Infrastructure Idols is a collection of essays exploring the challenges and human rights impacts of large-scale infrastructure development projects in the semi-autonomous Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua. The book written by Yason Ngelia, Yuliana Lantipo, Pilipus Robaha, Yohanis Mambrasar, Waldine Praxedes Meak and Benny Mawel was originally published in Indonesian by ELSAM as Berhala-Berhala Infrastruktur. It can be downloaded in English and Indonesian from the ELSAM Website.
The research was conducted in the period from August 2019 – January 2020, and explores the complex motivations and dynamics influencing and arising from projects such as the building of airports, roads, and telecommunications infrastructure, in regions otherwise not widely reported.
Through these essays, we witness how local communities struggle to deal with the negative impacts that result from such infrastructure developments in their homelands. Further, we learn that the forces driving development rarely come from within the communities themselves, but rather from the boardrooms of distant offices in the pursuit of goals that often remain opaque to those most closely affected.
The essays are authored by six Papuan human rights defenders, all of whom are alumni of ELSAM and PBI’s joint initiative, the Basic Course for Human Rights Defenders. This research draws upon many of the skills developed in the course, such as human rights monitoring, research and documentation.
We note with regret that one of the intended contributors, Assa Asso, known as Stracky Yally, was unable to complete his research after becoming a victim of criminalization in connection to his work documenting an anti-racism demonstration which took place on 29 August 2019. Stracky’s case highlights the exceptional risk all human rights defenders in Papua face in simply carrying out their vital work.