Security chief Mahfud backpedals on Papua data ‘rubbish’ remark

CNN Indonesia – February 13, 2020
Coordinating Minister for Security Mahfud MD – Undated (CNN)

Jakarta – Coordinating Minister for Security, Politics and Legal Affairs (Menko Polhukam) Mahfud MD has clarified his statement about documents being “rubbish”.

The statement was related to data on political prisoners (tapol) and deaths as a result of military operations in Nduga, Papua, from human rights lawyer Veronica Koman which was given to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo during his visit to Canberra, Australia, not long ago.

Mahfud explained that his use of the word “rubbish” was not directed at the documents containing the data on Papua victims of military operations or political prisoners but rather the statement that Koman had personally handed the data over to Widodo.

“Because Veronica during the time in Australia did not meet with the president, did not hand a document over to the president. Just ask her if there is information to that effect, that was rubbish. That there were documents that came in, handed over by a person to the president, that wasn’t rubbish”, said Mahfud at the Coordinating Ministry for Security, Politics and Legal Affairs (Kemenko Polhukam) building in Central Jakarta on Thursday February 13.

Mahfud also said that the statement he made earlier had been misinterpreted saying that he had absolutely never intended to say that the documents themselves were rubbish.

Furthermore, according Mahfud, all of the documents, both letters as well as data which were given to Widodo when he was in Canberra have been kept by his aide.

Despite this, Mahfud was unable to provide details on the data on political prisoners and people that have died in Nduga, Papua, because the president was not able to read the documents immediately.

“They’re being kept by the president but weren’t read there and then. People right, were jostling with each other to hand over folders of documents, some handed over photographs with the president. There were others who wanted to shake hands. It’s usually like that, letters and documents weren’t opened there and then, they were handed over to [Widodo’s] aide. He kept them, right. The aide has them”, he said.

Earlier however, Mahfud stated that it is not certain that the documents handed over to Widodo by Koman would reach the president. This was in response to a statement by Koman who claimed that she had handed over documents containing the names of Papuan political prisoners to Widodo when he was on a working visit in Canberra.

“Perhaps the documents haven’t been opened yet, they were from many people right. Ordinary people can also like to send things to the president. But if it does indeed exists, it’s just rubbish”, said Mahfud at the Presidential Palace in Bogor, West Java, on Tuesday February 11.

Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) Chairperson Asfinawati was quick to respond saying Mahfud’s statement did not reflect well on a public servant who should act in the interests of the ordinary people.

“How can data on people who have died be treated like that, as rubbish, meaning it will be thrown away”, she said.

Koman herself never actually said that she herself gave the documents to Widodo. When contacted by CNN Indonesia she said that the documents were received directly by Widodo during his visit to Canberra.

Moreover, she said, Widodo even found time to take photos with the person who handed over the documents a few moments after the two met.

“The person who handed them over even managed to have a selfie with Pak [Mr] Jokowi, in fact it was Pak Jokowi who held the mobile phone. Only, right, we didn’t want to focus on the issue of gimmicks, we wanted to focus on the substance, namely the data on the victims”, said Koman. (tst/pmg)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Mahfud Klarifikasi Pernyataan ‘Dokumen Sampah’ Veronica Koman”.]