Atrocities in Papua a result of phobia and stigma against Papuans: Council of Churches

Stigma Against Papuans
A member of the Papuan Church Council, Rev. Dorman Wandikmbo (left) with the Moderator of the Papuan Church Council, Rev. Benny Giay (center) delivering a press statement in Sentani, Tuesday (30/8/2022). - IST

Jayapura, Jubi – The Papua Council of Churches says the atrocities and violence that continue to occur in Papua, including the recent murder and mutilation of four Nduga residents in Mimika Regency, are caused by the stigma against Papuans that has long grown among Indonesian security forces.

Phobia of Papuans had been fostered in the minds of security forces and most Indonesians because political leaders had oftentimes made racist remarks against Papuans, said the Council of Churches in a press conference in Jayapura Regency’s capital of Sentani on Tuesday, August 20, 2022.

The council cited former president and Indonesian Democratic Party for Struggle (PDIP) leader Megawati Soekarnoputri’s racist comment at PDIP’s national working meeting on June 21, as well as retired general Hendropriyono’s statement to move two million indigenous Papuans to Manado, North Sulawesi.

Rev. Benny Giay, the moderator of the Papuan Council of Churches, said that public statements such as those made by Megawati and Hendropriyono revealed the fantasy and psychology of the majority of Indonesian people about Papua, wherein Papuans were often associated with the words monkey, koteka (traditional sheath), lazy, backward, and terrorist.

“Those statements are understood by Papuans as a desire to exterminate the black people of Papua from their own country,” he said.

On the ground, Papuan phobia gave birth to violence and cruelty of security forces against indigenous Papuans. “All Papuans are the same unworthy human beings in their eyes, be it pastors, health workers, teachers, regents, governors, the Papuan People’s Assembly, or academicians. Most recently, they mutilated four civilians from Nduga Regency in Mimika,” Giay said.

He said that stigma had made indigenous Papuans suffer from human rights violations, marginalization, discrimination, racism, murder, impoverishment, and various other violence. Papuan phobia and stigma have also led the government to make discriminative policies that do not solve the Papuan problem.

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“In 2019, when Papuans protested against racist speech in Surabaya on August 16, the government responded by deploying more troops and it’s still going until now. In April 2021, armed groups were labelled terrorists. On July 15, 2021, the House passed Law No. 2 of 2021 on the Second Amendment to Papua Special Autonomy Law No. 21/2001 without involving Indigenous Papuans in the deliberation,” he said.

Papua Council of Churches member and president of the Evangelical Church in Indonesia (GIDI) Rev. Dorman Wandikmbo said President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s visit to Tanah Papua had no positive impact on indigenous Papuans. Jokowi came to Papua with promises but did not fulfil them.

“For example, the Bloody Paniai case in 2014 has been delayed for years. The Attorney General’s Office recently named only one suspect in the alleged gross human rights violations, a retired army who had nothing to do with the Bloody Paniai shooting incident. The real perpetrators were not brought to justice by the State,” Wandikmbo said.

Wandikmbo also criticized the Jokowi regime for forcing the division of Papua Province to form three New Autonomous Regions (DOB). “With the DOB, customary land will be a target of investment, and it will certainly deprive the indigenous peoples of their lands,” he said.

Further, Wandikmbo added the murder and mutilation of four Papuans that occurred in Settlement Unit 1, Mimika Baru District, Mimika Regency on August 22 was a state crime.

“The murder and mutilation of four Nduga residents in Timika and various other human rights violations only add to the wounds of indigenous Papuans. Government promises are nothing but lies,” he said. (*)

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