West Papuan People Pay Financial Punishment Levied as an Attempt by Jakarta to Punish Veronica Koman for her Support
Jakarta / Jayapura, Sept. 16, 2020 — The Ebamukai Solidarity Team for Veronica Koman has today repaid a scholarship withdrawn by the Indonesian Ministry of Finance, intended to punish Veronica for her human rights work in support of West Papua.
Ex political prisoners Ambrosius Mulait and Dano Tabuni and lawyer Michael Himan returned the scholarship funds in support of Veronica, along with an Indonesian flag, a copy of the West Papuan Special Autonomy Law, and a sum of one million rupiah in small notes, to the Ministry building in Jakarta. The latter two items constitute a symbolic handing-back to the Indonesian government of West Papua’s Special Autonomy status and funds, which is seen as a strategy to deny West Papuans’ right to self-determination.
Despite the Solidarity Team sending a meeting request to scholarship institution LPDP on Monday, they received no reply; instead the LPDP office presented a closed door to the Team today, forcing them to proceed to the main building of the Ministry of Finance. There security guards and police closed the gate and said there was no one left in the building. The team then proceeded to the Coordinating Legal, Political and Security Affairs Ministry and asked the scholarship money, flag, and the Special Autonomy law and funds to be delivered to the Minister who has been asking for the scholarship money since last November.
Once the news broke that the Indonesian government was financially punishing Veronica Koman with an order to pay an amount of IDR 773.876.918 (~ USD 52,000) to pressure her to return to Indonesia to face arrest, the people of West Papua immediately started fundraising efforts by setting up posts, collecting donations at markets and roadsides, and online. The fundraising continued despite police actions to forcibly disperse fundraisers in Nabire and Jayapura, West Papua.
Mama Yosepha Alomang, indigenous leader and winner of the 2001 Goldman Environmental Prize and the 1999 Yap Thiam Hien Award on human rights said in Jayapura:
“For 57 years Indonesia has taken from West Papua, consuming my body. You took my gold from the Nemangkawi (sacred mountain mined by Freeport) to send thousands of your children to school. I never asked you to return it. Now I touch my head and thank all West Papuan people, my children everywhere who have opened their hearts, eyes, and wallets to help Child Vero. For Child Vero, do not give up, keep fighting to defend my and West Papuan people’s dignity. Child Vero, I have put you in my ‘noken’. Vero aiye… My prayers with you.”
Markus Haluk, Executive Director of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) in West Papua:
“The West Papuan nation has dignity. Veronica Koman has sacrificed to defend West Papuan people’s dignity and pride. Amid the hardship, we have proven this month that we can stand together to defend her. We will keep our unity and solidarity that we show today until we reclaim the West Papuan nation’s dignity and political rights. We appreciate and thank everyone who has joined in solidarity.”
Pastor John Bunai, Coordinator of 57 Indigenous West Papuan Pastors, Coordinator of Papua Peace Network (Jaringan Damai Papua) said:
“We have seen and felt how much Vero cares and loves the people of West Papua who are suffering. In this situation, Vero is present, lightens our cross and tears in noble ways. We see her as a white angel sent by God to be among West Papuan people. We, the 57 indigenous pastors, give a little offering to Vero which were given by churchgoers to us. Vero’s voice full of love for the dignity of West Papuan people is worth more than our small contribution. Vero, you are in the noken of West Papuan mothers, you are our sister. Yesterday, the present and going forth into history will note this.”
Victor Mambor, senior journalist, Jubi Association, who collated fundraising monies said:
“The donations that we received varied in size, starting from ten thousand to tens of millions of rupiah.”
Ronny Kareni, West Papuan activist, who instituted an international online fundraiser from his home in Australia said:
“Veronica Koman is us. Her resilient character in exposing the truth about the Indonesian State’s atrocious human rights behaviour is deeply admired by many Papuans. Although it comes at a personal and professional cost, she is a living testament to the concerns held by many progressive Indonesians, and can teach Jokowi’s administration how to be the voice of the voiceless people.”