Source: The Jakarta Post
by Margareth S. Aritonang
Papuan activists and scholars have called on the government to allow the use of the region’s traditional symbols and stop prosecuting locals who promote them.
Franz-Magnis Suseno, a Catholic priest and philosophy professor at the Driyarkara School of Philosophy, said that the Indonesian government should stop treating the hoisting of the Bintang Kejora (Morning Star) flag as an act of treason. The flag has long been associated with the Papuan separatist movement.
“Why not let Papuans fly the flag as a symbol of their land? We must also allow them to express their opinions in an assembly,” he said.
Papuan peace activist Neles Tebay said that the close association between the flag and the Papuan separatist movement had often been used as an excuse to abuse the human rights of native Papuans.
Neles also said that the central government should drop its security approach and start a dialogue with the locals.
“All elements in Papua from the local governments, the natives, and the business community, must sit down and start a dialogue. Dialogue is the key to end what has been happening there,” he said.
Farid Hussein, a former mediator in the talks between the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) said that the dialogue should also include discussion about the flag.
“One of the most arduous issues [in the Aceh talks] concerned the GAM logo,” he said.
Papuan activist Filep Karma is serving a 15-year prison sentence for promoting separatism. Filep was first detained in 1998 when he led a ceremony to raise the Bintang Kejora flag in Biak.
In the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Universal Periodic Review last week, Germany in particular challenged the government on whether it intended to release Filep and other political detainees who have been held arbitrarily and accused Indonesia of violating Article 20 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which states that “everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association”.
Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa told members of the House of Representatives on Wednesday that Indonesia continued to promote and protect human rights in the country, including in Papua, and that some foreign governments had changed their views on the issue.
“Several countries have changed their stance regarding our policies in Papua. The Republic of Vanuatu, for example, has encouraged us to continue implementing the special autonomy program there,” he said.