By David Robie
As part of an Indonesian-backed disinformation and troll campaign against West Papuan pro-independence advocates, a Facebook page has emerged making bitter and slanderous attacks on campaigners, Papuan exiles and media people in the Pacific region.
Among the targets for this page — dubbed “View Information”, purportedly based in the Vanuatu capital of Port Vila — are Pacific Council of Churches general secretary Reverend James Bhagwan over a “false campaign” on Papua, and Australian-based Indonesian human rights lawyer Veronica Koman who is accused of being “an imposter”.
Other targets include London-based United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) president Benny Wenda for allegedly “masterminding the Wamena riots” in 2019, Canberra-based youth advocate and activist Ronny Kareni for “cultural mockery” and New Zealand academic and journalist David Robie.
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I am accused of “continuously meeting” Benny Wenda to discuss issues relating to Papua and of “ignorance and prejudice”.
True, I did meet Benny when we hosted him at the Pacific Media Centre during his New Zealand visits in 2013 and 2017 and our team interviewed him at the time. Indeed, he was interviewed by several journalists and appeared on a number of programmes such as RNZ Pacific.
He does an extremely impressive job as a tireless and impassioned advocate for his indigenous people and independence.
One of the regular themes of the View Information page is the plight of the New Zealand pilot, Philip Mehrtens, being held hostage since February 7 by pro-independence fighters of the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB-OPM).
Originally the fighters wanted New Zealand to broker negotiations with the Indonesian government in Jakarta, but the military and political authorities have refused to talk, endangering the life of the Susi Air pilot.
“Philip Mark Mehrtens is a human being and deserve[s] medical attentions [sic] as we do not know under what conditions he is living in. This sepratist [sic] are abusing his freedom and holding him against his consent and will,” says View Information.
“Isn’t this an abuse of human rights?
“[These] separatists are abusing his right to freedom from being held as a captive for unreasonable grounds. He is treated as some kind of product in a grocery store.”
About the Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC), View Information page claims: “PCC considers Papuans as [a] product or commodity in grocery stores.” That phrase again!
“PCC has become a parody conquistador for the religious groups in the Pacific and a sign of betrayal to the Papuans.
“Papuans are this cheap that the PCC has to sell them for money.
“Say no to PCC before it is too late.”
About the 2019 rioting in Wamena and across the region characterised by advocates of an independent West Papua as the “Papuan Rising” and likened to the Arab Spring: “The Papua Extremist Group (ULMWP) led by Benny Wenda is the mastermind behind the West Papua riots.
“They were designed a riot exactly one day before the UN General Assembly (24/9) began with student access campaign.”
Like most of the other claims on this FB page, there is not a single source given in any attempt to back up the hostile statements. Genuine information about the ULMWP is available here.
About the United Nations, View Information claims: “The UN has never declared there is genocide taking place in Papua or West Papua. It has addressed issues of civilians being killed by the armed separatists in Nduga Regency.”
This another lie. The UN has reported about allegations of “slow genocide” in Papua in 2014 and on other occasions, and last year UN special rapporteurs reported on the “shocking abuses against Indigenous Papuans”. There have been countless such reports and a 2018 agreement by Jakarta for the UN Commissioner for Human Rights to visit Papua to make an independent report has never materialised.
A feature of this propaganda page is the wild and sweeping statements and allegations without a shred of evidence. No information about the “publishers” or “writers” is divulged, although it claims to provide “factual, balanced, quality and fair reporting”.
Jakarta causing confusion
Jakarta’s misinformation campaign that has been causing confusion throughout the world has been stepped up in recent months.
“Indonesian intelligence has allocated considerable funds globally, especially in Oceania, to target and discredit any person or institution sharing information about the genocide in West Papua,” says Yamin Kogoya, a regular contributor and commentator for Asia Pacific Report.
“The same thing is happening inside West Papua – the spreading of fake, false information often under the names of OPM, ULMWP and other groups advocating for a free West Papua.
“The internationalisation of West Papua’s issue has been Jakarta’s primary concern, knowing how they stole it — West Papua’s sovereignty — 60 years ago.”