Friday, July 20, 2018

Micronesia President Should Help Ambonese Political Prisoners

In June 2017, families of these political prisoners visited the Communion 
of Churches in Indonesia. Chairwoman Ery Lebang and secretary
general Gomar Gultom listened to the tortures the prisoners had suffered
plus the discrimination in their Aboru village, Haruku Island.

Federated States of Micronesia President Peter M. Christian should raise the suffering of eight Ambonese political prisoners, jailed more than 3,000 kilometers from their home island, when visiting his ancestors’ and their Ambon Island in Indonesia’s Moluccas archipelago this week.

These prisoners suffer not only from physical illness but also from isolation. Six prisoners, including school teacher Johan Teterisa, are now jailed on Indonesia’s Nusa Kambangan prison island. Two others are jailed in Porong, Java Island, and Pamekasan, Madura Island. They’re serving prison terms between 15 and 20 years.

Their prisons are very far from their home Haruku Island, a 30-minute speed boat ride from Ambon. The multiple travel is also expensive which severely handicaps the prisoners’ ability to stay in close touch with their friends and family members.

Indonesia's presidential guards and police arrested
Johan Teterisa on June 29, 2007, when he was dancing
in the Ambon stadium. He's now still in Nusa Kambangan
prison, more than 3,000 kilometers from Ambon.
On June 29, 2007, Johan Teterisa led a group of 27 Moluccan independence activists to join in a national Family Day festival at the Ambon stadium. They scandalized then-President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who was in the audience with a group of foreign diplomats, by performing the Moluccan cakalele traditional war dance and unfurling the officially banned Republic of South Maluku flag.

Police arrested them and 48 other pro-independence activists. Police tortured them and within months an Ambon court had convicted them for “treason,” sentencing them to prison terms of seven to 20 years. Most of them have been released but the remaining eight men who joined the dance with Teterisa.

The convictions were under articles 106 and 110 of the Indonesian Criminal Code, which effectively criminalize freedom of expression. Human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have repeatedly asked the Indonesian government to release them, arguing that they just aired their political aspiration peacefully. Three other Moluccan political prisoners –Fredy Akihary, Jusup Sapakoly and Frangky Simiasa-- died inside their prisons.

Johan Teterisa's sons, 
Rivaldo and Yohanis Relton Teterisa, 
in their housing complex in Cikarang, 
outside Jakarta
President Christian is on an one-week visit in Indonesia, meeting President Joko Widodo and visiting an airplane factory in Bandung, a three-hour drive from Jakarta, where he’s inspecting the possibility to buy some planes. When meeting Widodo, he praised Indonesia for joining the United Security Council and promised to support Indonesia in international arena including in the Pacific Islands Forum where West Papua issue is getting more heated.

In April 2016, Indonesia’s Minister of Law and Human Rights Yasonna Laoly promised to transfer these prisoners back to Ambon, getting them closer to their families. Laoly has not delivered his promise. I learned that his bureaucrats had complained that they cannot buy airline tickets to transfer these prisoners back to Ambon. President Peter Christian could probably remind his Indonesian hosts that they’re selling him new airplanes. How could they have no money to buy airplane tickets? 

No comments: