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Indonesian president promises action over racial epithets against Papuans

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Papuan activists confront police and soldiers during a brief scuffle at a rally near the presidential palace in Jakarta, Aug. 22, 2019. AP

Papua, Jubi – Indonesia’s president called on police Thursday to act against officers who allegedly made racist taunts that provoked days of unrest in the volatile Papua region, but a Papuan man told BenarNews that locals felt nervous about wandering outside during a fourth day of anti-Jakarta protests.

Pro-separatist activists from Papua became enraged and took to the streets over accusations that Indonesian government security personnel and vigilantes had used racial slurs such as “monkeys” and “dogs” against Papuan students, as well as roughed them up while they were demonstrating in East Java province last week.

“I have ordered the national police chief to take firm legal action against racial and ethnic discrimination,” President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said, in an apparent reference to the alleged slurs directed by law enforcement personnel against Papuan students.

“Apologies have been made, and this is a testament to our big hearts as a nation,” he told a news conference at Bogor Palace. Jokowi added that he had invited Papuan community leaders to the presidential palace on the outskirts of Jakarta to meet with him next week “to discuss ways to improve prosperity” in deeply impoverished Papua and West Papua provinces.

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Minister: ‘Papuans are our golden children’

The protests broke out on Monday, when thousands of people demonstrated in major towns in Papua and West Papua provinces to vent their anger against racism and call for a referendum on independence for the mainly Melanesian region. Some of the protestors set government buildings on fire, and violence protests spilled over into Tuesday and Wednesday, when a market in Fakfak was destroyed by a blaze.

Smaller protests took place in Papua and in Jakarta on Thursday, while Indonesian officials said that internet services in the far-eastern region remained blocked as a measure for restoring order. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the central government deployed 1,500 security personnel – mostly police officers – to the region to help maintain law and order, according to officials.

On Thursday, Security Affairs Minister Wiranto, along with the chief of national police and the head of the Indonesian armed forces (TNI) visited the Papua region in a collective effort to calm tensions.

“We are here … to shake hands with our brothers and sisters,” Wiranto said on television.

“There are always bad apples, and surely there will be legal action,” the state-run Antara news agency quoted him as saying.

“Don’t make sweeping generalizations that all other ethnic groups insult ethnic Papuans,” he added, saying that “Papuans are our golden children.”

However, George Celcius Auparay, an aide to the governor of West Papua, said Papuans were hurt by the perceived race-based insults.

“We have agreed to be one nation, but why are we being treated like this?” he said, adding there should be a presidential decree banning insults targeting the Papuan people.

Meanwhile in Jakarta on Thursday, dozens of Papuan activists rallied outside the army headquarters in the Indonesian capital.

Some carried the banned Morning Star flags, a symbol of the Papuan separatist movement, as they called for a referendum on self-determination.

The protesters chanted: “Free Papua! Free Papua!” as riot police looked on.

The crowd forced their way through a police barricade, but were stopped by military personnel. There were no reports of injuries.

In Papua province, police said they had arrested 34 people for alleged involvement in Wednesday’s rioting in Timika, a town near the giant Grasberg mine operated by the American firm Freeport McMoRan, Antara reported.

Elsewhere, Indonesia’s Ministry of Communication and Information Technology said the blackout on internet service would stay in place “until the situation in Tanah Papua returns to normal.” Tanah Papua is the local term for Papua and West Papua, which make up the Indonesian half of New Guinea island.

Members of the public and human rights groups criticized the move.

“This blanket internet blackout is an appalling attack on people’s right to freedom of expression in Papua and West Papua,” Usman Hamid, the executive director of Amnesty International Indonesia, said in a statement.

“In addition, the decision would also prevent people from documenting and sharing evidence of abuses committed by security forces,” he said.

Rudiantara, who heads the ministry, defended its decision to impose a blackout in Papua.

“This is for the national interest and has been discussed with security authorities,” Rudiantara told reporters.

“We’re not being repressive, unlike in some other countries. People can still make voice calls,” he said. (*)

 

Source: Benarnews.org

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Before the verdict, someone offers a wife of a Papuan political prisoner millions of cash

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Illustration. -Doc

Makassar, Jubi – A new fact outside the trial of the seven Papuan political prisoners has revealed.

Anike Mohi, a wife of Agus Kossay who is currently serving a sentence with other 6 Papuan political prisoners in Balikpapan, Kalimantan Timur, said a man offered her millions of cash before the judge read the decision over the defendants on 17 June 2020. The man was allegedly a member of the police intelligence from Papua.

Mohi gave her statement in an online press conference held on Wednesday (1/7/2020) with the Legal Advisor Team of the seven political prisoners. “During the trial of Buchtar Tabuni in the Balikpapan District Court, my friend and I came to the court to observe the hearing. An intelligent agent from Papua Police approached and offered us Rp 10 millions of cash,” said Anike Mohi.

Mohi said she firmly refused that offer and told the officer that the dignity and lives of Papuans could not exchange for money. She further told the officer that there would not be a problem at all if her husband and his two colleagues Buchtar Tabuni and Steven Itlay go to jail, as long as the four students Alexander Gobay, Irwanus Uropmabin, Hengki Hilapok and Feri Kombo were released of charges.

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“It seems that the officer entrusted the money to a police intelligence officer here (Kalimantan Timur) because the latter always called me asking when I will pick up the money, and I keep telling them I will not. Then, I blocked his telephone number,” she said.

In the press conference, the representative of Legal Advisor Team Fathul Huda confirmed the cash offer to the defendants’ families. “I accepted information from the wives of Buchtar Tabuni and Agus Kossay that someone offered them cash,” said Huda.

According to him, those who offered cash to his clients’ wives kept saying if the family accepted this offer, it would help to reduce the sentence of the seven political prisoners. Also, the same persons always contact and send a text message to Fathul Huda, but he never gave them a response. Therefore, these men stalk him and take his pictures many times.

“However, the fact is the verdict [against the seven political prisoners] was reduced [from the proposed impeachment by the public prosecutor]. It indicates that they are not important people. They were not able to influence the judge’s mind, and what they did is misconduct,” he said. (*)

 

Reporter: Arjuna Pademme

Editor: Pipit Maizier

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The marketing strategy of Papuan woman traders to survive amid the pandemic

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Illustration betel nut seller. – Jubi

Papua, Jubi – The COVID-19 outbreak has emerged a new dilemma for everybody. On the one hand, they should restrict their activities, but on the other hand, they have to work to get income for their families.

A consumer Delia Mallo said she is very concerned about Papuan women traders at Pharaa traditional market in Sentani, Jayapura Regency during the pandemic.

“It’s so sad to see them should go home early while not many people could come to buy their commodities,” Mallo said when shopping in Pharaa Market on Thursday (25/6/2020).

The restriction during the pandemic made the traders go home earlier than usual, and people’s concern about the coronavirus transmission has increasingly impacted on the traders’ income.

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“Since the emergence of COVID-19, I am worried (to stay longer in the market). After buying fish, I immediately go home,” said Mallo.

Because they have to go home early, traders reduce the price of their commodities to prevent substantial loss because of rot.

Tilapia fish, for example, is priced at half of its regular price. The fish harvested from Lake Sentani is usually sold for Rp 80 to 100 thousand per pile, but now sold for only Rp 40 to 50 thousand per pile. Each pile can weigh more than 1 kilogram.

“To be sold, so we just let it go at a low price. The important thing is we can still get money for trading tomorrow,” said Anace Suebu.

Mrs Suebu displayed her fish on a 2 x 3 meters table at the Pharaa Market, and her income has significantly decreased since the COVID-19 pandemic. “I could usually take Rp 1 million a day before the pandemic, but now it’s crushed,” she said.

As a result, she also needs to restrict her purchase. She could no longer be able to buy fish at large quantities. Her income has significantly declined, while she still has to continue spending money for daily needs.

“I told my customers to be patient. I cannot buy fish at large quantities because I don’t have sufficient money,” said the mother of four.

New Dilemma 

The new dilemma that emerged due to the COVID-19 is not only happening to Suebu but also hundreds or even thousands of Papuan woman traders. Their economy has suffered due to the pandemic.

“I used to bake (sell) twenty pieces of bread, but it’s only 15 now for Rp 15 thousand per piece,” said Karolina Fonataba who usually sells bread in the Pharaa Market.

During the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Fonataba, a woman of Biak Numfor, had moved her business to the former Doyo Baru Market. She did it to cope with the restriction rule applied in Jayapura Regency. Because she lives near the market, she can adjust her trading time. Also, she adds another commodity to sell, namely sago, which she sold for Rp 10 to 20 thousand per piece.

“Relying on the income from selling bread is not enough (for daily needs).”

However, she could not stay longer in the new location and decided to return to the Pharaa Market by selling the same commodities, bread and sago.

“In the former Doyo Baru Market, there were even fewer consumers. It was only 5-10 pieces of bread sold (every day),” told this sixty-five years old woman.

Although she has added the items of her commodities and returned to the Pharaa Market, her income is still far lower than in the usual time. “I could get Rp 150-200 thousand in the past, but now it declines to Rp 50-100 thousand, while a sack of sago usually sold out in three days, but now it takes a week.”

To survive during the pandemic, Fonataba has attempted various ways. “I also deliver (sell) the bread from door to door. The customers can pay whenever they can.”

In the meantime, Mariche also applied a similar strategy of survival during the COVID-19 pandemic. She sells betel nuts at the former Doyo Baru Market. “Although people say the COVID-19 is dangerous, I keep selling. If not, we cannot eat.”

However, Mariche, a woman from Demta, has to deal with her stock purchase to avoid loss. “I used to buy 2-3 sacks, but now it’s reduced. I run out of money, while fewer customers come to buy.”(*)

 

Reporter: Yance Wenda

Editor: Pipit Maizier

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Illegal gold mining in Jayapura has been happening since 2001

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Police arrested 17 people related to illegal mining in Buper, Waena, Jayapura City. – Jubi/Courtesy

Jayapura, Jubi – Jayapura Municipal Police arrested 17 people who allegedly were involved in illegal gold mining in Bumi Perkemahan (Buper) Waena, Jayapura City on Friday, 26 June 2020.

“These seventeen people are operators of heavy equipment and worker coordinators. There are about 70 people involved in this business,” Jayapura Municipal Police Chief Gustav Urbinas told reporters on Friday (26/6/2020).

In their operation, the Police also seized two units of construction equipment, six excavators, liquid mercury and eleven jerrycans of diesel fuel.

Police Chief Urbinas said he received a report on this illegal activity two months ago, but at that time he could not arrest those who were involved because they escaped the mining site.

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Illegal miners have carried out their activity in Buper, Waena, since 2001 because this sector was promising to generate income.

Four years ago, a gold miner Frans told suara.com about his experience regarding this illegal activity. He said people only need simple equipment such as a hoe, pan, and sifter for doing this activity. He further explained that all panning processes were traditional, starting from finding rocks, crushing it and putting the grinds in the pan. After mixing with water, the grids would look like porridge, and through the panning process, we can see gold flakes. However, to get gold containing rocks was not simple. People should dig at least three meters depth under the ground.

“But not all rocks we met contained gold. We would find out about the weight and type of gold after mixing it into liquid mercury,” he told suara.com.

Considering this, the income of gold miners was uncertain. If they were lucky, he and his friends could get 20 to 100 grams of 24 carats which could trade at Rp 400 thousand per gram.

“It’s all depending on the current gold price. It fluctuated following the increase in the oil price. But its price now is Rp 400 thousand,” he said.

Ten years ago, the Jayapura Municipal Government had attempted to stop the illegal mining in Buper that has been happening since 2001. But, the Ondofolo (Tribal Chief) of Kampung Babrongko Waena, Ramses Wally, disagreed with the city government.

At that time, Ramses said if the city government banned this panning activity, they should provide job opportunities to those illegal gold miners. (*)

 

Reporter: Victor Mambor

Editor: Pipit Maizier

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