Indonesia views Indigenous Papuans with racism: Benny Giay

Indigenous Papuans
The moderator of the Papuan Church Council, Rev. Benny Giay (center) with the President of the West Papua Baptist Church, Rev. Dr. Socratez Sofyan Yoman and the President of the Evangelical Church in Indonesia (GIDI) Tanah Papua, Dorman Wandikbo gave a press statement to the Papuan Church Council in Sentani, the district capital Jayapura, Wednesday (13/7/2022). - Jubi/Hengky Yeimo

Jayapura, Jubi – Moderator of the Papuan Church Council Benny Giay said the recent speech of Indonesian Democratic Party for Struggle (PDIP) General Chair and former Indonesian President Megawati Soekarnoputri proved the Indonesian’s racist mindset towards Papuans. Giay assessed that Indonesia’s view of Papuan Indigenous People is indeed biased towards racism, which triggers conflict, violence, and human rights violations against Indigenous Papuans.

“God said that all human beings are good in God’s eyes. But Megawati made a racist comment on Papuans. That’s Megawati’s understanding of Papuan people,” said Giay in a press conference in Sentani, the capital of Jayapura Regency, on Wednesday, July 13, 2022.

The Papuan Church Council regretted the current situation in Papua. Besides criticizing Megawati’s racist speech, the council also highlighted the Papua expansion, the ongoing Papuan conflict, and Papua’s Special Autonomy.

“The New Autonomous Regions and the new Special Autonomy for Papua can encourage further conflict in Papua. Megawati’s speech towards Papuans is racist, she told of her anxiety when she saw Papuan and black people. She said that the black gene could be changed, saying that people from the coast are saved because there are many Indonesians from outside Papua so they can intermarry,” said Giay.

Giay also criticized AM Hendropriyono’s statement to move 2 million Papuan Indigenous People to Manado, North Sulawesi. “He thought that after a while they could become Indonesians? We know this nation is racist towards Papua, as shown by Hendropriyono and Megawati’s thoughts. They support the Papua expansion to eliminate Papuans,” said Giay.

This same racist mindset has also led Indonesia to turn the 1969 referendum for every Papuan to a vote by only 1,000 representatives. Racism can also be seen in the way Indonesia responded when an Indonesian Military (TNI) member made a racist remark against Papuan students in Surabaya on August 16, 2019.

“Papuan antiracism protests were ignored, even shut for alleged treason. Revision to the Special Autonomy for Papua, the Papua expansion, and the military operations in Papua are proof of the Indonesian government’s racism towards the Papuan people. Indonesia is the same as the United States, they are racist to black people,” said Giay.

President of the West Papua Baptist Church Zokrates Sofyan Yoman said that ever since Indonesia ruled Papua on May 1, 1963, the Indigenous Papuans have lived in racism. He assessed that various policies made or implemented by Indonesia in Papua, from the 1969 Act of Free Choice to Special Autonomy for Papua and regional expansion were fascist and racist.

Because of this situation, Yoman said, the Indigenous Papuans do not feel they were part of Indonesia. “So today, even though some Papuan people work in the Indonesian government bureaucracy, such condition is fake. Indonesia is a colonizer,” he said.

Yoman mentioned that the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) had mapped out the four root causes of Papua’s problems. He said the Indonesian government should look into that and talk with the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP).

“We, the church, view that the Indonesian government’s policy of establishing three new provinces and revising the Special Autonomy Law does not solve the problem. That actually adds to the conflict between communities. We ask the Indonesian government to have a dialogue with ULMWP,” he said. (*)

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