“Democracy is a universal value based on the freely expressed will of people to determine their own political, economic, social and cultural systems. . .”
–United Nations, International Day of Democracy, Sept 15 2013
Is This What Democracy Looks Like in Indonesia?
In a scene that has sadly become all-too-common in Indonesia, Tabloid Jubi are reporting that on September 16th Indonesian police violently dispersed peaceful International Day of Democracy demonstrations organized by the KNPB (National Committee for West Papua) in several locations in West Papua, including Jayapura, the capital city of Indonesia’s battered Papua province.
Indonesian police and military are notoriously brutal and aggressive towards the people of West Papua, operating with almost complete impunity, virtually free from any accountability to the government in Jakarta or the greater international community. In spite of Indonesia’s best efforts to control the media narrative (they forbid foreign journalists from entering Papua) enough reports do surface to support a pattern of frequent, sustained and ongoing abuses endured by the people of Papua at the hands of what amounts to a sadistic and corrupt Indonesian military dictatorship. With no end in sight. Political speech in the form of peaceful demonstrations by the Indigenous Papuan people are often, if not always, met with some sort of severe and immediate reprisal.
“Major Human Rights Problems”
The 2011 US State Department Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Indonesia cited “major human rights problems” including “arbitrary and unlawful killings by security forces in Papua and West Papua provinces” in addition to “narrow and specific limitations on freedom of expression”.
Amnesty International’s 2013 Annual Report on the State of the World’s Human Rights accuses “Indonesian security forces, including police and military personnel” of “human rights violations in Papua” together with “excessive use of force” and “torture”.
The Indonesian government was also rebuked for passing “repressive legislation to criminalize peaceful political activists.”
Intimidation, arbitrary arrests, imprisonment for political reasons, rape, torture, murder and assassination are all fair game for Indo authorities striving to maintain Indonesia’s most precious “territorial integrity”. With enthusiastic support from the various foreign companies who plunder West Papua’s vast resources (gold, copper, uranium, lumber etc.) for Indonesia’s benefit, and their own, at the Papuan people’s expense.
The KNPB (National Committee for West Papua) was formed in 2008 to campaign for West Papua’s right to self-determination and independence from Indonesia through peaceful demonstrations of non-violent resistance.
Police Captain Kiki Kurnia
Day of Democracy Protests
Jayapura Police Captain Kiki Kurnia told KNPB representative Wim
Rocky Medlama that the demonstrators at Jayapura’s Expo Waena had “five minutes to disperse” and that their peaceful congregation was “not sanctioned by us”. When Police attempted to take possession of a vehicle belonging to the KNPB the situation began deteriorating rapidly.
Tear gas was fired into the crowd leading to full-blown chaos.
In the aftermath, several KNPB members and supporters were beaten before being arrested and taken into custody.
Similar demonstrations took place in various other locations leading to similar results. Peaceful gatherings broken up by violent force. The Free West Papua Campaign is reporting the arrests of 249 Papuans in association with The Day of Democracy demonstrations.
Jayapura Police Captain Kiki Kurina may be experiencing Deja Vu in regards to this recent incident. It was in the same place less than a year ago on first day of December 2012 that Kiki led hundreds of fully-armed police officers against a group of peaceful, unarmed KNPB demonstrators who were celebrating the 51st anniversary of the original declaration of West Papua’s independence. At that time Kiki Kurnia personally called-out the event’s organizer KNPB Chairman Victor Yeimo, taunting him and his supporters:
“We’re ready to clash! Victor, we are ready to wreak havoc and clash with all of you.”
International Day of Democracy
The International Day of Democracy was instituted in 2007 by the United Nations General Assembly to be observed each year on the 15th of September. This year’s theme was “Strengthening Voices For Democracy.”
“On this International Day of Democracy, I call on leaders to hear, respect and respond appropriately to the voices of the people. . .”
–Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Despite the glaring human rights concerns Indonesia is emerging onto the world stage with ferocity- recently strengthening ties with the US, UK and the EU nations- both economically and militarily. Being the world’s fourth most populous nation there is no doubt that Indonesia is a major player in the pacific region with tremendous potential for becoming a major force on the greater world stage. Increased exposure leads to greater scrutiny and with each gross injustice inflicted upon the people of West Papua the harder it becomes for Indonesia to hide its true face. The fact is West Papua is a battered, occupied land and that Indonesia has proven for decades that they are unable or unwilling to affect any positive change. The time is now for those concerned with human rights to amplify the voices of the Papuan people, the voices that Indonesia has silenced for far too long.