Congressman Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa), Ranking Member of the House International Relations Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, and Congressman Donald Payne (D-New Jersey), Ranking Member of the House International Relations Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights & International Operations, announced today that they have called upon the African nations to request a review of the United Nation’s actions in West Papua.
The Congressmen’s request comes in response to a petition letter they sent to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on March 14, 2005 in which they requested his support in conducting a review of the 1969 Act of No Choice in which 1,025 Papuan elders were coerced and manipulated into voting unanimously on behalf of 80,000 Papuans to become a part of Indonesia rather than an independent nation. Although the UN sanctioned the 1969 Act of No Choice, the Act is generally regarded in the international community as a fraudulent tactic that was used by former President Suharto and his military regime to claim control of West Papua, a territory rich in natural resources including gold, silver, copper, oil and gas. In fact, recently declassified US documents show that the Indonesia government knew that allowing an open referendum would lead to West Papuan independence.
In a letter dated September 26, 2005, the Secretary General informed Congressman Faleomavaega and Congressman Payne that he would consider a review of the 1969 Act and the UN’s conduct in West Papua if the General Assembly called for it. Should the Assembly decide to revisit this issue, Secretary General Annan has assured that he will do his utmost to implement the Assembly’s mandate.
For this reason, Congressman Faleomavaega and Congressman Payne have called upon the Ambassadors representing the African nations before the UN to initiate a call for a General Assembly review. Historically, the African nations raised objections to the 1969 Act of No Choice. Bolivian Ambassador Ortiz-Sans, who monitored the vote on behalf of the United Nations, also noted that the referendum had occurred in the absence of political freedoms guaranteed by the 1962 New York Agreement brokered by the United States that set the framework for Dutch withdrawal from West Papua.
Ambassador Otiz-Sanz issued the following statement in his report:
“I regret to have to express my reservation regarding the implementation of Article XXII of the (New York) Agreement relating to ‘the rights, including the rights of free speech, freedom of movement and of assembly of the inhabitants of the area.’ In spite of my constant efforts, this important provision was not fully implemented and the (Indonesian) Administration exercised at all times a tight political control over the population.”
In spite of the Ambassador’s report, testimonials from the press, the opposition of fifteen countries and the cries for help from the Papuans themselves, the UN sanctioned Indonesia’s act and, on September 10, 1969, West Papua became a providence of brutal, Indonesian rule. Since Indonesia seized control of West Papua, the native Papuans have suffered blatant human rights abuses, including extrajudicial execution, torture, sexual violence and mutilation as well as, according to Afrim Djonbalic’s 1998 statement to the UN, “environmental degradation, natural resource exploitation, and commercial dominance of immigrant communities.” This exploitation of resources includes reserves of gold, copper, nickel, oil and gas which have been valued at over $54 billion. Local labor has been used in the extraction of these resources with little or no compensation to Papuans.
A recent study by the Lowenstein Human Rights Clinic at Yale University states:
“The historical and contemporary evidence strongly suggests that the Indonesian government has committed proscribed acts with the intent to destroy the West Papuans as such in violation of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the customary international law prohibition this Convention embodies.”
In view of this study, it should be noted that native West Papua New Guineans differ linguistically and racially from the majority of Indonesians. The Papuans are Melanesian and believed to be of African descent while the majority of Indonesians are of Javanese descent. Studies like the aforementioned show that there is a strong indication that the Indonesians are committing genocide against the West Papuans through oppression and acts of violence and these acts of genocide may be race-based.
For this and other reasons, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and 174 parliamentarians and 80 nongovernmental agencies from around the world have written to Secretary General Kofi Annan asking that a review be initiated. In turn, Faleomavaega and Congressman Payne have called upon the African nations to call for a General Assembly review. Additionally, the Congressmen included historic language in the U.S. Foreign Relations Authorization bill for FY 2006 and 2007 which requires the U.S. State Department to submit to Congress a report analyzing the 1969 Act.
The language also requires the State Department to submit a report detailing implementation of special autonomy for Papua and Aceh. Such reports shall include (a) an assessment of the extent to which each province has enjoyed an increase in revenue allocations and decision making authority; (b) a description of access by international press and non-governmental organizations to each province; (c) an assessment of the role played by local civil society in governance and decision making; (d) a description of force levels and conduct of Indonesian security forces in each province; and (e) a description of United States efforts to promote respect for human rights in each province.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed this legislation on July 20, 2005. As this matter is now pending between the House and Senate, Congressman Faleomavaega and Congressman Payne are determined to keep Indonesia under the spotlight until exploitation, violence and racism in West Papua is brought to an end.