Papuan students in Medan demand sacking of academic over racist tweet

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Papuan protest Medan
Papuan students protest over a university professor's alleged racism in Medan, North Sumatra. Image: CNN Indonesia

Pacific Media Watch newsdesk

Scores of students from the Papuan Student Association (IMP) in Medan, North Sumatra, have held a protest action this week in front of the North Sumatra University (USU) Rectorate Bureau Building protesting against alleged racism by a professor, reports CNN Indonesia.

During the action on Tuesday, the students demanded that the professorship of USU’s Yusuf Leonard Henuk be revoked, that he be expelled from the USU because he has tarnished the university’s good name, and that police investigate the case.

“We’re asking that Henuk be removed from his position as a USU professor. We also ask that he be prosecuted,” said action coordinator Yance Emany at the demonstration.

“On Twitter he likened Papuans to monkeys and said that Papuans were stupid. These kinds of cases cannot be allowed to be protected at USU or in Indonesia.”

Emany also threatened to hold protest actions with even more people if the USU authorities failed to follow up on their demands.

“End racism against Papuans. If there is no response we will come back with even more people. We ask for the Bapak [Mr] USU rector’s cooperation.

“We as Papuan students oppose racism. We ask that there no longer be any racism against the Papuan people,” he said.

Pledge to study student demands
USU rector Muryanto Amin took the opportunity to pledge that he would first study the student’s demands. He said they would gather evidence and summon Henuk – who currently works at the USU agricultural faculty – and ask for clarification.

“Later we will study the Papuan students’ demands and whether or not the person concerned committed an ethical violation. The person concerned is a lecturer at USU. Later we will summon him to then determine what steps will be undertaken,” he said.

Last month on January 2, Henuk posted a tweet on his Twitter account @ProfYLH about former National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) commissioner Natalius Pigai which smacked of racism.

Henuk uploaded a photograph of Pigai alongside a monkey looking at a mirror. The photograph was accompanied with the caption “Indeed, does Pigai have any capacity in this country”.

In another posting he tweeted: IT’S BEEN PROVEN THAT PAPUANS ARE INDEED STUPID, THE PROBLEM IS PAPUANS WHO ARE CONSIDERED SMART SUCH AS @NataliusPigai2 CAN BE DECEIVED BY THE DEVIL @VeronicaKoman. ALL PAPUAN ARE CONTROLLED BY THE DEVIL/DAEMONS SO THEY DAMAGE THE ENTIRE CHRISTIAN FAITH. WHERE IS THE ROLE OF THE PAPUAN CHURCH?”.

When sought separately for confirmation, Henuk denied that his posting was a form of racism.

For Henuk, it was a “satirical allusion” about Pigai who he believed was arrogant.

‘A satirical allusion’
Henuk said the public should focus on the mirror in the posting, not the photograph of the monkey placed alongside Pigai’s picture.

“It was a satirical allusion, an allusion that he should self-reflect. Why’s he [Pigai] so arrogant. I don’t agree with the way he hit out at Hendropriyono”, said Henuk when sought for confirmation by CNN Indonesia.

“In relation to my posting, that’s what’s called an illustration [the photograph of the monkey], a reflection that he should reflect, self-introspection. So I say if you don’t want to be attacked then don’t attack other people,” he added.

With regard to saying that Papuans are stupid, Henuk said the statement was directed at Papuans who supported pro-independence leader Benny Wanda and exiled Papuan human rights activist and lawyer Veronica Koman.

“It was just a satirical allusion, right. In saying stupid I meant Papuans who still support Koman and Wenda. Meaning they’re stupid. This country is already independent, but many Papuans still believe in Wenda and Koman,” he claimed.

“Many of my friends are church people, why doesn’t the church function to make Papuan people aware. Come on lets enjoy the independence that God has given us.

“I’m a person from eastern Indonesia, I’m envious of Papua, because Jokowi [President Joko Widodo] has built really good roads in Papua, but what have we got in East Nusa Tenggara?,” he claimed.

IndoLeft News notes:
Former State Intelligence Agency (BIN) chief retired general Abdullah Mahmud Hendropriyono recently called for the forced removal of some two million indigenous Papuans to the island of Manado in an apparent response to last year’s December 1 declaration by the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) of a West Papuan provisional government headed by ULMWP Chairperson Benny Wenda.

Translated by James Balowski for IndoLeft News. The original title of the article was “Mahasiswa Papua Tuntut USU Copot Gelar Profesor Yusuf Henuk”.

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