‘A Tragic, Forgotten Place.’ Poverty and Death in Indonesia’s Land of Gold

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS)

 

An illegal gold miner sifts through sand and rock as he pans for gold in Timika, Papua Province, Indonesia, on Feb. 4, 2017.
An illegal gold miner sifts through sand and rock as he pans for gold in Timika, Papua Province, Indonesia, on Feb. 4, 2017.
Ulet Ifansasti—Getty Images

When Bardina Degei cooks dinner, she doesn’t use a stove. She rarely even uses a pot. In her wooden home in Enarotali, the capital of Paniai regency in the restive Indonesian province of Papua, the housewife usually just places a sweet potato — known locally as “nota”— directly into the fireplace.

After half-an-hour, the charred tuber is retrieved and devoured with eager, unwashed hands. Degei sits on the mud floor — she has no furniture — which is where she also performs her daily chores, such as washing clothes with murky water from the nearby swamp. A bucket in a roofless room serves as a latrine. As the youngest of her husband’s four wives, she has been assigned no fields to tend. (Polygamy is common here.) Of course, working late can be dangerous: Most of the village men are unemployed and many drink heavily, plus there are the soldiers. “No one dares to walk around the village after 5 p.m.,” she says.

It’s a rare glimpse of daily life in the highlands of Papua, a former Dutch colony that was absorbed into Indonesia in 1969 following a controversial referendum, when just 1,026 elders were forced to vote though a public show of hands before occupying troops. An existing movement agitating for independence against Dutch rule swiftly turned its ire against the Jakarta government, which maintains tight control over the region, barring foreign journalists or rights monitors. In 2003, the province was officially split into Papua and West Papua, with independent Papua New Guinea occupying the eastern part of the island.

Enarotali is as remote as it is desolate; the journey here involves a 90-minute flight from the provincial capital Jayapura to Nabire, and then a stomach-churning five-hour drive by hire car. (There is no public transport.) The town of some 19,000 people consists of wooden houses ringed by bamboo fencing, corrugated iron roofs transformed by rust into varying tawny shades.

Locals work to catch crabs from the mining operations site in Timika, Papua Province, Indonesia, on Feb. 2, 2017
Locals work to catch crabs from the mining operations site in Timika, Papua Province, Indonesia, on Feb. 2, 2017
Ulet Ifansasti—Getty Images

Very few Indonesians have made the journey here, let alone journalists, and practically no foreigners. Before Christian missionaries arrived, Mee Pago Papuans worshiped a God named Uga Tamee. There were other changes, too. “We were not used to wearing these clothes,” says Degei, indicating her vividly colored, hand-woven turban, dark shirt and a bright skirt. “Before, we only wore leaves on our bodies.”

Papua is Indonesia’s poorest province, where 28% of people live below the poverty lineand with some of the worst infant mortality and literacy rates in Asia. But it is also Indonesia’s land of gold. The world’s largest and most profitable gold mine, Grasberg, owned by Phoenix-based Freeport McMoran, lies just 60 miles from Paniai, a highland province around the size of New Jersey and home to 153,000 people. In 2015 alone, Freeport mined some $3.1 billion worth of gold and copper here. In addition, Papua boasts timber resources worth an estimated $78 billion.

These riches are, however, a source of misery for Papuans, ensuring Indonesia’s powerful military maintains a suffocating presence. A 2005 investigation in The New York Times reported that Freeport paid local military personnel and units nearly $20 million between 1998 and 2004, including up to $150,000 to a single officer. Papuan calls for greater autonomy threaten this golden goose, and are dealt with mercilessly.

According to rights activists, more than 500,000 Papuan’s have been killed, and thousands more have been raped, tortured and imprisoned by the Indonesian military since 1969. Mass killings in Papua’s tribal highlands during the 1970’s amounted to genocide, according to the Asia Human Rights Commission.

Read More: Papua Remains a Killing Field Even Under New Indonesian President Jokowi

Indonesian police arrested more than 3,900 peaceful protesters in the region last year alone. We Will Lose Everything, a 2016 report by the Archdiocese of Brisbane, contains testimony of atrocities committed the previous year, such as extrajudicial executions, torture — rape and electrocution are especially popular, according to another report — and the brutal crushing of peaceful demonstrations. “It’s difficult to count the number of victims as incidents happen every week,” says Andreas Harsono, Indonesia researcher for Human Rights Watch.

The screws have tightened as Papua’s resources bring an influx of settlers from elsewhere in Indonesia. The province’s 3.5 million population is 83% Christian, but the demographic is changing as Muslim economic migrants arrive from Indonesia’s populous islands of Java, Borneo, Sumatra and Sulawesi. Javanese warung canteens sell fried chicken and gado-gado mixed-vegetables served with peanut sauce. Local people struggle to compete.

“The migrants started to sell chicken and vegetables in the traditional market cheaper than the local Papuans,” explains Abeth You, a 24-year-old Paniai native who moved to the provincial capital Jayapura for work. “It made the native Papuans — the mama-mama [the women] of Papua — lose their market.”

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, vowed to address the inequalities and rights abuses in Papua during his election campaign in 2014. The former carpenter secured 27 of Papua’s total 29 districts — including Paniai — on the way to the Presidential Palace in Jakarta. But precious little has changed in Papua, and today local people feel betrayed.

“Our hearts have been broken because in 2014 we voted for Jokowi, with the expectation that he would fulfill our hopes for justice to be restored,” You says.

A illegal gold miner walks as they pan for gold along the Aikwa river are located within Freeport's official mining operations in Timika, Papua Province, Indonesia, on Feb. 4, 2017.
A illegal gold miner walks as they pan for gold along the Aikwa river are located within Freeport’s official mining operations in Timika, Papua Province, Indonesia, on Feb. 4, 2017.
Ulet Ifansasti—Getty Images

‘It Was Crowded, Many Shots Were Fired’

In fact, Paniai suffered a nadir just two months after Jokowi’s October inauguration. On Dec. 7, 2014 a group of 11 children were outside singing Christmas carols in front of a bonfire in Enarotali when two Indonesian soldiers on a motorbike broke through the gloom. The startled children told them that they should turn on their headlights.

One of the soldiers took umbrage at their tone and later returned with four soldiers, according to local Pastor Yavedt Tebai. The soldiers, who had been drinking, chased and beat the group with their rifle butts, said victims and witnesses. Then one of the soldiers fired into the group of children.

One child, 16-year-old Yulianus Yeimo, was beaten so badly he fell into a coma.

A couple of hours later, the nearby government Election Commission building was set ablaze, and things escalated the following day. About 1,000 young Papuan men, women and children gathered on a soccer field in front of the local police station and military command center to demand justice. They carried ceremonial hunting bows and performed the waita dance — running in circles and simulating birdsong — of Papua’s Mee Pago tribe. Some protesters started hurling stones at police and military posts.

A Papuanese activist delivers speech during a protest against the fatal shooting of teenagers during clashes with security forces in Enarotali, at the Hotel Indonesia roundabout in Jakarta on Dec. 10, 2014.
A Papuanese activist delivers speech during a protest against the fatal shooting of teenagers during clashes with security forces in Enarotali, at the Hotel Indonesia roundabout in Jakarta on Dec. 10, 2014.
Adek Berry—AFP/Getty Images

As tempers grew more heated, an order was sent to the soldiers through internal radio: “If the masses offer resistance more than three times, shoot them dead,” it said, according to an official document seen by TIME that has not been released to the local media.

Yeremias Kayame, 56, the head of the Kego Koto neighborhood of Enarotali, saw the impending danger and appealed for calm, imploring the crowd to go back home. Nobody was in the mood to listen. “When I turned around I suddenly got shot in my left wrist,” he told TIME on the porch of his brightly painted wooden house.

Kayame still doesn’t know who fired but says the bullet came from the ranks of amassed soldiers. “It was crowded, many shots were fired,” he adds.

Local man Alfius Youw was hit three times, according to his cousin who witnessed the shootings. “I ran to him and examined his body to make sure it was him,” Yohanes, who like many Indonesians only goes by one name, told TIME somberly. “I saw he was dead … I kissed him.”

The Papua Police Chief Inspector General Yotje Mende told reporters that his officers were only “securing” their station because it was under attack.

“We have to defend ourselves when people threaten to kill us,” Papua Police spokesperson, Commissioner Pudjo Sulistiyo said in 2015. “It’s a matter of life and death.”

According to Human Rights Watch, five young protesters were killed and many more injured.

‘I’m Afraid of Being Arrested by the Military, Afraid to be Shot’

News of the killings only filtered through to Jakarta the following day. Three weeks later, Jokowi gave an impassioned speech in Jayapura, where he expressed sympathies with the victims’ families and vowed to address the historic abuses in Papua. “I want this case to be solved immediately so it won’t ever happen again in the future,” he said.

Security Minister Wiranto said in October 2016 that he was setting up a non-judicial mechanism to settle historic human-rights violations. But the excuses started almost immediately. “Most of the violations occurred a long time ago. Some were in the ’90s and in early 2000s. The point is we are committed to addressing these violations, but there are processes to go through,” he said.

Then Wiranto backtracked when speaking to TIME in Jakarta on June 5, saying he has no plans to establish a grievance mechanism in Papua. Instead, “All will be [settled] by law,” he said.

Wiranto, who the U.N. has indicted for “crimes against humanity” relating to more than 1,000 deaths during East Timor’s bloody 1999 independence vote, said that 11 cases of human-rights violations in Papua have already been settled, including the Paniai incident.

Families of the Paniai victims greeted such claims with grim incredulity. “I’ve been interviewed four times for the past three years, but there has been no progress at all,” Yohanes says. “I’m tired.”

He says that years later, he still lives in fear. “I’m afraid,” he says. “I’m afraid of being arrested by the military, afraid to be shot.”

His brother Yacobus echoed the view that people in Paniai are fearful of discussing the incident. He says he was beaten by the military after helping to bury four of the victims. “After burying the bodies, the military came looking for me,” he says.

‘A Tragic, Forgotten Place’

The shootings haven’t stopped. On Tuesday, Indonesian police shot at villagers in Paniai’s neighboring Deiyai regency. One person died and 17 others were wounded, including children, during a confrontation between villagers and the manager of a construction company who refused to help transport an unconscious man to hospital.

The man, 24-year-old Ravianus Douw who drowned while he was fishing in a nearby river, died on the way to hospital. Incensed villagers protested in front of the company’s site office. Police said the villagers threw rocks at officers, who responded by firing warning shots. But locals say the mobile brigade (Indonesian paramilitary police) began shooting at the crowd, killing one.

“We were so panicked, we are afraid there will be revenge,” 29-year-old Dominggu Badii, who lives near the hospital and witnessed the injured being hurried in, tells TIME. “I have been hiding in my house for two days.”

The Deiyai parliament has called for the officers involved to be held to account and the police mobile brigade to be withdrawn from the area.

Paniai has always been a troublespot for the Indonesian government. The lack of meaningful development feeds the discontent of the tribal Mee, Moni, Dani, and Damal peoples, who live sprawled across Papua’s verdant central highlands. Many joined the Free Papua Movement (OPM), the rebel army that claims to defend the rights of the Papuans by launching sporadic attacks and kidnapping raids on Indonesian soldiers. Some of the top OPM leaders hail from Paniai, including Tadius Yogi and Daniel Yudas Kogoya.

In response, thousands of people in Paniai have been arrested and arbitrarily detained by the military in recent years, under the guise of “safeguarding national sovereignty.” Some never reappear. Among the people of Papua, Paniai is known as “a tragic, forgotten place.”

Poverty feeds the discontent. The little rice on sale in Enarotali is too expensive for locals to buy. Bread is just as out of reach. People here grow everything they eat: mainly nota plus some fruit and leafy vegetables. Farming is the job of the women, who each can maintain four or five fields of the sweet potato. They usually keep most of the harvest for the family, with the rest sold in the local market. Ten pieces of nota cost only 10,000 Indonesian rupiah (75 cents).

Over time, economic inequalities have grown between the native Papuans and the new migrants, who have arrived in greater numbers since the opening of a new air routes to Nabire Airport. What few jobs exist typically go to the better-educated and wealthier migrants. Papuans rarely have the capital or the necessary skills to run their own businesses competitively.

“The young people are not interested to stay in the village … because there’s no jobs or money here,” says John Gobai, the chairman of the tribal council of Paniai.

‘They Don’t Need Money, They Just Want Justice’

Isolation keeps the world’s eyes off Papua. In addition, reporting restrictions for international media remain tight. Earlier this year, French journalists Franck Escudie and Basille Longchamp were deported from Papua for a “lack of coordination with related institutions” despite having been granted rare permission to film.

According to Phelim Kine, Deputy Asia Director of Human Rights Watch, Jokowi’s election campaign pledges to lift reporting restrictions to boost transparency and development have not been realized. “There are new hazards for foreign journalists attempting to report from Indonesia’s restive easternmost provinces of Papua and West Papua: visa denial and blacklisting,” he said in a statement.

The lack of press scrutiny means international pressure on the Indonesian government has been largely limited to Papua’s immediate neighbors. In March, six Pacific nations — Tonga, Nauru, Palau, Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands, and the Solomon Islands — urged the U.N. Human Rights Council to investigate the “various and widespread violations” in Papua, including the Paniai shooting. These same countries have historically backed the OPM.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo departs after a ceremony to release political prisoners at Abepura prison located in Jayapura, in the eastern province of Papua, on May 9, 2015.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo departs after a ceremony to release political prisoners at Abepura prison located in Jayapura, in the eastern province of Papua, on May 9, 2015.
Romeo Gacad—AFP/Getty Images

Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Arrmanatha Nasir shrugged off the group’s allegations, telling journalists in Jakarta, “In Indonesia, a democratic system still applies and there’s free media so it’s hard for the evidence of human rights cases to be covered up.”

Local people want more foreign governments to take note. When an official delegation from the Netherlands, headed by the nation’s human rights ambassador Kees Van Baar, visited Jayapura on May 4, local people broke their silence, beseeching, “We want freedom,” according to a source who also attended the meeting but who asked to stay anonymous.

Indonesia has another presidential election in 2019, but Papuans say they are unlikely to vote again for Jokowi. “Jokowi is a person who has good intentions, but he is surrounded by the people who are involved in the Paniai shooting,” says Gobai, the tribal council chairman.

He wants Jokowi to know that the Paniai people, aside from living under the looming threat of a rapacious military, wallow in destitution, with paltry education and health services.

Gobai says the Paniai people, like other Papuans, consider their vote to Jokowi as a “debt” he must repay. “They don’t need money, they just want justice,” he says.

Despite the threats and intimidation, families of the Paniai shooting victims carried out one last symbolic act of defiance: burying one victim’s body on land just opposite the police and military station. Knowing that justice may never be served, at least they won’t let those responsible forget their crimes. “A member of our family has been killed,” says Yacobus, head bowed. “What else could we do?”

Attacker slashes churchgoers with sword, injuring 5 in Indonesia

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Attacker slashes churchgoers with sword, injuring 5 in Indonesia

Indonesian police carry evidence after an attack at a church Sunday in Sleman, Yogyakarta province.

(CNN)A sword-wielding attacker slashed worshippers as they prayed at a church in Indonesia on Sunday, injuring five people, CNN Indonesia reported.

The victims included the pastor of the church, according to police officials. They said the congregation was praying when the attack happened at Santa Lidwina Church in the Yogyakarta province of Java.
Church security tried to prevent the attacker from entering the church, but he forced his way in, police officials told CNN Indonesia. Police opened fire on the attacker, who’s been hospitalized, it said.

Rise of Hard-liners Alarms Moderates in Indonesia

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

World

Rise of Hard-liners Alarms Moderates in Indonesia

Protesters take to the streets in Jakarta on April 28 to demonstrate against outgoing Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama. (Goh Chai Hin/AFP via Getty Images)

Jakarta, Indonesia- In¬mid-February, Muhammad al-Khaththath, leader of the hard-line Muslim Community Forum, held court on the top floor of a Jakarta fast-food joint. With key deputies gathered around, he explained the direction in which he hoped to push relatively secular, democratic Indonesia.

Sharia would become the law of the land, non-Muslims would lose their leadership posts and thieves, in accordance with Islamic law, would have their hands lopped off, he said. He also criticized Joko Widodo, Indonesia’s pluralist president.

Widodo “isn’t a liberal Muslim,” Khaththath said. “He’s a Muslim who doesn’t get it.”

Six weeks later, Khaththath was detained on treason charges, accused of plotting a coup. But in an April 19 runoff election for governor of Jakarta, his preferred candidate, fellow Muslim Anies Baswedan, defeated the Christian incumbent, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, after a campaign laden with religious overtones.

Since then, hard-line Islamist groups have gained stature; their ability to mobilize huge crowds was considered crucial to securing Baswedan’s lopsided victory. But a strong backlash also has emerged, led by moderate Muslims who worry that conservative Islamists are wrecking Indonesia’s tradition of religious tolerance.

Khaththath had taken over as the leader of a powerful protest movement against Purnama, a Widodo ally, in the months leading up to the gubernatorial election, after the previous leader was summoned by police on pornography charges.

But police came for Khaththath in late March, escorting him from his hotel room to the detention facility where he remains. A few weeks later, on the eve of the election, Khaththath managed to send a letter to his supporters.

“From my detention room, I tap on the sky door,” Khaththath wrote. He hoped the tap would be felt by “every Muslim heart” and would persuade the faithful to “choose a Muslim governor.”

Not every Muslim heart felt the tap, but enough did to secure a clean victory for Baswedan. The high-stakes election campaign was marked by the largest conservative rallies in generations, as well as by intensifying — and controversial — legal efforts by the Indonesian government to rein in the hard-line groups’ leadership.

Now that the election is over, many moderate Muslim leaders say they are treating it as a wake-up call about the growing power of Indonesian hard-line organizations and the need to take stern action to stop them.

“I am not worried about the candidates who won,” said Sidarto Danusobroto, a former speaker of the Senate and key adviser to the president. “I am worried about the groups that supported them — the Islamic Defenders Front and Hizbut Tahrir.”

“Islam is different from how the Islamic Defenders Front portrays it,” said Mohammad Nuruzzaman, head of strategic research for Ansor, a moderate Muslim youth movement that has been working with the police to break up hard-line Muslim gatherings.

In one of a number of efforts in the past few weeks to curb extremists, police officials and nationalist groups in the central Javanese town of Semarang prevented the Islamic Defenders Front from opening a branch.

“We have a tolerant city,” said Iwan Santoso, a representative from the Red and White, a group that takes its name from the colors of the Indonesian flag. “We don’t want students to be instigated.”

This past week, police in East Java, apparently acting at the urging of moderate Muslims or nationalists, shut down a planned university event featuring Felix Siauw, a Chinese Indonesian convert to Islam who has become a major hard-line preacher. In a Web video subsequently uploaded to his Facebook page, Siauw said, “We should have a nation of laws, and the laws should apply to all.”

But moderate Muslim and civil society groups increasingly are calling for bans on organizations that push for the creation of a caliphate. Nuruzzaman, of Ansor, compared such organizations to the Indonesian Communist Party, a boogeyman from Indonesia’s past.

“The goal of Communists and those who support the caliphate are similar — both want all countries in the world to be run under one system,” he said.

Last Tuesday, police announced that they were reviewing the legality of Hizbut Tahrir because of the international Islamist group’s embrace of a global caliphate. Muhammad Ismail ¬Yusanto, a spokesman for Hizbut Tahrir here, protested that its goal of establishing a caliphate does not violate the Indonesian constitution.

“All we do is convey Islam’s teachings,” he said in an interview. Besides, he argued, the constitution can be amended.

Hizbut Tahrir is banned in many countries around the world, including Germany, China, Egypt and numerous other Arab states. But it has operated for nearly 20 years in democratic Indonesia.

Some rights activists oppose banning the group. Andreas Harsono, Indonesia representative of Human Rights Watch, said that although Hizbut Tahrir’s ideology is deeply discriminatory — toward women, LGBT people and minority faiths — that does not mean the organization should be shut down.

“It is not illegal to say, ‘I want to discriminate against women,’ ” he argued, acknowledging that the case is “complicated.”

More worrying to Harsono are the Indonesian government’s efforts to pursue radical religious leaders for alleged offenses unrelated to their Islamist activism, or on exaggerated charges. Habib Rizieq, perhaps the nation’s most powerful hard-line figure, was brought in for questioning by police over pornographic images he is alleged to have exchanged with a woman who is not his wife, while Khaththath was charged with trying to organize a coup.

“It’s very concerning,” said Harsono, who said he knows of no evidence that Khaththath was plotting the violent overthrow of the government.

Marcus Mietzner, an associate professor at Australian National University, expressed concern that heavy-handed charges would harm Indonesia’s democracy.

“What they should not do is arbitrarily throw criminal charges at individual leaders that are either excessive, like the treason accusation, or unrelated, as the pornography case,” he wrote in an email. “This, in turn, will only increase the sense of victimization among conservative Muslims.”

That already appears to be happening. Achmad Sofyan, a Khaththath deputy who was also investigated by police, said: “It isn’t fair. The case was engineered.”

Mietzner suggested that the government has legal ways to handle hard-line groups but has opted for different tactics in part to avoid a messy public debate. If the state prosecuted these groups, “it would have to argue in front of the courts why Islam should not be Indonesia’s primary legal-political foundation,” he wrote.

For Nuruzzaman, it is crucial to oppose the hard-liners, whatever the difficulties.

“We don’t want the government to take repressive measures,” he said. Nonetheless, “we have to confront them.”

The Washington Post

Jakarta Ex-Governor Ahok Standing Strong In His Christian Faith Through The Storm

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘OPEN DOORS’ CHRISTIAN WEBSITE)

EX-GOVERNOR AHOK STANDING STRONG THROUGH THE STORM

April 26, 2017 by Open Doors in Prayer updates

Basuki Cahaya Purnama “Ahok,” a Christian and ethnic Chinese, and Jakarta’s first non-Muslim governor in 50 years, lost re-election on April 19. The next morning, his blasphemy trial continued with the prosecutor demanding a sentence of 1 year imprisonment and 2 years’ probation.

What is surprising in this development is that the prosecutor did not use the original charge of blasphemy, which had resulted in mass protests against Ahok for several weeks. Instead, he is now charged for “expressing hostile feelings or hatred towards a particular group.” In this case, the particular group refers to his political opponents.

“God gives the authority and so God alone can take it back,” said Ahok to his supporters after the quick count which confirmed his loss. “No one is allowed to rule without God’s permission. I once lost in the governor’s election in 2007, but then I still became Jakarta’s governor. So, don’t be sad. God knows best.”

As much as they could have anticipated the election results in the current political climate, the Christian community could not help but feel deeply sadden and disappointed. Pray for God to continue to work good for Ahok and his future. Pray also for peace to be restored and for God’s justice to prevail in Ahok’s trial.

Father, we pray Your protection over Ahok in the wake of this political defeat as he faces a trial because of his faith in Christ. As he proclaimed, You put him in office and even now, in the midst of defeat, You still know best. We pray now for the Christians in Jakarta, that You will protect and encourage them in this disappointment. We pray for peace to be restored following the bitter election season and we pray for Ahok’s protection and for justice to be accomplished as the trial progresses. In the name of Jesus, who “works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed” (Psalm 103:6). Amen.