Rights advocate says security chief’s ‘garbage’ slur will open Papua wounds

Lawyer Veronica Koman ... "increasingly bleak human rights situation under [President Widodo]. Image: Kompas

By Devina Halim in Jakarta

Lawyer and human rights activist Veronica Koman says Coordinating Minister for Security, Politics and Legal Affairs Mahfud MD “garbage” comment will only deepen the Papuan
people’s wounds.

Earlier, Mahfud had referred to data on Papuan political prisoners and civilians killed in Nduga, which was handed over to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo during his visit to Canberra this week as “garbage”.

The document contained data on 57 political prisoners as well as 243 civilian victims who have been killed in Nduga regency, Papua, since December 2018.

READ MORE: Activists give Indonesian leader details of deaths, political prisoners

“However I’m still very disappointed, bearing in mind this will deepen the wounds of the Papuan people,” Koman said.

She claimed, however, not to be surprised by Mahfud’s statement.

Koman recalled a statement by Mahfud last year when he said there had been no cases of human rights (HAM) crimes during Widodo’s first five years in office.

According to Koman, Mahfud’s statement also hurt the ordinary’s people’s feelings.

“Remember that before he once issued a statement which hurt the ordinary people’s feelings, namely that there has not been one HAM violation during Jokowi’s era, so actually it’s not too surprising when statements such as this come out of his mouth,” she said.

Gaining justice difficult
Koman believes it is difficult for victims to obtain justice because human rights violations are not acknowledged by the government.

This, she said, showed that the human rights situation was becoming worse.

“Never mind obtaining justice, they won’t even admit there has been a single violation. This statement indicates the increasingly bleak human rights situation under [Widodo],” she said.

Moreover, following Mahfud’s statement, Koman admitted to being pessimistic about whether the government would withdraw security forces from Papua.

She believes this even though data on alleged victims of the military operations in Papua have already been given to Widodo.

“I’m not indeed too optimistic, but at last now we know, that the military operations in Nduga will continue but not because President Jokowi doesn’t know there are a growing number of victims,” said Koman.

“The supreme military command of this country already knows, but the operations will continue. Will the Papuan people still be asked to put their hopes in Pak [Mr] Jokowi?,” she asked.

Documents handed over
As has been reported, Mahfud made a statement earlier in response to the documents handed over to Widodo in Canberra on Monday by Koman and other activists, which he referred to as “garbage”.

“It’s, what do you say, if indeed they exist, there’s just garbage,” said Mahfud at the Presidential Palace in Bogor on Tuesday.

Mahfud, who accompanied Widodo to Australia, also said he did not know if the documents had really been handed over directly to the head of state.

Mahfud said this was because there were many people competing with each other to greet him and hand over letters and documents to Widodo.

Earlier, Koman said that the documents were handed over directly to Widodo.

“Our team in Canberra succeeded in handing the documents over directly to President Jokowi. The documents contained the names and locations of 57 Papuan political prisoners who have been charged with makar (treason, subversion, rebellion), who are currently incarcerated in seven cities across Indonesia,” said Koman in a media release.

“We also handed over the names and ages of 243 civilians who have died during the military operations in Nduga [district, West Papua] since December 2018, both those killed by security forces as well as that died of illness and starvation in refugee camps,” she said.

Prisoners released
Koman also noted a previous decision by Widodo to release five Papuan political prisoners during his first term in office in 2015.

But in the start of his second term in office, there were 57 people who had been charged with makar who are currently awaiting trial.

This would only worsen the conflict in Papua, said Koman.

Koman also questioned what Widodo would do in response to requests for troops to be withdrawn from Nduga.

Translated by James Balowski for Indoleft News. The original title of the article published by Kompas.com was “Dokumennya Disebut Sampah oleh Mahfud MD, Veronica Koman: Ini Memperdalam Luka”.

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