The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) condemns the recent murder of West Papuan Rapinus Tigau, a Catholic Catechist in the diocese of Timika, by the Indonesian military. He was killed October 26, 2020, by members of Nemangkawi Task Force (Satgas Nemangkawi), a joint Indonesian military-police force in Papua. The incident also saw the shooting of a six-year old boy, who survived.
We urge the United States government to end any cooperation with the Indonesian security forces (military and police) due to their sustained record of violence against Papuans.
Two decades into Indonesia's democratization, army and police violence against civilians continues. This is especially true in the territory of West Papua, home to Indigenous Melanesian peoples.
West Papua is a former Dutch colony annexed by Indonesia in the 1960s in a process widely considered a sham. Some 1200 Papuans voted out of a population of around one million, and they did so under a campaign of intimidation and murder by the Indonesian. Tens of thousands of Papuans have died under the Indonesian military occupation, and promises of "special autonomy" have failed to resolve Papuans grievances including dire poverty and calls for an end to human rights violations.
Papuans are Melanesians, ethnically distinct from most Indonesians, and are subjected to ongoing systemic and individual racism by many within Indonesia. In August 2019, Indonesian students, police and paramilitary groups attacked Papuan students, calling them "monkeys," "pigs," and "dogs." The violence spurred demonstrations throughout Indonesia, and led to a "Papuan Lives Matter" movement inspired by Black Lives Matter in this country.
The shooting in Timika diocese is one of the latest incident in a pattern of state violence against Papuan civilians, routinely accused without evidence of being "separatists." It is also the second assassination of a Papuan clergy member by Indonesian security forces, following the shooting of the Protestant Pastor Yeremias Zanambani in Intan Jaya on September 19. Mass arrests and jail terms for "subversion" remain common, as do acts of violence by the army and police, denials of the right to food, and internal displacement policies.
In October, the Trump administration welcomed the serial human rights violator Prabowo Subianto, responsible for numerous crimes in his time as an active army officer. Prabowo is now Indonesia's minister of defense. By welcoming him to Washington, the Trump administration overturned a 20-year ban on Prabowo entering the United States imposed in 2000 because of his human rights record. The visit sets a dangerous precedent and may signal plans for further cooperation with the Indonesian security forces. President Trump has financial stakes in Indonesian development projects, perhaps helping to explain his desire for a close relationship with its leaders.
ETAN has opposed U.S. security assistance to Indonesia from its founding. The organization remains opposed to any close links with the Indonesian military or police. We urge both the current and incoming U.S. administrations to suspend this assistance and condition any aid on concrete improvements in Indonesia's human rights record, especially in West Papua.
When Tigau saw the Indonesians rampaging near his home, he simply stated "Please stop burning and searching. We need to talk calmly." Those were his last words, spoken just before he was shot and killed.
The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) was founded in 1991. ETAN supports democracy, human rights and justice in Timor-Leste, West Papua and Indonesia. Website: www.etan.org Twitter: @etan009.
Contact: John M. Miller, 917-690-4391