Natalius Pigai
Journalists interview Natalius Pigai, a human rights commissioner, in 2016 in Jakarta. Courtesy of Komnas HAM/Eva Nila Sari.

Racism against Papuans: National Police investigate reports on attacks against Natalius Pigai


West Papua No.1 News Portal | Jubi


Jakarta, Jubi – The National Police are investigating at least two reports on alleged racism against former human rights commissioner, Natalius Pigai, which involves two avid supporters of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.


The case began with a Facebook posting by Ambroncius Nababan, a politician and the head of Volunteers for Jokowi and Amin (referring to Vice President Amin Ma’ruf), responded to Pigai’s posting that criticized government’s decision to force citizens to get vaccinated. Pigai questioned Covid-19 vaccine from Sinovac, saying he would not want to get a vaccine from Sinovac although he would be opened to other brands. Nababan reacted by posting a picture of Pigai next to a picture of a gorilla. He insinuated that Pigai was brother to the gorilla, which said that his vaccine was rabies.



The National Police arrested Nababan on Jan. 27 after naming him suspect earlier.


Read also: 20 people were killed in anti-racism protests in West Papua on September 2019


Nababan  said as quoted by CNN Indonesia that he was angry because Pigai made a statement saying that Covid-19 vaccines from Sinovac was not safe. He said he searched the internet and found Pigai’s picture next to a gorilla. He claimed he was not the person who made the image but he admitted to adding the bubble speeches on the image.


Batak ethnic group in West Papua province condemned Nababan’s statement, saying that Nababan must apologize to Pigai. Nababan is from Batak ethnic group.


On Jan. 28, a citizen named Haris Pratama, an activist with National Committee of Indonesian Youths (KNPI), reported Permadi Arya, or more popularly known as Abu Janda, to the police for his tweet about Pigai, CNN Indonesia reported. Abu Janda also reacted to Pigai’s statement questioning the safety of Sinovac, in which Abu Janda insinuated that Pigai had yet to complete his “evolution” process.


Read also: Verdict reading of three convicted suspects of Deyai’s anti-racism case


Abu Janda denied the allegation and said the used the word “evolution” not in relation to Charles Darwin theory. “It means development,” he said as quoted by CNN Indonesia.


On Monday, the National Police questioned Abu Janda for the hate speech allegation.


The cases created an uproar in the social media, especially Twitter, in which Abu Janda’s supporters attacked anyone who criticized Abu Janda.


On Jan. 30, a group calling themselves Youths and Students for Society Order and Security said they were reporting Pigai back to the police because Pigai “insulted Javanese”.


“We reported him based on his statements on YouTube. He said besides Javanese, other ethnic groups were subservient groups. He also said that Javanese are the ethnic of tyranny,” said deputy head of the group, Joko Priyomski, to CNN Indonesia.


Read also: Six defendants of anti-racism protest in Jayapura sentenced to six months jail


John Gobai, the secretary of Papuan Customary Council, said that Papuans had to deal with racism frequently. What happened to Pigai was not new, he said.


He said Indonesia had Law No. 40/2008 on eradication of racism and discrimination but the law remained a paper tiger.


Researcher from Georgetown University, US, Veronika Kusumaryati, said that racism against Papuan were a recurring issue, which showed that the racism was a structural and systematic problem. She said racism was not an individual problem but rather rooted in the belief, behavior and everyday system of a society that regarded other race as inferior from their own.


The anthropologist who had field researches in Papua several times said that racism must not be solved individually, like apology from the offending person. “Racism is social and legal issues. Changes at personal level is not enough. It needs a total overhaul on the belief system, education, legal and political system to create a society that is antiracism,” said Veronika.


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