Human rights defender and lawyer Veronica Koman, who actively advocates for human rights in West Papua, published a press stament in Indonesian on 14 September and an international press statement on 15 September 2020 on her personal Facebook account. Among others, she denies any wrongdoing, accuses the Indonesian Embassy staff of intimidation and the police of power abuse. The full statement reads as follows:
International Press Statement by Veronica Koman
Over the past eleven days I have chosen not to respond to various accusations aired on an almost daily basis by the Indonesian police through mass media. This is not because the police’s accusations are true, but because I refuse to participate in efforts to divert attention from the real crisis currently gripping West Papua.
The criminal case being fabricated against me is only one of many being pursued in a wholesale program of criminalisation and intimidation underway right now. Almost all of the targets of intimidation are in West Papua, far from media attention. It seems the aim is that the clear aspiration for an independence referendum voiced by hundreds of thousands of West Papuans who took to the streets over the past few weeks will be swept from view.
Because the Indonesian government seems unable to resolve the prolonged conflict, scapegoats are being sought to explain the uprising in West Papua. Such denial tactics will only deepen West Papua’s wounds and exacerbate the conflict there.
I reject the attempts at character assassination against me in my role as official lawyer for the Papuan Students Alliance (AMP). The Indonesian Police have overstepped their authority and gone over the top with exaggerations in an attempt to criminalise me.
The Indonesian police have abused their power by claiming they will freeze my bank accounts, making exaggerated claims about their contents and creating a false narrative of cash flows in “conflict areas” to encourage media speculation and smear my character. There is no legal basis for this and the laws they are misusing to criminalise me have no connection with my financial situation.
There is a surprisingly wide government campaign to pressure me into silence, with the Indonesian police intimidating my family in Jakarta while the head of the Department of Immigration and the Minister for Law and Human Rights join in by saying they will agree to a police demand to revoke my passport. The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology branded one of my human rights updates a “hoax” before eventually apologising for doing so mistakenly. General Wiranto (ret), Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs held a press conference in his office on Sept. 5 to describe me as a provocateur and cite my role as lawyer for West Papuan students while claiming, falsely as it turned out, that Interpol was then “hunting me down”.
Last year, Indonesian embassy staff intimidated me when I gave talks at public events hosted by Amnesty International Australia and Australian church groups. They took pictures and recorded speakers while we talked about human rights abuses in West Papua. The embassy reported me to my scholarship institution, with the complaint that I was supporting separatism at the events. It disrupted my relationship with the institution and my masters study.
For years, the Indonesian government has allocated more time and energy to waging a propaganda war than it has to investigating and ending human rights abuses in West Papua. Now we are seeing a clear example of ‘shoot the messenger’ in the State’s effort to persecute those, including me, who draw attention to abuses it is unwilling or unable to address.
West Papua has for decades been among the most restricted regions worldwide. My criminalisation is nothing more than the continuation of a longstanding strategy to prevent information leaking out to the rest of the world.
Australia, 15 September 2019