Attackers have burned down DAP’s (Dewan Adat Papua – Papuan Customary Council) Hubula area office on the outskirts of Wamena in West Papua’s Central Highlands. Coming days before a public event planned there and amidst a state campaign of intimidation against DAP, the attack is believed to have been coordinated by Indonesian military and police intelligence and adds to the climate of repression facing West Papuan activists.
During the night of August 25 2010, unknown attackers torched the Hubula area office of DAP (Dewan Adat Papua – Papuan Customary Council) in Kama village, Wamena district, in West Papua’s Central Highlands region. Three members of PETAPA (Penjaga Tanah Papua – Defenders of the Land of Papua) who were sleeping in the wooden thatch-roofed building managed to escape unharmed. The office had been completed in May 2010, and was scheduled to host a public unveiling on September 1.
DAP is a Papua-wide network of customary communities working to uphold the cultural rights and restore the self-determination of indigenous Papuans; its presence is particularly strong in the Wamena region. In the weeks leading up to the attack, local DAP members have built new communication posts (‘posko’) in several villages surrouding Wamena. In response to DAP’s growing organized rural community presence, the Kapolres (regional police commander) travelled to the sites of of upcoming posko unveilings and warned local community leaders against associating with DAP, calling it a ‘wild organization’ and accusing it of disturbing the peace. Amidst the growing tension, additional units of Brimob’s (Police Mobile Brigade) US-funded counter-terrorism unit, Special Detachment 88, have been deployed to Wamena from the Papuan capital Jayapura. In the eyes of DAP activists, the burning of their Hubula office carries all the signs of being organized by state security forces: “This attack is clearly the work of Indonesian intelligence agents, who are worried about the widespread support for DAP at the grassroots level in the region” according to DAP spokesperson Dominikus Sorabut.
On August 23, members of Indonesia’s state security and intelligence agencies, including BIN (State Intelligence Body), the US-funded Kopassus (Military Special Commando) and Regional Police, organized a meeting with a select group of local ‘tribal chiefs’ known as BMP (Barisan Merah Putih – Red and White Front). BMP is an indigenous militia sponsored by the Indonesian security forces and linked to LMA, the official state customary organization with close ties to the Indonesian military. After the meeting, a notice was repeatedly broadcast on their behalf on state radio RRI urging local people to stay away from DAP activities and alleging that DAP’s opening of posko ‘disturbs public security’. Though neither BMP nor LMA can claim any widespread support among indigenous Papuan society, the ongoing support they receive from the military and the latest violent incident raise the specter of the type of Kopassus-organized anti-independence militia violence previously seen at the peak of the brutal repression of East Timor’s struggle to secede from Indonesia.
The escalation in intimidation, manipulation and repression being organized by the state security forces sends an ominous signal of Jakarta’s unwillingness to heed growing calls to resolve the political conflict in Papua through peaceful dialogue. The latest attack against DAP comes on the heels of unprecedented widespread mass mobilization, with a wide coalition of Papuan groups uniting to reject Jakarta’s Special Autonomy package, demanding a referendum on independence, internationally mediated dialogue, the closing of the US-owned Freeport MacMoran gold and copper mine, and a halt to the transmigration that threatens to reduce Papuans to an indigenous minority. Mass rallies in all the main towns of Papua have been met with repression and threats from security forces. While Papuan activists such as Filep Karma, Buchtar Tabuni and Victor Yeimo continue to be imprisoned for organizing rallies calling for self-determination, the recent murder of Papuan journalist Ardiansyah Matra’is has extended the climate of intimidation to the press, making it even more difficult to access critical coverage of unfolding events in Papua.
Meanwhile, in the Puncak Jaya region near Wamena, police and military units continue to carry out harsh collective punishment against local communities suspected of supporting the poorly-armed OPM units operating out of remote mountain strongholds. Calls by Papuan human rights advocates for the state forces to cease their punitive operations have been met with disregard and intimidation, with the outspoken church leader Socrates Sofyan Yoman summoned for interrogation regarding his criticism of police action. In the face of such threats, DAP leaders have shown no intention of backing down from their community mobilization in defence of indigenous rights and livelihoods. The international community has an important role to play in pressuring the Indonesian security forces and their Western backers to withhold from violent repression of Papuan activists.
To contact the head of regional police in Wamena and to urge him to stop intimidating DAP, please call Kapolres Jayawijaya, GD S. Jaya at (+62) 8123881989. An Indonesian-language message to be conveyed could be:
“Kami minta Polres segera hentikan tindakan represif terhadap Dewan Adat Papua di Wamena. Terima kasih.”
(Translation: “We ask Regional Police to stop repressive actions against DAP in Wamena. Thank you.”)