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The time bomb that is Papua
By Bill Guerin

JAKARTA - Violence erupted in the capital of Indonesia's troubled province of West Papua on Wednesday as security forces moved to break up a flag-raising ceremony by independence supporters who had gathered to celebrate West Papua Day, according to a Sydney-based human rights monitor.

Five people were shot and wounded and at least 18 people arrested as 100 police dispersed a gathering at the Trikora soccer field in Adepura, a suburb of Jayapura, said John Rumbiak, an international advocacy coordinator for the Papuan human-rights group Elsham.

Rumbiak, who is based in Sydney, said an Elsham human-rights worker who witnessed the demonstration had been beaten as he tried to photograph the clash. Two of the event organizers also were beaten by police while being taken away on a police truck for interrogation in the city center, Rumbiak, quoting a report from his colleagues in Jayapura, said during a phone interview. Another 16 people were being questioned at the local Adepura police station, he said.

Early last month Rumbiak warned that increasing militarization in the province, coupled with human-rights abuses and persistent demands for independence, had turned Papua into a "time bomb waiting to go off". There also have been concerns that a simmering separatist movement and unrest over Jakarta's plan to partition Papua into three provinces could badly impact business and the national economy. Human-rights groups have called on newly elected President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to improve the protection of human rights in Papua and elsewhere by reforming the Indonesian military (TNI), but the military has already said it will "crush" separatism in Papua after it has completed its recently extended offensive in Aceh province.

A day to remember
Wednesday marked West Papua Day, which commemorates the first West Papuan national congress in 1961, organized by the then-ruling Dutch as a preparation for independence. Last week, Indonesian authorities warned activists not to raise their distinctive blue, white and red Morning Star flag, or other Papuan symbols that are against the unitary state of Indonesia, to mark the separatist movement's 42nd anniversary.

"The concern is that this is a peaceful demonstration and from a human-rights perspective it has to be allowed to take place," Rumbiak said. "It is freedom of expression."

Rumbiak said the demonstration had been calling on Yudhoyono to initiate a peaceful dialogue between the government and independence supporters.

Papua is Indonesia's largest and least-populated province. It is also one of its wealthiest, making it a target for manipulation, power-grabbing and political opportunism by Jakarta. With a population of only 2.4 million, it is three and a half times bigger than Java, which has four provinces plus the capital, Jakarta. Indigenous Papuans claim their rich resources are continually tapped for the benefit of others, and their efforts to claim their rights have been met repeatedly with harsh responses from the military and police.

The province is home to American mining giant Freeport McMoRan's gold and copper mines, whose operations are the cornerstone of Papua's economic importance to Jakarta. Freeport's open-cut operations at its concession on the massive Grasberg mine site - spanning more than 2.5 kilometers in width, and sitting 4,270 meters above sea level - move 700,000 tons of rock every day. It operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Even at this rate, the deposits of gold and copper are so large the company's operations are predicted to last at least another 30 years.

In addition, Anglo-American energy giant BP Plc has just confirmed it will soon start construction on its massive Tangguh project, which will be one of the largest gas fields in Asia when it is completed in 2007.

No say from the outset
Papuans claim that the New York Agreement drawn up in 1962 under the auspices of the United Nations to end the dispute between Indonesia and the Dutch over Netherlands-controlled New Guinea - the former name for Papua - was done without consulting them and without their consent.

Later, in 1969, Indonesia, with US support, short-circuited a UN-supervised plebiscite on the sovereignty of the territory and engineered the seizure of West Papua, the western half of New Guinea, thereby ensuring that the territory would remain under Indonesian control.

Previously classified US government documents, released by the US National Security Archive to mark the 35th anniversary of this "Act of Free Choice", show that the US ignored reporting from its own officials that detailed Jakarta's efforts to rig the vote.

Henry Kissinger, as a board director and retained consultant for many years for Freeport, was accused of making personal gains from Indonesian control over West Papua. The documents show that Kissinger, who was then US national security adviser, advised former president Richard Nixon to back the Indonesian takeover in West Papua.

Halliburton wins contract
Democrats long have accused the current administration of US President George W Bush of showing favoritism to Halliburton, headed by Vice President Dick Cheney from 1995 to 2000. Curiously, BP has awarded the contract for design, procurement, and construction and commissioning services at Tangguh to Halliburton's engineering and construction arm, KBR (formerly Kellogg Brown & Root) in a 50-50 joint venture partnership with JGC Corporation of Japan.

Cheney is a key player in the Bush administration's push to persuade Congress to fund an International Military Education and Training (IMET) program for Indonesia. Congress had held up the funds until such time as Bush could certify that the Indonesian government and its military were taking effective measures to investigate an ambush on August 31, 2002, that killed three Freeport employees, two Americans and an Indonesian, and wounded 12 others, on the road leading from Tembagapura to the Grasberg mine.

Congress first restricted Indonesia's IMET funds following the 1991 massacre of 270 civilians in Santa Cruz, East Timor. All military ties were then suspended in 1999, when a TNI-organized militia ravaged East Timor following the UN-sponsored independence vote.

Not long after the integrated offensive aimed at "crushing" Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebels in Aceh was launched last year, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted to suspend the IMET funds yet again - not in censure of Jakarta's mission to crush its own people, but over the Freeport ambush.

The separatist movement at the other end of the archipelago from Aceh is spearheaded by a group of poorly armed independence fighters known as the Free Papua Organization (Organisasi Papua Merdeka or OPM). The TNI have always blamed the OPM for the attack near the Grasberg mine. The day after the ambush, government forces shot dead an unidentified Papuan male, whom they claimed was both a member of the OPM and responsible for the attack.

A police report two months after the ambush found that the OPM was an unlikely suspect because the group "never attacks white people". It concluded that TNI involvement "was a strong possibility".

Earlier killing spawns protection
This was not the first time a Freeport employee had been shot and killed on the same road. On November 8, 1994, Gordan Rumaropena, a Papuan working for Freeport, was shot dead while driving along the access road. The shooting, which both the military and Freeport blamed on the OPM, was the catalyst for the company's request for a stronger military presence in the area.

The result of this was an expanded military operation, which led to well-documented human-rights violations against the indigenous peoples living within and around the concession area.

TNI gets only 30% of its funding from the central government and makes up the shortfall by its widespread involvement in businesses, both legal and illegal. Payments for security services received from multinationals in the lucrative extractive industries, such as Freeport's and ExxonMobil's natural-gas facilities in Aceh, have provided TNI with a significant source of income.

Freeport paid US$10.7 million in protection money to TNI from 2000-02, but abruptly stopped the payments shortly before the ambush. To appease investor anger and disgust after the meltdown of Enron and WorldCom, the Bush administration pushed a bill through Congress that demanded greater corporate accountability. The ensuing Corporate Fraud Act, implemented on July 26, 2002, required the disclosure of such payments.

TNI commander-in-chief General Endriartono Sutarto, eventually admitting that his troops were receiving Freeport funds, which he described as "pocket money", proposed a new system where troops would only protect installations deemed to be of "vital importance" to Indonesia.

In late June this year, then-attorney general John Ashcroft convinced a federal grand jury to indict Anthonuis Wamang for the ambush. The indictment identifies Wamang as an OPM commander. Ashcroft's statement on the killings also cleared TNI of any role in the attack. His announcement came just one day after a US congressional subcommittee renewed a ban on the provision of funds for the IMET program for Indonesia, prompting claims that Washington was sacrificing justice for the victims for the sake of resuming bilateral military ties.

The TNI, theoretically, had a number of motives for staging an attack. The killing of American citizens certainly provided a convenient argument to strengthen its case for the resumption of close ties as part of the Bush administration's "war on terrorism", or it could have been an attempt by local commanders to extort more protection money from Freeport. More tellingly, the TNI also could have used the ambush to strengthen its hand in further crackdowns on separatist organizations in Papua, Aceh and elsewhere.

A tale of three presidents
Five years ago interim Indonesian president B J Habibie had been under pressure from community, tribal and religious leaders in what was then Irian Jaya (now West Papua) to grant the province the same option - separation from the republic - that he had offered to East Timor. In early 1999 they called openly for a referendum on independence, but the House of Representatives would have none of it, agreeing instead to Habibie's alternative proposal, to split the province into three. Later that year the House passed Law No 49/1999 to authorize the partition.

Under president Abdurrahman Wahid (1991-2001) a different approach was used to reduce separatist sentiments in the territory. The province was renamed Papua, and Wahid opted not to implement the legislation. He allowed Papuans to fly the Morning Star flag - the symbol of their independence movement - and passed legislation granting Papua greater autonomy.

Wahid's Law No 21/2001 on special autonomy for the province would have allowed Papuans to manage their own affairs and receive 70% of oil and gas revenues and 80% of revenues from natural resources such as forestry, fisheries and mining (excluding Freeport's taxes). It was never implemented.

Fearing that special autonomy would be used as a political vehicle to promote independence, Wahid's successor, Megawati Sukarnoputri, delayed the establishment of the Papuan Consultative Assembly (MRP) and the issuance of necessary government regulations to enforce the law.

Divide and rule
Worse still, in January 2003 Megawati issued a controversial Presidential Instruction, No 1/2003, to enforce Law No 45/1999 on the division of Papua into three provinces - Papua, West Irian Jaya and Central Irian Jaya.

Critics said partitioning the province was a ploy to serve the interests of certain business, military and political groups in Jakarta, instead of the Papuan people, and was a ploy by Jakarta to divide and conquer Papua. Efforts to push through the formation of West Irian Jaya and Central Irian Jaya provinces sparked fierce criticism and several deadly clashes. Extra-judicial executions, disappearances, torture and arbitrary detention of civilians were reported throughout 2003.

In early November, the Constitutional Court overturned the 1999 law, claiming it was unconstitutional, but the head of the court, Jimly Asshidiqie, said that as West Irian Jaya had already been established in line with constitutional requirements, including the election of local representatives, it should remain a separate province.

Problem lands in Yudhoyono's lap
In other words, the new province, created as a fait accompli by a mere presidential instruction, has been legitimized and Megawati's successor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has inherited yet another pressing problem not of his own making, one that could badly impact business and the national economy.

Indonesia, which has abundant reserves of gas, was once one of the world's top liquefied natural gas (LNG) producers but has been struggling lately in an increasingly competitive market. The Tangguh plant is expected to produce between 7 million and 8 million tons of LNG per annum in the first phase of production and BP has so far secured deals to supply a combined 7.6 million tons of LNG worldwide; to San Diego-based Sempra Energy, South Korea's K-Power Co and steelmaker Posco, as well as a plant in China's Fujian province.

The general security situation in West Papua and Indonesia as a whole is a key factor in winning long-term gas supply contracts. The simmering separatist movement, unrest over Jakarta's plan to partition Papua into three provinces and the oversupply in the world gas market make the Tangguh project a higher-risk than most.

New York-based Human Rights Watch has called on Yudhoyono to improve the protection of human rights in Papua and elsewhere by reforming the TNI, but the military has already said it will "crush" separatism in Papua after it has completed its recently extended offensive in Aceh.

Yudhoyono won majority votes in Papua during both rounds of the presidential election and the National Forum for Human Rights Concerns in Papua (FNKHP), which he chaired before he became president, has urged him to support the Papuan people by implementing Law No 21/2001 on special autonomy for Papua and reconsider the division of Papua into several provinces.

Killing Americans is terrorism
After six months of investigation, a National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) fact-finding team found that both soldiers and police were involved in serious rights violations in Papua's Wasior regency in 2001 and Wamena regency in 2003.

The "war against terror" is the ideal cop out for Washington and its allies to ignore such human-rights violations, and it appears that the fact that American citizens were killed in Papua was the deciding factor in prompting the senators to impose further restrictions.

Ashcroft and Federal Bureau of Investigation director Robert Mueller not only blamed the Papua separatists for the Freeport attack but, astonishingly, claimed Wamang's indictment was a victory in the "war on terrorism". Mueller claimed that the investigation illustrated "the importance of international cooperation to combat terrorism".

Restoration of military cooperation between the US and Indonesia seems likely sooner rather than later, but unless the idea of partitioning Papua is abandoned by the new government, the gloomy scenario predicted by Rumbiak could well materialize during Yudhoyono's watch.

Bill Guerin, a weekly Jakarta correspondent for Asia Times Online since 2000, has worked in Indonesia for 19 years in journalism and editorial positions. He has been published by the BBC on East Timor and specializes in business/economic and political analysis in Indonesia.

(With added excerpts from Asia Pulse)

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Dec 4, 2004
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