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Indonesian minister's bid to gag activists draws fire

Maritime and investment affairs minister threatens 2 rights defenders for discussing his alleged dealings in Papua

Ryan Dagur, Jakarta

Ryan Dagur, Jakarta

Published: September 13, 2021 08:53 AM GMT

Updated: September 13, 2021 09:12 AM GMT

Indonesian minister's bid to gag activists draws fire

Haris Azhar, left, executive director of the Lokataru legal aid agency and Fatia Maulidiyanti, coordinator of the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence appeared in a talk show uploaded on Azhar's Youtube channel where they discussed about the military's business in Papua. (Photo: Youtube)

 

An international advocacy group has condemned what they say is a blatant attempt by a government minister to silence and persecute two human rights activists for talking about military affairs in Papua.

Fatia Maulidiyanti, coordinator of the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence and Haris Azhar, executive director of the Lokataru legal aid agency were threatened with legal action by Coordinating Minister for Maritime and Investment Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, regarding a talk show they took part in that alluded to his involvement in the mining business in Papua’s Intan Jaya district.

Luhut is also a retired army general and had served in the region.

In the talk show, called 'There is Lord Luhut behind the Economic Relations-Military Operations Intan Jaya!' uploaded on Azhar's Youtube channel, they discussed the findings of a recent report which revealed how the location of military and police posts around the mining concessions in Intan Jaya were identified as being connected either directly or with Indonesian army generals and the relationship between company concessions and the deployment of the military.

In the video it was claimed Luhut owns shares of PT Toba Sejahtera Group, a company that controls PT Tobacom Del Mandiri, one of the companies that are involved in mining operations in the Wabu Block area of Intan Jaya.

Juniver Girsang, Luhut’s lawyer said on Sept. 11 that the minister would sue the two activists for violating the electronic information and transactions law by "attacking someone's honor or reputation with accusations" and "defamation" after they rejected requests in a subpoena to apologize for mentioning Luhut in the video.

In a statement, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, stated that efforts to put pressure on the activists, "seem to be only aimed at punishing them for exercising their right to freedom of expression."

“The Observatory calls on the authorities in Indonesia to put an end to any acts of harassment, including at judicial level, against Haris Azhar, Fatia Maulidiyanti, and all other human rights defenders in the country, to ensure that they are able to carry out their legitimate human rights advocacies without any hindrance or fear of reprisal,” the group said in an open letter to Indonesia’s government, including President Joko Widodo and Minister Luhut.

Father John Djonga, an activist priest in Papua, said the pressure being put on the two activists was part of a long-standing pattern that the government has applied to suppress those who talk about Papua.

“The relationship between the military and police and various corporate entities, both for mining and plantations in Papua is an old issue, but not many dare to talk about it. These activists' efforts are part of an effort to encourage transparency regarding practices that have been hidden from the public that involve power in Papua,” he told UCA News.

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He said all Minister Luhut should do is give his version of the story.

“I hope that this kind of pressure will not make activists afraid to openly discuss matters related to Papua,” the priest said.

“One of the reasons why Papua continues to be in turmoil is because many public officials, including in the security apparatus, are actually playing in murky waters, making profits amidst the chaos in Papua,” he added.

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