of the 1969 Act of Free Choice by urging Indonesia to allow an independence referendum  for the people of West Papua.

We must avoid an East Timor style break down of law and order where people were massacred by Indonesian backed civilian militia. We cannot allow that to happen in West Papua by civilian groups  who now have a legal right to raise paramilitary forces.

Papua New Guinea is unprepared for an escalation of violence in West Papua which will trigger a flood of refugees into Vanimo, Weam, Green River, Tumolbil and all our border posts.  We do not have the resources or the manpower to contain and manage any influx.

Our concerns must be voiced as per our 1986 Non-Aggression Pacts with Indonesia. We must use the avenues for dialogue to raise our concerns before we end up with a situation that will affect our internal security as well.

Statement by Churches in West Papua calling for military to leave region

img-20190923-wa01554734206752249231384.jpgGreetings from Papua,

We are writing as leaders of the Church in Papua to appeal to you for your urgent help in raising awareness about the current deteriorating security and human rights situation in our land.

The last two weeks has seen an escalation in the conflict here. It initially ignited from an incident of racial abuse directed at Papuan students who were students on the Island of Java in Central Indonesia. This incident mobilised thousands of Papuans to gather and join peaceful demonstrations in towns and cities across Papua. However, there have also been some small breakaway groups that have burnt and destroyed property in protest. The Government of Indonesia then responded with disproportionate aggression by militarising the island and allowing armed civil militia groups to be active on the streets.

The situation is extremely critical, and we believe that urgent international intervention is needed to help protect the Papuan people from the escalating violence.

Our aim in this document is to outline the current situation in Papua, as well as offer the context of injustice and conflict facing our communities. We also proffer a specific appeal to the international community, for solidarity and also to action to stand alongside the Papuan People in their call for justice and peace in the land of Papua.

We offer context to this situation based on the Bible text above and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination ratified by the Republic of Indonesia:

1. Racial Discrimination: The recent occurrence of racial discrimination against Papuan students in Surabaya, Malang, Semarang and Makassar is a repetition of racism and discrimination experienced by indigenous Papuans since Papua was integrated into the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia.

2. Excessive Military Force: The excessive deployment of thousands of army and police from other areas of Indonesia, in response to the peaceful mass demonstrations of the Papuan people is causing widespread fear and trauma in communities across Papua.

3. Arrests and Violence: Mass actions and protests against racism in various cities in Papua have been met with arrests and violent countermeasures by red and white militias supported by Indonesian security forces. This shows a clear intention to create horizontal conflict in the heart of Papuan society.

4. Injustice: In the city of Deiyai, at least 8 civilians and one policeman were killed when the police turned their guns on a peaceful protest. This shows a complete lack of restraint or respect for the right to peacefully protest in the face of racisim and injustice. Since then the government has tried to cover up these killings and refuses to release the names of civilian victims.

5. Humanitarian Crisis: Military operations in Nduga since December 2018 have totally isolated the area preventing humanitarian assistance from reaching desperate communities. The militarisation of and the severe humanitarian situation of Nduga communities and refugees, illustrates the utter lack of integrity from the government. On April 1, 2019 at the Swissbel Hotel in the city of Jayapura, the President promised to withdraw military forces from Nduga. However, as of today no action resembling this promise, has been taken. This further demonstrates to the world, that the Indonesian government does not care about, and is not serious concerning dealing with the critical humanitarian situation in Papua.

6. Severing Access to Communication and Information: The internet network for personal mobile users throughout Papua remains inaccessible due to it being blocked on August 20th 2019. This action also limits the ability of Papuan Journalists to carry out their duties and therefore violates the community’s right to information and freedom of expression.

7. Human Rights Violations: There are still many unresolved cases of human rights violations in Tanah Papua such as bloody Biak, bloody Wasior, bloody Wamena, bloody Abepura, Bloody Paniai. None of these have been properly investigated by authorities and to date there have been no prosecutions. This shows an extreme neglect and lack of interest on behalf of the state to resolve any of these situations justly or to look after the rights of indigenous Papuans.

On 26 of August 2019, The Ecumenical Forum wrote a pastoral appeal outlining our concerns above and presented it to government, police and military representatives. To date we have received no response.

In the days since we released the initial appeal, the following events have taken place:

1. Troops Deployed: The demonstrations carried out by the Papuan people to oppose incidents and attitudes of racism were met with an extreme overreaction from the Indonesian Government. They have, to date, now sent almost 6000 troops to Papua. As of the 3rd September there is an armed soldier or armed police officer every 100 meters on the streets of Papuan cities.

Subsequently, the National Chief of Police (KAPOLRI) and the Indonesian Army Commander (Panglima TNI) have arrived in Papua and set up a control center in Jayapura, the capital of Papua Province. At 4pm on 3rd September, military intelligence entered the Synod office of one of the main indigenous Papuan churches – the Gospel Tabernacle Church of Papua (Kingmi Papua), and intimidated and terrorised the church staff who were present.

2. Restricted/UnsafeTravel: From the 30th August to the 2nd September, the main street between Entrop to Jayapura, (an area inhabited by a majority of people who call themselves “Warga Nusantara” or “Citizens of the Archipelago”), was taken over by local residents armed with sharp instruments who started to restrict access to the road and check all vehicles that pass this route. This attitude and action has made the Papuan people feel very unsafe when travelling through this area.

3. Increased Violence and Killings: There have been increased killings and violence towards civilians including that of Evert Mohu (22 years old) who was killed on 30th August 2019 and Maikel Kareth (21 years old) who was killed on 1st September 2019. Pastor Daud Aulwe and 7 other people experienced severe injuries after they were dragged from their vehicle on 30th August by civil militia and badly beaten. Their car was then set alight. Attacks on local people in Apepura, and students of the Nayak hostel have resulted in severe wounds and many involved are now in a serious condition in hospital. Laus Rumayom, a professor in the University of Cenderawasih and Abetius Wenda, a medical student were also stabbed in another altercation. All of these acts of violence were carried out by the Nusantara civil militia group, the members of which, are migrants from other parts of Indonesia.

4. Public Services in Crisis: We are currently experiencing a complete breakdown of public services across every sector: Supplies of cooking fuel have run dry and there are long queues everywhere to obtain basic goods and food. Shops and markets have closed, causing difficulties for the local population in getting basic living supplies. Electricity is cut for long periods every day and banks and ATM points have been closed. Schools, universities,colleges and government and private offices are shut. These restrictions to food, education, money and ability to communicate make life exceptionally difficult. In addition, any legal accompaniment to those that have been arrested by the police has been restricted.

5. Lack of Transparency by The State: Wiranto the Minister for Political Legal and Security Affairs has accused Benny Wendy, the leader of ULMWP as the person who is behind the demonstrations. This stance by the state aims to bury the real roots of the very issues that Papuan people are demonstrating against.

Observing the above developments, we are forced to conclude that we are experiencing a critical situation of both direct and structural violence in Papua. The historical and ongoing systematic and long-term oppression, racism and impunity continues to have a serious impact on our people, causing us to suffer low self-esteem and social and moral disorientation, with devastating impact on our communities.

We are desperately concerned for our safety and the safety of our people. Human rights violations are nothing new in Papua, but we are observing exceptionally dangerous tendencies taking place at this time in addition to a significant risk of a rapid escalation of violence. The Government of Indonesia continues to call for peace, but we believe that there cannot be real peace in Papua without justice. Justice must take place for sustainable, lasting peace to be established. Without justice there will simply be ‘peace in name only’ which will only serve to keep Papuans trapped in the current cycle of oppression and violence.

For this reason, we the Church leaders in the Land of Papua appeal to Indigenous Communities around the world, The Christian Church and National Governments to carry out the following actions:

1. Call for the Government of Indonesia to withdraw their military troops, including those that are present in the area of Nduga and other areas across Papua.

2. Call for the Government of Indonesia to hold a dignified and peaceful Dialogue facilitated by a neutral third party, with The United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) on the future of Papua. The main objective of this should be to move towards a permanent positive peace in the land of Papua which has long been the hope of the people of Papua (since 1961), so that our children and grandchildren do not experience the oppression, pain and suffering that we have lived through.

3. Call for the UN Commissioner for Human Rights to urgently visit Papua to investigate the human rights situation.

4. Mobilise your communities to pray and stand in solidarity with the people of Papua and put pressure on your political leaders to act on the call to action mentioned above.

With Respect,

Signed by Church Leaders in Papua (Ecumenical Forum of Churches in Papua),

Jayapura 4 September 2019,

Members of Ecumenical Forum of Churches in Papua

Names of 65 people shot in Wamena by Indonesian security forces yesterday

img-20190923-wa01773726781257425919565.jpgThis is the list of people injured in yesterday’s shooting in Wamena. Seventeen people were killed in Wamena alone.

1) Safe Huby

2) Firmanus Hiluka

3) Rojul

4) Jhon Payage, 22 years old

5) Tubel Yelemaken, 16 years old

6) Ruben Asso, 17 years old

7) Micu Kogoya

8) Maskoro, 36 years old

9) Melky Payage

10) Nursa’ada, 40 years old

11) Paner Gombo, 18 years old

12) Repi Kogoya, 22 years old

13) Airon Kogoya, 19 years old

14) Iswandari, 28 years old

15) Kirinus Jikwa, 26 years old

16) Spiritual, 42 years old

17) Manu Meage, 13 years old

18) Inayatul Karimah, 35 years old

19) Falentine Kapitan, 14 years old

20) M. Ibnu Rifky, 18 years old

21) Ahmad Naje, 39 years old

22) Joko Setyanto, 64 years old

23) Nurmiati, 50 years old

24) Sri Lestari, 38 years old

25) Elvis Marni

26) Wakini Ayi, 56 years old

27) Selak Litoni, 19 years old

28) Nurchous, 32 years old

29) Lolvi Yohame, 14 years old

30) Eben Simbolon, 25 years old

31) Intimate Nainggolan, 29 years old

32) Saiful Muklis

33) Yus Asso

34) Veronika

35) Nurrahmadan, 14 years old

36) Ridho, 6 years old

37) Irham, 8 years old

38) Muhammad Soleh, 35 years old

39) Senan, 31 years old

40) Muhammad

41) Sunan Sigi, 42 years old

42) Mark Saung

43) Teite Weya

44) Husna Yelipele

45) Manda Kogoya, 16 years old

46) Yangky Wenda, 14 years old

47) Frans Tabuni, 14 years old

48) Paul Monda

49) And Matuan

50) Anderson Uaga

51) Bistanis Hisage

52) Nope Kogoya53) Karinus Jikwa

54) Titus Gombo, 30 years old

55) Iropiru Wenda56) David Matuan

57) Hariyono, 40 years old58) Manu Meage, 13 years old

59) E. Rizal, 42 years old

60) Putri Yanti, 28 years old

61) Fatir Sub, 17 years old

62) Omega Kogoya63) Eriko Penggu

64) Budi Wenda

65) Ricky Wanimbo

Dozens wounded, detained in West Papua crackdown: Witnesses | By Febriana Ferdaus, Aljazeera

Dozens wounded, detained in West Papua crackdown: Witnesses
Violent demonstrations took place this week in West Papua over alleged ethnic discrimination [Eko Siswono Toyudho/Anadolu]

LINK: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/08/dozens-wounded-detained-west-papua-crackdown-witnesses-190824054023914.html

Jakarta, Indonesia – Several demonstrators have been injured and dozens detained as Indonesian authorities crack down on separatist protests in the West Papua region, according to witnesses, but the police strongly deny anyone was wounded.

A family member of one of the injured protesters, who asked not to be identified for security reasons, confirmed to Al Jazeera on Friday that a relative was injured during the protests in Fakfak Regency, West Papua province.

Rights groups Amnesty International Indonesia and Human Rights Watch also confirmed to Al Jazeera that there were several reports of injuries in Fakfak.

They urged the authorities in West Papua to “ensure the safety” of all people across the region, and refrain from using excessive force in dealing with the situation.

“Police have the right to remove part of the protests that is violent, but must guarantee the rights and the safety of others who want to protest racial and discriminatory treatment of Papuan students by the police and mass organisations in Surabaya and Malang, East Java,” Usman Hamid, executive director at Amnesty, said in a statement.

Violent protests started earlier this week when authorities detained Papuan students studying in the island of Java for reportedly holding a pro-independence rally. Another group of Papuan students was accused of damaging the Indonesian flag.

Dozens of Papuan students were rounded up and racist slurs such as “monkeys” and “pigs” were allegedly hurled at them by the local people.

Victor Yeimo, a spokesperson for the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), told Al Jazeera that a member of his organisation also confirmed reports of injuries sustained by several West Papuans, some of whom were taken to a local hospital.

John Djonga, a prominent Catholic priest in Papua province, said he had sent an emissary to Fakfak, who confirmed that some injured protesters were being treated in a hospital there.

Police deny allegations

The Indonesian police have repeatedly denied the reports of injuries among protesters.

READ MORE

Indonesia’s Jokowi urges calm after violent West Papua protests

“Those are hoaxes. One is an old photo taken in 2018 when there was a clash between the red-white [pro-Indonesia] group and the pro-independence demonstrators,” police spokesperson Dedi Prasetyo told Al Jazeera.

The Indonesian government continues to block the internet in the West Papua region, making it difficult for the news media to obtain reports from the ground and verify claims of casualties circulating on social media.

Earlier this week, protesters torched a traditional market and kiosk in Fakfak and destroyed roads, prompting police to fire tear gas to disperse the crowd.

Demonstrations were also held in other parts of the region, including in Sorong, the largest city of West Papua province, where protesters attacked and temporarily shut down the airport.

As protests continued, authorities rounded up several protesters across West Papua, according to Al Jazeera sources and reports from local media.

However, witnesses and authorities have provided conflicting numbers in terms of people detained.

The Indonesian news website, Tempo, reported that at least 45 people had been arrested, with about 10 of them named as suspects of assault, according to police spokesman Dedi.

On Thursday, President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo expressed concerns over violent protesters mixing with peaceful Papuan demonstrators.

“It is common, in an incident, there is [a third party who] act to get a free ride. It’s common, I think,” he said.

In Mimika in Papua province, police chief Agung Marlianto said protesters brought gasoline, sharp objects, and the morning star flag, the banned symbol of the pro-independence movement in West Papua.

“It is clear, there are [allegedly] free riders that oppose [the government] and have been taking advantage from this peaceful rally,” he said.

Army says will act on racism charges

Meanwhile, the Indonesian National Armed Forces (TNI) promised to investigate individuals captured in a video, showing them hurling racial slurs at Papuan students during the raid last week at a dormitory in Surabaya.

“There were indeed people seen wearing camouflage shirts. We have taken steps to check whether these people were members of the military or not,” said Lieutenant Colonel Arm Imam Hariyadi, chief spokesman of the regional military command.

A military army spokesman said the soldiers suspected of taking part in the incident will be summoned.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Haris Azhar from the legal and rights organisation, Lokataru, urged the authorities to punish soldiers involved in making the racist comments against the Papuan students.

“They have to be processed by law, especially when the evidence is clear,” Haris said, adding that making racist comments violates a 2008 Indonesian law, which seeks to eliminate racial and ethnic discrimination in the country.

Haris, however, complained that instead of going after the perpetrators of the racial abuse, authorities were responding to the unrest by rounding up protesters, sending more troops and blocking the internet.

On Thursday, the Committee to Protect Journalists in New York urged the Indonesian government to immediately lift the internet ban and to stop restricting journalists from covering the civil unrest in the region.

Foreign journalists are barred from reporting in West Papua.

Until the early 1960s, West Papua was a Dutch colony. When the Dutch left, Indonesia took control of the region through a controversial 1969 referendum when some 1,000 people were able to vote.

An armed rebellion by the indigenous West Papua National Liberation Army has been rumbling since.

The region is the poorest in Indonesia, in spite of its natural wealth, and has been subject to numerous allegations of human rights violations.

In December, an attack by independence fighters killed at least 17 people and triggered a military crackdown that caused 35,000 civilians to flee their homes as security forces tried to flush rebels out of the mountains.

According to Human Rights Watch, West Papuans have increasingly become targets of intimidation by “Islamist and nationalist groups” since the formation in 2014 of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, which is advocating for Papuan independence.

Pictures: Protest today in Cendrawasih University, Jayapura #WestPapua #referendum

These are pictures of the second protest that happened today in Cendrawasih University in Jayapura.  University students  gathered to resume  protests. Police and military also assembled and ordered the students to leave.  Videos posted online show security forces opening fire after dispersing students.  Reports from Jayapura say four people were shot dead and 10 injured.

Pictures: Student protests in Wamena today #WestPapua #Wamena #referendum

This morning there were two separate protests. The first was in Wamena in the  central highlands of what the Indonesians call –  Papua Province. This protest was by high school students who protested against  racial slurs by one of their teachers.  This escalated into a protest involving the community. Police and military were  deployed.  The information at hand is that three people were shot dead and 17 injured.

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