Chief Security Minister Wiranto, center. (Antara Photo/Muhammad Adimaja)

Indonesia Clarifies 'Distorted Information' About Papua to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

BY :TELLY NATHALIA

SEPTEMBER 09, 2019

Jakarta. Indonesian representatives have approached the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva to clarify what they say is "distorted information" about Papua and West Papua, Indonesia's two easternmost provinces which were rocked by violent protests against ethnic and racial discrimination last month.

Meanwhile, Indonesia's Chief Security Minister Wiranto said on Monday that security situation in the two provinces has returned to normal. 

According to the minister, markets, offices and schools have reopened after almost two weeks of violent demonstrations in which government buildings and public facilities were damaged. 

"We admit there are still threats. Some people have distributed pamphlets encouraging people to conduct more rallies and provoking anarchy," Wiranto said.

"We have strategies to overcome [those threats]," he said in a press conference in Jakarta.

The minister said "distorted information" has led to some Papuan students living in other islands in Indonesia to return home. 

Rumors had spread that there will be revenge attacks against Papuan students living in other cities across Indonesia. 

The retired Army general said at least 835 students have returned home to Papua and West Papua since the riots began. 

Military Commander Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto said he will arrange for two Hercules planes to take those students back to their place of study. 

Tension in Papua and West Papua ran high when violent demonstrations broke out in several cities last month. The protests were initially triggered by racist acts against Papuan students on the island of Java.  

Later, there were calls for Jakarta to allow an independence referendum for Papua and West Papua. 

The government had throttled internet access in the two provinces as the demonstrations spread but by Monday it has restored the internet in almost all areas. 

Wiranto said the government has set aside Rp 100 billion ($7.1 million) to fix public facilities that were damaged by protesters. 

Police meanwhile have charged several people with provoking the riots in Papua and West Papua. 

National Police Chief Tito Karnavian last week said Benny Wenda, the chairman of the United Kingdom-based United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), is the main person behind the riots in Papua and West Papua.

According to the police chief, Benny has been working with at least two other groups in Indonesia, the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) and the Papuan Students Alliance (AMP).

"Their target is Sept. 9, when there will be a meeting of the Office of the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights in Geneva. They created the riots so people will talk about Papua. They also want to raise the issue [of Papua independence] during the UN General Assembly on Sept. 24. Papua is not on the agenda [at the assembly]. But Benny has approached one or two countries to raise the issue. They created the riots to strengthen their argument [for independence]," Tito said last week in Papua.

According to police, Benny now holds a foreign passport.

The East Java Police have also charged Veronika Koman, a human rights lawyer working for the KNPB, with spreading fake news and provocative content on Twitter to provoke widespread protests in Papua and West Papua.

"Our permanent representative in Geneva has met with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to explain [the real situation in Papua]. We will not let it [distorted information] be accepted as the truth," Wiranto said.

Last week, the Indonesian ambassador to Geneva Hasan Kleib said embassy staff had met with officials from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights before Sept. 4 to explain the real situation in Papua.

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