West Papua – ‘a nation in waiting’: Behind this week’s uprising

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Papuan activists being transported by an Indonesian police truck from Waena, a suburb in Jayapura, to the Mobile Police Brigade's headquarters in Kotaraja. Image: We Are Moving Stories

Nearly 2000 people were arrested on Monday, 2 May 2016, in mass unarmed civilian-based uprisings across West Papua, reports We Are Moving Stories.

“The Indonesian police were completely overwhelmed by the size, scale and disciplined defiance of the activists who came from a range of groups organised by the United Liberation Movement for West Papua,” says author Jason MacLeod.

Interview with Dr Jason MacLeod – Exclusive video

Dr Jason MacLeod is an authority on West Papua and author of Merdeka and the Morning Star: Civil resistance in West Papua. A Brisbane academic, he works as an organiser, educator and researcher. He has been active in the West Papua solidarity movement since 1991.

How many people were arrested on Monday? Why were they arrested?
Nearly 2000 people were arrested on 2 May 2016 in mass unarmed civilian based uprisings across the country – in Jayapura, Wamena, Merauke, Manokwari, Timika, Sorong and Fak Fak.

The Indonesian police were completely overwhelmed by the size, scale and disciplined defiance of the activists who came from a range of groups organised by the United Liberation Movement for West Papua.

In Jayapura, for instance, activists were detained on the oval inside the mobile police brigade’s headquarters. Most people arrested were released by Monday night.

-Partners-

At the time of this interview 45 – including 19 children aged 8-18 – remain in detention in Fak Fak.

The Indonesian police routinely use torture against Papuan dissenters so we are concerned about their welfare. I expect the organisers will be charged with treason and rebellion later this week.

At the same time, we are noticing that Jakarta is becoming constrained, or at least uncertain of what to do, in the face of rising international support for a free West Papua, especially in the Pacific.

What does this video clip show?
The video shows activists being transported by an Indonesian police truck from Waena, a suburb in Jayapura, to the Mobile Police Brigade’s headquarters in Kotaraja, about 15-20 minutes away, where they were detained on a sports oval.

You can see fists being raised in defiance and hear them yelling “merdeka” (freedom). This is the fifth truck with activists that went past in minutes. The film was shot by a local organiser hidden behind a fence.

Why is it so difficult to see videos about what’s going on in West Papua?
Foreign journalists are effectively banned from travelling to West Papua. In recent years, particularly since 2011, social media has been the quickest and most reliable way to get information out. It has only really been in the last six months that we have been able to send video out quickly.

Background
West Papua is a nation in waiting, one half of the island of New Guinea, is currently occupied by Indonesia. Like East Timor, West Papuans want to be free, to determine their own political future. At least 100,000 people have been killed by the Indonesian military since they took control in 1963 but the West Papuans continue to struggle, determined to be independent.

This was first published by We Are Moving Pictures. It is republished here with permission.


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