The Indonesian government has become an international pariah state, killing West Papuans with impunity and then denying it ever took place. The murders, lies and propaganda coming from the highest levels of the Indonesian State illustrate the urgent need for international attention. There can be no more delays: Indonesia must follow the call of 79 countries and allow the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights into West Papua now.
The latest killing took place on February 26. The West Papuan life taken by the colonial regime was 25-year-old mother, Weslina Tabuni, shot dead in Nduga by the Indonesian military. A 20-year-old man was also shot in the ribs.
As usual, the Indonesian military has blamed armed West Papuans for the violence, attempting to justify Indonesia’s murders and legitimate further militarisation of the region. As local human rights defenders have confirmed, Weslina Tabuni had nothing to do with the West Papuan self-defence forces. She was just going about her day when her life was ended decades prematurely.
Weslina Tabuni is just one of the 243 people, including 110 children, who have been killed in military operations in the Nduga Regency since December 2018. Each one of these people had a family, had a life, wanted only to live in peace. They were killed by a brutal colonial occupation which they suffered under, and did nothing to bring about. People are now scared to go to their gardens, to visit their families or go to church. Indonesia has created a regime of terror in West Papua.
From December 2018 until today, military operations have continued and expanded. On February 18, 11-year old child Melki Tipagau was murdered by the Indonesian military in the Puncak Jaya Regency. These military operations are not new for West Papuans, but have been going on since the illegal occupation of our country began in 1963. Hundreds of thousands of us have died like this.
Just two weeks ago, Indonesia’s official human rights commission, Komnas HAM, released its findings into the 2014 Paniai Massacre, when five West Papuan school children were shot dead whilst peacefully demonstrating against Indonesian rule. The commission found that Indonesian troops had committed ‘crimes against humanity’, killing and torturing demonstrators and children.
The Indonesian government responded by denying the findings, claiming that, ‘There were no direct orders from those in charge’. In reality, an order sent over radio stated, ‘If the masses offer resistance more than three times, shoot them dead’.
Similarly, Indonesia has cracked down on the peaceful Papuan resistance movement. Whilst those who racially attacked West Papuan students in Surabaya in August 2019 have got away with it, the victims and those who resisted racism have been arrested and charged with treason. There are now 57 political prisoners following the West Papua Uprising of 2019.
When President Widodo was presented with this information, verified by local human rights defenders and others, regarding the deaths in Nduga and political prisoners, Widodo’s team called the information ‘garbage’.
President Widodo and his team are genocide deniers. They carry out crimes against humanity in West Papua, crimes recognised as such by Indonesia’s own official investigators, and then they deny that it ever happened. They stand in a long line of history’s tyrants, from Pinochet to Idi Amin. The people of Indonesia are realising their rulers’ brutality and will resist them more and more, like they did against Suharto in 1998.
These killings, and this genocide denial by the highest authorities in Indonesia – which has been going on for nearly six decades – is why the ULMWP is calling for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit the territory. This is why that call has been supported by 18 countries in the Pacific Islands Forum, and 79 countries in the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States. The need for urgent international involvement is clear. Without it, my people’s survival is in jeopardy.