Yance Wenda, Sentani – West Papua Church Council expressed their concerns with the recurring situation in Papua Land, emphasizing the sufferings Papuan people have to endure during the 60 years of "conflict and militarism" especially the latest situation in Nduga, Intan Jaya, and Mimika regencies.
The statement was made during the commemoration of 166 years of the arrival of the Holy Bible in Papua Land, to specific in Mansinam Island in West Papua province. The head of Kemah Injil Church Synod in Papua Land, Dr. Benny Giay, who was part of the church council, said he was concerned with the recurring violence on native Papuans, who had felt they were not free for decades.
"We immerse ourselves in the changes, we, the Church, have seen the changes. Papuans are like monkeys in a national park belonging to Indonesia, which spans from Sabang to Merauke. The systematic racism has continuously happened to Papuans," said Giay on Feb. 19, 2021.
He said that Papua Land was like a small heaven, fallen to the earth. It was rich in gold and all that God created. "Papua is like sugar, attracting ants," he said. On the other hand, he said, Papuans were dying of famine, malnutrition. Papua Land's human development index was also low, schools were abandoned, there were not enough teachers in remote areas in Papua. Special autonomy status was given to increase development, but it didn't happen. Those are the real problems threatening our existence," he said.
Giay asked President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to pay attention to racism against Papuans. "Racism is a big problem. The perception that Papuans are stupid to they need to elevate Papuans so it would be equal to other ethnic groups. It has been 60 years, are Papuans now equal? Racism still exists," he said.
Giay commented on special autonomy (otsus) status, given to Papua Land in 2001 as a political compromise between Jakarta and Papua. Now the central government often uses otsus as proof that Jakarta had done the right thing, giving Papuans political privilege and money.
But after 20 years, more and more Papuans reject the continuation of the special autonomy, saying that it had veered from the original intention and now only served as Jakarta's control on Papuans.
Giay said otsus had failed. "If it is truly implemented, it will be good. But that didn't happen," Giay said. He went on citing Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) research on Papua, which pointed out to four "root problems": first, racism, discrimination, and marginalization. Second, the failure of economic, education, and health development. Third, the different political standpoint between Jakarta and Papua concerning the "integration" history. And fourth, the human rights violations, big cases that had never been resolved until now. Giay mentioned "Bloody Wamena" tragedies in 2000 and 2003, Bloody Wasior, Bloody Abepura, Bloody Paniai.
"I'm worried that the otsus fund was used to finance military operations. Especially, if the plan to establish new provinces materialize, the money would be used for security again," Giay said.
Giay warned the central government that Papuans were not "angels" who would just be quiet when they were treated unfairly. "Papuans can protest," he said. Giay regretted the central government attitude that forced their perspective to Papuans.
"The solution for the central government is that native Papuans have to accept 'NKRI harga mati', territorial integrity," he said. Papuans, on the other hand, had to fight hard for their rights to live on their land, he went on.
"NKRI harga mati" refers to the slogan often used by nationalists who saw the demand for self-determination was akin to treachery.
Giay also criticized the security approach the central government used and the refusal to use dialogue.
"When we ask for a dialogue, it's not over the top, right. Indonesian history recorded that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono held a dialogue with the Free Aceh Movement and Acehnese. Why can't we have a dialogue with the central government? Do you think we are monkeys?"
He pointed out the news about security personnel who were caught selling arms to the free Papua army. "This is the logic: with the illegal arms trade, there would be more free Papua army, and there will be more Indonesia's security personnel," he said.
The battles between Indonesian Military (TNI) and the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) had taken a toll on civilians in Intan Jaya and Nduga regencies.
In the same event, the head of Indonesian Christian Church Synod in Papua Land, Pastor Andrikus Mofu, said two missionaries from Germany, Carl Wilhelm Ottow and Johann Gottlob Geissler, brought the Holy Bible to Papua in the name of God. "With the power of the Gospel, came to Papua in 1855, the Gospel was spread in every church denomination so those in Papua and those who came to Papua Land, would experience the good in life on the land that God blessed," said Mofu.
"But questions for the Church remain: has the Gospel given life to Papuans and those who live in Papua Land?" Mofu said.
He said the power of Gospel would remain even during a dark time.
Mofu said West Papua Church Council was in the position to question and fight for good values and justice for native Papuans. That's the reason the council talked about human rights situation in Papua, he said.
"When the Church does not spread the Gospel, does not fight for good values and justice, there will be a question. "Has the Church spread the words of God or not?" I have to make this clear because some people, outsiders, questioned us, why the Church talks about human rights violations? Here's why: It's our responsibility. Violence after violence, one problem after another. It goes on and on," said Mofu.
Mofu said it was only right that native Papuans asked the central government, whether the state still regarded native Papuans as part of the state or not? Because many problems in Papua were never solved by the government. "Whatever Papuans do, they always think negatively," he said. Mofu also demanded an evaluation on otsus.
The president of Indonesian Evangelical Church (GIDI), Pastor Dorman Wandikbo, was concerned with civilians in Nduga and Intan Jaya regencies that had to flee their homes to seek safety due to armed conflicts between TPNPB and TNI. He contrasted the condition with Jokowi's advice to the rest of the population that people should stay at home as much as possible during the Covid-19 pandemic.
"Our congregation in Nduga has been more than two years outside their home, they are displaced. In Intan Jaya, as well, it has been a year since they had to leave their home. Our leader said stay at home, but our congregation was kicked out of their homes. Their houses, their schools, their churches are occupied by the military, because the security personnel there did not have a place to live. They used the people's home, the people's place of education. The West Papua Church Council asked President Jokowi to pull out the security personnel from Intan Jaya and Nduga," he said.
Wandikbo also regretted the stigmatization that accused native Papuans as "armed criminals". He reminded the leaders that in the 50 years Papua Land became part of Indonesia, it was rare that Papuans did violence to Indonesians.
"There has been a rare record in which Papuans kill a Muslim religious leader, kill civilians from Java, Sumatra, or Kalimantan. Very rare. But after the military came in, pastors were killed, religious leaders were shot, innocent civilians were shot dead. We are concerned with this. We at the council want to ask this: who do you call "armed criminal group"? Is there any arms factory in Papua? Where did they get the arms, who sold them?" Wandikbo said.
Wandikbo referred to the "KKB", the term Indonesia's security apparatus used to call the armed groups affiliated with the Free Papua Movement. KKB is short for "armed criminal group".
Wandikbo also mentioned that the otsus had failed to resolve the four root problems in Papua like the research from LIPI showed.
He questioned political elites that "forced" the continuation of otsus and the plan to establish new provinces in Papua Land.
Dr. Socratez Sofyan Yoman, the president of West Papua Baptist Church Association, questioned Jokowi's promise to allow foreign journalists to enter and write stories in Papua Land. "The Council is demanding Jokowi to fulfill his promise," he said.
He also demanded Jokowi to fulfill his promise to resolve the Bloody Paniai case in 2014. The National Commission for Human Rights (Komnas HAM) has announced in 2020 that there were indications that the killing of four students allegedly in the hands of TNI was gross human violations. "It's 2021 now. The President has also promised to allow the United Nations High Commissioner to visit Papua to see the problems," he said.
He reminded Jokowi of his statement made on Sept. 30, 2019, in which Jokowi said he was open to a dialogue with the pro-referendum group. "We are created by God in his image and likeness. Stop stigmatizing us," Yoman said.