Senator the Hon Marise Payne
Minister for Foreign Affairs
PO Box 6100
Canberra ACT 2600
7 May November 2021
Dear Foreign Minister,
I am writing to you concerning the seriously deteriorating situation in West Papua.
There have been a number of clashes between the security forces and the OPM in the past few weeks. In one incident the Papuan regional head of BIN, Brig. Gen. Gusti Putu Danny Karya Nugraha, was shot dead in Dambet Village, Beoga Sub-district on April 25.
In response to his death the Indonesian President, in a televised statement ordered a crackdown on the OPM. saying, "I have ordered the military and police chiefs to pursue and arrest members of the armed criminal group," and at a press conference at the Merdeka Palace in Jakarta the President said "I also order the Indonesian Military and the National Police to chase and arrest all members of the armed criminal groups."
Various statements from other politicians including that from Bambang Soesatyo, chairman of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), who urged the government to deploy forces at full strength to crush the Papuan rebellion. "Destroy them first. We will discuss human rights matters later."
And in a move that can only escalate tension and be counterproductive to peace in West Papua, the Indonesian government declared that armed groups in Papua as terrorists.
The decision to label the OPM a terrorist group has been criticised by human rights organisations in West Papua and Indonesia.
The Star Paper (Sunday, 02 May 2021) reported that "Amnesty International Indonesia executive director Usman Hamid said the designation showed the government's failure to address the root of Papua's problems and could lead to more human rights violations in the country's easternmost provinces rather than helping the Papuan people. "Based on our monitoring, military and police personnel allegedly often justify the killing of Papuan people by claiming that they were members of the Free Papua Movement [OPM] or 'armed criminal groups' without providing clear evidence – claims that are often denied by local residents and church leaders," he said in a statement."
Indonesian media has reported that the TNI had deployed 400 members of the elite Infantry Battalion 315 to Papua. The 315 Battalion is nicknamed pasukan setan, or "Satan's forces" in Indonesian and the battalion has previously taken part in conflicts in East Timor and Aceh.
In an article in the Tribune_Bali.com (Friday, 30 April 2021), it reported that Detachment 88 could also be involved in operations in West Papua. Australia helps train and fund Detachment 88.
"KKB Papua Becomes Terrorist Organization, Police Densus 88 Anti-terror Will Be Involved": https://bali.tribunnews.com/2021/04/30/kkb-papua-jadi-organisasi-teroris-densus-88-antiteror-polri-akan-dilibatkan
AWPA is greatly concerned about upcoming military operations in West Papua. During operations by the military in West Papua, houses get burnt, livestock is killed, gardens destroyed and people literally flee into the jungle where they face starvation and become internal refugees in their own country. After a recent clash local media (Jubi 29 April 2021) reported that the residents of a number of villages in Gome District, North Gome District, Beoga District, and North Ilaga District, had left their hometowns during an armed altercation and some of the residents were still too scared to return home.
We only have to look at what happened in the Nduga regency during security operations which caused thousands of West Papuan to flee becoming internal refugees in their own country.
In Nduga it has been reported that approximately 5000 people live in refugee camps, including 700 children.
Extract from "Invisible victims of the Papua conflict: the Nduga Regency refugees":
IDPs in Nduga are currently living in poor conditions. A volunteer from Baku Bantu Foundation stated that the IDPs' meals in the camp consist only of yams, without additional side dishes to provide further nutrients. As the result, many of the IDPs experience malnutrition–-a condition that is especially dangerous to vulnerable groups such as pregnant women, small children, and people with chronic medical conditions. Additionally, the IDPs also suffered from inadequate sanitation, which causes health problems such as diarrhea and skin disease. The combination of malnutrition, poor sanitation, and lack of medical attention also compromise IDPs' overall immune systems, which leads to vulnerability to tropical diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. Since the refugee camps were first established in 2018, approximately 400 refugees have died in various camps in Nduga. https://reliefweb.int/report/indonesia/invisible-victims-papua-conflict-nduga-regency-refugees
By training and aiding the Indonesian security forces we are involved in the conflict.
Many reports have pointed out that a militaristic approach does not work in West Papua and can only lead to a loss of civilian lives.
I urge you to use your good offices with the Indonesian Government asking that it control its military in West Papua and that it halts all military operations in the territory as a way of saving lives.
We also urge you to rethink the Australian Government's policy of offering aid and training to the Indonesian military.