The stigma makes us feel we're not part of Indonesia

The stigma makes us feel we’re not part of Indonesia

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Tifa Asrianti

Papuan Tineke Rumkabu, along with activists and relatives of human rights victims, met Argentinean human rights icons Lidya Taty Almeida and Aurora Morea of Les Madres de la Plaza de Mayo last week.

Like the others, Tineke waited patiently while Lidya and Almeida’s speeches were translated from Spanish to English and Bahasa Indonesia.

Perhaps something was lost in the translation, but it certainly wasn’t love, as all who attended the gathering at the National Commission on Violence against Women grieved the loss of children and other family members.

Tineke said she lost friends in what was known as the Bloody Biak Tragedy in 1998, which police were still investigating. The women - including Tineke - said they were impressed by the courageous Argentineans, who struggled for decades before seeing trials involving those responsible for the their family members’ disappearance. Almeida said the struggle for justice in Indonesia had just begun and that if women did not keep up the fight, no one else would.

What happened during the Bloody Biak Tragedy?

On July 2, 1998, Filip Karma and his friends raised the Bintang Kejora (Morning Star) flag at a water tower in Biak where residents gathered. We raised the flag to express our feelings. Papuans had been witnessed cases of people disappearing and mysterious murders between 1963 as well as after the 1969 Act of Free Choice or Pepera.

For years, Papuans were unable express their feelings. When the Reform Era came (the end of Soeharto’s regime), Papuans seized the opportunity to express how they felt by raising a flag (of the Free Papua Movement). As the flag was raised, someone made a speech questioning the whereabouts of missing family members.

Then the police came. We tried to keep the flag in its place so we could have a dialogue. But the Mobile Brigade Unit (Brimod) attacked us until July 6. Many of my friends were caught and taken aboard a ship; some others were taken to police stations, including myself.

The police beat and tortured us. They dragged us on asphalt roads. They took and killed many Papuan women on the ship. The women were stripped naked, their genital areas burned, the breasts cut and their wombs stabbed. The bodies were thrown into the sea and left to rot on the beach.

We were taken away and separated from our community. We saved ourselves by jumping over a fence.

If the women were dead, why didn’t they just leave their bodies alone? Why mutilate the bodies or stab their wombs?

Many of our friends, such as Frans Gawe, Ruben Orbu, Olmus Rompaisum and Yuslin Froyer disappeared without further explanation. We are fighting to know their whereabouts.

If Papuans are truly part of Indonesia, we should receive justice. The government should tell us where our parents and relatives are. But

(authorities) didn’t deal with the issue wisely. They didn’t solve it through negotiation and dialog, but through violence. Security forces are supposed to protect the people, not harm them.

What have the Papuans done to fight for their rights?

After they interrogated and detained us for one week, they released us under the proviso we appeared as witnesses in the flag raising incident. About eight people were arrested, the rest were released, but given the torture they had been put through, many died after their release. The International Church Council cooperated with the Indonesian Christian Church in Papua to find victims and give them support. We have been receiving support from the Jakarta and Papua Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (Elsam) as well as the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) since 1999.

Pak Munir - the Kontras founder murdered in 2004 - also visited us in Biak and gave us training on trauma counseling and how to find victims. Since 1999, I’ve been going to the villages looking for missing friends and collecting data from residents. None of the missing persons have returned.

We found 38 tombstones without names along the coastline. When we reported them, the government said they belonged to tsunami victims from neighboring Papua New Guinea (around 1,000 reportedly died in the tsunami in PNG in July 1998 - Ed.). We want the government to show us proof those victims were not from the Bloody Biak Tragedy. If they were from PNG, why weren’t the bodies stranded in Jayapura, which is closer?

The government should take responsibility over the murder and missing person’s cases.

We established an organization called Solidarity of Papuan Women, Love, Justice and Peace (SP2CK) on March 26, 1999. We held protests at the regency and provincial legislative councils, but we received no response. We finally formed a bigger organization called Papuan Women Solidarity, based in Jayapura, which reached the regency level. Our main focus is women issues and human rights victims in Papua.