Fugitive Papua activist Veronica Koman meets with UN Rights Commissioner

Kompas.com – October 11, 2019
Veronica Koman and Michelle Bachelet in Sydney – October 8, 2019 (Facebook)
Veronica Koman and Michelle Bachelet in Sydney – October 8, 2019 (Facebook)

Sydney – Veronica Koman, who is currently on the Indonesian police’s wanted persons list, met with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Australia on Tuesday October 8.

The meeting with Michelle Bachelet in Sydney was revealed in a posting on Koman’s Facebook and Twitter accounts along with a photograph of the two together.

In her post, Koman said that the meeting with Bachelet – who was once the first women president of Chili – was one of mutual respect.

“I explained the most recent developments on the situation and crisis in West Papua, particularly the issue of the security approach used by the Indonesian government last month”, she wrote.

“I also informed her about the use of excessive force against student protests opposing legal reforms which were held throughout Indonesia [in late September]”.

Koman said she also told Bachelet about the many civilians who have been forced to seek refuge in Papua. Thousands of people have left Wamena meanwhile others claim that they have no choice but to try and remain.

This was the experience of Dwijo Sayoto – known by friends as Dwi – who works as a rental driver who decided to move to Papua to find employment.

Sayoto’s house was burnt to the ground during the riots in Wamena in late September. Since losing all of his belongings, he has sought refuge in several different places.

“I’m not a strong person, this was the first time I’ve experienced something like this... I don’t want to live here [anymore]”, he told ABC Indonesia.

Sayoto said that people were “being treated like animals” and he is still traumatised at seeking friends burnt to death inside cars and house-shops.

When she met with Bachelet, Koman also explained the general situation in Indonesia related to the arrest of activists and restrictions on freedom of expression.

I won’t stop

In an interview with the ABC’s program The World, her first interview since arriving in Australia, Koman said that “I won’t stop”.

Koman was asked why she is continuing to publish reports on West Papua and whether she was concerned that it would provoke things in the midst of an uncertain situation.

“I sift through the information before disseminating it, for example when the riots took place in Wamena, I was extremely careful”, she replied adding that she wanted to avoid triggering conflicts between migrants and indigenous Papuans.

The East Java regional police meanwhile have denied that they have acted violently against Koman’s family in Indonesia as cited by Koman in the interview with the ABC.

“Which person made such a claim, the police will safeguard the family concerned 24 hours a day, if the [family] concerned is in Indonesia”, East Timor regional police public relations head Senior Commissioner Frans Barung Mangera told journalists.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry and the East Java police both consider Koman’s statements aired on Australian television as “very inappropriate” and say they were designed to create a negative opinion about the Indonesian government in the international community.

When she was in Australia, Michelle Bachelet expressed her concern about immigration policies and asylum seekers in Australia which have turned new arrivals into “scapegoats” that are blamed for the problems in the country.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Di Sydney, Veronica Koman Bertemu Komisioner HAM PBB dan Bahas Papua Barat”.]

Source: https://internasional.kompas.com/read/2019/10/11/21241581/di-sydney-veronica-koman-bertemu-komisioner-ham-pbb-dan-bahas-papua