On July 6, 1998, over 100 peacefully demonstrating West Papuans were murdered by the Indonesian colonial forces in Biak. Many others were wounded and raped. Indonesia may have forgotten, but we are the victims. We still remember.
When bodies started to wash up on the shore, Indonesian state agencies claimed they were killed by a tsunami in PNG. In reality, they were victims of the massacre who had been taken out to sea and dumped overboard by Indonesian soldiers.
A West Papuan woman, Tineke Rumakabu, witnessed many of her people murdered on that day. She was taken to an army camp and raped, along with dozens of other women. According to her testimony given to the Biak Massacre Citizens’ Tribunal, held in Sydney in 2013, she was kidnapped by soldiers after a peaceful flag raising at the water tower that day. Along with many others, she was ‘tortured with weapons’ and sexually abused.
Today, she attempted to lay a flower on the water tower to commemorate what happened to her and so many other West Papuans. Rather than recognise her suffering, she was harassed by Indonesian police officers. This is what the colonial rulers do when we try to remember their crimes.
The Biak Massacre Citizens’ Tribunal was headed by respected jurists, including a former Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. The Tribunal concluded after five months that ‘a large number’ of Papuans were murdered by Indonesian occupation forces, and that ‘some of the women and girls’ were raped. The Indonesian government, the Tribunal concluded, has tried to ‘downplay the seriousness’ of the massacre.
We need the world to remember this massacre, and the many others – in Wamena, Manokwari, Paniai – that have taken place since the illegal Indonesian invasion. The big powers continue to provide cover for Indonesia’s impunity.
We want to restore peace in West Papua and for all humanity in the region. In order to do that, there must be a recognition of what has been done against my people. The West Papuan churches, MRP, government officials, are all calling for the President of Indonesia to sit down with me and agree a method to solve this conflict: an internationally-supervised referendum on independence.
ULMWP Provisional Government