Socialist Party of Malaysia: Release Victor Yeimo and political activists in West Papua immediately!

First published at Think Left.

The Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) would like to voice our concerns regarding the act of the Indonesian government to criminalize Victor Yeimo and other political activists.

Victor Yeimo, a political activist from the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) who campaigned peacefully for a self-determination referendum for the Papuan people, was arrested on 9th May 2021 and charged with treason by the government. Human rights groups believe the charges stemmed from his involvement in anti-racism protests in 2019. It is possible he will be sentenced to life in prison simply for protesting peacefully.

Since his arrest, Victor Yeimo has been in solitary confinement, denied the right to legal aid and access to his family. Recently, there was a decline in his health which led him to get treatment in a hospital. After recovering, he returned to prison while the trial was held.

Annexation of West Papua with Indonesia was the result of the world powers during the Cold War without the participation of the Papuan community itself. The New York Agreement of 1962 stated that the people of Papua were allowed to vote freely and fairly for self-determination after the merger with Indonesia. However, Suharto’s dictatorial government refused to hold a real referendum that would allow all Papuans to vote, with the racist excuse that the Papuans were too “primitive” to make their own choices.

In 1969, the selection of 1,026 “representatives” to vote in a “referendum” under the muzzle of the Indonesian army’s guns brought a result that supported Indonesia’s complete control of West Papua. This “Act of Free Choice” actually turned into “Act of No Choice”.

In 2019, massive anti-racism protests broke out in West Papua and several regions in Indonesia. As mentioned above, Victor Yeimo was involved in the protest peacefully. Security forces crushed the protests with extreme lethal force and even cut off access to the internet in West Papua.

In 2021, additional demonstrations were initiated subsequent to the revision of the Special Autonomy Law by the Indonesian government. This amendment was not only undertaken without the involvement of the populace of West Papua, but also resulted in the removal of the right to form local political parties and created new districts that would divide the indigenous tribes. This reform will strip the region of autonomous powers by centralizing power in the hands of the central government. Finally, 15 activists faced treason charges for their peaceful protest against the amendment of the Special Autonomy Law.

The struggle of the people of West Papua for self-determination is met with systematic armed repression and racist sentiments by the Indonesian security forces. West Papua is the region with the largest number of military deployments in Indonesia with over 35,000 people. The number is expected to increase with the formation of new districts in West Papua. Even the military are involved in industrial security with payment from the enterprise sector which is usually closely related to the exploitation of natural resources and the expropriation of indigenous land.

In 2022, the United Nations expressed concern about the deteriorating human rights situation in West Papua, with acts of violence against indigenous people, including child killings, torture and mass displacement from their places of origin.

PSM is in solidarity with the people of West Papua for self-determination. In addition, we would like to call on the Indonesian government to implement the following measures immediately in order to reduce the harm to West Papua:

1. Unconditional release of Victor Yeimo and all political activists.

2. The immediate removal of Indonesian security forces from West Papua. 

3. The people of West Papua to form their own security forces with the assistance of an impartial international peacekeeping mission.

4. Create a safe environment and enable activists and people of West Papua to voice their demands.

Finally, we call upon the international community to join us in condemning the Indonesian government’s brutal crackdown on peaceful activists in West Papua, and to take action to hold the Indonesian government accountable for its ongoing human rights abuses in the region. We also call upon the Malaysian government to pressure the Indonesian government to respect the human rights of all people in West Papua, and to support the right to self-determination of the Papuan people.

In solidarity!

West Papua Working Group,
International Bureau
Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM)