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President Yudhoyono and West Papua

November 19, 2013

Papua Review – date not clear

In his address to the nation on 16 August this year, to mark the 68th anniversary of the Republic of Indonesia, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) said that West Papua was a matter of great concern for him. He devoted in three paragraphs in his speech to West Papua.

In the first paragraph, he spoke about providing welfare and speeding up development. He also said that he acknowledged Papuan human rights and respected the specific nature of their culture. But he went on to warn the people of Aceh and Papua that they should recognise that they are a part of the Unitary Republic of Indonesia (NKRI). In the final paragraph, he warned people in these regions not to be taken in by all kinds of propaganda being spread in Indonesia and abroad. And finally he stressed the need for everyone to recognise Indonesia’s sovereign status over these territories.

So what does he mean when he speaks about the human rights of the Papuan people or respect for Papuan humanity?

On the occasion of International Democracy Day on 15 September, a number of Papuan activists were arrested in various parts of West Papua. According to a police report, 19 KNPB activists were arrested in Jayapura and 27 were arrested in Sorong but according to the KNPB, altogether 72 activists were arrested – 23 in Jayapura, 27 in Sentani, 2 in Waena, 7 in Wamena, 14 in Timika and 32 in Sorong.

Although they were subsequently released, these arrests were yet again examples of the use of violence towards people all of whom are citizens of the Republic of Indonesia. During the past year, freedom of expression has been violated. Activists in particular have been dealt with by violence. Even acting peacefully is prohibited.

During the current year, the KNPB organised twelve peaceful actions. The security forces acted with violence against these activities and this resulted in many arrests. On 15 September, members of the KNPB along with sympathisers stood on roadsides, delivering speeches about all the injustice that has been occurring in Papua. Many of these people were rounded up, pushed around and taken into custody. They did not oppose these actions but accepted what the security forces were doing without responding in any way.

The security forces said that they acted in this way because what the KNPB was doing was illegal and was being done without permission. All the newspapers, most of which claim to be educating the people, when they report our activities, they say: ‘KNPB members arrested for acting without permits.’ They write about us as if we are acting without having the necessary permission.

According to Law 9/1998 on freedom of expression,it is quite clear that what should happen in this country is that when citizens intend to express their opinions, all they need do is to notify the police about what they intend to do and the police should then reply that they have been notified. There is nothing in the law about anyone needing a permit. In fact, according to the law it is the duty of the police to provide the necessary protection for people when they want to express their opinions in public. It is the duty of the police to provide the necessary protection for people who want to demonstrate, not to arrest them.

Can it be true that the police are not aware of this? Of course not. They know very well about this law which consists of only twenty paragraphs along with the elucidation. There is nothing in the law about needing a permit. But the fact is that the police respond in a variety of ways about how to carry out their duties and functions in this country. All citizens have the right to express their views in public, but this is not the case here in Papua. In Papua people are very likely to be taken into custody when they hold demonstrations in public as a way of wishing to protect the rights of the people. But of course, if anyone who wants to demonstrate in support of the government will be able to do so without being arrested.

Whenever people here are arrested for expressing their views in public, they are not allowed to do so which is in violation of their rights. This means that we here are not free because this basic right is being violated, with the police acting on behalf of the state.So what was really meant by SBY in that speech of his?

Do his subordinates (the police) not understand what they should be doing or are they acting against the law?

Here in this country, according to Article 27 of the Constitution, All citizens are equal under the law without exception. This is also made clear in a number laws and regulations, such as Law 8/1981 on procedural regulations or Law 2/1986 on law courts, or Law 39/1999 on Basic Human rights and Law 4/2004 on Legal Powers.

‘Equality before the Law’ must be valid for all citizens without discrimination, which means that no one should be branded as being a separatist or whatever.They should not be treated in different ways, nor be stigmatised for what they do. This is because waging a struggle without the use of force has happened here for more than a century and has great achievements.

It was Mahatma Gandhi who waged the struggle for right to gather salt which gained such wide public attention that it eventually led to India winning its independence. And in the 1980s the people of Poland succeeded in overthrowing the communist regime in their country. And here in Indonesia, it was the struggle for reforms in 1998 that led to the downfall of the Soeharto regime.

Using force as a way of struggle is not the solution. Events in many parts of the world have proved that.

SBY needs to re-evaluate the activities of his subordinates so that they deal with the opposition without resorting to violence. To handle this in the ways he has been talking about, namely showing respect for people’s human rights and the need to show respect for Papuan people’s culture, for their decision to carry out in their struggle without resorting to violence.

Translation by Carmel Budiardjo

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