'Papuan People Extinct by 2020' Pro-independence Leader Filep Karma

Amnesty International considers him as a prison of conscience on par former political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma.

INDONESIA

Senin, 08 Des 2014 10:04 WIB

Author

Rebecca Henschke

'Papuan People Extinct by 2020' Pro-independence Leader Filep Karma

Indonesia, Papua, Filep Karma, Morning Star flag, Rebecca Henschke

This week marks the Ten Year Papua independence leader Filep Karma has spend behind bars. He was jailed for raising the "Morning Star" flag—the symbol of an independent West Papua.

Amnesty International considers him as a prison of conscience on par former political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma.

Filep Karma leads hundreds of Papuan students in cries of 'Independence!' during a demonstration in the provincial capital in 2004.

They then raise the banned Morning Star flag- the symbol of a independent Papua- while military police watch on.

For this act of defiance Filep Karma was jail for 15 years for rebellion.

“My understanding was that Indonesia is a democratic country and according to the law here in order to hold a demonstration you don’t need to have a license but you need to inform the police of your activities three days before the event.  I did that.  But they terrorised us in a nation that is meant to be a democracy, a nation where freedom of speech is meant to be protected. So my question is: ‘Is this nation controlled by terrorists?”

In this rare interview conducted in 2010 without the permission of the authorities Karma claims prison guards abuse him on a weekly basis.

"I have been punched, kicked, pulled. But what hurts more is the mental torture we are subjected to. An officer once told me, when you enter here you lose all your rights including human rights. Your rights are only to breathe, eat and follow our orders. He even went as far as to say that your life is in my hands."

Indonesia’s new President Joko Widodo plans to visit the region later this month.

He says that easing economic disadvantage is his administrations key priority.  He believes that this will reduce Papuans desire to be independent.

However the showing of Papuan independence symbols, including the flag, remain illegal.

Filep Karma says he was offered a pardon under the former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as long as he abandons his independence struggle.

Something he will never accept.

“That means that I am sorry and that I did something wrong. For me no way! I did nothing wrong. What I said was the truth and was my right as a Papuan. We are not invading some other Indonesian islands in order to create our nation—No. What we are aspiring to is our rights over our land. We were born here and this is our ancestors land. We are a different race with a different culture to the rest of Indonesia. Papuan people are viewed as half-animals by western Indonesians. I really felt that when I lived in Java people would call out to me ‘monkey’. That is very painful. So we are different so we can not be united. What’s the point of being part of a nation where we are not treated as humans?”

Papua is rich in natural resources and is the home of the world's largest gold mine owned by US Company Freeport.

Yet Papua remains one of the less developed parts of Indonesia.

Karma has dire predictions for his people.

“If there are no changes I make the harsh estimation that by 2020 ethnic Papuans will be extinct.  The way thinking of the Indonesian government is to slowly and certainly destroy the Papuan people through poison, alcohol, killings, stealing of our ancestral lands, suppressing our economic rights in the way the our brothers and sisters Aboriginals of Australia or the Indians of America were crushed. (Former minister of communication information under Soeharto) Ali Moertopo told the truth when he said what we need is the land in Papua not the people he said the Papuan people who can go and make your own nation somewhere else in the sea or on the moon. Our land is rich in natural resources that are what they want. So I predict by 2020 our people will be destroyed through direct killings and more indirect ways. So our people must rise up!  We must shout loudly for our rights! We must fight for independence or be destroyed!”

Papua's most-popular pro-independence leader Filep Karma.

This week marks the 10 year he has been behind bars for rebellion. Amnesty International considers him as a prison of conscience on par with Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma-- and is calling for his immediate release.

This week from behind bars Filep Karma released a book 'As if we’re half animals: Indonesian Racism in West Papua'.

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