Wensislaus (Wensi) Fatubun

Role: Human Rights Advisor, Papuan People's Assembly

Active in Country: Indonesia, West Papua, Asia
DTP Alumnus: 22nd Annual Human Rights and Peoples' Diplomacy Training program, Timor-Leste 2012

Since last year, I’ve been working as a human rights advisor for the Papuan People’s Assembly, a governmental body set up under the Special Autonomy Law. So I visit indigenous communities and participate in consultation with national and local governments as well as independent organisations like the Human Rights Institute.

The current situation has not improved. The political conflict has intensified, with battles between the West Papuan Liberation Army, who are very active now, and the Indonesian military and police. The Widodo government has been trying to introduce a major economic development program for Papua, building infrastructure like highways and dams. But these projects are causing difficulties for indigenous Papuans, who aren’t consulted on these decisions.

Violence against women is a major human rights concern. There are many cases of Indonesian soldiers raping and sexually abusing indigenous Papuan women especially in mountain areas and along the border of West Papua and Papua New Guinea. Many women are still living with trauma from events like the 1996 protests where the Morning Star flag was raised and many people were tortured, raped and killed.

Indigenous rights are another big problem, especially land rights. When the Indonesian government brought the palm oil companies, clearing the forest and planting trees for oil, indigenous Papuans there lost everything. Everything. The government also has a policy of renaming villages to Indonesian. In indigenous Papuan culture, names don’t just identify a place, they are also related to the history, related to knowledge, to culture. When indigenous Papuans use the name of a place, they are also speaking of their ancestors who lived there, of things that happened before. So it’s really a violation of intellectual property.

And then there’s freedom of expression, freedom of opinions, freedom of assembly and association. Since 2011, when West Papuans organised mass protests fighting for independence from Indonesia, more young Papuans have been arrested, tortured, beaten up and jailed as political prisoners because they have been in protests or demonstrations. Sometimes it's difficult for me. Last year I was intimidated and under threat from the police and military, because I made a strong push for progressive legislation for indigenous Papuans. They verbally intimidated me, came to my place and they are also monitoring me every day.

How did my activism develop? As a child we had to move from my mother’s village because of Indonesian military operations in the area. My grandfather had to move to PNG to save his life and passed away from hunger. It was a difficult situation at that time. This is an experience from which I learned. Then I think I really grew up with the feeling of a human rights activist when I studied as a philosophy student in North Sulawesi. And also as a Catholic theology student - at that time I wanted to become a priest but I left. So after I finished my studies, I went back to Marauke, my hometown and worked as a researcher and human rights investigator for the Catholic archdiocese’s Office of Justice and Peace. After that I went to Jakarta and worked with the Justice and Peace Commission there for five years. Since I was a student, I had also been involved in West Papuan activism. I am also a member of Geneva for Human Rights' Working Group on West Papua.

In Jakarta, together with my friend Enrico Aditjondro, we developed the Papuan Voices movement. We teach young Papuans to use a camera to document the situation and to tell stories from their perspective. I think video is a powerful tool for advocacy because it doesn’t just communicate information and knowledge but also brings the feel of people. This is why I train indigenous Papuans from the grassroots to use video and tell their story. To tell their own situation. They can bring their voices, bring their knowledge, bring the feel of their communities and share that with other people.

I took inspiration and knowledge from the Diplomacy Training Program course in 2012. It really gave me confidence in my work with human rights and strengthened my work with the indigenous communities in West Papua. After the course, I visited communities, working with them to build a practical strategy that combined human rights knowledge and mechanisms with indigenous Papuans' ways, in order to advocate for their rights.

We need more young Papuans to attend training like the DTP program. When I attended, I not only gained knowledge and skills but I also had an experience. It gave me confidence. So we need more young Papuans to participate in training of this sort. It's part of their empowerment.

West Papuans also need solidarity, because sometimes when I have met people in the villages they are living without hope; they think that their problems are too big, so they have no hope. But when I show them that “no, we have friends on the outside who are always telling others about our problem”, this is like a sign of hope for them.


Profile written May 2020