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Why West Papuans Reject Special Autonomy

This is why West Papuans reject Special Autonomy & demand a Referendum

Below are two very powerful statements made by West Papuan leaders from the Papuan People's Council (MRP) and the Papuan Tribal Council (DAP) calling on the Indonesian government to release all the Papuan peaceful protesters now in police custody since the demonstrations of 3-13 March 2008 and rejecting the new law (PP 77/2007) which bans all use of so-called "separatist symbols".

Actually raising the Morning Star flag, as Filep Karma & Yusak Pakage did in 2004, and as happened in Timika in 2007 and in Manokwari last month, has always and still is counted by the Indonesian state as "rebellion/treason". Indonesia still uses the old colonial laws which the Dutch used against Indonesian independence campaigners in the 1940's. This new law makes it illegal even to have a Morning Star flag on a bag or a T shirt (Somehow Indonesia and her Western friends always claim that human rights protection in Indonesia is improving?)

The Papuan People's Council (MRP) was set up under Indonesia's own "Special Autonomy" law for West Papua, passed in 2001. It was supposed to give indigenous West Papuans a voice directly to the Indonesian central government in Jakarta to protect their rights and cultural identity. The rights of the MRP under the Special Autonomy Law are weak. The MRP has no right to veto any Indonesian law, only to be "consulted".

What is happening now with President Yudhoyono's new "separatist symbols" law is a clear example to Indonesia and to the rest of the world of why West Papuans REJECT SPECIAL AUTONOMY. The central government in Jakarta issued the law (Suharto style) without even bothering to go through the formalities of "consulting" the MRP -- the body which Indonesia itself set up under its own Special Autonomy Law. This is yet another example of the arrogance of the Jakarta government and its unbridled contempt for the rights and identity of the indigenous Papuan people.

President Megawati did exactly this in 2003 when she issued a decree splitting the so-called "West Irian Jaya" province away from West Papua as a whole without consulting the MRP (because at that time, the MRP it hadn't even been set up). Now President Yudhoyono is doing exactly the same as his predecessor by issuing his new "separatist symbols" decree without even going through the motions of asking the Papuans first. Is this the famous "Indonesian democracy" we keep hearing about? This is not democracy! This is how the Colonial Office used to the rule the British Empire from London!

Also under their own Special Autonomy Law, Indonesia promised the West Papuans that they would be allowed to have and use their own symbols to express their identity as Papuans. But when the Papuans tell Jakarta they want to use the Morning Star flag, the Mambruk bird (crowned pigeon) and their anthem "O My Land Papua", Jakarta tells the Papuans they have made the "wrong choice". Vice-President Kalla even had the gall to suggest to the MRP that they put a cross on their flag instead of a star and use a white parrot instead of a crowned pigeon. (Maybe Papuans should suggest that Indonesia changes its flag from red & white to blue & white ..would that still be the Indonesian flag?)

Just like the 1969 Act of NO Choice, the 2001 "Special Autonomy" was a fake from the very start. It was designed as a smoke screen to fool the international community that post-Suharto Indonesia was serious about dealing with the rights, anger, fustrations and hopes of the indigenous West Papuan people. After 7 years of "Special Autonomy", the actions of the Indonesian government (Megawati & Yudhoyono) have revealed the truth that Jakarta is not and never was serious about listening to and respecting the people of West Papua.

Nearly ten years on from the "Team of 100" delegation of West Papuan leaders who went to President Habibie in 1999 and told him the Papuan people want independence, West Papuan leaders (including the MRP & DAP in these statements) are still asking Jakarta for INDONESIAN - WEST PAPUAN DIALOGUE to find a peaceful resolution to over four decades of conflict.

Four long years ago, President Yudhoyono claimed he wanted a "just, comprehensive and dignified solution" in West Papua. How many more years will the West Papuans have to wait ...and suffer?

Richard Samuelson Co-Director,
Free West Papua Campaign, Oxford, UK.


(And Papuan Tribal Assembly (DAP) calls for release of Peace Rally participants, see below)

M.R.P. [Papuan People's Council] calling for release of Papuans called "Rebels"

Cenderawasih Pos (West Papua)
Translated by Tapol
18 March 2008

The Papua People's Council (MRP) is demanding the Indonesian Government release Papuan Peace Rally demonstrators calling for a refendum

MRP Chairman Dr Agus Alua M.Th, and executives Ir. Franz Wospakrik M.Sc, and Dr Hana Hikoyabi claim that Indonesian regulation No. PP77/2007 [banning the public display of "separatist symbols"] is deleterious to all indigenous Papuans.

"Aceh and Papua have been annihilated by PP 77/2007 because it clearly contradicts Indonesia's Special Autonomy Law No. 21/2001, and of course it also contravenes the fundamental rights of all indigenous Melanesian Papuans", the three high-level delegates told Cenderawasih Pos journalists at the MRP Office at Jayapura yesterday morning (17 March 2008: 9:20am).

"It is not funny when peace demonstrators, civilians of Papua, are continually accused of violating Regulation PP 77/2007 by holding their Morning Star flags. That is their spontaneous reaction to this regulation which they do not agree with" said the MRP delegates.

Dr Agus Alua said that PP 77/2007 was implemented by the Indonesian government without consultation with the Papua People's Assembly Council (MRP) and the Papua People's Representative Council (DPRDP). He said PP 77/2007, was created and legislated secretly by the government and the parliament in Jakarta, and authorizes the government, military, police and intelligence to continue violating the fundamental rights of indigenous Papuans to carry their Morning Star flag, sing their national anthem (Hai Tanhku Papua), use images of the Crowned Pigeon (mambruk bird) and so on.

Dr Alua said the MRP is disappointed that the Indonesian security forces is using PP 77/2007 against Papuans demonstrating in the peace rallies. He said the Indonesian government, especially the police, must accept that their own Special Autonomy regime guarantees the fundamental rights and protection of indigenous Papuans.

"We are very disappointed, because we, the MRP, have just returned from discussions in Jakarta with the Hon. Susilo Bambang Yudoyono and the Hon. Vice-President Yusuf Kala about how PP 77/2007 is being utilised in Papua against the people's rights" he said. "The MRP is very worried about PP 77/2007, because it enables Indonesian National forces (police, military and intelligence) to continue their crimes against humanity in Papua" he added with some gravity.

Dr Alua reiterated that if the Indonesian government wants to create regulations like the PP 77/2007, it must be in dialogue and consultation with all indigenous Papuans. But what the government has done is abruptly abrogate indigenous basic rights, including the Papuans' right to carry their flag, sing their song, and use images of their crowned pigeon (mambruk) bird. The MRP claims the Indonesian government borrowed lots of money from foreign countries to help indigenous Papuans, but has never helped them because the root of the problem is not 'money' but 'policy'. MRP delegates explained this very clearly to the President and Vice-president during their meeting in the Presidential Palace in Jakarta on 3 March 2008. They told the two national leaders the MRP rejects the Indonesian Law PP 77/2007, and demanded the government release all Papuans arrested during peace rallies in Manokwari and Jayapura between 3-13 March 2008. (Manokwari is the capital city of the new province of West Papua, and Jayapura is the capital city of the new 'Papua' province).

"We told the president and vice-present not to classify peace demonstrators as rebels. The government MUST open a peaceful space for specific dialogue about this issue", Dr Alua said.

On 27 February 2008, the MRP formally rejected Indonesian regulation PP 77/2007 (03/PIM-MRP/2008). The MRP explained its decision to Supreme Commander of the Indonesian Military in Papua (Pangdam XVII/Cenderawasih) and to the Head of Police in Papua (Kapolda) Papua during a meeting in Jayapura on 16 February 2008. The MRP also explained its decision to the President and vice-President at the meeting in Jakarta on 3 March 2008.

Dr Alua said that the MRP is the legal institution created by the Indonesian government [under Special Autonomy] to hear the voice of indigenous Papuans. It is, therefore, the government's legal obligation to reconsider its attitude to demonstrators arrested during the peace rallies organised by the West Papua National Authority and the Greater Student Executive Council at Manokwari and Jayapura.

The MRP's decision on 28 February was based on:

1(a) the MRP's understanding of the Morning Star flag in terms of Indonesian law; 1(b): the MRP's rejection of Indonesian law PP 77/2007 because it unquestionably annihilates the fundamental rights of the indigenous people of Melanesian Papua.

In attachments to the MRP's decision concerning:

1(a) the majority of indigenous Papuans want freedom and separation from the Republic of Indonesia, with their own sovereign nation-state;

1(b) the indigenous Papua national Morning Star flag, the indigenous Papua national anthem 'Hai Tanahku Papua/Papua is my homeland' and the indigenous Papua national symbol the crowned pigeon;

1(c) the hundred-member delegation of indigenous Papuans, representing all Papuans, who met the third Indonesian president at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta on 26 Februay 1999, and called for independence. In response to that the MPR in Jakarta, through MPR IV.MPR.1999, created the Special Autonomy for Papua and Aceh (21/2001). This was was designed to break the aspirations for independence held by the majority of indigenous Papuans.

3(b) concerning Special Autonomy law No. 21/2001 which affirms that the identity of the region of Papua is the symbolic culture of indigenous Papuans, not Papuan sovereignty. According to the MRP's understanding of and support for the Special Autonomy law 21/2001 the Papua Morning Star flag is a symbol of the culture of Papua (Point 5). The MRP therefore requests the Indonesian government, in its application of Special Autonomy in Papua, to provide space for peaceful dialogue and to guarantee freedom of speech and expression in the use of the Morning Star flag, the anthem (Hai Tanahku Papua) and the symbolic crowned pigeon.

Point 6 with reference to Indonesian law PP 77/2007 which contradicts Special Autonomy law No 21/2007. Regulation PP 77/2007 in exactly the same way as Indonesian Presidential Decree 1/2003 issued by President Megawatisukarnoputri to create a new province now called Province of West Papua [West Irian Jaya] with its capital city of Manokwari.

Dr Alua also said that the MRP rejects Regulation PP 77/2007 because the central government created it secretly and without the legally required consultations with the MRP and the Papua People's Representative Council.

Regulation PP 77/2007 is actually worse than Special Autonomy because it legitimises the annihilation of the indigenous Papuans fundamental rights by the Indonesian government, police, military and intelligence organisations.

Dr Alua said that Vice-president Yusuf Kala told the delegation in Jakarta on 3 March 2008 that the Papuans can use their cultural symbols if they change them a bit­ for example, he said, use the white parrot instead of the crowned pigeon, put a cross on the Morning Star flag, and so on. At same time the President, Susilo Bambang Yudoyono, said it is very important to save Papua, and have peace, and Papuans must use a persuasive approach to bring this about.

MRP Vice-chairman, Mr. Frans Wospakrik, said that cultural symbols are those known and understood by Papuans to be their symbols.

Mrs Hana Hokoyabi, also from the MRP, said that Special Autonomy was meant to have provided indigenous Papuans with a democratic space. She said she doesn't understand why the Indonesian government, military, police and intelligence are so suspicious of indigenous Papuans. She said the Indonesian authorities should accept different ideas, which are a positive contribution to democracy in Indonesia. In this particular case, she claims the government must open space for peaceful dialogue with Papuans, and try to diminish the gap between indigenous Papuans and the Indonesia authorities.


Papuan Tribal Assembly (DAP) calls for release of Peace Rally participants

Mr. Forkorus Yaboisembut, Chief Executive of the Papuan Tribal Assemblt (DAP)called on the Indonesian national police to release Papuan students and youths participating in the peace rallies between 3 and 13 March 2008.

"The police must be careful not to classify them as rebels", he told journalists from the local newspaper Cenderawasih Pos after attending at meeting at the States Province Building at DOK V, in Jayapura on Monday 17 March 2008.

Mr. Yaboisembut said participating in peaceful rallies is a basic right enshrined in the Indonesian 1945 Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, and Article 3 of the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Rights December 2007, which also enshrines indigenous people's right to self-determination. He said the rally participants have full rights to call for a referendum, and the police MUST release them from jail.

Mr. Yaboisembut hopes that the government will address the roots of the problem in West Papua seriously, especially with regard to its respect and recognition of indigenous Papuans land rights, forest rights, and their social and political rights to call for independence.

He said all the problems in Papua can be solved if the authorities in Jakarta and in the provinces right down to the regency levels, desire truth, peace, and justice. Like all Papuans he himself wants a sustainable peace and stability in Papua, for the Papuan people and for their flora and fauna, whether as part of the Indonesian state or independent of it.

He said the Papuan Tribal Assembly calls on the Indonesian government to come and sit down with indigenous Papuans, politely, with peace and justice on their mind to solve the roots of the problem, not like they have down since they first occupied the territory.

This is so important he said so that the authorities don't catch the wrong people and put them in jail as they have just done. What they are doing now is a real crime against humanity, said Mr. Ferkorus Yabousembut.


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