Plea to Jokowi: Free all Maluku and West Papuan political prisoners

A study, conducted by Indonesia Law Reform Institute cofounder Anugrah Rizki Akbari, concludes that Indonesia has an “overcriminalisation” problem, with hundreds of harmless activities having been classified as crimes. Image: Shutterstock/Jakarta Post

OPINION: By Glenn Fredly in Jakarta

The remarks of renowned American philosopher John Dewey, “If you want to establish some conception of a society, go find out who is in jail”, has been quoted many times to elaborate on the state of freedom in many parts of the world, including Indonesia.

Indeed, reports about people being imprisoned, tortured or executed because of their views or faith are rife in the country.

Looking closely at prisons in Indonesia today, at least 20 people have been locked up for peacefully expressing their views about religion and politics, according to Amnesty International.

Eleven of them were charged with “blasphemy or defamation of religion” and the rest were peaceful pro-independence political activists.

Papua would probably quickly pop up in our minds when talking about the province with the highest number of imprisoned peaceful political activists. Indeed the easternmost province is home to an active armed pro-independence movement.

In western Indonesia, such “insurgence” ended after the government secured a peace agreement with the Free Aceh Movement in 2005.


List of punishers
However, Amnesty International has also identified the underdeveloped province of Maluku, which currently has no record of an armed pro-independence movement, on top of the list of punishers of peaceful political activists.

Eight people from Maluku are serving prison sentences for what the government calls makar (treason). They are Johan Teterissa, Ruben Saiya, Johanis Saiya, Jordan Saiya, John Markus, Romanus Batseran, Jonathan Riry and Pieter Yohanes.

The Benang Raja flag of Maluku … outlawed. Image: File

Their only offence is unfurling the Benang Raja flag, a symbol of the aspiration for Maluku’s independence, on June 29, 2007.

Johan Teterissa was leading a group of 22 activists who performed the traditional war dance cakalele in front of then-president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in the Maluku capital of Ambon, before they were all arrested for unfurling the flag.

If Indonesia respects rights to freedom of expression, they should not spend a single day in prison for such peaceful activity. Yet they were thrown behind bars for between 15 and 20 years. Johan was among those denied medical care while at least four of the activists have died in prison.

The Morning Star flag of West Papua … outlawed. Image: SIBC

Amnesty International considers Johan and all those arrested like him prisoners of conscience, who are jailed for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly. Their arrests highlight the police’s failure to respect these rights.

Adding insult to injury, in March 2009, Johan and dozens of prisoners of conscience were transferred to prisons in Java, more than 2,500 kilometers away from their home. The isolation meant family visits were almost impossible, which is unnecessary, costly and cruel on prisoners and their families.

Maximum security prison
On November 28, 2016, I had a chance to visit Johan Teterissa at a maximum security prison in Nusakambangan, Central Java, with the help of Amnesty International and the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute as part of a campaign to release all prisoners of conscience in Indonesia.

As a Maluku native, I have been enjoying the fruits of freedom in Indonesia after the fall of Suharto in 1998 through my work as an artist. I have been able to freely express my thoughts through songs peacefully, but many in Maluku like Johan and other activists still lack this basic right to freely express political aspiration.

This is why I am calling on the government to release Johan and his friends and grant them amnesty.

Johan and his friends posed no threats to the president when unfurling the “forbidden” flag, but the government at that time considered the act treason. Their arrests clearly tarnish Indonesia’s image as a free country.

The administration of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo must correct this mistake to restore Indonesia?s so-called freedoms.

Differences in political views must be clearly respected and expressing it peacefully in public never constitutes a crime. There was recent progress when all the prisoners from Maluku were transferred to a prison in the province, enabling easier access to visits for their families.

The transfer also means the administration is open enough to respect different political views.

Amnesty needed
However, relocating them to a Maluku prison is not enough. They must be granted amnesty. Through amnesty, the Jokowi administration could restore Indonesia’s image as a country where anyone can easily express their ideas freely through peaceful means without fearing criminal charges.

In early 2015, I had an opportunity to meet President Jokowi with other artists. I personally asked the President about the fate of political prisoners from Maluku and Papua. I was happy with his firm answer that he would free all political prisoners as soon as possible.

Shortly after, President Jokowi released and granted clemency to six Papuan political prisoners.

I am sure the transfer of the Maluku political activists is part of his plan to release and grant them amnesty. By doing so the President will rebuild trust and public confidence in the eastern part of Indonesia in the government.

I personally believe the peaceful call for independence derives from political frustration among activists in Maluku. One important fact is that Aboru, the village where Johan and other Maluku activists are from, is still very much underdeveloped and neglected by the central and local government.

The government must tackle the root causes instead of arresting them for peacefully expressing their political aspirations. The President must understand this background, so he would be convinced that granting amnesty is the right course of action to solve this case.

I am confident that President Jokowi will walk his talk to release and grant amnesty to all political prisoners in Papua and Maluku in the near future. So when he is asked “who is in jail?? he can confidently say Indonesia no longer has political prisoners there.

Glenn Fredly is a musician and campaigner for freedom of expression. This article was first published in The Jakarta Post.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Amnesty demands Jokowi honour pledge on Papuan human rights

Indonesian police and military have reportedly attacked the West Papua Committee (KNPB) office in Timika and arrested seven people, including three teenagers. Image: Timika KNPB

By Budiarti Utami Putri in Jakarta

Human rights organisation Amnesty International Indonesia has demanded President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo fulfil his promises to resolve the alleged human rights violations in Papua.

Amnesty International Indonesia executive director Usman Hamid said Jokowi had earlier pledged to settle the shooting incidents involving civilians in Paniai, Papua.

“We underline one promise, one commitment delivered by President Joko Widodo following the Paniai incident that the President wants the case to be settled to prevent further incident in the future,” said Usman in a plenary meeting with the House of Representative (DPR)’s Legal Commission in the Parliament Complex, Senayan, Jakarta, last week.

READ MORE: Indonesia’s unresolved police killings in Papua

Usman said that there was an alleged excessive mobilisation of power and weapons from the security apparatus in Papua.

Between January 2010 and February 2018, Amnesty International Indonesia had recorded 69 cases of alleged extrajudicial killings in Papua.


The most dominant perpetrator was the National Police (Polri) officers (34 cases), followed by the Indonesia Armed Forces (TNI) (23 cases), joint officers of TNI and Polri (11 cases) and Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) in one case.

Custom resolution
Usman said a total of 25 cases were not investigated, 26 cases were studied without a conclusive result, and 8 cases were dealh with through custom.

“Usually, it is about certain compensations for the victim’s family,” Usman said.

Usman said this was proof that the government lacked independent, effective, and impartial mechanisms to cope with civilians’ complaints concerning human rights violation performed by the security personnel.

The former coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) urged the government to create measures to resolve the human rights violation in Papua and demanded the government admit the incident and draft procedures for security officers in a bid to prevent violence in the region.

“President Jokowi expects Papua to be a peaceful land,” Usman said.

Meanwhile, the House’s Legal Commission deputy speaker Trimedya Panjaitan pledged to follow up the findings issued by Amnesty International Indonesia to the National Police Chief Tito Karnavian in the upcoming session next week.

“We will ask the police chief in the next meeting on September 24,” Trimedya said.

Timika attack, arrests
Meanwhile, Indonesian police and military attacked the West Papua Committee (KNPB) office in Timika at the weekend and arrested seven people, including three teenagers, alleged an unverified social media posting.

The arrested people were named as:

Jack Yakonias Womsiwor (39)
Nus Asso (46)
Urbanus Kossay (18)
Herich Mandobar (18)
Pais Nasia (23)
Vincent Gobay (19)
Titus Yelemaken (46)

This Tempo article is shared through the Asia-Pacific Solidarity Network (APSN).

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Indonesia must step up focus on human rights, says Amnesty

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Indonesia must step up focus on human rights, says Amnesty

The 500th Kamisan protest across the Presidential Palace last month. The silent protest, or the black umbrella protest, which came to be known as Kamisan protest held by victims of human rights violations. Image: Yudha Baskoro/Jakarta Globe

By Sheany in Jakarta

With its official launch in the country set for today, Amnesty International Indonesia has emphasised the need for the government to step up focus on human rights issues and warned that neglecting human right violations can impede the country’s growth.

Speaking at a press conference in Menteng, Central Jakarta, the chairman of the board for Amnesty International Indonesia, Todung Mulya Lubis, said that despite progress in democracy, political life and the economy, Indonesia still needed to pay more attention to human rights issues.

“There’s still plenty that must be done to resolve past human rights violations […] Indonesia won’t have smooth progress if those remain unresolved, it will always obstruct the way,” Todung said.

The London-based organisation hopes to push Indonesia to be a global player in upholding human rights with its local chapter.

“Amnesty International Indonesia wants to urge Indonesia to take a global role in the human rights movement. That’s one of our dreams,” said Monica Tanuhandaru, one of the board members.

She emphasised that economic development in Asia, Southeast Asia and Indonesia would be “meaningless without justice of human rights.”


However, as the world bears witness to changing political dynamics across the globe, it is no longer solely the role of the government to ensure protection of human rights. Rather, it should be the product of a collective act from all members of society.

“[The] state is becoming weaker and weaker. Efforts to uphold and protect human rights must be done by civil society, but this doesn’t mean that we deny the existence of the state,” Todung said.

Uniting all movements
Amnesty International Indonesia hopes to “unite all human rights movements that are present in Indonesia,” especially as it aims to urge the government to resolve human rights violations.

For decades, the Indonesian government has provided little clarity on how it will address past human rights violations, including violations allegedly committed in 1965 and 1998, as well as those resulting from conflicts in Papua, West Papua and Timor-Leste.

Promises that these violations will be duly addressed was popular among candidates during the country’s last presidential campaigns, but real commitments to human rights from the current administration seem to have been overridden by priorities on other aspects, such as the economy and infrastructure development.

Sidarto Danusubroto, a member of the Presidential Advisory Board (Wantimpres), said that telling the truth in Indonesia was “not a simple process” and would likely require a long time.

While the government has programmes for human rights, it was facing “economic issues” that must be resolved, he said.

“I’m afraid that if the government also has to resolve past human rights violations, current programmes for the economy will weaken,” Sidarto said.

Countries like South Africa and Chile, Sidarto said, had “built their memories of human rights” through museums.

‘Dark past’
He reflected on the importance of these countries being able “to admit their dark past without the need to hide,” and expressed his hopes that Indonesia would eventually get there.

“I hope, one day, we’ll get there – where we don’t have to be ashamed to speak of our dark past,” Sidarto said.

Amnesty International Indonesia will launch its #JoinForces initiative on December 7, coinciding with the 517th Kamisan – a silent protest in front of the State Palace in Central Jakarta – as a form of solidarity to the protesters who have been demanding that the Indonesian government solve past cases of human rights abuses.

This had been initiated by friends and family members of 1998 student activist victims every Thursday afternoon for the past 10 years.

The organisation will also host simultaneous events across Indonesia between today and December 10, including in Bandung (West Java), Solo (Central Java) and Makassar (South Sulawesi).

The initiative is focused on combating growing “scapegoat” politics and the rise of negative populism that the organisation said had “undermined the basic rights of minority groups.”

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