Atrocities in Papua a result of phobia and stigma against Papuans: Council of Churches
Phobia And Stigma Against Papuans – News Desk
31 August 2022
Jayapura, Jubi – The Papua Council of Churches says the atrocities and violence that continue to occur in Papua, including the recent murder and mutilation of four Nduga residents in Mimika Regency, are caused by the stigma against Papuans that has long grown among Indonesian security forces.
Phobia of Papuans had been fostered in the minds of security forces and most Indonesians because political leaders had oftentimes made racist remarks against Papuans, said the Council of Churches in a press conference in Jayapura Regency’s capital of Sentani on Tuesday, August 20, 2022.
The council cited former president and Indonesian Democratic Party for Struggle (PDIP) leader Megawati Soekarnoputri’s racist comment at PDIP’s national working meeting on June 21, as well as retired general Hendropriyono’s statement to move two million indigenous Papuans to Manado, North Sulawesi.
Rev. Benny Giay, the moderator of the Papuan Council of Churches, said that public statements such as those made by Megawati and Hendropriyono revealed the fantasy and psychology of the majority of Indonesian people about Papua, wherein Papuans were often associated with the words monkey, koteka (traditional sheath), lazy, backward, and terrorist.
“Those statements are understood by Papuans as a desire to exterminate the black people of Papua from their own country,” he said.
On the ground, Papuan phobia gave birth to violence and cruelty of security forces against indigenous Papuans. “All Papuans are the same unworthy human beings in their eyes, be it pastors, health workers, teachers, regents, governors, the Papuan People’s Assembly, or academicians. Most recently, they mutilated four civilians from Nduga Regency in Mimika,” Giay said.
He said that stigma had made indigenous Papuans suffer from human rights violations, marginalization, discrimination, racism, murder, impoverishment, and various other violence. Papuan phobia and stigma have also led the government to make discriminative policies that do not solve the Papuan problem.
“In 2019, when Papuans protested against racist speech in Surabaya on August 16, the government responded by deploying more troops and it’s still going until now. In April 2021, armed groups were labelled terrorists. On July 15, 2021, the House passed Law No. 2 of 2021 on the Second Amendment to Papua Special Autonomy Law No. 21/2001 without involving Indigenous Papuans in the deliberation,” he said.
Papua Council of Churches member and president of the Evangelical Church in Indonesia (GIDI) Rev. Dorman Wandikmbo said President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s visit to Tanah Papua had no positive impact on indigenous Papuans. Jokowi came to Papua with promises but did not fulfil them.
“For example, the Bloody Paniai case in 2014 has been delayed for years. The Attorney General’s Office recently named only one suspect in the alleged gross human rights violations, a retired army who had nothing to do with the Bloody Paniai shooting incident. The real perpetrators were not brought to justice by the State,” Wandikmbo said.
Wandikmbo also criticized the Jokowi regime for forcing the division of Papua Province to form three New Autonomous Regions (DOB). “With the DOB, customary land will be a target of investment, and it will certainly deprive the indigenous peoples of their lands,” he said.
Further, Wandikmbo added the murder and mutilation of four Papuans that occurred in Settlement Unit 1, Mimika Baru District, Mimika Regency on August 22 was a state crime.
“The murder and mutilation of four Nduga residents in Timika and various other human rights violations only add to the wounds of indigenous Papuans. Government promises are nothing but lies,” he said. (*)
Writer: News DeskEditor: News Desk
Jokowi orders military to help investigate soldiers suspected of killing 4 Papuans
Victor Mambor and Pizaro Gozali Idrus
Jayapura, Indonesia, and Jakarta
Indonesia’s president said Wednesday that police must thoroughly investigate six soldiers who were arrested as suspects in the grisly killing of four civilians in Papua last week, but residents of the troubled region cast doubt that justice would be served.
During a working visit to Papua, Indonesian leader Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said he had ordered the armed forces chief to help local police with the legal part of the case unfolding in the country’s far eastern region, where alleged abuses by government forces and armed Papuan separatist rebels are widespread.
“Once again, the legal process must be carried out so that the public’s trust in the Armed Forces does not fade. I think the most important thing is to investigate thoroughly and then proceed to the legal process,” Jokowi told local journalists.
Papua police spokesman Ahmad Musthofa Kamal said officers arrested six soldiers and three civilians who allegedly killed and mutilated the victims in an attack in Mimika regency, Papua province, on Aug. 22.
The four victims were beheaded and their legs were cut off before their bodies were placed in sacks and tossed into a river, according to authorities, who publicized the arrests on Aug. 29.
Despite the president’s statement, Papuan activists expressed doubts that the military would carry out his order.
“This was proven by the premeditated murder and mutilation of four indigenous Papuan civilians in Timika,” the Rev. Dorman Wandikbo told BenarNews.
Dorman, president of the Evangelical Church in Indonesia, criticized Jokowi for visiting Papua amid continued violence against civilians by security forces. He said such violence had degraded the dignity of indigenous Papuans.
Previously, Makilon Tabuni, 12, died on Feb. 22 after allegedly being tortured by soldiers who had accused him and his friends of stealing a firearm in Sinak, a district of Puncak regency in Papua province. The case remains unsolved.
“There is no clarity as of today. The TNI has not admitted to this day,” a representative from Makilon’s family told BenarNews on condition of anonymity because of fear of potential reprisals.
The family said the military had only paid medical expenses.
Benny Giay, a member of the Papua Church Council, criticized statements by government officials who have degraded Papuans.
He cited a statement made by Megawati Soekarnoputri, chairwoman of the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP). She had referred to Papuans as black and Deputy Minister of Home Affairs John Wempi Wetipo, who is from Papua as “coffee milk” – derogatory terms referring to people with different skin tones.
Benny also referred to a statement by the former chief of the State Intelligence Agency, Abdullah Mahmud Hendropriyono, who proposed moving 2 million Papuans to Manado and sending Manado residents to Papua to separate them from their people in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific region.
“Public statements like those made by Megawati and Hendropriyono showed the fantasy and psychology of the majority of Indonesians about Papuans, which are often associated with monkeys, armpits, lazy and terrorists,” Benny told BenarNews on Wednesday.
“Those statements were understood by Papuans as a desire to eliminate black Papuans from their own country,” he said.
Meanwhile, Papuan police said they had identified 10 suspects in this most recent mutilation case, adding that six soldiers and three civilians were in custody while the fourth civilian is considered a wanted fugitive. The soldiers were identified as two officers – a major and a captain – and four privates.
None of the suspects’ names were released.
The victims allegedly paid to purchase firearms, but were killed instead.
“The victims paid 250 million rupiah (U.S. $16,835), and the money was divided among the perpetrators,” said Kamal, the Papua police spokesman.
Meanwhile, Indonesian Army spokesman Tatang Subarna said a military team had interrogated the six soldiers who were ordered detained from Aug. 29 to Sept. 17 at the Mimika Regional Army Military Police Command.
“The detention has been carried out for examination and investigation purposes,” said Tatang in a written statement received by BenarNews.
Public trust concerns
Usman Hamid, director of Amnesty International Indonesia, urged authorities to investigate the case thoroughly so it does not go unsolved like similar killings involving security forces.
“The problem is not limited to how we maintain public trust in the Armed Forces, but how we should protect human lives and ensure that their deaths due to crime do not end without clarity,” Usman told BenarNews on Wednesday.
From February 2018 to July 2022, there were at least 61 cases of alleged unlawful killings of 99 people involving security forces, based on Amnesty’s records.
“Extrajudicial killings by officers are violations of the right to life, a fundamental right that is clearly protected by international human rights law and the Indonesian constitution,” Usman said.
Papua, on the western side of New Guinea island, has been the scene of a low-level separatist insurgency since the mainly Melanesian region was incorporated into Indonesia in a United Nations-administered ballot in the late 1960s.
In 1963, Indonesian forces invaded Papua – like Indonesia, a former Dutch colony – and annexed the region.
Only about 1,000 people voted in the U.N.-sponsored referendum in 1969 that locals and activists said was a sham, but the United Nations accepted the result, essentially endorsing Jakarta’s rule.
Nazarudin Latif contributed to this report from Jakarta.
Catholics want fair trial against brutal Indonesian soldiers
The six soldiers allegedly killed four Papuans, mutilated their bodies and dumped them in a river
Church officials in Indonesia’s Christian-majority Papua province have called for fail trial against six soldiers arrested for allegedly killing and mutilating four people.
Faizal Ramadhani, director of Criminal Investigation of the Papua Police said the soldiers pretended to sell weapons to lure the victims, who were allegedly affiliated with the pro-independence movement.
The soldiers then killed them and mutilated their bodies, he said on Aug. 30. The dismembered bodies of the victims were put in sacks and dumped into a river outside the city of Timika on Aug. 22, the day the crime was allegedly committed.
The remains of a fourth victim were found on August 30 after the other three were found a few days earlier.
The Papuan police have also named four civilians as suspects, who in the investigation process stated that the soldiers were directly involved in the killing.
Yuliana Langowuyo, director of the Franciscans’ Secretariat for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation in Papua, condemned the brutalities saying that “the perpetrators must be punished severely for a deterrent effect.”
“The legal process must also be open so that the victim’s family and the public can follow it. Without public scrutiny, the perpetrators could go free, or the sentences would be light and make incidents like this considered normal and could happen again and again,” she told UCA News on August 31.
She stated that what is also important in this case is related to “the arms trade which seems normal in Papua.”
“The weapons sold by the military in Papua don’t seem to be taken seriously. In fact, civilian casualties due to armed violence continue to increase,” she said.
“Therefore, the seriousness of the government is not only punishing the perpetrators to the fullest but also disciplining members of the military so that weapons are not freely traded,” she added.
Father Bernard Baru, chairman of the Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Augustinian Order in Papua, warned that the case should be handled as a heinous crime, and must not be linked with politics, whether or not the victims were involved with the pro-independence movement.
“If it is related to politics, then the law will be difficult to find a way to achieve truth and justice. What must be dealt with are military crimes against them,” he told UCA News.
Pastor Benny Giay, the moderator of Papuan Church Council, an organization of Protestant churches, alleged that this violence has triggered fear and stigmatizing impacts on Papua.
“This gives birth to a derivative in the form of violence and cruelty by the security forces who are indiscriminately against indigenous Papuans,” he said.
Teguh Muji Angkasa, a senior military officer in Papua, told reporters that the army is coordinating with the police on the investigation, and they are “committed to upholding the rule of law.”
“We will impose strict sanctions if the soldiers are proven to be involved (in the crime),” Angkasa said.
Sebby Sambom, a spokesman for the separatist group, the National Liberation Army for West Papua, demanded the Indonesian government execute the perpetrators.
“This is a crime against humanity by the Indonesian government through its security forces,” Sambom said in a statement and threatened to carry out a “retaliatory operation” if their demands were ignored.
Indonesia maintains a large military presence in the resource-rich but underdeveloped easternmost region of Papua, where conflict with pro-independence separatist rebels has claimed thousands of lives.
A former Dutch colony, Papua declared independence in 1961, but Indonesia annexed the territory soon. An independence referendum that followed was widely manipulated in favor of Indonesia.