The large number of political prisoners – tapol and napol [convicted political prisoners] – as well as the many military operations which occur, and the impoverished condition of the Papuan people mean that there are many problems between the two sides.
Moreover, the most basic problem is not about welfare but about ideology. On the one hand, there are those who want an independent Papua, while on the other hand there are those who want to preserve the territorial integrity of the Republic of Indonesia These two ideologies will continue to exist if the two sides stick firmly to their own beliefs and do nothing to resolve the differences between them.
There are altogether forty Papuans political prisoners who are in detention because of their support for an independent Papua. They have chosen this path for humanitarian reasons. For the past fifty years, Papuan humanitarianism has not been respected. Instead, heavily armed members of the Indonesian security forces have been used against the Papuan people.
Their political rights were violated at the time of the Act of Free Choice in 1969 [See John Saltford: ‘The Role of the UN in the Act of Free Choice in Irian Barat, 1968-1969.]
It is highly regrettable that the Indonesian government continues to deny that there are any political prisoners. According to the government all the prisoners in Papua are criminals. So why has article on treason remained in force?
In fact, what the Indonesian government is doing in Papua is simply a repetition of what happened in the past.
Back in the days of the Indonesian struggle for independence, many people who opposed the Dutch government were arrested and exiled. The Dutch government did everything possible to silence them because they were regarded as being treasonous separatists. These are the names of men who were allegedly trying to undermine the Dutch colonial regime: Soedirman, Soekarno, Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Mohammad Hatta, Sutan Syahrir and many others. Moreover, some of these leaders of Indonesia’s revolutionary struggle were shot dead by the Dutch.
In Papua, there are a number of political prisoners: Filip Karma, Selpius Bobii, Forkorus Yaboisembut, Dominikus Subarut, and others. They are referred to as separatists and have been put on trial and accused of violating the treason article. Their protests are regarded as being a violation of the sovereignty of Indonesia (NKRI).
The treason article is no longer in force in The Netherlands which is where it was first enacted into law. In former days, the article was only valid in the colonial system. Subsequently, it was repealed because it was considered to be in violation of freedom of expression and opinion.
But the article has been kept in force and is being used by the Indonesian government for the Papuan people which means that the Papuan people are a colonised people.
So, what is to be done? I think that the Indonesian government should recognise the reality that there are political prisoners – tapol/napol – in Papua.
The second point is that the government should give an indication of its good intentions by repealing the article because it is in contravention of the 1945 Constitution and the law on freedom of expression which is still in force in Indonesia and throughout the world. If it does not do so, it will automatically lead to more violations of human rights.
Finally, we can say that this treason article which has dragged down the Papuan people, in particular those who are now being treated as being tapol/napol, is constantly being used by the government to safeguard the status quo, politically as well as economically in West Papua. And this is what is constantly being challenged by the Papuan people to the present day.
Translated by TAPOL