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Indonesia detains protesters in insurgency-hit Papua

June 2, 2016

Indonesia detains protesters in insurgency-hit Papua

AFP on May 31, 2016, 9:41 pm

Jakarta (AFP) – Indonesian police briefly detained hundreds of pro-independence demonstrators in Papua on Tuesday, the latest round-up of protesters in the insurgency-hit eastern region.

Police said demonstrators staged rallies calling for the release of political prisoners and for an organisation representing Papuan resistance groups to be given full membership of a regional trade and security body.

A low-level insurgency has simmered for decades in resource-rich Papua, with Jakarta keeping a tight grip on the region through a heavy military and police presence.

Papua police chief Paulus Waterpauw said that around 300 people, some in traditional tribal dress, were briefly detained as they were demonstrating in Jayapura, the capital of Papua province, and several other cities without a permit.

"These people were supporting groups who demand Papuan independence, and they did not have permits to stage a protest," he told AFP.

He said the demonstrators were rounded up and addressed by police and local politicians before being released.
Victor Yeimo, from pro-independence youth group the West Papua National Committee, said that the demonstrators had requested a permit to stage a protest but police refused.

"This is a peaceful act and the right to express our opinions is protected by law — why do the police always try to stop us?" he said.

Earlier this month 1,200 pro-independence demonstrators were briefly detained in Papua to stop rallies planned to mark the anniversary of Indonesia taking control of the region from former colonial power the Netherlands in 1963.

Tuesday’s demonstrators were calling for the release of dozens of Papuan separatists jailed for committing treason for acts such as raising the pro-independence "Morning Star" flag and taking part in anti-government protests.

They were also demanding that the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) — an umbrella body representing resistance groups in the Papua — be given full membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), a trade and security body.

Indonesia last year joined the group as an associate member, but the ULMWP was only given observer status.
Insurgents are fighting on behalf of the mostly ethnic Melanesian population, whose livelihoods President Joko Widodo has pledged to improve.

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