by West Papua Media team
9 August 2012
On the International Day of the Indigenous Peoples, Papuan people took to the streets to celebrate their continued survival as indigenous people, and called for an end to the Indonesian government’s occupation of their land. Demonstrations took place in Manokwari, Serui, Baliem, Jayapura and various other locations around West Papua.
Although the United Nations declaration of 2012 as the year of ‘Indigenous Media, Empowering Indigenous Voices’ communicated a sense of optimism to First Nations people around the world, indigenous Papuans continue to experience a media blackout and silencing of indigenous voices by the Indonesian military. Despite the repression of Papuan voices this report demonstrates that local indigenous media activists continue to find ways to circumvent Indonesian government censorship and control of the press.
According to local sources a few days prior to the International Day of Indigenous Peoples, the head of Police in Yapen Island, Roycke Harry Langie, officially issued a letter rejecting a request for Papuans to celebrate the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People’s in Serui. In defiance of the Police refusal indigenous Papuan leaders in Serui proceeded to organise their planned celebration.
At around 9:00am (West Papua local time) on August 9, 2012 the combined forces of Brimob (Police Mobile Brigade), Densus 88 and TNI (Indonesian Army) blocked off access to Mantembu District and destroyed several houses.
Local stringers sent SMS messages to West Papua Media that at Anotaurei junction in Mantembu district, peaceful demonstrators were confronted with shots fired into the air by the police. A local source reported that sixteen shots were fired – six to the air and ten at human targets. The shoting generated fear and panic amongst the people and forced many, including local villagers to seek refuge in the nearby jungle.
At midday Australian time, West Papua Media team rang the Head of Police, Roycke Harry Langie but the call was redirected to an interrogation squad spokesperson (Reskrim), Mr Waluyo, who denied that any shots were fired and stated that no arrests had been made.
Despite police claims West Papua Media continued to get reports from several people in Serui who confirmed that eleven people had been arrested including a seven months pregnant woman, Ratna Semboari, who is a Member of State Council of Yapen of the Federated Republic of West Papua, a banned independence organisation. A witness told West Papua Media by phone conversation that Ms Semboari was pushed forcefully into BRIMOB truck and fell very hard on her belly.
Sopina Pangkurei, wife of Daud Abon, governor of Saireri of the Federated Republic of West Papua was also arrested. Activists told West Papua Media that she stood in agony as he watchd the security forces destroy his house. Local stringers report that police took a printer, a laptop and four banners declaring that ‘The indigenous Papuans also support indigenous people’s birthday.’
Other people arrested in Serui are:
- Edison Kendi – Deputy governor of Saireri of the Federated Republic of West Papua
- Sopia Kayani – Member of State Parliament of Federated Republic of West Papua
- Hendrikus Warmetan – State secretary of Saireri of Federated Republic of West Papua
- Ruben Bonai – Member of State Parliament Federated Republic of West Papua
- Yan Piet Maniambo – Member of State Parliament of Federated Republic of West Papua
- Matius J Pedai – Head of Regency of Mamberamu under Federated Republic of West Papua
- Bram Wainarisi – a local activist
- Daniel Kandipi – a local activist
- Beni Yobi – a local activist
At time of writing, Kayani, Waremtan, Wainarisi and Maniambo had been released from arrest.
In Manokwari, the celebration was held in front of the Papuan Tribe Council office with up to twelve Morning Star flags flying high in defiance of laws banning the West Papuan national flag. Many other people held smaller flags. Local stringers report that a thousands paraded around Manokwari town. Heavily armed Security forces attempted intimidation on the protest, and confiscated the Morning Star flags but people proceed to continue the march peacefully.
Gallery: Images from the demonstration in Manokwari, August 9, 2012 (Photos: West Papua Media stringers)
Meanwhile, in Jayapura, the Baliem Valley and other locations across Papua, celebrations were carried out under strict police supervision. In Jayapura the police prevented Papuan protesters from marching. However, protesters proceeded to the Council of Papuan Customary Chiefs to continue the celebration.
In the central highlands celebrations were also held at the Council of Papuan Customary Chiefs despite provocation by police, who according to local stringers surrounded the event in full combat gear. A Lani highland chief told West Papua Media by SMS that “the reason the police tried to stop the demonstrations was that they were held by ‘unregistered’ groups."
What this means,” he continued, “is that the Indonesian Government does not respect human rights and universal freedoms.”