Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Papuans have had enough of racial-religious hatred and persecution.


By Elizabeth Kendal


Every 15 August, Papuans (mostly Christian Melanesians) hold demonstrations to protest the unjust New York Agreement, signed on 15 August 1962, which paved the way for West Papua and Papua (formerly known as Irian Jaya) to come under Indonesian rule.

Every 17 August, Indonesians (in particular, the mostly Javanese Muslims) celebrate Indonesia's 17 August 1945 Proclamation of Independence.

Unsurprisingly, every year there are clashes and arrests. Indeed, this year more than 100 Papuans were arrested, including “a 9-year old kid whose only crime was marching with his fellow West Papuans”.

What’s more, this year footage went viral which showed Indonesian soldiers using excessive force as police and radicals aligned with various nationalist and Islamist militia groups yelled racist abuse and threats at Papuan students in Surabaya, East Java.

Fed up and infuriated, Papuans rallied in 30 cities across Indonesia, including in Jakarta, in protest of years of unrelenting racial-religious hatred and persecution.

To appreciate the seriousness of incident in Surabaya, a report in the Jakarta Post is worth quoting at length.

Papuan students on Java face increased pressures from Islamist, nationalist groups
By Ivany Atina Arbi, Wahyoe Boediwardhana, and Benny Mawel
The Jakarta Post Jakarta, Surabaya, and Jayapura, Monday, August 19, 2019

Excerpt:

"Papuan students on Java Island have repeatedly become the target of intimidation by Islamist and nationalist groups.

"In the latest incident on Friday afternoon [16 Aug], scores of security forces along with civil militias from hard-line group Islam Defenders Front (FPI) and youth organization Pemuda Pancasila (PP) reportedly went to a Papuan student dormitory on Jl. Kalasan in Surabaya, East Java, and launched physical and verbal attacks against the students, following the finding of an Indonesian flag discarded near the dorm.

"According to the Surabaya Legal Aid Institute, which cited the account of a student staying in the dormitory, Indonesian Military (TNI) soldiers allegedly banged on the door of the dorm while uttering curse words such as 'monkey', 'dogs' and 'pigs' aimed at the students inside the dormitory.

"Dozens of FPI and PP members reportedly came not long after.

"Human rights lawyer Veronica Koman, who is also a representative of the National Committee for West Papua (KNPB), said Sunday that the angry mob purportedly damaged the dorm’s gate and threw stones at the building while chanting 'Kick out Papuans!' and 'Slaughter Papuans!' for hours, restricting the students’ movement.

"Two good Samaritan Indonesian students, who at midnight delivered food to the students trapped inside the dorm, claimed to have been assaulted and later arrested by police who were guarding the area.

Police storm dormitory (ABC)
"'This is beyond my comprehension, what could possibly be the crime of delivering food and water? Even prisoners have a right to eat,' Veronica said, adding that the pressure continued on the following day with the police shooting teargas into the dorm and arresting all 43 students inside the building.

"'[All the teargas and violence] is totally unnecessary. They are only unarmed, hungry, thirsty and tired students who have been rounded up by hundreds of racist civil militias and security forces for more than 24 hours,' she said."

Australia’s ABC reported that the police stormed the ‘dormitory full of Papuan students, firing around 20 tear gas canisters into the building, causing injuries, arrested 43 (later released) around nine hours after without charge, over claims that the Indonesian flag was found in the gutter by the building.’ They claim to have been concerned that the crowd/mob was ‘close to attacking’, and thus only acted to stabilise the situation.

Protests erupt in West Papua and Papua


On Monday 19 August, thousands of Papuans protested in West Papua’s Manokwari (where local parliament was torched,) and Sorong (where 250 inmates escaped after the jail was torched), as well as in Papua’s capital Jayapura.

Clashes have been reported in Fakfak, a Papuan regency known to harbour Indonesian nationalist and Islamist militias.

Several protesters were injured and dozens detained as Indonesian authorities cracked down on the Papuan “separatists”.

Victor Yeimo, a spokesperson for the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), told Al Jazeera that a member of his organisation has confirmed reports of injuries sustained by several West Papuans, some of whom were taken to a local hospital.

John Djonga, a prominent Catholic priest in Papua province, told Al Jazeera that he had sent an emissary to Fakfak, who confirmed that some injured protesters were being treated in a hospital there.

The police, however, deny that dozens were wounded in the crackdown, asserting that reports of injuries are nothing but “hoax news”.

Troops deployed; Internet shut down

The Indonesian government has deployed an additional 1,200 troops to Papua Province, a region long-closed to outsiders.

According to a report by Pacific Media Watch, Indonesia’s police chief, Tito Karnavian, has focused blame for the destruction in Manokwari on the people who posted about the Surabaya incident on social media, describing their posts as “hoax news”. Further to that, in a statement, the Ministry of Communication and Information said it had acted to “throttle” access to the internet in several areas because of the potential for disinformation to create social disorder. “We can say that the purpose of throttling is to prevent the wide spread of hoax (fake news) that trigger action,” the ministry said.

On Thursday 22 August, Indonesia’s Ministry of Telecommunication “temporarily” shut down the internet across Papua Province allegedly “to accelerate government efforts to restore order”. Of course, this not only prevents the flow of news into Papua, it also makes it very difficult to get news out.

CBC News 23 Aug 2019
 'Indonesia deploys thousands of troops to Papua region to quell protests'
(includes interview with exiled Papuan leader, Benny Wenda)

Protests continue; calls for referendum

On Monday 26 August, some 5000 Papuans took to the streets of Deiyai, a highlands town about 500 km south-west of Jayapura, carrying four banned Morning Star flags.

Papuans are calling for a new, fair and just referendum on Papuan Independence.

As Indonesian expert on Papua issues, Darmawan Triwibowo, told the Jakarta Post, “Papuans are often depicted [by the government and mass media] as anti-nationalists who want to separate themselves from the country. The media, however, fail to present the reason behind such aspiration. There’s a human rights issue behind the desire, which is a political problem that should also be addressed using a political approach instead of a security or economic approach.”

According to the Jakarta Post, “[Triwibowo’s] voice was echoed by Papua Peace Network coordinator Adriana Elisabeth, who said various human rights violations that occurred in Papua had not been resolved to this day, despite President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo’s 2014 campaign promise to do so.”

As Human Rights Watch declared, “The Indonesian government has a responsibility to ensure security in West Papua and Papua and to respect the human rights of everyone, including protesters. President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo, who plans to visit Papua, should condemn racist remarks and actions, promote tolerance, and direct the police to impartially investigate abusive militias and officers.”

President Widodo's shame 

To date, all President Widodo has done is call on Papuans to stay calm and forgive their fellow citizens. 

“I know that there are hurt feelings,” Widodo told a media conference, “but as fellow citizens the best thing is to forgive each other. It is okay to be emotional but forgiving is better. Being patient is also better. And be confident that the government will continue to safeguard your dignity and prosperity.”

But, as Evi Mariani observed in the Jakarta Post (19 Aug), “Papuans have long endured racial discrimination from the majority Javanese.” 

She notes that in July last year, Amnesty International Indonesia released a report which described Papua as “one of Indonesia’s black holes for human rights . . . a region where security forces have for years been allowed to kill women, men and children, with no prospects of being held to account."

Mariani continues, “Under the pretext of nationalism, [many Indonesians] may think Papuans have no right to be outraged. After all, some would say: ‘We give them roads, development and a lot of special autonomy funds. . .’

“However, we fail to give the Papuans respect they deserve and recognition that they are equal to us. As citizens of Indonesia, they have equal opportunity to protest when they think they are being treated unfairly. Of course, such failure only amounts to racism.

“Non-Papuans, the majority, would say Papuans, the minority, have no right to call for justice or determine their future after the relentless acts of violence, injustice and racism they have endured for decades. Unless they find peace, justice and prosperity, they will consider living in the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia merely a rhetorical statement.

“Papuans deserve peace and prosperity on their rich land and without eradicating our racism against them, there would never be peace in Papua.”

“Racism,” she concludes, will only fuel the Papuan “struggle for independence from ‘Indonesian occupation'.”

Indeed; Papuans have had enough of genocidal racial-religious hatred and persecution.

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On 30 August, East Timor will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 1999 UN-managed referendum through which the mostly Catholic East Timorese people voted overwhelmingly to separate from Indonesia. As Jose Ramos Horta explains, ‘Between 150,000 and 200,000 people out of a population of 700,000 died during the 24-year Indonesian reign.’

Though marked by violence which saw more than 1500 East Timorese murdered at the hands of Indonesian nationalist and Islamist militias – violence ultimately subdued by troops from an International Force (INTERFET) organised and led by Australia – the 1999 referendum paved the way to independence. Today Jose Ramos Horta is incredibly proud of East Timor, and incredibly grateful for the referendum which has enabled the East Timorese to create ‘a new country, free of revenge and violence, a vibrant democracy with the freest media in the region’.

Do the Papuans deserve any less?

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Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF) and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com 

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Nigeria’s Fraudulent Election: Will Things Fall Apart?


By Elizabeth Kendal

Nigerians vote: 23 February 2019

“Massive, consistent, and comprehensive, deliberate manipulation and distortion preceded, attended, and followed the Nigerian Presidential and National Assembly elections of February 23, 2019, and gubernatorial elections of March 9, 2019.”

So reads the opening paragraph of a Staff Report entitled, “Options for Africa and Nigeria Moves into a ‘Post-Democratic’ Phase” in issue 4/2019 of Defense & Foreign Affairs (D&FA) Strategic Policy magazine (the official magazine of the International Strategic Studies Association).

Shocking they might be, but these words would come as no surprise to anyone who has been closely monitoring Nigeria over recent years.

As noted in Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletins 488 (6 Feb) and 489 (13 Feb) – written to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer – Buhari and his All Progressives Congress (APC) came to power in 2015 promising to tackle corruption, improve security and revive the economy. Instead, the opposite has occurred.

Corruption has flourished. In particular, as has been revealed, there has been massive fraud in military procurement. Government funds have been secured on the basis of fake contracts for provisions and equipment which were never delivered – “everything from food and ammunition to firearms, helicopters and Alpha jets, totalling as much as US$15 billion”.  “Armsgate” is the reason why soldiers are being deployed into conflict zones with insufficient rations and malfunctioning weapons; and why those who survive return defeated and demoralised. It is why insecurity has escalated to crisis levels. It is why Boko Haram / Islamic State of West Africa has not been defeated. It is why soldiers mutinied in Maiduguri in August 2018 not long after Buhari’s APC party suffered a string of defections to the opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP). It is also why a catastrophic Christian crisis persists throughout Nigeria's North and Middle Belt.

Pleading for assistance,  Rev. Ezekiel Dachomo
World Watch Monitor, Sept 2018
For more news on persecution see Morning Star News / Nigeria

Of course corruption and insecurity are major reasons as to why the economy has stagnated and why there is such widespread disillusionment, displacement, poverty and despair.

Unsurprisingly, Buhari’s first term was widely believed to have been an unmitigated disaster. Indeed, any progress that was made, was made in Buhari’s absence – during his 170-days of “medical leave”.

Consequently, it seemed the risk was not that Buhari would win the presidential poll, but that his loss would trigger widespread religious violence, just as in April 2011 when Buhari lost to Goodluck Jonathan.

Buhari declared winner of presidential poll.

President Muhammadu Buhari,
winner of 2019 presidential poll.
When, on the morning of 27 February, Nigeria’s Independent National Election Commission (INEC) announced Muhammadu Buhari as the winner of the presidential poll, the news was met with disbelief in many quarters.

As the Council on Foreign Relations remarked (18 March): “Nigeria’s latest presidential election cycle has been bad news for democracy in Africa’s most populous country and across the continent. Though President Muhammadu Buhari won the election, it was marred by historically low turnout and credible allegations of rigging.”

In March, in an editorial in D&FA issue 2/2019 entitled “Democracy as Farce is the Prelude to Tyranny”, the president of the International Strategic Studies Association, Gregory Copley, commented that Buhari, “knowing the electorate had turned against him, could only sustain power by the direct, deliberate, and planned manipulation of voting mechanisms. Buhari controlled the levers of legalization: he ensured that the management of the ‘Independent’ National Election Commission (INEC) was no longer, in fact, independent, ensuring that the delivery and counting of ballots could be manipulated in the most blatant terms . . .

“Knowing such fraud would become known to the electorate, and that those defrauded would seek redress in the courts, Buhari unilaterally, unconstitutionally, and pre-emptively replaced the Chief Justice of Nigeria, on January 25, 2019, with Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed . . . presumably to position the highest Nigerian court to ratify a Buhari/All Progressives Congress (APC) victory in the Presidential, National Assembly, and probably state gubernatorial elections.”

According to the Staff Report in D&FA (4/2019), “The incumbent Government of Pres. Muhammadu Buhari, through manipulation of the electoral, military, and administrative processes, achieved the effect of a coup d’etat, institutionalizing corruption to a degree unseen before even in Nigeria, while all the stage settings of democracy appeared to continue in situ.”

According to D&FA (4/2019), the known steps undertaken by the cadre around President Buhari to co-opt the elections include:

1) The unconstitutional replacement by President Buhari on 25 January 2019, of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) – Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen (a southerner) – with Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed (a Muslim from the North) presumably to position the highest Nigerian court to ratify a Buhari win;

2) The now exposed and substantial under-delivery of ballot papers to voting stations around Nigeria. This means that even if 100 per cent of the delivered ballot papers were completed in favor of opposition candidates, there would still be sufficient ballots which could be illegally and secretly completed in favor of Buhari and the APC;

3) The disruptive postponement of the election from its scheduled dates (possibly to “test the waters” should a state of emergency or even martial law be declared), and

4) President Buhari’s threats against foreign governments if they “interfere” in the Nigerian elections.

The Staff Report in D&FA (4/2019) also noted that by 7 April claims were emerging that the “Presidential election result could be canceled due to the fact that INEC still was unable to produce full result sheets from the election, despite having called the Presidency in Buhari’s favor shortly after the election.”

D&FA (4/2019) laments that while Buhari “is ill, indecisive, and vindictive, and has become financially and morally corrupt”, he is “surrounded by officials who, to cling to their own wealth, are prepared to go to any lengths to sustain his Presidency”.

The report concludes: “Thus corruption continues in Nigeria with the notable compounding factor: there are no checks and balances left to constrain an administration which has essentially abandoned democracy.”

Court Challenge Commences in Abuja
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar
On 18 March, the presidential candidate for the People's Democratic Party (PDP), former Vice President Atiku Abubakar issued a legal challenge to the election results on the basis of irregularities.”

Atiku faced immense pressure to drop the case as stakeholders warned it could trigger violence. However, former President Olusegun Obasanjo defended Atiku's right to seek legal redress, noting that, if Buhari were permitted to seek redress over past losses (as he did in 2003, 2007 and 2011), then Atiku should be entitled to do likewise, as should any Nigerian who feels they have been denied justice. According to Obasanjo, those warning the case would trigger violence are simply those looking for an excuse to unleash violence.

On Wednesday 8 May, a panel of five judges at Nigeria’s appellate court fixed 15 May as the date to begin hearing a total of four petitions filed to challenge the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari and his All Progressives Congress (APC) party in the 23 February presidential poll.

On Wednesday 15 May, security was high around the Appeal Court in Abuja, venue of Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, as the pre-hearing session on the 139-page petition filed by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar commenced.

Claims INEC server was hacked 

It seems that Atiku Abubakar, having been alerted to the fact that President Buhari was preparing to rig the election, took precautions. At his instigation a whistle-blower from the INEC hacked into the INEC server and download the election results before they were announced.

In his submission to the Presidential Election Tribunal, Atiku Abubakar has supplied the “unique MAC address and Microsoft product ID of the INEC server” from where the results were allegedly obtained. INEC_PRES_RSLT_SRV2019 and its unique Mac address  94-57-A5-DC-64-B9 with Microsoft Product ID 00252-70000-0000-AA535.

According to the results downloaded from the server, Atiku Abubakar won the presidential poll by more than 1.6 million votes (and this was before the results from Rivers in the deep south – traditionally a PDP state – had been transmitted to the INEC server).

During the election campaign, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Festus Keyamo served as the Director of Strategic Communications (Official Spokesperson) for the Buhari Campaign Organisation. Upon hearing of Atiku’s claim, Festus Keyamo (SAN) wrote a petition to the Inspector-General of Police calling for Atiku Abubakar’s arrest for allegedly hacking the INEC server.

But this is self-defeating, as Atiku’s guilt would only prove Buhari’s fraud.

In his petition, Keyamo echos the INEC’s false and ludicrous claim that the data Atiku allegedly downloaded from the INEC server is data he first smuggled onto the INEC server. For according to the INEC, there was no data on the INEC server as all election results were transmitted manually, not electronically.

Unfortunately for Keyamo and the INEC, Atiku Abubakar’s petition also includes affidavits from 13 presiding officers, who, in their sworn statements, testify that during their training the INEC had instructed them on how to electronically transmit the results to its server.

An investigation by Nigeria’s THISDAY revealed that, “as Atiku publicised the INEC server ID to prove that he had genuine election results, operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) arrested workers in the commission’s IT department for leaking information on the server.” THISDAY also revealed that “when the wives and families of arrested INEC staff threatened to protest publicly, the DSS quickly released the INEC staff”.

As public affairs analyst, Hamma Shehu, remarks: “INEC was clever by half. They played themselves, they think they can use technology and jettison it crookedly, unknown to them, everything digital has a footprint and cannot be deleted.”

Some of the most scathing commentary has come from popular columnist and social commentator Femi Aribisala. “I am of the opinion,” he writes in his weekly column, “that no election in Nigeria has been as fraudulent as the one we just witnessed.  Fortunately, no stolen mandate has also been so conclusively documented as this one. . .

“This blatant rape on Nigerian democracy must not be allowed to stand.”

[Commentary by Femi Aribisala: “The Courts Must Declare Atiku As Nigerian President,” Part 1 (7 May) and Part 2 (14 May).

INAUGURATION

President Buhari will be inaugurated in a “low-key” ceremony on Wednesday 29 May.  Celebrations will be held on 12 June, the day President Buhari wants recognised as National Democracy Day.

As PDP spokesman Kola Ologbondiyan remarks, no many how many global leaders are invited to this big event, it “cannot confer international recognition for a stolen mandate”.

These are watershed days for Nigeria. The future is anything but certain.

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Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF) and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com