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Jakarta Post

'We demand proof, not promises': Papuans urge Jokowi to bring justice to Paniai tragedy

  • Benny Mawel

    The Jakarta Post

Jayapura   /   Mon, December 9, 2019   /   03:12 pm
'We demand proof, not promises': Papuans urge Jokowi to bring justice to Paniai tragedy Indigenous community members gather in Paniai regency in Papua to protest against racial abuse against Papuan students in Surabaya, East Java, on Aug. 26. (JP/Courtesy of Dominikus Surabut)

University students and human rights activists staged a rally on Sunday in Sorong, West Papua, demanding that President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo fulfill his vow to settle a human rights violation case in Paniai, Papua.

Five people, including four high school students, were allegedly shot and killed by Indonesian Military (TNI) soldiers on Dec. 8, 2014, during a protest in Paniai.

Five years later, demonstrators gathered at the Sorong urban park and put up leaflets that read, “We demand proof, not promises”.

They called for the prosecution of those responsible for the shooting.

“Papua does not need [more] security [personnel]. Papua only needs justice,” protesters chanted during the rally, demanding that the government show respect to Papuans “as human beings”.

Jokowi promised to uphold justice and resolve the case in a speech delivered at a  Christmas celebration in Papua’s provincial capital of Jayapura on Dec. 27, 2014, said Ambrosius Klangit, the field coordinator of Sunday’s protest,.

Papuans and the victims’ families have since waited for Jokowi to fulfill his promise, he added.

Klangit expressed concerns that instead of upholding his commitment to resolving the case, Jokowi’s administration seemed to be responsible for more human rights violations over the past five years.

“If [the government] has exploited natural sources [in Papua], they should respect Papuans’ rights to ownership and life,” Klangit said.

The Paniai shooting is among the cases of human rights violations in Papua — including the 2001 Wasior and 2003 Wamena case — that Jokowi has vowed to settle since his first term in office.

Activists and the victims’ families, however, have repeatedly criticized the government for making what they see as sluggish efforts to take action.

Papuan human rights lawyer Yohanes Mambrasar argued that the government actually had the tools to resolve the Paniai case, citing a 2000 law that stipulates that rights abuse cases committed after the year 2000 should be resolved through the human rights court.

“Therefore, there is no reason not to settle [the case],” he told reporters on Sunday.

Yohanes said settling the Paniai case could be a barometer of Jokowi’s willingness to resolve other human rights violations in Papua.

“When one talks about the development of Papua, one also talks about the settlement of rights abuse cases,” he said, “If [Jokowi] cannot solve the cases, Papuans can also measure Jokowi’s capability to develop Papua.”

Although five years have passed since the incident, Papuans are still pinning their hope on new Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD — a well-known legal expert — to help them.

“A lot of people are depending on [Mahfud],” Yohanes said. (sau)