Asia Pacific Report newsdesk
Activists from the Papua People’s Solidarity (Sorak) have protested against Indonesia’s policies in the Papuan region, militarism and Israel’s war on Palestine, likening it to the West Papuan struggle against colonialism.
The protest against Special Autonomy (Otsus) was held in front of the Merdeka building in the West Java provincial capital of Bandung on Friday, reports CNN Indonesia.
The action by Papuan activists was staged to respond to the crisis in Indonesia’s eastern-most provinces Papua and West Papua which has become tense over a military crackdown.
Based on CNN Indonesia’s observations at the rally, scores of people brought banners and gave speeches in front of the Merdeka building.
In addition to this, there were several banners with messages such as “We reject Special Autonomy Chapter II, the creation of new autonomous regions and the terrorist label”, “Immediately release all Papuan political prisoners” and “Withdraw all organic and non-organic troops from West Papua”.
Throughout the action, the demonstrators wore masks and maintained social distancing.
Action coordinator Pilamo said there were a number of demands being articulated during the action. First, rejecting the planned extension of Special Autonomy status in Papua, and then rejecting militarism and the deployment of troops which would further harm the Papuan people.
‘Forced on’ Papuan people
According to Pilamo, the Special Autonomy given to Papua by the government was just a policy which had been forced on the Papuan people by the central government.
Yet, he said, since July 2020 the Papua People’s Petition (PRP) had declared opposition to continuation of Special Autonomy and it has offered as a solution for the Papuan people the right to self-determination.
He claimed that as of May 2021 as many as 110 Papuan people’s organisations had joined the PRP and that some 714,066 people had declared their opposition to and the continuation of the Special Autonomy political package in Papua.
“Because of this, we, representing the Papua people, are conveying this aspiration to Indonesia and the state that today in Papua things are not okay,” Pilamo told journalists.
According to Pilamo, almost all components and layers of society had said that Special Autonomy had failed to side with, empower or protect the land and people of Papua.
In addition to this, over the 20 years of implementing Special Autonomy it had impacted badly on the Papuan people, including causing environmental damage, Pilamo said.
The education and healthcare system had worsened and the construction of roads were not in the interest of the people, but rather, in the interests of investors.
Palestine issue raised
Aside from highlighting issues in Papua, the demonstrators also took up the issue of Palestine. In a written call to action, it demanded an end to the war in Palestine – a ceasefire was declared by Israel and Hamas the same day.
They also highlighted a number of recent cases including the government’s branding of the Free Papua Organisation (OPM) as terrorists, a label which they reject.
Pilamo believes that the label will only give authority to security forces to commit violence, including against civilians. He claimed that civilians often fall victim as a consequence of violence committed by the TNI (Indonesian military) and Polri (Indonesian police).
“We call on the state and Pak Jokowi [Joko Widodo] as the president, we demand an immediate end to military operations and to stop [using] the terrorist label against the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB). The TPNPB are not terrorists, they are part of the movement fighting for Papua national liberation,” said Pilamo.
Similar protests were also held on Friday in Jakarta and the Central Java city of Yogyakarta.
Translated by James Balowski for IndoLeft News. The original title of the article was “Warga Papua Demo Tolak Otsus dan Militerisme di Bandung”.