The archbishop condemns the harassment of a disabled Papuan by two Air Force officers, calls for targeted training and legal action “based on loving care, not revenge and violence”.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Archbishop Petrus Canisius Mandagi of Merauke issued a letter following an incident involving a native Papuan man and two Indonesian Air Force officers. In it, the prelate writes that "Papuans must be treated with dignity and respect”.
A video has recently gone viral showing an altercation between a disabled Papuan man and a food stall owner.
At some point, two uniformed officers intervene with one forcing the Indigenous man to the ground with his hands behind his back, while the second presses his boot on the man's face.
Human rights and West Papua pro-independence activists immediately expressed their outrage.
After looking into the event, the authorities confirmed that the man was unarmed, disabled and had not resisted, so that the officers' behaviour was "beyond the applicable standards and procedures,” reads a statement by the presidential chief of staff.
In a press release, the Chief of Staff of the Indonesian Air Force, Air Marshal Fadjar Prasetyo, also condemned the excessive use of force by the two soldiers.
"We shall evaluate our personnel in Merauke and take the case to a military court,” the statement said.
The two officers involved are currently held in custody pending an investigation.
“I urge the Indonesian military to treat our fellow Papuan citizens with dignity and respect,” says Archbishop Mandagi in his letter.
The prelate thanked the Air Force chiefs in Merauke and Jakarta “for responding promptly to the question" and condemning the incident.
However, he reiterates the need to treat the Papuans more humanely. The latter have been discriminated for a long time, especially by Indonesia’s military.
“For a long time,” the archbishop writes, “Papuans have been badly treated by Indonesian authorities. Based on the latest episode of violence, I strongly urge the military to change its approach towards Papuans.”
In a subsequent passage, the prelate emphasises the need for targeted training and proper and professionally conducted legal action, based on loving care, not revenge and violence.
Finally, he expresses his appreciation for the local military who carry out their work with seriousness and efficiency.
“My respects go to the dozens of officers who maintain an exceptional moral conduct. I support them in winning over the hearts of Indigenous Papuans.”
West Papua is rich in resources. Annexed by Indonesia in a controversial vote in 1969, it saw the outbreak of protests in 2018 because of racist discrimination by the security forces against the local indigenous population.