"The Indonesian President can talk of dialogue, but ongoing human rights violations in West Papua by Indonesian police and military will undercut this initiative ..."In response to reports that Indonesian soldiers had executed unarmed children during the martial law crackdown, he stated: “If they are armed and fire, they will be shot, because children -- and women -- can kill, too.” Ryacudu also played an important role in the crushing of the “Papuan Spring”, the period between 1998 and 2001 when West Papuans met to propose new options for self-determination. In 1998, as the Suharto regime collapsed, the West Papuan church, NGOs and indigenous leaders formed the Forum for Reconciliation in Irian Jaya (FORERI). In February 2000, the Papuan Mass Consultation (MUBES) was held in Jayapura to discuss democracy and self-determination. Supported by then-Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid, this popular congress was a crucial but short-lived moment of hope for West Papuans. A key outcome of the congress was the creation of the Papua Presidium Council, led by Chief Theys Eluay, a key indigenous leader who proposed dialogue rather than conflict with Jakarta. But Eluay was murdered by Indonesian soldiers on November 10, 2001, shortly after attending an event at the Kopassus Special Forces base near Jayapura. Indonesian military officials initially denied responsibility for the killing, but after campaigning by human rights activists, seven low-ranking soldiers were eventually brought before a military court. These soldiers were found guilty in 2003 but only served short prison sentences. At the time, Ryacudu praised Eluay’s murderers as heroes, stating: “I don't know, people say they did wrong, they broke the law. What law? OK, we are a state based on the rule of law, so they have been punished. But for me, they are heroes because the person they killed was a rebel leader.” Today, Indonesian human rights activists, academics and solidarity groups have all expressed concern about Jokowi’s new Defence Minister, and the potential for further conflict in West Papua. Joe Collins of the Australia West Papua Association (AWPA) states: “The people of West Papua live in fear of security operations in the territory and the appointment of Ryamizard Ryacudu as Defence Minister can only add to this fear. There was some hope that the election of Jokowi would bring an easing of tension in West Papua, but with Ryamizard Ryacudu's appointment it looks like there could be a continuation of solving issues of concern in West Papua by the security approach, not by dialogue.” The Indonesian President can talk of dialogue, but ongoing human rights violations in West Papua by Indonesian police and military will undercut this initiative and continue to sour regional relations. For Australia, the issue of self-determination in Melanesia will not go away. The French Pacific dependency of New Caledonia is scheduled to hold a referendum on self-determination before the end of 2018. Bougainville is moving towards a decision on its political status after nearly a decade of autonomous government. Self-determination will remain on the agenda in West Papua, even though governments in Canberra, Jakarta and Port Moresby regard it as a taboo subject.
Brutal new Defence Minister undermines Jokowi’s overtures to West Papua
Indonesia's new President has talked of hope and reconciliation as regards West Papua, but appointing a hard-line former general sends a different message, writes Nic Maclellan, a journalist and researcher in the Pacific islands.