Bandung – Activists from the Papua People's Solidarity (Sorak) held a protest action in front of the Merdeka building in the West Java provincial capital of Bandung on the afternoon of Friday May 21.
The action by the Papuan activists was held to respond to the situation in Indonesia's eastern-most region which has continued to heat up of late. Based on CNN Indonesia's observations at the rally, scores of people brought banners and gave speeches in front of the Merdeka building.
In addition to this, there were several banners with messages such as "We reject Special Autonomy Chapter II, the creation of new autonomous regions and the terrorist label", "Immediately release all Papuan political prisoners" and "Withdraw all organic and non-organic troops from West Papua".
Throughout the action, the demonstrators wore mask and maintained social distancing.
Action coordinator Pilamo said there are a number of demands being articulated during the action today. First, rejecting the planned extension of Special Autonomy in Papua, and then rejecting militarism and the deployment of troops which will further harm the Papuan people.
According to Pilamo, the Special Autonomy given to Papua by the government is just a policy which has been forced on the Papuan people by the central government.
Yet, he said, since July 2020 the Papua People's Petition (PRP) has declared a political position of opposing the continuation of Special Autonomy and has offered as a solution for the Papuan people the right to self-determination.
He claimed that as of May 2021 as many as 110 Papuan people's organisations have joined the PRP and that some 714,066 people have declared their opposition to and the continuation of the Special Autonomy political packet in Papua.
"Because of this, we, representing the Papua people are conveying this aspiration to Indonesia and the state that today in Papua things are not okay", said Pilamo when speaking to journalists.
According to Pilamo, almost all components and layers of society have said that Special Autonomy has failed to side with, empower or protect the land and the people of Papua. In addition to this, Pilamo said that over the 20 years of implementing Special Autonomy it has impacted badly on the Papuan people, including causing environmental damage.
In addition this, he said, the education and healthcare system has deteriorated. The construction of roads is not in the interest of the people, but rather, in the interests of investors.
Aside from highlighting issues in Papua, the rally today also took up the issue of Palestine. In a written call to action it demanded an end to the war in Palestine.
They also highlighted a number of recent cases including the government's labelling of the Free Papua Organisation (OPM) as terrorists, a label which they reject.
Pilamo believes that the label will only give authority to security forces to commit violence, including against civilians. He claimed that civilians often fall victim as a consequence of violence committed by the TNI (Indonesian military) and Polri (Indonesian police).
"We call on state and Pak [Mr] Jokowi [Joko Widodo] as the president, we demand an immediate end to military operations and to stop [using] the terrorist label against the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB). The TPNPB are not terrorists, they are part of the movement fighting for Papua national liberation", said Pilamo.
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Warga Papua Demo Tolak Otsus dan Militerisme di Bandung".]