La Chronique, Amnesty International, 3 novembre 2014
WEST PAPUA NEW GUINEA : Wensislaus Fatuban, a native of Papua New Guinea, has made a series of short documentary films which show the daily lives of his people, their history and their repression by the Indonesian army. His films gave a voice to the Papuan people at the film festival in Douarnenez in Brittany last August.
Wensislaus Fatubun : The Eye of the Papuans
by Patrick Chesnet
Thirty years afterward, Wensislaus has still not forgotten. It happened in the south of the Indonesian province of West Papua, a journey of two days from the “big city” of Merauke. Life in the small village of Yodom centered around trips to and from the ubiquitous, generous forest, provider of every need. The arrival of South Korean lumber company brutally intruded on the traditional way of life. Workers started to fell trees. Word had it that a plantation of palm oil trees was to take their place.
While the helpless population watched the destruction of part of their sources of food, the children in the village had eyes only for the bulldozers. But what fascinated 12-year-old Wensislaus the most was the strange object a Korean regularly held up to his eye as if he were aiming at something. “No one had ever seen a camera,” he remembers. “When I saw the joyful reactions of the people who saw their pictures from the camera, I said to myself that me, too, I wanted to do that.”
His dream came true some years later when, after studying journalism at the Catholic University of Manado, on the island of Sulawesi, Fatubun started work at the Office for Justice and Peace in the archdiocese of Merauke. “I began to write reports and use a camera to speak out on the rights of native peoples and environmental issues. This is how the project Papuan Voices started,” he explains. “I wanted this to be a cultural project to permit the people of Papua to tell their own stories in films. So other people could learn about them.”
Wensislaus visited the villages, explained what a camera was and what purpose it served and convinced the villagers of its usefulness as a tool. Once a plan for the sequence established to everyone’s satisfaction, he could film. The result: short fifteen-minute films posted on Internet in order to reach a maximum audience. [These films can be viewed on papuanvoices.net and on YouTube: West Papua Story Teller.] “One of our films tells the story of a young Papuan woman who became pregnant after a relation with an Indonesian soldier. This happens to a good number of Papuan women who find themselves alone to raise their child, cast off by Indonesians and their own community alike,” says the producer-film maker. “Another film shows how Papuans are losing their culture and their identity.”
Fatubun’s interest is not just in making films: “Each sequence is an opportunity to talk with the villagers about human rights, the rights of indigenous peoples and their socio-economic rights. Making a film is an occasion for us to settle on a strategy with the villagers for them to claim their rights. Not only by addressing representatives of the government in meetings organized by the Justice and Peace office but also more globally using our network.”
There are indeed reasons to protest. Their land is being taken from them, they are being colonized by new settlers, they are being forced into assimilation and being marginalized … This is not to forget the smouldering war that has been going on since 1963, when West Papua was de facto declared a part of the Republic of Indonesia. To this day, Papuan armed groups have been calling for greater autonomy and even independence.
Wensislaus denounces “a creeping genocide,” given the extra judiciary executions, arbitrary arrests, disappearances and torture to which the Papuan population is exposed. Amnesty International has regularly recorded abuses and violations of human rights by Indonesian authorities in a region off-limits to international non-governmental organizations and journalists. [Two French journalists with Arte were arrested this August 6th and imprisoned for having travelled with tourist visas and contacted members of an “armed gang of criminals”. They risk a condemnation of 5 years at their upcoming trial as well as fines of $42,000.]
Last August at the Douarnenez film festival, this year centred on Indonesia, Wensislaus was enheartened by the size of the audience: “Every screening outside is a chance to tell the world about what Papuans are enduring, to build new alliances and to add to the contacts of our network.” There is however another aspect to consider: “The army has threatened me to stop my work. When I started to receive threats on my life, I decided to leave West Papua. I now live in Jakarta, where I continue my fight to make the voices of Papuans heard.”