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Journalist turns tales of undercover Papuan reporting into love novel

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Aprila Wayar poses with her latest novel Sentuh Papua which chronicles a Dutch journalist’s undercover reporting of Papua and is based on actual events – Bambang Muryanto/Jakarta Post

By Bambang Muryanto

A Dutch freelance journalist, Rohan (a pen name), had been interested in the political turmoil in Papua for years. In 2015, his application for a journalistic visa was denied. The 32-year-old then decided to embark on an undercover reporting assignment in the country’s easternmost province.

For 153 days, he observed the way local people lived, met with leaders of the pro-independence Free Papua Movement (OPM) in the jungle, enjoyed the beauty of Papua’s nature and met Aprila Russiana Amelia Wayar, or Emil, a local journalist who later became his girlfriend.

It was Emil who wrote about Rohan’s adventures in Papua and their love story in the novel Sentuh Papua, 1500 Miles, 153 Hari, Satu Cinta (Touch Papua, 1500 Miles, 153 Days, One Love).

In the novel, Rohan’s character said foreign media agencies in Jakarta refused to publish his report on Papua, worrying that the government would revoke the visas of their Jakarta correspondents.

Emil recently launched her 374-page novel in a discussion forum organised by the Alliance of Independent Journalists’ (AJI) Yogyakarta chapter and the Yogyakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH).

Emil has been in Yogyakarta since early this year to publish the book. She chose Yogyakarta because she had spent time there as a student at Duta Wacana Christian University (UKDW).

The 38-year-old author said she initially intended to write a journalistic piece that was rich in data and interviews. She used the character of Rohan to describe the lack of press freedom in Papua, human rights violations in the province and challenges to OPM’s quest for self-determination.

‘Easier to understand’

“I then chose [to write a] novel to make it easier for Papuans and Indonesians to understand the [province’s] issues,” she said.

Through the book, Emil, who used to work for independent media platform Tabloid Jubi, was determined to represent the other side of Papua’s story vis-a-vis mainstream reporting on the province, which she deemed mostly biased.

She said many journalists covering cases of human rights abuses in Papua only interviewed security personnel and neglected the victims.

“Journalists writing about Papua have to cover both sides,” she said.

However, she realised both the challenge and risks that come with reporting Papua as a journalist, as she herself often received threats and harassment while doing her job.

In her book, the characters Rohan and Amelia, who is based on herself, are chased by a group of people armed with machetes.

According to Reporters Sans Frontier’s (RSF) latest World Press Freedom Index, Indonesia ranks 124th out of 180 countries – the same position as last year.

Open access promise

The Paris-based group highlighted the restriction of media access to Papua and West Papua as a factor that has kept Southeast Asia’s largest democracy at the bottom of the list.

The condition prevails despite President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s campaign promises to open access to Papua for foreign journalists.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian Press Council categorised Papua and West Papua as “medium/relatively free” in its 2017 press freedom index.

Yogyakarta-based lawyer Emmanuel Gobay said Emil’s book, despite being published as fiction, was a good reference for those who want to understand Papua from both the local and professional perspective.

“This novel reflects the state of press freedom in Papua,” he said.

The novel, which Emil wrote in eight months, is her third after Mawar Hitam Tanpa Akar (Black Rose Without Its Stem) and Dua Perempuan (Two Women), both of which told stories about social issues in Papua.

Emil was the first indigenous Papuan novelist invited to the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival (UWRF) in Bali in 2012. She plans to write a fourth book in the Netherlands, where she is currently undergoing medical treatment for a heart condition. (*)

Bambang Muryanto is a Jakarta Post journalist and an Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) advocate.

 

Source: asiapacificreport.nz

Headlines

Health workers are on demand in Papua

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Meeting between UP2KP team with a legislator of the Commission IX Roberth Rouw – Jubi/Dok UP2KP

Jayapura, Jubi – Papua Accelerating Health Development Unit (UP2KP) admitted Papua Province still need more permanent health workers said UP2KP team to a legislator of the Indonesian House of Representatives from the Electoral District of Papua. They asked the legislator to enforce a quota of health workers in civil servant recruitment in 2018.

We observe that Papua needs permanent health workers for more effective and efficient health services,” said the First Director of UP2KP Agus Raprap in the press release to Jubi on Sunday (20/5/2018).

He said many health problems such as exceptional condition (KLB) and outbreaks of diseases in Papua, in particular in remote areas, were occurred due to a crisis of health workers.

A member of the Commission IX of the Indonesian House of Representatives from the Electoral District of Papua Roberth Rouw said he is ready to view the input on the health workers recruitment for Papua. He moreover said that health is the most critical sector of human development resources.

I will learn the data related to the human resources demand (in the health sector). I will give it to the Minister of State Apparatus, but UP2KP should also provide data because this is very important to show a specific map about the existing of health workers in Papua and the number of health workers from outside of Papua that we need,” he said.

According to him, the lack of health workers in Papua becomes a very concerning issue. He agrees with the result of the monitoring and evaluation conducted by UP2KP which reveal that many health facilities in Papua, especially in districts, do not have permanent health personnel. (*)

 

Reporter: Roy Ratumakin

Editor: Pipit Maizier

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Arts & Culture

What is the most attractive thing to see in FDS 2018?

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Illustration of traditional Papuan dance – Jubi / Engel Wally

Sentani, Jubi – Jayapura Regent Mathius Awoitauw stated traditional food produced from sago and cultural performances would be the two most attractive things to see in Lake Sentani Festival (FDS) 2018.

Furthermore, he said location, where the festival takes place, must be set attractively to avoid an impression of a night fair event or a regular traditional market.

Those who will be directly involved in performances at the FDS, such as dancers, must wear cultural costumes. They are not allowed to wear anything else on stage,” he said.

The Second Vice Chairman of Jayapura House of Representatives Kornels Yanuaring said the FDS, which is an annual government agenda, should have a positive impact on the local community.

Visitors should acquire clear information about this event; what would perform in this festival. So, we could see their interest on the event, and it could be an indicator of the income for the local community,” he said. (*)

 

Reporter: Engel Wally

Editor: Pipit Maizier

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Economy

The exclusion of indigenous rights in Papua autonomy era

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Forestry Region VI Nabire Office is barred. – Jubi / Titus Ruban

Nabire, Jubi – After nearly a week, the Forestry Region VI Nabire (KCDK) Agency finally operates after the Head of KCDK Region IV Office open it since it was barred by former staff members of Nabire Forestry Agency due to the inauguration of officials and new structure in this agency by the Acting Papua Governor.

They thought the appointment of non-Papuans in the office structure is against the Law No. 21, 2001 on special autonomy, which mandates a priority should award to indigenous Papuan, particularly Nabire native. It moreover considers neglecting former civil servants of Nabire Forestry Office whose office currently merge into the provincial forestry office.

KCDK Region VI Nabire Agency was as a result of the enactment of the Law No 23, 2014 on the Regional Government and the Government Regulation No. 18, 2016 on the regional apparatus.

According to these two regulations, staff and authorities of the Regional Forestry Office transferred to the provincial office. Papua Province then opened a branch office in the district as an extension of the Provincial Forestry Office. However, the new office structure does not accommodate the former staff.

A former staff member of Nabire Forestry Office Tenni Sembor said Acting Papua Governor should refer to the Law No.21, 2001 on Papua Special Autonomy before a decision to appoint the head office and establish a new structure of KCDK Region VI Nabire. He must prioritise Nabire natives as mandated in the law. He moreover explained that none of the officers in the new structure come from Nabire District, which is the Saireri customary area, and its natives are the owner of the land tenure right in Nabire Municipality.

So we think this humiliates the rights of indigenous Papuans, in particular, the customary people in Nabire, whereas the Special Autonomy Law is the basis of protection and alignment towards the rights and local wisdom of Papua indigenous people,” said Sembor on Tuesday (5/22/2018).

Another former staff member of Nabire Forestry Office Marthinus Taa thought it is very unfair because, in this special autonomy era, none of the Nabire natives gets a position in the new structure. “While the agency is to manage forests in Nabire which associated with the customary rights of indigenous peoples,” he said.

Meanwhile, Chairman of the Customary Consultative Council (BMA) of Wate tribe of Nabire District Yohanes Wanaha expressed his concern on the inauguration. He asked Acting Governor and Papua Provincial Office to reconsider the inauguration occurred on Monday 2018.

This is an insult to the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples in this land. The Special Autonomy Law is still ongoing, but for decades, the government hardly accommodates our rights as indigenous peoples,” he said. (*)

 

Reporter: Titus Ruban

Editor: Pipit Maizier

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