This past Friday (13/4), hundreds of West Papuans performed the traditional stone burning ceremony (upacara bakar batu) to celebrate their freedom from separatist terror. These West Papuans were just horrified by the terror of Papuan separatist group members who took control of seven different villages by blocking roads and burning public facilities like schools and hospitals. As the group has been pushed back, thanks to the consistent cooperation between local Papuan leaders and the military force, West Papuans can now enjoy their freedom again.
Located in Banti-2, in front of WAA Primary School and Junior High School, which was burned by a separatist group on March 23, West Papuans from seven villages gathered to give thanks to God for the liberation they regained from the separatist oppression. These West Papuans are from Utikini, Longsoran, Kimbely, Banti -1, Banti-2, Takabera and Opitawak villages.
As reported previously, the separatist group occupied the area and destroyed the connecting roads using an excavator by taking hostage of its operator. The spot that was destroyed was a crucial path from Utikini to Tembagapura, and the connecting lanes between villages. Even worse, the separatists were also burning social facilities such as school buildings, hospitals and people’s houses.
Of the traditional ceremony, at least 900 to 1000 West Papuans attended the ‘bakar batu’ ceremony. As the ceremony is regarded very sacred, hundreds of people, whose children are students of elementary and junior high school students which were burned down by the separatist group, attended. Since the November 2017 violence, in fact, the schoolchildren had unfortunately never been in teaching and learning activities. Most of their teachers have been displaced.
Their school buildings which used to have modern facilities, alongside WAA Banti Hospital, in the middle of Tembagapura wilderness are now left in debris burned by the separatist group members.
The head of Banti-1 village Johanes Jamang said that this stone-burning ceremony was a sacred ritual to express a form of gratitude for their freedom from terror. In that moment, he also expressed his gratitude to the representative of the Indonesian government, Colonel Frits Pelamonia who donated several pigs in the ceremony.
“It is customary for us West Papuans, after the disaster and now we are free, we thank God, so we ask the Commander (Frit Pelamonia) to perform the ‘bakar batu’ ceremony,” said Johanes.
At least, 15 pigs were donated by the Indonesian government to support the traditional ceremony. Two of them were special prizes from Pelamonia who is also the head of the local military force.
While waiting for the process of the ceremony, school children gathered cheering each other and waving small Indonesian flags. They also sang Indonesian National Anthem and other national songs.
It cannot be denied that terror from the West Papuan separatist groups has left a deep feeling of sorrow in the hearts of West Papuans. Because, the terror is not only depriving West Papuans of freedom but also depriving West Papua children of the right to get decent teaching or education.
Elfinus Magal (15), an 8th grade student attending the ceremony said, “The fire (that burnt our school) was deliberately lit by a group of people who have no conscience. We all cried that our school was burned by the forest people.” For your information, ‘the forest people’ is the term used by locals to call the separatists.
West Papuans are now seeking donations and other support from the government or anyone so they can rebuild their schools and hospitals,” Seprianus Omabak Head of Kampung Opitawak said.
Attending the ceremony included heads of villages like Yohanes Jamang of Banti-1 and Seprianus Omabak Head of Opitawak; community leader like Kolinus Beanal, Enis Magal, Derek Alom, Yoni Magal, Kornelis Magal, Soni Waker, Jember Jamang, Anajome Magal, Moap Magai, Yulianus Magai, Simon Omaleng; religious figures like Rev. Hengky Magal, Ruben Omaleng, Rev. Sem Magal, Rev Opniel Magal and local youth leader lik Stevi Omabak, and Detenus Natkime.
Meanwhile in NZ
While this freedom celebration is a great thing for West Papuans, some groups and individuals in New Zealand may see it differently. Indonesians may see that West Papua is an area that keeps developing and becoming a safer and a more interesting place to visit and explore. Unfortunately some Kiwis see this situation the opposite way.
For years there are Kiwis that blatantly express their support to the separatist group by praising their violent attacks and other harmful actions towards West Papuans. Some media like RNZ keep showing their support to the group by spreading baseless and hateful claims towards Indonesians.
Together, they keep believing that Indonesians are the sole culprits of every negative thing happening in West Papua. They deliberately keep turning away from the fact that development is going on in West Papua and social situations, education and economy are progressing positively. It is a fact that Indonesians both West Papuans and non-West Papuans are the ones that do develop West Papua.
It has been Indonesians, not Kiwis, that bring quality teachers and doctors to West Papua, build roads, build houses, markets for mama-mama Papua, schools, libraries and even local studying rooms for West Papuan kids. And majority of them do that voluntarily. (*)