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A Papuan church leader and advocate for social justice has penned an open letter to the Indonesian government calling for justice and an end to racism to enable a genuine self-determination process for the Melanesian region.

“The problem of Papua has become increasingly complex and severe because the root of the problem is racism and injustice, not separatism and treason,” says Reverend Dr Socratez S. Yoman, president of the Alliance of West Papuan Baptist Churches.

“It has now [become] increasingly complicated due to the global mobilisation of ‘Black Lives Matter and West Papua Lives Matter’ [movements] which has become part of the international community.

READ MORE: Background articles with Reverend Socratez Yoman

“However, no matter how difficult and complicated, there must be a way out for a win-win solution.”

Criticising the Indonesian government’s preparation of Special Autonomy Version II plans for the “Land of Papua” from an indigenous perspective, he cites an Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) report stating that racism and injustice against indigenous Papuans is the root of the problem.

Reverend Yoman also calls for the Indonesian government to hold “peaceful dialogue without limitations” with the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) mediated by a third party in a neutral place.

This would be comparable to the RI-GAM negotiations over Aceh in Helsinki, Finland, on 15 August 2005. “This goal is a win-win solution.”

Open letter to Indonesia
Reverend Yoman’s letter states:

Dear Dr Tito Karnavian
Interior Minister of the Republic of Indonesia

Through this letter, as one of the leaders of the Church in the Land of Papua I would like to convey to the Minister of the Interior of the Republic of Indonesia about the disappointment and anxiety faced by the people in the Land of Papua, especially Indigenous Papuans in addressing the Evaluation of Special Autonomy and the preparation of Special Autonomy Version II which is currently being prepared by the government.

I hear and follow and read on social media or in messages shared through WhatsApp that Indigenous Papuans are increasingly voicing their rejection of the Draft Law on Special Autonomy II. I cite one example of the rejection of the government’s version of the Special Autonomy Draft Law.

“We on behalf of the people of Region III Doberay (Birds Head), West Papua reject the Interior Ministers version of Papua’s Special Autonomy Bill. Return it to the Papuan people so that what they want is included in the Special Autonomy Bill so that in the future they can get the best solution for the future of the Land of Papua,” chairperson of the Papua Region III Customary Council Doberay, Mananwir Paul Fincent Major (Tuesday (6/23).

In my opinion, this voice of rejection is very reasonable and can be accepted with common sense because it has seen the real dynamics of Special Autonomy over the last 19 years, which is that Special Autonomy cannot answer the demands and fulfil the expectations of Indigenous Papuans.

For example: The 2001 Special Autonomy which mandated for protection, recognition of the basic rights of Indigenous Papuans, empowerment, and affirmative action, has failed, causing deep disappointment among Indigenous Papuans.

During Special Autonomy many Indigenous Papuans were killed at the hands of the security apparatus. Local political parties have not been allowed.

The Morning Star flag is prohibited from flying. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has never been implemented.

While the people of Aceh were given a special place in the hearts of the Indonesian government by being provided with a space for peace negotiations between GAM and the Republic of Indonesia mediated by a third party in a neutral venue in Helsinki on August 15, 2005.

Local political parties were able to be formed and GAM flags were allowed to fly freely.

Looking at the background of the birth of the Special Autonomy Law No. 21/2001, it is clear that it was not a gift from the Indonesian government to the people of Papua, but it was established because the people of Papua demanded independence in order to leave the Republic of Indonesia.

So, Special Autonomy is a win-win solution between the Indigenous Papuans and the Indonesian government.

Papuans are demanding independence because there is a historical background of injustice, racism and state crime in the implementation of the 1969 Act of Free Choice (PEPERA). I have carefully studied the documents resulting from the Act of Free Choice.

Annex 1 was prepared by the UN representative, Dr Fernando Ortiz Sanz from Bolivia and Annex II report is the version of the Indonesian government. The Annex II report has significant differences to the Annex 1 report.

When the Indonesian government promoted the word “wellbeing” to Papuans, the word was not a new expression, but was a repetition of what had been conveyed by the Minister of the Interior of the Republic of Indonesia Amir Machmud during the implementation of the Act of Free Choice (Pepera) of July 14, 1969 in Merauke, in the presence of participants of the Members of the Forum for the Act of Free Choice.

“… the Indonesian government, desires and is able to protect the wellbeing of the people of West Irian, therefore, there is no other choice, but to stay with Indonesia.” See Source Material: United Nations Official Records: 1812th Plenary Meeting of the UN Assembly, agenda item 98,19 November 1969, paragraph 18, p.2).

The Minister of Home Affairs from The Government of the Republic of Indonesia promised that they were: “… willing and able to protect the welfare of the people of West Irian …”

But, the reality in the course of the 51 years from 1969 to 2020 is in contradiction with these beautiful and sweet words which turned the Land of Papua into a human disaster and tragedy with suffering, tears, blood and bones scattered over the Land of Papua.

Indigenous Papuans are slaughtered like animals with the stigma of being “separatists”, treasonous, and criminals in the interests of national sovereignty and national security.

Professor Dr Franz Magnis-Suseno, a Catholic cleric acknowledged the humanitarian tragedy experienced by the Indigenous Papuans as follows..

“There is an impression that Papuans are treated as if they have not been recognised as human beings …”

He adds “… The situation in Papua is bad, abnormal, uncivilized, and shameful, because it is closed to foreign media. Papua is a rotting wound on the body of the Indonesian people.” (Source: Magnis: Nationality, Democracy, Pluralism: 2015, p. 255)

Historical facts prove that the incorporation of Papua into Indonesian territory was a bloody history and filled with injustice because the Indonesian military forced Papuans with the muzzles of their weapons.

Most of the people of Indonesia, including the Minister for Home Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia, H. Dr. Tito Karnavian do not necessarily know much about the process of incorporating Papua into Indonesian territory. The process of integration was through cruel, brutal and inhumane processes.

According to Amiruddin al Rahab: “Papua integrated with Indonesia through the force of the military.” (Source: The Papuan Secret War, Trauma and Separatism, 2010: p. 42).

What Amiruddin said is not excessive. There is evidence of the military being directly involved and leading the implementation of the 1969 Act of Free Choice (PEPERA). The Ambassador of Gabon at the United Nations General Assembly in 1989 queried question number 6: “Why is there no secret representation, but an open consultation attended by the government and the military? ” (Source: United Nations Official Records: 1812th Plenary Meeting of the UN GA, agenda item 108, 20 November 1969, paragraph 11, p.2).

“On July 14, 1969, the Referendum (PEPERA) began with 175 Members of the Deliberation Forum for Merauke. On this occasion a large group of Indonesian soldiers were present …” (Source: UN Official Report Annex 1, paragraphs 189-200).

The letter of the military leadership reads: “Intensify all activities in each field by using all organic and material forces both from the Army and other forces. Stick to the guidelines. The Referendum in West Irian (IRBA) 1969 MUST BE WON, MUST BE WON … ” (Source: Official Telegram Letter Col. Inf. Soepomo, Regional Military Command
Tjenderawasih Number: TR-20 / PS / PSAD / 196, dated 20-2-1967, based on Radio Gram MEN / PANGAD No: TR-228/1967 TBT dated 7-2-1967, regarding: Facing the Referendum at the IRBA (West Irian) in 1969).

In 1969 a majority of 95 percent of West Papuans voted for independence: “… that 95 percent of Papuans support the Papuan independence movement.” (Source: Secret Meeting of the United States Ambassador to Indonesia with UN Team Member Fernando Ortiz Sanz, in June 1969: Summary of Jack W. Lydman’s report, July 18, 1969, in NAA).

The Indonesian Ambassador, Sudjarwo Tjondronegoro admitted: “Many Papuans may not agree to live with Indonesia.” (Source: UNGA Official Records MM.ex 1, paragraph 126).

Dr Fernando Ortiz Sanz reported to the UN General Assembly in 1969:

“The majority of Papuans show a desire to separate from Indonesia and support the vision to establish an independent Papuan state.” (Source: UN Doc. Annex I, A / 7723, paragraph 243, p.47).

The political rights of the people of Papua have been truly betrayed along with their basic rights and conscience. The hope of Papuans has been sacrificed by the muzzle of Indonesian military weapons.

As for the history of the Papuan people, December 1, 1961 is Independence Day for the People and Nation of Papua. Independence was dissolved by Ir. Sukarno on 9 December 1961 by stating: “Disband the Netherlands-Made Country”.

This historical resistance and political status of Papua is the longest running conflict in Asia.

This is proven by the long struggle and resistance carried out by strong educated native Papuans before Papua was forcibly joined into Indonesian territory at the muzzle of a weapon.

Here are the names of some of the virtuous warriors: Herman Womsiwor, Markus Kaisiepo, Nicolaas Jouwe, F. Torey, Nicolaas Tanggafma, Bernadus (Ben) Tanggafma, Hermanus Wayoi, Fritz Kihirio and many others not mentioned here.

These figures had travelled the world including to the UN in the 1960s. It can be said that these educated native Papuans felt betrayed by the United Nations, America, the Netherlands and Indonesia because they were not involved in the New York agreement on August 15, 1962. These Papuan leaders expressed their feelings as follows.

“We were traded as goats by the Americans.” (Source: Maire Leadbeater: See No Evil: New Zealand’s betrayal of the people of West Papua: 2018, pp. 94).

This brief historical process has been written and conveyed to the Indonesian government, so that the government does not ignore it and does not take the view that we do not yet know these historical facts. If this history is ignored in the process of solving the Papua problem, then there will never be a peaceful solution between Indonesia and the people of Papua.

During this time the government and the security services have quietly taken cover behind the political stigma that Papuans are separatists, rebels, along with the latest myth that they are part of criminal gangs. So, the basic problem is not the political stigma used by the state to suppress the Indigenous Papuans. The root or heart of the problem between Indonesia and the people of Papua is actually racism and injustice. From racism and injustice, four major problems have been discovered by the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI).

The LIPI team was very careful in formulating the root causes of the Papuan conflict. The LIPI team, were of the opinion that it was dangerous to even reveal the root of the problem. However, the LIPI team succeeded in mapping the consequences of 4 problems which were the result of the real root of the problem, namely racism and injustice.

In this letter I rank the root of the problems suffered by the Papuans so far as follows:

  1. RACISM as the main source of the problem.
  2. INJUSTICE as the main source of the problem.
  3. The history of the integration and political status of West Papua in Indonesia as a result of RACISIM AND INJUSTICE.
  4. Gross human rights violations committed by the state for 57 years as a result of RACISIM AND INJUSTICE
  5. Discrimination and marginalisation as a result of RACISM and INJUSTICE
  6. The failure of development in the fields of education, health and economy for the Indigenous Papuans because Indigenous Papuans are considered to be “Monkeys” and therefore they do not need to be developed. This is caused by RACISM and INJUSTICE.

Through this letter, I submit, that as long as the roots of the problem, namely Racism and Injustice, have not yet been resolved, Papuans will continue to fight for political rights and dignity and a future over their ancestral lands.

Instead the Indonesian government uses the strength of the security services and the legal system of the state to suppress and oppress Papuans. Also, the government will incur significant costs to bribe diplomats and Prime Ministers of states who sympathise with the struggle of the Papuan people.

The problem of Papua has become increasingly complex and severe because the root of the problem is racism and injustice, not separatism and treason. It has now been increasingly complicated due to the global mobilisation of “Black Lives Matter and West Papua Lives Matter” which has become part of the international community. However, no matter how difficult and complicated, there must be a way out for a win-win solution.

Therefore, through this open letter, I submit to the government of the Republic of Indonesia through the Minister of Home Affairs as follows:

  1. Self-determination for the People of Papua as the final and peaceful solution to end RACISM and INJUSTICE towards Indigenous Papuans NOT Special Autonomy Version II.
  2. To move towards the process of Self-Determination for the people of Papua, the Indonesian government should hold peaceful dialogue without limitations with the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) mediated by a third party in a neutral place. Like RI-GAM in Helsinki on 15 August 2005. This goal is a win-win solution.
  3. Cooperation agreements between Indonesia and West Papua will be discussed further at the negotiating table between Indonesia and ULMWP.

Thank you. God Bless Us
Ita Wakhu Purom, Monday, 29 June 2020.

Reverend Dr Socratez S.Yoman, MA
President of the Alliance of West Papuan Baptist Churches
Member: Papuan Council of Churches (WPCC)
Member: Pacific Council of Churches (PCC)
Member : Baptist World Alliance (BWA)

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