Father Neles Tebay
The Jakarta-based Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence
has stressed the importance of fairness and transparency regarding a trial, which starts today, of five Papuans accused of treason for declaring a West Papua state.
The five were arrested in October when police moved in to break up what they called the third Papuan People’s Congress after several delegates raised the Morning Star flag, a symbol of the Papua independence movement.
During the crackdown, police fired warning shots, prompting many of the 1,500 participants to flee into nearby hills.
The five who go on trial today are: Forkorus Yaboisembut, who the congress elected president of the Federal Republic of West Papua; Eddison G Waromi, who was elected prime minister; August Makbrowen Senay, who coordinated the congress’ logistics desk; Dominikus Serabut, secretary of the board of customs in Wamena; and Selphius Bobii, the congress chairman.
Charged with breaking Article 106 of the Criminal Code, which deals with rebellion, they will appear before the District Court in Jayapura, capital of Papua province and face up to 20 years in prison if they are convicted.
The trial is a sensitive one for the government and is likely to arouse strong feelings in Papua, which has special autonomy status and where political violence and accusations of alleged human rights abuses have all too frequently been reported.
“Open monitoring is necessary to ensure that the legal process is transparent and fair, because the trial’s atmosphere will surely be politically charged,” KontraS said in a statement recently.
The commission has urged the Indonesian government to allow media and the international community to cover the trial as part of efforts taken to make information available to the public and commitments to peacefully deal with issues in Papua.
“We also urge the Indonesian government to ensure that all law enforcement officers will not be influenced by political interests,” the commission continued.
Coordinator of the Papuan Peace Network Father Neles Tebay agreed that transparency is important.
“It is not only because of politics. It’s needed to allow people to follow the trial,” he said after hearing the commission’s demands.
However he questioned the trial itself, saying it is likely to complicate political issues and become an obstacle for dialogue between the Indonesian government and Papuans which he says is the only way to resolve ongoing disputes.
“The trial will not help. A dialogue will!” asserted the rector of the Fajar Timur School of Philosophy and Theology in Abepura near Jayapura.
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