Indonesian police fire shots, tear gas after 100s of Morning Star flags fly at peaceful demo in Manokwari
October 4, 2012
Over a thousand people who had gathered in Manokwari on Tuesday (2/10) to demonstrate in support of the independence movement in Papua were attacked by police who fired tear gas and live ammunition in the air, after hundreds of banned Morning Star independence flags were unfurled.
The rally, called by the West Papua National Authority (WPNA) under the auspices of the national Federal Republic of West Papua (NRF-PB), was to show support for an observer mission to the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York by WPNA diplomat Herman Wainggai, and to reject the failed implementation of Special Autonomy (OTSUS) in West Papua.
A pamphlet released by the WPNA Governor Markus Yenu explained that the rally was to "address the increase in OTSUS presence and UP4B as a form of “development”, which only extends Papua Political Status by affecting (increasing) marginalization and duping people of Papua, in all aspects of life on the land of Papua.” It also said that “Papuan People should be sold on (support) the terms of independence and sovereignty (as per the) results at the KRP III (3rd Papuan People’s Congress of 2011)."
The rally was held at Sanggeng sports stadium from about 10 am local time, where about 700 people were joined by a long march of about 300 demonstrators who proceeded towards the town. Banned Morning Star flags, which were hidden whilst the rally was under guard at Sanggeng stadium, were provocatively unfurled in their hundreds during the march, and police reacted quickly and brutally at 1039 local time.
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West Papua Media stringers at the rally reported that Brimob paramilitary police stormed the gathering, firing their weapons both in the air allegedly with live ammunition and at rally participants with rubber bullets. Three tear gas canisters were also fired into the crowd to disperse them, and police conducted a baton charge at around 1045am. Witnesses however claimed that security forces, including soldiers from the Indonesian army (TNI) were firing indiscriminately, however no live gunshot wounds have so far been reported. However, several live bullet casings were recovered by West Papua Media stringers.
Scores of demonstrators were savagely beaten, with several reportedly seriously injured by Brimob police who were seizing the 150 Morning Star flags. Several of these included elderly people, who tried to intervene whilst Police were brutally beating a speaker named Zet Tata. Ibu Pendeta (a Priest’s wife) Mathelda Maniani – one of the rally speakers – , Ibu Anis (75 years old), Petu Worabay, Vebi Wanma and Edo Kamesfle were all beaten by police. Zet Tata reportedly sustained serious injuries but his condition in currently unknown.
3 rally participants remain unaccounted for, though sources on the ground have unverified reports that they were taken by Police, and grave concerns are held by WPNA activists for their safety. The names of those disappeared are unknown at this stage.
After the brutal intervention by police to seize the Morning Star flags, demonstrators dispersed, but regrouped to hold another long march in defiance of police and close the rally peacefully at 1pm.