George Floyd, a young African-American man who died from police brutality in the US in May 2020, has sparked a global outcry. Everywhere on social media, the hashtags like #blacklivesmatter and #BLM exist. While a lot of Indonesians have shared their piece on the issue, plenty of human rights advocates and youngsters remind us of a similar issue at home.
The discrimination against the indigenous Papuans has been an ongoing issue. Because of this reminder, another hash-tag has joined alongside the previous two on social media: #blackPapuansmatter.
The Beginning of The Long-Time, Discrimination Against The Indigenous Papuans
The issue has probably been going on for a very long time. One of the early elements that has marked the beginning of this matter dated back during the Dutch colonialism era. This is also why the Uti Possidetis Principle or Uti Possidetis Juris existed.
This principle was used by The Republic of Indonesia to hold on to Papua during their bilateral conflict with the Netherlands. After Indonesia declared independence on August 17, 1945, it turned out that the Dutch colonialists still refused to give up West Papua. Their reason was evidently racist: the indigenous Papuans have a different ethnicity to other Indonesians, like the Javanese, Acehnese, and other Sumatra inhabitants.
Of course, the only reason the Dutch colonialists refused to give West Papua up was to have a puppet country of their own in the Southeast Asia region. However, they chose to bring up the ethnicity subject as an issue. Because of this, Indonesia had had to face a couple of military operations from the Dutch colonialists and go through plenty of diplomatic approaches.
Even after Indonesia has finally reclaimed Papua through The New York Agreement and later Pepera (Penentuan Pendapat Rakyat or The Act of Free Choice), the discrimination against the indigenous Papuans did not stop there.
According to Minority Rights, the 1970s were the beginning of Indonesian’s government’s transmigration program. The idea was to fairly spread the population, so it would not fill up one island alone (in this case, Java Island). Because of this, about a million migrants from other parts of Indonesia came to live in Papua and West Papua.
In the 1980s, this program accelerated. However, the migrants got to occupy the best civil service positions and other technical jobs, instead of the indigenous Papuans. This decade was also the beginning of government resource exploitation and development policies. These policies got to reallocate land and resources away from the locals themselves.
Then, fast-forward to April 2016, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, Chief Security Affairs Minister, announced that there was a task force that included Komnas HAM (Komisi Nasional Hak Asasi Manusia or The National Commission of Human Rights) working together with the national police. They would investigate 11 high-profile cases on human rights’ violations in Papua.
Some of the cases mentioned above included violent incidents in Wasior in 2001 and Wamena in 2003. In Wamena back then, the military and police crackdowns had cost the lives of dozens of local citizens. Unfortunately, there were no publications regarding the task force activities.
Other types of discrimination against the indigenous Papuans included the facts that they have been under-represented in the sense of economic and political involvements. Land concessions for mining, logging, and plantation without any proper compensation or concern for the locals are still going on.
Since the tragedy that had struck George Floyd rose to the surface, more native Papuans have risen to speak up about the discrimination that they have endured. According to The Jakarta Post, some of the native Papuan students have been in other cities in hopes of a much better life than at home.
However, these students had to deal with landlords who rejected them when they tried to rent rooms in big cities. The landlords rejected them due to their skin color and stereotypes for being Papuans. Others have endured racial slurs regarding their appearance, both in real life and more rampant on social media.
It Is About Time
According to The Jakarta Globe, Amnesty International Indonesia stated that the Papuan and West Papuan people have become victims of massive human rights violations. They have also questioned this country’s fulfillment of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The Covid-19 pandemic since the beginning of 2020 may have also played the major role in opening eyes even wider to this global issue. People who stay home more often get to notice more. Racism happens everywhere. George Floyd and the discrimination against the indigenous Papuans are only some of the many bad examples around the world.
Of course, the major challenge is now in social media. There have been many others who deny that any such treatment regarding the native Papuans has ever occurred. However, just like what had happened to George Floyd, other African-Americans, and the Papuans in Indonesia, it is about that time that all of us did something real about this.