Indonesian activist in solidarity with Papuan demonstration in Jakarta

Max Lane Online – August 4, 2011
Surya Anta speaking at Papuan action in Jakarta (Pembebasan)
Surya Anta speaking at Papuan action in Jakarta (Pembebasan)

[The following essay by Surya Anta was written in response to a series of questions, I emailed him yesterday, August 4, 2011 - Max Lane]

‘I am here to give solidarity, not as a provocateur’

Surya Anta, Jakarta, Indonesia – On August 2, 2011 myself and Kholis Annasir from the student group Pusat Perjuangan Mahasiswa untuk Pembebasan Nasional (PEMBEBASAN – Liberation) attended a meeting to organize an action on the issue of Papua. The action was being organized by the West Papua National Committee (Komite Nasional Papua Barat – KNPB). We were invited to attend by Okto, the coordinator of the planned action. I was representing the Peoples’ Liberation Party (Partai Pembebasan Rakyat – PPR). I learned from the aksi coordinator after I was released that we were the only ones there providing political and organizational solidarity. Tommy from the human rights group Kontras was there to monitor the action.

The theme of the KNPB action was “In support of the High Level International Lawyers Conference for West Papua (ILWP) in Oxford, UK for the independence of the West Papuan nation.” The KNPB is an alliance of Papuan liberation groups formed in 2009. Its earlier name was West Papuan Peoples National Action Committee.

The Aksi started at 12:00 and people marched from the Hotel Indonesia roundabout to the state palace. Kholis and I were late. We arrived shortly after the march had reached the state palace. Fifteen minutes after we arrived, the police came on the scene and started to ask whether the action had a permit from the police. In fact, there are no regulations any more requiring a permit, just that the police should be informed. The KNPB had twice faxed the police with the information about the action. I also joined Viktor Kogoya who was conducting the negotiations with the police from the Central Jakarta Police Station. I also backed up the view that it was only required that the police be informed. While negotiations were taking place, a Central Jakarta police office, called Abdul Karim, threatened the crowd: “While I am negotiating there can be no speeches. You can sing songs.!” But people kept making speeches though using a megaphone and not the sound system on the command car. The negotiations finished and the police decided that the action had to finish in 15 minutes time, or 2.45pm, but the KNPB held firm that they would go until 3pm. So the action continued. The Papuan comrades had the chance to sing some more songs and dance. After two songs, I was given the chance to make a solidarity speech. I moved forward. I had calculated that the police would arrest me if I spoke, but I started the speech in any case.

This was my speech: “Long live the Papuan people! Long live the movement of the Papuan people! Long live the women of Papua! Long live the Papuan liberation struggle! Just now when there were negotiations one of the police intelligence officers asked me: “were you the one who brought these Papuans here. I said, no, I am here in solidarity.” Then he said to me: “What for solidarity, you are a traitor to the nation.” This is very strange; very narrow nationalism: in fact it is those who sold Papuan land to Freeport who are the traitors to the nation!”

After that last sentence about 10 police moved in and arrested me, hitting and kicking me and dragging me to the police van. Some of the KNPB members tried to stop them, but we weren’t prepared enough and so the police got me. The police shouted and threw insults: “Traitor to the nation!”, “Provocateur”. I shouted back: “Hey, no violence; and what law are you arresting me under? I will sue you for using violence!” But it didn’t stop.

I was put into the police prison van. I was by myself. I could hear them shouting outside: “Provocateur! Traitor to the nation!” I could only shake my head at their entrenched, shortsighted and narrow nationalism.

I was left inside the prison van. The KNPB comrades tried to get me released. The police lied to the organisers telling them that I had been taken to the police station. (I knew this through the hand phone message I received from Kholis Annasir.)

Just before 3pm, I could see the police getting ready a force of about 100 police. Armed with their shields and sticks they surrounded the KNPB action. Behind them were other forces ready, including Dalmas Motor Trail forces. The demonstration dispersed of its accord.

After the demonstration dispersed I was taken to the Central Jakarta Police Station. I was told this by Siregar, the police intel officer who took me. I knew him already from 2006 when he had also arrested me in front of the palace after we held an action following the IVth congress of our student organisation at the time. I asked why I was arrested: under what law? “Forget it,” he said, “you will go in, fill out some forms and then go home. That’s the police these days; just playing at arresting.”

I could only shake my head again: what to think? Drag people away, arrest them, beat them, kick them but they don’t under what law. I was left to wait a long time in one of the police station rooms. About 2 hours. I wasn’t alone. Two comrades from KNPB and Pembebasan were got there also, and two people from the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (Rizki and Ridwan Bakar), but they left after a while, maybe bored of waiting.

Around 5.05pm I was questioned by a detective named Ghandi. He questioned me for about 1 hour and 10 minutes. I was questioned as a witness because they couldn’t find a clause to arrest me under. They asked me my life story, and about who organized the action? What were the demands of the action? What equipment there was; what I had said in my speech. After I signed the report of my questioning, the chief detective, pak Sutopo, asked me to be photoed and to let them take my finger prints. I refused. My status was a witness, not an accused. They said they would report my attitude to the head of the Intel section. I said that of I was not being charged I wanted to leave. They would not allow it. I was forced to wait for the Intel Chief and the Deputy Head of the local police who were at taraweh prayers.

While waiting, we contacted some lawyers and asked about what they thought might happen. Some said it was still possible that I would be charged; others said that this was all part of procedure. Finally, Tommy (Staff Monitoring Kontras) decided to contact the Kontras lawyer, Daud SH. A short while later Daud and also Kris from Kontras arrived and had some discussions with the police. Kris advised that the photo and fingerprints were just procedure. Then the Intel Chief arrived along with Abdul Karim, the officer who had ordered the arrest at the demonstration; (perhaps he was the Central Jakarta deputy police head). Abdul Karim looked at me and said, “Oohhh, you are the person from the action earlier ya?”, and I answered, “Ya, my lawyer is outside”. Budi Wardoyo, spokesperson for the Peoples Liberation Party, asked the Intel Chief, “Can he leave now, Pak?”. The reply was, “Oh ya a moment, not yet”. He asked to speak with Kris and then with Daud, Tommy and Budi Wardoyo. I am not sure what the discussion was. Budi Wardoyo said there were words that I had spoken which had made him and the other police emotional. I heard that after I was released. As far as I can remember, I never deliberately said anything to make them emotional.

After a few minutes Kris emerged and said to me: “Do you want to go home tonight?” “Of course,” I answered. “Then you must let them take your photo and fingerprints and make a statement letter.” “Why?”, I asked. “I am a witness, not an accused. What kind of letter?”

“A letter that you won’t participate in any actions without permission,” said Kris. “As far as I know the KNPB sent letters informing the police of the action at least two times.” And: “won’t this cause problems later?” I asked. Kris said that it was just an administrative requirement and that he had provided such a letter last time he had been arrested. After consulting with Budi Wardoyo, I agreed to the three requests. It was went against the grain for me to accede to these requests, especially as my status was that of a witness and that I was not being charged with anything. I was photographed and fingerprinted. After negotiated editorial work, the letter changed to read: “I, the undersigned... will not repeat what I did in front of the state palace, namely provoke the masses.” It was frustrating: on the one hand the police had found no way to charge me but they had been able to force me to sign this letter, if I was not to stay longer in the police station. So that is a bit of my story as somebody who had provided solidarity to a protest action where I had then been accused of being a provocateur as well as a traitor to the nation.

Why did I attend that KNPBI action?

The formal position of the Peoples Liberation party (PPR/PLP) is still the same as that we developed when we (individual members of the PPR) were still in the Peoples Democratic Party (PRD), namely supporting “The broadest possible democratic dialogue for the Papuan people free of intervention by the government.” This remains our position until we have new research about Papua society and its struggles.

Cooperation between us and various elements in the KNPB is not new. Some of us who were in the PRD before it split had been active in Aceh Papua Solidarity (2005) and Solidarity for Papua, formed in 2010.

There is, of course, a difference between “The broadest possible democratic dialogue for the Papuan people free of intervention by the government.” and a “Referendum and Independence for the West Papuan people”. But does that mean we cannot give solidarity? I think we must provide such solidarity. And not just for humanitarian reasons because of the killings that have recently occurred in Papua, before this action. This is a political question, a question of liberation. Perhaps the identification of a Papuan nation is still difficult, whether because the Papuan original residents are a minority there now; or because there is no unity among the Papuans, including seeing the division into 350 or more ethnicities, whose movement is fragmented, without a common language, territory, and movement or economic relations. However there has emerged the embryo of a Papuan nation as a result of the vicious repression there by imperialism, as well as non-Papuan local capitalists. At least that is how we see it. Their expression of resistance must be valued, supported, provided with democratic space, given solidarity. Separate from any considerations of whether the political decision of seeking independence is correct or not, a people of the same fate-struggle who proclaim themselves a nation (Papuan Nation) have the right to state their thinking and their political position. That is a matter of respecting the freedom to think and to express opinions, Political Liberty. And this position they are taking; the demand for independence and their assertion of nationhood have not just been sucked from their thumbs. Since the Perpera 1969, the Papuan people have been deceived, oppressed, killed, raped and tortured.

The issue we always raise with our Papuan comrades demanding independence via a referendum is what will happen to Papua after independence. Don’t let it happen that once independent they fall under some foreign domination through any kind of puppet imperialist government. What kind of economic system and culture do they want? What kind of government? What of the fate of the majority of the residents there who are not original Papuans?

These questions must be answered by the Papuan comrades if their democratic and independence struggle is not to end up directionless.

And the democratic movement cannot separate itself from the Papuan peoples’ movement, even where it demands independence, if any of these questions are to be discussed. The democratic and progressive movement in Indonesia is more theoretically and practically advanced in some respects and should be helping push forward discussion of these problems, finding solutions, identifying strategies and tactics while the Papuan peoples movement always defines its own position. And we have some common economic-political realities – Papuans and those of us outside Papua: we both are dominated by imperialism, through a regime is dependent on imperialism and through military backed repression. Though the oppression the Papuan people suffer is far more vicious, much deeper, through armed violence through the HIV/AIDS operations as well as the mal-distribution of the wealth garnered from the massive exploitation of minerals, land, forest and other resources.

It will be difficult for the Papuan people to get the democratic space they need or to concretise their struggle for independence, if there is no support from the democratic movement outside Papua. The process of an embryonic nation developing more fully requires some specific conditions: The broadest possible democratic dialogue for the Papuan people free of intervention by the government, the withdrawal of non-organic military forces, the dissolution of the military operations district in in Puncak Jaya Tinggi Nambur, the formation of a democratic autonomous government in the hands of the Papua people and movement, the arrest and trial of abusers of human rights, greater proportion of the natural wealth for the Papuan people, mass increase in the peoples welfare through: Free Education and Health, improved infrastructure (roads, electricity, communications), employment opportunities, food, water, cheap fertilizer, and so on,.

Through cooperation between the democratic movement outside Papua and the Papuan people’s movement, democratic space can be opened up more widely, and the conditions advanced towards those necessary for the fullest democracy and prosperity.

 – Paulus Suryanta Ginting (Surya Anta) is a member of the Peoples Liberation Party (PPR).

[Translated by Max Lane.]