Members of U.S. Congress call upon Indonesia to end systematic abuses in West Papua

Washington, D.C. —Congressman Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, and Congressman Don Payne, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Africa and Human Rights, announced that they have called upon Indonesia to end systematic abuses in West Papua. The full text of their Op Ed published in the Jakarta Post on Friday, November 18, 2011 is included below.

To Indonesia: Step Up and End Systematic Abuses in West Papua

Ahead of his visit to Bali, Members of Congress are calling upon President Obama to make West Papua one of his top priorities during his upcoming talks with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. On October 19, 2011, Indonesian security forces opened fire on unarmed West Papuans who had gathered at the Third Papuan People's Congress to peacefully air their political aspirations. At least three indigenous Papuans were killed, dozens injured, and many pistol whipped and beaten with rattan canes. Six were detained and are now in custody, including Forkorus Yaboisembut, the newly elected President of the Republic Federal State of West Papua. He joins Filep Karma, an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience who is now serving a 15-year jail term for raising a flag in 2004.

Key leaders in the U.S. Congress are calling for their release and asking that Indonesia be held accountable before further U.S. funds are expended in training Indonesian security forces. Indonesia denies that systematic abuse is taking place in West Papua, but history is clear on the point. Since West Papua was handed over to Indonesia by an Act of No Choice in 1969, West Papuans have suffered blatant human rights abuses including extrajudicial executions, imprisonment, environmental degradation, natural resource exploitation and commercial dominance of immigrant communities. The U.S. Department of State acknowledges these facts and further states that Indonesia "security force members [have] murdered, tortured, raped, beat and arbitrarily detained civilians and members of separatist movements in Papua."

To date, President SBY has been unwilling or unable to take meaningful action to bring Indonesian security forces under control. Either way, his inaction is no longer acceptable. While we have publicly stated that we do not support independence because it is contrary to the official position of the U.S. government which needs Indonesia as a counterbalance to China and also because President SBY promised in 2005 that he would implement Special Autonomy which at the time West Papuans supported, the U.S. can no longer turn a blind eye to slow motion genocide. In his statement before the UN against Apartheid, Nelson Mandela said, "It will forever remain an accusation and challenge to all men and women of conscience that it took so long as it has before all of us stood up to say enough is enough." The same can be said of West Papua.

In 1990, Nelson Mandela also reminded the United Nations that when "it first discussed the South African question in 1946, it was discussing the issue of racism." On the issue of West Papua, we believe we are discussing the same. West Papuans differ racially, culturally, and ethnically from the majority of Indonesians. West Papuans are believed to be of African descent and ethnically associated with the people who now inhabit Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.

West Papuans have no historical or cultural ties to the Malay people of Java, Sumatra and Bali. It was only forced colonization by the Dutch government that brought West Papuans and Indonesian together. So, to address issues of racism in Indonesia, we ask the African nations to request a General Assembly review of the Act of No Choice if President SBY fails to immediately implement Special Autonomy and also release the political prisoners now being detained.

In short, President SBY must get serious about Special Autonomy or we must demand West Papua's right to self-determination. By choice or by sanction, Indonesia must step up and end systematic abuses in West Papua.

(Source: Joint Press Release: Eni F.H. Faleomavaega, Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific and Donald M. Payne Ranking Member Subcommittee on Africa and Human Rights)


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