By : Sade Bimantara
Spokesperson for the Indonesian Embassy in Australia
(The Jakarta Post, 9 May 2016) Reading the stories and claims put forward by a group calling itself the
United Liberation Movement for West Papua ( ULMWP ) is like reading a
piece of fiction. There are so many mistakes and outrageous claims by
this group that it makes the magical land in The Wizard of Oz seem believable.
The group’s name itself is pretentious: “Liberation”. One may ask,
“liberate” whom or what? They claim that the people of the Indonesian
provinces of Papua and West Papua are not free. Wrong.
The people of Papua together with their brothers from other parts of
Indonesia fought together in the war for independence from the
Netherlands. In 1969 the people of Papua once and for all reaffirmed
that Papua is an irrevocable part of Indonesia. A decision recognized by
the UN and the international community. Since then, Papua has developed
significantly and grown into two administrative provinces with 42
districts and cities with a combined population of 3.9 million.
Anyone who visits Jayapura and other Papuan cities can see that
development is comparable with, and in some cases exceeds, other cities
in the South Pacific.
Papuans routinely participate in elections that are internationally
regarded as free and fair. For instance, the millions of Papuan
registered voters, including those overseas outside Indonesia,
participated in the 2014 presidential and legislative elections together
with 184 million fellow voters across Indonesia, the third-largest
democracy in the world.
They have voted for their president and their lawmakers to represent
them in Jakarta and in the provincial capitals of Papua and West Papua.
The people of Papua and West Papua also directly and freely elect their
governors and regents. They are free. Free to vote. Free to govern. Free
to determine their future. With its special autonomy, no person other
than ethnic Papuans are eligible to be governors and regents in Papua.
No other Indonesian provinces enjoy this right.
The ULMWP’s claim that Indonesia is “committing genocide” and “killing
dissidents on a daily basis” is absolutely baseless and unsubstantiated
slander. The 1948 International Convention on the Prevention and
Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defined genocide as acts “committed
with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical,
racial, or religious group as such”.
After reviewing two reports on human rights in Papua ( by Yale Law
School students and by Sydney University ), the International Crisis
Group ( ICG ) in its 2006 report concluded that “Neither of the reports
provides any evidence of intent on the part of the Indonesian government
or military to destroy the ethnic Papuan population as such in whole or
Unfortunately, violence is committed both against civilians, armed
separatists, individuals and groups as well as against the security
forces. Cases of violence in 2013-2014 shed light on the nature of the
situation in Papua. In those two years, there were 42 reported cases of
violence that left 21 civilians, 18 members of the police and the
military and nine members of an armed separatist group dead. Just last
March, a separatist group of 20 armed people ambushed and killed four
workers who were building roads to connect the cities of Sinak and
Any cases of violence are treated seriously by the police. The
government is strongly committed to protecting the basic human rights of
Indonesians including those living in Papua. The highly respected
National Commission on Human Rights and many human rights NGOs provide
the necessary checks and independent reviews to make sure the rights of
the people are properly protected.
The ULMWP has been calling to oust Indonesia from the Melanesian
Spearhead Group ( MSG ). Indonesia is a Pacific country. Eleven million
Indonesians of Melanesian descent call five provinces of Indonesia home:
East Nusa Tenggara, Maluku, North Maluku, Papua and West Papua. This
makes Indonesia home to the largest population of Melanesian ethnicity
in the world, by comparison, the Melanesian population in other Pacific
nations number about 8 million people.
Indonesia’s engagement and membership in the MSG is intended to add
value to the organization by supporting the group’s work to develop a
stronger cultural, political, social and economic identity and link. We
have committed ourselves to being a responsible associate member of the
group including through constructive participation in meetings as well
as financial contributions.
Through membership in the MSG, Indonesia wants to further open ways and
strengthen connectivity, promote greater contacts and exchanges and
valuable activities in which we can share our experiences with our
Melanesian brothers in the South Pacific. Indonesia’s 250 million
population and its large middle class-60 million and projected to reach
85 million people by 2020-will also be a lucrative export destination
for MSG products and services as well as a large investment source.
The ULMWP presence in the MSG on the other hand, is disruptive because
its political goal and routine robotic statements calling for “Papuan
separation from Indonesia” is contrary to the Agreed Principles of
Cooperation of the MSG: “the principles of respect for each other’s
If members allow the ULMWP to dishonor such revered principles, crafted
by the founders of the MSG, the unity and even the existence of the MSG
may be at risk because there is the possibility that other organizations
with ill-intention may follow suit and question the sovereignty of
other members over their respective territories. While other members
focus on developing the group with initiatives, programs and projects,
the ULMWP has not been adding much value to the MSG’s works and instead
is blinded by its fantasy of seeing Papua separate from Indonesia.