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Dispute over fishing leads to human rights abuses

West Papua: Dispute over fishing rights with Chinese company in waters, adjacent to Australia, leads to human rights abuses of Marind people
Friday 26 January 2007
Report by Paula Makabory & Matthew Jamieson Institute for Papuan Advocacy & Human Rights.

It has been reported by Church sources in Merauke, that an Indonesian employee/agent of a Chinese owned fish processing company PT Minatama Mutiara, a member of the Indonesian security forces and three local men acting as police deputies have been responsible for the detention & torture of 14 Papuan people from the Mariana Straits on 21 December 2006. One of those tortured, Titus Yun, is reported to have died as a result of broken ribs sustained from this torture & beatings.

The victims of the incident are two groups of local people who were shot at, threatened at gunpoint, forcibly detained, bound and tortured, repeatedly beaten, cut with weapons and hit with blunt instruments during a period of one day. The perpetrators of the abuse appear to have attempted to make the incident appear as if the injuries resulted from a conflict over customary rights between local people.

The abuses appear to be retaliation by the Indonesian military and the fish processing company PT Minatama Mutiara. Local Yawasir people asserted their customary rights by removing fishing nets belonging to the company.

The perpetrators of the abuses are reported to be:

- Abu Bakar, an Indonesian man from Suliwasi, who organizes the local fishing business on behalf of the Chinese fishing company PT Minatama Mutiara and claims the position of head of the village of Waan;
- Thomas Wanggai, an Indonesian military personnel, TNI, who is a Papuan man that acts as Babinsa (Bintara Pembina Desa, a military noncommissioned enforcement officer posted in villages and affiliated with the civilian administration) from Kimaam District; &
- Three men from the local Waan village employed as Linmas. Linmas are local people recruited to act as Police. (Lindungi Masyarakat/ Protection to People, is a police structure that recruit local people at the village level)

The victims of the abuse are salt water /coastal people belonging to the Mamboon Marind group from Yawasir area in the Mariana Straits.

The Mariana Strait is the waterway between Fredrick Henry Island, also know as Palau Dolok, and the New Guinea coastline. This area has extensive mangrove forests and estuarine systems.

The area where the incident occurred is about 130 km’s east of Merauke. The town of Merauke is adjacent to the border with Papua New Guinea and is the closest Indonesian town to Torres Strait and Australia.

It is reported that the events leading to the assault and torture of the Yawasir people involved boats and people from the commercial fishing companies, entering their traditional maritime estates and destroyed their sacred places. The Yawasir people were making efforts to protect their marine resources from impacts of the commercial fishing companies.

The incident involves members of the Indonesian security forces working with representatives of the fishing company to persecute & intimidate the local community as a way of dealing with local people attempts to assert their customary rights.

The perpetrators of the abuses appear to be trying to protect the commercial fishing interests of the Chinese owned PT Minatama Mutiara. The perpetrators also appear to seek to orchestrate a fake conflict over customary rights within the local community as a way of camouflaging this objective.

Local people report that the fishery companies use giant fishing nets and enter the sacred places and traditional estates of the Marind people.

The consequence of local people trying to asset their traditional rights is that they are threatened by action from the Indonesian security forces.

The different branches of the security forces have a wide range of commercial interests, including fishing and security, which come into conflict with the interests of local people. There are examples of the security forces (TNI) being directly paid buy overseas companies for security in West Papua. This security role of the TNI often includes the use of military force against the local people.

Names of the 14 persons* affected are:

1/ Titus Yun, tortured & died from injuries;
2/ Paulus Yun, tortured;
3/ Korbianus Nar, tortured;
4/ Hendrikus Nar, tortured;
5/ Aliander Yun, tortured;
6/ Klemens Yun, tortured;
7/ Ak Yun, tortured
8/ Paskalis Nar, tortured;
9/ Yosep Nar, tortured;
10 / Tadeus Awi
11/ Dominikus Yolmen
12/ Maria
13/ Afra
14/ Korianus Yun

Wanggai then started firing automatic weapon at the local people on their canoe but was not directly targeting them. While continuing shooting and Wanggai reportedly told the people on his boat to beat up the people in the canoe.

The four other people in the boat with Wanggai boat were Abu Bakar and 3 member of LINMAS from Waan village. Wanggai, Abu Bakar and 3 Linmas members took axes, machetes, bows and arrows, iron sticks and logs from their own boat and commenced beating up the Yawasir people using these weapons.

The people on the canoe escaped these acts of unprovoked violence and jumped into the water and swam back to the land. When they reached the land some of Yawasir people from the canoe and on those who were on the land escaped to the forest. Others stayed to assist those injured in the incident.

Abu Bakar, Wanggai and the three men landed their boat and continued viciously attacked the remaining people, which were 2 women and 8 men. All the victims were cut, a braised, bruised and badly wounded. The belongings of the people were then destroyed them by cutting them in peaces and burning them together with the katintin - canoe.

The 10 captives were then moved to the perpetrators boat and were tied-up to the poles on the boat. The captive were turned around the boats mast and their torture continued. The captives experienced viscous torture by the Indonesian security personnel for nearly 3 hours during the boat trip from Mariana straits (Muli River) until they arrived at Moi River.

When they arrived at Moi river all the captives were forced out of the boat. Wanggai was reported to beat the 10 captives with the barrel of his M-16 weapon. On the land and the captives were tortured again and then tied them up at the base of the coconut trees and left.

Abu Bakar, Wanggai and the 3 Limnus then took their boat to Malatar River to Komolom village. The Yawasir people from Komolom were inside their katinting (canoe) when they heard the M-16 gun shots.

Some of the people jumped out and escaped into the forest. Wanggai ordered the 3 Linmas men to catch and arrest some of the Komolom people. They caught 3 people in that place. The three captives were taken to the boat where Wanggai and Abubakar were waiting. Wanggai kept shooting his M-16 gun around them but not hitting them.

The captives were forced into the boat and then Wanggai and the three Linmas beat them up and tortured them using the same weapons as they had used earlier in the day. These 3 captives were treated as brutally as the other people. Those 3 victims were tied-up and received further torture and beatings, and then salted water/sea water to their open wounds.

The captives were tortured all the way back to the Moi River. When they arrived at Moi River, the 3 captives were taken to the same place as the 10 captives tortured earlier in the day.

Wanggai is reported to then have forced these victims/captives to say, " The problem is finished and do not be hostile to each other anymore, all (you) could go looking for food as usual, while waiting for the customary council and the government to settle your traditional rights and land rights." To persuade the rest of the people from Waan and Yawasir, Wanggai and the three Linmas called all the Waan and Yawasir people in that area and told the victims to repeat what they had been told to say.

It appears this incident involves members of the Indonesian security forces working with representatives of the fishing company to persecute & intimidate the local community as a way of dealing with local people attempts to assert their customary rights. The perpetrators of the abuses appear to be trying to protect the commercial fishing interests of the Chinese owned PT Minatama Mutiara. The perpetrators also appear to seek to orchestrate a fake conflict over customary rights within the local community as a way of camouflaging their objectives.

Abu Bakar was reported as the trigger of the conflict, he claimed himself as the head of Waan village, Moi River. And according to some witnesses, Abubakar gave alcoholic drinks (Brandy) to Wanggai and 3 linmas members from Waan village before they went to chase the victims.

This report was prepared by Paula Makabory & Matthew Jamieson based on communication with the Office for Justice and Peace of the Catholic Church in Merauke.


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