Activists say Jokowi’s West Papua visit only to bolster image – no benefits

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President Joko Widodo buys traditional noken
President Joko Widodo buys traditional noken - woven bags - at a street market in Sentani, Papua, during his state visit to open the Papuan National Games. Image: Suara Papua

By Agus Pabika in Jayapura

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s visit to Papua last weekend to officially open Indonesia’s National Games (PON XX) and officiate a number of infrastructure projects are ceremonial and will not provide any benefits to the ordinary Papuan people when cases of human rights violations are left unresolved.

This assessment was made by former political prisoner and Papuan activist Ambrosius Mulait in response to Widodo’s visit which he sees as nothing more than “image building” in the eyes of the ordinary people and the international community.

“Jokowi came simply to bolster his image, he didn’t come with the genuine intention of resolving human rights,” Mulait told Suara Papua.

Mulait said that the Indonesian government appeared inconsistent in dealing with the covid-19 pandemic because it wasallowing crowds to gather at National Games events.

“We are questioning the Jokowi administration’s inconsistency, why given the state of the pandemic in Papua are they continuing with PON activities involving thousands of people?” he asked.

“It’s surprising, covid-19 cases are already rising, but all of a sudden the figures are deemed to be falling and the PON can be held.”

The secretary-general of the Papuan Central Highlands Indonesian Student Association (AMPTPI) also criticised the repression and violence by police against Papuan students demonstrating peacefully in front of the United States Embassy in Jakarta on September 30.

“The police are also racist in their handling of Papua mass actions. Meanwhile they weren’t repressive towards a demonstration at the KPK [Corruption Eradication Commission office] several days ago, and instead gave them space [to demonstrate],” he said.

Mulait said the state was truly unfair in its treatment of Papuans.

“The Papuan people continue to be silenced by repressive means, peaceful actions are broken up, protesters are arrested, labeled ‘separatists’, jailed. The way they are handled is very discriminative and racist,” said Mulait.

Papua student activist Semi Gobay also expressed disappointment. He said that President Widodo had already visited Papua nine times but not one case of human rights violations had been addressed let alone resolved.

“At the height of the PON XX, he came down to look at noken [traditional woven baskets and bags] made by mama-mama [traditional Papuan women traders]. But the internally displaced people in Nduga and Maybrat, the shooting cases in Puncak, Intan Jaya and the Star Highlands are not dealt with by the Indonesian government under the authority of President Joko Widodo” he said.

Gobay said this further demonstrated the real face of the government.

“The president comes and visits and buys lots of noken, but the many conflicts in Papua are not resolved. What’s behind all of this?” he asked.

“The Indonesian government has no good intentions towards us. All the best in celebrating the PON on the sorrows of the West Papuan nation.”

Translated by James Balowski of IndoLeft News. The original title of the article was “Tidak Selesaikan Kasus Pelanggaran HAM, Jokowi ke Papua Hanya Cari Muka”.

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