The world stays silent about human rights violations in West Papua

Why does the world remain silent about the serious human rights violations that continue to take place in West Papua, unabated since October 1962? Why does the information about serious human rights violations not get through? There is much information that is well checked and reliable, like the reports by Elsham (for instance, Killings in the Mpnduma area, the Abepura Case, December 2000), the Justice and Peace Commission of the Jayapura Diocese (Annual Reports), the International Crisis Group, Komnas HAM, Amnesty International (‘the Wasior Report’), the GKI (the Blue Book of 1992, prepared for the PGI Assembly of 1994) and reports by individual eye witnesses, like the report published by Oswald Iten, journalist of the Neue Zuercher Zeitung, who was eye witness of the terrible murder of two Papuan students by police in the police office of Jayapura Regency (Polres) in Jayapura in December 2000. As far as I know there was no international action at the time of the killings in the Baliem in 1977-1978. Even Amnesty International kept silent. Why?

I believe that all these cases mentioned and reported in a reliable way still form only the top of the ice berg.  There have been so many  “mysterious killing,”  like the killing by the police in the year 2000  of the 21 year old grandson of Rev. Okoka of Yoka Pantai. The reason: he was found drunk in public. The killing did not even reach the papers. Or the mysterious death of the lecturer at the Roman Catholic Theological College Fajar Timur Obed Badi MA from Paniai. He had received his Master degree at Washington University. Nobydy at that time could give any reason for his murder. He died all alone in a police cell in Abepura police office.

One reason why it is difficult for the information to get through might be that the information is so horrible. I saw a picture of what the Kopassus did with one victim in Wasior. Literally, you can not believe that a human being can do that to a fellow human being. Secondly, West Papua is too far, too remote. Papuans are in the category of the Native Americans, the Yanomani and the Australian Aboriginals. They are not considered fvully human. They have not yet reached our level of civilization. Thirdly, the Indonesian government protects the perpetrators at all cost. Moreover, Indonesia is oversensitive and considers any criticism on the behavior of the security troops as interference in their internal affairs and an attack on the sacred integrity of the nation. When criticized the Indonesian government reacts immediately. The Dutch, as the former colonizers, can not say anything without hearing the mantra that they themselves have been colonial oppressors, who are to blame for many problems in Indonesia because they did not immediately recognize Indonesian independence in August 1945. Even recently the Dutch government was blamed for the actions of Captain Raymond Westerling in December 1946 – February 1947 in South Sulawesi by an Indonesian government minister. The Australians, when criticizing Indonesia for human rights violations  were threatened with import restrictions and blamed that they are racialists. They are still accused of being responsible for the loss of East Timor, the 27th province of Indonesia.

There are credible reports about the deliberate introduction of HIV/AIDS by introducing Aids infected prostitutes from Java into West Paspua, and the bartering of sexual favours of these  women in exchange for kaya geharu, gold, and wood logs. There is much more. All the bits and pieces together give strong support for the fact that genocide is taking place since the coming of the Indonesians in October 1962. This means that part of it took place under the authority of the United Nations! (1 October 1962 – 1 May 1963). It is clear that there is reliable information now on the human rights situation in West Papua available and that more human rights organizations are active.  Moreover, the Papuans in the Highlands have no immediate access to NGO’s that can speak on their behalf, apart from the Christian mission. However, the foreign missionaries know that they have to be quiet as any criticism of the Indonesian army could lead to them being P.I.-ed. Even after returning to patria the missionaries have to remain quiet out of fear that their organization might be affected with refusals for requests for visa.

Wim Vriend in his dissertation “Smoky Fires” (Free University, Amsterdam, November 2003) gave evidence for the massive slaughter of Dani people in the Baliem in 1977-1978. He was since 1975 the doctor–in-charge of Wamena Government Hospital. He would, off course, only see the victims that had survived and who were brought to his hospital with serious gunshot wounds. He gives demographic evidence of the killings. On page 85, in the medical part of the thesis, he analyses mortality. I quote: “The number of brothers and sisters still alive show a steep decline between the ages of 25 and 35 (Figure 5-5) which also points to that time period when many youngsters were killed. They did not want to tell me what happened at that time. Had we asked for deaths among other family members then the numbers would have been even be higher.”

Based on the interviews of 1,514 Tagi people (Western Dani) Vriend calculates a death rate of 26/1,000 per year. 70 % of the population died within an average life span of 27.2 years! (p. 85) For a comparison Gabon has 11 deaths/1,000 population (2003 est.) and the Central African Republic 19 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.). For PNG the life expectancy at birth is:  64 years, while the death rate is 8 deaths/1,000 population (2001 est.). On the same page with regard to marriage: “Of all the subjects, 5.2 % were widowed. These included 72 women (18-67 year old), but only 7 men (43-60 year old). Since there were only 8 widows below 30 years, mass killings of Dani warriors by the military in 1977/78 may well have contributed to the difference between older women and men.”

Vriend, at the end of the first, the ethnographic section of his thesis, puts the question: “What will save them (the Dani, Yali, Mek, and Tagi) from extinction?” I quote: “To save Highlanders from extinction seems an impossible task. The combination of indigenous respiratory problems and imported Sexually Transmitted Diseases are threatening their existence.” (p. 59)
Vriend relates the introduction of STDs to a visit to Jakarta by Dani headmen in 1962. Vriend remarks: “If the majority of people tested were already positive to at least one venereal infection by 1992, then it is highly likely that most of them will get AIDS in the years to come.” (p. 55)
With regard to demographic problems Vriend notes the danger of infertility because of the STDs. The necessary change in life style will probably be too late to save most of the Highlanders. The government is passive or even works against a solution. Vriend came across a request by the local department of the Ministry of Religion (!) to establish brothels alongside mountain roads to please tourists. (p. 149). “The Dani population will shrink in numbers, because men in the society resist change in sexual relations and because of student behavior. Power abuse by officials and inactivity about AIDS will help population numbers decrease even further.” (p. 149)

It is very strange that Vriend, against all this evidence, still supports the actions of  the Indonesian army did in the Baliem in 1977. He defines the rebellion as “cargoism” or as a “prophetic movement”. In his opinion: “Strong measures had to be taken against prophetic movements that want to overthrow the local government.” (p. 139) and: “The Indonesian government in 1977 had to stop 50,000 Western Dani warriors on their way to destroy Wamena,”the town of evil.’” (p. 139).

The Australian TV in the program Dateline broadcasted on Wednesday 5 November 2003 a peace message from OPM leader of Yustinus Murib. He was murdered just the next day. Was there anything recognisable in his environment? Could it be that the Indonesian Embassy in Canberra sent the recordings of the program to the Kopassus to act upon it? Then it is an accomplice to murder.

A similar thing happened in October and November 1981 after a Dutch TV program had taken pictures of villagers, who in front of the cameras expressed their desire to be free and had shown Morning Star flags. The whole village, Madi, not far from Enarotali,  and neighboring villages Timida, Bibida and Pugo were completely destroyed and depopulated.

Everything seems so much a pattern of so called “errors,” mistakes of judgement, and individual acts of rogue elements in the army that one could well bring forward the hypothesis that planned genocide is taking place in West Papua the past 41 years.

Can international organisations like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Asian Human Rights Commission and the UN Human Rights body in Geneva, Switzerland be convinced to act upon the information that is available over the past four decades?

Reliable information is available from the GKI, the famous “Blue Book”, with eye witness accounts of church members, church elders, and members of the synod. This came out in 1992. Then we have the research done by Bishop Munninghoff in 1995 about the victims made by the army in their effort to “protect” Freeport. Sifter 1998 there are many reliable reports by Elsham and by the Justice and Peace Commission.

We have now also the research done by Dr Wim Vriend about the bloody events of 1977-1978 when he was doctor-in-charge of the Wamena Government Hospital. He has demographic statistics to prove the mass killings, but he himself was there at the time and he got the victims who survived the slaughter in his hospital

Yustinus Murib was murdered by the Indonesian army in 2003 almost two years to the day after Theys. He is just another in a series of leaders murdered by the military after speaking up for peace and calling for a mediated solution – Chief Theys Eluay (2001), Chief Yafeth Yelemaken (2002), Dr Marcus Warip (2002), Martinus Kambu (2002) and of course, before them, Johan Ariks (1967), Arnold Ap (1984) and Thomas Wanggai (1996). It should be very obvious to the world that the Indonesians are not interested in a mediated peaceful solution and, secondly, that the world is not interested in making efforts to end the continuing human rights violations in West Papua.