I am here to give solidarity, not as a provocateur


Jakarta – On August 2, Kholis Annasir, from the student group Centre for Student Struggle for National Liberation (Pembebasan – Liberation) and I attended an action called by the West Papua National Committee (KNPB). We were invited to attend by Okto, the coordinator of the planned action. I was representing the People’s Liberation Party (PPR). I later learned from the coordinator that we were the only ones there providing political and organisational solidarity. Tommy, from the human rights group Kontras, was there to monitor the action.

The theme of the action was “Support for the High Level International Lawyers Conference for West Papua in Oxford, UK, for the independence of the West Papuan nation”. The KNPB is an alliance of Papuan liberation groups formed in 2009. Its earlier name was West Papuan Peoples National Action Committee.

The action started at 12 noon. People marched from the Hotel Indonesia roundabout to the State Palace. Kholis and I were late; we arrived shortly after the march reached the State Palace. Fifteen minutes after we arrived, the police came on the scene and asked whether the action had a permit. In fact, there are no longer any regulations requiring a permit, only that the police should be informed. The KNPB had twice faxed the police with the information about the action.

I joined Viktor Kogoya, who was conducting the negotiations with the police from the Central Jakarta station. I backed up the view that it was required only that the police be informed. While negotiations were taking place, a police officer, called Abdul Karim, threatened the crowd: “While I am negotiating, there can be no speeches. You can sing songs!” But people kept making speeches, although using a megaphone, not the sound system.

Solidarity speech

The negotiations finished, and the police decided that the action had to finish in 15 minutes, at 2.45pm, but the KNPB held firm that they would go until 3pm. So the action continued. The Papuan comrades had the chance to sing some more songs and dance. After two songs, I was given the chance to make a solidarity speech. I had calculated that the police would arrest me if I spoke, but I started the speech in any case.

This was my speech: “Long live the Papuan people! Long live the movement of the Papuan people! Long live the women of Papua! Long live the Papuan liberation struggle! Just now, when there were negotiations, one of the police intelligence officers asked me: ‘Were you the one who brought these Papuans here?’ I said, ‘No, I am here in solidarity’. Then he said to me: ‘What solidarity? You are a traitor to the nation.’ This is very strange, very narrow nationalism: in fact, it is those who sold Papuan land to Freeport who are the traitors to the nation!”

After that last sentence, about 10 police moved in and arrested me, hitting and kicking me and dragging me to the police van. Some of the KNPB members tried to stop them, but we weren’t prepared enough and so the police got me. The police shouted and threw insults: “Traitor to the nation!”, “Provocateur”. I shouted back: “Hey, no violence. And what law are you arresting me under? I will sue you for using violence!” But it didn’t stop.

I was put into the police van by myself. I could hear them shouting outside: “Provocateur! Traitor to the nation!” I could only shake my head at their entrenched, short-sighted and narrow nationalism.

I was left inside the van. The KNPB comrades tried to get me released. The police lied to the organisers, telling them that I had been taken to the police station. (I knew this through the hand phone message I received from Kholis Annasir.)

Just before 3pm, I could see a force of about 100 police getting ready. Armed with their shields and sticks, they surrounded the KNPB action. Behind them were other forces ready, including Dalmas Motor Trail forces. The demonstration dispersed of its own accord.

In the police station

After the demonstration dispersed I was taken to the Central Jakarta police station. I was told this by Siregar, the intelligence officer who took me. I knew him already from 2006, when he had arrested me in front of the palace after we held an action following the congress of our student organisation at the time. I asked why I was arrested: under what law? “Forget it”, he said. “You will go in, fill out some forms and then go home. That’s the police these days: just playing at arresting.”

I could only shake my head again: what to think? Drag people away, arrest them, beat them, kick them, but they don’t know under what law. I was left to wait about two hours in one of the police station rooms. I wasn’t alone. Two comrades from KNPB and Pembebasan were there also, and two people from the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation, but they left after a while, maybe bored with waiting.

Around 5.05pm I was questioned by a detective named Ghandi. He questioned me for about an hour and 10 minutes. I was questioned as a witness because they couldn’t find a cause to arrest me. They asked me my life story, and about who organised the action. What were the demands of the action? What equipment was there? What had I said in my speech?

After I signed the report of my questioning, the chief detective, Sutopo, asked me to be photographed and to let them take my fingerprints. I refused. I was a witness, not an accused. They said they would report my attitude to the head of the intelligence section. I said that if I was not being charged, I wanted to leave. They would not allow it. I was forced to wait for the intelligence chief and the deputy head of the local police, who were at prayers.


While waiting, we contacted some lawyers and asked what they thought might happen. Some said it was still possible that I would be charged; others said that this was all part of the procedure. Finally, Tommy (staff monitor, Kontras) decided to contact the Kontras lawyer, Daud SH. A short while later Daud and also Kris arrived and had some discussions with the police. Kris advised that the photo and fingerprints were just procedure.

Then the intelligence chief arrived along with Abdul Karim, the officer who had ordered the arrest at the demonstration (perhaps he was the Central Jakarta deputy police head). Abdul Karim looked at me and said, “Oh, you are the person from the action earlier, yes?”, and I answered, “Yes, my lawyer is outside”.

Budi Wardoyo, spokesperson for the People’s Liberation Party, asked the intelligence chief, “Can he leave now?” The reply was, “Oh, in a moment, not yet”. He asked to speak with Kris and then with Daud, Tommy and Budi Wardoyo. I am not sure what was discussed. Budi Wardoyo said there were words that I had spoken which had made the police emotional. I heard that after I was released. As far as I can remember, I never deliberately said anything to make them emotional.

After a few minutes Kris emerged and said to me: “Do you want to go home tonight?” “Of course”, I answered. “Then you must let them take your photo and fingerprints and make a statement letter.” “Why?”, I asked. “I am a witness, not an accused. What kind of letter?”

“A letter that you won’t participate in any actions without permission”, said Kris. “As far as I know the KNPB sent letters informing the police of the action at least two times.” And: “Won’t this cause problems later?”, I asked. Kris said that it was just an administrative requirement and that he had provided such a letter the last time he had been arrested.

After consulting with Budi Wardoyo, I agreed to the three requests. It went against the grain to accede to these requests, especially as my status was that of a witness and that I was not being charged with anything. I was photographed and fingerprinted. After negotiated editorial work, the letter read: “I, the undersigned … will not repeat what I did in front of the State Palace, namely provoke the masses”. It was frustrating: the police had found no way to charge me but they had been able to force me to sign this letter, if I was not to stay longer in the police station. So that is a bit of my story as somebody who provided solidarity to a protest action where I had then been accused of being a provocateur as well as a traitor.


Why did I attend that KNPB action? The formal position of the People’s Liberation party is still the same as that we developed when we individual members of the PPR were still in the People’s Democratic Party (PRD), namely supporting “the broadest possible democratic dialogue for the Papuan people free of intervention by the government”. This remains our position until we have new information about Papuan society and its struggles.

Cooperation between us and various elements in the KNPB is not new. Some of us who were in the PRD before it split had been active in Aceh Papua Solidarity (2005) and Solidarity for Papua, formed in 2010.

There is, of course, a difference between “the broadest possible democratic dialogue for the Papuan people free of intervention by the government” and “referendum and independence for the West Papuan people”. But does that mean we cannot give solidarity? I think we must provide such solidarity. And not just for humanitarian reasons because of the killings that have recently occurred in Papua.

This is a political question, a question of liberation. Perhaps the identification of a Papuan nation is still difficult, whether because the Papuan original residents are a minority there now, or because there is no unity among the Papuans, including the division into 350 or more ethnicities, whose movement is fragmented, without a common language, territory and movement or economic relations.

However, there has emerged the embryo of a Papuan nation as a result of the vicious repression there by imperialism, as well as by non-Papuan local capitalists. That is how we see it. Their expression of resistance must be valued, supported, provided with democratic space, given solidarity. Regardless of whether the political decision of seeking independence is correct or not, a people of the same struggle who proclaim themselves a nation have the right to state their thinking and their political position. That is a matter of respecting the freedom to think and to express opinions, political liberty. And this position they are taking, the demand for independence and their assertion of nationhood, has not just been sucked from their thumbs. Since the 1969 referendum, the Papuan people have been deceived, oppressed, killed, raped and tortured.

After independence?

The issue we always raise with our Papuan comrades demanding independence via a referendum is what will happen to Papua after independence. Don’t let it happen that, once independent, they fall under foreign domination through any kind of imperialist puppet government. What kind of economic system and culture do they want? What kind of government? What of the fate of the majority of the residents there who are not original Papuans? These questions must be answered by the Papuan comrades if their democratic and independence struggle is not to end up directionless.

And the democratic movement cannot separate itself from the Papuan people’s movement, even where it demands independence, if any of these questions are to be discussed. The democratic and progressive movement in Indonesia is more theoretically and practically advanced in some respects and should be helping push forward discussion of these problems, finding solutions, identifying strategies and tactics while the Papuan people’s movement always defines its own position. And we have some common economic-political realities – Papuans and those of us outside Papua: we both are dominated by imperialism, through a regime dependent on imperialism and through military-backed repression, although the oppression the Papuan people suffer is far more vicious, much deeper and more exploitative.

It will be difficult for the Papuan people to find the democratic space they need or to concretise their struggle for independence, if there is no support from the democratic movement outside Papua. An embryonic nation developing more fully requires some specific conditions: the broadest possible democratic dialogue free of intervention by the government, the withdrawal of non-organic military forces, the dissolution of the military operations district in Puncak Jaya Tinggi Nambur, the formation of a democratic autonomous government in the hands of the Papuan people and movement, the arrest and trial of abusers of human rights, a greater proportion of the natural wealth for the Papuan people, a massive increase in the people’s welfare through free education and health, improved infrastructure (roads, electricity, communications), employment opportunities, food, water, cheap fertiliser and so on.

Through cooperation between the democratic movement outside Papua and the Papuan people’s movement, democratic space can be opened up more widely, and the conditions advanced towards those necessary for the fullest democracy and prosperity.

Surya Anta being dragged to police van.
International News & Analysis
West Papua