World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service

On developments in Indonesia-West Papua

27 April 2003

Written statement at the UN Commission on Human Rights' 59th Session, Item 10:
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 17 March-27 April, 2003

1. The Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) of the World
Council of Churches (WCC) submits that churches' engagement on economic
and social issues is based on God's concern for human beings who work to
produce goods and services, who use them and for whom this business exists.
The ecumenical dialogue of the 1960s on economic matters therefore emphasized
this value of social justice in creating a responsible society, a society that
would encompass the practice of a wide humanism. Justice therefore was a
prerequisite for a responsible society since people could not become fully
human when they were victims of injustice. The goal of the ecumenical movement
was not only economic growth but above all human development.


2. The International Consultation organized by CCIA, as a part of its process ofReview of Global Ecumenical Practices and Policies on Human Rights in June1998, reviewed the churches' response to globalization and amongst othersnoted: "Thus the dominant model of economic growth based on the ideologyof the free market exhibits almost total disrespect for the human personmade in the image of God, excludes alternate models and punishes those whoadvocate them and ignores fundamental spiritual values. Globalization alsoerodes democratic participation at the international level, promoting the fic-tion that economic and political decision-making can be separated. The increasinglydominant role of such multilateral ‘economic' mechanisms as the Groupof 8, the World Trade Organization, the World Bank and the InternationalMonetary Fund, circumvents the ‘political' mechanisms of international cooperationembodied in the UN Charter, rendering economically vulnerable countriesvirtually powerless to defend their interests either individually or collectively."

While it is important to look at the negative impact of globalization on thelives of the people, it is also necessary to focus on human right abuses committedby governments on national minorities through economic exploitation,discriminatory practices and policies in countries like Indonesia; also, atthe same time it is necessary to look at the collaborative role of transnationalcorporations in human rights violations of the local people.

3. The CCIA has monitored the developments in Indonesia since the May 1998downfall of Suharto. There have been several visits by staff and ecumenicaldelegations to critical regions of tensions and conflicts like the Malukus,Central and South Sulawesi and West Papua. Of particular concern is the situationin West Papua. On 20th September 2002, the General Secretary of theWCC, at the request of its Central Committee, wrote to the President ofIndonesia, Ms Megawati Soekarnoputri, drawing attention to the deterioratinghuman rights situation in West Papua. The letter stated that the developmentsin West Papua seemed to follow the same pattern as those of EastTimor in the early 1990s. The military, by encouraging and inducting theLashkar Jihad in the region, is using religion to create a horizontal conflict todeflect the demands of the Papuan people for economic justice and for realizationof socio, economic and cultural rights. The letter urged the governmentto take immediate steps to revive the National Dialogue initiated byformer President Abdur Rahman Wahid. The grievances of the Papuan peoplefor equitable sharing of economic resources and political power can onlybe addressed through just and honest implementation of the autonomy law.The WCC and its member churches around the world, including those inIndonesia, are of the considered view that the National Dialogue is the onlyway forward to peace and reconciliation in the region. The people of Papuaare committed to peace through a process of consultation and multilateraldecision-making.

4. The people of Papua carry bitter memories of the past. The manner in whichthey were denied the right of self-determination by the Act of Free Choice in1969. The history of integration of West Papua into Indonesia has not beenpleasant. Denial of civil and political rights as well as social, economic andcultural rights, coupled with brutality and atrocities committed by theIndonesian military, resulted in the death of 100,000 Papuans. These eventshave left behind deep scars and wounds that have been difficult to heal. Presentlymost Papuans harbour resentment towards the central government because ofthe policies and practices it has pursued that are detrimental to the interestsof the Papuan people. These amongst others include the transmigration policyof the Indonesian government that has resulted in marked inequalitybetween the Papuans and settlers. The government over the years has followedpolicies that have been unjust, unfair and exploitative of the Papuan people.The development policies of the Indonesian government have not taken intoconsideration the requirements of local culture. Little has been done to ensurethat the income derived from Papua's natural resources is spent on developmentof the region. The region's economy, despite protests and appeals, continuesto be dominated by settlers at the cost of the local Papuan peoples.

5. It is reiterated that arising from West Papua's integration and the associated transmigration programme has been a comprehensive record of human rights violations- from the denial of economic and cultural rights to detention without trial,torture and extrajudicial killings. At an economic and cultural level, the effectiveconfiscation of vast tracts of land for forestry, palm oil plantations, has notonly denied indigenous landowners the right to their traditional cropping practices,it has also deprived them of their economic base. While the Indonesiangovernment continues to exploit the island's natural resources for its own economic benefit there is concern that little equivalent benefit has come the way ofthe Papuan people. The province has, for example, the highest cost of living inthe republic, and the provision of help and education services disproportionatelyfavours the predominantly urban-based trans-migrant population.

The understanding of Indonesia as one nation has given overriding importanceto national identity at the expense of local identity and culture. In thecase of West Papua this has effectively resulted in the creation of a "lost generation"- not only deprived of their economic security but in addition, alienatedfrom their culture. It is hoped the proposed autonomy legislation enactedby the central government will open the possibility of greater emphasis onthe appreciation of local cultures throughout the archipelago. Not only arethe Papuan people seemingly treated as culturally and socially inferior by theIndonesian government, any form of cultural expression has resulted in eitherarrests or violence.

6. As stated earlier, in conjunction with the process of integration, the Indonesian government also instigated in the 1960s an extensive programme of transmigration.With a population in excess of two hundred million, 60 percent ofwhom live on 7 percent of the land area, such a programme was seen by theIndonesian government as a very effective means of correcting this imbalance.The policy of moving large numbers of people from heavily populated to relativelyunder-populated islands has seen, in the case of West Papua, over600,000 trans-migrants settled there since 1964. In addition, so-called spontaneousmigration to West Papua has also increased in recent years due toIndonesia's worsening economic situation. The West Papuans represent aminority in Indonesia as a whole. It is suggested that if existing levels of trans-migration continue indigenous Papuans will be a minority in their own landwithin the next five to eight years.

In order to sustain this level of transmigration, the Indonesian governmenthas forcibly and systematically claimed over 19 million hectares of land inWest Papua. These have been acquired on the government's understandingthat any non-cultivated land is state property and the land taken has beenused to build roads, schools, government facilities, forestry, palm oil plantations,mining, and trans-migrant settlements. Compensation to traditionalland-owners has been either nominal or non existent - the government arguesthat the development that has occurred as a result of these land acquisitionsrepresents sufficient compensation in itself.

7. The World Council of Churches is deeply disturbed by these developments inWest Papua. It is of the considered view that unless serious efforts are madeby the Indonesian government to implement the autonomy law in consultationwith the representatives of the Papuan people the situation of confrontationand conflict is likely to further deteriorate, resulting in serious humanrights violations. The government of Indonesia must be made to realize thatthe problems in Papua are primarily economic because of the failure of itsdevelopment policies. This Commission is requested to urge the Indonesiangovernment to take serious steps to ensure that the Province of Papua gets itsdue and just share of the proceeds raised from the exploitation of its abundantnatural resources. That the rights of Papuan people are duly recognized andeconomic justice ensured.