Since the siege on the Papuan student dormitory in Surabaya, a wave of demonstrations by the Papuan people has taken place. Massive protest actions have taken place in at least 14 districts in Papua and West Papua provinces.
The demonstrations, which were initially about racism and persecution against West Papuans, then developed into demands for independence and a referendum.
Unfortunately, the Indonesian government has responded to the protests with repression, violence and shutting down the internet in Papua. These actions, which are very undemocratic and violate the principles of human rights, have been slammed by social organisations in Indonesia.
The Labour Movement with the People (GEBRAK) likewise condemns the state violence and anti-democratic actions by the government in dealing with the Papuan conflict and confronting demands by the Papuan people for an act of self-determination.
GEBRAK – an alliance of labour and people’s based movements – believes that these repressive and militaristic methods will not bring peace to the province of Papua and West Papua.
Government repression in closing down the internet and restricting access to journalists has in fact given rise to doubts about the government’s credibility. The government’s stance of labelling information which conflicts with their version of events as hoaxes further demonstrates its reactionary character and has only worsened the situation.
Earlier, for example, the government initially denied that as many as six people had been killed in Deiyai, West Papua, claiming that there had been only one casualty from the military. In the end the government revised this admitting that there had been civilian deaths.
Moreover, the government has become increasingly aggressive in arresting protesters voicing demands for self-determination. This will only cause the conflict to escalate. In Jakarta alone, eight activists have been arrested and charged in relation to a protest action in front of the State Palace on August 28 in which the Morning Star independence flag was raised.
Meanwhile, militaristic methods, especially in blocking access to information in Papua and West Papua, gave rise to human rights violations.
Moreover, Coordinating Minister for Security, Politics and Legal Affairs Wiranto has made statements which stir things up in Papua and West Papua. Such as the issue of internet access and restrictions on access by foreigners, including journalists, wishing to enter Papua. Yet we know that Wiranto has a bloody track record in East Timor and has even been charged for his involvement in “murder, deportation and torture” in the former Indonesian province.
The militaristic approach used by the Indonesian government will clearly prolong the cycle of violence and fear in the land of Papua. Deploying an additional 6,000 TNI (Indonesian military) and police to Papua will clearly undermine hopes for peace and calm in the land of Papua. The Labour Movement with the People (Gebrak) is calling for a peaceful and democratic resolution to the conflict in Papua.
Gebrak is calling for:
1. The government to reopen access to information through the internet and press freedom in Papua and West Papua. The move to shut down the internet restricted the rights of the Papuan people to information. The presence of journalists is vital to reduce violence by the state apparatus.
2. An end to the intimidation, violence, repression and arrest by the police and the TNI against protesters whether they be from Papua and West Papua or other parts of the country.
3. The government to resolve the problems in Papua and West Papua peacefully and through dialogue. The commitment to peace must be shown not just in works. The government must conduct a significant withdrawal of police and military from the land of the Cendrawasih (and Papua is known) so that a process of dialogue can be realised.
4. The government through the police to release activists who were arrested for their involvement in protests against racism and demanding the right to self-determination. Freedom to express a desire for a referendum on independence is part of the dynamic of democracy.
GREBAK represents an alliance of labour and people’s based movements focusing on pro-people issues, democracy and human rights.
Its members include the Confederation of United Indonesian Workers (KPBI), the Indonesian Trade Union Congress Alliance Confederation (KASBI), the National Trade Union Confederation (KSN), the National Labour Movement Centre (SGBN), the Indonesian Dock Workers Federation (FPPI), the Indonesian Seafarers Movement (PPI), the Banking Trade Union Communication Network (SP Johnson), the Progressive Students School (SEMPRO), the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Jakarta), the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), the Media and Creative Industries Trade Union for Democracy (SINDIKASI), the Federated Alliance of Independent Trade Unions (GSBM), Indonesian Youth Action (AKMI), Perempuan Mahardhika (Free Women), the Indonesian Student League for Democracy National Committee (LMND-DN), People’s Emancipation and Ecology Action (AEEER), the United People’s Struggle (KPR) and the Agrarian Reform Consortium (KPA).
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Gerakan Buruh bersama Rakyat Kecam Kekerasan dan Tindakan Anti-Demokratis Negara di Papua”.]