Thursday, June 4, 2020

Global fight against racism: Papuan lives also matter

https://www.thejakartapost.com/academia/2020/06/04/global-fight-against-racism-papuan-lives-also-matter.html
Global fight against racism: Papuan lives also matter 
Elvira Rumkabu
Jayapura, Papua   /   Thu, June 4, 2020   /  09:59 am
The death of George Floyd, an African-American who was brutally murdered by a policeman in an American city, is not an isolated incident but a sign of deeply entrenched and normalized outright racism.
Structural and institutionalized societies and systems that project whiteness as superior and dominant, while portraying blackness as the exact opposite, continue to build a racial boundary that resonates throughout the world.
The video of Floyd’s daylight murder, which went viral globally, shows the white officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck, ignoring his pleas that he could not breathe.
Floyd’s tragic death, which sparked widespread outrage and demonstrations despite the pandemic, has been deeply felt by the people of Papua who relate to Floyd’s killing, connected through a sense of common oppression and painful personal and collective memories.
One was the story of Obby Kogoya, a Papuan student who was dragged to the ground and continuously stepped on by Indonesian police in Yogyakarta on July 15, 2016, following student rallies commemorating the undemocratic 1969 referendum leading to Papua’s integration into Indonesia.
Obby’s body was dragged on asphalt, kicked and punched while one officer pushed his fingers into Obby’s nostrils. Another officer stepped on Obby’s head and continued stepping on his back too. He was an unarmed student posing no threat to the officers or the bystanders yet they treated him as if he was a common criminal. Obby survived but was sentenced to four months for resisting and assaulting two police officers, even though he was the victim.
For Papuans, both Floyd and Obby represent their own stories and struggles, similarly fighting for justice, dignity and respect. While Indonesians also took to social media platforms to support the “Black Lives Matter” campaign, Papuans perceive the case even more deeply. For Papuans who have been living within systemic racism and oppression for decades, Floyd’s death resonates deeply, showing they have brothers and sisters on the other side of the world enduring similar injustices.
Both cases are powerful examples of structural racism. The inhumane treatment by the police officers implied hierarchical relations between two different identities and ethnicities. Racial division between the “superior” white and the “inferior” black has existed for hundreds of years, deepened by structures and institutions that were established and enforced by people to maintain the status quo.
Similar to African-Americans, Papuans have been a product of a racial construct since the Dutch colonial era.
As cited by historian Richard Chauvel, Papuan’s sense of separateness from Indonesia can be attributed at least in part to the Dutch colonial system where natives and Papuans ranked as the second and third layers of society respectively, while the Dutch colonizers occupied the top with Westerners, and the ethnic Chinese below them.
The perception worsened when Papua was integrated into Indonesia. Marginalization, racism, development practices benefiting migrants rather than local populations, human rights violations, economic exploitation and the reduced proportion of indigenous populations in several cities have contributed to the increased dichotomy of Papuan and Indonesian identities.
Papuans at all levels of society have experienced being oppressed, with their lives fully determined by Indonesians who think they know what’s best for so-called ignorant Papuans.
Furthermore, the structural racism deeply rooted in both African-American and Papuan societies has led to the normalization of police brutality and targeted violence. The most disturbing fact from Floyd’s murder video is the calmness shown on the police officer’s face while kneeling on Floyd’s neck as the victim begged for mercy.
In Obby’s experience, both police officers also acted quite calmly. This indicates the police officers in both cases had presumptions of guilt because of Floyd’s and Obby’s “blackness”. Such preconceived notions and prejudice have supported the normalization of violence against blacks, both in Indonesia and in the United States.
A prime example in the context of Papua is when the government deployed thousands of troops to the region, stopped internet access and criminalized many activists who responded to the widespread antiracism protests in August 2019.
The dominant security approach resulted from a stigmatization of Papuans as separatists and destructive people.
The main problem of systemic racism in Papua is the tagging and diversion of racism mixed with separatism and nationalism; it is embedded in policy and major state institutions that justify the use of coercive power by a perceived superior identity.
Moreover, Floyd’s abuse by the police represented dehumanization — a process by which certain individuals and/or social groups are denied complete human status — which is also strongly felt by Papuans.
The long history of violence by Indonesian authorities has resulted in Papuans losing a sense of control of their lives, leading to the sense of being colonized and dehumanized, long after Indonesia’s independence.
Papuans not only share anger and sympathy over Floyd’s death, but relate well to the incident through their “blackness”. Beyond a racial categorization, this is an aspiration with ambition, drive and demands that reject subjugation and dehumanization.
Therefore, while many Indonesian share their support with “Black Lives Matter” slogans on their social media accounts, Papuan people also took to social media calling for awareness that Papuans’ lives matter as well.
Rather than a political goal, the call to realize the common blackness is an emotional and moral aspiration to be recognized and respected. Papuans have many stories like George Floyd’s, though their sufferings are typically not fully recorded and publicly displayed.
If we still believe in humanity, our hearts and ears will allow us to hear from them without being prejudiced.
This is how we start to dismantle the supremacy and oppressive system and bring healing and justice to Papuans whose lives also matter.
The dominant security approach resulted from a stigmatization of Papuans as separatists and destructive people.
Lecturer in international relations at Cenderawasih University
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.
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Wednesday, June 3, 2020

‘#PapuanLivesMatter’: George Floyd’s death hits close to home in Indonesia


‘#PapuanLivesMatter’: George Floyd’s death hits close to home in Indonesia
Budi Sutrisno The Jakarta Post  
Jakarta   /   Thu, June 4, 2020   /   11:43 am 



A protester participating in an antiracism rally in Central Jakarta holds a banner that reads “Papuans are not monkeys”. The protesters held the rally to urge the government to solve a racial abuse case against Papuan students in Surabaya, East Java. (JP/Seto Wardhana)

As the death of George Floyd, an African-American man who died while being arrested in the United States, sparks a global outcry, Indonesian rights advocates and young people have stepped forward to remind fellow citizens that racism has long been an issue at home as well. 
The scene of Floyd being restrained by a cop employing a knee-to-neck hold is familiar for some, who compared the incident to the 2016 case of Obby Kogoya, a Papuan man whose head was reportedly stepped on by the police before he was arrested during the siege of a Papuan student dormitory in Yogyakarta.
The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, which has accompanied a call for street rallies worldwide, has since been adapted into #PapuanLivesMatter, with many turning to social media to urge Indonesians to also speak up against the racial discrimination and violence that Papuans have long endured.



“Many Indonesians support the hashtag #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd to denounce the actions of the American police over racial discrimination against black people. This is inversely proportional to when Papuans are racially abused,” Papuan activist Rico Tude tweeted on Tuesday.
Rico, who writes for Papuan media platform suarapapua.com, criticized the “double standards” of Indonesians in addressing the issue of racism abroad and at home, saying some might fear the risk of discussing sensitive topics related to Papua or lamented the history of Papuan political attitudes.
“Some people think that the racism experienced by Papuan people is a logical consequence that must be accepted by those who are considered separatists,” said Rico, who is also the spokesman for the Indonesian People’s Front for West Papua (FRI-WP).
While being far from the central government’s reach at home, many native Papuans have to put up with discrimination against their skin color and stereotypes while searching for a better life in other cities.
Some students previously told The Jakarta Post that they faced rejection by landlords when looking for rooming houses to rent only because they were Papuans, while others had to endure racial slurs. 
In other circumstances, such as when engaging in peaceful rallies to voice their political aspirations, many Papuans have reportedly faced physical intimidation and brutality by law enforcement personnel.
President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has tried to reach out more with his development and infrastructure approach but critics and activists argued that Jakarta continues to fail in addressing human rights issues and the repression against their freedom of expression.
On Sunday, Indonesian human rights lawyer Veronica Koman and two native Papuans held an online discussion on how the #BlackLivesMatter campaign had echoed the Papuan movement against the long-standing racism and injustice they felt in Indonesian society.
They agreed that the string of protests against Floyd's death were similar to what happened in Papua last year -- when thousands rallied against racism after a Papuan student was called a "monkey" by security personnel in Surabaya, East Java. 
“Dialogue to advocate for Papua-related issues is not enough. Unlike the Floyd case, racism in Papua continues because the public lacks knowledge of it,” said one of the speakers, Mikael Kudiai.
Cisco Mofu, another speaker, called for other Indonesians to open their minds and listen to the aspirations of Papuans and be willing to "criticize the state for its mistakes".
In a statement to the Post, Veronica said it was time to raise awareness among the public, as people outside the activist circle, including celebrities and influencers, had also reached out for discussion.
Actress Hannah Al Rashid, for instance, is among those who have amplified such discussion and called for people to actively listen instead of making assumptions about the issue through her Twitter account.
"Let’s start speaking up for Papua. The government has been able to perpetuate impunity in Papua because the people haven’t spoken out. We do need your voices but please be mindful in amplifying Papuan voices,” Veronica said.
Many internet users have also geared up to help disseminate information on issues surrounding Papua and shared links for people to sign petitions and donate to various causes to help Papuan people. 
Young initiators, through online media platform Kudeta Mag, were among those who compiled the links and reading material on the website weneedtotalkaboutpapua.carrd.co.
"It should be our responsibility as Indonesians to feel obligated to understand our own country," Kudeta Mag chief editor Jordinna Joaquin told the Post, "We need to talk, have these conversations, donate whenever and whatever we can and demand justice where it's needed."
Amnesty International Indonesia also called on the government to take a strong stand against systemic racism by guaranteeing Papuan rights to freedom of expression and stopping all forms of violence against those who peacefully express their opinions.
“The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis must be a reminder that discrimination and intimidation also happens to native Papuans in Indonesia, and most of the cases have yet to be resolved,” executive director Usman Hamid said on Wednesday.
The rights group also urged the authority to immediately release 51 Papuan prisoners of conscience. “They do not deserve to be in jail because they did not commit any crimes. Justice must be upheld,” Usman said.
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1) Jokowi Asked to Apologize for Papua Internet Curbs


2) Why Special Autonomy in West Papua has Failed
3) Jayapura Immigration Office deports 30 Papua New Guinea nationals
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1) Jokowi Asked to Apologize for Papua Internet Curbs
Translator: 
 
Editor: 

Laila Afifa

TEMPO.COJakarta - The Jakarta Administrative District Court (PTUN) declared President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and the Minister of Communication and Informatics Johnny G. Plate guilty for blocking internet access in Papua and West Papua Provinces.
The panel of judges ruled that the President and the Minister violated the law for their policy on the internet blocking in the two provinces.
In August 2019, the government throttled the internet bandwidth in the country’s easternmost provinces due to unrest following mass demonstrations in the regions. The policy was challenged by the freedom of the press defense team in November 2019.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiff asked President Jokowi and Minister Johnny to publish an apology in printed media, television stations, and radio broadcasts, with the following text:
"We, the Government of the Republic of Indonesia, hereby express our apologies to all press workers and Indonesian citizens for our unprofessional actions in blocking data services in Papua and West Papua."
The apology was asked to be published in three national printed media, namely Koran Tempo, The Jakarta Post, and Kompas by 1/6 page and be aired on six TV stations, namely Metro TV, RCTI, SCTV, TV ONE, TRANS TV, and Kompas TV one month after the verdict is declared.
The official apology must also be broadcasted on three radio stations, such as Elshinta, KBR 68H, and RRI.
FRISKI RIANA

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YouTube Video
2) Why Special Autonomy in West Papua has Failed
Jun 1, 2020   


SUBSCRIBE
The Diplomacy Training Program (DTP) hosted an online webinar about human rights in West Papua and ongoing conflicts over self-determination.The online discussion featured three experts: Veronica Koman - Human Rights Lawyer and Activist, Melissa Crouch - UNSW Law Professor and Ronny Kareni - West Papuan Musician and Activist.

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3) Jayapura Immigration Office deports 30 Papua New Guinea nationals
9 hours ago

Jayapura (ANTARA) - The Immigration Office Class I of Jayapura, Papua, Wednesday, deported 30 foreign nationals of Papua New Guinea through the Skouw border post situated in Jayapura City despite being closed over concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic.

All 30 foreigners have been placed under detention at the Immigration Detention Center of Jayapura after being sentenced since 25 of them were involved in criminal cases, while the other five held Papua New Guinea passports but had overstayed.

The foreign nationals were sent to the detention house since the end of January this year since the Government of Papua New Guinea had closed the border after which the Indonesian government too decided to close the border in the start of February.

Related news: Residents in Indonesia-PNG border area should wear face masks: Police

Related news: 450 Army personnel to be deployed to safeguard Indonesia-PNG border


The Indonesia-Papua New Guinea border is yet closed, so a special permission by both countries has to be issued for deportation, Gatut Setiawan, head of the Immigration Office of Jayapura, stated.

Two buses carried all the 30 deportees, while police cars escorted them to the border area.

After the 30 nationals of Papua New Guinea, the Immigration Detention Center of Jayapura is currently only detaining one Russian.

Related news: Jayapura immigration conducts deportation of six PNG citizens
   
Reporter: Evarukdijati, Suwanti
Editor: Yuni Arisandy Sinaga
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Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Papua police arrest one behind Mar-30 attack on Freeport employees


https://en.antaranews.com/news/149984/papua-police-arrest-one-behind-mar-30-attack-on-freeport-employees

Papua police arrest one behind Mar-30 attack on Freeport employees 
Antara News9 hours ago





Papua Police Chief Insp. Gen Paulus Waterpauw (center) held a press conference on the arrest of an armed group member
 involved in the shooting of PT Freeport employees. ANTARA/Evarukdijati/sh

Jayapura, Papua (ANTARA) - Papua's Law Enforcement Task Force arrested TW, a member of a criminal armed group that attacked PT Freeport employees in Kuala Kencana that resulted in the death of New Zealander Graeme Thomas Wall.

Two other employees of the giant mining firm also suffered injuries in the attack on March 30.

Papua Police Chief Inspector General Paulus Waterpauw confirmed here on Tuesday that TW was arrested in Timika on Friday (May 29). He was a member of the Kali Kopi armed group led by Joni Botak.

TW was taken into police arrest along with another suspect SM, and both were quarantined at Wisma Atlet Timika after being found to be reactive to the COVID-19 rapid test.

However, after testing negative for the virus based on swab testing, the two suspects were moved to the Mimika Police Headquarters in Timika, Waterpauw stated.

Based on preliminary investigation, TW is a member of the Kali Kopi armed group involved in the shooting in Kuala Kencana on March 30.

TW joined the armed group on January 30, 2019.

The police did not detain SM on grounds of insufficient evidence. However, he is obliged to report regularly to the local authorities.

The police seized 24 bullet sleeves and six 7.62 x 39 mm caliber ammunition.

TW will be charged under article 1 of Emergency Law No. 12 of 1951, article 340 juncto article 55, 56 of the criminal code, Waterpauw pointed out.

A New Zealand national died, while two Indonesian workers were injured after members of a Papua armed group opened fire at the offices of PT Freeport Indonesia on Monday in the Kuala Kencana Sub-district, Timika, Papua, on March 30.

According to eyewitness accounts, eight members of a Papua armed group launched a gun attack at the PT Freeport office building at around 2 p.m. local time on Monday before fleeing into the forest behind the Kuala Kencana area towards Mile 39.

At the time of shooting, six personnel from the Police Mobile Brigade's Amole Task Force were guarding the office building.

A joint military and police team has been deployed to arrest the gunmen.
Related news: Shootings by armed Papuans break out outside Freeport's mining areas

Related news: Papuan gunmen attack Freeport Indonesia's escort car


Close
EDITED BY INE

Reporter: Evarukdijati, Sri Haryati
Editor: Fardah Assegaf
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Sunday, May 31, 2020

Four treason defendants in Papua jailed over anti-racism protests last year


Four treason defendants in Papua jailed over anti-racism protests last year

Tabloid JUBI – May 30, 2020



                            Sentencing hearing at Sorong District Court – May 30, 2020 (Papua Barat Pos)


Sorong – Four defendants charged with treason in Sorong City, West Papua province, were finally declared guilty and sentenced to eight months and 15 days jail at the Sorong District Court on Thursday May 28.
The four defendants, Yoseph Laurens Syufi alias Siway Bofit, Ethus Paulus Miwak Kareth, Manase Baho and Rianto Ruruk alias Herman Sabo, were indicted under Article 110 Paragraph (1) of the Criminal Code (KUHP) in conjunction with Article 106 of the KUHP in conjunction with article 87 of the KUHP.

The four were arrested after being involved in an action which took place on September 18, 2019 in protest against the stand taken by 61 Papuan figures who met with President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo on September 10, 2019 following a series of anti-racist protests across the land of Papua.
Presiding judge Willem Marco Erari – who was assisted by Judges Donald Sopacua and Dedi I Sahusilawane – said that the four defendants had been proven guilty of the criminal act of makar (treason, subversion, rebellion) which created public unrest.
“We think that this was the best verdict but it’s not yet certain if the four defendants consider it just. So we are giving an opportunity to their lawyers to ask the four defendants if they don’t accept [the verdict] so they can submit an appeal”, said Erari.

When asked by their lawyer and the public prosecutor, the four defendants stated that they accepted the verdict. “Starting this Thursday the verdict has final and conclusive legal force” added Erari.
Natalis Yewen, who had acted as the general coordinator of the “Monkeys Demand Justice” action in September, stated that personally and on behalf his comrades in arms that he is grateful to God, their ancestors and to West Papua’s national crusaders because his colleagues were sentenced to less than a year.
“I must also convey that they were detained not because they were guilty but that this represents a form of continuous criminalisation by police against activists who stand up to demand the rights of the Papuan nation”, he said.
“With this [verdict] we also ask that other tapols (political prisoners) who are still being detained also be given a sentence that is no more than nine months because if it’s more that that it will be an injustice and we will again take to the streets to demand justice for them and for the Papuan nation”, asserted Yewen. (Bastian/CR-3)
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Papua – Empat Terdakwa Makar Di Sorong Divonis 8 Bulan,15 Hari Penjara”.]

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Friday, May 29, 2020

1) Four defendants of treason in Sorong were sentenced to 8 months, 15 days in prison


2) Shooting of medical workers must be condemned: Papua police chief  
3) COVID-19 Outbreak among Inmates in Jayapura Detention Center 

4) Six Papuan Activists Convicted of Treason Freed  
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A google translate. Be-aware google translate can be a bit erratic.
Original bahasa link at
1) Four defendants of treason in Sorong were sentenced to 8 months, 15 days in prison 
May 30, 2020  6:19 am   Reporter: Admin Jubi   
 Papua No. 1 News Portal | Jubi  Sorong, Jubi - 




                             Sidang Putusan empat Tapol di Pengadilan Negeri Sorong – Jubi/Bastian

Four defendants of treason article in Sorong City, West Papua were finally convicted and sentenced to eight months and 15 days in prison at the Sorong District Court on Thursday (5/28/2020). 
Four defendants on behalf of: Yoseph Laurens Syufi aka Siway Bofit, Ethus Paulus Miwak Kareth, Manase Baho, and Rianto Ruruk alias Herman Sabo were charged with alternative charges under article 110 paragraph (1) jo article 106 jo article 87 of the Criminal Code.  The four were arrested after being involved in an action that took place on 18 September 2019, addressing the aspirations of 61 Papuan leaders and meeting with the President on 10 September 2019, after an anti-racism action took place throughout the Land of Papua.  Chief Judge Willem Marco Erari, who was accompanied by two judges, members of Donald Sopacua and Dedi I Sahusilawane, said that the four defendants were found guilty of committing criminal offenses which disturbed the public.
"In our opinion, that is the best decision but it is also not necessarily fair for the four defendants. So we give legal counsel the opportunity to ask directly to the four defendants if they do not accept it, then an appeal can be made, "Willem said.  When asked by the legal advisors and the public prosecutor to the four defendants, the four of them stated that they accepted the verdict. "Starting this Thursday the decision has permanent legal force," added Willem.  Natalis Yewen as the general coordinator of the monkey action demanded justice said in person and represented solidarity friends thanking God, ancestors and West Papuan fighters because our friends could be sentenced to no more than a year.
“I also have to say that they were arrested not because they were guilty but this is a form of criminalization that is always carried out by the authorities to fellow activists who stand up to demand the rights of the Papuan people," he said.  iWith this we also request that the political prisoners who are still detained can be given a decision of no more than 9 months because if more than that then this is injustice and we will go back to the streets to demand their justice and for the people of Papua, said Natalis. 
(Bastian / CR-3 *)  Editor: Angela Flassy
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(Note. OPM denies the allegation)
https://en.antaranews.com/news/149760/shooting-of-medical-workers-must-be-condemned-papua-police-chief

2) Shooting of medical workers must be condemned: Papua police chief  
12 hours ago

Timika, Papua (ANTARA) - The recent attack on two medical workers by Papuan armed rebels cannot be justified on any ground and needs to be strongly condemned, Papua Police Chief, Inspector General Paulus Waterpauw, said on Friday.



"I have informed the central government about the incident, which needs to be strongly condemned. The shooting of the two medical workers who were on a humanitarian mission is really inhumane," he said in Timika, the capital of Mimika District.



On May 22, 2020, two medical workers — Almalek Bagau and Eunico Somou — from the Wandai Health Center in Intan Jaya District were reportedly shot by armed rebels while they were delivering drugs for COVID-19 patients.



According to police, Bagau and Somou were carrying walkie-talkie devices to communicate with the local COVID-19 post as there was no cellular network in the area. This led their attackers to mistake them for security personnel and open fire at them.



"If they (rebels) want to face military and police personnel, that's their business. But, they must not kill humanitarian workers. Instead of killing humanitarian workers, they must assist them and thank them," Waterpauw said.



The TNI and police have launched a hunt for the rebels who attacked the medical workers, he said, adding armed Papuan criminals have been carrying out acts of violence against security personnel and innocent civilians.



The security situation in Papua remains fragile due to acts of deadly violence attributed to Papuan separatists.



The rebels have engaged in frequent exchanges of fire with the Indonesian military and police personnel. The rebels have also launched deadly attacks on civilians over the past years, killing many of them.



As per Papua Police records, from early January to December 28, 2019, at least 23 shooting and criminal cases involving armed Papuan groups have claimed the lives of 10 members of the Indonesian police and military, as well as 10 civilians.



The armed groups mainly targeted the administrative areas of the districts of Puncak Jaya, Jayawijaya, Mimika, and Paniai in 2019, Waterpauw had remarked on December 28 last year. (INE)


Related news: Armed criminal group shoots medical workers in Papua


Related news: 34 medical workers in Papua exposed to COVID-19


EDITED BY INE


Reporter: Evarianus S, Rahmad Nasution
Editor: Fardah Assegaf
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3) COVID-19 Outbreak among Inmates in Jayapura Detention Center 
Translator: Non Koresponden   
Editor: Laila Afifa 

29 May 2020 16:17 WIB
TEMPO.COJakarta - Chief of the Papuan Human Rights Lawyers Association, Gustaf Rudolf Kawer, reported that dozens of inmates in the Jayapura Precinct detention center are now suspected to have been infected with COVID-19, due to the lack of isolation procedures for suspected COVID-19 positive inmates.
"The latest information is about 60 people, swab tested," Gustaf said when contacted, on Friday, May 29, 2020.
Gustaf revealed that the potential COVID-19 outbreak in the Jayapura Precinct detention center began in late May, with one inmate showing COVID-19 symptoms. Although the inmate had been treated, he was returned to the detention center soon after. “They said it was TBC,” said Gustaf.
After that point, the outbreak started to happen in the detention center, which houses about 90 inmates. Initially, 11 inmates were showing COVID-19 symptoms. The number then increased to 43, and again to more than 60 inmates.
According to Gustaf, the Jayapura police and the Papua COVID-19 Task Force have actually visited the detention center. Due to the detention center being over-occupied, the Police then relocated inmates to other detention centers in Jayapura. Admittedly, Gustaf fears that the relocation of inmates will instead spark a COVID-19 outbreak in other detention centers.
A spokesperson for the Papua COVID-19 Task Force, Silwanus Sumule, did not answer phone calls and messages sent by Tempo regarding this news. Likewise, Jayapura Police Chief Adj. Sr. Commissioner Gustav Urbinas, have not responded.
M ROSSENO AJI | Translator: DIO SUHENDA (Intern)


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4) Six Papuan Activists Convicted of Treason Freed  
  By Amanda Siddharta
 May 29, 2020 06:10 PM
JAKARTA, INDONESIA - Six activists charged with treason in Jakarta for organizing a protest rally last August outside the presidential palace have been freed from prison.  
Paulus Suryanta Ginting, Ambrosius Mulait, Charles Kosay, and Dano Anes Tabuni, along with the only woman in the group, Arina Elopere, were freed this past week.
Issay Wenda, the sixth person, was released April 28. He had been sentenced to eight months in prison, a month less than the others. 
At the August 28 rally, a banned separatist flag was raised as activists protested an incident that occurred against Papuans earlier that month in Surabaya in East Java. The Morning Star flag is a symbol of independence for West Papua. 
Over 40 students taken
In mid-August, Indonesian authorities stormed a university dormitory in Surabaya, where Papuan students live, concerning allegations someone desecrated the Indonesian flag in the building and threw it into a sewer. Police fired tear gas and took 43 students into custody, while an angry mob that had gathered outside the dormitory chanted, “Kick out Papua” and used racial slurs to describe the students.
The incident triggered nationwide protests and galvanized the pro-independence movement. The Ministry of Communication and Information responded by blocking the internet in Papua. After that happened, some Papuans burned the office of Telkom Indonesia in Jayapura, the capital of Papua.  
Ginting, the spokesperson for the Indonesian People’s Front for West Papua (FRI-WP), said their indictment was unfair.  
“None of us has the initiative; it never crossed our minds that we want to commit treason. We were only protesting; it was a standard rally to make a statement. The only difference there was that flag on August 28. I assumed it was the initiative from the people at the rally,” he told VOA.  
'No intentions of treason'
Michael Hilman, a member of the legal team representing the activists, said that the facts and evidence presented in court proved they were only protesting because of the incident in Surabaya.  
“There were no intentions of treason, or to attack the head of state, there was no violence whatsoever. But the judge’s decision did not take into account the facts,” he said in a statement.  
Five of the six were supposed to be released three weeks earlier under a new decree by the Indonesian Ministry of Justice and Human Rights. The decree initiated an assimilation program for prisoners who have served two-thirds of their prison sentences to be released early because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ginting said they signed the release documents on May 11 and had been tested for the coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 disease. At the last minute, they were told they could not be granted an early release because they were charged of treason.  
“We suspect political pressure or alleged abuse of power by the authorities,” Hilman said. The Directorate General of Corrections at the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights has not responded to VOA’s requests for comments. 
Repression in Papua 'getting worse' 
Indonesia annexed the region of West Papua in 1969, after some of the population was forced to vote in favor of joining Indonesia. Since then, the area has become a hot spot of conflict with the government’s crackdown of separatist movements.  
Veronica Koman, a human rights lawyer, said violations and impunity still occur in Papua.  
“The repression in Papua is getting worse, because there’s a record of arrest in 2016. There were 5,136 arrests; that’s already during Jokowi’s regime,” she said, referring to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.   
Failed promises?
The president made a promise to prioritize infrastructure development in Papua. But the president has never addressed the alleged human rights violations. Koman said if the conflict in Papua is not resolved, it will be a ticking time bomb ahead of a violent uprising.  
“In a couple of years, there could be a (violent) incident. And then they’d ask, ‘Why did it happen?’ or ‘Who was the provocateur.’ Well, you’re making them (the Papuans) victims repeatedly and robbing them of their dignity,” she said.  
Meanwhile, Ginting said he would continue to speak out about the problems in Papua, but he acknowledged there is little he can do during the pandemic. He said the arrests have created momentum for people to start a discussion on Papua.  
“I think there are more people who are now curious. They want to find out what exactly is happening in Papua. A lot more people will be more open-minded,” he said. 
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