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Showing posts with label human rights. Show all posts
Showing posts with label human rights. Show all posts

Wednesday, 25 December 2019

Herman Wainggai December 24, 2019: My Christmas Reflections

Waromi and I with Prof Pieter Drooglever author the book
“An Act of free choice – Decolonisation and the right
to self-determination in West Papua
It is now December 24, 2019, here in the East Coast, United States, and we continuing our decades-old struggle for freedom and independence from Indonesia. For West Papuans, this is a struggle that began on  May 1, 1963, when the Indonesian government first occupied our homeland, using military force. Fifty-six odd years later I find myself on the other side of the world, Washington, D.C, away from home, family and friends. Since I arrived in what Americans called the “Nation’s Capital,” I am  fortunate to have spent many hours with professors, students, government officials, non-government organizations, and friends and their families discussing the situation in West Papua. I found out that most Americans I interacted with know little about the political situation in West Papua: How our people been deprived or denied our basic human rights for over five decades, or the West Papua’s geographical location.

To feel disheartened about this lack of international awareness of my people’s plight would be the natural response, however, I choose to look at it as an important opportunity for our struggle, and I intend to tell them the truth about our people’s story and their brutal mistreatment at the hands of the Indonesian Government. Bearing witness is the key-reason for escaping my homeland and living in exile.

USA today

West Papuans now have the opportunity – through the West Papua Human Rights Center and me to use our “voice” – to capture the attention of the Americans I come across and those who read our blog, and the staunch supporters of ending human rights violations throughout the world. There is a strong belief among the people I have spoken to here in America that non-violent resistance is the most effective way forward for our people to achieve our independence and that this strategy will open up significant opportunities to further bring our plight and struggle to the public’s attention and to the world.

I end this year with true West Papuan Christmas tales that will shed light onto what it is like to be an indigenous West Papuan under Indonesian rule…

Experiencing this coming Christmas in free and great country makes me reflect upon what Christmas means to some of us. Christmas is a time when people come together and experience joy and happiness. However, these joy and happiness have been overshadowed by sorrow and tears in our long struggle for independence.

On 25 December 1989 I celebrated Christmas behind the bars of the Indonesian military prison at Waena (RTM Waena), West Papua, under the ever watchful and intimidating gaze of six Indonesian prison guards. I was allowed to visit my uncle, Dr Thomas Wainggai.  And in spite of the circumstances and my uncle’s condition, I was grateful to spend that Christmas with him. In just seven years (1996), he died in a federal prison in Jakarta  (Cipinang prison). To this day, we believe the government of dictator Suharto ordered his termination, serving only eight years into his 20-year prison term for spreading his ‘nonviolent’ political beliefs. He believed firmly that West Papuans deserved their own government, a government free of foreign colonial rule.

In fact, political imprisonment, torture and extrajudicial killing are just part of the story of my people of West Papuan and their struggle – a harsh Christmas carol.

I myself celebrated a couple of Christmases in prison as a political prisoner – as a guest of the Indonesian Government for my beliefs in Melanesian self-determination, human rights and human dignity. It was like a waking nightmare lived out in a dark room for months on end. I was denied access to a toilet, the cement floor was my bed, and I had a single shirt and pair of shorts for the duration of my stay. My books and writing materials were confiscated and never returned to me. It was the most inhumane experience I have had to endure in my life and it was done so with two guards pointing their guns at me.

A more positive Christmas story in my personal fight for self-determination was the Christmas I spent at sea when we escaped to Australia. On 25 December 2005, I was with my comrades floating to freedom on a journey from Timika to Merauke and continued to Australia where I lived for three years before I come to America. That Christmas at sea was a stepping stone in my path to the United States, and the opportunity to speak for the people of West Papua at the United Nations – a chance to request for intervention in West Papua.

I look back on past Christmases with so much pain as well as joy – tears as well as joy beyond compare. Today, I truly enjoy the full blessings of freedom here in Virginia and in this great country. I miss West Papua and hope and pray that one day we will be blessed with freedom. Then I will go back and enjoy that freedom with all those left behind. I can’t wait for that day!

Herman Wainggai
West Papua Human Rights Center

Sunday, 27 October 2019

Veronica Koman opens up about her West Papua advocacy

The first thing you notice about Veronica Koman (LLM ’19) are her eyes. Cool and determined, they exude razor-sharp focus as she talks about her advocacy and its personal cost over recent months.
“Now, I am a fugitive,” says Veronica, an Indonesian human rights lawyer who graduated from The Australian National University (ANU) in July.
“There’s an article saying I am state enemy number one in Indonesia. It’s been intense.”
In September, Veronica was charged under Indonesia’s controversial electronic information and transactions law for exposing human rights abuses and advocating self-determination in West Papua. If found guilty, she faces up to six years in jail.
“I knew this day was coming sooner or later. I expected this,” she says.
Although her advocacy has been mired in challenges, Veronica received a measure of vindication on 23 October by winning the 2019 Sir Ronald Wilson Human Rights Award.
Presented each year by the Australian Council for International Development, the award is given to an individual or organisation who has made an outstanding contribution to advancing human rights. 
“I dedicate this award to the victims of the crackdown that began in late August in West Papua, especially the dozens who have died at the hands of security forces and the 22 political prisoners charged with treason,” she says.
“I hope this year's award will raise awareness in Australia about human rights abuses suffered by West Papuans and the decades-long denial of their fundamental right to self-determination.”
Veronica Koman (LLM '19)

Veronica’s experience as a refugee lawyer led  to her being diagnosed with 

post-traumatic s tress disorder in late 2015.

Speaking truth to power
It is difficult to obtain verified information from West Papua, an Indonesian region where deadly clashes have intensified over the past decade. Restrictions on press freedom and internet blackouts are common.
Veronica has sought to fill the information void by sharing eyewitness accounts, photos and videos of protests on social media.
And the figures, like the footage, are shocking. 
“The death toll now is at 53 in just two months, with more than 100 civilians injured and 60,000 others displaced. It is a humanitarian crisis, but the press ban means it isn’t getting enough coverage,” she notes.
Veronica’s advocacy has made her an online target for trolls, who have orchestrated what she describes as “a Trumpian, fake-news” campaign against her to “confuse people and create distrust”. On 11 October, a BBC-Australian Strategic Policy Institute investigationrevealed a network of pro-government bots was behind the attacks.
“These (attacks) form part of the information war on West Papua. No press freedom and propaganda creates total distortion of information. I too didn’t know about West Papua for many years, but when my eyes were open it became my personal mission. That’s why I share videos of atrocities – because it destroys the Indonesian Government’s disinformation campaign,” she explains.
Away from social media, Veronica also faces real-world obstacles; Indonesian authorities have threatened to freeze her bank account and revoke her passport, leaving her vulnerable to arrest and extradition overseas.
Veronica Koman (LLM '19)

Veronica has remained defiant in the face of online abuse and what she calls 'politically motivated' charges.

Finding strength in the struggle
While pleased to return to her “home” at ANU College of Law during a visit to Canberra on 15 October, Veronica’s mission was to make her voice heard at Parliament House.
“I hope the Australian Government can do more for West Papua because we are seeing the darkest period in 20 years. As a minimum, Australia should push for access to West Papua for UN Human Rights officials and journalists,” she says, adding that scholarly debate is also critical to finding solutions to the crisis.
“Australia is a leader in the Pacific region. It should take up its role to push for action, because human rights should prevail over any bilateral treaty. What we are seeing now is a humanitarian crisis.”
It’s a crisis that requires diplomatic pressure and international to solve – both pillars of Veronica’s advocacy.
She credits her studies at ANU College of Law for giving her the knowledge and skills to work with international institutions and their respective legal frameworks on the global stage.
“I think my ANU Law studies have really helped me. The foundation I gained from International Security Law and International Humanitarian Law, both of which are applicable in the West Papua conflict, has allowed me to consider the key points that need to be communicated to the UN and other humanitarian organisations,” she says.
Like any good lawyer, the driving force behind Veronica’s work is the people she represents. The importance of staying committed to the cause is reinforced each time she learns about developments on the ground, is interviewed by journalists or, as her ANU graduation offered in July, celebrates a brighter moment with allies in Australia.
Veronica Koman (LLM '19) and Ronny Ato Buai Kareni (MDipl '19).

Veronica with Papuan graduand, Ronny Ato Buai Kareni (MDipl '19), at ANU on 19 July 2019.

Asked her advice to law students aspiring to follow in her footsteps as human rights advocates, Veronica notes a main source of strength is often closer than you might think.

“I think students should go forward with their passion because the people whom you advocate for will show you such courage and resilience. It pushes you to keep going.
“Personally, I feel privileged because I see and learn from the West Papuans, who are very brave. It’s just so …”
Her eyes dart in search of the right word.
“… contagious.”

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Ramos Horta says Indonesia must settle Papua abuses

The former president of Timor-Leste has encouraged Indonesia to settle cases of human rights abuses in Papua. Jose Ramos-Horta visited the region earlier this month and says Indonesia must not view the Papuan people as enemies, but work with them. During his visit he met with officials as well as former separatist rebels. The Jakarta […]

from WordPress

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Solider Jailed For Triple Murder in West Papua - By Adam Boland - July 21, 2016 An Indonesian soldier has been jailed for 20 years for the gruesome murders of a mother and her two children in West Papua. The Jakarta Post reports 28-year-old Semuel Djitmau killed the trio with a cleaver as they walked to a village in Bintuni in August […]

from WordPress

Monday, 18 July 2016

Papuan students in Yogyakarta attacked by Indonesian police and militia

Reported by AMP Yogyakarta 18th July 2016 Indonesian police and civilian reactionary groups stormed a boarding house for Papuan students in Yogyakarta on Friday. The State-Owned Papuan Dormotory at Kusumanegara Road, Kamasan I was besieged in the early morning of 15th July when mobile brigades (Brimob) of special forces officers forced their way through the […]

from WordPress