October 14, 2016 | 
Indonesia’s human rights problem: All eyes on Papua after United Nations 
TOPICS:1965 TragedyHuman RightsPapua New GuineaRakhmatiaUnited Nations (UN)
Photo: UN Photo 
October 17, 2016 

Indonesia’s representative at the United Nations launched a spirited defence of 
her country’s human rights record in the Papua provinces, saying other 
countries were only raising the issue as a distraction from their own problems. 
Rights groups, and the statistics, disagree – showing more must be done at 
government level. 

By Fawnia

Nara Masista Rakhmatia, the second secretary of Indonesia’s Permanent Mission 
to the United Nations was not a household name until she made her appearance at 
a United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session in New York. During the 71st 
session of the UNGA, several countries, including Pacific Countries, condemned 
human rights violations that took place in West Papua and requested that both 
the UN and the Indonesian government take action.

Rakhmatia quickly countered the statements, saying they were made simply to 
draw attention away from problems in their own countries. She pushed back hard 
saying, “Their politically motivated statements were designed to support 
separatist groups in the said provinces, who have consistently engaged in 
inciting public disorder and in conducting armed terrorist attack”. In no time, 
the video recording of her rebuttal went viral, as the public put her on a 
pedestal; praising her bravery and eloquent speech.

Another agenda?

But how much does the public know of what is behind this attention-grabbing 
statement made in front of national leaders. One online news outlet that covers 
Papua called Rakhmatia’s notable statement as “a weapon of mass deception which 
is as dangerous as the weapon of mass destruction”.

The comparison was apt, according to the site, as her words were intended 
simply to save face and keep the public in the dark. In her speech Rakhmatia 
mentioned criticisms made against Indonesia that it had violated the UN 
Charter, and in the same breath, accused leaders of using false and fabricated 
information as the basis of their statements. She also gave assurances that her 
country would continue to focus on the development of the Papua and West Papua 

This, according to the Papua-based news release, is a false statement crafted 
to fool the public into believing there are no human rights violations taking 
place in the Papua provinces. It also suggests that there are no terrorist 
attacks taking place; just civil resistance. The reporter, a Papuan sociologist 
residing in Papua, ended his article with a strong message, “Finally, the mass 
deception done by Nara Masista and the officials of Indonesia is treason toward 
the Constitution, conscience, and basic human values. May the truth strip bare 
the lies for the sake of humanity.”

The Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta) has added to the discussion, 
issuing a statement that calls out Rakhmatia. The “denial of reports of human 
rights violations in Papua” does not sit well beside the truth, according to 
LBH. This is backed up by numerical data that shows 2,282 Papuans have been 
arrested for staging non-violent rallies between April and Sept 16 this year.

Within four years, over 4,000 arrests have been made, most of them involving 
intimidation. Several shootings have also been recorded, including an incident 
when the Indonesian Military (TNI) opened fire and killed student protesters.

The underlying threat

Human rights violations happening in Papua are definitely not the first or the 
last in Indonesia. Back 12 years ago, Indonesia was shocked by the death of 
Munir Said Thalib, a prominent human rights defender. No report into his 
mysterious death was ever released,  and even now, over a decade later, the 
public’s suspicion has not been quelled. The State Secretariat insist that they 
do not have a fact-finding report; some find this suggest hard to trust.

Rights activists have urged President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to push for both 
judicial and non-judicial processes to clear up human rights abuse in 
Indonesia. This applies particularly to the 1965 Tragedy, also referred to as 
the Indonesian Massacres, where no exact amount of victims can be verified but 
is estimated to be up to one million people.

The killings, which mostly targeted communists, ethnic Chinese, and alleged 
leftists is a part of Indonesia’s dark history that cannnot be erased. 
Initially the purge intended to wipe out the communists involved after the 30 
September Movement, it quickly became a nationwide eradication. Now, 51 years 
later, how the government deals with the aftermath defines public opinion. Are 
the authorities advocates of human rights or an abusive force that neglects 

While Western countries battle the fangs of centuries-long racism and rising 
refugee problems, Indonesia is left with a battle of its own; defending human 
rights. Though it is true that nothing can be done to change the past, there is 
much that can be done to prevent human rights negligence today. The question 
now, is the government ready to take the step despite possible political loss? 
In Papua at least, it seems not.

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