Saturday, June 4, 2016

United Liberation Movement for West Papua: Wake up from your dream and let's build Papua together.

Sade Bimantara 

Reading stories and claims put forward by a group naming itself the "United Liberation Movement for West Papua" (ULMWP) is like hearing 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". "Liberate" who or what, one may ask. They claim that the people of the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua are not free. But they are 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 United Nations 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.  

One who visits Jayapura and other Papuan cities could see that development is comparable and in some cases exceeds other cities in the South Pacific.  

The people of Papua routinely participate in elections that are internationally regarded as free and fair. For instance, the millions of Papuan registered voters, including those overseas outside of 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 parliamentarians to represent them in Jakarta and in the capital cities of Papua and West Papua. The people of Papua and West Papua also directly and freely elected 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. 

ULMWP's claim that Indonesia is "committing genocide" and "killing dissidents on a daily basis", is absolutely baseless 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 in part."   

Unfortunately, violence is committed both against civilians, armed separatists individuals and groups as well as against security forces. Cases of violence in 2013-2014 shed a light on the nature of the situation in Papua. In those two years, there were 42 reported cases of violence that killed 21 civilians, 18 members of the police and the military and nine members of an armed separatist group. 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 Mulia. 

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 Human Rights Commission 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, Melanesian population in other Pacific countries number about eight 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. Indonesia is committed to be a responsible associate member of the Group including through constructive participation in meetings as well as financial contribution. 

Through membership in the MSG,  Indonesia wants to further open ways and strengthen connectivity, promote greater contacts, exchange of 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.  Their political goal and routine robotic statements for "Papuan separation from Indonesia" is contrary to the Agreed Principles of Cooperation of the MSG: "the principles of respect of each other's sovereignty". 

If members allow the ULMWP to dishonor such revered Principles, crafted by the founders of 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 Group's works and instead is blinded by their fantasy to see Papua separate from Indonesia.  

Mr Octavianus Mote, Mr Benny Wenda and others, please follow the footsteps of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz: leave the Emerald City. Tap your heels together three times and repeat: "There's no place like home". Wake up from your dream and let's build Papua together the right way.
Sade Bimantara is the First Secretary-Political and spokesperson with the Embassy of Indonesia, Canberra.

June 2016


The ghosts of the Communist past

                                                                   John McBeth

It has been 50 years since the Indonesian military crushed the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) in a bloody pogrom that’s widely believed to have taken at least 500,000 lives—many of them innocent victims of personal vendettas.

Yet, in what appears to be another effort to retain legitimacy and reclaim some of their previous role in internal security, Indonesia’s generals—and other conservative elements—continue to defy history and insist that communism remains a threat.

Indeed, the latest Reds-Under-the-Beds controversy reached ridiculous levels recently when two people were arrested for wearing T-shirts bearing the letters PKI, which actually stood for Pecinta Kopi Indonesia (Indonesian Coffee Lovers).

The only country in Asia—and indeed one of the few places in the world—where there’s still a communist insurgency is the Philippines, largely the result of the age-old feudalism that continues to dominate the political landscape. After watching the Communist Party of Thailand (CPT) implode in the early 1980s, the Thai Army has never revisited it as a threat, instead using social conflicts and the looming monarchical transition as pretexts for political intervention.

While the overthrow of presidents Sukarno and later Abdurrahman Wahid were the result of direct military pressure, the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) has always sought to operate under a contrived cloak of constitutionality.

But the TNI’s re-positioning as an external defence force in the aftermath of president Suharto’s 1998 downfall has never sat well with the officer corps and army retirees, whose contempt for civilian politicians goes back to the struggle for independence.

As silly as it seems, the spectre of the communist bogeyman still fuels fears in a country which once harboured the world’s largest non-ruling communist party and hovered, ever so briefly, on the brink of being transformed into a Marxist-Leninist state. The 1965-66 pogrom forestalled that, but every time there is an effort among political activists to delve into and redress the excesses of that period, the military and conservative Muslim diehards are quick to stoke the underlying phobia.

That’s what happened after President Joko Widodo’s government surprisingly supported a two-day national symposium on the 1965–66 killings, designed to facilitate a first-ever meeting between the military and survivors of the atrocities. But then he felt compelled to balance that act of contrition by instructing the TNI and the national police to uphold the law against efforts to spread communist teachings by seizing books and items containing hammer and sickle imagery.

Predictably, they overreacted. When Widodo ordered a halt to the heavy-handed crackdown, it continued all the same, with hard-line Defence Minister, Ryamizard Ryacudu, claiming PKI elements were behind a renewed Leftist surge.

It was only in the early 2000s that the thousands of Indonesians rounded up and mostly imprisoned without trial in the mid-1960s were no longer forced to carry identity cards stamped with ‘EX-TAPOL’ (political prisoner)—letters that condemned them and their immediate families to a life of discrimination.

Banners thrown up across Jakarta streets warn about the dangers of terrorism, narcotics—and communism. And judging by the views of military conservatives and Islamic diehards alike, it isn’t necessarily in that order.

In 2007, the Attorney General’s Office banned dozens of school text books that neglected to mention the PKI’s involvement in the events of 30 September 1965, in which six top generals were abducted and murdered.

It was that event which led to the overthrow of founding president Sukarno and the emergence of Suharto, a little-known general who, with the connivance of the elite, was to amass extraordinary powers during his 32-year-rule.

Banned from Indonesia until the late 1990s, the late American academic Ben Anderson always cast doubt on the official version. But long after the former strongman was forced to resign, all the official blame remains where it has always been—with the PKI.

Whatever the truth of 1965, retaining the ghosts of the past allowed the elite to underpin the legitimacy of Suharto’s New Order regime. The same has applied to Muslim groups such as Nahdlatul Ulama whose role in the blood-letting has been pushed under the carpet. Unlike Indonesia, Thailand and its military have never retained a communist hang-up, even if at the height of a virulent insurgency in the early 1970s, there were more than 17,000 Maoist guerrillas operating across the country.

Certainly, many Thais recall that when Saigon, Phnom Penh and Vientiane fell in quick succession, the old domino theory, which foresaw the rest of Southeast Asia tumbling under the communist tide, seemed to be close to reality. But once that danger had passed and the CPT became the victim of its own internal dissent and the ideological split between Vietnam and China, it was soon forgotten.

There were few, if any, recriminations—even against senior CPT cadres. The Leftist students who had fled to the jungle filtered back into society, finished their education and joined the ranks of the capitalists.

Perhaps the most remarkable example of Thailand’s relaxed attitude is the story of former prime minister, Surayud Chulanont, who rose to become Thai Army commander despite his father being a member of the CPT central committee.

When Phayom Chulanont died in exile in Beijing, Surayud went to China to bring back his ashes. Such poignancy would have been unheard of in Indonesia. Not only would Surayud have never been recruited into the military, he would have lived the life of a reviled outcast.

John McBeth is a Jakarta-based journalist and this article first appreared in The Strategist on 20th May 2016.

Indonesian language study could be wiped-out from Australian universities within ten years

Despite Indonesia being one of Australia's closest neighbours, figures indicate Australian students are showing little interest in studying the language.
  • 2012 travel warning impacted on Australian students travelling to Indonesia.
  • More students took Indonesian at Year 12 level in the early 1970s.
  • Academics call for further steps to reverse decline.

It was hoped the softening of a travel warning to the country in 2012 might change that, but one expert said Indonesian studies might be completely wiped out from Australian universities in a decade.
An Australian Government travel warning issued after the Bali bombings discouraged most Australian schools from sending their students to Indonesia.

Professor Tim Lindsey, an expert in Indonesian law at the University of Melbourne, and fluent speaker of the language, said it has been one contributor to the demise of Indonesian studies in Australian institutions.

"If children can't get an immersion opportunity to study a foreign language, that will limit their capacity and it's a reasonable decision, I think, for parents and children to make, that without immersion, their capacity to learn a foreign language will be weakened," he said.

"So, this fed into a really big falling off in schools, Indonesian language teaching, and that naturally flowed on into our universities."

Linda Keat, an Indonesian language teacher at Mullumbimby High School in northern NSW, said her students were the first in Australia to return to Indonesia when the Government downgraded its travel advice. She said the school planned to send another group of students later this year.
"It's become very, very difficult to maintain programs like this in schools, especially Indonesian, because of the travel ban, so it's been a real struggle," Ms Keat said.

Germany may overtake Australia in teaching Indonesian

Professor Lindsey said he was disappointed that fewer Australian students were learning the language today.

"Indonesian studies in Australia was quite strong in the 1970s, but since then, for a range of reasons, it's declined quite significantly," he said.
"There seems to be a strange ironic link between the fact that during the period when Indonesia opened up and democratised after Suharto fell, the numbers of students in Australia interested in studying Indonesian has declined.

"There were, in fact, more students taking Indonesian at Year 12 level across Australia in the early 1970s than there are now, and that's in absolute numbers and despite the fact that the population was 30 per cent smaller then."

Professor Lindsey said if the current rate of decline continued, Indonesian language would not be an option at Australian universities in a decade.
"So, we've seen the numbers of schools teaching Indonesian fall quite dramatically over the last 15 years, and that's followed through — with a slight delay of course — in many of our universities," he said.

"And a significant number of universities around Australia have now dropped the teaching of Indonesian language, and we're reaching a position where Germany may have more universities teaching Indonesian than Australia.

"Australia is the only Western tradition country in Asia, yet it rates the lowest among all OECD countries by a long shot for second language skills.

"And if current trends continue it may end up teaching very little Asian languages except to kids of an Asian background or context."

'It seems like policy failure', professor says

Professor Lindsey said he welcomed the resumption of high school students travelling to Indonesia, but suggested more steps were needed to reverse the decline.

"It seems like some sort of major policy failure that we should be in the Asian century, located in Asia, and looking at the collapse of Asia-literate capacity outside people of an Asian origin," he said.
"We do, rightly or wrongly, face a situation of declining Asia-literacy both in terms of languages and Asian studies.

"If that is seen as something necessary, then in the end you are going to need to have governments investing funding in subsidising Asian languages and Asian studies in schools."

Samatha Turnbull is a journalist with the ABC News and this article first appeared on the ABC's On-Line service in May 2016.