West Papua: Anatomy Of An Occupation - The Indonesian Military In West Papua

Jim Elmslie, and Camellia Webb-Gannon, with Peter King, 2011


This report deals with a series of Indonesian military documents that were passed to the West Papua Project (WPP) in early 2011.1 The documents provide remarkable insights into how the Indonesian military (Tentara Nasional Indonesia – TNI), operates within the disputed territory of West Papua (disputed, that is, between the vast majority of Papuans and the Indonesian government), and how they view West Papuan civil society. The documents reveal the names and activities of Indonesian intelligence agents; describe how traditional Papuan communities are monitored; and include a detailed analysis of both the West Papuan armed guerrilla groups and the non-violent civil society organisations which promote self-determination. Identifying so many West Papuan leaders and others as ?separatists, these documents effectively show that support for independence is widespread and surprisingly well organised. West Papuans have long complained of living under an Indonesian military ?occupation and these documents go a long way to substantiating this claim.


The authors of this report have sought to verify information contained in the documents where possible. Much of this information on individuals and Papuan organisations is already well known, although presented here more comprehensively in some respects than ever before. We can therefore be relatively confident that the documents are not fabricated or deliberately misleading, although they do contain inaccuracies, omissions and many obvious examples of false or misleading precision. Names of Indonesian intelligence agents, both Papuan and non-Papuan, are impossible to verify and have been left out of our report. We do believe, however, that the general modus operandi revealed in the documents is a fair representation of how the Indonesian military operates. As many diverse and disputed claims are made about the conflict in West Papua by the Indonesian and other governments, by international commentators and by the Papuans themselves, we believe that this information should be in the public sphere to increase understanding of this little-known, but intense, bitter and long-standing conflict. The report is split into two sections. The first deals with the 97 slide PowerPoint presentation entitled, Anatomy of Papuan Separatists. The presentation itself can be viewed at http://sydney.edu.au/arts/peace_conflict/research/west_papua_project.shtml External link.


This section acts as a running commentary on the slide show, explaining and contextualising what is an intriguing exposition of the West Papuan armed liberation movement and its non-violent civilian counterpart. The forensic details of the Anatomy leave the reader in no doubt as to the level of military scrutiny under which the Papuans live. It shows just how seriously the Indonesian forces take the threat of ?separatism, especially its attempts to reach out to an international audience. The presentation could accurately be renamed as an Anatomy of the Papuan Occupation.


The second section deals with an assortment of other leaked documents that flesh out the day-to-day reality of living under Indonesian occupation. In both images and text the daily tasks of security force members are outlined as they maintain a close surveillance on communities of traditional Papuans. Details of Indonesian agents - who they are, where they work, what information they can provide - are listed as small links in the heavy chain mesh of an occupation which has at its core the modern practice of ?psychological warfare, PSYOPS. This pernicious system of social control has created a pervasive atmosphere of terror amongst the Papuan population as their lives are manipulated by state actions and threatened with ?black operations. Unsolved, indeed uninvestigated, killings, beatings and rapes occur against a background of a rapidly changing demography as hundreds of thousands of non-Papuan Indonesians move into the province. Predominantly Muslim, the newcomers are adding another layer of tension and fear, as the Muslim- Christian divide widens – taking its cue from the threatened growth of radical Islam in Java and elsewhere.


PSYOPS, as practiced in West Papua, is analysed initially from a general perspective and then from the personal experience of several individual Papuans. As a tool of social control it has been effective in dividing the Papuan people, some of whom now form a Papuan elite that has prospered economically under the bureaucratic ?reforms enacted by the Indonesian government, particularly the creation of two provinces and some 23 new administrative regencies in Papua. However, these documents show that, despite PSYOPS and divide-and-rule administrative policies, there is a high degree of cohesion and unity amongst the West Papuan nationalist majority. Indeed, looking at the Papuan individuals identified in these documents it can be seen that West Papuan nationalism is spread throughout civil society, in the churches, youth groups, customary bodies and political organisations. Far from the desire for self-determination dying out, the younger generation of Papuan leaders is now stridently demanding the rights to which they are entitled by Indonesian law, albeit increasingly as a non-violent, civil resistance movement.


These documents show that Indonesian rule over West Papua can be characterised as an ongoing military/police occupation. Inevitably this involves the systematic infliction of human rights abuses on a civilian population. Our report concludes that Australia should not be co-operating as it does with the TNI elite special forces, Kopassus, because it directly implicates the Australian army and taxpayer in the suffering of the Papuan people. And all Australian military aid to Indonesia should be seriously reconsidered while the military dominated system of occupation persists in Papua. The political and administrative reforms that have benefited so much of Indonesia since 1998 need to be properly implemented in West Papua. Until then West Papua will remain a blight on Indonesia‘s international reputation and a place of suffering for its indigenous Melanesian population.


1. The West Papua Project, at the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, The University of Sydney, has operated since 2000 as an academic think tank and research center examining the conflict in West Papua between the indigenous Melanesian people and the Indonesian state and its security forces. During this period the WPP has held many conferences, workshops and briefings, and its affiliates have produced a wide range of publications including books, scholarly articles and reports.


Download the entire report here (.pdf) External link.

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