Jakarta – Activist Veronica Koman says that she is ready to be discarded by the Indonesian government if her activities as a Papua human rights defender are deemed not to support the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI).
Vero, as she is known, said that she has openly affiliated herself with the Papuan people since she began this struggle.
"With delight I am ready to be discarded by the NKRI. Hand me over to Papua. We also have dignity", wrote Koman in a posting uploaded on her Facebook account as seen by CNN Indonesia on Friday August 14.
Koman said that it seems that the government interprets her service to Papua as a betrayal. According to Koman, this is because Papua is not seen as part of Indonesia.
In the posting, Koman also spoke about the studies she has taken and the jobs that she has often worked on while undertaking her master's degree in Australia. In general the essays she has worked on have always related to Papua.
"I shed tears over at least three Papua essays that I worked on as I researched and grew to understand the rottenness of the NKRI. The songs I listened to to motivate me to stay awake at night working on the essays was 'Sorong Samarai' (Samurai of Sorong) and 'Hidup itu Misteri' (Life is a Mystery)", said Koman.
Amnesty International Indonesia and Amnesty International Australia have spoke out about the case which has ensnared Koman.
The case surfaced again after Koman revealed that the Indonesian government had imposed a financial punishment against her by demanding that she return her Endowment Fund for Education (LPDP) scholarship funds which she used to undertake studies in Australia.
Amnesty has called on the Indonesian government to protect human rights defenders and not to punish them in any way.
Both organisations have urged the Indonesian government to cancel the financial punishments against the human rights (HAM) lawyer who has been active advocating the rights of the Papuan people.
"Instead of imposing a punishment, the Indonesian government should support Vero's effort to expose alleged HAM violations in Papua", said Amnesty International Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid.
Moreover, he said, no one who endeavors to defend human rights should be entitled to suffer intimidation in any form.
Speaking bluntly Hamid said that if the LPDP does not have strong grounds that can be proven legally to ask for Koman to return the scholarship money, that this is a form of intimidation and criminalisation aimed at weakening Koman efforts to uncover human rights violations in Papua.
"Intimidation against HAM defenders clearly represents a HAM violation"The LPDP earlier said that the financial punishment against Koman was because she failed to return to Indonesia after finishing her studies. Hamid however countered this pointing out that Koman said that she returned to Indonesia in 2018 to advocate several cases in Papua.
"But, the LPDP rejected her explanation and is of the view that Veronica has not yet graduated at that time and only graduated in July 2019", he said.
Based on media reports, many recipients of scholarships and LPDP graduates work overseas and do not return to Indonesia. But, said Hamid, they have not been subject to sanctions or this kind of behaviour.
"This is not the first time that Veronica has faced intimidation. Over the last two years she has faced harassment, intimidation and threats, including death and rape threats, all because of her activities exposing HAM violations in Papua", he explained. (tst/pmg)
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Veronica Koman: Saya Siap Dibuang NKRI, Berikan ke Papua".]