Papuan prisoner amnesty more effective if accompanied by dialogue

Kompas – May 19, 2010
West Papuan political prisoners (Kabar Mapegaa)
West Papuan political prisoners (Kabar Mapegaa)

Jakarta – The National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) supports the idea of amnesties for political prisoners with a specific criterion from Papua. Such a step would be even more effective in creating a safer and more peaceful situation if accompanied by intensive dialogue with the Papuan community.

“The main problem in Papua is the high level of injustice. The irony is that the Papuan community’s demands for justice are frequently responded with accusations of subversion. Yet it is not always like that,” said Komnas HAM Commissioner Ridha Saleh in Jakarta on Monday May 17.

During a recent visit to Papua, Justice and Human Rights Minister Patrialis Akbar promised to propose to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono that certain political prisoners in Papua be given amnesty. This is because it is beloved that the some of the political prisoners in their movements may never have thought about Papua breaking away from Indonesia but only wanted to convey their wishes for improved development in Papua.

Saleh believes that that Patrialis’ proposal should be supported. “Often there are those who are jailed for years and years because they have been declared to have committed subversion. Yet, what they did was perhaps just hold a peaceful protest action demanding transparency in the use of special autonomy funds”, he said.

A similar view was expressed by Yorris Raweyai, a member of the House of Representatives from Papua. “The central government has to better understand the situation in Papua if it wants the region to improve. Don’t just look at views expressed outside of the Papuan community,” he said.

This is because in simply looking at the views expressed from outside, continued Raweyai, there have been state civil servants in Papua who have been sentenced on charges of committing subversion because they raised the Morning Star flag. Yet perhaps these people had never thought of wanting to commit subversion.

In December 2000, former President Abdurrahman Wahid declared that the Morning Star flag was a Papuan cultural symbol. (NWO)

[Translated by James Balowski.]