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Indonesian police keep tabs on Papuan leader

The move comes after Timoteus Murib, chairman of the Papuan People's Assembly declared support for Papua's independence
Timoteus Murib, chairman of the Papuan People's Assembly, stands in front of the UN Human Rights Council office in Geneva, Switzerland, where he declared his support for Papuan independence

Timoteus Murib, chairman of the Papuan People's Assembly, stands in front of the UN Human Rights Council office in Geneva, Switzerland, where he declared his support for Papuan independence. (Photo: Papuan People's Assembly)

Published: November 15, 2022 11:40 AM GMT
Updated: November 15, 2022 11:40 AM GMT

Indonesian police are monitoring the activities of a prominent Papuan figure, including the possibility of treason charges against him for his statement in support of Papuan independence on the sidelines of a session at the UN meeting.

In a video that has gone viral, Timoteus Murib, chairman of the Papuan People's Assembly, the consultative body set up by the government to represent the aspirations of Papuans, stood in front of the UN Human Rights Council office in Geneva, Switzerland, and declared his support for Papuan independence.

"We are fighting to get freedom for West Papua to be able to stand together with our friends from other nations. God knows this agenda, keep fighting. Hallelujah. Amen," he said in the clip.

The video, which has gone viral since Nov. 13 on a number of social media networks such as TikTok and WhatsApp, has sparked a strong reaction from the police.

Mathius Fakhiri, chief of police in Papua, said they would investigate whether there was an element of treason in Murib’s actions and statements.

"Of course, following his statement in the video, we will be monitoring his activities," he said on Nov. 14, adding that Murid’s statement was "very unfortunate."

He also reminded that Murib's current position exists because of the law and therefore he should obey the law.

Meanwhile, Murib said his statement was an expression of concern over lax law enforcement against human rights violations in Papua.

"Let's think positively so that we can be physically and mentally healthy to work more for Indonesia, especially for the Papuan people," he said.

He said he attended the UN event because he was personally invited and served as a panelist in a critical discussion to provide input for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) session and he was financed by the organizers.

He said he was present with several other figures from Indonesia, including Andy Yentriyani, chairwoman of the National Commission on Violence Against Women, Usman Hamid, executive director of Amnesty International Indonesia, and Reverend Benny Giay of the Papuan Church Council.

A source from a human rights organization in Papua told UCA News that although Murib's statement was risky, “it is actually an attitude that almost all Papuans have, even though they are in a government-established organization.”

"Why is that? Because of the disappointment of witnessing human rights violations that have not been resolved for years. I am sure that the majority of Papuans who work in government institutions have the same attitude as Murib,” the source said.

Murib has served as chairman of the Papuan People's Assembly since 2013. It is a cultural institution for indigenous Papuans established under the 2001 Papua Special Autonomy Law.

During his tenure, he was among Papuan figures who voiced criticism of Jakarta’s move to extend the implementation of the special autonomy and the creation of several new autonomous regions in Papua.

The easternmost region is a former Dutch colony that declared independence in 1961; however, Indonesia later annexed the territory.

Conflict continues in the region where a strong separatist movement has prompted Indonesia to maintain a large military presence.

During the UPR session on Nov. 9, the Indonesian government defended its approach in Papua by stating that most cases of violence in Papua have been investigated and the perpetrators punished, and the government continues to take a welfare approach.

However, the report was dismissed by human rights activists as unfounded.

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