Wednesday, March 25, 2009
West Papua - Jakarta nervous with groundswell building for another Plebiscite
also: Radio Netherlands: An Independence Fighter Returns Home To
Papua: To Talk, Not Fight
International Herald Tribune
March 25, 2009
Unease In Papua Over Leader's Return
By Peter Gelling
JAKARTA: Tensions arising from clashes between the Indonesian
military and independence fighters in the restive and
resource-rich region of Papua in recent months have been further
stoked by the return of the separatist movement's founder from
Nicolas Jouwe, 85, arrived last week from the Netherlands at the
request of the Indonesian authorities, who said they hoped to
begin discussions on a possible settlement of the decades-old
conflict. In a statement distributed by government officials
after his arrival, Mr. Jouwe said that separatist fighters
should help "rebuild Papua within the frame of the unitary
republic of Indonesia," suggesting a willingness to give up his
But at a Friday news conference in Jakarta, Mr. Jouwe referred
to Papua and Indonesia as separate nations, saying only that a
dialogue should be opened. "We are close nations," he said. "We
cannot live without considering each other."
The apparently contradictory statements angered independence
activists, who greeted Mr. Jouwe's return to Papua on Sunday
with protests against his willingness to negotiate with the
On Tuesday, thousands rallied in the streets of Jayapura, the
capital of West Papua Province, demanding independence. Security
forces there, apparently fearful of the protest reaching an
international audience, detained four Dutch television
journalists. They were released after 12 hours of questioning,
according to local media reports.
The government has not commented on Mr. Jouwe's statements in
Mr. Jouwe's return comes after several months of sporadic
violence and ahead of parliamentary elections on April 9. On
March 15, the police said, separatist rebels attacked a security
post, killing a government soldier.
A small group of armed rebels and other independence advocates
have waged a low-level separatist campaign for almost 40 years.
Indonesia took over Papua, which occupies the western part of
the island of New Guinea, from the Dutch in 1963 and in 1969
formalized its control over the region by a vote of 1,000 Papuan
community leaders that was widely thought to be rigged.
Papua's development lags behind that of the rest of the country,
despite its huge stores of natural resources. It still lacks
basic public health programs and reliable electricity and water
As a concession to independence advocates, in 2001 legislators
in Jakarta passed an autonomy law aimed at giving the region
more local control and a greater share of mining, gas and timber
revenues. Human rights groups say the law has never been fully
implemented and a portion of the funds have gone missing in a
web of corruption.
"The special autonomy package in many ways represented a victory
for the independence movement," said Eben Kirksey, an American
anthropologist and Papuan expert. "But the renewed violence of
the last few months is evidence that the autonomy package is not
a solution to the problem. The autonomy funds have been
disappearing in a vortex — a black hole somewhere between
Jakarta and Jayapura."
Muridan Widjojo, an official at the state-funded Institute of
Social Sciences who has published a paper about the autonomy
law, said the legislation lacked legitimacy. None of the
stakeholders "politically or morally support the implementation
of the law," he said.
As a result, the administration of President Susilo Bambang
Yudhoyono is increasingly considering a settlement similar to
the one reached in the northern province of Aceh, which also
waged a decades-long independence struggle until a peace deal
was signed in 2005.
Ending the conflicts in Aceh and Papua was a central promise of
Mr. Yudhoyono's election campaign in 2004. His administration's
renewed efforts at peace in Papua come just before the
parliamentary elections and ahead of presidential elections in
The invitation to Mr. Jouwe, officials said, represented an
important early step in the peace process.
"Indonesia is a very different place now since we have become a
democratic country," said Rizal Mallarangeng, a spokesman for
the minister of people's welfare, Aburizal Bakrie, who was Mr.
Jouwe's host in Jakarta.
"We said to Jouwe: No longer will you be put in jail simply
because you have a different opinion," the spokesman said. "Like
in Aceh, we wanted to find a new path to solve these
disagreements in a way that everyone can accept."
Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago with hundreds of ethnic
groups, has a long history of independence movements. The
country's late authoritarian ruler, Suharto, brutally squelched
But after East Timor's secession in 1999, the government has
attempted more peaceful negotiations with breakaway provinces.
With the peace deal in Aceh, Papua remains the country's last
flash point of separatism.
Radio Netherlands March 25, 2009
An Independence Fighter Returns Home To Papua: To Talk, Not Fight
by NRC international in partnership with RNW
After 47 years of exile in the Netherlands, Nicolaas Jouwe,
founder of the Free Papua organisation, has returned home. But
he will still not allow himself to be used for Jakarta's
On the island of Kayu Pulau in the bay of Jayapura, capital of
the Indonesian province of Papua, musicians are decked out in
coloured feathers, grass skirts and painted faces. It is their
way of welcoming their former clan chief to the island of his
The clan chief is Nicolaas Jouwe, 85, and he is immediately
hemmed in upon his arrival on the island. Every few metres he is
besieged by old women with red teeth from chewing sirih, betel,
who fall sobbing into his arms.
If it weren't for all the many security officers standing around
him, it would be just an ordinary emotional reunion of an old
man with the home country he has not seen for 47 years. But the
Indonesian government want to keep control because Nicolaas
Jouwe is no ordinary old man.
Morning Star Pin
In 1961, when Jayapura was still called Hollandia and Papua was
still Netherlands New Guinea, he was chosen as the highest
representative in the New Guinea Council, the Dutch colony's new
parliament. From there he was the first to give form to the
independence struggle. He designed a national flag, the Morning
Star, the symbol of a free Papua. And he was the intended first
prime minister of the independent state of Papua.
Indonesia is not fond of people like Jouwe. Since 1969, Papua
has been an official province of Indonesia. Hoisting the Morning
Star flag is illegal and anyone who still wants independence is
seen as a dangerous separatist by Jakarta. But now, in the
run-up to the Indonesian general election, president Susilo
Bambang Yudhoyono has personally invited Jouwe to come home and
hold talks about the reconstruction of Papua - within the
republic of Indonesia, of course.
And so Nicolaas Jouwe, with his Morning Star pinned to his
lapel, arrived last Wednesday in Jakarta. On Sunday morning, he
landed in Jayapura where, surrounded by journalists, he knelt to
kiss the ground. It was a golden opportunity for him to restart
his struggle for a better life for the Papuans and to see his
home land again. Since the Netherlands 'gave away' Papua in
1962, Jouwe has lived in Delft, on a retainer from the Dutch
Papua for the Papuans
"Papua needs its own country for its own people," he said after
arriving in Jakarta. Switching between Dutch, Indonesian and
English, he spoke about the 'banditry' of Indonesia. From the
fall of the Soviet Union through the drop in the British pound
to the Old Testament: everything points to the fact that
Indonesia cannot maintain its actions in Papua for centuries, he
says. Jouwe thinks the president invited him because Indonesia
is beginning to repent. "Even if we have to talk a thousand
times, it is better than violence."
But the agenda of the Indonesian government soon became clear in
Jakarta last week. One day after Jouwe's arrival, the health
ministry spread the news, without consulting Jouwe, that the
'founder of the Free Papua organisation' has given up his
struggle for Independence. He was going to call on the Free
Papua fighters, who had shot an Indonesian soldier just a few
days earlier, to give up their weapons. And during a special
ceremony, Jouwe would remove his Morning Star pin.
The election stunt did not work out as the government had hoped.
"Your pin, where is your pin?" shouted Junus Habibie, Indonesian
ambassador to the Netherlands, to Jouwe during a press
conference where the 'pin moment' was supposed to take place.
But in front of the Indonesian journalists, Jouwe refused. "No,
not yet," he said in Dutch. "Not today," Jouwe had earlier
shocked his listeners by talking about 'two peoples', 'two
countries' and 'our great neighbour Indonesia'.
Whisked off the island
This is why the Indonesian government kept a close eye on this
unguided missile for the rest of his stay. He was accompanied by
four Papuans - some of them family - who decided to work with
the Indonesian government and are therefore controversial within
the Papuan community. He met mainly with government officials,
like the governor of Papua and the mayor of Jayapura.
Interviews with the Indonesian press are not done. Two
journalists who managed to approach Jouwe in Jakarta were bawled
out by his chaperons - "Bloody idiot!" - and sent packing. Even
during his visit to the island of his birth on Tuesday he was
not able to speak with 'ordinary people' and before he could
visit the house where he was born he was whisked off the island.
This is why his return is not welcomed by all prominent Papuans.
"I think it would have been better if Mr Jouwe had met the
people and not just the government," says secretary general Leo
Imbiri of the Native Papuan Council. On a wall in his office is
an old newspaper article about the flag and the Papuan national
anthem with a photo of Jouwe. Imbiri thinks the special autonomy
Papua was granted in 2001 is not working. Legalising the Morning
Star is being thwarted by Jakarta, he says.
Imbiri can only observe how immigrants from the rest of
Indonesia gain more and more influence in Papua. On the road
between the airport and Jayapura he points to petrol stations,
hotels and shops. "Look, all of this belongs to the newcomers.
Those small houses from the Dutch period, they belong to
But Imbiri will not get the chance to say this to Jouwe. On
Tuesday morning, the old leader was forced to take an earlier
flight back to Jakarta.