The Papuan and Indonesian people's fight against the TNI’s crimes in Papua

Arah Juang – April 14, 2024
Papua Anti-Militarist Front protest action in Papua – Undated (AJ)

The Indonesian National Army's (TNI) crime of torturing civilians in Papua has attracted criticism and resistance from the ordinary people. Ranging from Jakarta to Papua, statements were made and demonstrations launched everywhere.

The people condemned the TNI's inhumanity and brutal treatment of Alianus Murib, Warinus Murib and Definus Kogoya in the Puncak regency, Papua. The military, the police and reactionary civilian group, launched repression on the ground. Buzzers were also mobilised to spread hoaxes and black campaigns on social media.

On Friday March 29, the All-Papuan Student Executive Council (BEM) alliance and various other organisations in Jayapura launched a demonstration in front of the Cenderawasih University auditorium condemning the TNI's crimes. The crowd lined up in front of the auditorium and took turns giving speeches. The protesters made seven main demands, including demanding that the perpetrators be tried in court, the withdrawal of organic and non-organic troops from Papua and the right to self-determination for the Papuan people. The demonstrators also rejected the state's stigmatisation of civil society as members of the West Papua National Liberation Army-Free Papua Organisation (TPNPB-OPM) and demanded an end to criminalisation.

On Wednesday March 27, hundreds of demonstrators from the Papua University and High School Students Association, the Papuan Student Alliance (AMP) and the Indonesian People's Front for West Papua (FRI-WP) took to the streets and rallied at the Istana Plaza and Asia-Africa Merdeka building in the West Java provincial capital of Bandung. The protesters condemned the brutality of the TNI in Papua and urged President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo as supreme commander of the TNI to withdraw the military from Papua. The demonstrators said that the TNI's presence in Papua only perpetuates violence against civilians.

Meanwhile Papuans in Sorong city from the People's Solidarity Against Militarism and Concern for Human Rights in the Land of Papua also staged a demonstration on Thursday March 28. The action took place in front of Studio Elim with the main theme being "As if we are half-animals."

On Saturday March 30, protesters launched a demonstration in the Central Java city of Yogyakarta. The action started at the Kamasan 1 Papuan student dormitory on Jalan Kusumanegara and ended at the zero kilometre point in front of the central post office. The demonstrators took up the theme "The Land of Papua is Bleeding, Bring the Perpetrators of the Persecution of Papuans to Justice and Give the Right of Self-Determination as a Democratic Solution". A similar action was also held out in the Central Java provincial capital of Semarang.

On Wednesday March 27 the Greater Malang Papua High School and University Students Association (IPMAPA) also launched a mass action in Malang City, East Java. The action was joined by dozens of students carrying posters and chanting "Long live the Papuan people! Long live the Indonesian people!" The crowd made 27 demands, including criticising the Cenderwasih regional military commander Major General Izak Pangemanan, who spread the lie that the video depicting TNI torture of Papuan civilians in Puncak was the result of an edit. The crowd also called for Pangemanan to be removed from his post and that the Indonesian state immediately resolve cases of human rights violations in both Papua and Indonesia.

On the same day an action was launched by Papuan students in the Southeast Sulawesi city of Kendari. The students took to the streets again on Saturday April 5. The action was attended by dozens of students carrying flags, banners and posters reading "Fighting Indonesian Colonial Crimes Against the People of the West Papuan Nation".

On Thursday March 28 the IPMAPA and the AMP took to the streets of Surabaya, the provincial capital of East Java. Spokesperson Merku Murib stated that the TNI's crimes in Papua and the inhumane treatment of the Papuan people has been happening since 1961. They therefore condemned this treatment and made 12 main demands, one of which was criticising the Cenderawasih military commander. During the action, the protesters were intimidated by a reactionary civil group called the Red-and-White Militia (LMP) but they held their ground and read out a statement. They then dispersed in a peaceful and orderly manner.

On Monday April 4, the Bali city AMP committee also launched a demonstration with the theme "Democracy and Human Rights in Papua are Suffocating". The protest began with speeches at 8.30 am. At 9.30 am they were confronted by the reactionary civilian group the Garuda Nusantara Patriots (PGN). The PGN attacked the crowd, punching demonstrators and throwing stones. Around 14 people were injured, and protest materials such as posters and banners were damaged. Meanwhile, the police stood by and allowed the PGN attack to continue.

On Tuesday April 2 in the South Sulawesi provincial capital of Makassar, the Papuan People's University and High School Student Forum of Concern (FSM-PRP) also launched an action. The protesters, who consisted of university students, high school students and other young people lunched the action to condemn the TNI's treatment of the Papuan civilians in Puncak and Papua as a whole. The action, which started at 2 pm, was immediately broke up police. Protesters were beaten, arrested and forced onto police trucks. According to a Makassar Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Makassar) report, the crowd was repressed three times and resulted in more than five people suffering lacerations to their heads.

Meanwhile in Jayapura, the Student and Papuan People's Anti-Militarism Front also launched an action on Tuesday. The crowd consisted of thousands of students, youth and other people's organisations. Crowds gathered at several different points including in Jayapura city and Jayapura Regency.

In a press release, action coordinators Ones Suhuniap and Philipus Robaha emphasised that the actions were peaceful and purely for humanity. The police however continued to carry out repression.

At 7 am, a crowd that had gathered in Sentani was forcibly dispersed and 62 people were arbitrarily detained. Meanwhile at the Waena 3 State Housing Company (Perumnas) police and soldiers attacked the crowd firing teargas and punching and kicking protesters. As a result, dozens were injured and one person fainted on the spot. At other gathering points, the police also launched repression. Those who remained then gathered in Abepura and read out a joint statement at 2 pm.

On Friday April 5, thousands of people from the People's Concern for Human Rights took to the streets of Nabire regency, Central Papua. The protesters gathered at several points bringing posters with the demand and theme "Papua is a Military Emergency for the Sake of Investment". In a press release, action coordinator Adhen Dimi said that military violence in Papua is an effort by the state to control the Papuan region for the sake of investment. Military actions killing and torturing the ordinary people of Papua is the practice of spreading terror in order to smooth the way for bourgeois capital in the land of Papua. For this reason, the people condemned the military's behaviour in Papua.

In response, the police and military launched a wave of indiscriminate repression. Protesters at various locations were faced with weapons and clubs. At the SP 1 and 2 intersections the police fired at protesters. Opinus Japugau had his left temple destroyed by a bullet and fell unconscious. Meanwhile protesters at other points were chased into the forest.

The police also raided residents' homes and vandalised a house belonging to Dogiyai Indonesian National Youth Committee (KNPI) chairperson Bernando Boma. Not only that, four journalists who were covering the action, Kristinaus Degei, Elias Douw, Melkianus Dogopia and Yulianus Degei, were pursued by the authorities, hit in the head and their cell phones destroyed in an effort to destroy evidence of their repression. Meanwhile the acting governor of Central Papua, Ribka Haluk, refused to meet with the protesters.

On Monday April 8 the Papuan Student Association in North Tapanuli, North Sumatra, also took to the streets. They called for organic and non-organic military to be withdrawn from Papua and for all the perpetrators of human rights violations to be tried. Previously in Manado, North Sulawesi, students also took to the streets on April 3.

In addition to these mass actions, criticisms of the TNI's crimes also came from different parties through statements, ranging from National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM), the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) and the University of Indonesia Student Executive Council (BEM UI). Specifically in the case of BEM UI, the state mobilised buzzers and attacked BEM social media accounts. This proves that the state's crimes in Papua are being protected and the state does not have the slightest intention of resolving them.

We must confront military violence in Papua, including all repression against the struggle by the ordinary people, by strengthening the unity of the people of Papua and Indonesia. Maintaining democracy, expanding it, including recognising the democratic rights of the Papuan people, is important for the people of Papua and in fact is in the interests of the Indonesian people as well. (mm)

-- Arah Juang is the newspaper of the Socialist Union (PS).

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Perjuangan Rakyat Papua dan Indonesia Melawan Kejahatan Militer di Papua".]