Indigenous Papuan youth lead celebrations and advocacy on International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

LBH Papua Director Emanuel Gobay (cowboy hat) negotiates with police in Abepura Circle, Jayapura City during the commemoration of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples 2023 held by GempaR Papua. - Jubi/Theo Kelen

Jayapura, Jubi – On Wednesday, August 9, 2023, students, youth, and local communities in Jayapura City joined to commemorate the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. The event included religious ceremonies, speeches, signing of declarations, discussions, and a luncheon.

The Papuan Youth and People’s Student Movement, known as GempaR Papua, celebrated the 2023 International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples under the theme “Empowering Indigenous Youth as Catalysts for Self-Determination”. They organized a speech at Abepura Circle in Jayapura City.

Students and the people adorned themselves in the distinctive attire of their respective indigenous regions, proudly displaying Morning Star flag patterns on their clothing.

In succession, they delivered speeches asserting that the Land of Papua is not devoid of occupants. Banners and placards held aloft by the demonstrators bore slogans such as “Long Live Indigenous Peoples, Papua is a Land Inhabited. Our Homeland, Our Right. Eyes Shut, We Persist.”

The event concluded with the reading of a proclamation by GempaR Papua, titled “Papua’s Forests Are Not State-Owned Lands”.

Yokbet Felle, the coordinator of the event, read the statement on behalf of GempaR Papua, emphatically stating that the Land of Papua is not vacant. Felle underscored that slogans like “Papua is not vacant” and “Our Homeland Belongs to Us” are endeavors to raise awareness among young Papuans as the forthcoming custodians of the Land of Papua.

Furthermore, Felle highlighted that GempaR Papua stands in solidarity with indigenous communities in Papua, advocating against investments that encroach upon the ancestral rights of indigenous peoples. “We vehemently declare ‘Papua’s Forests Are Not State-Owned Lands!’ he said.

“This signifies our belief that any form of dispossession of the Indigenous Land of the Papuan People serves the economic and investment interests of the Indonesian government to repay the nation’s debts,” he added.

Caution from the Papua Customary Council

Thaha Alhamid, the founder of the Papuan Muslim Council, remarked that indigenous communities confront numerous challenges. However, Alhamid encouraged all stakeholders to share the belief that indigenous peoples globally, particularly in Papua, possess strength and prosperity.

Addressing a talk show on Wednesday evening, Alhamid advised young Papuans to absorb knowledge in order to contribute to their villages’ development.

“Your responsibility as young Papuans is to learn, so that you can return to your villages and contribute. It’s your duty to introduce innovation in Papua. Our older generation has already done that,” he said.

Alhamid emphasized that younger generations should glean wisdom from their predecessors, aiming to avoid repeating past mistakes. He proposed that continuous learning serves as preparation for community advancement.

Emanuel Gobay, the director of LBH Papua, emphasized that both international and national laws safeguard the rights of indigenous peoples. Gobay appealed to the Indonesian Government and the Papua Provincial Government to ensure the protection of indigenous communities.

“Indigenous communities are urging the government to safeguard and ensure the protection of Papua’s indigenous inhabitants. This underscores indigenous peoples’ awareness of their rights and the fundamental threats they face.” Gobay shared these sentiments with reporters in Jayapura City on Wednesday. (*)

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