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Veronica Koman ‘won’t be silenced’ despite daily death threats

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Vernonica Koman … “”It has become my personal mission to expose what’s happening in West Papua.” -Image: Screenshot/PMC

Papua, Jubi – A pro-Papuan lawyer who has been threatened with an Interpol Red Notice said she has received daily rape and death threats as the uprising in the Indonesian provinces ramps up.

Veronica Koman, a respected Indonesian human rights lawyer, now lives in Australia but continues to be pursued by the Indonesian government for allegedly disseminating evidence of security forces carrying out violence in Indonesia’s easternmost provinces of Papua and West Papua.

“I started to receive death threats two years ago and it’s almost like a daily experience now to receive death and rape threats online,” the 31-year-old told SBS News in an exclusive interview.

“They’re trying to kill the messenger. They cannot refute my data, all the footage they cannot refute that so they’re trying to destroy my credibility.”

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Koman became involved in the West Papuan struggle for independence in 2014 after five protesters were allegedly killed and another 17 injured by the Indonesian military in an event known as the Paniai killings.

“I thought at the time … ‘wow, why is there no outrage? School children are killed by security forces,'” she said.

“It has become my personal mission to expose what’s happening in West Papua.”

Last week, the provinces – which share a border with Papua New Guinea – suffered one of their bloodiest days in 20 years, with at least 33 people killed in the central town of Wamena.

Footage of the incident, obtained by SBS News, showed Indonesian forces opening fire as Papuan high school students held an anti-racism rally.

According to the government, most of the victims were killed in fires. Indonesian President Joko Widodo has blamed an “armed criminal group” without providing further detail.

Despite living overseas, Koman said her family in Indonesia were still in danger. Recently, police said they raided her family home in Jakarta.

“My family in Jakarta have relocated for more than a month now because to avoid that intimidation,” she said, adding that many of the threats she received are directed at her family as well.

“People say you are in Australia but your family is in Indonesia and we can look for them.”

‘Unprecedented crack down’

More than 6,000 Indonesian soldiers have been deployed to the provinces in an attempt to quell the independence rallies and anti-racism demonstrations taking place over the past six weeks.

Koman said at least 100 West Papuans have been jailed for participating and some charged with treason for holding the banned West Papuan Morning Star flag.

Ethnic and religious tensions have simmered between Indonesia and the Indigenous Papuans of the region since the 1960s, culminating in the recent unrest.

In 1969, the so-called ‘Act of Free Choice’ saw just over 1,000 hand-selected Papuans vote at gunpoint to unanimously remain under Indonesian rule.

Since then, West Papuan independence groups say their people have been subject to a “slow genocide”, comparing their situation to Timor-Leste two decades ago.

“We are at the darkest time in 20 years,” Koman said.

“I have not seen this much crackdown and the death toll, the government’s version of 33 in a single day, that is the worst.”

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne has urged “restraint on both sides”, angering many Papuans who believe Australia should be taking a stronger stance on the violence.

“It’s difficult to access accurate death tolls from the provinces because there is a “total lockdown at the hospital”, Koman said. West Papuans also often avoid going to the hospital if they are injured because of fears they will be killed there.

“That’s exactly the aim of the security forces, lock it down so only government version can go out,” she said.

Foreign media is heavily restricted from entering West Papua.

In recent days, Widodo has offered to meet with pro-independence groups as rallies across the country called for demilitarisation of the Papua provinces.

Koman, who has an Indonesia tattoo on her left forearm, is unable to return to her home country due to fears of persecution but is choosing to see the positive in the situation.

“This is a new beginning, this is a new chapter,” she said. (*)

 

Source: Asia Pacific Report

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HIV/AIDS transmission in Jayapura Regency claimed to decline

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Photo illustration of health services. – Pexels.com

Sentani, Jubi – Jayapura Health Office claims HIV/AIDS cases in Jayapura Regency has declined with only 3,202 cases occurred until last year.

“HIV/AIDS prevention is a complex issue. It would not only the responsibility of the health office, but all parties should contribute in educating the community,” said Pungut Sunarto, the Division Head of Disease Prevention and Management of the Jayapura Regional Health Office, on Tuesday (21/1/2020).

People living with HIV/AIDS in Jayapura Regency are mostly the productive age group ranging from 20-49 years old. There are also infants and children among patients.

“We are always updating the report on people living with HIV/AIDS [in our region]. If not, they would not be able to access the ARV,” said Pungut.

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He further said that the family plays a crucial role in preventing HIV/AIDS transmission. Similarly, he continued, life endurance among people living with HIV/AIDS depends on the support from their closest family.

“Those living with HIV/AIDS who regularly take their medicines (ARV) can reduce their medicine (ARV) can reduce the risk of virus transmission. So, please do not blame and stigmatise them,” said Pungut.

Meanwhile, a Sentani resident Edison Sineri agrees that parents have a significant role in preventing their children from behaviours that likely lead to the transmission of HIV/AIDS and other sexual diseases.

“Currently, young people are easily get involved in promiscuity that difficult to control by parents. It possibly leads them to negative behaviours.” (*)

 

Reporter: Yance Wenda

Editor: Pipit Maizier

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Lawyers question commitment over Papuan political prisoners’ right

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Three of seven Papuan political prisoners. – Jubi/Piter Lokon

Nabire, Jubi – The Papua Coalition for Law Enforcement and Human Rights urges the attorney general to fulfil the right of health for seven political prisoners detained in Balikpapan, Kalimantan Timur and consider it as a neglection of the prisoners’ rights.

“We release this statement after one of our clients experienced vomiting blood. He had an internal disease issue,” said the Coordinator Emanuel Gobay on Friday (24/1/2020).

The coalition team asks the Papuan Attorney General’s commitment to providing the right of health to the prisoners as previously promised. It never occurred. Indeed, the Attorney General has neglected their family’s right to visit.

“If the seven detainees were in Papua, of course, their family can come to visit and find an alternative for health treatment.

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Therefore, Gobay urges the Attorney General of Papua to recall the seven political prisoners to Jayapura. He said the security issue is no longer relevant as a reason to allocate their trial outside of Papua.

“It is unfair (for the seven detainees) referred that all the trial hearings of anti-racism case held in Papua. All those trials are going well and safe,” asserted Gobay.

Meanwhile, a coalition member Oktovianus Tabuni added that in principle the seven political prisoners are respecting their legal process. However, they want to have their trial in Papua.

“The principle of a trial is to have a timely and low-cost process. Do not let it (the trial) float up like what has been happening now,” said Tabuni. (*)

 

Reporter: Titus Ruban

Editor: Pipit Maizier

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Autonomy budget cut off, Jayawijaya Government reduce supplementary feeding budget

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Photo illustration of milk. -Pixabay.com

Wamena, Jubi – The Government of Jayawijaya Regency has reduced the number of schools to receive funding on the Supplementary Feeding Program (PMTAS). The reduction relates to the Special Autonomy Funds cut off for the PON (the National Games) 2020

Nurlili, an official at the Jayawijaya Village Community Empowerment Office (DPMK), said last year the program was running in five schools in Napua, Maima, Musaftaf, Wita Waya and Wadangku subdistricts.

“There allocate for only two schools this year because of the budget cut off for the PON. We depend on the Special Autonomy Funds for this program,” Nurlili said in Wamena on Tuesday (21/1/2020).

In 2020, the local government plans to implement the program in four sub-districts, namely Asolokobal, Wesaput, Muliama and Tagime. “But, Muliama and Tagime sub-districts are a bit far, so we decided to implement the program in the zone two, namely in SD YPPK Hepuba in Asolokobal Sub-district and SD Inpres Wesaput in Wesaput Subdistrict,” he said.

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The budget allocation for PMTAS Year 2020 reduced from IDR 857 million to IDR 468 million.

However, Nurlili hopes that in February they can conduct training for teachers and women at sub-districts and village levels on healthy food for children.

“At the end of the training, we will purchase some items that are not available in sub-districts and villages to deliver in March. They will be cooking food for the pupils, and we will monitor its implementation. There will be a payment for the cooks, but they should submit the report first,” he said.

In addition to food ingredients, the local government also provides cash for schools to purchase some food from the local markets to help the cash flow of villages and sub-districts.

“This program is very critical because President Jokowi has instructed us to decrease stunting among children. Therefore, we allocate the PMTAS for the primary school children because it is their growth period,” he said. (*)

 

Source: ANTARA

Editor: Pipit Maizier

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