#BlackLivesMatter #PapuanLivesMatter Campaign: About the Indonesian government’s attitude towards indigenous Papuans and the difficulties to enforce the law in West Papua, written by Theo Hesegem and translated by the ICP
Since the integration of West Papua into Indonesia, the country has considered indigenous Papuans, particularly those demanding justice, law enforcement and respect for human rights, as second-class citizens. The Indonesian government seems to support the idea that indigenous Papuans are Indonesian citizens who do not have the right to live.
As Indonesian citizens, indigenous Papuans must have the same rights as other Indonesians. However, there are still government representatives and Indonesian citizens who see Papuans as people with dark skin and curly hair who are not worthy of being part of the Indonesian nation. Indigenous Papuans continue to be labelled as monkeys and the Papuan victims of human rights violations are considered trash. Until today, the victims and their families in West Papua keep waiting for justice in the law enforcement system.
The big question is: when will indigenous Papuans finally experience justice?
The list of unresolved cases of human rights violations is long:
1. The murder of Opinus Tabuni – the perpetrators were never revealed
2. The assassination of Theys Eluai – justice was silenced and the perpetrators were promoted into strategic positions
3. The raid of a weapon storage in Wamena was never revealed
4. The case of gross human rights violation in Wasior remains unclear until today
5. The law enforcement process of the Paniai case is still pending – it is unclear whether the case will ever be processed
6. The alleged execution of Hendrik Lokbere in Nduga in December 2019
In my opinion, these cases of violence and alleged human rights violations against indigenous Papuans were arranged by elites so the cases have been covered-up. It is therefore very difficult to reveal the truth.
The National Human Rights Commission (Komnas Ham) has identified multiple cases of gross human rights violations in West Papua, such as the Paniai Case, the Wamena Case and the Wasior Case. Indigenous Papuans have been waiting for years for the Central Government’s commitment for justice. The United Nations as well wait for a fair, transparent and just processing of these cases.
In my opinion, the Indonesian government is trying to maintain its reputation on the world stage by making promises to fob the United Nations off. However, its approaches to settle cases are neither wise nor prudent.
When we take a critical look at the governance situation in Indonesia, one observes that the government is not capable to settle these human rights cases as it has promised during the United Nation’s last Universal Periodic Review in 2017. Indigenous Papuans continue to experience human rights violations, racism, injustice as well as discrimination in law enforcement, education, health and economy. This is the reason why most indigenous Papuans struggle to build trust in the Government.
Too much money is circulating in West Papua – the majority of it is allocated for infrastructure projects. The Papuan people do not use the Government funds as a benchmark for building trust in the central Government. Instead of allocating large amounts of funds, the government should focus on the protection of the Papuan peoples’ self-esteem as black people with curly hair and stop the discrimination and extra-judicial killings. However, the central government maintains its position that the Papuan people need development projects. Paradoxically, the development beneficiaries in West Papua lose their lives due to other issues.
Human rights violations in West Papua becoming subject of interests
I need to elaborate on what is happening with the settlement of human rights violations in West Papua. The Indonesian government is not seriously committed to settle human rights violations in West Papua. It has formed a team to investigate allegations and settle past human rights violations in West Papua. However, this process is not going forward and fails to meet the expectations of the victims, their relatives and the Papuan people.
In my opinion, the central government does not have a clear target for the processing of these gross human rights violations in West Papua. Although the team was formed, its targets are uncertain. In my understanding, this team was formed to use government funds for the benefit of third parties or persons. Moreover, the establishment of such groups also serves the purpose of convincing the United Nations, the international community, the Papuan people, the victims and their relatives that the government pays serious attention to the human rights situation in West Papua.
We are aware that this approach will never lead to the settlement of gross human rights violations in West Papua! So, why was this team established?
Komnas HAM, as the official government institution in charge of human rights violations, has investigated cases and assessed them against the applicable criteria for gross human rights violations. Komnas HAM also investigated the Paniai Case. Despite the investigation results, some groups continue to deny that the Paniai Case must be categorised as a gross human rights violation.
While this injustice is taking place, indigenous Papuans continue to be viewed as animals and trash. Papuans are stigmatized as armed separatists or traitors. If the government loses itself in such prejudices and allegations, there is no hope that gross human rights violations in West Papua will ever be settled.
I think Papuans will never be able to live in peace and enjoy freedom in such conditions. They will be under constant pressure and continue to experience death in various ways.
However, as indigenous Papuans, we should not just hope for government action, but keep struggling for justice and enforcement of human rights all over the world.
Theo Hesegem is a Human Rights Defender and Director of the Foundation for Justice and the Integrity of the Papuan People (YKKMP).