How to mourn a forest

The Marind people of West Papua deploy mourning not only to grieve their animal and plant kin but as political resistance

 Sophie Chaois a Eurasian (French and Chinese) environmental anthropologist and environmental humanities scholar interested in the intersections of capitalism, ecology, Indigeneity, health, and justice in the Pacific. She is a DECRA fellow and lecturer at the University of Sydney, working and living on unceded Gadigal lands. Previously, she worked for the Indigenous rights organisation Forest Peoples Programme. 

Her first book is In the Shadow of the Palms: More-Than-Human Becomings in West Papua (2022).  

Edited byCameron Allan McKean  4,600 words

One torrid afternoon, I journeyed with an Indigenous Marind woman and her family to a patch of razed forest at the edge of the plantation frontier, where workers had cleared the way for oil palm trees. Her name was Circia*. A mother of three in her late 50s, Circia was imposing, but her footsteps were gentle, almost silent when she led us across the wet soils of Merauke, a district in the Indonesian-controlled western half of New Guinea known as West Papua. The patch of former forest that we travelled toward that hot afternoon in May 2016 was a sacred site that belonged to her clan, forming part of the customary territory of the Marind peoples, which today number around 600 families.Though the Marind rely directly on the forest for their everyday livelihoods and subsistence, Circia had not journeyed here with her three children and nine grandchildren to forage or hunt. They had come to mourn.

Towering piles of felled trees surrounded us, ripped from the soil days earlier to make way for a 50,000-hectare oil palm plantation. Among and between the trees lay the bodies of plants and animals who had once inhabited this sacred place. The air was stiflingly hot and still. It was quiet, too, until a distant chainsaw ripped to life. Somewhere in the remaining patches of forest, plantation workers were clearing the way for more oil palm.

I visited Merauke between 2011 and 2019 while doing long-term ethnographic fieldwork with the Marind. I came to learn how they understood the spread of oil palm in their home of West Papua, which has been under Indonesian rule since the 1960s. But during the 18 months that I lived with Marind communities along the upper banks of the Bian River, Circia and her kin taught me something else: the arts of mourning. This was not only a mourning for people, but for trees, animals and ecosystems.

In our age of planetary unravelling, mourning has become a crucial disposition. It is one that allows us to acknowledge and grieve loss, but also to create or revive connections with more-than-human others. In that way, mourning becomes a form of resistance that pushes against human exceptionalism. It reminds us that we share the world with many other kinds of beings, and that these beings also have their own ways of grieving. But the space shared with other species is complicated. We are not just together in the same world, we are tangled up in each other’s lives. Other species live on and in us, they change us, and we change them, too: we breed them, farm them, mutate their genomes, eat them, research them, love them, and kill them. Increasingly, human action is leading to their extinction. Should we not mourn them, too? Acknowledging the relations that sustain or undermine life and death in multispecies worlds means also learning to practise ‘multispecies mourning’.

For Circia and the Marind, multispecies mourning can mobilise pain and grief, especially the grief that comes from witnessing profound ecological changes. But it’s not just a form of commemoration and remembering. Mourning resists the trivialisation of lives that aren’t human and the regimes of violence that make more-than-human deaths seem normal or natural. Mourning the deaths of plants, animals and landscapes, as the Marind do, demands that we rethink which deaths deserve grief, which deaths are morally sanctioned, and which are forgotten altogether. It invites us to consider how we might remember those who must die for us to thrive. But how exactly do you mourn a forest?

For three weeks, Circia and her relatives travelled to a razed patch of earth, where they sang songs, wove sago bags, and planted bamboo. They ‘shared skin and wetness’ (a set of practices known as igid dubadub in Marind) with the landscape by crying over it, touching it, smelling it, and storying it. They also cleared waterways to facilitate the movements of animals and smoothed ruts left behind by the bulldozers that were decimating the forest. That way, Circia explained, the earth’s scars could ‘heal’.

Marind communities have traditionally depended on the forest for their everyday subsistence, which they collectively procure through hunting, fishing and gathering. These plants and animals include sago palms, taro, yam, rambutans, papayas, bananas, rusa deer, riverine eels, lorises, possums, cassowaries, fowl, kangaroos, crocodiles and pigs. These sources of food are considered kin by Marind and often referred to as their ‘grandparents’ (amai in Marind) or ‘siblings’ (namek). They share common descent with Marind clans from ancestral spirits (dema) who fashioned them from primordial mud at the beginning of time. Marind relations to their plant and animal kin are grounded in principles of respect, reciprocity and care. Plants and animals grow to feed their human counterparts and, in exchange, humans must perform rituals, exercise restraint and demonstrate reverence towards these organisms and the ecologies they depend upon to survive and thrive.

In the past decade, many Marind families in the Upper Bian region have lost their native forests to monocrop plantation projects. Since 2010, the Indonesian government has allocated some 1.2 million hectares of land in Merauke to 36 domestic and international corporations for the development of oil palm, timber and sugarcane plantations. Vast swaths of forest have been felled or burned. Major watercourses have been diverted to irrigate the newly established monocrops. Many Marind villages are now encircled by oil palm and other agribusiness plantations that cover several hundred thousand hectares of former forest and extend north into the neighbouring regency of Boven Digul. Each of these plantations can range in size from 20,000 to more than 300,000 hectares. They creep to the edge of Marind settlements, encroaching on sago groves, hunting zones, sacred graveyards and ceremonial sites.

The relations between the Marind and their kindred plants, animals and elements are being severed

As we enter the third decade of this millennium, more companies are applying for operational permits. Agribusiness continues to expand relentlessly across the region, promoted by the Indonesian government and implemented by domestic and foreign corporations in the name of regional economic development and national food security in staple commodities such as oil palm, rice and sugar. These developments sit within broader processes of large-scale land investments across the tropics, a phenomenon prompted by the food, fuel and finance crisis of 2008 and driven primarily by multinational conglomerates and colluding governments across the Global North and South. The expansion of plantations also exemplifies a broader trend in oil palm expansion across the tropics, in which we are all unwittingly complicit through our daily consumption of myriad products that contain palm oil, such as cosmetics, shampoos, soaps and fast food.

Land privatisation, deforestation, soil erosion, water contamination and air pollution caused by oil palm expansion have radically jeopardised the Marind’s forest-based livelihoods and economies, as well as their food and water security. As forest landscapes give way to industrial monocrops, the relations between the Marind and their kindred plants, animals and elements are being severed. These homogeneous plantations are dominated by oil palm, a single cash crop that was introduced into West Papua in the mid-1980s that many Marind describe as aneh (alien), asing (foreign) and penjajah (colonising). As these plantations encroach further on the forest, the Marind’s capacity to seek nourishment is thwarted, and their intimate and ancestral kinships with native organisms are undermined. Kindred plants and animals struggle to survive in oil palm monocrops, which are characterised by low canopies, sparse undergrowth, unstable microclimates, high temperatures and a toxic mélange of chemical fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides.

Loss follows in the wake of oil palm and, with it, new forms of mourning: Marind women and children weave sago bags as a form of collective healing; villagers create songs in response to roadkill they encounter; and Marind activists plant bamboos to reclaim razed lands by encouraging the growth of native vegetation. Even as forest ecosystems are destroyed and land is privatised, human and more-than-human fates remain indissociable. These arts of mourning are how Marind reckon with radical loss and actively resist the ecocidal logic underpinning the spread of oil palm. Multispecies mourning exemplifies the ways that Papuans Indigenise the planetary crisis and its more-than-human effects through their own dynamic modes of praxis and epistemics. These modes are anchored in a profound awareness of the consequential existences of plants and animals, a responsibility to celebrate their agencies, a creative impulsion to sing and tell stories about a rapidly changing world, and a refusal to live and die by the dominant nature-culture divide that positions human beings as distinct from and superior to the natural world. Together, these practices and philosophies demonstrate how learning to live more justly with other beings also entails learning how to mourn their deaths.

Sitting together in the forest on that sultry afternoon in 2016, I watched Circia’s fingers move swiftly as she twined the sago fibres into a tightly fashioned bag. As she wove, Circia wiped tears off her cheeks and smeared them deep into the moist earth.

For Circia and other Marind women, mourning the deaths of sago, bamboo and other plant and animal beings has prompted the revival of an age-old practice: making noken(handwoven bags). Fashioned by women and girls from filaments of bark and frond obtained from rattan palms, sago palms and gnetum trees, noken are used carry forest products such as vegetables, taro, cassava, kumara, fruit or firewood, and everyday items, including clove cigarettes, mobile phones, school textbooks and bibles. Other types of woven bags are used to transport young pigs – an animal of central significance in Marind ritual, barter and exchange – as well as Marind infants and children.

Noken come in all shapes and sizes: some are square, others are oblong; some are no larger than a child’s palm, others are broader than a man’s chest. Barks and knots ripple across their rough surfaces when first fashioned, but then become silky and soft with prolonged use. Gradually, rain, mud and sweat filter through the material, producing a dark and glossy veneer and a musky fragrance that reminds the Marind of the forest from which the barks and fronds are sourced. Children who fall asleep in noken are pacified by the heat of their mothers’ bodies as it permeates the cloth, but also by the soothing smells and warmth of the bag itself. Babies, infants and toddlers are held in different-sized noken, often produced from materials obtained from the same trees. That way, as Circia explained, sago and children can ‘follow each other’s lives’.

In the past, noken were woven at the birth of a child, the marriage of a relative, or the return of a distant friend. Since the arrival of oil palm plantations, Marind have started to weave noken for less celebratory reasons, such as when they discover patches of razed vegetation in their sacred forests, observe mill effluents spewing into the river, or hear the grumble of approaching bulldozers. These prompt groups of villagers to travel to the forest together and make noken, guided by elder women like Circia. Producing noken is not only an act of weaving, but something that many Marind describe as an act of healing the forest and, by extension, healing themselves.

The women repeat the movements over and over again – skin to skin, bark to bark, frond to fond

Once the group reaches the forest, they break out into small, scattered circles and sit in silence, some with their heads bent low, others observing their surrounds, and many weeping as they remember their experiences and encounters with forest death. This preliminary stage lets people release their pain. The act of weaving that follows involves an intimate mingling of human and vegetal limbs, which many Marind say helps to heal their emotional and physical severance from the forest. Women squat behind their children and guide their fingers along the translucent filaments, one after the other, one within the other. They murmur gently in their apprentices’ ears. ‘This way,’ says Circia. ‘Now that way, now this way again.’ Circia’s younger sister, Petra, chimes in, whispering: ‘The threads, like a river flowing. Your fingers, like a river flowing. All of us, like a river flowing.’

The women repeat the movements over and over again – skin to skin, bark to bark, frond to fond. All the while telling the stories of the species from whom the filaments derive, the forest beings with whom they co-exist, the land on which they thrive, and the different clans with whom they share descent: cassowaries, pigs, possums, tree-kangaroos, birds of paradise, sago grubs, nipa palms, and more.

Every so often, weavers hand over their half-finished bags to another group member, so that they may weave into it their own wetness and grief. A spiral of movement and materiality forms across the collective, binding them like they bind the bark in their hands, until every bag has passed through the hands of all those present. In the process, the togetherness of noken weaving takes multiple, interconnected forms: the sturdy yet flexible vegetal filaments, the symbiotic species from which these filaments derive, and the kin-bound people who fashion, exchange, gift and wear them.

Noken weaving is as much about making multispecies relations as it is about mourningthem. By combining processes of making and mourning, this practice offers a potent way out of the paralysing politics of despair that can arise in the face of generalised ecocide, as industrial processes undermine conditions of life at a global scale. Learning to live with other species also entails learning to mourn the multispecies worlds that disappear with each organismic death. It is this ethos that the Marind invoke as they mourn and celebrate by weaving with their significant human and vegetal others.

Over the past decade, a growing network of roads and highways has spread across the Upper Bian to facilitate the transportation of labourers, equipment and oil palm fruit between settlements, plantations, mills, refineries and ports. Some of these roads are privately owned by corporations and restricted to company personnel. Other projects, such as the Trans-Papuan Highway, have been initiated by the government in the name of regional economic development and transregional connectivity. Along these vast and winding capillaries – made from asphalt, concrete, dust and dirt – ecocide manifests in the form of roadkill: forest beings violently crushed by passing vehicles.

As they journey across the landscape, the Marind regularly encounter the mangled bodies, leaking entrails, scattered limbs and blood-stained feathers of their barely recognisable yet all-too-familiar kin. Nothing can be done in the face of these violent and often slow deaths. But, if you are Marind, you must nonetheless stop. You must turn off the engine of your motorbike. You must get off and stand by your dead or dying kin – a feathered ‘sibling’ or shiny-scaled ‘grandparent’. You must not turn away. And you must sing.

Sami, Sami, you slip, you slide
Sister of the forest, sister of the grove 
Sami, Sami, you weave, you glide 
Sister of the river, sister of the swamp 
Your skin is sleek and shiny, patterned by the land 
Silent and shy, you slither across the land 
Moving soil and leaf, patterning the land. 

Here you lie, Sami, snake sister 
Your body crushed, your wetness gone 
I cannot bear to look at you, I cannot bear to leave 
The trucks and cars, they took away your life 
Robbed you of your wetness, robbed you of your pride. 

Here you lie, Sami, sister snake 
I was not here to save you, I could not spare you death 
Sami, Sami, in leaves and fronds, I’ll wrap you 
With my arms and my legs, I’ll take you 
To a quiet, green place, I’ll carry you 
To that place where your fathers and forefathers were born. 

And there, you will find rest 
In the cool shade of the forest, you can sleep 
There, no pain or dust will haunt you 
The rain and soil will hold you 
This nightmare will release you 
I beseech you, accept from me this song 
Through it you will live on.

These lyrics were composed by Andreas, a Marind youth, upon discovering the pulverised remains of his clan’s sibling, the snake, along a recently constructed stretch of the Trans-Papuan Highway. Songs about roadkill, Andreas explained, celebrate the origins and lifeways of Marind’s more-than-human kin. They speak to the ancestral connections between organisms killed by the road and the individuals who discover them. They also allow the Marind to express their shame for not being present or able to spare their kin a tortuous death in the alien environment of newly built roads.

The villagers stood or kneeled in a circle around the body of a maimed boar

Here, the form of dying matters as much as the fact of death itself. Unlike organisms hunted in the forest and treated with customary ritual care, respect and reverence, organisms killed on the road are flattened into mutilated and disfigured remnants of themselves. If they survive being crushed, they are left to rot, where they will suffer a humiliating and lonely death, gasping for air. Songs about roadkill, then, come to embody a last rite of sorts, and a way of reckoning with the enormity of this form of loss that repeats over and over again across the landscape, under the indifferent weight of passing trucks and cars.

As with weaving, singing-as-mourning is a collective practice. I discovered this during the summer of 2016, when Serafina, a young Marind woman and close friend of mine, encountered roadkill near her home village of Khalaoyam after returning from a fishing expedition. Dropping her nets and harpoons, Serafina wailed to draw the attention of her relatives in the village, who rushed to meet us. The villagers stood or kneeled in a circle around the body of a maimed boar. Then Serafina began to sing in a slow, deep and guttural voice. She was searching for words, swallowing back tears, composing grief. When she stumbled on her words or stopped her singing, another member of the group took over, fleshing out the song with new meanings and memories. Human words were interspersed with mellifluous whistles, deep caws, husky hoots and gravelly grunts – those who did not sing continued to give voice to the voices of those whom they mourned. Sometimes, a bird in the forest will respond with a distant, muted call, which is how the Marind ‘know that the forest is listening’, as Andreas’s younger brother Okto explained. ‘They know that the forest, too, is grieving.’

Songs about roadkill are often accompanied by other acts of commemoration that give forest creatures something akin to a peaceful afterlife after a harrowing and lonely death. The remains are wrapped in fronds, carried to nearby patches of forest, buried in the soil, and covered with offerings of leaves, sago flour, nuts and shoots. People regularly visit and pay their respects to roadkill as they travel a landscape dotted with makeshift burial grounds. They stop to sing new songs and leave small gifts. Often, they bring to the dead the silent companionship of yet another victim recently salvaged from the dusty road. A crushed black-crested bulbul, yellow-feathered and lighter than a betelnut, is laid beside the mangled casque of a cassowary, its feathers and claws stripped and sold by plantation workers. A mature wild boar joins them in the ground, its hair matted with clots of blood and froth. Then Marind sing for the animals’ children and grandchildren, both already-gone and never-to-come. In doing so, they grieve not only the deaths they witness in the present, but also the deaths they anticipate will occur in the near and distant future as oil palm plantations continue to expand relentlessly across their native lands and forests.

Planting constitutes a third art of mourning on the West Papuan oil palm frontier. This involves harvesting juvenile bamboo shoots or rhizomes from the forest and transplanting them along the boundaries of customary territories owned by different Marind clans – particularly where these boundaries intersect with oil palm plantations. It’s a practice introduced by Indigenous Marind land rights activists. On one hand, planting demarcates and reclaims lands wrongfully stolen from the Marind by agribusiness corporations. But planting is about more than defining boundaries. For the Marind, it’s a way of acknowledging a kind of death for which the healing practices of singing and weaving aren’t suited. Singing and weaving serve to commemorate the deaths of specific sites or particular organisms: a patch of sacred forest, or a snake-sibling murdered on the road. Planting as mourning, on the other hand, is directed to death at a scale that is difficult to see, touch or fully comprehend. It is a death that unfurls across the hundreds and thousands of hectares of land now converted to monocrops. It is a death that is distributed across plants and animals, but also the elements and the land itself as it is sapped of its nutrients and minerals through monocultural exploitation. Planting seeks to recreate vegetal life within and against the plantation itself as a zone of death.

Solemnly and silently, villagers get to their knees, dig with their bare hands, and carefully place the rhizomes they have harvested from the forest into the ground before covering them up with a light layer of soil. Then, the group members utter prayers and words of thanks to the forest and the bamboo for its presence and nourishment. They enumerate the many animals and plants who have died here because of oil palm, and who therefore must be mourned. They entice the bamboo to grow fast, wide and well, so that it might offer food and shade to those who encounter it. They exhort the bamboo not to get sick or die, like so many others, but rather to flourish.

These utterances are enhanced by physical exchanges of skin and wetness, as villagers rub their tears and sweat onto the rhizomes as they bury them and along the smooth surface of previously planted stems. The growth of bamboo signals that the plant has listened to peoples’ voices and imbibed their life-sustaining wetness.

Planting bamboo is uncannily effective in undermining the operations of the plantations

The plants selected by the Marind, primarily the Nastus genus of bamboo, are characterised by their resilience and fast growth. Remarkably tolerant of both drought and waterlogging, Nastus bamboos develop from short rhizomes that grow into large, dense clumps. Each plant produces new shoots throughout the year, growing up to 30 centimetres daily before reaching a maximum height of up to 30 metres in their first year.

Pointing out the tangled, sturdy shoots of a bamboo cluster, Paskalus, a young man from Khalaoyam village, explained:

Bamboos are like Marind. Tall, strong and resilient. They know how to live with drought and monsoon, and forest and swamp. Their roots extend far and wide, holding the soil together. Bamboos do not know how to live alone. Instead, they grow with each other, close to one another, like this bamboo cluster, right here.

Paskalus then directed my gaze to the canopy, where towering mature bamboo stalks swayed in the mid-morning breeze. The sunlight reflected off their smooth surfaces down into the undergrowth, where smaller shoots were emerging from the soil. Paskalus ran his fingers up and down the stems and said: ‘The elderly ones, the young ones, the tall and short ones – they grow together and so they grow stronger.’

Though used in mourning practices, planting bamboo is also uncannily effective in undermining the operations and effectiveness of the plantations that state and corporate entities seek to control. For instance, bamboo shoots are largely invisible, subterranean and consequently overlooked. They lie dormant at first, and then erupt as they proliferate, creep and climb along and across each other to form thick clusters that are relatively resistant to herbicides and almost impossible to fully eradicate. Moving, cutting, unearthing and spraying eradicates bamboo only if all roots, shoots, rhizomes and culms are broken up and removed. If even the tiniest, stray fragment of a root remains in the ground, new growths will form, and the bamboo will multiply all over again, turning once-uniform oil palm monocrops into thickly overgrown, unwieldy landscapes, and therefore more expensive and difficult to manage.

Bamboo shares ‘wetness’ with the Marind activists who manually replant it, wipe their tears into it, and entice it to grow. The plant’s fast growth and resiliency make it a partner in Marind struggles for territorial and environmental justice. Planting bamboo will never compensate for the vastness of death that oil palm plantations generate, but it’s nonetheless a powerful form of mourning-as-resistance. To replant bamboo is an act that commemorates the dead and helps break up the homogeneity of industrial oil palm landscapes.

During the past decade, Marind communities on the West Papuan plantation frontier taught me many forms of mourning. Weaving noken commemorates the shared injuries suffered by the forest and the humans who live on the plantation frontier. Singing eulogies refuses indifference to the fate of animals violently killed by cars and trucks. And planting bamboo challenges the homogeneity of monocrop landscapes and the innumerable plant and animal deaths that these landscapes produce.

The Marind peoples are aware that mourning alone will not achieve the social change needed to halt planetary ecocide. But these arts of mourning still matter. They mobilise pain – of humans and their many kin – to resist the trivialisation of regimes of violence that naturalise the deaths of plants, animals or forests. They are modest and resilient, poetic and political. They embody collective modes of reckoning, refusal and resistance. Cultivating arts of mourning demands that we envision a future not just by looking forward, but also by looking back – by remembering those who have been obliterated in the name of productivity and profitability. In Merauke, along the upper banks of the Bian River, arts of mourning draw together human and more-than-human worlds through shared planting, singing, weeping and weaving.

We sat cross-legged by the bamboos, running our fingers across the stalks like we had with Circia

 last visited Merauke in June 2019. Serafina told me that her grandmother Circia had died a few months earlier from pneumonia. I asked to visit the site where Circia had once taught us how to weave noken, but Serafina replied that this was not possible. The former patch of forest had since been planted with oil palm and fenced off with barbed wire. Instead, Serafina suggested we pay Circia a visit.

I was led by hand to the boundary of an oil palm concession located near Serafina’s home village. Here, between road and plantation, a row of fresh bamboo shoots rose green and translucent from the dirt. Circia had replanted them a few weeks before her passing. Short of breath and ridden with arthritic pains, she had painstakingly harvested the shoots from a part of the forest that was soon to be cleared for oil palm. She nurtured them in a plot of soil near her hut, and then gave them a new home at the edge of the concession.

Serafina and I spoke of Circia’s weaving, singing and planting until the sun set. We sat cross-legged by the bamboos, running our fingers across the stalks like we had when Circia enskilled us in the art of making noken. Though she was no longer with us, she left in her wake a place of meaningful mourning and continuance – a place where death and emergence were intertwined. Even in her afterlife, Serafina explained, Circia’s presence continued in the bamboo shoots thriving around us and in the arts of mourning she had taught us.

* Pseudonyms have been used throughout for reasons of security and privacy.

This essay is derived in part from Sophie Chao’s article ‘Multispecies Mourning: Grieving as Resistance on the West Papuan Oil Palm Frontier’ published by the journal Cultural Studies (Taylor & Francis, 2022)

23 May 2023

765 thousand hectares of forest turned into nickel mining concessions

Walhi mengungkapkan konsesi lahan untuk tambang nikel di Indonesia mencapai 1.037.435,22 hektare pada 2022. Ilustrasi (REUTERS/AJENG DINAR ULFIANA)


CNN Indonesia – May 16, 2023

Jakarta — The Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) has revealed that land concessions for nickel mining in Indonesia reached 1,037,435.22 hectares in 2022.

Walhi campaign division head Puspa Dewy said that of this total,765,237.07 hectares are located in forest areas.

“The allocation of nickel mining concessions in 2022 was 1,037,435.22 hectares where 765,237.07 hectares of this were in forest areas”, said Dewy when speaking in Central Jakarta on Tuesday May 16.

The extent of these concessions experienced an increase on the previous year. Walhi noted that nickel mining concession covered 999,587.66 hectares in 2021 with 653,759.16 hectares of these located in forest areas.

Dewy explained that the increase in the concession areas for nickel mining was influenced by the government’s ambition to create an electric vehicle (EV) ecosystem. Nickel is needed for the manufacturing of electric batteries.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo issued Presidential Regulation Number

55/2019 on the Acceleration of Battery Based Motorised Electric Vehicles Program.

Then the president also issued Presidential Instruction Number 7/2022 on the Use of Battery Based Electric Vehicles as an Official Operational Vehicle for the Central and Regional Governments.

In addition to this, the government is also providing incentives to electric vehicle realted companies. “By providing fiscal and non-fiscal incentives”, she said.

Dewy said that nickel mining, which has become massive, especially in forest areas, threatens the environment. She gave the example of the Ake Wosia River in Central Halmahera, North Maluku province, which is known to be polluted by mining in the region.

“At least four rivers are polluted, namely the Ake Wosia, Ake Sake, Seslewe Sini and Kobe”, she said.

Dewy is recommending that the government tighten the issuance of nickel mining concessions, adding that mining activities are not allowed to be conducted in essential areas.

“Such as forest, coastal and areas that influence the ordinary people’s sources of livelihood”, she said.

CNN Indonesia has sought a response from Environment and Forestry Ministry Secretary General Bambang Hendroyono but has not received a response as of this article being posted. (yla/fra)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was

“Walhi: 765 Ribu Ha Kawasan Hutan Jadi Konsensi Tambang Nikel”.]

Peak Islamic body wants Billkin & PP Krit fan meeting banned over LGBT concerns

CNN Indonesia – May 12, 2023

Jakarta — Indonesia Ulama Council (MUI) Deputy Chairperson Anwar Abbas is asking that a fan meeting with gay Thai actors and musicians Billkin and PP Krit that is planned to be held in Indonesia be cancelled because they a symbol of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) groups.

“The Indonesian government should prohibit them from holding a fan meeting or public meeting with Indonesian citizens because such a thing would mean that the government tolerates LGBT practices”, said Abbas in a statement on Friday May 12.

Abbas said that Indonesia has the 1945 Constitution (UUD 1945), which clearly regulates that Indonesia is a country based on Belief in the Almighty God (Ketuhanan Yang Maha Esa).

Because of this, he is asking the government not to tolerate practices or activities that conflict with religious teachings.

“Out of the six religions that are acknowledged in this country, namely Islam, Christianity, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism, not one tolerates LGBT practices”, he said.

LGBT, said Abbas, is considered to be an anti-human and anti-humanity movement. He is of the view that humanity could become extinct if the practice is allowed to perpetuate.

“Therefore LGBT acts have no place in this country because this matter is clearly not in line with humanitarian values and justice”, he added.

Billkin and PP Krit are two young Thai actors who are well known through several Thai TV drama series including “My Ambulance”, “I Told Sunse About You” and “I Promised You The Moon”.

The Billkin and PP Krit fan meeting is part of an Asia tour by the pair that will begin in early June. The Billkin and PP Krit fan meeting in Indonesia will be held on June 10 at the Senayan Indoor Tennis Centre in Jakarta. Ticket sales meanwhile will open on May 12 at 7 pm.

Billkin and PP Krit fan meeting tickets in Jakarta are divided into five categories. Tickets are priced at between 1.5 million rupiah for the cheapest and 2.7 million rupiah for the most expensive. (rzr/isn)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “MUI Larang Fan Meeting Billkin & PP Krit di Indonesia”.]

Threats to kill pilot Philip Mark Mehrtens worsen human rights situation in Papua: Komnas HAM

News Desk – Susi Air Pilot Hostage 29 May 2023

Jayapura, Jubi – The West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) recently released a video that threatened to kill the pilot they held hostage, Philip Mark Mehrtens. Chairperson of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) Atnike Nova Sigiro said such threat would worsen the human rights situation in Papua and perpetuate the cycle of violence in the region.

On February 7, 2023, the TPNPB led by Egianus Kogeya set fire to a Susi Air plane after it landed and discharged passengers at Paro Airstrip in Nduga Regency. They also abducted the pilot, Philip Mark Mehrtens. Subsequently, the Indonesian Military (TNI) and Police launched a rescue operation that resulted in a firefight in Mugi District on April 15, 2023.

After three months of holding the pilot hostage, the TPNPB released a video conveying their demands and threats against Philip Mark Mehrtens. In the video, Mehrtens was seen holding a Morning Star flag while being held captive by the TPNPB. He said he would be killed if there were no discussions about the status of Papua within the next two months.

In a video received by Jubi on Saturday, May 27, 2023, Mehrtens said that other countries were given a two-month period to engage in discussions with Indonesia regarding an independent Papua. “If no discussions take place within that time frame, the TPNPB will proceed to shoot me,” Mehrtens said.

Sigiro, in response, said her party considered the threat made by TPNPB as a provocation that could trigger the government to use a security-based approach in Papua even more. The act of holding Mehrtens hostage, Sigiro said, was a criminal act that had aggravated the situation in Papua, resulting in casualties and public unrest.

“Komnas HAM once again urges Egianus Kogeya to immediately and unconditionally release Philip Mark Mehrtens,” Sigiro said.

According to Sigiro, the act of taking hostages and issuing death threats undermines public sympathy, including from the international community, towards human rights concerns in Papua. The violent actions carried out by TPNPB, which include threatening to kill hostages, go against the principles of promoting dialogue. Taking Philip Mark Mehrtens hostage and endangering his life is not a suitable approach for initiating a dialogue.

She emphasized that dialogue can only be achieved by demonstrating goodwill and fostering trust among all parties involved.

Sigiro emphasized that the Komnas HAM consistently urged the government, including the TNI and Police to adopt a measured security approach when it came to the rescue of Philip Mark Mehrtens and addressing the situation in Papua.

Komnas HAM also calls upon all stakeholders in Papua, including civil society groups, churches, traditional customs, and local governments, to collectively engage in persuasive efforts towards Egianus Kogeya and his followers, urging them to cease violent methods immediately.

Furthermore, Komnas HAM requests the government to promptly initiate genuine peace initiatives, which can be initiated at the local level through collaboration with community groups in Papua. (*) ————————————-

Deterioration of freedom of expression: Activists raise concerns over repression and arrests of Papuans

protest against the division of Papua Province and the establishment of a New Autonomous Region in Jayapura City in 2022, shortly before it was dispersed by police. – Jubi/Theo Kelen

News Desk – Freedom Of Expression In Papua 

17 May 2023

Jayapura, Jubi – In a recent online discussion on “Status and Trends of Freedom of Expression, Assembly, and Digital Rights in West Papua”, Esther Haluk, a women’s rights activist from GARDA Papua, expressed her concerns about the declining state of freedom of speech in Papua. She noted that there was a growing sense of fear among Papuans who wished to openly voice their opinions due to the government’s response.

Haluk pointed out that the deterioration of freedom of expression in Papua could be traced back to 2019 when large-scale protests erupted in response to instances of racism. She further mentioned that individuals from the Papuan community who participated in these protests were subsequently arrested and imprisoned.

“Some Indonesian people call us monkeys but when we fight against it, we are arrested. We are victims,” Haluk said during the discussion organized by SAFEnet and TAPOL on Tuesday, May 16, 2023.

According to Haluk, whenever Papuans exercise their freedom of expression to voice the truth, they are consistently met with opposition from the military and police forces. Haluk shared that she personally experienced being arrested for participating in a peaceful protest in May 2022. However, at the police station she was questioned about her social media posts instead.

“So at that time we were taken to the police station not because of the protest but rather due to our social media posts. My Facebook account was hacked three times after I posted some comments on the news,” Haluk explained.

Haluk further emphasized that the policies implemented by the Indonesian government do not align with the wishes of the Papuan people, particularly in relation to the expansion of Papua Province through the establishment of new provinces. However, when Papuans protested against the policy, they were arrested.

“We refuse to accept the policies enforced in Papua because they do not positively impact our lives. We are witnessing ecological destruction that poses a threat to our existence, as well as issues of land appropriation. It is our fundamental right to express ourselves and engage in peaceful protests, yet the government responds by deploying a significant number of military and police personnel to suppress Papuan voices,” Haluk asserted.

She further expressed her view that Indonesia, being a democratic nation, should uphold and honor the freedom of expression of Papuans. In Haluk’s perspective, the way the Indonesian government treats Papuans indicates that Papuans are not viewed as a part of Indonesia.

“We intended to conduct a peaceful protest, so why did the government resort to sending in the police and military to forcibly disperse us? We were simply exercising our rights, so why the use of such excessive force by the military and police? Based on our experiences as Papuans, it feels as though our rights hold no significance and are not acknowledged within Indonesia,” Haluk stated.

Also speaking in the online forum, Ian Moore of the political resistance campaign TAPOL revealed there were 21 instances of arbitrary dispersals that took place in 2022 according to the Tapol West Papua 2022 report “Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Assembly”.

Moore highlighted that most of the incidents occurred in Papua Province, particularly in Jayapura. However, similar incidents were also reported in other parts of West Papua, especially in Sorong, and Central Papua.

Moore further stated that various police units were involved in the dispersal of peaceful demonstrations in Papua, ranging from standard units to special task forces such as the Nemangkawi Task Force, the Mobile Brigade Corps, and police intelligence agencies

Meanwhile, Made Supriatma, a researcher at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, said the State continued to oppress Papuans by deploying military forces to deal with their protests. This response, Supriatma added, was excessively brutal and amounts to repression against Papuans.

Supriatma noted that various protests by Papuans indicate a growing sense of nationalism, particularly among the youth in Papua. Therefore, the Indonesian government should engage in dialogue with Papuans to address their concerns and listen to their demands.

“Papua has a strong movement, and young Papuans are eager to voice their opinions and participate in protests, even in the face of military repression,” Supriatma said. (*)


Broken promises: Zenegi residents in Merauke demand SIS accountability  

News Desk – Zenegi 16 May 2023

Merauke, Jubi – The residents of Zenegi Village, a village located in Merauke’s Animha District in South Papua, consider the presence of Selaras Inti Semesta Ltd. (SIS), a subsidiary of the Medco Group engaged in plantation, for approximately 15 years has not yielded any positive outcomes for the local community.

SIS reportedly began conducting operations in Zenegi in 2008, and it holds a land concession from the government spanning 164,400 hectares that covers most of Zenegi Village, as well as Buepe Village in Kaptel District.

Zenegi village head Natalis Basik-Basik told Jubi on Sunday, May 14, 2023, when SIS initially arrived in 2008, they attempted to communicate, negotiate, and socialize with the community.

The company also entered into various agreements with the local community and landowners’ clans. However, up to the present time, the community has not been shown or given any Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) document from SIS.

“SIS claimed that the agreement would be documented in an MoU, but to this day, neither I nor the people here have witnessed, received, or had the opportunity to read the document’s contents. They verbally informed us that the agreement pertained to the company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR),” Basik-Basik said.

Basik-Basik mentioned that SIS pledged to fulfill their social responsibility by contributing to the community’s welfare. This included constructing houses for the community, supporting children’s education costs from elementary school to college, and hiring local workers. The company also agreed to respect the community’s cultural practices, such as preserving sacred forests, sago hamlets, and hunting grounds.

However, said Basik Basik,  the company only recruited local workers in 2010, and they were only employed for a year. Since then, none of the community members have been employed by the company. Additionally, the company has not delivered on its promises of supporting children’s education and constructing houses as initially stated.

Rather, the company’s presence in the forest area has had detrimental effects on the local community. The hamlets within forests that used to be hunting grounds for the community are now gone. As a result, residents have to travel longer distances of 1-2 kilometers by motorcycle to find game and obtain other natural resources.

“In addition to the hunting grounds becoming increasingly distant, our sago forests, sacred sites, and revered woodlands have also suffered damage,” Basik-Basik added.

He further said that the company caused conflicts within the community, particularly concerning land boundaries. Several landowners in Zenegi disputed and claimed ownership of lands that the plantation company was utilizing.

“There have been disputes among community members regarding land boundaries but the company never facilitated any collaborative efforts to resolve these issues,” he said.

Zenegi Village is home to 670 individuals, with 128 families residing there. The village consists of five clans: Gebze, Mahuze, Kaize, Samkakai, and Basik-Basik.

Residents feel cheated

Bonifasus Gebze, a community leader in Zenegi Village, claimed that SIS had deceived the community for the past 15 years of its operation as there had been no change taking place. One of the SIS’ promises was to provide education to the children in the village from elementary school to college, but no student have been funded by the company until now. Gebze believed that the promises were nothing but lies.

“If children were given education, many of our children would have become engineers or working somewhere at this point. But those promises are lies,” said Gebze

Apart from education, SIS made commitments to construct houses for a number of residents and offer agricultural assistance to the residents of Zenegi. Unfortunately, none of these promises have ever been realized by the company either.

“We are required to send formal letters to the company seeking assistance, but even then, the aid we receive is limited to condolences and holiday-related matters. Meanwhile, the initial promises made by the company remain unfulfilled,” Gebze further explained.

Another resident of Zenegi, Yohanes Paulus, expressed that the villagers had lodged complaints against SIS with the Merauke Council. Jubi reporters attempted to contact SIS representatives in Merauke City but were unsuccessful as the location was no longer occupied by the company. (*)

Concern in Indonesia over illegal arms supply to Papuan rebels

There were 27 cases of buying and selling of weapons and ammunition by members of the military to rebel groups, says army chief  

 By UCA News reporter Published: May 16, 2023 11:15 AM GMT

 An Indonesian Catholic lawmaker has called on the army chief to explain the alleged sales of arms and ammunition to rebel groups by military forces in the restive Christian-majority Papua region.  

“This matter is very serious and we in parliament certainly want to hear a full explanation from the Commander of the Indonesian Armed Forces,” said Christina Aryani, a lawmaker on the parliamentary commission related to defense, foreign affairs, communications, informatics, and intelligence.

During a media briefing on May 16, Aryani said the case of arms sales to rebels deserves attention so that effective prevention and action steps could be taken immediately.

She responded after military chief Admiral Yudo Margono made public a report on May 6 that says there had been 27 cases of buying and selling of weapons and ammunition in 2022 by members of the military to Papuan rebels, a drastic increase from one case reported in 2021.

“We appreciate the openness from the military on this matter which certainly makes it easier to stop this practice immediately,” Aryani said, adding that she wants to discuss the issue in detail to find out patterns, actors, and locations of such practices.

“We don’t want this very crucial matter to go away without a clear resolution,” she said.

She stated that this kind of practice is “very inhumane because it is the same as giving way to killing fellow soldiers and terrorizing civilians.”

Jones Douw, a Papua-based human rights activist and chairman of the Justice and Peace Department at Kingmi Church told UCA News that this is not a new problem but has been going on for a long time, both individually and in groups.

“It’s just a shame that it really isn’t being taken seriously. Even though this is an embarrassing matter that should be a serious record for the Indonesian government,” he said.

Jones cited several previous cases, including three soldiers who were fired and jailed for life in February 2020 for selling weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition to pro-independence groups and another case on March 12, 2020, where a soldier was also jailed for life for selling firearms and 1,300 ammunition.

“When things like this recur, it’s hard not to say that the conflict in Papua is sort of being allowed to,” he said.

“On the one hand, the Indonesian apparatus has always claimed to be carrying out various forms of operations to crush pro-independence groups, but is instead arming them,” he said.

Made Supriatma, a research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore who specializes in Indonesian security and military issues, said that this practice continues because of economic factors.

Soldiers or police “want to take risks because the economic value is large,” he said.

“One SS-21 gun costs 250 million rupiah (US$ 16,866) and the guerrillas are more than willing to get it,” said.

In a July 2022 report entitled Escalating Armed Conflict and a New Security Approach in Papua, the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) stated that the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN-PB), labeled as an armed criminal group by the Indonesian government, is one of the rebel groups that received an increasing number of manufactured firearms.

The report stated that the TPN-PB is estimated to have 400-450 manufactured firearms of various types, from SS-1, M4, and M16, obtained by seizing or buying them from the military and police.

TPNPB gets money to buy weapons in various ways, ranging from ransoms for hostages, extorting local business owners, donations from sympathizers, and misappropriation of village funds provided by the government, it stated.

Papua declared independence in 1961 after the Dutch colonial rule ended. However, Indonesia annexed the territory within two years, promising to have an independence referendum. The subsequent voting in favor of staying as part of Indonesia was widely considered a sham.

Indonesia’s occupation of Papua triggered an armed struggle for independence. The government responded with a heavy military presence to suppress the insurgency. The conflict left thousands dead and tens of thousands displaced.

Currently, about 16,900 military soldiers with combat skills are stationed in Papua, according to the advocacy group, Imparsial.

Last month, the military beefed up combat operations in the region following the killings of five soldiers by the TPN-PB. The soldiers were killed during the efforts to free New Zealand pilot Phillip Mehrtens, who has been held hostage since February.

Viktor Yeimo defends himself against treason charges, denounces systemic racism in Papua

International Spokesperson of the West Papua National Committee, Viktor Yeimo delivers his defense memorandum/pledoi on the treason case charged against him at the Jayapura District Court, Thursday (4/5/2023). – Jubi/Engel Wally

Jayapura, Jubi – On Thursday, May 4, 2023, Viktor Yeimo, the International Spokesperson of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), presented a defense statement, or pledoi, in a hearing at the Jayapura Class 1A District Court in Papua Province, in relation to the treason case against him.

In his defense statement, Viktor Yeimo claimed that the treason charge against him was discriminatory and had political undertones. Yeimo further argued that the trial conducted at the Jayapura District Court had failed to provide evidence of any wrongdoing or violation of the law, let alone treason, on his part.

The accusation of treason against Viktor Yeimo was linked to his alleged involvement in the anti-racism protests in Jayapura City on August 19 and 29, 2019. These protests were to condemn derogatory remarks made towards Papuan students at the Kamasan III Student Dormitory in Surabaya on August 16, 2019.

On August 12, 2021, the Jayapura District Court registered the alleged treason case under the case number 376/Pid.Sus/2021/PN Jap. The trial was presided over by chief judge Mathius and member judges Andi Asmuruf and Linn Carol Hamadi.

When reading his defense statement, Yeimo stated that all witnesses presented by the prosecutor had actually proven the fact that he did not plan or coordinate demonstrations against Papuan racism that took place in Jayapura City on August 19 and 29, 2019. “At the August 19, 2019 action, I participated as a participant in the action against racism, and took part in securing the peaceful action at the request of students until it was over,” Yeimo said.

During the hearing, Yeimo argued that the witnesses brought forward by the prosecutor had actually corroborated his innocence. Their testimony had shown that he did not organize the protests in question. Yeimo maintained that he had simply participated in the protests as a supporter of the cause and had helped ensure their peaceful conduct upon the students’ request.

“During the protest on August 19, 2019, I merely acted as a participant and helped maintain a peaceful demonstration until it ended,” Yeimo stated in his defense.

Kamu mungkin suka

Yeimo further highlighted the testimony of Feri Kombo, the former head of the Cenderawasih University Student Executive Board in 2019, who affirmed that Yeimo was not involved in the planning or coordination of the anti-racism protests. Kombo was summoned as a witness on February 7, 2023, and testified that Yeimo had only given a speech at the event when requested by the protesters, and that the speech was intended to maintain order among them.

“I delivered speeches expressing my disappointment with the acts of racism in Surabaya. This aspiration is protected by the country’s laws as a constitutional right. As stated by the state administration expert witness and the philosophy expert witness, this right has a scientific basis,” said Yeimo.

In addition, Yeimo stressed that he had never been involved in participating let alone planning in the protest that occurred on August 29, 2019, which was confirmed by all the witnesses presented in the trial. Yeimo admitted that he took pictures and videos in front of the Papuan People’s Assembly (MRP) office and the Governor’s Office, but did not join the protest.

Yeimo clarified that he captured photos and videos to share with journalists and the public outside of Papua since the internet network was cut off by the central government at the time. He added that the President Joko Widodo was found guilty of unlawful acts by a judge in the State Administrative Court in relation to the internet blackout.


Response to racism against Papuans

Yeimo further emphasized that the anti-racism demonstration was a spontaneous action taken by both Papuan and non-Papuan people in response to the racial insults that were directed at Papuan students in Surabaya.

“The 2019 anti-racism protest that spread throughout Papua was a spontaneous response by Papuans and non-Papuan sympathizers from various backgrounds including private sector workers, students, farmers, military and police, and others. Everyone was reacting to the racist remarks in Surabaya. The demonstration in Jayapura was organized by students and the Cipayung group, and there was no planning, conspiracy, or treason as alleged. My speech was to represent the Papuan people who felt outraged by the racist insults. I deny all accusations that link me to my organizational background and other activities that have no direct connection to the facts of the anti-racism protest,” Yeimo said.

Yeimo stated that during the protest on August 19, 2019, he spoke about the issue of racism and discrimination in Indonesia. He emphasized that these problems were not merely personal issues but rather systematic problems that were perpetuated for the benefit of the ruling economic powers.

“It is evident that racist views have led to Papuans being treated differently in all aspects of their lives. The negative stigma attached to Papuans is what led the mass organization and state apparatus to attack the Papuan Student Dormitory in Surabaya.”

In his statements, Yeimo’s arguments revolve around the issue of racial discrimination that Papuans have faced and how it is seen as a normal occurrence that the State tolerates. He highlights that when Papuans stand up against these injustices, they are met with accusations of provocation and charged with treason.

“This trial case proves it. Racism really exists in all these accusations and charges. Could the State explain why the Papuan race is a minority, with only 2.9 million people remaining, while in Papua New Guinea there are already 17 million Papuans?” Yeimo asked.

In his pledoi, Viktor Yeimo not only defended himself against the treason allegations but also criticized Indonesia’s lack of development in Papua. He raised questions about why the poverty rate in Papua remains the highest among all provinces in Indonesia and why the Human Development Index in the region has consistently been the lowest.

Yeimo pointed out the contrasting approaches taken by the Indonesian government in resolving the conflict in Aceh and in Papua. While the Aceh conflict was resolved through peace talks, Papua’s aspirations for independence have been met with violence and imprisonment. Yeimo questioned why the government treats the two regions so differently.

Yeimo pointed out that although Indonesia has enacted several laws to address issues of discrimination, freedom of expression, and special autonomy for Papua, these laws do not seem to be enforced in Papua, and their implementation does not benefit the indigenous Papuans.

“Isn’t that a structured crime against us Papuans? Can the government answer these questions? Or do the answers have to come from the muzzle of a gun? Why is the government avoiding solutions recommended by state institutions such as the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, the National Research and Innovation Agency, and others who present the studies on Papua problems?” Yeimo questioned.

Linguist witness competence in Yeimo’s trial questioned

During the hearing held on Thursday, the legal team of Viktor Yeimo, represented by the Papua Law Enforcement and Human Rights Coalition, presented a defense read by advocate Emanuel Gobay. Gobay argued that the prosecutor’s conclusion that Yeimo had committed treason relied solely on the testimony of a linguist witness who lacked the necessary expertise to prove the elements of the crime of treason as outlined in Article 106 jo Article 55 paragraph (1) to 1 of the Criminal Code, which Yeimo was charged with.

“As a matter of fact, during the trial, the prosecutor never presented a criminal expert witness. Instead, the prosecutor relied on a linguist and then concluded that Viktor Yeimo was guilty of treason,” said Gobay.

According to Gobay, Yeimo’s legal team had presented multiple expert witnesses who explained the components of the treason offense, which included the elements of intent, territorial separation, and participation.

“All elements mentioned in Article 106 are not proven based on the testimony of both the prosecutor’s witnesses and the expert witnesses we presented,” Gobay said.

Gobay expressed the hope that the judges would review all the facts presented in Yeimo’s trial. He asked the judges to re-examine the data provided by legal philosophy expert Tristam Pascal Moeliono, human rights expert Herlambang P Wiratraman, conflict resolution expert in Papua Cahyo Pamungkas, and criminal law expert Amira Paripurna.

Ultimately, Gobay made a plea to the judges to exonerate Viktor Yeimo, stating that there was no proof of the alleged offenses. He further requested the restoration of Yeimo’s reputation and the State to bear the trial costs. (*)

Constitutional Court already revoked article used to convict Viktor Yeimo 

News Desk – Viktor Yeimo’s Treason Trial 

8 May 2023

Yogyakarta, Jubi – The Constitutional Court has, in fact, revoked in 2007 the article used by the panel of judges of the Jayapura District Court to sentence Viktor Yeimo, the international spokesperson of the West Papua National Committe (KPNB), to 8 months in prison. Viktor Yeimo’s lawyer Latifah Anum Siregar revealed this on Saturday, May 6, 2023, a day after the conviction.

“The panel of judges, in their ruling on Friday, found Viktor Yeimo to have violated Article 155 of paragraph (1) of  the Criminal Code. However, the Constitutional Court has declared Article 155 to no longer have any legal force,” said Siregar.

According to Siregar, the Constitutional Court’s Decision No. 6/PUU-V/2007, which was read during the Plenary Session on July 17, 2007, clearly states that Article 154 and Article 155 of the Criminal Code are inconsistent with the 1945 Constitution. The decision also declares that these articles have no legal force.  “The decision explicitly declares that Article 154 and Article 155 of the Criminal Code are unconstitutional,” Siregar said.

After reading the verdict, the panel of judges led by chief judge Mathius and consisting of member judges Andi Asmuruf and Linn Carol Hamadi, ordered Viktor Yeimo to remain in detention. However, Siregar stated that this order was null and void.

“The detention was founded upon the verdict that found Viktor Yeimo guilty. Nonetheless, he was convicted based on an article that has been invalidated by the Constitutional Court. Hence, we argue that Viktor Yeimo’s confinement, which started after the verdict was read, is not legitimate,” she said.

She further urged the judges of the Jayapura District Court to abide by the Constitutional Court’s decision that invalidated Article 155 of the Criminal Code. She stressed that Article 155 should no longer be included in any indictments, prosecutions, or court decisions.

Siregar pointed out that the Constitutional Court’s Decision has explicitly stated that Articles 154 and 155 of the Criminal Code were abolished due to their excessive restriction on freedom of expression, which contradicts Articles 28 and 28E Paragraph (2) and Paragraph (3) of the 1945 Constitution. These articles were revoked because they were too often used to criminalize the articulation of one’s views.

In the treason case, Viktor Yeimo was alleged for his involvement in the anti-racism protest in Jayapura on August 19 and 29, 2019, which condemned the racist remarks directed at Papuan students at the Kamasan III Student Dormitory in Surabaya on August 16, 2019.

Viktor Yeimo faced two indictments in his case. The first indictment accused him of committing treason, instructing others to commit, and participating in it as outlined in Article 106 in conjunction with Article 55 paragraph (1) of the Criminal Code. The second indictment accused Yeimo of conspiring to commit treason, as stipulated in Article 110 paragraph (1) of the Criminal Code.

Yeimo faces two more charges in addition to the previous two indictments. In the third indictment, he is accused of the offense of inciting, ordering, or participating in treason by providing assistance or opportunities, according to Article 110 paragraph (2) of the Criminal Code. The fourth indictment alleges that Yeimo incited others through oral or written means to commit a criminal act, engage in violence against public officials, or disobey the law or official orders, which violates Article 160 of the Criminal Code in conjunction with Article 55 paragraph (1) of the Criminal Code.

On April 27, 2023, the public prosecutor found Viktor Yeimo guilty for the offense charged in the first count of Article 106 in conjunction with Article 55 paragraph (1) of the Criminal Code. The prosecutor sought a 3-year imprisonment sentence for Viktor Yeimo.

In the verdict read out on Friday, the judges declared the first, second, third, and fourth charges against Viktor Yeimo could not be proven. However, they found Yeimo guilty of breaking Article 155 paragraph (1) of the Criminal Code, and sentenced Yeimo to 8 months of imprisonment.

According to Siregar, the Panel of Judges’ decision went beyond the Public Prosecutor’s request, which is called Ultra Petita. Siregar argued that even if the judges wanted to sentence Yeimo based on an article not mentioned in the prosecutor’s charges, the article used to convict the defendant should still refer to the one in the prosecutor’s indictment. However, in Yeimo’s case, the judges sentenced him based on an article not included in the prosecutor’s indictment, which is now revoked by the Constitutional Court. Siregar pointed out that this verdict punished Yeimo with an article that has been declared invalid by the Constitutional Court.

According to her, the judges’ decision went beyond what was requested by the public prosecutor, which is known as “Ultra Petita.” Siregar argued that even if the judges wanted to sentence Yeimo based on an article not mentioned in the prosecutor’s charges, the article used to convict the defendant should at least correspond to the article in the prosecutor’s indictment.

Siregar said the Coalition for Law Enforcement and Human Rights for Papua is currently exploring different options and legal actions that can be taken in response to the decision made by the judges of the Jayapura District Court. (*)

Viktor Yeimo  sentenced to eight months in prison

Amnesty International Indonesia May 5, 2023

A google translate.

Original Bahasa link

Unconditional Release of Viktor Yeimo and Political Activists in Papua

Responding to the guilty verdict of the Jayapura District Court Panel of Judges regarding the anti-racism protests in 2019 against West Papua National Committee (KNPB) activists, Viktor Yeimo, Executive Director of Amnesty International Indonesia Usman Hamid said:

“Although we respect that the Jayapura District Court panel of judges handed down a lighter sentence than the demands of the public prosecutor, we consider that the guilty verdict shows the state’s neglect of respecting human rights. We need to abandon the use of treason and insult articles in the Criminal Code to punish peaceful activists and protesters in Papua, Maluku and elsewhere.”

“In Papua, the pattern of violence has been going on for a long time against those who advocate and even just practice freedom of expression and fulfillment of other human rights. Today’s conviction of Viktor Yeimo is just one example of the lack of human rights guarantees.”

“This will send a message to other activists and protesters that dissent and the peaceful expression of their views is not tolerated by the state. Even though the state has committed to respect it.

“We urge the state to release Viktor Yeimo and other activists who are imprisoned just for expressing their expressions peacefully in Papua. Because it is all guaranteed by the constitution.”


Viktor Yeimo, activist and spokesperson for the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), at a trial at the Jayapura District Court Friday, May 5, was sentenced to eight months in prison in connection with his involvement in anti-racism demonstrations in Papua which led to riots in August 2019. Sentence from the Panel of Judges lighter than what the public prosecutor demanded, namely three years in prison.

In addition, in sentencing the defendant, the Panel of Judges used Article 155 of the Criminal Code (KUHP), which contains broadcasting or showing letters or pictures that contain statements of feelings of hostility, hatred, insult or humiliation to the Indonesian Government.

The article used by the Panel of Judges is different from the four articles used by the Public Prosecutor. On 21 February 2022, the public prosecutor charged Viktor Yeimo with four articles in the Criminal Code, namely Article 106 on treason, Article 110 Paragraph 1 on conspiracy to treason, Article 110 Paragraph 2 on preparing for treason, and Article 160 on incitement.

One of Viktor Yeimo’s lawyers, as reported by the media, stated that the judge’s decision is known as ultra petita, namely a decision that goes beyond the charges and demands of the public prosecutor.

Viktor Yeimo denied all these accusations by saying he was not involved in planning the 2019 anti-racism demonstration and only took part in the action because he felt devastated by the racist treatment of Papuans.

Authorities in Indonesia have used the penal code, particularly the treason clause, to prosecute dozens of peaceful pro-independence political activists in Papua who legally exercise their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

According to Amnesty International’s monitoring data from 2019 to 2022, at least 78 people in Papua have been arrested on charges of violating treason articles under Articles 106 and 110 of the old Criminal Code.

Under national law, the rights to freedom of opinion, assembly and association are also guaranteed in the 1945 Constitution, specifically Article 28E paragraph (3), Article 23 paragraph (2) and Article 24 paragraph (1) of Law no. 39 of 1999. It should be remembered that Article 23 of Law Number 39 of 1999 concerning Human Rights also guarantees that everyone is free to have their own political beliefs and to express opinions according to their conscience.

The right to freedom of expression, including political expression, is also guaranteed in Article 19 of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which is further explained in General Comment No. 34 regarding Article 19 of the ICCPR. It should be underlined that Indonesia has ratified the ICCPR through Law no. 12 of 2005, which also means that Indonesia has a binding obligation to respect, protect and fulfill these rights.

Amnesty International does not take any position on the political status of any provinces in Indonesia, including their calls for independence. However, in our opinion, freedom of expression includes the right to peacefully express one’s views or political solutions.