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Papuans demand justice, not cheap apologies

Two Indonesian Air Force officers assault a disabled Papuan man
Indonesian military police assault a disabled Papuan man using a Derek Chauvin-like chokehold. In a rare instance of upholding justice they have been detained pending the results of an investigation.


CANBERRA - Shocking video footage showing brutal and inhumane treatment of a deaf and dumb Papuan man has emerged from the Jalan Raya Mandala, near Merauke in Indonesian Papua.

The video linked to here shows an altercation between Steven, aged 18, and a food stall owner.

Two security men from the Air Force Military Police (Polisi Militer Angkatan Udara, POMAU) intervene one grabs Steven and pulls him from the restaurant.

The victim is slammed to the pavement and then stomped on by the POMAU officers.

The two men, Serda Dimas and Prada Vian, stomp on Steven's head, twisting his arms and continue to do so with the young man screaming in pain.

In response to the incident, Merauke POMAU commander, Colonel Pnb Herdy Arief Budiyanto apologised for the actions of his two military police.

Budiyanto said his men had overreacted and acted as vigilantes.

Steven and his adoptive mother, Merauke police chief Untung Sangaji and vice-chairman of the regional people's representative body Marotus Solokah later attended a media conference.

Here it was revealed that the two officers had been detained while POMAU investigated the incident.

"The Air Force army does not hesitate to punish according to the level of the wrongdoings," A POMAU spokesman said.

Papuan human rights defender Theo Hesegem said the two officers' actions should immediately be dealt with in accordance with the law.

“They should be dismissed and fired,” he said.

Natalius Pigai, Indonesia's former human rights commissioner, slammed the incident as "racist”.

"Not only members of the security forces, but Indonesia's high officials who are racist should also be punished," Pigai stated.

"Indonesia's president Jokowi nurtures the racism committed by his tribe," he added, remarking that he is also often the target of racism.

“But still the country fails to deliver justice for Papuan victims and hold the perpetrators accountable.”

West Papuan man tortured by policeTo add insult to injury, Indonesia’s social affairs minister has declared that lazy employees of the state civil service will be moved to Papua, inferring that our land is a suitable place for good for nothing bureaucrats.

These incidents are not isolated – they are just the tip of the iceberg of what Papuans have been facing for 60 years under Indonesian rule.

Tragic videos and images emerge frequently and attract public attention. But the most inhumane acts in Papua's remote villages rarely get recorded and shared in this way.

Growing up in a highlands village, I witnessed barbaric behaviour by members of Indonesia's armed forces.

They walked around toting guns and did many horrifying things to Papuans without consequence.

One elder from my village had his legs tied to a heavy log and was forced to stay immersed in a dirty fishpond.

A young cousin with whom I went to school, aged only about 13, was used for sex at a nearby Indonesian military post. Many young females faced the same fate in remote areas.

The video of Steven’s inhumane treatment reminded me of the many terrible things I had witnessed and heard of as a child.

Unfortunately, these crimes are rarely investigated and perpetrators walk away free.

The inhumane treatment of Steven brought to mind the tragic death of George Floyd in May last year on a Minneapolis street when police officer Derek Chauvin murdered him by suffocation.

This was done in full view of cameras and the four officers involved were dismissed from their jobs and prosecuted. Chauvin has been sentenced to more than 20 years in prison.

Tragically, in Papua, the perpetrators of these sorts of crimes rarely face justice and may even be promoted despite their unspeakable acts.

Although Jakarta has apologised for the assault on Steven, Jakarta elites are delusional if they think that apologies will solve police brutality.

“Sorry” is fine if you accidentally tip over your friend's coffee cup. But it counts for little in the protracted war Indonesia is waging against the people of Papua, where there are sever human rights violations committed by Indonesian security forces, supported and often trained and armed by Western powers.

Our dignity cannot be healed or restored by cheap apologies.

Papuans need and demand justice.


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