MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Remarks by John Rumbiak on security & West Papua

Published by MAC on 2001-05-01


Europe in the world: EU external relations and development

Remarks by John Rumbiak, Supervisor Institute for Human Rights Study and Advocacy (ELSHAM), Papua, Indonesia

May 19, 2003 - Residence Palace, Brussels

Panel: New Realism or New Partnership? Foreign policy & development

Topic: EU security agenda and developing countries

As those of us concerned with foreign and development policy gather here today to engage in dialogue, it is highly appropriate that we address the emerging security agenda post-September 11 and its implications for the foreign, security, and development policy interface.

Before we can do so, we must be very clear about what we mean by "security." We at the Institute for Human Rights Study and Advocacy (ELSHAM) believe in a security agenda that promotes "human security" by pursuing a mission and vision of demilitarisation, justice and peace-building, self-determination, and people empowerment. This agenda is, in our thinking, synonymous with "sustainable development" and promotes conflict resolution through constructive dialogue and reflective consideration. This approach, we believe, is fundamentally important for achieving human security and ending violent conflict not only in Papua, but also in the rest of the world.

We can contrast this "human security" agenda with the concept of "military-based security" - what we in Papua and Indonesia call "the security approach." That agenda attempts to end conflict by force. It relies on recruiting, training, funding and directing militaries, paramilitaries, militias and mercenaries to engage, often by whatever means necessary, in armed attack and other forms of physical and psychological violence in the name of abstract notions of security: security of the state, national security. In our experience, and as we have documented carefully, the impact of this military-based approach to security breeds human rights violations across a full spectrum and succeeds only in engendering human misery. It also creates a backlash, an equal yet opposite reaction: of counter-force at times, religious fundamentalism at others, and - in the best case - of nonviolent movement building and community organizing.

We see that in the post-September 11 climate of fear and sectarianism, human security is critically threatened by an overemphasis on military-based security. In Indonesia, too, these dynamics are too much in evidence, particularly following the deadly bombing in Bali last year. The Indonesian legislature has passed a strong anti-terrorism bill that threatens basic rights, particularly those of human rights defenders. At the same time, the peace process in Aceh is gravely threatened as the Indonesian military prepares to launch combat operations and continues to intimidate civilian peace and human rights activists. Undermining efforts to establish Papua as a Zone of Peace, the military has so far refused to participate in this ground-breaking initiative in which all other major actors of society are involved: the provincial civilian government, the police, the churches, and other elements of civil society. The military also has rejected efforts at civilian-led democratic reform, refusing to make transparent its budget or allow strengthened legislative oversight. It has put forward its own initiative that would create a legal framework for military action without prior governmental approval.

The Indonesian military is quick to justify its actions in the name of security: never "human security," but always "national security." Indeed, at this moment, the Indonesian military is engaging in a campaign of violence targeting civilians in the Central Highlands of Papua, which has included the burning of villages, and the internal displacement of more than 1,000 civilians. Another example is the murder by Indonesian Special Forces personnel of popular Papuan civic leader Theys Eluay. At the conclusion of a trial of perpetrators, an Indonesian court handed down very lenient sentences for low-ranking Special Forces officers, while Indonesian military leadership referred to the perpetrators as "national heroes" for working to preserve "national security." The Indonesian government, for its part, has treated the assassination as an ordinary crime, rather than a human rights violation, undermining people's faith in the rule of law or the possibility for justice in a country so dominated by military interests.

And in this climate of fear and military impunity, governments such as the Bush Administration in Washington, D.C., are pressing to re-engage with and provide assistance and training to the Indonesian military despite its continuing widespread abuse of human rights and the Indonesian government's failure to hold the military properly accountable for crimes against humanity in East Timor, Papua and elsewhere. The examination of a military-based security approach is not complete without noting the strong linkage between militaries and corporations. In Papua - and Indonesia as a whole - we have seen countless examples of the military committing widespread human rights violations in the name of safeguarding some economic interest - whether its own or that of a multinational corporation such as ExxonMobil, Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold, or Rio Tinto. One could also think of the Nigerian military's abuses and execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and other nonviolent Ogoni activists who opposed the social and environmental harms caused by Royal Dutch Shell Oil. Or perhaps the killings, forced labor and other crimes of the Burmese military in support of Unocal's pipeline. As I said earlier, the actions of a military approach do not engender "human security." Instead, they breed human rights abuses and human misery.

When we ask ourselves what are the necessary conditions for effective sustainable development, we think of freedom of expression, freedom of movement, a vibrant civil society, the rule of law and respect for and protection of fundamental human rights. We know that these things are what we desire for ourselves, for our children and for the world. We know that these things are crucial to securing peace in our time. We can think of U.S. President John F. Kennedy who said that "Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures." This is exactly the work of those of us engaged in sustainable development, and it is exactly these often unheralded actions that will bring us true peace and real human security.

As the EU considers its foreign policy path, we urge ministers to consider seriously the opportunities provided by a peace-building human security approach vs. the well-documented liabilities resulting from a military-based security approach. We urge you to invest wisely and with a long-term vision.

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