Condemning The Human Rights Violations Against West Papua

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Washington, D.C.


July 29, 2002

By The Indonesian Government

Hon. Robert A. Underwood Of Guam In The U.S. House of Representatives Friday, July 26, 2002

Mr. UNDERWOOD. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to bring attention to a problem of growing concern in Southeast Asia. I want to inform my colleagues of the human rights violations committed by the Indonesian government against the people of West Papua. For the last forty years, West Papuans have lived under the rule of a government that has virtually declared martial law on people who only want to participate in the determination of their own destiny. Like in East Timor before their independence from Indonesia, the military and local law enforcement officials continue to violate the human and civil rights of West Papuans.

West Papua has been under the rule of foreign governments for almost three hundred years, beginning with colonization by the British in 1793 to the Dutch in the mid twentieth century. In the early 1960s, West Papuans almost realized their dream of self-determination with a Dutch-sponsored election for a local government called the West New Guinea Council. Unfortunately, the results of the Dutch plan were rejected by the United Nations. The Indonesian military subsequently invaded West Papua. After nearly a decade of uncertainty, the U.N. in 1969 supervised a vote for the so-called "Act of Free Choice," which gave representatives a vote between independence or continued rule under the Indonesian government. This vote did not truly reflect the opinions of the West Papuans because only 195 out of the 1,026 elected representatives actually voted. As reported in New Internationalist Magazine, most of those votes were cast under pressure by military leaders.

Over the years, the people of West Papua formed an independence movement coordinated by the Papuan Council under the leadership of Mr. Theys Hiyo Eluay. I am sad to report that Mr. Eluay, a revered figure among his people, was assassinated last November. According to a report published by the Institute for Human Rights Study and Advocacy, Mr. Eluay´s death was caused by asphyxiation. While this report only moderately implies that the military and police were responsible, it recognizes that the assassination may be part of a military strategy to quell the independence movement. Other tactics used include arbitrary executions, random detention, torture, kidnap and rape have been frequently used by the military. The Indonesian government has declared that any protest or congregation of dissident groups would be seen as treason and stopped immediately.

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting with Mr. Thom Beanal, Acting Chairman of the Presidium of the Papuan Council, and Mr. Willy Mandowen, Facilitator for the Dialogue for the Presidium of the Papuan Council. These men and their colleagues, who are proponents of independence and human rights, advocate their cause through peaceful means, yet they continue to face threats of physical harm by the military who oppose the independence movement.

I ask my colleagues to imagine living each day under the threat of violence. Imagine living with the knowledge that at least one member of every family in your town has experienced a loss of a loved one at the hands of the Indonesian militia. Imagine living with the fear that your child may be kidnapped by armed gunmen, only to be found burned and buried in a shallow grave. West Papuans don’t have to imagine. They live with this every day.

We acted in the case of East Timor and the results have been spectacular. Since it became a sovereign nation on May 20, 2002, the people have regained the rights and liberties, which all people are entitled to. Had Congress not intervened when East Timorese were under heavy rule by the Indonesian government, surely they would not be celebrating the new freedoms that they enjoy today.

Mr. Speaker, our actions in East Timor helped give birth to the world’s newest democracy that thrives today. We must continue to note the events in West Papua and take action when it is necessary. For too long, we have remained silent on the issues of human and civil rights around the world. It is time for us to take a stand. I urge my colleagues to join me in condemning the actions of the Indonesian government. A peaceful resolution to West Papuan independence is possible, but it must be with the cooperation of the Indonesian government and military.


Clarification: None of the 1,026 "representatives" who participated in the 1969 "Act of Free Choice" was an "elected" representative. Under supervision of the Indonesian military, these Papuans, selected by the Government of Indonesia, unanimously supported integration with Indonesia. UN personnel supervising this process have since denounced it as undemocratic.

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