In a letter dated March 5, 2008 to Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Congressman Eni Faleomavaega, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and the Global Environment, and Congressman Donald Payne, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health, joined forces in calling upon Indonesia to end unreasonable restrictions on international access to West Papua. The complete text of their letter is included below:
Dear Mr. President:
In 2005, at your request, we suspended our support for West Papua’s right to self-determination in order to give you time to implement the Special Autonomy legislation passed by the Indonesian Parliament in 2001. We welcomed the promise of this legislation and your personal assurances that your government would finally accord the Papuan people a fair share of the great wealth derived from Papuan resources. However, after three years, we note that the people of Papua, through the voices of Papuan religious and civil society leaders as well in broad public demonstrations, have declared Special Autonomy a failure.
We are also disappointed that your government has not made substantial progress in implementing Special Autonomy. While your administration has designated Special Autonomy funds for Papuan development, these funds have not reached the Papuan people who, after over four decades, still lack even rudimentary health and educational services. As you will agree, effective distribution and utilization of these funds require trained Papuan cadre and an infrastructure with the capacity to disburse these funds efficiently and honestly, and this means there is a critical need to develop Papuan cadre and infrastructure. This need can only be met by a concerted effort involving your government and international agencies such as USAID.
This is why we have repeatedly asked that you work with the U.S. Congress and the United Nations, to develop a plan that assures effective implementation of Special Autonomy. In no way do we believe that throwing money at the people of Papua for the next 15 or 20 years relieves Jakarta of its responsibility to educate the people of Papua and help them build the capacity they need to effectively manage their affairs.
In fact, to leave an uneducated populace without the tools it needs to rebuild itself is to promote social and cultural genocide, and this is not right, especially if Indonesia is intent on the United States supporting its territorial integrity. If Indonesia is intent on the U.S. supporting its territorial integrity, in turn, Indonesia must be intent on doing right by the people of Papua. Doing right by Papua means: a) implementing a plan of success; b) opening your doors to allow Members of the U.S. Congress, United Nations personnel, and non-government agencies access to Jayapura and the rest of the province; and c) demilitarizing your approach. Indonesia’s reliance on force for the maintenance of control is counterproductive, and long-standing abuses by security forces have galvanized independence sentiments among majority Papuans.
In this latter regard, the January 28 UN report by UN Special Representative Hina Jilani documents continuing intimidation and abuse of human rights advocates by an Indonesian military that remains largely unaccountable before Indonesian courts. Our letter to you on December 13, 2007, which is enclosed for your information, also specifically addressed the Indonesian military’s use of undue force. Because you never replied to the letter, we can only assume that you did not receive it or that the concerns expressed were of no interest to you at the time of your receipt. However, given that Congress is now contemplating increasing funding to train your security forces, including KOPASSUS and BRIMOB, we are hopeful that you will now address the concerns expressed in that letter.
Also, we are enclosing photographs and a DVD which show one Member’s experience with your military while in Biak and Manokwari. Prior to Congress taking further action to increase funding for your military, we are sending copies of these photos and this DVD to U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, House and Senate appropriators, Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Members of the House and Senate Foreign Affairs’ Committees. We are also enclosing our December 13, 2007 letter because we believe it is important for our Administration and colleagues to know that your government denied a Member of the U.S. Congress access to Jayapura.
While the photos and DVD do not fully capture your military’s overuse of force during Congressman Faleomavaega’s visit, we believe that they clearly show a pattern of your military’s misuse of force. Although your military stated that this use of force was for the Congressman’s protection, we believe you will agree that no Member of Congress should need hundreds of military personnel in full riot gear to protect him or her in provinces you say are safe. Ultimately, Papuans are no threat to Members of Congress. Papuans are the same as you. They want to be heard. They want to be educated. They want to live freely and happily. They do not want to be herded like animals, kept behind police barricades, and silenced at gunpoint.
Therefore, we are hopeful that you will work with us to make the situation for Papuans more tolerable. We are also hopeful that given our goodwill and your past assurances that you will grant us immediate access to Jayapura.