LBH accuses state of perpetuating racism against Papuans after latest slur

CNN Indonesia – January 25, 2021
Ambronicus Nababan's Twitter posting of Natalius Pigai juxtaposed with a guerrilla – January 24, 2021 (Terkini)

Jakarta – Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Jakarta) Director Arif Maulana has confirmed the view that the state has played a role in perpetuating racism against Papuans.

Maulana's remark was in response to an acrimonious exchange on social media between of former National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) commissioner Natalius Pigai and the chairperson of the President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo support group the Pro Jokowi-Amin Volunteers (Projamin), Ambronicus Nababan.

It followed the posting of a photograph of Pigai juxtaposed alongside a guerrilla, who said in response that the state maintains racism as a tool to strike at groups deemed to be at odds with the government.

Maulana also gave examples of racist violations shown through government discrimination against Papuans.

"For example, if there's a protest action, an action conveying a view in public, the treatment is different for actions by Papuan students and actions by other Indonesian people", Maulana told CNN Indonesia by phone on Monday January 25.

In a number of cases, Maulana revealed that discrimination against Papuans is often found in the judicial process. Just recently, he continued, LBH Jakarta handled a case related to the murder of a construction worker in Nduga regency, Papua, which was allegedly committed by a 16-year-old Papuan youth.

In the end the case was halted because the youth, according to Maulana, was the victim of wrongful arrest. Although the case was halted, he highlighted the judicial process which he said was discriminative.

The Papuan youth was transported to Jakarta and on several occasions was not even accompanied by a lawyer.

"Now, the youth's case should have been heard in a special secession. What was interesting was the process should have been conducted in Papua, not Jakarta. So his rights as a child in court of law were totally violated", explained Maulana.

"This is a serious form of discrimination, like that, yes. It was ridden with human rights violations because the examination done was there [in Jakarta]", he reiterated.

Although LBH Jakarta does not have any statistical data on cases of racism or discrimination against Papuans, Maulana says that similar cases often happen.

The most concrete example was the incident in Surabaya in 2019 when security personnel called Papuan students monkeys.

State discrimination against Papua, according to Maulana, can also be seen by the deployment of thousands of military personnel in the land of the Cenderawasih or Bird of Paradise as Papua is known.

The troops have been deployed in Papua without any clear legal status, quite different from martial law which was declared in Aceh in early 2000.

"Before in Aceh it was martial law. Now, sending thousands of troops, police as well, without a clear legal status. That's the politics of discrimination, right", he said.

"Politics where the root of the problem is not clear, so [Papuans] are not treated the same by the state", said Maulana.

A racist slur recently targeted Papuan human rights activist Pigai through the posting of a photo capture on Facebook by Nababan. In the posting, Pigai's photograph is juxtaposed alongside a photograph of a guerilla accompanied by a comment on the Covid-19 vaccine.

"Edodoeee pace. Your vaccine is not a synovac pace, but your brother said it was rabies vaccine", wrote Nababan in a caption which was then reposted on Pigai's Twitter account @NataliusPigai2 on Sunday January 24.

[Alongside the photo, Nababan posted a picture with a caption in which the gorilla is saying to Pigai, "Our vaccine is not Sinovac but a rabies vaccine".]

In the reposting Pigai said that racism has now become a collective state crime against Papuans. According to Pigai, Papuans are struggling against racism which been occurring for more than 50 years.

In the posting he also alluded to black African-American Lloyd Austin who is now the US Secretary of Defense.

"I'm proud of you, Mr. @LloydAustin, the toughest African-American black man in the world. We have fought the collective (state) racism of Indonesia against black Melanesians Africa (Papua) for more than 50 years. Torture, murder & slow genocide. We need attention", tweeted Pigai. (thr/nma)


Nababan's posting followed remarks by Pigai – who has often been critical of the government – in which he said refusing to be vaccinated against Covid-19 was his right. Pigai was responding to an earlier statement by Justice and Human Rights Deputy Minister Edward Hiariej who said people who refused the Covid-19 vaccine could be punished.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "LBH Jakarta Nilai Negara Berperan dalam Praktik Rasisme Papua".]