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Papuan Discourse At Yale University Symposium (Photo Septer Manufandu)

April 20, 2011

Papuan Discourse At Yale University Symposium

By-Line: West Papuan Action Network, April 19th, 2011.

The “Current Perspective on Papua” symposium hosted by Yale University Indonesian Forum at Yale University in New Haven, CT, on April 15th, 2011, brought together eleven speakers from North America, Australia, and Indonesia to present topics on governance, society, human rights, and the environment.

Among those presenters were Brother Budi Hernawan, (Australian National University) and Septer Manufandu (Papua NGO Forum).

Brother Budi’s presentation on torture in Papua raised serious questions about the systematic persecution of indigenous Papuans by the Indonesian government.

Referring to some recently leaked cell-phone video footage of military soldiers torturing two Papuan farmers by beating and burning their genitalia, the soldiers were “punished for disobedience, not for torture,” Budi explained, “That signals that [torture] is not something that is unacceptable, but something that is normal.”

Budi described the torture in Papua as being an issue of power over Papuans. Budi reported violations such as beatings were being committed in public spaces “symbolizing who is in charge.”

All victims have been ethnically Papuan, and were mostly male highlanders and less developed rural farmers. Papuan Highlanders have had a greater aspiration for independence, which indicates a correlation between human rights victims and Highlanders.

Papuan women victims of human rights are typically detained for a period of time and sexually abused.

This sends a message to the broader Papua audience that “they can do what they want,” Budi explained.

Indonesia prides itself on its emerging democracy that includes three human rights commissions focusing on Human Rights, Women, and Children. Sadly, Budi states, only one case from Papua has ever been brought to court.

Septer’s presentation broadened the dynamics of human-rights violations as a systematic government austerity measure under the guise of economic development. Septer, one of the few Papuan voices privileged to speak to international audiences, showed Papua as a ‘conflict zone’ where centralized Jakarta based economic development plans and concessions have diced up Papua for exploitation.

“The government claims that this development will improve the social and economic well-being of local communities,” explained Septer.

However, despite Papuan Special Autonomy in 2001, 71% of Papuans still live in poverty, Papuan access to education and primary healthcare is the lowest in Indonesian, and the spread of diseases like HIV/Aids is going unchecked.

“It seems like systematic genocide,” Septer exclaimed.

The exploitation of natural resources has increased over the last decade to help generate much needed revenue, and recently the Indonesian government has been pushing an accelerated development policy that is solely economically motivated. Indigenous Papuan customary land rights and human rights are ignored.

Septer reported that the exploitation of the environment is killing the people, as they can no longer support their families.

“Papuan people see the forest as a Mother.” Septer explained, “Cutting down the forest is like killing the people.”

With the forest the Papuan people can survive; they have food and shelter. The rapid economic development process being rolled out in Papuan now is an emerging genocide.

Septer ended with a message that “It is important to stop the conflict in Papua.”

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