Papuan Churches Want Jokowi to do More

Representatives from churches in Papua say the central government has not done enough to protect the rights of indigenous people there, despite President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s recent visit to the restive province as part of efforts to foster peace.

The Ecumenical Forum of Papuan Churches said the government had also not been sincere in its reconciliation efforts in Papua.

The leaders of the organization said the recent decision to grant clemency to five political prisoners in Papua was not as it seemed.

“Prior to the move, several presidential staff forced the prisoners to sign clemency letters. And the clemency was conditional,” priest Dorman Wandikmbo said on Friday during a discussion held at the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute.

Dorman said the five Papuans were told that they would be freed if they did not create further tension that could create instability in Papua.

“They were told not to talk anymore about human rights, freedom, separatism and so on,” he said.

Dorman said the prisoners preferred to remain inside prison rather than have their freedom of speech limited.

“It’s better for them to remain in prison than to be free but deprived of their rights.”

In a bid to promote peace in Papua, Jokowi visited the province early this month, when he granted clemency to five political prisoners in Jayapura.

The five Papuans, who had the remainder of their prison terms waived, were convicted of breaking into a military base in Wamena in 2003.

Three of them, Apotnaholik Lokobal, Linus Hiluka and Kimanus Wenda, were sentenced to 20 years in prison, while the other two, Numbungga Telenggen and Yafrai Murib, were sentenced to life.

Jokowi said the granting of clemency was carried out as part of conflict resolution efforts in Papua.

During his visit, the President also announced that he would open up access to the Papua region for foreign journalists and international organizations.

Fellow priest Benny Giay said Jokowi’s pledge would likely ring hollow, as several of his subordinates had hinted that foreign journalists still had to meet certain conditions before being allowed to enter the region.

Benny referred to a statement of Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno and the Papua Police, which indicated that “foreign journalists still have to go through a numer of special procedures”.

“They will also be escorted by members of the military,” he added.

The government earlier said that foreign journalists no longer had to seek special permission from the Foreign Ministry to report on Papua.

Over the past decade, journalists reporting on the province have had to fill out forms requiring approval from a number of government institutions. Failure to do so would be met with criminal charges.

Jokowi went to Papua as part of his five-day visit to several provinces in eastern Indonesia, which has long been considered the country’s underdeveloped region, despite its abundant natural resources.

Separatist groups in Papua have complained that the central government has given the province an unfair share of wealth, after it became part of Indonesia in 1969. (alm)

“They were told not to talk anymore about human rights, freedom, separatism and so on.”
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