Candle lit vigil thanks Jokowi for ‘Christmas gift’ of violence in Papua

CNN Indonesia – December 26, 2018
#SaveNduga candle lit vigil in front of State Palace – December 26, 2018 (CNN)
#SaveNduga candle lit vigil in front of State Palace – December 26, 2018 (CNN)

Jakarta – Scores of Papuans from the group #SaveNduga Solidarity (Soladiritas #SaveNduga) held a candle lit vigil at the Aspiration Park in front of the State Palace in Central Jakarta on Wednesday December 26 to mark the violence perpetrated by the TNI (Indonesian military) and Polri (national police) in Nduga regency, Papua.

One by one the participants lit candles and stood holding them in front of other candles placed on the ground. They wore black head-bands and put up banners with the messages such as “Let Them Celebrate Christmas in Peace” and “Save Nduga”.

The action was both a celebration of Christmas and a form of solidarity with the people of Nduga who are unable to celebrate Christmas as they have done in previous years.

Java-Bali Nduga University and High-School Student Association (IPMNI) chairperson Darson Lokbere said that President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has given the Papuan people a “Christmas gift” of violence by launching the TNI-Polri military operation in Nduga.

“We want to show that the Christmas present for 2018 which has been given to us by Jokowi is the TNI-Polri who are conducting [military] operations in Mbua district, Mapenduma, and surrounding areas, by shooting and bombing”, said Lokbere at the action.

Lokbere claimed that that there had been many civilian casualties as a result of the TNI-Polri military operations which were launched following the December 2 shooting of PT Istaka Karya workers by the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB). Lokbere did not however say how many civilian causalities there were.

“There have been many casualties there. So we here want to show that it is not Christmas there, all there is is sorrow, all there is are casualties”, he said.

The action began with the reading of a poem by one of the participants after which Lokbere read out a list of demands for the Widodo government.

Lokbere stated that they support calls by the Papuan provincial government, the Papuan Regional House of Representatives (DPRP), the Papuan People’s Council (MRP), religious and social figures, non-government organisations and the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) to form an independent team to investigate the violence committed by the TNI-Polri in Nduga.

“[we are] asking the United Nations to send an independent team to investigate the Nduga case”, he said.

Lokbere demanded that the Widodo government prioritise dialogue rather than a military approach. He is asking Widodo to withdraw TNI-Polri security personnel from Nduga and immediately give national as well as international journalists access to the area.

“We are asking that personnel from the TNI-Polri restrain themselves and guarantee the right to life for Papuan civilians in Nduga”, he said.

After reading out the group’s demands, the participants continued the action by holding joint prayers. No police officers could be seen guarding the peaceful solidarity action which proceeded for around half-an-hour.

Earlier, XVII/Cendrawasih Regional Military Command (Kodam) public information head Infantry Colonel Muhammad Aidi said allegations that the TNI were using weapons of mass destruction such as phosphorus bombs in Nduga were ridiculous.

Aidi was responding to news that phosphorus bombs were used during the military operations in Papua following the killing of Trans Papua road construction workers.

“It’s impossible they would be fired into an area where we (the TNI) have troops. Now, this is a bit silly, meaning that we would also be killed”, he said when contacted by CNN Indonesia on Saturday December 22.

Aidi also denied that any civilians had been shot explaining that the TNI never attacks unless it is first attacked by an armed group.

Aidi said that the bodies which are claimed to be civilians are likely members of the armed group because they do not have identification and specific weapons like soldiers which would allow them to be properly identified.

“They can’t be differentiated except for having weapons. They could look like ordinary people, they could also wear the clothing of regional government [officials], they could also wear the clothing of parliamentary members or human rights activist”, he said. (fra/arh)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Solidaritas Papua: Jokowi Beri ‘Kado Natal’ Kekerasan Nduga”.]