Alya Nurbaiti, Jakarta – Indonesian netizens lambasted fellow internet users who dropped hundreds of harsh and racist comments on the Vanuatu Tourism Office's official Instagram account.
The comments followed the general debate session of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday, in which Republic of Vanuatu Prime Minister Bob Loughman, in a prerecorded statement, called on the Indonesian government to address alleged human rights abuses against the indigenous Papuans.
Indonesian diplomat Silvany Austin Pasaribu replied by saying that Vanuatu had an "excessive and unhealthy obsession" with how Indonesia acted and governed in its easternmost province. She later called the Pacific nation's actions "shameful" and in opposition to the fundamental principles of the UN charter.
Following the debate session, several posts on the Vanuatu Tourism Office's official Instagram account @vanuatuislands were swarmed by comments from accounts allegedly handled by Indonesian users. They made racist statements, such as calling the Vanuatu children in a photo "children from hell" and malnourished.
Some users said Vanuatu's only prides were "face painting and traditional clothes", calling the country "underdeveloped", "a cannibal country" and "Australian slaves."
Other netizens lambasted the racist comments. A Twitter user of Papuan descent, Elfrida Natkime, wrote that the comments were "mean".
"I just read the comments made by Indonesian users on the Vanuatu Instagram account. You guys are evil. What a shame! Guys, please, racism is not okay," she tweeted on her handle @ENatkime on Tuesday.
Barusan baca komen netizen Indonesia yg komen di IG Vanuatu. Jahat banget anjir kalian... Gila ga ada otaknya. MALU GA SIH – GUYS PLEASE RACISM IS NOT OKAY !!!!! pic.twitter.com/z7LqCoWyPi – Elfrida Natkime (@ENatkime) September 28, 2020
Indonesian human rights lawyer Veronica Koman jumped on the bandwagon, calling the racist attack against Vanuatu an attack against Papuans and West Papuans, as both Vanuatuans and Papuans are Melanesians.
"This is exactly why West Papuans want to be free," she tweeted.
Indonesian netizens (or bots?) attack Vanuatu's Instagram account over West Papua row...... by being racist. Like, wtf are you doing, this is exactly why West Papuans want to be free. The people of West Papua and Vanuatu are both Melanesians. https://t.co/0PMfDBtcny – Veronica Koman (@VeronicaKoman) September 29, 2020
Another Twitter user under handle @janpiterjonkun said the comments only showed the true discriminatory nature of Indonesians against Papuans. "These 'heroes' of the western part of Indonesia like to claim Papuan as their brothers and sisters. But, in fact, they discriminate and oppress them."
Orang Vanuatu punya lebih banyak kesamaan dengan orang Papua karena sama sama Melanesia, bingung kok para ksatria ksatria 'Mongoloid' bagian WIB pada demen banget klaim kita bersaudara tapi kenyataannya selalu mendiskriminasi dan mengopresi? https://t.co/jpT6eYVpmc – Grand Dementor (@janpiterjonkun) September 29, 2020
Indonesian officials have entertained repeated efforts to undermine the nation's sovereignty at the multilateral forum, having noted what they consider a regular uptick in provocations in the easternmost provinces around September, when the annual UN summitry commences.
Papua and West Papua are the site of decades of simmering tensions between separatist groups and security forces, which at times resulted in what activists have flagged as alleged human rights violations.
Recently, Papuan pastor Yeremia Zanambani was shot to death in Hitadipa district of Intan Jaya regency, Papua. He was allegedly shot by personnel from the Indonesian Military (TNI), which claimed that the pastor was shot by a "separatist group" in Papua.