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Between Black Lives Matter, Papuan Lives Matter, and Indonesian Lives Matter

Jenny Munro is an anthropologist who has worked on gender, health and sexuality in Indonesia since 2003. She contributes a lot in understanding racism in the context of education and health care in West Papua. The following notes is a straight respond to her article published at The University of Melbourne website with title: #BlackLivesMatter shines a light on webs of racism in West Papua.

It is correct to say that the death of George Floyd in the United States has prompted a broader discussion about racism in the world including Indonesia. It is also correct to present the fact that the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter has been adapted to #PapuanLivesMatter. It also draws attention to the long history of racism toward Papuans in the country. However, my first note would be, racism is not only happen in Papua, so Indonesians should adapted the hashtag into #IndonesianLivesMatter. The long history of racism in Indonesia occurred since the Dutch colonialism that practiced discrimination, segregation and ruined ethnic relations in Indonesian into conflict by devide et impera.

When Jenny said that in West Papua violence is always a communicative act, I agree to some extent. However, when she stated” “every act of racism or gender based and often both, usually involve Indonesian (that is, non-native Papuan) is bias. She didn’t mention about non-native Papuan who help the improvement of education, health, and social economy of West Papuan. Not all dominating action in West Papua and Papua provinces is driven by patriotism. Most of the time, it is an act of thugs who some of them may have association to security apparatus personnel. My critic on this matter is that the generalisation of non-Papuans dominate Papuans is flawed.

On the case of Obby Kogoya, contradicting evidences should be presented. As academic, we should never hide one side of the data. Jakarta Post reported that:

  1. According to Obby Kogoya defendant, Obby did not perform any kind of violence resistance to the police personel.
  2. According to the police, Obby’s action of using brick in threatening the police personnel are evidence.

It is very premature to conclude racism in West Papua and Papua provinces is not only perpetrated by the police or military but is also quietly prevalent and ingrained in structures and assumptions that benefit Indonesians, as well as foreigners. It is not about benefit from racism, but more into the existence of high prejudice among populations in the region. No matter how good your behaviour in the region, those who in support to separatism will never appreciate it. They will maintain the conflict by segregating native-Papuan and migrants or outsiders. My view here is also influenced by my own prejudice against West Papua separatists.

The stigma of “Papuans are stupid” (orang Papua bodoh) is typical misunderstanding in many places in Indonesia from Aceh to Papua. Whenever bad communications happened, one side often claims the other side as stupid. This is a very bad practice among Indonesian in general. That is why President Jokowi campaigning about mentality revolution. One of the main goals of mentality revolution is to create new Indonesian people who has white heart (better man).

I agree with Jenny’s statement here: “Like Benny GiayNeles TebayNatalius Pigai and others, they pointed to structural exclusion, to everyday experiences of racism, and to persistent violence that demonstrates a disregard for Papuan lives. Rumkabu reminded readers that when Papuans are subjected to racist abuse, it is usually they, not the perpetrators, who are violently arrested and imprisoned”.

“But Papuans’ scholarly writing, tweets and rallies were overshadowed by the media attention that exploded on 23 Sept 2019 when 22 Indonesian migrant-settlers were killed and dozens of buildings set alight in the highland town of Wamena. The police said the violence was started by Papuan school students. The relatively high value placed on Indonesian lives lost compared to the unknown number of Papuans killed over the past decade alone was telling”.

I have no expertise on several cases that Jenny mentioned in her article, so I skipped that part. But I may come back later when I conduct research.

When Papuans march in the streets, or publish books, or post on Facebook, or present to the United Nations, Papuan local government and central government in Jakarta should listen. Undermining Indonesian government official who says everything is fine is another extreme view that will not help the eradication of racism in Indonesia, especially in Papua and West Papua provinces.

I would like to propose a straightforward suggestion to end racism. The law Number 40 of 2008 on the Elimination of Racial and Ethnic Discrimination should be supported by penal code to prevent racist abuse. The way Indonesia handle security threat from separatist terrorist should be free from racial prejudice. At the same time, West Papuan separatists should stop their racist campaign of demonizing non-native Papuan as their enemy.

The roots of the problem is clearly not about racism, but separatism.

West Papua View All

This Blog has gone through many obstacles and attacks from violent Free West Papua separatist supporters and ultra nationalist Indonesian since 2007. However, it has remained throughout a time devouring thoughts of how to bring peace to Papua and West Papua provinces of Indonesia.

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