Petition for the rejection of more special autonomy funds signed by 520,261 supporters – Pro-Government groups react with criminalisation campaign

On 4 July 2020, a solidarity group consisting of a few movement organisations and student groups launched a petition (Petisi Rakyat Papua, PRP) against the prolongation of special autonomy funding (Otsus II) for the provinces of Papua and Papua Barat. Meanwhile, 102 organisations have joined the ‘Peoples’ Solidarity for West Papua’ (see photo on top). On 26 November 2020, the spokesperson of the solidarity group, Victor Yeimo, published a video message on social media according to which the petition was already signed by 520,261 people in and outside of  West Papua.

 Papuan pro-government groups instantly reacted to the statement with a counter-campaign. Multiple representatives of such groups published videos on social media in which they urged the chief of the Papuan Regional Police (Polda Papua), Paulus Waterpauw, to prosecute Victor Yeimo immediately. Some videos even contain death threats against Yeimo, who is also the international spokesperson of the West Papua National Coalition (KNPB), a movement organisation advocating the right to self-determination through peaceful protest. The demands for Victor Yeimo’s arrest were also a reaction to a social media post in which Yeimo held Waterpauw responsible for the ongoing series of killings, which have occurred in the Papuan central highlands during widespread military operations against the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN PB).

Petition against Otsus II
In the video message, Yeimo stressed that the petition was supported by various components of Papuan civil society in all parts across the island. “The Papuan people from almost all components in Papua have supported the Petition against Otsus II. They have conveyed it through seminars, webinars and other activities that 19 years of special autonomy in West Papua has failed to bring upon protection and empowerment for Papuans.”

According to the solidarity group, the Indonesian central government used the special autonomy funds to enforce a development in West Papua which ignored the aspirations and prosperity of the Papuan people and instead only pushes economic growth and financial income through the exploitation of natural resources in West Papua. The Government, the police, military and the intelligence would control all developments in West Papua through a small Papuan elite. At the same time, the majority of indigenous Papuans would have to face marginalization, poverty, loss of customary land and human rights violations. Yeimo repeatedly mentioned the Omnibus Law as an example for the Jakarta’s growing ambitions for the ruthless exploitation of West Papua’s natural resources.

The petition lists the following demands:

1.    All West Papuans, inside and outside of West Papua, shall not be provoked by Indonesia’s polarizing politics and manipulative development projects in West Papua;

2.    All West Papuans, inside and outside of West Papua, shall support the Petition against Otsus II for the democratic consolidation of unity;

3.    All Papuans shall continue with the mobilisation for the implementation of a peaceful national civil strike in support for the right to self-determination;

4.    The Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSP), Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), African Caribbean Pacific (ACP) and the United Nations shall immediately monitor and urge Indonesia to allow the realisation of the right to self-determination for the Papuan people.

Counter campaign and threats against Viktor Yeimo
Multiple Papuan pro-Government figures published videos on social media in response to the Petition against Otsus II. Some of them also appeared to condemn a statement criticising Polda Papua Chief Paulus Waterpauw. Victor Yeimo posted on Facebook on 24 November 2020 after four indigenous Papuans had been killed during a military operation in the Puncak Regency. The government supporters urged Paulus Waterpauw to prosecute Victor Yeimo for inciting the Papuan People to create chaos and destroy the civil peace in West Papua.

S.P. Koibur, the spokesperson of the customary organisation Kankain Karkara Byak explained that Yeimo’s video statement created division among the Papuan people and threatened the peace and order in West Papua. He urged Waterpauw to arrest Victor Yeimo immediately. Another statement even contained threats against the KNPB spokesman. The director of the pro-government customary organisation Lembaga Musyawarah Adat (LMA) for the Kamoro Tribe, Gregorius Okoare, published a statement in which he called Yeimo a traitor provoking the Papuan people. “If you don’t stop, I curse you to die fast. Be careful what you say”, said Okoare in his video message. Okoare as well urged Indonesian security forces to “arrest and punish him”.