Controversy surrounds Indonesian Vice-President’s meeting with human rights activists in Papua

The meeting between Indonesian Vice President Ma’ruf Amin and a group of human rights defenders and Papuan businessmen in Papua on 10 October 2023, has drawn criticism for being one-sided and failing to address the root issues of human rights violations in the region. The meeting, which took place at the Papua Governor’s Office (see photo, credit Jubi/Dok Secretariat Vice President), excluded a broader representation of stakeholders, including various human rights activists, churches, NGOs, and victims’ families.

Human rights defender Theo Hesegem, who was not invited to the meeting, expressed concerns about the lack of inclusivity. He stated that the Land of Papua has a significant number of human rights defenders who face various longstanding challenges. Hesegem revealed that despite being initially contacted to attend the meeting, he and others were left uninformed, and their proposed names were removed from the list of participants, resulting in only a limited number of attendees.

During the meeting, there was a discussion about the future, including the establishment of human rights courts in Papua. However, crucial issues related to past human rights violations in Papua remained unaddressed. Hesegem emphasised that discussions should encompass all regions within Papua, involving stakeholders beyond human rights defenders, to provide a comprehensive perspective on the situation.

Hesegem stressed the complexity of the issues in Papua, asserting that involving only a handful of individuals would not lead to effective solutions. He called for transparency, open dialogue, and a comprehensive approach to addressing the multifaceted problems faced by the people of Papua.

One of the pressing concerns highlighted by Hesegem is the ongoing humanitarian crises in various parts of Papua. He argued that while discussions about human rights justice are important for the future, the unresolved issues from the past also demand immediate attention. Hesegem criticised the lack of focus on the process of resolving past human rights violations during the meeting with the Vice President.

In essence, the criticism of the meeting centred on its perceived lack of inclusivity and its failure to adequately address the historical and ongoing human rights issues in Papua. Hesegem and other activists called for a more comprehensive and transparent approach to addressing the complex challenges faced by the region.

As Papua continues to grapple with unresolved human rights violations and ongoing crises, there is a growing urgency to establish a human rights court in the region. However, for meaningful progress to be made, it is essential to engage a broader spectrum of stakeholders, address past grievances, and foster open and honest dialogue about the complex issues that the region faces.