Papua Solidarity to repay Veronica Koman’s scholarship tomorrow

CNN Indonesia – September 15, 2020
Screen shot of Veronica Koman being interviewed by ABC Australia – October 3, 2019 (ABC)

Jakarta – The Papuan People’s Solidarity Team will return the scholarship funds received by human rights activists Veronica Koman to the Ministry of Finance’s Endowment Fund for Education (LPDP) tomorrow.

Solidarity Team member Ambrosius Mulait said that they have been raising funds since August when the LPDP demanded that Koman pay the money back. He said that the fundraising has not just been done by Papua Solidarity but also by international solidarity groups.

“So donations have been collected by international solidarity and Papuan friends, the funds collected satisfy the request from the LPDP, the plan is that they will be returned tomorrow”, said Mulait when contacted by CNN Indonesia on Tuesday September 15.

Mulait said that the fundraising was an act of solidarity from the Papuan people to Koman who has been active in advocating human rights issues in the land of the Bird of Paradise – as West Papua is known.

The scholarship, amounting to 773 million rupiah (US$52,760), will be returned in two parts, namely a bank transfer and in cash which will be handed over directly at Ministry of Finance offices in Jakarta.

“Part of it will be transferred, part of it will be handed over symbolically tomorrow”, he said.

Mulait believes that the return of the funds will give the impression that the state is not serious about addressing human rights problems in Papua. Koman meanwhile, who has been active in advocating Papuan issues, has in fact been asked to return her scholarship.

“Veronica is one of the people who have been vocal in advocating Papuan issues, but because of her political stand and advocacy the government has asked her to return her scholarship. Meaning that indirectly the government has no interest in resolving the Papua problem”, said Mulait.

In August Koman announced on her Twitter account that the LPDP had asked her to return the money for her scholarship amounting to 773 million rupiah which she received in 2016 to study her Master’s degree in Australia.

The demand for the return of the money was seen as a form of pressure by the Indonesian government so that she would stop talking about and advocating human rights issues in Papua.

Koman herself is currently a suspect on charges of alleged incitement related to an attack on a Papuan student dormitory in the East Java city of Surabaya on August 16, 2019.

The LPDP management however denies that the request for the return of the money is related to her activities.

According to the LPDP’s system, Koman failed to live up to her contract and obligation to return to Indonesia after completing her studies. Koman did indeed return to Indonesia in 2018 but then flew back to Australia before graduating from her studies.

Koman graduated in July 2019 but only reported her graduation through the LPDP’s evaluation and monitoring system on September 23, 2019.

Based on this, the LPDP issued a letter from the executive director on the sanctions in the form of the return of the LPDP scholarship funds amounting to 773.87 million rupiah to Koman on October 24, 2019. The first letter of claim was issued on November 22, 2019. 

In the letter detailing the sanctions and claim, the LPDP stated that on February 15, 2020, Koman agreed to an offer to return the scholarship funds by paying it off in 12 installments. The first installment of 64.5 million rupiah was paid and the money deposited in a state account in April 2020. (yoa)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Solidaritas Papua Kembalikan Beasiswa LPDP Veronica Besok”.]