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  • Writer's pictureMerdeka Secretariat

Statement on Indigenous Peoples Day 2019

Updated: Aug 22, 2019

August 9, 2019

In 2017, Indonesia has adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). One of the core elements of the UNDRIP is the IP right to self-determination. Yet until today, even the simplest expressions of self-determination by Papuans (such as flag raising and freedom of assembly) is met with the most repressive punishments from the Indonesian state. The Indonesian state continues to impose its colonial power over West Papua through deceptive and divisive national development programs.

West Papua’s supposed special autonomy has become superficial with the continuous influx of investments and so-called development projects that trample on the rights of the peoples of West Papua, especially its Indigenous Peoples. One of the most recent would be none other than the infamous The Trans-Papua Highway, a flagship project of the Jokowi Administration. This project has triggered one of the worst humanitarian crisis in West Papua, having led to widespread militarization, and the displacement and death of thousands of Indigenous Papuans in the Nduga Regency.

Recently, the proposal for a creation of new autonomous regions has been brought up again after being already rejected twice by the Papuan people in 2003 and in 2013. The formation of new regions, provinces, and other divisions will not necessarily bring the economic and political autonomy that the Papuans have long been calling for. Instead, this will only serve as yet another opportunity for entry and expansion of multinational and transnational corporations in Tanah Papua. Furthermore, this program would cause division among Indigenous Papuans, with the benefits being concentrated to a few local elites and bureaucrats.

The Widodo Administration has consistently violated its own national constitution, and disregarded international declarations and conventions in the name of “national development”. Jokowi’s development acceleration programs have shown that neither the Indigenous Peoples of West Papua nor Indonesia cannot expect any real and inclusive development from it. If it has truly accelerated anything, it would be the exploitation of Papua’s Indigenous Peoples and resources by selling out Indigenous lands to private investors, and explicitly instructing government officials to be complicit to this land-grabbing with his shameful line, “...close your eyes, give [the investors] permission”.

On the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, the Merdeka Support Network expresses its solidarity with the Indigenous Peoples of West Papua. Your decades of tireless struggle for self-determination is an inspiration, not only to other Indigenous Peoples, but to all oppressed nations in the world. We stand resolute with you in your people’s struggle, until complete victory!

Uphold the West Papuans’ right to self-determination! Papua Merdeka!



Youth activists from GempaR Papua who were peacefully holding a public activity in commemoration of Indigenous Peoples Day at the grounds of the University of Cendrawasih were forcibly dispersed by Abepura police, together with Intelligence Unit and Brimob Special Police Unit. The banners and equipment for the program were confiscated and damaged, and several activists were harassed and physically assaulted by the security forces. Eighteen youth activists were detained for more than 7 hours at the police station. Four of them also underwent interrogation.*

The Merdeka Support Network vehemently condemns this desperate move by the Indonesian state to silence the legitimate calls of Indigenous Peoples in Papua. This act further exposes the Jokowi Administration’s repressive character which blatantly violates the basic rights of Papuans to free speech and assembly, even on the day that is internationally celebrated to recognize the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

We stand with the youth activists of GempaR, and all those who fight alongside Indigenous Papuans who, against all odds, fearlessly continue to fight for the rights to land, life, and genuine liberation! Long live the people’s struggle! Tutup Mata, Lawan! #

*Full chronology can be read here.


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