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JP Reportage: For Papuans, ‘Collective Grief’ Leads to Dream of Freedom

March 28, 2013

JP Reportage: For Papuans, ‘Collective Grief’ Leads to Dream of Freedom

March 28, 2013

The Jakarta Post [website]
Reportage by Prodita Sabarini

For Papuans, their graves are a reminder of the grief that besieges
their land.

In front of the Justice and Human Rights Advocacy Network office in
Wamena is the grave of Opinus Tabuni, a member of the Papuan
Indigenous Council, killed in a military crackdown on World Indigenous
Peoples’ Day in August 2008.

Human rights activist Theo Hesegem sat just a few feet from the grave.
He recently said that the government’s attitude to the complex
social and political problems in Papua would not end the violence.

In 2011, UP4B was established to accelerate development and growth in
the most impoverished region in Indonesia. The hope was to improve the
welfare of indigenous Papuans and quell their discontents.

But the source of discontent is not about having food on their plates.
Theo said that Papuans’ main problem “is not eating and drinking.
It’s not about welfare. We don’t know how many children, how many
families, how many people have been shot or killed — that’s the
problem”, Theo said.

Researchers at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) believe
that decades of political violence has led Papua to a collective
memory of grief, or memoria passionis.

While the government attempts to speed up development in the region,
it retains a military approach. In 2009, security forces killed Free
Papua Movement (OPM) leader Kelly Kwalik, and despite of his death,
sporadic attacks from the OPM continue. According to the National
Intelligence Agency (BIN), last month’s ambush was partly due to
rebel fighters unhappy with a new military district command (Kodim) in
Puncak Jaya.

“People can’t assume that the issue of Papua is finished. It’s
about ideology. You can’t shoot a person and say his ideology is
dead. There are other people. That person has children who will
continue to think that ‘my father was shot because of Papua’,”
Theo said.

Melianus Wantik, 29, member of the National Committee for West Papua
(KNPB) which campaign for secession from Indonesia, said that the
grave of They H. Eluay, the assassinated leader of the independence
movement the Papua Presidium Council, was an important place for KNPB.

Young activists in Papua established KNPB after Theys was killed.
During the founding of KNPB Melianus said they camped at Theys.

KNPB members themselves are now on the police wanted list, accused of
shootings and bombings. KNPB leader Victor Yeimo reports that 22 KNPB
members were killed last year, including the KNPB leader Mako Tabuni.

For Papuan Indigenous Council (DAP) Baliem area head, Yulianus Hisage,
the killings no longer have a shock effect on him. “Killing people,
shooting people in Papua: It’s normal. For us, the indigenous
community, it’s normal because it’s not the first time we’ve
seen it,” he said.

Yulianus, who is part of the Jakarta-based conflict resolution NGO,
the Titian Perdamaian Institute and often travels outside of Papua,
does not feel safe in his own land. “When I leave Papua, for Yogya I
feel safe. Back in Papua, I worry when I will be killed,” he said.

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