The Indonesian Government has suddenly ceased funding for more than
400 West Papuan students studying abroad
The picture above is of West Papuan students in Adelaide, six of whom, have had their studies abruptly ended by this unexpected and undiscussed cut. It has left them in dire straights
We, the Australian West Papua Association- South Australia (AWPA SA) is assisting them to remain in Australia and complete their studies so that they don’t waste the many years they have put into their tertiary education.
The students were suddenly told that the funding had ceased and they had to return to West Papua. This has a huge impact on their education plus current and future earning potential.
We have so far helped them out with two weeks rent and working towards providing assistance with food and other necessities. They have also received some support through The Pacific Islands Council of SA Inc.
While they are busy negotiating with the Universities and exploring visa options there is an urgent need to help them with food and accommodation until they can find part time work and get up on their own feet.
Accommodation is the most urgent need.
We are hoping that there are supporters out there who might be able to have some temporary boarders or house guests in their homes until they find longer term housing.
Or phone mobile 0408345593 or home 08 83454480 to discuss the situation.
AWPA SA and the students have arranged to speak to the Universities and are urging them to allow the students to finish their studies so that they are not deported.
This advocacy seems to have had some success in NZ already. See separate story.
We are also seeking financial assistance. We will be setting up a Crowd funding website with a Pay button in the next day or two so that we can put in on social media nationwide and we ask all supporters to share this within their networks.
There were at least 400 Papuan students receiving scholarships abroad, comprising 25 students in Australia, 77 in New Zealand, five in Japan, 250 in the US and Canada, 38 in Russia, and five in Germany. Of this figure, Yan Wenda, President of Papua Students Association of Oceania said, there were 84 students in the US and 41 in New Zealand who had received an email from the Papua Provincial Government that they would soon be repatriated to Papua.
These students are part way, some very near, to completion of their studies and will lose all their years of effort if they can’t finish their courses.
Why has this happened
“It appears to me that the explanation for the cancellation of the sponsorship program is to limit West Papuan students from travelling around the world, disseminating information about the actual situation in WP and possibly garnering support. It is also not in the interests of Indonesia to have educated Papuans.”
Says Dr Jim Elmslie Convenor of the West Papua Project at University of Wollongong
He further writes
The problem has its genesis in a law enacted last year in Indonesia, Law no.21/2021 Papua’s Special Autonomy Law (OTSUS). This was a follow up from the original Special Autonomy Law of 2001 which was designed as a concession to Papuans who were (overwhelmingly) calling for independence for Indonesia. It was a watered down version of their demands but still gave the Papuans certain rights and control over some funds. From that emerged the foreign sponsorship education scheme that aimed to produce a group of educated Papuans. It also gave the Papuans a veto over the creation of more provinces in West Papua.
OTSUS mark 1 had a 20 year term which expired last year. The Indonesian government implemented OTSUS mark 2 with no input from Papuan leaders, in fact in the face of staunch opposition from all Papuan civil society groups and churches including the umbrella organization, the West Papuan Council of Churches (WPCC). This is because OTSUS mark 2 removed any control the Papuans had over their lives and future. Specifically it removed the Papuan veto on the creation of new provinces. The Melanesian area known locally and globally as ‘West Papua’ had already been split into two Indonesian provinces: West Papua and Papua provinces. The Indonesian government has now announced that they intend to create four (or possibly six) new provinces in West Papua. This will entail the establishment of six government administrations; six new military, intelligence and police commands; open up vast still relatively untouched areas to development in the form of logging and mining, and facilitate the influx of literally millions of Indonesian migrants. The WPCC has stated that this will lead to the disappearance of the Papuan people as a distinct population and are calling it genocide. There have been mass demonstrations by Papuans against OTSUS mark 2, which are continuing now and multiple people have been shot dead. There is also an international campaign against OTSUS mark two which is also playing out in the UN.
There has been a small scale civil war in WP since its forcible take over by Indonesia in 1962/3. Since 2018 this has dramatically increased as a new generation of West Papua fighters take up the struggle. Indonesia has responded by sending many thousands of soldiers to the region and there are now more than 60,000 internally displaced refugees as the Indonesian military indiscriminately bomb and attack villages in six regencies. Part of the war is to halt the flow of information and foreign journalists have long been banned from the region while local journalists operate in dangerous and highly restricted circumstances. The main flow of information is from the various church networks who have representatives on the ground.
Secretary AWPA SA
Below are links to several recent articles that background the situation facing WP students in New Zealand, Australia and also all around the world.
1) Papuan Activist’s Treason Trial Postponed Again After He is Hospitalized
Ronna Nirmala Jakarta 2021-08-31
The start of a Papuan independence activist’s trial on treason charges was postponed Tuesday for a third time after he fell ill and had to be hospitalized for pulmonary and gastric problems, lawyers said.
Victor Yeimo was admitted to the Jayapura General Hospital on Monday after the court and prosecutors agreed to postpone the trial pending his treatment, according to Adrianus Tomana, the public prosecutor.
“The suspension of detention was granted so that defendant Victor Yeimo can be treated in hospital,” Adrianus told BenarNews.
The activist will return to his detention cell from the hospital once he has recovered, Adrianus said.
Yeimo, the international spokesman for the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), a group seeking a referendum on independence for the Papua region, is facing charges of treason, desecration of state symbols, and weapons smuggling in connection with deadly anti-Jakarta riots that took place in 2019.
He could face two years to a maximum of life in prison, if found guilty.
The indefinite postponement marked the third time since last week that the trial’s opening was delayed. It was originally set to begin on Aug. 24 at a courthouse in Jayapura, the capital of Papua province.
Yeimo’s attorney, Gustav Kawer, criticized the prosecutor’s office, accusing it of delaying approval for his client’s medical treatment.
“Initially, the prosecutor had wanted the trial to proceed as planned and the defendant to remain in detention,” Kawer told BenarNews. “Maybe they wanted him to die in his detention cell.”
Last Thursday, the Jayapura District Court ordered Yeimo to receive medical treatment and adjourned the trial after receiving the results of his medical checks.
Yeimo had been held at a detention facility run by the crack Mobile Brigade police unit since his arrest on May 9.
Kawer said Yeimo had complained of chest pain and coughed up blood, with his chronic pulmonary conditions aggravated because of a poorly ventilated cell.
But police and the prosecutor’s office had initially denied requests for his client to be treated and transferred to another facility, Kawer alleged.
On Friday, police finally took Yeimo to a hospital for a series of health examinations, the defense lawyer said.
The doctor diagnosed Yeimo with acid reflux disease, chronic bronchitis and possible pulmonary tuberculosis, according to the results of the examinations, a copy of which was seen by BenarNews.
In 2019, more than 40 people were killed in Papua and neighboring West Papua province during anti-government demonstrations that turned violent. These were sparked by the perceived harsh and racist treatment of Papuan students by government security personnel in Java that August.
Police said Yeimo instigated the demonstrations, during which protestors demanded independence from Jakarta’s rule for the far-eastern Papua region, which makes up the western side of New Guinea Island.
Indonesian government forces have been accused of engaging in racist actions against indigenous people in mainly Melanesian Papua, where violence linked to a separatist insurgency has simmered for decades, and grown in recent months.
Last year, at least 13 Papuan activists and students were convicted for raising Morning Star flags – the symbol of the Papuan independence movement – during pro-referendum rallies in 2019 as part of nationwide protests against racism towards Papuans.
They were sentenced to between nine and 11 months in prison on treason charges.
‘Inhumane and cruel’
Wirya Adiwena, deputy director of the rights group Amnesty International in Indonesia, criticized the delay in treating Yeimo.
“We are grateful that he was finally hospitalized, but we also regret why the process was so slow. We’ve known how his health was and that he needed urgent treatment,” Wirya told BenarNews.
“Any attempt to prevent him from being treated constitutes inhumane and cruel treatment,” he said.
According to Wirya, Yeimo should not have been detained and prosecuted in the first place.
“His continued detention is in violation of international human rights laws and Indonesia’s constitution. It is critical that he be released as soon as possible,” Wirya said.
Papua police spokesman Ahmad Musthofa Kamal denied that Yeimo was denied treatment.
“He has been given regular health checks, including the last one, the results of which were submitted to the court,” Kamal told BenarNews.
On Monday, hundreds of people rallied outside the Papuan prosecutor’s office to demand that Yeimo be immediately released, according to Jubi, a Papuan news website.
The crowd was disbanded by the police in the afternoon.
Yeimo’s current legal trouble is not his first brush with the law.
In 2009, he was arrested and sentenced to a year in prison for leading a rally demanding a referendum on self-determination for Papua.
In other news from the region, a Papuan man who was wounded on Aug. 16 when police fired shots at protestors in Papua’s Yahukimo regency who were demanding Yeimo’s release has died of his injuries, West Papua National Committee chairman Agus Kossay said.
Ferianus Asso, 29, died on Aug. 22 after being treated in a hospital for a bullet wound to his stomach, Kossay said.
“We are working with his family and lawyers to demand the chief of the police be held accountable and brought to justice,” Kossay told BenarNews.
Meanwhile, on the day that Asso died, rebels gunned two workers in the same regency who were involved in the construction of the Trans-Papua Highway.
The West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB), the military wing of the Free Papua Movement, claimed responsibility for the killings. They had killed other construction workers in the past, claiming they were government agents.
In 1963, Indonesian forces invaded Papua and annexed the region. Papua was formally incorporated into Indonesia after a U.N.-sponsored ballot called the Act of Free Choice in 1969.
Locals and activists said the vote was a sham because only about 1,000 people took part. However, the United Nations accepted the result, which essentially endorsed Jakarta’s rule.
The region is rich in natural resources and minerals, including copper and gold, but remains among Indonesia’s poorest and underdeveloped ones.
2) Ex-tapol Filep Karma shocked at prosecutor’s racist treatment of Victor Yeimo
Suara Papua – August 29, 2021
Former political prisoner and pro-independence activist Filep Karma – Undated (SP)
Editors note . Some supporters might be familiar with Filep Karma .
He was gaoled on charges of treason , promoting independence and other such crimes for 15 years . After 11 years he was released after an intense campaign was waged over the years .
He refused to be released until other political prisoners were released causing great embarrassment to the Government of Joko Widodo .
He has not stopped campaigning or been silenced .
Jayapura – Former Papuan political prisoner (tapol) Filep Karma has also joined with activists and Victor Yeimo’s family when along with Yeimo’s lawyer they went to the private residence of the Papua chief public prosecutor in the Doc 5 area of Jayapura city on the evening of Saturday August 28.
Karma revealed that he felt shocked at the attitude of the public prosecutor who is still showing his racism towards Yeimo despite the panel of judges at a hearing at the Jayapura District Court on Thursday August 26 ordering the prosecutor to facilitate the defendant in obtaining his right to healthcare, namely a follow up examination and inpatient care at a hospital.
Just like before and despite being urged by several parties over the last two days following the court’s ruling, the chief public prosecutor has not demonstrated good faith.
Moreover when Yeimo was being examined by a medical team at the Jayapura pubic hospital on the evening of Friday August 27, the prosecutor accompanied by security personnel put pressure on Yeimo not to be treated overnight and was then returned to the Papua regional police Mobile Brigade command headquarters detention centre where he has been detained since his arrest.
Yeimo’s lawyer, who is part of the Papua Law Enforcement and Human Rights Coalition (KPHHP), has already met all of the administrative requirements for Yeimo’s hospital treatment including providing guarantors from the Papuan Regional House of Representatives (DPRP) – legislators John NR Gobai and Laurenzus Kadepa, as well as an advocate.
“Legal affairs in Indonesia are indeed like this, excessively long-winded. Indonesia does not regard life as important, but procedures are more important than people’s lives”, he said.
Karma also feels that the prosecutor’s actions are strange, especially because ipso facto they are an indigenous Papuan who has not heeded the order by the panel of judges during the hearing on Thursday.
“Because the prosecutor is a Papuan, he’s afraid of being labeled as included towards Papuan independence. So, he will try to show that he is more nationalist than the Javanese. Yet in the eyes of the Javanese he’s just a monkey. I lived in Java for a long time, so I have felt this”, said Karma.
Yeimo must be treated first because, according to Karma, a suspect and a defendant is guaranteed by law to receive treatment if they are ill.
“What we want this evening is for brother Victor Yeimo to be allowed to be treated in hospital. But this has not happened because of other considerations and they say they are following legal procedures”, he said.
Because of efforts to get Yeimo treated in hospital have not borne fruit, Karma is calling on all Papuans to surrender his fate to God.
“We will cool our passionate hearts, let us rise in hymen and prayer. Myself and all of us exist not just because of power, but rather because Jesus who lived before us, today and forever. I invite us all to rise in prayer for Victor tonight, assured and trusting in Jesus to save him”, said Karma.
KPHHP litigation coordinator and Yeimo’s lawyer Emanuel Gobay believes that the Papua chief public prosecutor’s response to Gobai and Kadepa when he met with them at his private residence was different from the court’s ruling that his client receive inpatient treatment because his state of health has deteriorated while being detained at the Mobile Brigade detention centre.
“We have heard the chief public prosecutor’s response. If seen from the court’s ruling, there is difference in how it’s seen. What the chief public prosecutor has conveyed proves that he does not respect the judges’ ruling at the Abepura Class IIA District Court. The public prosecutor has gone against the court’s order”, asserted Gobay.
Speaking in front of Yeimo’s family and activists gathered in front of the prosecutor’s private residence at 8 am, Gobay said that Yeimo’s lawyers would accompany him at the next hearing on Tuesday. His guarantors, Gobai and Kadepa will also attend the hearing.
[Translated by James Balowski. Slightly abridged due to repetition. The original title of the article was “Filep Karma Heran Jaksa Masih Hambat Victor Yeimo Dirawat”.]
3) 6,000 Police, Army Personnel Deployed For PON XX in Papua
Editor: Petir Garda Bhwana
31 August 2021 12:49 WIB
TEMPO.CO, Papua – As many as 6,000 National Police and Army (Polri-TNI) personnel were deployed to help secure the implementation of the XX National Sports Week or PON in Papua which will be held in October 2021.
The Papuan Regional Police Chief, Inspector General Mathius D. Fakhiri, said that later the Nusantara Mobil Brigade personnel would also assist.
“Thousands of personnel that we have prepared will also be divided into four regencies or cities to host the PON, namely Jayapura City, Jayapura Regency, Timika and Merauke,” said Mathius in a written statement on Tuesday, August 31, 2021.
Previously, the Director of Security for Vital Objects of the Papua Regional Police, Sr. Comr. Nicolas Ari Lilipaly, stated that there would be 6,000 national police and army personnel who would secure PON XX. The thousands of personnel will secure approximately 20,000 incoming people, consisting of more than 6,000 athletes, around 3,000 officials and 9,000 more committee members.
Nicolas said that the police will, among other things, secure the arrival and return of athletes and their entourage, venues, security for the opening or closing ceremonies, as well as securing the fire and traffic lanes. “As well as securing lodging places used by athletes,” he said on August 12, 2021.
4) VP, minister discuss draft regulations for Papua special autonomy law
30th August 2021
Jakarta (ANTARA) – Vice President Ma’ruf Amin on Monday summoned Home Affairs Minister Tito Karnavian to discuss draft government regulations for Papua’s special autonomy law.
At the meeting, Karnavian reported on developments in the formulation of two government regulations pertaining to institution and financial governance for Papua’s special autonomy, vice presidential spokesperson Masduki Baidlowi said in a written statement released on Monday.
According to Karnavian, the two draft government regulations must be endorsed no later than October 19, 2021 or three months of the enactment of Law No. 2/2021 concerning the second round of amendment to Law No. 21/2001 concerning special autonomy for Papua province, Baidlowi said.
“The newly-enacted special autonomy law needs government regulations to implement it. The deadline for the endorsement of the government regulations is three months after the enactment of the law,” he added.
The home affairs minister has submitted the draft government regulations, which involve 33 ministries and non-ministerial government institutions, to the vice president, he informed. The draft government regulations also cover the planned proliferation of Papua province, he added.
“The home affairs minister has submitted all the draft government regulations to the vice president, including the planned proliferation of Papua province which constitutes the aspiration of Papua people,” Baidlowi said. editors note . This is more likely to be a continuation of the push to create another Province in West Papua
Reporter: Fransiska N, Suharto Editor: Fardah Assegaf
5) ‘We’re almost dead’: Covid patient numbers in Papua surge while vaccinations stagnate
Asrida Elisabeth, Project Multatuli 30 August 2021
News Desk August 31, 2021 2:43 pm
In Wamena, the city at the economic center of Papua’s central highlands, a mother of two stays home to avoid contracting Covid-19. The woman who asked to be identified as AB reminds everyone–family or visitor alike–to wash their hands before entering. The number of coronavirus cases in Wamena has been increasing. Local officials suspended commercial flights to the region on July 12, in line with tighter restrictions imposed by the central government, far away in Jakarta, following a surge in deaths.
Unlike as in the first wave of Covid-19 infections in 2020, the second wave has affected people close to AB. Two of her neighbors were buried a few days earlier. Her own mother was hospitalized for a week. “When the first wave came […] they said Papuans couldn’t get it, but the second wave actually killed a lot of Papuans,” AB said in a phone interview.
Unfortunately, according to AB, people have lowered their guard against the pandemic, as seen in her observations of daily life in Wamena.
No one in her family has been vaccinated. Information on social media about the vaccine’s side effects has made her doubtful. Moreover, AB and her husband suffer from HIV and are following a treatment program.
“Personally, I don’t really mind [a vaccination]. What makes us hesitant is all the information on whether the vaccine is good or not, its side effects and everything. And people like me–with a comorbidity? This is the question. It’s better not to be vaccinated because of the fear of fatal side effects.”
AB said that her only source of information about Covid-19 and vaccines is social media. Wamena’s slow internet makes finding accurate information a lengthy and expensive process. A local police car is the only source of direct information, when it announces mass vaccinations in the area.
“The average person here is terrified by the [possible] effects of the vaccine,” she said. “I’ve not seen any widespread explanation about the various vaccines that have reached this small community. I hardly know anything myself. Which groups need vaccines? We must know beforehand, right? So that we can decide what to do.”
AB said most of her unvaccinated friends were also worried about side effects. “This is closely related to them being unsure of their own medical history–a common story in Papua. When they fall sick, indigenous Papuans rarely go to puskesmas [community health care centers] but often treat themselves at home.” Access difficulties and Papua’s difficult geography have led to the province’s poor performance on the Indonesian government’s public health development index, according to the Health Ministry.
In Jayapura, the provincial capital, health care is far better than in other parts of Papua. Yet even here, residents have been increasingly burdened by the pandemic.
The head of the Papua Provincial Health Agency, Dr. Robby Kayame, said upwards of 20 people have died every day in Jayapura alone in July.
“Compared to March 2020, there has been a 300 to 400 percent increase in Covid-19 patients in March 2021,” Dr. Kayame said. “Every day, there are 150 to 400 cases.” This figure, he added, was based on people asking to be tested, not from testing requests from the officials tracing the close contacts of Covid-19 patients.
“If we look at the Papuan community, the number [of Covid-19 cases] might be double. It could be up to 60,000 or even more,” Dr. Kayame said.
Dr. Kayame sounded desperate when he said that funds, facilities and health workers in Papua were severely limited. In addition, Papuans are vulnerable to malaria, HIV, hepatitis and several other diseases that worsen their health. Poor nutrition and dietary habits also pose problems.
Since mid-July, almost every hospital in Jayapura has been overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients, such as Yoram Dwa, who fell ill on July 9. On July 20, his family took Yoram, who also had lung problems, to Yowari Hospital in Sentani, Jayapura, where he was diagnosed with Covid-19. Hospital staff wanted to transfer him to an isolation room but his family refused.
“We checked the isolation room, but the room was cluttered,” said Ambokari, Yoram’s wife. “How could the patients breathe fresh air?” When the family brought him home, his condition worsened. Yoram could barely breathe. Speaking tightened his chest. His oxygen saturation dropped to 50 percent, well below 94 percent, the level requiring immediate medical treatment, according to the World Health Organization.
Again, Yoram’s family went to the hospital. However, by this time, Jayapura was in the middle of an outbreak. Beds were full, oxygen was scarce, and many local health care workers had been exposed to the virus. On July 25, the family went to Dian Harapan Hospital in Wamena. When there were no available beds, a nurse suggested going to Dok II Regional General Hospital–a larger, referral facility that also turned out to be overflowing with patients, as was the next facility on the family’s list, Abepura Hospital.
When Yoram’s breathing worsened as the car jolted along the rocky road, the family decided to take him back home to Maribu, in West Sentani. They had traveled more than 117 kilometers.
His condition now critical, Yoram was cared for at home, surviving only with an oxygen can purchased at a pharmacy. Someone from the local health center would occasionally bring medicine and offer advice on how to improve his breathing. Family and friends were trying constantly to get an oxygen cylinder with a regulator.
“Now we are busy looking for a way to get oxygen,” Ambokari said. “If we cannot get it in the next few days, then we’ll just use whatever we have, because of the crisis.”
I observed the hospitals where Yoram’s family had sought help. At Dok II, patients filled the veranda of the emergency unit, whose 15 beds were occupied with patients breathing with the help of supplemental oxygen or family members. At Abepura Hospital, patients continued to arrive, standing in line to be treated in the ER, while others waited for the bodies of their deceased relatives to be released by staff. One patient died before treatment.
The Trauma of Indigenous Papuans
The hospital crisis has coincided with low vaccination rates in Papua, especially among indigenous Papuans.
Efforts to overcome the problem have included a webinar, titled “Questions about the Covid-19 Vaccine”, held by the Jubi news outlet and Kingmi Church–two of the most trusted institutions in Papua–on July 24.
At the seminar, Dr. Kayame, the Papua Health Agency chief, said only 190,723 people in Papua province (13.06% of the population) had received one dose of the vaccine as of July 24, while second doses had been administered to 12,911 people (5.58%).
Jayapura, Mimika and Merauke are all areas of Papua with higher vaccination rates than the mountainous areas of Lapago and Meepago. In Saireri area, the vaccination rate in Biak regency is much higher than in Supiori, Yapen and Waropen. Vaccination rates in Boven, Mappi and Asmat are in the higher range.
“The percentage of Papuans who have been vaccinated is very small compared to non-Papuans in some places,” Dr. Kayame said.
Many believe since Papuans continue to gather with little regard to the virus, that they cannot be infected with Covid-19, according to Dr. Kayame. This misbelief has been exacerbated by hoaxes on social media, including WhatsApp, that have spread fear-mongering narratives about the vaccine’s potential side effects.
Distrust of the Indonesian government is another factor for Papuans who refuse to be vaccinated, according to Rev. Benny Giay, leader of the Kingmi Church in Tanah Papua.
The experience of the Papuan people with the Indonesian state has been one of murder, repression, imprisonment, fear and trauma. For the past two years, Covid-19 has been used an excuse for Indonesian security forces to silence Papuan voices protesting against racism and Jakarta’s interests, Rev. Giay said.
“Those suspected [of abuses] by the Papuan people should not be involved in overseeing vaccinations,” said Rev. Giay. The involvement of the Indonesian Army and police in vaccinations has made Papuans hesitant to get the injection, he added.
Audryne Karma, the daughter of the political figure Filep Karma, said Papuan distrust of the government went beyond vaccines, stating that local indigenous Papuans were already afraid that pre-pandemic public health programs had a hidden agenda.
“We have ingrained trauma,” she said.
Audryne, who as a dentist worked for three years in Dekai, Yahukimo, said that the local child mortality rate in the region was high, since the community objected to basic immunization programs. A widespread polio outbreak in 2019 prompted the government to launch another vaccination campaign that succeeded only after health workers collaborated with the local church.
Vaccine hesitancy also stemmed from a lack of official information, Audryne said. “I think it’s everyone’s right to know the side effects of drugs and whether they are harmful or not. But I don’t see that. I only see the information from the WHO that provides detailed facts on the vaccine’s side effects.”
Eben Kirskey, a US anthropologist who has researched Papua, has urged Papuans not to fear vaccination. He shares similar suspicions related to the movement “Papuan Lives Matter”, which echoed “Black Lives Matter” with shared experiences of racism. Suspicion among black Americans, he said, was quickly eroded when people became aware of Kizzmekia Corbett, an African-American who was the key scientist behind the development of a Covid-19 vaccine.
“If you are young, under 30s or 40s, if you don’t feel sick, I think it’s better to use Sinovac. However, if you are over 70, diabetic, a bit overweight, and have a heart disease, which means you have a high risk of dying from COVID-19, Astra Zeneca may be more suitable,” said Kirksey.
“The logic is, if you have a medical condition, you must get vaccinated sooner because you’re more vulnerable when exposed to Covid-19.”
Melissa Hascatri, a physician who leads the Yoka puskesmas in Heram, Jayapura, said that most of the people seeking vaccinations at her center came from outside the village. “We still have to continue to approach locals. They want to access information [on vaccines and Covid-19]. In the beginning [of the pandemic], we were still spreading information, but people also said they had heard of some hoaxes,” Melissa said.
The number of Covid-19 cases in her area has increased. In July 2021, 14 to 16 patients were positive for the coronavirus. Half the clinic staff tested positive, including Melissa. One of her staff was transferred to Dok II for treatment.
Melissa said more information campaigns with community leaders are needed to convince Papuans to be vaccinated. “We have already sent a letter to the church. We will definitely communicate with the church again.”
‘My Mama Drinks Eucalyptus Oil’
The last two months have been tough for Rev. Samuel Hesegem, a pastor at the Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) in Papua. He lost his parents, Alex Hesegem, 65, and Amelia Infandi, 53, to Covid-19. They died at Dok II Regional General Hospital.
His father, who was Papua’s deputy governor from 2006 to 2011, died on June 20, following treatment in isolation for three days. Three weeks later, his wife died after a night in intensive care.
Samuel was the first in the family to test positive, after a few days of fevers and shortness of breath. He said that he felt strong enough to self-isolate in a room on the second floor of their house. But his parents continued to interact with him.
“I reminded them ‘I’m positive. You should stop at the door.’ But […] you know how parents are.”
“Mother always wore a mask. Father too. But sometimes at night when I was asleep, he came in alone, with no mask, he sang, he prayed for me, even though I always reminded him.”
The family doctor suggested that Samuel’s parents and the relatives who had interacted with him take a swab test. His father tested positive and his mother tested negative. Samuel said his father was distressed: X-rays revealed spots on his lungs. The physician recommended antiviral medicine and other drugs for his stomach and lungs. Alex previously suffered from complications, including stomach pains.
“I was also given lung medication and antivirals,” said Samuel. ”I think it was this part–the reaction from the medication–that led to Papa feeling immediately weaker and he had to be rushed to the hospital.”
Samuel continued to have breathing difficulties and was treated at the same hospital.
“It was when I was isolated that Papa passed away. I only heard the news. It was hard, as I was dealing with the coronavirus and I lost Papa. I wished I could see him one last time, but the doctor wouldn’t allow me with my chest feeling so tight.”
While Samuel was in the hospital, his mother stayed close by. He improved and Samuel and his mother were tested on July 2, when Samuel was released. His mother, however, tested positive. They received the results on July 4.
“Mama heard drinking eucalyptus oil was good for [Covid-19] patients–three to four times a day. Eucalyptus oil is diluted in warm water. Mama was probably so desperate that she took eucalyptus oil directly from a spoon and downed it with warm water. But she had stomach problems and had immediate reactions when she took it,” he said.
Samuel decided his mother should isolate at home. However her condition remained poor and on July 11 she was rushed to Dok II General Hospital–again, at the height of the recent spike in Jayapura. Amelia waited in a wheelchair for hours before she was given a bed.
“Mama was panting and sweating for almost half an hour. They were late to change the oxygen tank. Even when they changed the tank I saw her oxygen saturation had decreased to around 70, Samuel said. “In the ER, we could only say, ‘Mama you must be strong. We only have Mama, you must be strong.’”
The doctor took Samuel’s mom to intensive care. She died on July 13.
Politics Complicate the Pandemic
In the last two months, politics in Papua have been driven by the Jakarta elite. It has been hard for the provincial administration to focus on the pandemic.
At the end of June, Home Affairs Minister Tito Karnavian, a former National Police chief and former chief of the Papua Provincial Police, appointed a local bureaucrat–without notice–to fill in for Papua Governor Lukas Enembe, who was sick. This angered Enembe, who threatened to report Tito to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo. Papua hasn’t had a deputy governor since Klement Tinal died in May.
Divisive politics continued in July, when the House of Representatives in Jakarta passed a revised Papua Special Autonomy Law over local protests, with provisions authorizing the province’s expansion without consulting the local legislature. Police arrested dozens of demonstrators in Jayapura, charging members of the crowd with violating health protocols.
Tito also vacated Enembe’s plan, devised after experts said the Delta variant entered Papua, to close sea and air access to the province from Aug.1 to Aug. 31. Jakarta did not want a lockdown. President Jokowi previously approved extended lockdowns only for Java and Bali. Tug-of-wars between the central and local governments have been common since the pandemic took hold in Indonesia in 2020.
Unlike other Indonesians, Papuans are used to the sight of security forces into areas regarded as hotbeds of armed resistance. Jokowi’s government has labeled political groups demanding a referendum on Papua’s future as terrorists. Recalling the example of East Timor, which gained its independence after an Indonesian invasion through a referendum, activists have called for a similar vote in Papua.
Jokowi’s security approach, continuing from earlier regimes, has aggravated problems in Papua. Favouring an economy-first approach to the pandemic, Jokowi has not implemented the full provisions of the Health Quarantine Law, which was intended for emergencies such as pandemics. It is a move that would require the government to meet all the basic needs of the people during a crisis like Covid-19.
Despite the pandemic, the central and provincial governments are planning to hold the 20th National Sports Week (PON XX) in Papua in early October.
“Everyone should be responsible. All these Papuans are dying. The virus has spread everywhere throughout Papua, up to the remote hinterlands,” Dr. Kayame said.
Rev. Giay urged the establishment of a special team comprising representatives of churches, civil society organizations and the media to monitor the vaccination program in the province.
“We need a new step–a new concept–to enable a program that we can promote. A team that we can trust, so that we can break down the wall of distrust that is deeply ingrained in Papuan society. If this team is not accepted, it will amount to suicide. Papuans will die […] and become extinct.”
Editor: Fahri Salam, Ati Nurbaiti, Christian Razukas
This article is part of the #KamiSesakNapas and #DiabaikanNegara reporting series supported by Yayasan Kurawal.
This article is originally published in Indonesian as part of the report series to portray inequality in Covid-19 handling. The series is supported by Kurawal Foundation. You can help Indonesia deal with oxygen shortage through #OxygenForIndonesia.
Translated from Indonesian by Maria Clara Yubilea Sidharta – AIYAtranslation team.
Below is the West Papuan news summary put out by AWPA Sydney .
Just after this was sent out the judge hearing the court case against WP activist Victor Yeimo made a ruling as per below
Court orders hospital treatment for Victor Yeimo, prosecutor objects to inpatient care
Suara Papua – August 27, 2021
Jayapura — At the second court hearing which was to hear the reading out of the charges against West Papua National Committee (KNPB) international spokesperson activist Victor Yeimo on Thursday August 26, the panel of judges ordered the prosecution to prioritise the defendant’s health.
The panel of judges ordered the prosecution to take Yeimo to a hospital for intensive treatment because his health has further deteriorated.
The first and second court hearings this week were postponed because of Yeimo’s worrying state of health and because he was unable to attend the hearing.
On Friday August 27 Yeimo was taken to the Jayapura public hospital in Dok II for an examination and treatment.
John NR Gobay and Laurenzus Kadepan — two members of the Papua Regional House of Representatives (DPRD) — have declared that they are ready to stand as guarantors for Yeimo while being treated. Papua Legal Aid Foundation (LBH) Director Emanuel Gobay has also declared that he is ready to become a guarantor.
This was conveyed to the panel of judges at the Jayapura District Court on Thursday who subsequently granted the request.
When contacted by Suara Papua on Friday, Gustaf Kawer, one of the members of Yeimo’s team of lawyers, revealed that after Yeimo was taken to the Jayapura hospital there was pressure from the prosecutor who said that Yeimo was not allowed to receive inpatient care.
“It is correct that Victor was taken to hospital earlier. But on the matter of inpatient care this is still being debated with the prosecutor. Because the prosecutor wants Victor Yeimo not to be treated at the Doc II hospital”, he told Suara Papua.
According to Kawer, there was a debate between Yeimo’s lawyers and the prosecutor at the hospital. Yeimo and his lawyers wanted him to be treated at the hospital while the prosecutor did not.
Kawer said that the administrative requirements can be completed and will be handed over on Monday next week.
“What we are asking and urging is that Victor Yeimo’s health [be prioritised]. His state of health is not good. He must be treated in a hospital. We already have the guarantors. The administrative requirements can be handed over on Monday. What we want is for Victor to be treated. Victor’s health is more important”, he said.
In a video received by Suara Papua on Friday evening, it shows Yeimo at the Dok II Jayapura hospital emergency unit. In several photographs received it also shows Yeimo being examined by a team of medics at the hospital.
Meanwhile in another video received by Suara Papua it shows Yeimo debating with the authorities and the prosecutor who are insisting that Yeimo not be treated at the hospital.
[Translated by James Balowski. Abridged slightly due to repletion. The original title of the article was “Victor Yeimo Dipaksa untuk Tidak Dirawat di Rumah Sakit”.]
The trial of West Papuan political prisoner Victor Yeimo started in Jayapura this week, now adjourned to 31 August. Victor was arrested on the 9 May 2021 and faces a number of charges including treason because of his peaceful role in the anti-racism protests on the 19 August in 2019. He is accused of violating Articles 106 and 110 of the Criminal Code on treason and conspiracy to commit treason. He is being held at the Mako Brimob Prison in Jayapura.
There is also concern for Victor’s mental health. The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) Papua’s head, Frits Ramandey, said his group had visited the former KNPB chairman three times and was concerned for Yeimo’s psychological condition as he is being kept in isolation at the Mobile Brigade Command Headquarters.
Yeimo’s lawyer, Gustav Kawer, has reported that repeated requests from the legal team for his client to undergo a comprehensive health check-up were denied, although he had complained of chest pain and coughed up blood.Yeimo is being detained at a facility run by the Mobile Brigade police unit and his lawyer said that Victor is lodged in a cell with minimal lighting and poor air circulation.
Healthcare & Legal Fees For West Papuan Activist Victor Yeimo
By Papuan People’s Petition – Australia
Urgent appeal to support West Papua political prisoner, Victor Yeimo.
We are concerned community based in Australia and New Zealand, standing in solidarity with West Papua. We call for our friends to support Victor Yeimo, international spokesperson for West Papua National Committee and Papuan People’s Petition.
Twice in early August, Victor Yeimo pleaded for help from the district court judges. He said he was very sick, that he had lost at least 10 kilograms, but had been denied adequate medical treatment, and his isolation in prison, amounts to torture.
“Help! Help me! I need to be treated now because I am very sick, especially at night.” – Victor Yeimo pleading to the judges during his political trial on 26th August, 2021.
Many in West Papua and beyond admire his leadership, courage and charisma in non-violence and self-determination struggle of West Papua.
The Government of Indonesia’s covert Nemangkawi Task Force arrested Mr Yeimo in Papua, Jayapura, on Sunday, 09 May, 2021, without a warrant.
After falsely accusing him of committing treason and inciting violence during the 2019 West Papua Uprising, imprisoning him for speaking out against racism, putting him in solitary confinement for 3 months, limiting access to lawyers and family, they are now denying him proper medical treatment of his deteriorating health condition.
Don’t let another freedom fighter die in a cell at the hands of the Indonesian colonial system.
We are extremely concerned about Victor Yeimo’s wellbeing. We aim to raise $5000 to cover towards medical, food, and legal costs, as well as his families’ and lawyers logistical needs and constraints during this long legal process.
All over West Papua and the world people are calling for his release, join the call!
Sam Klintworth, National Director of Amnesty International Australia, said in support of Victor:
“Peacefully protesting against racial discrimination should never be punished. Victor’s health is deteriorating as he languishes in detention, and he is forced to take on a legal battle to defend his right to freedom. Amnesty will continue to defend Victor’s rights, and I encourage everyone to do what they can to help free Victor.”
Mary Lawlo UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders (Twitter, 10 Aug):
“I am hearing disturbing reports that Human Rights Defender from #WestPapua, Victor Yeimo, is suffering from deteriorating health in prison. I’m concerned because his pre-existing health conditions put him at grave risk of #COVID19.”
West Papuan Pastor Dora Balubun:
“Victor Yeimo’s condition is critical, and the prosecutor’s office has not allowed him to be treated at the hospital. For the sake of humanity, please save him immediately.”
“Victor Yeimo symbolises the Papuan people in maintaining our collective resilience and positive energy. Please show our solidarity, help Victor Yeimo, help West Papua!“
We can’t let Victor pay the price for his self-determination advocacy in West Papua. Your donation will be used to cover him speaking out against racism. Any excess funds will go towards helping other political prisoners.
Tomorrow, we are holding the introductory webinar to the Pacific Education and Advocacy Festival. We are inviting all to join this educational meeting and discussion on various issues in the Pacific Region, including the long-standing campaign for self-determination of the region and many of its island nations.
We have an exciting line-up of speakers which you can see here!
Bahasa interpretation shall be available and the event shall also be broadcasted on the Facebook Page of the Festival.
SM Said, Jayapura — The Nemangkawi Cyber Ops Task Force have arrested the owner of a Facebook account in the name of Manuel Metemko for allegedly spreading fake information or hoaxes and inciting hatred or ethnic, religious, racial and inter-group (SARA) hostility between individuals or social groups.
Metemko is the chairperson of Merauke district branch of the National Committee of West Papua (KNPB) which is a wing of and is affiliated with the West Papua National Liberation Army-Free Papua Organisation (TPNPB-OPM).
“On Wednesday June 9, 2021 at 22.35 West Indonesia time the Nemangkawi Cyber Ops Task Force arrested the owner of a Facebook account [in the name of] Manuel Metemko in the name of EKM (38) when it was suspected that the suspect was at their home on Jalan Perikanan Darat, Kelapa V sub-district, Merauke district, Merauke regency, Papua”, said Nemangkawi Task Force public relations head Senior Commissioner M Iqbal Al-Qudusy in Jakarta on Thursday June 10.
Al-Qudusy said that the Cyber Ops Task Force has already taken the suspect to the Merauke district police for a forensic digital examination of the evidence which was seized.
“Don’t make hoaxes or untrue news, provoke the public with reports [which incite] hatred and result in animosity in the land of Papua, the public wants to live in peace”, said Al-Qudusy.
Meanwhile there were several postings which are alleged to have broken the law, including among others, sharing a photo which is not in accordance with the original incident with the caption, “Photo: Ilaga Airport, Puncak regency, Papua, was successfully burnt down by the TPNPB, Thursday (03/06/2021)”.
Then, “Otsus [special autonomy] has failed totally, the people oppose it and demand a referendum, thousands of troops have been sent, there are casualties everywhere, Catholic religious figures have been terrorised by OTK [unidentified individuals], rumors of terrorists are thriving in the land of Papua. The question is, who is the breeder of the humanitarian crimes and terrorism in Indonesia and Papua?”.
According to Al-Qudusy there are still many other postings which are deemed to create social unrest and because the person concerned is the KNPB Merauke chairperson police are taking legal action against the owner of the Facebook account.
The perpetrator is alleged to have violated Article 45A Paragraph (2) in conjunction with Article 28 Paragraph (2) of Law Number 19/2016 on Revisions to Law Number 11/2008. (sms)
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Manuel Metemko Ketua Sayap Politik OPM-KNPB Merauke Ditangkap Satgas Nemangkawi”.]
With their plight largely ignored by the public, 63 Indonesians detained on treason charges have turned to the United Nations for help, hoping they could be saved from the threat posed by the COVID-19 disease in the country’s overcrowded prisons.
The prisoners made joint appeals to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and three UN special rapporteurs on Wednesday, helped along by Australian and Indonesian lawyers Jennifer Robinson and Veronica Koman. The human rights lawyers argued that the 56 indigenous Papuans, five indigenous Moluccans, one native Batak and one Polish national were arbitrarily and unlawfully detained in violation of the country’s international obligations.
“These urgent appeals have been made given the imminent threat to the prisoners’ lives from being detained in overcrowded prisons amid the COVID-19 pandemic […] Their detention is now not only unlawful, but life-threatening. All 63 prisoners should be immediately and unconditionally released,” Robinson said in a statement on Thursday.
The appeal was made following the government’s plan to grant early release or parole to 50,000 eligible prisoners and juvenile inmates as a means of preventing the spread of the infectious disease in correctional facilities. Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly previously said that those eligible for release include 15,442 drug convicts who have already served five to 10 years, 300 graft inmates aged 60 years and above, 1,457 special crimes convicts with chronic diseases and 53 foreign prisoners who have served at least two-thirds of their sentences.
It remains unclear whether the 63 prisoners in question are eligible for early release, but one ministry official said on Thursday that only those who fulfilled the requirements set out in Law and Human Rights Ministery Regulation No. 10/2020 would be considered. The regulation stipulates that convicts are eligible for early release unless they have committed one of several types of crimes, including crimes against national security. Most of the petitioning prisoners were arrested for their involvement in a series of protests against racial abuse last year, which stoked tensions between Papuan rebels and the government. The country’s easternmost provinces of Papua and West Papua have long been dealing with a disorganized separatist movement, which the Indonesian government routinely blames as being the actor behind various cases of violent unrest in the restive region.
Indonesia’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, Switzerland, Hasan Kleib, said he had not received any information about the appeals the lawyers claimed to have submitted. “We have not seen the copy of the letters. We are trying to find out and ask the relevant parties at the UN Human Rights Council directly,” Hasan told The Jakarta Post in a short message on Thursday. Indonesia was elected to the Human Rights Council in October last year. The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is mandated by the council to investigate alleged cases of arbitrary detention, but only with the consent of the states concerned.
On April 1, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet urged countries to reduce the population of overcrowded prisons to avoid an explosive spread of the SARS-Cov-2 virus – which causes COVID-19 – in closed and choked settings. Indonesia currently houses 268,919 inmates in 524 prisons, roughly double its maximum capacity, according to Law and Human Rights Ministry data from February.
Bachelet urged states to “release all those detained without a lawful basis, including those held in violation of human rights obligations”. Her spokesman, Rupert Colville, later stressed that nations should also release “political prisoners and those detained for critical, dissenting views”. All 63 political prisoners in question have been charged with treason under Article 106 and/or Article 110 of Indonesia’s Criminal Code, which can carry a sentence of up to 20 years. Seven of them have been convicted while the others are still on trial. “The activities for which they have been detained range from simply carrying or displaying the West Papuan or Moluccan national [separatist] flags, to participation in peaceful protests and being members of political organizations that support self-determination: all internationally protected activities,” said the human rights lawyers who organized the appeal. According Article 6, Paragraph 4 of Government Regulation No. 77/2007, the design of a regional logo or banner must not have any resemblance to that of a banned organization or separatist movement. Veronika was previously involved in an attempt to hand over letters to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo during his visit to Australia in February. The letters reportedly included details of 57 Papuan political prisoners as well as 243 civilians who have died in Nduga, Papua, since December 2018. The document was dismissed by Coordinating Legal, Political and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD. “So far, we have not received any response, except for the minister saying that the data was ‘probably just trash’. We urge the UN and the Indonesian government to take this matter very seriously now that lives are at stake,” Veronica said. The European Parliament has also called for the Polish man’s transfer back to his home country. Papua has restricted entry to the province by sea and air to stem the spread of COVID-19. As of Thursday, Papua has confirmed 80 cases and six fatalities, while West Papua has recorded five infections and one death. The country’s official tally is currently at 5,516 confirmed cases with 469 deaths.
1) Papuan activist, Victor Yeimo, to face multiple charges including treason
News Desk May 11, 2021 3:24 pm
KNPB’s flag – Jubi
Jayapura, Jubi – Papua Police chief Insp. Gen. Mathius D Fakhiri said that Victor Yeimo, the international spokesperson of the National Committee of West Papua (KNPB) arrested by the police on Sunday, May 9, 2021, would face multiple charges including treason charges.
Other than charged with treason, Yeimo was also accused of violating articles on flags and state symbols, provoking to fight against the authorities, using common force to commit violence, arson, and theft
“I make sure [Victor Yeimo] is a suspect. We arrested Yeimo on Sunday based on a lot of reports. First, we detained him for allegedly provoking the 2019 riots,” Fakhiri said on Monday. In August 2019, riots broke out in Papua and West Papua as local people and students protested against the racial abuse of Papuan students in East Java.
“For that, we will charge him of crimes against national security,” said Fakhiri.
He said Yeimo violated Article 106 jo. 82 and Article 110 of Criminal Code (treason), articles in Law No.24/2009 on flags, languages, state symbols, and national anthem, Article 160 of Criminal Code (incitement to fight against the authorities), Article 187 of Criminal Code (arson), Article 365 of Criminal Code (theft), Article 170 Paragraph 1 of Criminal Code (use common force to commit violence), and Article 2 of Law No.12/1961 on the possession of batting or stabbing weapon.
Fakhiri said his party was investigating all police reports on Yeimo including the alleged violation against Law No. 19/2016 on electronic information and transaction. “Yeimo also [allegedly] distributed propaganda. We will probe the matter further,” he said.
On Sunday, Yeimo was transferred from the Papua Police headquarters to the Papua Mobile Brigade headquarters in Kotaraja. “The police will investigate him there. I have asked the investigators to treat the suspect well. We put forward the presumption of innocence,” he said.
2) Police need time to crush Papuan separatists: senior official
9 hours ago Jakarta (ANTARA) – Indonesian police will need time to hunt down Papuan separatist terrorists owing to their knowledge of the terrains where they operate and hide, a top official has said.
“At the moment, we need to be patient to follow what has become policies,” chief of the National Police’s Security Intelligence Agency, Coms.Gen. Paulus Waterpauw, told the press here on Tuesday.
The Indonesian government formally designated armed Papuan groups, also known as “KKB”, as “terrorists” on April 29, 2021 and attributed the decision to their acts of terror and crimes against civilians.
Labeling the groups as terrorists would help the government track those backing and funding them, Waterpauw explained.
The National Police’s counterterrorism detachment Densus 88 could be tasked with probing such links, he added.
It is rather strange that the armed terrorists are in possession of expensive firearms and ammunition, he pointed out.
They can also purchase other necessities though they are jobless, he said, adding that the authorities need to find out and break the chain of their financial sources.
Waterpauw also emphasized that the terrorism label is only meant for those committing crimes, and not for members of Papuan communities.
Over the past few years, armed Papuan groups have employed hit-and-run tactics against Indonesian security personnel and mounted acts of terror against civilians in the districts of Intan Jaya, Nduga, and Puncak to instill fear among the people.
The recent targets of such attacks have included construction workers, motorcycle taxi (ojek) drivers, teachers, students, street food vendors, and even, civilian aircraft.
On December 2, 2018, a group of armed Papuan rebels brutally killed 31 workers from PT Istaka Karya engaged in the construction of the Trans Papua project in Kali Yigi and Kali Aurak in Yigi sub-district, Nduga district.
The same day, armed attackers also killed a soldier, identified as Handoko, and injured two other security personnel, Sugeng and Wahyu.
Such acts of violence have continued this year. On January 6, 2021, at least 10 armed separatist terrorists vandalized and torched a Quest Kodiak aircraft belonging to Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) on the Pagamba village airstrip.
On February 8, 2021, a 32-year-old man was shot at close range in Bilogai village, Sugapa sub-district.
The victim, identified as RNR, sustained gunshot wounds on the face and right shoulder and was taken to the Timika Public Hospital in Mimika district on February 9, 2021.
In a separate incident on February 9, six armed Papuans fatally stabbed a motorcycle taxi (ojek) driver.
another motorcycle taxi driver was shot dead by an unknown gunman in Papua the same day.
On April 8, 2021, several armed Papuan rebels opened fire at a kiosk in Julukoma village, Beoga sub-district, Puncak district, killing a Beoga public elementary school teacher, identified as Oktovianus Rayo.
After killing Rayo, the armed attackers torched three classrooms at the Beoga public senior high school.
On April 9, 2021, armed separatists fatally shot another teacher, Yonatan Randen, on the chest.
Two days later, nine classrooms at the Beoga public junior high school were set ablaze by an armed group.
Barely four days later, Ali Mom, a student of the Ilaga public senior high school in Beoga sub-district, was brutally killed by armed attackers.
On April 25, 2021, Papuan separatists operating in Beoga ambushed State Intelligence Agency (Papua) Chief I Gusti Putu Danny Karya Nugraha and several security personnel during their visit to Dambet village. Nugraha died in the attack. (INE)
A former Indonesian military commander has condemned the formal labelling of the West Papuan resistance TPN/OPN as “terrorists”, saying that the Papuan problem was complex and could not be solved by armed force alone.
Among other critics of the tagging are the Papua provincial Governor, Lukas Enembe and a Papuan legal researcher.
General Gatot Nurmantyo, former commander of the Indonesian National Armed Forces (TNI), said during a live interview on TV-One Indonesia that it was wrong to label the TPN/OPM (National Liberation Army/Free Papua Movement) as a terrorist group.
He said that Jakarta had tried to use a military solution since the former Dutch colony of Irian Jaya was “integrated” into Indonesia in 1969 without bringing about any change.
“Papua cannot be solved by military operations,” he said.
General Nurmantyo said military operations would not solve the root cause of the conflict in Papua.
He regretted the decision made by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s administration on May 5.
“I am saddened to hear that troops are leaving for Papua to fight. It’s a picture that I think makes me sad,” said the general.
Sad for two reasons He said he felt sad for two reasons:
First, Papua was one of the Indonesian provinces and the youngest province of the Unitary State of the Republic.
Second, based on Government Regulation in Lieu of Acts (PERPU) 59 of 1959, Papua was still under civilian rule. So, the military actions should be mainly territorial, which supported by intelligence and prepared combat operations.
The retired general said that Papuans “are our own people”, so the burden could not be imposed only on the military and police. Executive government and other government agencies should comprehend the real background of the movements and be involved to resolve the prolonged problem in Papua.
“Territorial operations are operations to win the hearts and minds of the people, because what we face is our own people. Do not expect to solve a condition in Papua only with military operations,” said General Nurmantyo.
“I remind you, it will not work, no matter how great it will be. Because the problem is not just that small,” he said.
General Nurmantyo, who has been a former military district commander in Jayapura and Merauke said that Indonesia already had experience in Aceh where the conflict had not been resolved by military operations.
As the PERPU 59 of 1959 was still valid, the governor was the single highest authority. The military was not allowed to carry out operations without coordinating with the local government.
Communication with government General Nurmantyo said communication with the local government was carried out and measured operations launched.
“Lest the people become victims! How come, in a situation like this we are waging an open war? Seriously!
“Meanwhile, the situation is still very civil. The leader is the governor or local government.
“This is a state regulation. This is different from when Papua would be designated as a military operation,” said General Nurmantyo.
According to a media release received by Asia Pacific Report. Papua Governor Lukas Enembe and the provincial government also objected to the terrorist label given to the KKB (“armed criminal group”), as the Indonesian state refers to the TPNPB (West Papua National Liberation Army).
Key points Two of the seven points made in the media release said:
“Terrorism is a concept that has always been debated in legal and political spheres, thus the designation of the KKB as a terrorist group needs to be reviewed carefully and ensure the objectivity of the state in granting this status, and
“The Papua provincial government pleaded with the central government and the Indonesian Parliament to conduct a re-assessment of the observation of the labeling of KKB as terrorist. We are of the opinion that the assessment must be comprehensive by taking into account the social, economic and legal impacts on Papuans in general.”
Papua Governor Lukas Enembe … critical of the OPM tagging in a media statement. Image: APR screenshot
A West Papuan legal researcher, who declined to be named, said that the Indonesian government misused the term “terrorism” to undermine the basic human rights of indigenous West Papuans.
So far, the term terrorism had no precise definition and so has no legal definition, said the researcher.
Many of the United Nations member states did not support UN resolution 3034 (XXVII) because it contained a certain degree of disconnection to other international instruments, particularly human rights laws.
Disagreements among the states remained regarding the use of terrorism, especially the exclusion of different categories of terrorism.
Right to self-determination In particular the exception of the liberation movement groups. Particularly contentious which was the affirmation in 1972 of “the inalienable right to self-determination and independence of all peoples under colonial and racist regimes and other forms of alien domination”.
“The legitimacy of their struggle, in particular, the struggle of national liberation movements by the principles and purposes is represented in the UN charter. Therefore, designating West Papua Liberation Army as a terrorist group by the Indonesian government considered outside the category of the terrorist act,” said the researcher.
“Any definition of terrorism must also, accommodate reasonable claims to political implications, particularly against repressive regimes such as Indonesia towards West Papuans.
“The act of self-determination by Papuans cannot be considered terrorism at all.”
The international community should condemn any regime that is repressive and terrorist acts by colonial, racist and alien regimes in denying peoples their legitimate right to self-determination, independence, and other human rights.
A coherent legal definition of terrorism might help “confine the unilateral misuse” of the term by the national government such as Indonesia against TPNPB/OPM, said the researcher.
The other side of the story was war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, oppression, torture and intimidation by the state.
These elements were present in West Papua and they qualified as the act of terrorists and were therefore universally recognised as crimes against humanity and criminals, the researcher said.
The researcher added: “The West Papua army or TPN/OPM are not terrorist groups. They are the victims of terrorism”
This report and the translations have been compiled by an Asia Pacific Report correspondent.
Mongabay Series: Indonesian Forests, Indonesian Palm Oil
In June 2019, photographer Albertus Vembrianto spent three weeks on assignment in the southern lowlands of Papua, Indonesia’s easternmost province, for Mongabay and The Gecko Project. He traveled through the villages of Indigenous Papuans whose land had been taken over by palm oil conglomerates.
A decade ago, the Indonesian government promoted investment by plantation firms in this region with a vision of turning it into a major agribusiness hub. Today, Indonesia is the world’s top producer of palm oil, but many Papuans have lost their land and are struggling to acclimatize to a very new world, with their traditional food sources dwindling.
Albertus’s photos were featured in an investigation into the operations of one of the these companies, the Korindo Group, recently published by The Gecko Project and Mongabay in collaboration with the Korean Center for Investigative Journalism-Newstapa and 101 East, Al Jazeera’s Asia-Pacific current affairs program.
In this photo essay, Albertus, who is Indonesian, writes about his experience reporting in Papua.
This article was co-published with The Gecko Project.
Paskalina called to me by waving her hand and asked me to come to her house in a whisper.
It was my third day staying at the family bivouac of an Auyu tribal chief in Boven Digoel, a heavily forested district in southern Papua. Indigenous Papuans like Paskalina usually stay in these temporary shelters when hunting in the forest and harvesting sago, their staple starch that grows wild in groves. In the past four years, however, the area around this bivouac had been converted into an oil palm plantation.
Paskalina, who was 38, didn’t want her story to offend the chief of the clan, one of the traditional elders, who had decided to sell the forest to a palm oil company. But for the past year, after the forest was cleared, she had often felt dizzy and taken vitamins. “The doctor said I am stressed,” she told me. “I have to take medicine.”
Paskalina never knew when, exactly, the forest had been sold. Women are not involved in such decisions. She only knows when it was demolished and replaced with a sea of oil palms.
To make a living, Paskalina sells products that she grows in her garden. To get to the market, she has to take the dirt road through an oil palm plantation, the hot sun blazing now the forest is gone. Sometimes her child takes her by motorcycle, but more often she walks. The trip takes her two hours each way.
The journey brings to mind her parents and ancestors. “I sometimes cry on the road, feeling guilty to my parents and ancestors for not being able to protect the forest,” she said.
Paskalina’s experience was similar to that of most Indigenous Papuan women I met during my three weeks in the oil palm lands of Boven Digoel and neighboring Merauke district. Without their forest, these women have suffered.
In another village, Angela, 29, was working as a laborer harvesting palm fruits with her husband. His wages were not enough to cover their household needs, so she worked on top of her domestic roles at home.
The Papuans here once held sway over the land, but now toil on it as laborers. Often they take on debt to buy food from the company, with the money deducted from their wages. That often leaves them without enough money to cover their basic necessities for the month.
The loss of the forest has made their traditional food sources disappear. The companies bring in food that comes from factories, through the city. They are slowly getting used to the instant pattern of manufactured food. Some people told me that food from the city is the best food. But they never know what the ingredients are. Some of the children whose family land was turned into plantations suffer from malnutrition.
These photos were chosen to tell the experience of Indigenous Papuan women who are now living according to new customs; customs that came with the oil palm companies. Their lives are more vulnerable, and they have little choice…
In Southeast Asia, there are active armed conflicts in various countries across the region. The Mindanao conflict in the Philippines remains a challenge as several Moro Muslim insurgent groups continue to defy the state. In Thailand, ethnic Malay Muslim insurgents have been fighting against the government for decades. The Rohingya conflict in Myanmar has resulted in the deaths and displacement of hundreds of thousands of people.
The clash between the Indonesian government and West Papuan nationalists has emerged as one of the deadliest conflicts in Southeast Asia. Indonesia claimed West Papua in 1969 after a group of 1,000 locals voted in favor of joining Indonesia. The west half of the island of New Guinea became the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua. The local population doesn’t recognize the decision and has fought to upend it.
Over 50 years after the takeover, the contested region remains a hotbed of terrorism and militancy. Indonesia has been unable to crush the demand for West Papuan independence. Over the years, Jakarta has used armed militias and heavy-handed police efforts to subdue dissident nationalism.
Indonesia continues to refuse any third party mediation of the conflict, rejecting “interference” in internal matters. As the COVID-19 crisis continues, it may further weaken outside oversight and resolution structures, causing the conflict to escalate.
The growing fragility of Jakarta’s control in West Papua
In West Papua, the question of where sovereignty lies remains contested. The longstanding demand for independence and self-rule has challenged the authenticity of Jakarta’s rule over the West Papuan territories.
Over the years, Indonesia’s central government has offered special autonomy to the region that allows West Papuans to exercise more administrative control than residents of other provinces. However, there is a widespread view among the provinces’ population that the special autonomy status is aimed at managing the region rather than offering political space needed for real reforms.
West Papuans complain that funds allocated for the region’s development hardly reach the region. For Papuan students, the quest for higher education is both a privilege and a curse as it comes with a price. Papuan college students have recently faced a wave of racially-motivated hate crimes and increasing police surveillance.
“As Indonesia deliberately tries to create ethnic conflict in West Papua with militia, I must stress that for West Papuans our enemy is not the Indonesian people,” he recently said. “Our enemy is only the system of colonization. We will not be provoked. Our peaceful struggle is for a referendum.”
Currently, there is no international body monitoring the conflict and the emergence of COVID-19 makes any future prospects more difficult still. The growing grievances of West Papuans with Indonesian rule and mounting human rights abuses make the issue a ticking time bomb for Jakarta.
Who will benefit from the COVID-19 threat?
The Free Papua Movement (FPM), as the independence movement is broadly known, has said it would welcome dialogue with Indonesia’s central government if third party mediations are part of the process. However, Jakarta considers any calls for independence to be terrorism and it is unlikely that the Indonesian government will negotiate or allow mediation. In the coming weeks, Jakarta will probably deploy more security forces and tighten its political and administrative control of the disputed territories.
In the past, Jakarta has denied any international request to intervene in West Papua. Last year, Indonesia won a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council, but this only means that Jakarta is better positioned to sideline any criticism of its West Papua policy.
The independence of East Timor has also taught Indonesia that external intervention should be opposed at all costs. To this end, a complete ban on media coverage in West Papua has prevented the world from seeing the true scale of the crisis. Indonesia has evaded criticism from the international community in part because foreign journalists are banned from entering or reporting from West Papua. Most of the news that comes out of the region is approved by government regulators.
As the world grapples with the pandemic, Indonesia is likely to clamp down harder on West Papua. The spread of COVID-19 into West Papua will further alienate the West Papuans from Indonesia. “The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic appears likely to stall any peaceful resolution, with conflict in West Papua continuing at various flashpoints. Public health issues will take priority, and could distract attention from the West Papuan cause for some time. Despite this, West Papuan claims are unlikely to be abandoned,” notes a recent report published by the Lowy Institute.
Does Jakarta need to change its West Papua policy?
Indonesia’s government needs to carry out serious reforms if it is determined to keep West Papua a part of Indonesia. To forge sustainable peace in the disputed region, Indonesia should work on addressing the indigenous people’s demands. The mismanagement of development funds, rampant underdevelopment and strict policing of the region remain key issues. A partnership between government and civil society is necessary to bridge the existing trust deficit.
Indonesia cannot successfully govern the West Papua region unless it has the support of the local people. West Papua’s large young population base represents a big opportunity for Indonesia as winning their support can go a long way towards addressing Jakarta’s concerns. Offering better education opportunities and curbing the growing racism against Papuan students would be steps in the right direction for Jakarta. Unless the community’s core needs are fulfilled, West Papua’s demand for independence will not abate.
A panel of judges at the Central Jakarta District Court have found six activists guilty of committing treasonous acts for holding a protest in support of Papuan independence in front of the Presidential Palace in Jakarta in last August.
The bench handed prison sentences to the activists – Indonesian People’s Front for West Papua (FRI-West Papua) spokesperson Surya Anta and students Charles Kossay, Deno Tabuni, Isay Wenda, Ambrosius Mulait and Arina Elopere – during a virtual verdict hearing on Friday afternoon.
All activists were handed a nine-month prison sentence, except for Isay who was punished with eight months’ imprisonment.
Judges said during the session that all defendants had violated Article 110 in relation to Article 106 of the Criminal Code Law (KUHP) for conspiring to promote secession.
“All defendants are found guilty of a collective act of treason,” presiding judge Agustinus Setyo Wahyu read the verdict during the session.
The sentence is lower than the one year and five months in prison demanded by prosecutors.
Arina was found guilty of waving the banned Bintang Kejora (Morning Star) flag, which has come to symbolize the Papuan independence movement. She also danced and sang a song with the lyrics, “We are not red and white [the colors of the Indonesian flag],” during the protest on Aug. 28 last year.
The bench also found Dano guilty of treason in the form of a speech at the same protest, where he demanded that the government immediately hold a Papuan independence referendum.
The remaining activists were found guilty of attending the protest and voicing their opinions over demanding the independence referendum for Papuans.
The defendants’ lawyer, Oky Wiratama, said she was disappointed with the verdicts and questioned the process.
“[The verdict stated that] treasonous acts have pros and cons in addition to containing political substance, so the treason charges can be misused by the government to oppress its citizens.”
“If the judges were in doubt, I think the best way to resolve the case would have been to not impose a prison sentence for the defendants. They should be free of charges,” Oky told The Jakarta Post after the trial.
She added her team would deliberate the case for seven days before deciding whether to appeal.
Amnesty International Indonesia director Usman Hamid echoed Oky, saying the treason charges might have been misused by the government against individuals who should never have been arrested or detained in the first place.
“The six who were sentenced today did nothing but attend a peaceful protest, enjoying their rights to freedom of expression and assembly. It is appalling that they had been in detention since August 2019, awaiting a verdict on such blatantly abusive charges,” Usman said in a statement.
He urged the government to immediately release the activists.
Freedom of expression and peaceful assembly were rights protected under international law and the Constitution, Usman added.
“No one should ever have to suffer this treatment for peacefully attending a protest, and it is high time that Indonesia stops criminalizing Papuans under treason provisions.”
End police power to punish everything under the sun
The Jakarta Post
Jakarta / Tue, October 15, 2019 / 09:02 am
A policeman’s abuse of a motorcycle taxi driver who was mistakenly about to enter the palace grounds in Bogor sparked public anger. Although the traffic policeman who beat and kicked the Gojek driver apologized after the video of the abuse went viral on Oct. 5, the outburst perfectly reflects growing anxiety about Indonesia moving closer to becoming a police state. More than 20 years ago, people demanded an end to the military’s “dual function” because of its repeated abuse of power, but over the past decade or so the police also seem to have been enjoying their privileges too much.
We hope to rely on the police for our safety, but instead we’ve become rather nervous as police duties and tasks have come to cover almost everything: from policing bedrooms and petty crimes to dealing with any kind of corruption, terrorism, treason and defamation allegedly committed even just through an updated social media status. The National Police has become a super-body with little control from the outside.
Therefore, in forming his new Cabinet, scheduled to be announced after taking office for his second term on Oct. 20, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo will hopefully complete the security sector reform by placing the police force under the Home Ministry, as many have demanded. To realize it, of course, some legal technicalities should be settled.
Jokowi can assign the current National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian to be home minister if he is worried about police resistance, although he might also spark a public outcry. The military may welcome Tito’s move into the Cabinet if it is part of a plan to move the police force from directly answering to the President to being under the direction of the Home Ministry.
Gen. Tito has led the police force since July 13, 2016. As the top graduate from the Police Academy in 1987, the former counterterrorism chief was more academically qualified than his predecessors. Under his leadership, the police have been hailed among other things for foiling a terrorist plot following the April general elections.
The choice of then-Insp. Gen. Tito to lead the police starting on July 13, 2016, seemed bold of President Jokowi, as the country’s most powerful politician, Megawati Soekarnoputri, had signaled that another was her favorite for the job, her former adjutant Comr. Gen. (ret) Budi Gunawan, who was then nearing retirement age.
The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) had declared Budi a graft suspect shortly after Jokowi proposed to the House of Representatives in January 2015 that Budi succeed then-National Police chief Sutarman. The court annulled the KPK’s decision but Jokowi finally chose Tito, a younger, much less controversial and more popular officer.
Indeed, according to the 2002 National Police Law, the police are under direct control of the President and the House must approve the appointment or dismissal of a police chief. However, more importantly, we need Jokowi’s political will and courage again to put the police on par with the Indonesian Military (TNI), with both having minimum potential to abuse power.
The harsh, if not militaristic, approach of the police in dealing with mass protests in Jakarta and elsewhere last May and September, the numerous arrests of demonstrators and the death of a number of them have increased resentment against the police’s show of force.
Like the military of old, the police enjoy virtual impunity.
A number of police generals now lead posts normally given to civilians, such as the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). It’s all legal, too a National Police chief decree dated April 12 makes police ranks for the civilian positions compatible with high echelons of civil servants.
Cynics say the police are now enjoying the ‘dwi fungsi ‘(dual function), along with increasing powers and welfare. Occasional clashes involving the police and the TNI reflect the excess of reduced financial opportunities for the military compared to the police.
These range from large security jobs to extorting couples in a romantic embrace in public parks. The military policy and budget are controlled by the defense minister while TNI’s role is limited to defense, although there is considerable leeway in “operations other than war”.
The removal of the police from the president’s direct line of command should also reduce the apparent jealousy of TNI soldiers and officers toward the police. Police personnel are generally more prosperous than those in the three forces. Just visit the houses of police and military officers of equal rank and check for yourself.
Many Indonesians may find it quite hard to quickly answer when asked to identify one aspect of their lives where police cannot interfere. Dealing with the police is among the last things Indonesians want these days, despite experiencing improved services. Many of us feel uncomfortable when a police officer is nearby, like under the old regime.
Ahead of the new government set to begin later this month, this is the right time to reevaluate, again, the position of both the police and military.
The military has long faced temptations to regain its role in politics. This is very dangerous; I cannot imagine active officers regaining civilian positions. However, while foreign enemies have never (yet) come to our front door, which is the main threat the TNI should deal with, it is probably wise to give the military more additional jobs.
Whatever is decided, we should not let our nation become a police state. We need a professional police force, not one that can enter your house anytime it wants.
President Jokowi, please end the police’s power to punish everything under the sun