Pacific Scoop

Human rights campaigner Carmel Budiardjo made an honorary Papuan

Carmel Budiardjo

Carmel Budiardjo with John Miller (left) of ETAN and Ze Luis Oliveira at an East Timor solidarity conference in 2009. Photo:

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By Andreas Harsono in Jakarta

Democracy Forum Bersatu Rakyat Papua has presented the title “Eldest daughter of Papua nation” to human rights activist, writer and publisher Carmel Budiardjo of London in Bali. The event was attended by several Papuan leaders, including Mama Yosepha Alomang from Timika, Rev Benny Giay of STT, Walter Post, Federika Korain and Salmon Yumame of the Democracy Forum.

The event was held in Bali because Budiardjo, as a non-citizen of Indonesia, would have needed a “travel permit” to go to Papua.

Travel resprictions are used by the government of Indonesia to deter activists, journalists and international diplomats from travelling to Papua.

According to a press release by Democracy Forum: “Ms. Carmel Budiardjo, who is now 85 years old, has been showing great commitment fighting alongside the people of Papua to protect the identity and ultimate freedom given by God to the people of Papua.” She is considered of having shown “proven perseverance” in the fight for “the dignity” of the nation of Papua since the 1970s.

Budiardjo was baptised with the name: Papuaumau (Mee language) or Ati Venia (Maybrat language) or Bin Syowi (Biak language.) All those words mean “eldest daughter” in three local Papuan languages. Benny Giay said “Mother Carmel” is “a Papuan citizen” because of her struggle and commitment for human rights.

The inaugural presentation was marked by a procession of traditional dance by students in Bali. As part of the procession Mama Yosepha presented a painting with an image of Caramel Budiardjo. The painting on wood bark illustrates Budiardjo with one hand holding the image and people of Papua New Guinea. An inscription written on her shirt reads “Papua Carmel Budiardjo: Papuaumau or Ati or Bin Syowi Venia”.

In her speech, Carmel Budiardjo said she was deeply moved and grateful to the Democracy Forum. She said she would carry on to campaign for human rights for Papuan people.

Carmel Budiardjo was born in London in 1925. She graduated from the University of London in 1946.

She met with Suwondo Budiardjo, an Indonesian, when they lived in Prague. They married and moved to Java in 1952.

Jailed then expelled
There Carmel worked for the Department of Foreign Affairs.

In 1965 General Suharto took power and imprisoned thousands of Indonesian communists including Suwondo for 12 years. Carmel herself, as an economist from the left, was jailed for three years and was later expelled from Indonesia in 1971.

In London, Carmel Budiardjo founded TAPOL, which is an abbreviation for “political prisoner,” to campaign for the release of political prisoners in Indonesia. TAPOL stepped up its campaign with research about Indonesian military activities and human rights violations in East Timor, Aceh and Papua.

TAPOL published an important reference bulletin about human rights in Indonesia from the 1970s until 2008. In 1983, the organisation published the book West Papua: The Obliteration of a People. Budiardjo also wrote an autobiography, Surviving Indonesia’s Gulag: A Western Woman Tells Her Story.

Budiardjo’s work in the field of human rights has been widely acknowledged. In 1995, Carmel Budiardjo was awarded the Right Livelihood Award in Stockholm.

In 1999, the International Forum for Aceh, which is based in New York, awarded her the title “Tjut Carmel Budiardjo” (the title refering to her becoming a honorary “Acehnese women”).

According to Nur Djuli of the International Forum for Aceh, “We also gave her a plaque with a poem in Acehnese language, saying: Reudôk di glé ujeuën muprœt-prœt, aneuëk guda rœt ôn naleuëng paya. Meunyo lôn ingat budi gata gœt bak tiep simpang rœt lôn rô ië mata.”

Thunder on the mountain, showering Rains,
A filly grazing grass swamp,

Whenever I recall your Good Deeds,
At every street corners
Tears drop from my eyes.

Carmel Budiardjo has tirelessly worked for people suffering from oppression by “Indonesian Javanese people.” – to borrow the terminology of Hasan di Tiro, who is the founder of the Acheh / Sumatra National Liberation Front. Last year East Timor’s President Jose-Ramos Horta presented the “Timor Leste Star” to Budiardjo for her “impressive contribution to peace, to the Timorese people and to humanity.”

In Bali, the event closed with a traditional Papuan banquet of papeda, fish sauce, petatas, taro leaf and kasbi. Budiardjo was accompanied by her son and daughter in the ceremony.

Andreas Harson is an independent Indonesian journalist writing on professional and human rights issues. This article was first published on Pacific Media Centre Online.

1 comment:

  1. Demmy Nawipa, Jr, 12. January 2011, 21:15

    I and My friends came from wadou (central highland papua) are a part of democracy forum, need your support for west papua independence. Lord Bless