Victim questions light sentence in racism case that sparked Papua riots

CNN Indonesia – January 31, 2020
Syamsul Arifin at Surabaya District Court – January 30, 2020 (CNN)

Surabaya – One of the Papuan students in the East Java provincial capital of Surabaya who was the target of racist abuse last year believes that the five month jail sentence handed down against the defendant Syamsul Arifin was too light.

This was revealed by Yoab Orlando, one of the residents of the Papua student dormitory on Jl Kalasan Surabaya. In August last year the dormitory was besieged by hundreds of people from nationalist mass or social organisations (ormas) and security personnel.

“The sentence was too light, yet the impact of this racist and hate speech was far greater than the sentence. This is very worrying”, Orlando told CNN Indonesia on Friday January 31.

Orlando believes that the five-month sentence is too short especially since Arifin can expect to be released soon because most of the sentence will be deducted by the time he spent in detention during the legal process.

The sentence, said Orlando, is the opposite of the heavy sentences which threaten activists and Papuan people who protested the racist actions against the Papuan students.

“It’s only five months, right, very soon he’ll be released because the defendant has already served a part of it in detention. Meanwhile the demonstrators who protested the racism in Papua face far heavier jail terms that the perpetrator [Arifin]”, he said.

Orlando also asked why only Arifin has been prosecuted. He clearly remembers that there were members of the security forces who were involved in the racist abuse against the Papuan students. This, he said, was clearly captured in video recordings circulating on social media.

Orlando is pessimistic that members of the security forces will be prosecuted saying this is the same as cases of human rights (HAM) violations in Papua which to this day have never been resolved.

“On the question of the security personnel who made the racist remarks, I don’t see it as very different from the cases of HAM violations in Papua which are mostly committed by security forces who’s legal cases stagnate, so it’s not very different”, he said.

Earlier, Syamsul Arifin, a state civil servant charged over racism during the incident at the Papuan student dormitory in Surabaya was sentenced to five months jail.

“[We hereby] hand down a sentence against the defendant Syamsul Arifin of five months jail. We order that the defendant pay a fine of 1 million rupiah or serve an additional one month’s incarceration”, said the judge.

The panel of judges said that Arifin had been found guilty of violating Article 16 of Law Number 40/2008 on the Elimination of Racial and Ethnic Discrimination.

“The defendant Syamsul Arifin has legally and convincingly found to have committed a crime by intentionally demonstrating hatred or feelings of hatred towards another person based on racial discrimination”, said the judge.

The judges said that there were mitigating circumstances, namely the defendants admitted to his deed and had never been jailed before or involved in a crime prior to this case. Meanwhile the incriminating factor was than Arifin had created anxiety among the public.

The verdict was lighter than the sentence demanded by the public prosecutor of eight months in jail.

With this sentence and the deductions for time he has already served in jail, Arifin will leave the Surabaya Class I Penitentiary in Medaeng Sidoarjo today. (frd/pmg)

[Slightly abridged translation by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Penghuni Asrama Papua: Vonis ASN Kasus Rasisme Terlalu Ringan”.]