A Veil of Silence is Killing Papua
December 22nd, 2010
By John Barr
Isak Jeksen Mebri shot dead by an Indonesian soldier in Wutung border area with Papua New Guinea on 11th February; an estimated 30 people killed in the Paniai Regency in July: a journalist, Ardiansyah Matrais, found dead in a river near Merauke on 27th July; Naftali Kwan and Septinus Kwan shot dead by Police Mobile Brigade in Manokwari on 16th September; video footage obtained in October showing the torture of Papuans by the Indonesian military in the Tingginambut area; Ismail Lokobal found dead from a bullet wound after police shoot indiscriminately and Amos Wetibo shot dead in the head after refusing to get down from a police vehicle in Wamena on 4th October; 29 homes burned in Brigiragi Village in Puncak Jaya by officers of the Police Mobile Brigade on 11th October – and the list goes on.
Violence against the local population continues in Papua, the most eastern part of Indonesia and few people are held accountable.
Komnas HAM is the National Human Rights Commission in Indonesia and its report on the human rights situation in the Land of Papua (commonly known as West Papua) is disturbing reading. Matius Murib, Vice Chair in Papua, highlights a serious scenario where Papuans continue to suffer human rights violations at the hands of the Indonesian military and police.
“The actors most responsible are not held accountable” says Matius. Indeed, law enforcers and military officers operating in many parts of Papua gain impunity due a lack of media and public exposure. Arbitrary detention of protesters and sexual violence against women is common. Community leaders and their families are harassed and threatened. People live in constant fear.
Papua rarely makes the news. This is because media is restricted and international scrutiny is minimal. Much has changed in the rest of Indonesia in recent years with the process of “reformasi” and real progress towards democracy. These developments deserve recognition and significant praise.
But things remain the same in Papua. Little has changed since the days of Suharto and his “New Order” regime. The military are in control and no-one appears to be answerable to the violence that is continually inflicted on locals.
A veil of silence encircles Papua and justice appears to be as aloof as ever. The Papuans I know fear the future. Effectively, they are experiencing a slow death.
This is simply not good enough. The world must take note!