There has never been any democracy for the Papuan people! We continue to be shown the very tangible distain for the democratic rights of the Papuan people. With every day that passes the space for free expression for the Papuan people continues to shrink.
Law enforcement institutions, in this case the TNI (Indonesian military) and the Polri (Indonesian police), as well as reactionary civil ormas (social or mass organisations), are the antagonists and tools of repression against the Papuan people's freedom to express themselves.
Yet freedom of opinion and expression is guaranteed under Article 28 of the 1945 Constitution, Article 9 of Law Number 9/1998 on the Freedom to Covey an Opinion in Public and Article 1 Paragraph 3 of Law Number 39/1999 on Human Rights.
These guarantees cover activities conveying an opinion in public both verbally as well as in writing without intimidation or obstruction by any party.
On May 5, 2022, Papua People's Petition (PRP) Spokesperson Jefri Wenda made an appeal on social media for people to join simultaneous national actions by the PRP on May 10. The actions were to oppose revisions to the Papua Special Autonomy (Otsus) Law and the planned creation of new autonomous regions (DOB) in Papua, and at the same time to demand the right of self-determination for the Papuan people.
The appeal was directed to all those who live in the land of Papua, both indigenous Papuans (OAP) as well as non-OAPs, as well as Papuan church groups and democracy and human rights activist organisations throughout the territory of Indonesia.
In Papua itself, actions were planned in 10 cities including Jayapura, Manokwari, Sorong, Kaimana, Wamena, Yahokimo, Dogiyai, Mapia, Fakfak and Deiyai.
It did not take long for the appeal to be greeted by intimidation. One such response was from Jayapura municipal police chief Gustav R. Urbinas who stated that the police would forcibly break up any actions.
The TNI meanwhile, through a statement by 1701 Sentani Sub-District Military Commander (Danramil) Infantry Major Jhon D Dahar, said that they were already communicating with the district and sectoral police to jointly maintain security in Jayapura. At least 1,000 joint TNI and Polri personnel were deployed to guard the actions.
On the other hand, negative views on the action were also promoted by Jayapura Regent Mathius Awoitauw, traditional community figure Yanto Eluay and religious figure Pdt. Albert Yoku, who expressed the view that the action would disturb public services, damage communal harmony and that the action is only supported by a handful of people.
And it was quite true that it was not just intimidation and black propaganda attacks that occurred in the lead up to the May 10 actions.
In at least three of the 10 cities which held actions yesterday – Jayapura, Manokwari and Sorong – they were forcibly broken up by security forces.
Two actions outside Papua in the provincial capitals of Makassar and Denpasar faced similar repression. They were forcibly broken up and this repression was accompanied by violence, the use of teargas, the use of rubber bullets and water cannon. As a consequence, around 50 demonstrators in Jayapura were injured.
Not only that, seven people in Jayapura were arrested:
1. Jefri Wenda
2. Ones Suhuniap
3. Omikson Balingga
4. Abi Douw
5. Ester Haluk
6. Marthen Rumbiak
7. Imam Kogoya
Wanda, Suhuniap and Balingga were threatened with being charged under the Information and Electronic Transaction (ITE) Law.
Although all seven were eventually released, the repression and arrest against peaceful demonstrations cannot be justified and must be condemned in the strongest possible terms.
This is because this is not the first time that this has befallen actions held around a Papua theme. Yet Papua is a region which has been afforded a special status by the Indonesia government through the Special Autonomy Law. This special autonomy should prioritise respect for the social, economic, political and cultural rights of the Papua people. This must include the right to freedom of expression in public, because this is closely linked with developments in the advance of democracy in general in Indonesia.
Intimidation, black campaigns, the breaking up of rallies and criminalisation must be understood as an attempt to drive back democracy. Democracy which has opened slightly, the fruit of the fight for reformasi – the political reform process that began in 1998 – should be extended, not instead restricted.
We still have fresh memories of the dark history of the closure of democratic space during the New Order era of former president Suharto. As a post-reformasi generation, we do not of course want this dark history under the militaristic regime of Suharto to be repeated and replicated now. Especially in the land of Papua. Therefore, for the sake of realising genuine democracy, we declare the following:
- We condemn the violent and repressive actions of the Indonesian security forces against protesters from Papua People's Petition on May 10.
- We condemn the criminalisation of activists and those acting in solidarity with Papua.
- We condemn the curbing of democratic space in Papua.
- We demand the unconditional release of all Papuan political prisoners.
This statement is supported by:
- Student Struggle Center for National Liberation (Pembebasan) Papuan Central Highlands Indonesian Student Association (AMPTPI)
- Revolutionary Youth Front (FMR)
- Serang Papuan Student Alliance (AMP-Serang)
- East Jakarta Indonesian Association of Catholic Students (PMKRI)
- Populist Labour Movement Federation (FGBK)
- Socialist Unity (PS)
- Populist Youth Horizon (CMk) Central Committee
- Yogyakarta United People's Struggle (KPR-Yogyakarta)
- Maharani Caroline (advocate)
- Indonesian Education University Social Studies Activities Unit (UKSK UPI)
- Indonesian Education University Gender Research Student Center
- Bandung Islamic State University Islamic Science Studies Institute (LPIK-UIN SGD Bandung).
- Bandung Indonesian Arts and Culture Institute (ISBI) Daunjati Student Press Institute (LPM)
- Bandung Indonesian Arts and Culture Institute RASI Safe Space
- Agrarian Resource Center (ARC)
- People's Liberation Party (PPR)
- Bandung Thursday Action (Kamisan Bandung)
- Bandung College of Law (STHB) Student Alliance
- Militant Trade Union Federation (F-SEBUMI)
- Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI)
- Yogyakarta Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University Student People's Aid (MAKAR-UIN)
- 90 bpm rhythm (Serang hip hop group)
- Bunda House (Jalan Serang free market and library)
- Yogyakarta City Papua Student Alliance Committee (AMP-KK Yogyakarta).
- Women's Liberation Union (SIEMPRE).
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the statement was "Pernyataan Sikap Bersama Atas Pembubaran dan Penangkapan Aksi Damai Petisi Rakyat Papua, 10 Mei 2022".]