US Ambassador Robert Blake Visits West Papua

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The US Ambassador Robert Blake visited West Papua between 17 and 22 January 2016 to view the  progress of US supported development projects, meet with government officials, the Papuan Police Chief, religious leaders, civil society activists. According to the US embassy the main purpose of the trip was to visit USAID programs aimed at reducing poverty and protecting the environment in the region through the promotion of sustainable farming methods, the preservation of the region’s rich forests and wildlife, and to monitor ongoing efforts to increase the quality and availability of primary education in West Papua.

The United States of America are one of the few countries, which is supporting the implementation of development projects in West Papua in the health, education and environmental sector through its government development agency USAID. Robert Blake visited several institutions in Jayapura and Manokwari that participated in USAID supported projects. The Ambassador hosted meetings with human rights activists in both cities, to discuss the latest developments of the human rights situation in West Papua. Human rights violations, such as the Shootings in Paniai and Tolikara were not seriously investigated by corresponding government bodies in Indonesia. The Indonesian government keeps on following a security based approach to counter the armed and peaceful struggle for Papuan independence, leading to frequent human rights violations where police and military perpetrators are not held responsible and enjoy full impunity.

Robert Blake also met individually with Provincial Governor Lukas Enembe, Chief of Police Inspector General Paulus Waterpauw. During the meeting with the Chief of Papuan Regional Police the Ambassador praised police efforts in engaging with local communities. He also emphasized the importance to adopt non-lethal methods of crowd control and develop police mechanisms providing a greater accountability and transparency when officers are involved in incidents.

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In Jayapura the US Ambassador attended a meeting with religious leaders, namely, Rev. Yemima Krey, vice chair woman of of GKI-TP,  Rev. Benny Giay chair man of the Papuan Tabernacle Church KINGMI Papua and Socrates Sofyan Yoman, Head of the Communion of Baptist Churches in Papua (see picture), in which the religious leaders addressed the issue of the prolongation of PT. Freeport Indonesia's mining concession. According to local media sources the religious leaders stated that they would agree with an extension of the mining concession of PT. Freeport Indonesia if a future contract would ensure a greater corporate social responsibility towards indigenous Papuans. The church leaders also urged Robert Blake to address the Indonesian government to investigate and legally process human rights violations that have occurred in West Papua.   

Many Indonesian media platforms linked the US Ambassador's visit to Papua recent disputes between the Indonesian government and PT. Freeport Indonesia over the extension of its mining concession, which will expire in 2021. Freeport is demanding the government to extend its contract  to 2041.