By David Robie
A human rights defender and researcher has warned in a new book published on the eve of the Indonesian national elections tomorrow that the centralised political system has failed many of the country’s 264 million people – especially minorities and those at the margins, such as in West Papua.
Author Andreas Harsono also says a “radical change is needed in the mindset of political leaders” and he is not optimistic for such changes after the election.
Harsono is author of Race, Islam and Power: Ethnic and Religious Violence in Post-Suharto Indonesia, a book based on 15 years of research and travel between Sabang in Aceh in the west and Merauke in West Papua in the East.
Founding President Sukarno used the slogan “from Sabang to Merauke” when launching a campaign – ultimately successful – to seize West Papua in 1961.
But, as Harsono points out, the expression should really be from Rondo Island (an unpopulated islet) to Sota (a remote border post on the Papua New Guinean boundary.
Harsono, a former journalist and Human Rights Watch researcher since 2008, argues that Indonesia might have been more successful by creating a federation rather than a highly centralised state controlled from Jakarta.
“Violence on post-Suharto Indonesia, from Aceh to West Papua, from Kalimantan to the Moluccas, is evidence that Java-centric nationalism is unable to distribute power fairly in an imagined Indonesia,” he says. “It has created unnecessary paranoia and racism among Indonesian migrants in West Papua.
“The Papuans simply reacted by saying they’re Melanesians – not Indonesians. They keep questioning the manipulation of the United Nations-sponsored Act of Free Choice in 1969.”
Critics and cynics have long dismissed what they see as a deeply flawed process involving only 1025 voters selected by the Indonesian military as the “Act of No Choice”.
Harsono’s criticisms have been borne out by a range of Indonesian activist and watchdog groups, who say the generals behind the two presidential frontrunners are ridden with political interests.
The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) and the Mining Advocacy Network (JATAM) have again warned that both presidential candidate tickets — incumbent President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and running mate Ma’ruf Amin as well as rival Prabowo Subianto and Sandiaga Uno — have close ties with retired TNI (Indonesian military) generals.
These retired officers are beholden to political interests and the prospect of resolving past human rights violations will “become increasingly bleak” no matter who is elected as the next president.
Kontras noted that nine out of the 27 retired officers who are behind Widodo and Ma’ruf have a “problematic track record on human rights”.
“Likewise with Prabowo Subianto and Sandiaga Uno where there are eight retired officers who were allegedly involved in past cases of HAM violations”, said Kontras researcher Rivanlee Anandar.
Prabowo himself, a former special forces commander, is implicated in many human rights abuses. He has been accused of abduction and torture of 23 pro-democracy activists in the late 1990s and he is regarded as having knowledge of the killing hundreds of civilians in Santa Cruz massacre in Timor-Leste.
90,000 killed post-Sukarno
Harsono’s 280-page book, with seven chapters devoted to regions of Indonesia, documents an ”internally complex and riven nation” with an estimated 90,000 people having been killed in the decade after Suharto’s departure.
“In East Timor, President Suharto’s successor B. J. Habibie agreed to have a referendum [on independence]. Indonesia lost and it generated a bloodbath,” says Harsono.
“Habibie’s predecessors, Megawati Sukanoputri and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, refused to admit [that] the Indonesian military’s occupation, despite a United Nations’ finding, had killed 183,000 people between 1975 and 1999.”
Harsono notes how in 1945 Indonesia’s “non-Javanese founders Mohammad Hatta, Sam Ratu Langie and Johannes Latuharhary wanted an Indonesia that was democratic and decentralised. They advocated a federation.”
However, Sukarno, Supomo and Mohammad Yamin wanted instead a centralised unitarian state.
“Understanding the urgency to fight incoming Dutch troops, Latuharhary accepted Supomo’s proposal but suggested the new republic hold a referendum as soon as it became independent. Sukarno agreed but this decision has never been executed.”
The establishment of a unitarian state “naturally created the Centre”, says Harsono. “Jakarta has been accumulated and controlling political, cultural, educational, economic, informational and ideological power.
“The closer a region to Jakarta, the better it will benefit from the Centre. Java is the closest to the Centre.
“The further a region is from the Centre, the more neglected it will be. West Papua, Aceh, East Timor and the Moluccas are among those furthest away from Jakarta.”
The centralised political system needed a “long and complex bureaucracy” and this “naturally created corruption”, Harsono explains.
“Indonesia is frequently ranked as the most corrupt country in Asia. Political and Economic Risk Consultancy Ltd listed Indonesia as the most corrupt country in Asia in 2005.”
Harsono also notes how centralised power has helped a religious and ethnic majority that sees itself as “justified to have privileges and to rule over the minorities”.
The author cites the poet Leon Agasta as saying, “They’re the two most dangerous words in Indonesia: Islam and Java.” Muslim majority and Javanese dominance.
Harsono regards the Indonesian government’s response to demands for West Papuan “self-determination” as “primarily military and repressive: viewing Papuan ‘separatists’ as criminals, traitors and enemies of the Republic of Indonesia”.
He describes this policy as a “recipe for ongoing military operations to search for and destroy Papuan ‘separatists’, a term that could be applied to a large, if not overwhelming, portion of the Papuan population”.
Ruthless Indonesian military
“The Indonesian military, having lost their previous power bases in east Timor and Aceh, ruthlessly maintain their control over West Papua, both as a power base and as considerable source of revenue.
“The Indonesian military involvement in legal businesses, such as mining and logging, and allegedly, illegal businesses, such as alcohol, prostitution, extortion and wildlife smuggling, provide significant funds for the military as an organisation and also for individual officers.”
Pro-independence leaders have called on West Papuans to boycott the Indonesian elections tomorrow.
Andreas Harsono launched his journalism career as a reporter for the Bangkok-based Nation and the Kuala Lumpur-based Star newspapers. In the 1990s, he helped establish Indonesia’s Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) – then an illegal group under the Suharto regime, and today the most progressive journalists union in the republic.
Harsono was also founder of the Jakarta-based Institute for the Studies on the Free Flow of Information and of the South East Asia Press Alliance (SEAPA).
In a separate emailed interview with me in response to a question about whether there was light at the end of the tunnel, Harsono replied: I do not want to sound pessimistic but visiting dozens of sites of mass violence, seeing survivors and families’ who lost their lost ones, I just realised that mass killings took place all over Indonesia.
“It’s not only about the 1965 massacres –despite them being the biggest of all– but also the Papuans, the Timorese, the Acehnese, the Madurese etc.
“Basically all major islands in Indonesia, from Sumatra to Papua, have witnessed huge violence and none of them have been professionally understood. The truth of those mass killings have not been found yet.” (asiapacificreport.nz)
Professor David Robie is director of the Pacific Media Centre.
A story of Zaki, a teacher from Aceh who dedicated his life for education in Intan Jaya (Part 2)
Nabire, Jubi – “I consider Zaki like my son in my house, and now I lost him,” Oktovianus Malatuni told Jubi in Nabire on Monday, 6 July 2020.
Malatuni is the Head Division of Pedagogy and Educational Staff Development of Intan Jaya Regency, Papua Province.
He said that he has considered that Muhammad Zaki and his fellows under the GPDT program of Gadjah Mada University who came in Intan Jaya since 2016 like his own children.
“They came to my house, and were free to eat, drink, like my own children,” he said. Therefore, when Zaki got ill, Malatuni and Zaki’s friends always took care of him until he died.
“Because Zaki was the best teacher who always paid great attention to education, especially in Intan Jaya, Papua,” he said.
For this reason, Malatuni admitted he was angry and rude to medical workers in the Nabire Public Hospital where Zaki was treated.
“Because he was my child, and if there was no social restriction, we planned to refer his medical treatment to another hospital with complete facilities in Jayapura or other places. But it does not mean we underestimate the local hospital in Nabire, we just wanted the best for him,” said Malatuni.
Muhammad Zaki arrived in Intan Jaya with other 41 teachers under the GPDT Program of the Gadjah Mada University. Those selected teachers were then assigned to teach in different schools, and Zaki was teaching in Mbiandoga Primary School, Mbiandoga Sub-district.
According to Malatuni, Zaki’s performance was outstanding. Besides training by the Gadjah Mada University and the Education Office of Intan Jaya Regional Government, he also had experience in teaching in Aceh.
Therefore, his previous experience as a teacher, said Malatuni, helped him to assess what aspects need to improve in regards to education in Intan Jaya.
“Besides teaching, he also acted as a school operator, in which he did not need any guidance in implementing his tasks,” said Malatuni.
He further thought that Zaki’s competence had influenced other teachers under a similar program. They were capable of adapting immediately with the local habits and environment. At the end of their contract, all GPDT teachers, including Zaki, submitted their report on their lesson learned during their assignment to the Education Office of Intan Jaya Regency for evaluation.
At the end of their contract in 2018, the Education Office through the Division Head of Pedagogy and Educational Staff Development offered these contract teachers whether they want to return or continue to teach in their school. Zaki did not accept the offer immediately, but at another time, he said he wanted to continue teaching in Intan Jaya. As the division head, Malatuni needed to assure it.
“Zaki said, ‘Bapak, I still want to return to Intan Jaya, but here (Nabire) is my home’,” he said.
Malatuni was happy to hear it because Intan Jaya needs additional teachers, especially the one with good capability like Zaki. Therefore, together with some friends, Zaki decided to stay in Intan Jaya as contract teachers.
“Zaki, I love him. He called me ‘Bapak’ and my wife ‘Mama’. He called me ‘Pak’ only on a formal occasion. He was very tolerant and befriended with everyone disregard their ethnicities, religions, or races, although he was Muslim among majority Christians. He had a good ability to adapt to his surroundings,” said Malatuni.
Zaki was also a hard worker, added Malatuni, who showed his ability through his works. He started with organising school administration to establish a library for children at his school and a literacy group in Intan Jaya.
“It included the library for children “Mbiandoga Cerdas” and a literacy group “Ombo Pustaka” which he worked together with his friends, and book shipping to Intan Jaya. Their work for literacy in Intan Jaya was outstanding,” he said.
What Zaki and his friends have done in Mbiandoga Primary School, said Malatuni, was a great achievement. “Honestly, as the Division Head, with the school principal, other teachers and I, we lost him very much. We will always pray for him to be with God and all the mistakes he made during his life were forgiven,” said Malutuni. He looked sad. (END)
Reporter: Titus Ruban
Editor: Pipit Maizier
A story of Zaki, a teacher from Aceh who dedicated his life for education in remote Intan Jayapura, Papua (Part 1)
Nabire, Jubi – This is a story of Muhammad Zaki, 32 years old, a primary teacher from Aceh who decided to teach children in remote Intan Jaya, Papua.
Zaki died of illness on Monday early morning, 29 June 2020, in Nabire Public Hospital and buried on the same day at Girimulyo Cemetery, Nabire.
“He was a good person and always concerned towards Papuan children in Nabire and Intan Jaya. He always provided reading books and passed them to our community to help children in learning,” told Tri Wahyu Budi Saputra, the chief of Nabire Reading Community (Koname) who admits his loss of a close friend.
He regretted coming late and could only come at the funeral. “I heard he was ill, and then news that he passed away. I am sad because I lost a close friend who cares about Papuan children,” he said.
In the meantime, a lecturer who studied in the same university with Zaki in Aceh wrote that Zaki once distributed leaflets looking for book donors to donate for children in remote Papua by utilising free book shipping service from the Indonesian Post Office to all over Indonesia.
He was also keen to share his experiences teaching in a remote area with other students while he returned to Aceh.
The man, who was born in Krueng Mane, Aceh Utara Regency, graduated from the Indonesian Language Study Program of the Education and Pedagogy School of Almuslim Peusangan University, Bireun. He then participated in the selection of the Underdeveloped Regions Teaching Program (GPDT) conducted by the Papua task force of the Gadjah Mada University in December 2015. He passed the test and was assigned a two-year contract (2016-2018) to serve in Intan Jaya Regency, Papua Province.
Zaki was a very resilient young teacher who was always willing to work in remote areas despite the lack of facilities for education. Therefore, instead of returning to his hometown in Aceh after the termination of his contract, he decided to stay in Mbiandoga, Intan Jaya Regency as a contract teacher in the Mbiandoga Primary School.
Salamon Edison Pally, a teacher from Alor, Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT), who is currently a contract teacher in Mbiulagi One Roof Secondary College in Jae Village, Wandai Sub-district, Intan Jaya Regency, told that he and other selected teachers under the GPDT Program came to Intan Jaya in December 2015. Although they were under the same program, he was not so close to Zaki and barely met him because they were teaching in a different school. “We know each other. Although we were not close but always greeted each other if we met,” he said.
When their contracts terminated in 2018, both Zaki and Pally decided to continue working as contract teachers in Intan Jaya Regency.
In February 2020, Pally came to Nabire for personal purpose and could not return to his village following restrictions on social activities and transportation due to the COVID-19.
“When I was in Nabire, I heard Zaki was ill. I came to visit him, but he still looked fine,” said Pally.
But his condition gradually dropped in March to April. Feeling sympathy to Zaki who stayed in his relative’s house while the owner was in Aceh, Pally often visited him and advised him to stop smoking. On 26 April 2020, he took Zaki to a clinic in Nabire. While Zaki got medical treatment for six days in this clinic, Pally took care of everything. For the medical expenses, he and some former GPDT fellows collected their money to Rp 7 million.
“I was not close to him, but I sympathised with him because he was all alone. His relatives were returning to Aceh,” said Pally.
When Zaki was allowed to return home, Pally often came to accompany and encourage him to recover soon. “I could not bear to leave him alone with poor condition. So, I always accompanied him,” he said.
At that time, Pally told that Zaki had tears because he did not expect that Pally who was not close to him for almost five years in Papua took care of him.
When his friend’s condition turned worse, Pally took him to the community health centre several times, and then to the Emergency Room of the Nabire Public Hospital on Monday, 22 June 2020. Zaki stayed there for a week and passed away on 29 June 2020.
His friends came to take care of his body with the assistance of nurses and the Division Head of Pedagogy and Educational Staff Development of Intan Jaya Regency Oktovianus Talatuni.
“From the hospital, we deliver the body to Girumulyo Cemetery,” said Pally.
Furthermore, he said Zaki was lucky because he got a foster father and friends in Papua, because he lived alone, far from his family.
Zaki survived a mother in his village, while his close friend in Aceh Syahrul told Jubi by phone that his mother wanted to come to Nabire once she heard the news that her son was in coma in the hospital. However, when she was ahead of Banda Aceh, she received the news that her son already passed away in Nabire.
“His mother will still come to Nabire to visit her son’s grave,” said Syahrul. (*)
Reporter: Titus Ruban
Editor: Pipit Maizier
Papua Teaching Movement runs a literacy program in Tenedagi Village
Jayapura, Jubi – General Secretary of the Papua Teaching Movement (Gerakan Papua Mengajar/GPM) Orgenes Ukayo said GPM has extended their literacy program to Tenedagi Village, Tigi Barat Sub-district, Deiyai Regency. GPM is a non-profit organisation who run a literacy campaign and provide literacy programs for children in Papua’s remote areas.
According to Ukago, GPM has established the “Kebada” learning group in Tenedagi Village. “Kebada means ‘be opened’. It means everyone can participate in learning and teaching (in this group) to eliminate illiteracy in the Meepago customary area,” said Ukago by phone on Sunday (12/7/2020).
Further, he said the GPM’s volunteers come in the afternoon to teach the first and second-grade pupils. Earlier, GPM established the “Ayago” learning group in Tuguai Village, Paniai regency. “We also run the same program in Waghete Kota Sub-district and adjust the learning schedule with children activities,” he said.
Moreover, he added that the learning groups aim to eliminate illiteracy in the Meepago customary area. “It aims to reduce the drop-out rate among children and to assist children in obtaining a decent education. We believe that they can be as intelligent and advanced as anybody else. The problem is we are indifferent to teaching the young Papuans,” he said.
Therefore, Ukago said GPM has campaigned and developed the literacy program for children in Papua’s remote areas. “We develop this program for not just helping children on how to read and write but also how to count and deal with digital literacy,” he said.
In the meantime, GPM Chairman Agustinus Kadepa said the organisation was established to provide primary education for indigenous children of Papua. “We extend our program to remote villages so that children in remote areas are not left behind and able to reach their dream,” he said. (*)
Reporter: Hengky Yeimo
Editor: Pipit Maizier
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