Don’t just come to West Papua and make promises, Joko told
Indonesian President Joko Widodo (right) hands over the official pardon to five Papuan political prisoners at a prison in Jayapura on May 9. Photo: Antara Foto
Jakarta: Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s visit to West Papua was as ephemeral as spray – the next day there was no indication it had happened, according to a Papuan MP.
Mr Joko released five political prisoners and announced an end to a decades-long restriction on journalists reporting on West Papua during a visit earlier this month.
Indonesian police and military officials look on as freed Papuan political prisoner Jefrai Murib arrives for the ceremony. Photo: AFP
However his co-ordinating minister for politics, law and security, Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno, later said journalists would still need permits and be subjected to “screening”. This suggests no change to the current tight media restrictions.
“Don’t just come to West Papua and make promises,” he said. “I think the world should question why the government should close access of international media to West Papua.”
Papuan women wave the Indonesian flag during the visit of Indonesian President Joko Widodo. Photo: AFP
West Papua was incorporated into Indonesia in 1963 but insurgents continue to fight government forces.
The separatist movement is an extremely sensitive topic in Indonesia, with many seeing parallels between West Papua and East Timor, which won independence in 2002.
Foreign journalists caught without permits – which are notoriously difficult to obtain – face criminal charges. Last year two French journalists making a documentary on the Papuan separatist movement were arrested and jailed because they did not have the proper permit.
A Papuan holds the Morning Star independence flag, an act for which dissident Filep Karma was jailed for 15 years. Photo: Reuters
And despite the release of the five political prisoners, who were convicted over a 2003 raid on an Indonesian military weapons arsenal, about 60 remain incarcerated on charges including treason.
These include Papuan independence activist Filep Karma, who was jailed for 15 years for raising the separatist Morning Star flag.
Mr Magay said Mr Joko should listen to Mr Karma’s daughter, who has launched an open petition calling for the release of her father and other political prisoners. He also called for justice for the four students killed in clashes with security officers in Enarotali last December.
“The visit of Jokowi is like spraying a body. The day after it’s gone and nothing has happened in West Papua,” Mr Magay said.
Victor Mambor, the chairman of the alliance of independent journalists in West Papua, said Mr Joko had told foreign journalists on May 10 they could access West Papua the following day.
“The day after the chief political commander and law minister said ‘not like that – foreign media still need permits’. Who is the president of Indonesia? I don’t know,” Mr Mambor said.
He said West Papuans didn’t know what to believe because some local journalists worked as informants for the special forces and police.
Adriana Elisabeth, from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, said during Mr Joko’s first visit to West Papua in December he had called for a dialogue to build peace.
“For me this is a good signal. But on his second visit he said Papua didn’t need dialogue, just better welfare,” Dr Elisabeth said.
Father Neles Tebay, co-founder of the Papua Peace Network, believed Mr Joko was still committed to addressing the grievances of West Papua.
“There are at least 25,000 Papuans in Papua New Guinea, 2000 in The Netherlands and hundreds in Australia. They need to be consulted too for issues to be settled,” he said.
“I still have trust in Jokowi that he is willing to engage with Papuans, especially in the jungle and the diaspora. He called Papuans in jungle to come down and talk.”