Pacific churches condemn ‘silencing’ of Papuan voices and media blackout

ndonesian police fire tear gas at Papuans
Indonesian police fire tear gas at Papuan demonstrators in Jayapura in January 2020. Image: PCC

Asia Pacific Report newsdesk

Pacific churches have condemned the media blackout in West Papua, military crackdown in parts of the territory and the silencing of dissenting voices.

They have also criticised the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) for “allowing Indonesia into their fold”.

In a statement, the Suva-based Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC) said it had noted with deepening concern the humanitarian conflict in West Papua and the continued abuse of human rights perpetrated by the Indonesian security forces.

“This situation has been worsened in particular by the silencing of dissenting voices through increased military presence and suspension of electronic communication,” it said.

“Since 2018 with helicopter gunship attacks on the people of Nduga and followed by human rights abuse of Papuans in Intan Jaya Regency in 2019 and Tembagapura in 2020, Indonesia has increased its persecution of the indigenous people.”

Most recently, security forces had burned homes in Puncak, “forcing an exodus of people under the guise of fighting against terrorism”.

The council’s statement said that “terrorism” was “likely an excuse” to clear land for the “economic gain of the Indonesian elite in Jakarta and Jayapura” in the continued “cultural genocide” through displacement of Papuans.

Indonesia ‘should be ashamed’
“As a member of the United Nations Security Council, Indonesia should be ashamed of its actions and held to account,” said the churches.

“Equally culpable in these events of genocide and human rights abuse are the members of the Melanesian Spearhead Group who have allowed Indonesia into their fold.”

The PCC stood with the West Papua Council of Churches to again to call upon President Joko Widodo to order an end to human rights abuse an enter into dialogue with representatives of the Papuan people.

“We call on the MSG to accept the nomination of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua and use its offices to begin a process of dialogue and reconciliation,” said the statement.

“The churches do not condone the killing of Indonesian security forces or Papuans.

“We recognise that without free and open discussions, this conflict of more than 60 years will not end.

“Today [May 20] as we mark the 19th anniversary of East Timor’s acceptance into the United Nations family, we appeal to the United Nations to treat the matter of West Papua with extreme urgency.”


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