At the end of April 2014, there were at least 72 political prisoners in Papuan jails.
Evidence has emerged this month of 12 incidents of torture in three different cases – three in Nabire, seven in Sasawa and two in Jayapura. Accounts of torture in the Sasawa and Nabire cases, and incontrovertible photographic evidence of torture and degrading treatment in the earlier Yalengga flag-raising case from 2010 highlight the issue of impunity in Papua. Torture is used not only against political activists but also other people who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. While investigations into the torture in the Yalengga flag-raising case have begun, it remains to be seen whether perpetrators will be held accountable or if the culture of impunity amongst Indonesian security forces will continue.
In the Nabire case, two men were stabbed and slashed by police officers when they protested police brutality against a third person, while in the Sasawa case, seven men were tortured on arrest with electric stun batons. It remains uncertain if, as claimed by police, the seven detainees were in possession of firearms and weapons, but an added dimension of complexity in areas with heavy presence of pro-independence movements is that civilians are sometimes forced by armed West Papua National Army (Tentera Nasional Papua Barat, TNPB) members to take part in TNPB-related activities. This may include social activities or otherwise non-social activities such as training and guarding posts.
On 2 April, demonstrations were held in nine cities worldwide including London, Melbourne, Jayapura and Timika, calling for the immediate and unconditional release of 76 Papuan political prisoners. While the demonstration in Timika passed peacefully, the one held in Jayapura at the campus of Cenderawasih University (Universitas Cenderawasih, UNCEN) in Waena was tightly controlled by Jayapura Crowd Control and Brimob police, resulting in tensions. Ironically, while the demonstration aimed to highlight the silencing of free speech in Papua and protested arbitrary detention, the response from the authorities was to stop demonstrators from peacefully marching to Abepura and to arrest, detain and torture two students. Police again adopted a strategy of labelling or stigmatising demonstrators as troublemakers by threatening them with charges of violent crime. A similar approach was taken to student leader Yason Ngelia in November last year, when he attempted to raise legitimiate political concerns about the Special Autonomy Plus bill.
Ex-political prisoner Matan Klembiap also faced stigmatisation this month. Klembiap, along with five friends, was detained following accusations of sexual assault of minors, which were quickly proven to be false. Despite this, he continued to be detained and interrogated about political matters.
The Jakarta Post, Jayapura/Surabaya | Headlines | Sun, May 11 2014, 11:11 AM
Hermina was surprised to find out that the shrub fencing around her home in Kotaraja, Jayapura, could be made into male contraceptive pills.
“I didn’t know that. I didn’t know that is has curative uses whatsoever. I grow it because it is easy to trim,” she said.
The information about the gendarussa plant with its contraceptive use for men was first heard about in 1992 when a resident of Kanda, located some 10 kilometers from Sentani, Jayapura, suggested that the province’s National Population and Family Planning Board (BKKBN) office develop it.
In the anonymous proposal, the resident explained the plant’s dried leaves should be spread on beds, which had already been covered with banana and coconut leaves.
It said the dried leaves should stick to the body of the user during intercourse to be effective.
“We didn’t look further into the proposal because, from the description of it, it would be difficult to prove,” said the office’s staffer Agus Fauzi.
He said the proposal’s sender also mentioned that the users were mostly married men who had not paid their wives’ dowries.
Surabaya-based Airlangga University researcher Bambang Prajogo Eko Wardojo said that he only had secondary information about the plant’s function.
In the story he got, the ethnic group in the remote area of Sentani consumed the water after boiling the plant’s leaves 30 minutes prior to intercourse for the contraceptive effect to kick in.
The plant, he said, had become a panacea for married men in the ethnic group who had yet to pay off their dowries. In their culture, he added, a man was not allowed to get his wife pregnant before paying the dowry in full. However, only a small bunch of gendarussa shrubs could be found in Kanda. “None of us here know that story. We don’t use gendarussa for anything. As far as we know it comes from another place, it did not originate here. Our ancestors used to plant certain shrubs to expel evil spirits, but as we now embrace Christianity the plant no longer exists here,” said Jeffri, a Kanda resident. A senior researcher at Papua’s Cenderawasih University, Made Budi, said that none of the researchers in the province had analyzed the plant. Made, the lead researcher into buah merah (red fruit) that is said to have the potential to cure HIV, said that gendarussa was not popular in Papua. “The use of gendarussa could only have been by an isolated family, a secret family recipe that was not for public sharing. Even if there is someone in Kanda who has the knowledge, it does not necessarily mean everyone else does.”
3) Papua’s humble gendarussa plant may provide ‘male pill’
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta/Surabaya/Jayapura | Headlines | Sun, May 11 2014, 11:03 AM
In difficult times, nature provides — if you are looking in the right place.
The innocent-looking shrub you may find next door is perhaps the answer to some of the world’s problems.
Often planted in hedgerows across Indonesia, the gendarussa plant has long been used as a remedy for anxiety, flu, skin diseases and arthritis.
A small ethnic group in remote Papua, however, has found another use for the plant: preventing pregnancy.
Word spread slowly and it was not until the early 1980s that a researcher from Gadjah Mada University (UGM) in Yogyakarta caught on to the information and shared it with fellow researchers.
Later, a pharmacy researcher at Airlangga University (Unair) in Surabaya, East Java, Bambang Prajogo Eko Wardojo, 54, developed the research and brought the plant to his laboratory in 1985.
His early findings confirmed the local knowledge.
“The men in one ethnic group in the remote area of Sentani, Papua, boil the leaves with water and drink the water at least 30 minutes before sexual intercourse,” Bambang said.
Gendarussa — also known as handarusa in Sundanese, tetean or trus in Javanese, gandarisa in the Bima ethnic language, puli in the Ternate language, besi-besi to the Acehnese and bo gu in one Chinese dialect — grows wild in the forest, usually near waterways, up to 500 meters above sea level.
It can grow up to 2-meters high and its branches are dark purple, which turn to shiny dark brown as it ages.
Its leaves, stalk and roots have long been used as a quick remedy for various illnesses.
In the lab: Professor Bambang Prajogo Eko Wardojo says gendarussa can “disrupt” three enzymes in spermatozoa and thus affect sperm penetration during in vitro fertilization. (JP/Wahyoe)
Researchers from the pharmacy and medical schools in Airlangga and the National Population and Family Planning Board (BKKBN) extracted glycoside flavonoid, mainly contained in the leaves, the metabolites of which have potential for contraceptive purposes. The chemical, according to Bambang, has the ability to “disrupt” three enzymes in spermatozoa, thus, affect sperm penetration during in vitro fertilization. “The chemical will not affect the quality or the quantity of sperm produced because it only targets the enzymes,” he explained. Moreover, he added, it had reversible effects. The extract has been made into capsule form by pharmaceutical company PT Indo Farma in a pilot production program for a series of clinical tests, which have run since 2011. The researchers are currently conducting the fourth phase of the clinical tests. BKKBN family planning and reproductive deputy health Julianto Witjaksono said that it had earlier passed several tests before the production and it would still need to undergo more to have the extract registered as a herbal medicine with the Food and Drug Monitoring Agency (BPOM) and the Health Ministry before it could reach consumers. “There are protocols in the production of the medicine and they may take longer before it is ready to be distributed,” he said. The first test was conducted in 2009 on 32 fertile, single male volunteers in Surabaya. The volunteers took the purified plant extract for 144 days. “As a result, during and after the test period, their vital organs such as the liver and heart were functioning well,” Bambang said. In the phase-two studies in 2010, the extract was given to 120 married couples (80 given gendarussa and 40 given a placebo) for 102 days with no pregnancies resulting. The third-phase took place in 2012 on 350 couples (186 taking the capsule and 164 taking the placebo) for 30 days with a 99.96 percent success rate, or according to Bambang, similar to that of oral contraceptives used by women.
Under evaluation: A woman holds a bag of capsules containing gendarussa extract made as a part of a pilot production program for a series of clinical tests. (JP/Wahyoe)
Additional studies are currently ongoing to check how long the capsule should be consumed before it has its expected result. Compared to the earlier phases of the studies, the period needed is currently 15 days. “We are seeking to materialize the effect in exactly the same time as the traditional consumption, which is 30 minutes,” Bambang said. There were no side effects from the consumption although nearly all volunteers reported a better appetite and increased libido. “We had to provide more condoms in this phase,” said Bambang. The studies have been supported by the University of Geneva and Hoshi University in Tokyo, Japan, as they are seeking more benefits from the plant that would include possible anti-retroviral effects. The research has cost Rp 7 billion (US$607,033), Rp 4 billion of which was funded by the BKKBN, a non-departmental agency that reports directly to the President. Bambang and Airlangga University obtained the patented rights for the male contraceptive invention on June 12, 2008. They applied for the rights on January 23, 2001. Bambang said that he had been offered $5 billion in research funding, along with complete facilities, from a research company in the US. “I had to say no because they asked for the patent for the medicine. I want to present the discovery to my alma mater,” he said. Gendarussa pill researchers will present the results of the clinical trials at the American Society of Andrology in Atlanta, in the US, later this month. However, not all men and women alike regard the innovation as good news. “I would make sure that my husband took the pills, but without him knowing,” said 32-year-old Mita (not her real name), a mother of three in Bekasi, West Java. “If he knew he would have thoughts about having an affair.” Julianto said that the pills would not be available over the counter as they would only be distributed to married couples seeking birth control. “We have no intention of selling the pills to foreign markets. Other than different protocols for medicines, we want to protect what’s ours.”