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Major demonstrations staged in Papua

December 13, 2016

Major demonstrations staged in Papua

From Dateline Pacific, 4:03 pm today
Last weekend at least six thousand West Papuans demonstrated in the town of Wamena to mark Human Rights Day.
It was the latest in a series of large demonstrations by Papuans in the Indonesian province who want a referendum about self-determination.
Police arrested nine Papuans at another demonstration in the capital of West Papua province, Manokwari.
Guyon Espiner spoke with Johnny Blades about the Wamena demonstration and asked if it was met with a violent reaction from Indonesian security forces.


JOHNNY BLADES: The police didn’t have a violent response to this big demo in Wamena. I guess probably its sheer size – something like 6 to 8 thousand people – meant that police exercised restraint. No arrests either. But as you mentioned, there was a fairly brutal response down in Manokwari: police whipping Papuans with rattan canes, and a bunch of arrests.
GUYON ESPINER: And is this reaching something of a crescendo, do you think?
JB: It does feel like that. This year there’s been an increase in big public demonstrations in the main Papuan cities and towns. Big rallies, peaceful affairs, and they’ve also spread to non-Papuan cities, like Makassar, elsewhere in the republic. And non-Papuans are getting on board too. But huge amounts of arrests in some of these other demonstrations in Papua. Indonesia’s constitution does guarantee basic rights like freedom of expression, but when it comes to anything touching on Papuan independence aims, or when they’re flying like their banned nationalist flag the Morning Star, it’s generally not permitted by the police. However it hasn;t stopped the Papuans from taking to the streets. So there is definitely a sense of momentum in the West Papuan pro-independence movement or among those at least calling for their basic rights to be respected.
GE: Well, let’s talk about that movment for a second because we talk aboutn this group wanting self-determination but are they one group, what sort of unity is there among them?
JB: Yeah I think they’re a lot more unified now than they were in the past. There were divisions, tribal divisions and so forth which held them back. But in the past few years, let’s say the past five years, they’ve largely put down their guns, those sort of West Papuan guerillas in the jungles and mountains, and really committed to non-violent struggle. And we’re seeing a far more cohesive, non-violent civil resistance now, and that is of course directed into support for the organisation called the United Liberation Movement for West Papua which is doing a lot of stuff abroad. You just get the feeling now, this year, that Papuans see this current phase as a window, an opportunity they must take, where they have to stand strong for their rights, knowing too that the issue is increasingly internationalised.
GE: Well, what about that international reaction? Melanesian countries, some have supported these calls for self-determination. Some of the big powerhouse Melanesian countries – I guess PNG, Fiji – would they come on board, do you think?
JB: That’s the big question, Guyon, because of course in the Melanesian countries there is widespread support for West Papuans to be treated like basic human beings and to have self-determination, a legitimate process. But the governments of that region are split, particularly when it comes to this bid by the Liberation Movement for greater regional representation. PNG and Fiji, who are the two biggest countries there, appear to be siding with Jakarta, firmly supporting Indonesian territorial control of Papua. But at the same time, there’s been quite some movement across the wider Pacific Islands region: just a couple of months ago at the UN general assembly, leaders of seven Pacific nations spoke out on their concern over rights abuses in Papua, and supporting Papuans in their right to a proper self-determination. They are pressing the UN to take action on both fronts. Whether the UN will respond, that’s another matter, but there’s certainly an unprecedented level of discussion on Papua taking place.

2) KNPB activists arrested and released twice in Papua
7:22 pm on 12 December 2016
About a dozen West Papuan activists were arrested and released twice within two days in the capital of Indonesia’s Papua province.

On Friday, 17 members of the West Papua National Committee, or KNPB, were arrested in Jayapura for writing "Free West Papua" graffiti on walls.
They were released after being interrogated by police.
However, on Saturday 14 of the KNPB activists were arrested a second time for writing the same message as public graffiti again.
According to the Indonesian public interest lawyer, Veronica Koman, they were were released later in the day.

Also on Saturday the KNPB organised a huge demonstration in the Highlands town of Wamena.
At least 6,000 people were reported to have attended the demonstration, protesting against human rights abuses in Papua and calling for a legitimate self-determination referendum.
There were no reported arrests.

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