Military Base in Tambrauw inaugurated without consent of indigenous land rights holders

The local government in Tambrauw has inaugurated the new military district command headquarters (KODIM) in the regency. By doing that, it has ignored ongoing protests by indigenous land rights holders as well as multiple cases of military violence and intimidation against local communities. These have occurred in Tambrauw since the establishment of the new KODIM and a sub-district military command (KORAMIL) in the Kwoor district. A delegation of the Tambrauw Government inaugurated the new KODIM in an official ceremony at the 181 Praja Vira Tama military district command in the city of Sorong on 14 December 2020 (see photo below, source: Jubi).

The union of university students from Tambrauw immediately reacted upon the inauguration ceremony. On 15 December 2020, the students organised a peaceful demonstration against the presence of the new KODIM in Tambrauw (see photo on top, source: Suara Papua). According to the students, the local government had approved the establishment of the military base without the free prior informed consent of the indigenous land rights holders.

Indigenous leaders had provided a piece of land to the local government for building an office for the local Transportation Department. However, the local Government handed over the building and land to the military without prior consultation with the indigenous landowners. The student union demand the local government to cancel the establishment of the military headquarters immediately. They fear that the massive military presence could trigger an armed conflict with the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN PB) in Tambrauw, which has not been affected by the armed clashes in the past decades.  If the government continues to remain silent over the matter, the students announced they would organise massive demonstrations in the Fef District which will paralyze all activities in Tambaruw’s administrative centre.

Indigenous communities in Tambrauw widely reject the presence of the new KODIM since multiple cases of military violence and intimidation have taken place since its establishment. According to the Tambrauw student union, the most recent case of intimidation by military members against four indigenous Papuans named Markus Yekwam, Timo Yekwam, Alberthus Yekwam and Willem Yekwam occurred in the Syubun District on 6 December 2020.

Kodim-1810-Tambaruw-kodim1704sorong Jubi

The inauguration speech by the military commander, Brigadier General Indra Heri, appeared almost sarcastic given the repeated incidents of violence in Tambrauw. “We expect that the KODIM in Tambrauw will have a positive contribution to the people and the government in bringing upon progress for the development of the region,” said Heri during the ceremony.