Jayapura, Jubi – In a celebration marking his release from Abepura Penitentiary in Jayapura City on Saturday, September 23, 2023, Viktor Yeimo, the International Spokesperson of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) convicted of treason, urged the Papuan people to persist in their battle against racism and discrimination. Yeimo asserted that racism constitutes a crime against humanity and stands as a common adversary for all global citizens.
Yeimo called upon fellow Papuans to advocate for and liberate individuals still trapped within the confines of racial prejudice. He encouraged Papuans to pursue their quest for independence with honor.
“We do not fight racism with racism. While others may practice racism against us, Papuans must strive to be a nation characterized by dignity and honor. We should not engage in racial discrimination against other nations,” Yeimo said.
Viktor Yeimo characterized racism as an affliction and a tool exploited by those who consider themselves superior in order to subjugate others. He underscored that these individuals view other races as inferior, justifying colonization and exploitation.
“They perceive other nations and races as primitive, suitable for colonization, exploitation, and enslavement. The scourge of racism led [Indonesia’s first President] Soekarno to declare that the Papuan people had no right to freedom and should be subjected to colonization and control,” Yeimo said during his speech.
Yeimo expressed his gratitude to various stakeholders, including the Papuan Law Enforcement and Human Rights Coalition team, the Papuan Council of Churches, the healthcare personnel, the Papuan community, and his family, all of whom have steadfastly collaborated in the fight against racism. He remained optimistic that the Papuan nation would eventually stand independently on its native soil.
“You are my comrades in this struggle. Together, we can establish ourselves on our own land,” he affirmed.
Controversy Surrounding Viktor Yeimo’s legal battle
Viktor Yeimo, a KNPB activist, faced legal charges stemming from his alleged role in a protest against a racist incident that occurred at the Kamasan III Papuan Student Dormitory in Surabaya, East Java, on August 16, 2019. This event triggered significant demonstrations in Jayapura City on August 19 and 29, 2019.
Yeimo was accused of organizing both protests and later charged with treason on February 21, 2022, related to his involvement in protesting the Surabaya incident. On May 5, 2023, the Jayapura District Court found him not guilty of treason but guilty of violating Article 155, paragraph (1) of the Criminal Code.
This article deals with spreading writings or art in public that express hostility, hatred, or contempt for the Indonesian Government. Yeimo was sentenced to 8 months in prison.
The verdict was controversial because Article 155, paragraph (1) had never been applied to Viktor Yeimo, and the article used had been revoked by the Constitutional Court.
On May 12, 2023, the Public Prosecutor and the Coalition of Law Enforcement and Human Rights for Papua, representing Yeimo, both appealed the decision. On July 5, 2023, the Jayapura High Court overturned the District Court’s ruling, finding Yeimo guilty of treason and sentencing him to 1 year in prison. On Saturday, September 23, 2023, Viktor Yeimo completed his sentence.
Viktor Yeimo’s release from prison was marked by a celebratory thanksgiving event attended by various notable figures. Among the attendees were Rev. Benny Giay, the Moderator of the Papuan Church Council, Markus Haluk, the Secretary of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), and advocates who are part of the Papua Law Enforcement and Human Rights Coalition Team, including Emanuel Gobay, Gustaf Kawer, and other coalition members.
The Waena Expo Center in Jayapura City witnessed a warm reception for Yeimo, where hundreds of individuals greeted him with traditional dances and chants for a Free Papua. Many displayed the Morning Star symbol on their attire and carried noken bags.
Rev. Benny Giay, the Moderator of the Papuan Council of Churches, urged young Papuans to focus on the future. He encouraged the Papuan youth to continue their pursuit of an independent Papua through scholarly endeavors, including writing and academic studies.
“The younger generation should not only engage in political activism but also channel their efforts through writing and academic pursuits. It is through critical thinking that we can overcome the challenges facing us, even though the city may rely on force. However, our path should involve academic writing and studies,” Rev. Benny Giay emphasized.
“Racism is a shared enemy. Let us work towards ending racism against the Papuan people,” said Mbayang. (*)