State-sanctioned racism against West Papuans ‘shows Jakarta’s true agenda’

Natalius Pigai
Natalius Pigai, former chair of the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) ... target of racial slurs. Image: Tekdeeps

Pacific Media Watch newsdesk

More leading Indonesian figures have made racial slurs against Natalius Pigai, former chair of the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) – and all West Papuans, says United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP) interim president Benny Wenda.

“Since the illegal Indonesian invasion in 1963, Indonesian elites have made clear their racist plans to destroy Melanesian West Papuans as a distinct people,” said Wenda in a statement.

Last month retired General Hendropriyono, former head of the Indonesian intelligence agency (BIN) and special forces (Kopassus) general, claimed that two million West Papuans should be separated from their Melanesian brothers and sisters in the Pacific and moved to the island of Manado in Indonesia.

“This is racial ethnic cleansing, a genocidal fantasy at the highest levels of the Indonesian state,” Wenda said.

Last week, one of President Jokowi’s most prominent supporters called a leading West Papuan human rights defender a “monkey”, the same racial slur that sparked the 2019 West Papua Uprising.

Ambronicus Nababan, chair of the Pro Jokowi-Amin Volunteers (Projamin), made the racial comment about Natalius Pigai, former head of Indonesia’s leading human rights group.

“These remarks stand in a long tradition. When Indonesia invaded our land, General Ali Moertopo said the Papuan people should be transferred to the moon,” Wenda said in the statement.

‘Obstacle to development’
“In 2016, General Luhut Panjaitan said the Papuans should be transferred to the Pacific. Indonesia’s rulers have always seen us as sub-human, as an obstacle to ‘development’ that needs to be ethnically cleansed and killed.

“My people rose up against this racism and colonisation in 2019. Thousands of students returned from the rest of Indonesia in an exodus from racism, dozens were killed by Indonesia, and hundreds arrested.

“The Indonesian state punished those who spoke out with over 100 years of collective prison time. The killers and racists in the army, police and state-backed militias were allowed to go free.”

These are not just statements from Indonesian officials, Wenda’s statement said.

They were linked to the military operations that had displaced more than 60,000 people since December 2018. The racist attitudes “justify treating us as second-class citizens, torturing and imprisoning us for exercising our rights to free expression under international law”.

Indonesia’s settler colonial project in West Papua had been built on racism.

Wenda said this was why the ULMWP provisional government was formed on December 1 last year.

‘We are no longer accepting Indonesian law’
“We are no longer accepting any Indonesian law, policy or proposal. We will not bow down to Indonesian rule any more. The provisional government is issuing the following four points:

  1. We reject all forms of Indonesian law enforced in West Papua;
  2. We support the 83 countries demanding Indonesia allow the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights into West Papua;
  3. The solution to West Papuan suffering is an independence referendum; and
  4. All West Papuans must unite behind the provisional government.

“It is time to end this: no more torture, no more displacement, no more killing, no more discrimination. To all my people, those who are working in the Indonesian government, in the civil service, professionals, exiles, lawyers, those inside, in the highlands, coasts, islands and towns – we are no longer Indonesian citizens.

“We are forming our own Melanesian nation. Come behind the provisional government, and we will peacefully reclaim our country and refuse Indonesia’s illegal occupation of our territory.”

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