Indonesia is predicted to face a challenging moment during this year’s UN General Assembly. Some countries have been putting an eye on the archipelagic country due to the recent issue on West Papua. As red notices have issued against specific figures, say, Veronica Koman and Benny Wenda, debates on this matter are foreseen. This piece explores what contesting aspects may come up during the contention and what stance is advice in this situation.
While some international media praised figures like Mr Wenda and Ms Koman like heroes for upholding and fighting for human rights of West Papuan Indonesians, local authorities and media look at them differently.
Both individuals are at the center of media attention because of their ‘provocative’ comments. These comments were released during some interviews and on their social media. After the racism incident in some Javanese cities, they quickly interpret that that was the clear sign of how Indonesians in general allegedly want their fellow West Papuans to part. Some international media promptly caught this point of view as some golden evidence that their stance on the freedom of West Papua seems to find a firm grasp finally.
Some countries, mostly Pacific, also ride the same wave as those international media. Championed by Vanuatu, a group of Pacific countries feels that it is time to voice even louder, that West Papua should gain freedom soon. Powered by information brought up by the international media above, they are ready to challenge Indonesia in the coming UNGA this month in New York.
A question should wisely be asked, though, how Indonesians picture those individuals? And how Indonesians reacted to the racism incidents? Have Indonesians responded as those entities above have towards the racism incident?
Unknown figures in Indonesia
Ms Koman and Mr Wenda are also a hit in Indonesian media, but the tone is starkly different from how they are pictured in the international ones. Most of the articles about them are written at a figuring out tone like who they are and what they have been doing. That reflects that they are not popular among Indonesians from all ethnicities, including West Papuan. An interview last year by an NZ media revealed that Benny Wenda is very little known even in West Papua. To this end, how international media pictures them as champions, leaders, or heroes of West Papuans, are way far from who they really are.
For Ms Koman for the time being, specifically, she is now declared as suspect by Indonesian authority for provocation riots in West Papua following the racism incident. While Indonesians from all ethnicities were apologizing for and condemning the incident, Ms Koman used her social media, just like Benny Wenda, to spread out provocative comments. She was one leading figure that asked West Papuans to go on strikes that then went out of control. The peaceful demonstration went violent and allegedly infiltrated by armed criminals causing severe damages and even death tolls.
As a state that upholds the rule of law, Indonesia had taken actions against any alleged provocateurs when the racism incident occurred. Even some soldiers who allegedly released the racist utterances in Surabaya also received sanctions. The call for Ms Koman as a suspect is a legal process like the previous cases. In general, what has been done by those who have become suspects has violated the law in Indonesia. Legal experts would argue that the official court is the next step where the contestation of arguments will take place, which certainly will not in the “court of public opinion.”
The violence crippled West Papuan economy. Experts say that the damage has caused the economy to lose around IDR 19 billion or around USD 1.5 million. That excludes the number of death tolls that the loss should be uncountable.
Even worse, Ms Koman’s and Mr Wenda’s provoking comments, that unfortunately were praised internationally has damaged the social harmony Indonesians from all ethnicities are working hard for. In the name of democracy and freedom of speech, they gave comments on whatever they want without thinking twice about the consequences. As international media made them such king and queen of evidence, they seem to enjoy making provocations while the local societies suffering from social disharmony caused by their comments.
Ms Koman paints the same brush ‘savagely’ when making the agitating comments. She arrogantly uses her ‘western’ perspective to dissect Indonesian diversity. She was putting freedom of speech first and ditching the fact that to some extent her speech ends up damaging social harmony and triggering violence. Other countries like Singapore and Malaysia would have arrested individuals like Ms Koman because their version of freedom of speech could trigger any bigger national chaos, that can damage all aspects of humans’ lives in the country.
Individuals like Ms Koman and Mr Wenda should have secured enormous financial support to support such actions they have been doing. In this sense, unfortunately, they seem to have never been transparent about their financial, regarding the fact that they are public figures, at least as stated by the international media. This ‘suspicion’, though, recently finds an answer as Indonesian authorities figured that Ms Koman received and spent an enormous amount of fund at the period when she was spreading the provocations about West Papua.
Confident in the UN forum
In this coming UNGA, Indonesia will be in a spotlight for the recent West Papua issues. One major challenge will be why Indonesian authorities are ‘targeting’ individuals like both figures. Aspects like why the Indonesian government does not uphold freedom of speech will be highly potential to be raised.
However, based on the above explanation, Indonesia, should be confident of seeing through the potential debates and challenges regarding the West Papua’s issues in the UN forum. Regarding the issues, many Indonesians seem to talk about freedom of speech, less then Mr. Wenda and Ms Koman do, because they understand that they are a diverse society. To maintain harmony on top of differences has been hard work form them, and that is why apologies and sympathies were what they quickly raised after the incident.
The world should know that every grand principle, like equality and freedom of speech, is upheld to reach harmony and welfare. If these principles are not to achieve such objectives, they are allegedly being mistakenly, or even viciously interpreted and deliberately misused. (*)