Marking December 1, Papuan activists in Jakarta protest hunger and poverty

CNN Indonesia – December 1, 2023
Papuan activists hold protest action in Central Jakarta – December 1, 2023 (CNN)

Jakarta – Scores of Papuan activists held an action in Central Jakarta on Friday December 1 at the Jalan Medan Merdeka Barat intersection. During the action they criticised a number of issues including the recent hunger crisis in Papua.

Calling themselves the Papuan Indigenous People (OAP), they criticised the government's policies towards the people of eastern Indonesia, even though there are quite a lot of natural resources there.

They said that after 62 years of Papua being part of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI), there is still violence and poverty in the region.

"Over these 62 years we can honestly and openly convey that we have never been happy. We are always faced with censorship, deprivation and murder", said December 1 commemoration coordinator Pilamo in a speech at the Horse Statue.

According to Pilamo, the Indonesian government only wants the benefits of the exploitation of Papua's natural resources, but does not bring prosperity to the Papuan people.

"The situation in Papua doesn't make sense. Isn't logical. How can we have land with huge SDA (natural resources), the biggest mine [in Indonesia], but the ordinary people are hungry. This is a system that has been created", said Pilamo.

"We know that the poorest province [in Indonesia] is Papua. Yet the biggest contributor is Papua. The Indonesian government does not prioritise Papuan welfare, rather Indonesia is only concerned with exploiting SDA", they added.

The scores of Papuan protesters had earlier gathered in front of the United States Embassy in Central Jakarta at 9 am. They formed a line holding posters containing criticisms and demands.

At around 10.30 am the demonstrators held a long-march to the nearby Horse Statue where they gave speeches that were greeted with cries of "Freedom!".

The initiation of West Papua's independence, which was also recognised by the royal Dutch government at that time, was marked on December 1, 1961.

The people celebrated by gathering at Hoofd van Plaatselijk (HPB) or regional government offices to raise the Morning Star flag for the first time alongside the Dutch flag.

The Indonesian government, known as the Old Order, responded quickly to these events. The president at that time, Sukarno, immediately issued the Triple Commands of the People (Trikora) declaration on December 19, 1961, and tasked Major General Suharto to command the attack on the Dutch and the West Papuan independence fighters.

The West Papua independence effort was then sidelined by the New York Agreement on August 15, 1962.

Pilamo said that the protesters are demanding that the Papuan people be able to determine their own future because they believe that the decision for Papua to unite with Indonesia at the time was forced on them. (yla/kid)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Aktivis Papua Demo di Jakarta, Protes Kelaparan di Tanah Kaya".]