By. Dr. Pala Molisa
I write in response to the article titled “Officials rubbish West Papua Protest” on Samoa Observer
Colonizers will always lie to you about what colonized peoples want. And some colonized peoples will parrot this – but this does nothing to change the lies from being lies.
Comments from Tantowi Yahwa, the Indonesian Ambassador to New Zealand, Tonga and Samoa, dismissing the recent Samoan protesters highlighting the plight of West Papuans outside of the Pacific Island Forum Leaders Meeting in Apia are misleading and deeply arrogant.
Saying “[t]he Pacific should stick to the main agenda of the conference which is the Blue Pacific” just shows the ambassador doesn’t even know the history and fundamental concerns of all Pacific island countries.
Since when, since the coming of colonizers into the Pacific – whether European, Asian or other – has decolonization and independence not been on all Pacific peoples agendas? And since when did it stop being the issue that determines all the others we might be concerned about?
If the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting is “not the place” to discuss not just human rights abuses, but also independence and decolonization for West Papua, then it is just a mouthpiece for Western imperialism and Indonesian colonization.
The comments of Albert Joku, on the other hand, a West Papuan wantok who once advocated for independence, should be understood in context as coming from someone who now works for the Indonesian government.
As Indonesian government spokesperson, of course he’s going to try to dismiss any Pacific protests for West Papuan independence.
Of course he’s going to argue that West Papuans should just give up on their dreams for independence, while Indonesia reduces them to a minority on their own lands, and continues to kill them off is the practice of all colonizers.
And of course he has to somehow believe that West Papuans can integrate into the burning house that has always, from the start, been what Indonesia has been and is for the indigenous Papuans of the region.
Reality and belief are two different things though
My wantok, Mr Joku, can shut his eyes and try to believe that West Papuans have now “seen the worst” that Indonesia has inflicted on them, but when did Indonesia stop the routine extra-judicial killings, torture and imprisonment of independence activists?
When did it stop the systematic destruction of rainforests and lands through industrial logging and extractive mining? When did it stop the theft of land dispossession, depriving West Papuans of lands and handing them over to Indonesian occupiers and corporations? When did it stop the trans-migration programs that’s already reduced West Papuans to a minority in their own lands, and will succeed in making them less than 30% of the total population by 2020?
The truth is: it hasn’t.
These forms of systemic violence – the blunt term is genocide – are what Indonesia is still carrying out today. And actually ramping up as the global movement for West Papua independence is picking up as well.
And this Indonesian occupation and genocide isn’t going to stop either because its roots are systemic: driven by capitalist expansion and imperialist greed sanctioned by the U.S.,
Australia and New Zealand. It ensures ongoing Western and Indonesia corporate access to West Papua’s vast mineral resources. It provides new land for displacing Indonesia’s over-population issues. And it helps ensure U.S. geo-political dominance over the region.
Mr Joku can also try to dismiss the significance and principled nature of the West Papuan protests by our aiga in Samoa, but that dismissiveness says more about him than about the protesters.
He talks about “emancipation” as if you can separate it from independence. As if you can find emancipation by subordinating yourself to a colonizer.
When he says “we will not be dictated by anyone” and “we Papuans, in Papua, will decide what we want to do”, he acts as if he speaks for all Papuans, and as if most Papuans are so browbeaten and defeated that all they want to do is accept subordination to a colonizer.
That’s so patronizing. And false.
Some Papuans might be comfortable pushing for colonial integration rather than independence. But the vast majority of West Papuans from the past to the present have always yearned for independence.
And all Pacific people can do no less than to honour this history of past and present struggles by recognizing that aspiration for independence, and doing what we can to fight for that independence.
That’s what the protesters did in Samoa when they carried out peaceful protests outside of the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting, calling attention to the issue of West Papuan independence.
They were standing in the tradition of the MAU movement in standing up for rights indigenous Pacific peoples, and asserting that our independence has been and always will be an inalienable indigenous right.
And when wantok Joku says “the Papua issue has been at the forefront since the late 50s and 60s” and “we’ve never seen Samoans and Fijians”, he acts as if Indonesian government money, media repression, and Western pressure have not had anything to do with keeping the Papua issue from the minds of our Pacific peoples, or to do with the buying off and silencing of Pacific politicians over the years.
He acts as if there is no shared history of Pacific decolonization struggles.
And he acts as if freedom has a timetable.
What wantok Joku doesn’t want to acknowledge is that the Samoan protests are only the latest example of a growing wave of politicization throughout the Pacific where Pacific peoples are starting to find each other again, reconnecting with our shared genealogical and political roots, to fight together for our collective and individual rights as indigenous people who want nothing less than to be independent, sovereign, and free. These struggles are being waged on a number of fronts from nuclear testing to free trade deals to climate change, and we’re reconnecting them back to that basic struggle for independence that have informed decolonization of the past up to today.
So to all those protesters in Samoa that took the time to speak up for our West Papuan wantoks during the Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting that was recently held in Apia, the only thing I can say is: fa’afetai, fa’fetatai, fa’afetai tele lava.
The sons and daughters of Oceania are rising. And we want nothing less than to be independent, sovereign and free.
Dr. Pala Molisa is a Victoria University Lecturer. He is Vanuatuan and Member of the “Run it Straight Collective”/ Activist and advocate for the Free West Papua Movement (NZ)
Baby Kana, three forgotten people in the story of Puti Hatil and Korowai (Part 3)
Written by Rev. Trevor Christian Johnson
Jakarta, Jubi – The 3rd and final forgotten person I want to write about during the drama of Puti Hatil’s sickness and healing is Baby Kana, also from Afimabul.
The day that Dakinus led Daniel and his baby son to Danowage, Baby Kana was also carried with them in their group. She was also brought to Danowage along with Puti Hatil. But she did not heal.
Last week (end of December) Puti was flown back to his village by helicopter, his cheek sewn closed and the wound clean and dry and healthy. He was returned to the Korowai region because he was healed and was sick no more.
He is a success story.
But Baby Kana also suffers no more. She also no longer has any illness. Instead of being flown back to her village by helicopter, however, she was returned to the dust of the earth.
She has now been dead for over 6 weeks.
Most people do not know that this other small child was also brought to Danowage from Afimabul during the same trip along with Puti Hatil. They were both carried to Danowage together.
While Puti was being cared for in the VIP Room at Dian Harapan Hospital with many visitors and enjoying much media attention and money was being gathered on his behalf, the baby Kana lay rotting in the ground, buried in a very simple wooden coffin made from rough boards.
She was yet another statistic demonstrating the poor condition of healthcare in this region.
We wanted to help her so bad. We did our best. But she died during the night. When we received her in Danowage she had already been sick for a whole month, and she was just too sick and weak to recover when she arrived.
Maybe the journey was too much for her. We did not have a chance to really treat her or an opportunity to fly her out to the hospital like Puti.
But Baby Kana is just as much a part of this story as Puti. The child Puti Hatil was saved. Baby Kana was not.
But help came because of Puti.
God is using the case of Puti to bless the entire Korowai region. And through Puti’s sufferings, the whole Korowai region seems to be experiencing a blessing of health care.
He became a symbol to rally around and to gather help and support. Because of Puti’s pain, many Korowai children will not need to experience illness or death.
After many long years of waiting for help, we are now being flooded. I can only praise the churches and students and the government officials who are very quick to help.
Upon hearing of the health crisis in the Korowai region, the Governor of Papua Lukas Enembe quickly responded and visited Danowage and promised more help and embraced many of the local people, showing his heart for the interior peoples of Papua.
Many good people are now involved and working together from both church and government to help the Korowai.
But sometimes I fear. Sometimes I fear that it will not be the case of Puti Hatil that is representative of the help that is coming to the Korowai region (a very sick baby who was helped and healed and returned successfully to the city).
Sometimes I am afraid that people will soon forget the trials of the Korowai. Instead of Puti Hatil being a symbol of hope, I am afraid that the case of Baby Kana will become a more fitting symbol – a child who died without help and will be forgotten unless I can keep her memory alive through written articles such as this.
We have two future options for the Korowai. Who will better represent the fate of the Korowai, Puti Hatil and his rescue? Or Baby Kana and her death?
This is the real tragedy of Papua; while 90% of the media is focused on politics in the cities, the interior peoples of Papua go to bed hungry and many die due to neglect. There are MANY Puti Hatils in my region. Even more sadly, there are many MORE Baby Kanas.
Between the years 2009 and 2015, shootings within the Freeport Mine project area killed 20 people and injured 59. In that same period of time illness and disease has killed much more in just this Korowai region of Papua where I serve.
I pray and plead that this is the last year that their cries will go unheard. (End)
Editor: Zely Ariane
The ties that bind Papua and Indonesia
By Karim Raslan
Source: South China Morning Post
Jayapura, Jubi – Young Papuans in an eastern Indonesian boom town are excited about the future, thanks to a resurgent economy. But will the good times last?
Sorong is booming. With 9.3 per cent GDP growth in 2016 (almost double Indonesia’s average) and located on the westernmost point of Papua, the 300,000-strong city is fast becoming a regional transport and logistics hub, boosted by its proximity to the fabled Raja Ampat islands and the ever-elusive bird of paradise.
However, Sorong isn’t a pretty sight. In fact, the city feels as if it’s still emerging from the scrubland – its urban sprawl stretching many kilometres into the interior, far from the waterfront that’s now bustling with activity.
I was very curious how the younger generation – the city’s millennials – viewed their future.
Were they optimistic? Did they see the new airport, port and Trans Papua Highway as the harbingers of a prosperous future? How were relations between indigenous Papuans and newer communities – the Bugis, Javanese and Minahassans?
I met three 18-year-old students: Maria Hestina, Maria Korwa and Mega Imbiri. All three were studying at the city’s largest tertiary institution, the Sorong Muhammadiyah University.
Maria Hestina is the daughter of transmigrants, her family was originally from Flores in East Nusa Tenggara. Her parents – now divorced – weren’t well-to-do. Her father was a labourer while her mother sold petrol and fruits at the market.
Maria Korwa’s family has been in Papua for generations. She was the product of an interreligious marriage: her father was Muslim while her mother was Christian. In an arrangement that is common in some part of Indonesia, her brothers were Muslim but her sisters and she were Christian.
Mega Imbiri was the daughter of a fisherman and a housewife, both of whom are Papuan natives.
“My father has to go out to sea every day and sometimes comes back with very few fish. He has to brave the rain, the waves and saltwater. … As a child I would hold his hands; they were always coarse.
Papua has long been considered a restive, troubled part of Indonesia.
However, Sorong, on the very “tip” of the island, has largely escaped the turmoil of the interior.
Instead, the city has benefited enormously from the current administration’s focus on strengthening transport links with the rest of the republic – creating a boom that more than matches Timika, the central Papuan town, home to Grasberg, the world’s largest gold mine and second largest copper mine run by the controversial American miner Freeport-McMoRan.
The three young women present a positive “spin” to the Eastern Indonesian region. Their religious diversity is remarkable – Maria Hestina is Catholic, Maria Korwa is Pentecostal Christian and Mega Imbiri is Protestant. Maria Hestina is a first-generation transmigrant while Maria Korwa and Mega Imbiri are natives.
Maria Korwa is unequivocal about the province’s problems.
“There’s a lot of crime in Sorong. Every day, there are muggings, fuelled by alcoholism and drug addiction – including glue-sniffing among youths.”
Maria Hestina adds: “Around 2005-2006, the water supply was very unreliable and we often suffered from blackouts. It has improved since then, but there’s still a long way to go.”
“The price of petrol has also gone up – it’s now 5,000 rupiah per litre. I know because my mother sells petrol; people are finding it difficult to cope.”
Mega Imbiri has her own take.
“Development is difficult in Papua. The terrain is hilly and heavily forested. It will take years before projects see results. What makes me very happy is the attention Jokowi (Indonesian President Joko Widodo) has been giving Papua. He’s visited the island more times than any other president before him.”
The administration’s initiatives have already begun to bear fruit. Maria Hestina noted that under former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Jokowi, primary and secondary education was made free. On December 20, the government announced plans to bring electricity to the whole of Papua and build new roads.
While the two provinces (Papua and West Papua) continue to represent a major challenge to Indonesian unity and stability – the eagle-eyed focus on economic growth has brought tangible gains to their people.
It’s this transformation that may well hold the key to binding the island of Papua to Indonesia.
Admittedly, this is a very positive take – that the current administration’s focus on economic grievances is having an impact. But is it enough?(*)
Editor: Zely Ariane
Dakinus Wanimbo, Three forgotten people in the story of Puti Hatil and Korowai (Part 2)
Written by Rev. Trevor Christian Johnson
Jayapura, Jubi – The first forgotten person in this article was Daniel Hatil, Putis father. But I now present to you the second person in this article who is a forgotten player in the drama of Puti’s healing.
He was one person who was the most instrumental in saving Puti Hatils life. He is Evangelist Dakinus Wanimbo, a pastor from the GIDI church (The Evangelical Church of Indonesia) who has served the last 6 years in Afimabul village.
He is the one who delivered Puti and Daniel to Danowage and walked with them and led them on the way to our missionary health clinic so that Puti could be medically evacuated to Dian Harapan hospital in the city.
Evangelist Dakinus entered the Korowai region as an evangelist with the GIDI church in 2009 to help work on the churchs airstrip in Danowage.
Afimabul is very remote. Dakinus explains, Afimabul is far away and difficult. There is always roofing problem because of thatch roofing and my Bible is always wet and also there is no electricity and at night I must read by the firelight.”
When I asked the Korowai people to give an evaluation of Dakinus work as an evangelist, it is clear that all the Korowai people love him. They can see his heart and though his language is limited his actions are clear, Dakinus loves the Korowai people, they say.
I ask, Not a single evangelist can speak Korowai, but Dakinus cannot even speak Indonesian very well. How can he do a good job in your village if he cannot even speak Indonesian? But they will all defend Dakinus and say that they like him. The Korowai say things like, He cannot talk well, but his heart is clear, he is a good man who loves the Korowai.
This is a reminder to us that actions speak louder than words.
Dakinus was the evangelist who first became aware of Putis sickness and brought them to Danowage to get help. When Puti was sent to Sentani and high-ranking government officials met Puti and newspapers covered the rescue of Puti and took many pictures of him, nobody mentioned the name of Dakinus. He was forgotten.
And Puti is not the only sick Korowai person Dakinus has helped either, he has brought other sick people to Danowage as well.
What are Dakinus wishes? He says, We must have permanent health workers!”
Dakinus is a symbol of the kind of help that the Korowai have enjoyed up until now. There may be a tendency to downplay and underestimate the role of these evangelists as professional government healthcare workers enter the area and take over much of the work. These evangelists are often poor and barefoot, simple, and limited in many ways.
Before the government ever entered the Korowai region, the church was already there. Already suffering for the good of the Korowai people, sacrificing their health and getting sick as they served the Korowai. Some of the evangelists have lost children during their ministries in the Korowai area and several evangelists have died due to injuries or sicknesses incurred while serving the area or opening the airstrip.
Just this year, an older evangelist from Ujung Batu village, Evangelist Wiyandi, suffered a heart failure after hiking 12 hours from his post to Danowage as part of his ministry.
As Governor Lukas Enembe proclaimed when he spoke in Danowage last month during his visit to release the health team, he said to me, Before the government ever enters into these remote areas of the interior of Papua, the missionaries and the Church are always there first to help the people. And he said that church and the government must work together for the well-being of the Korowai. He thanked me and the evangelists for that. And we are very thankful for him.
So as more educated and professional teachers and nurses enter the Korowai area to help the Korowai, please do not discount or think lowly of the contribution made by these poor and uneducated evangelists such as Dakinus. They have saved many lives in the Korowai region, and have lost some of their own children and peers during their ministries.
Let us not forget men like Evangelist Dakinus Wanimbo.(Continue to Part 3)
Editor: Zely Ariane
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