36 arrested after police break up Free Papua rallies in Manokwari, Sorong

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A Papuan self-determination protest ... The Australia West Papua Association has protested to Foreign Minister Marise Payne condemning Indonesian police threats against Papuan protesters. Image: Antara

The West Papua regional police (Polda) have arrested 36 people in Manokwari and Sorong city following a demonstration commemorating the anniversary of the West Papua New Guinea National Congress (WPNGNC) at the weekend, reports CNN Indonesia.

West Papua regional police spokesperson Assistant Superintendent Adam Erwindi said that the people arrested on Friday were currently being questioned by police.

“The Manokwari Polres [district police] backed up by West Papua Polda Brimob [Mobile Brigade paramilitary police] have secured them and are taking information,” said Erwindi .

Erwindi said that the protesters did not provide prior notification of the rally with police. The police claimed they had the authority to break up the protest as a result.

In addition to this, Erwindi said, the protest action was disrupting public order and blocking roads so that road users were unable to pass.

“The substance of the demo violated Article 6 of Law Number 9/1998 [on demonstrations]”, he said.

This article stipulated that in conveying an opinion people must respect the rights and freedoms of others, respect morality and safeguard security and public order.

Protesters told to consider security
Erwindi asked that those who wanted to hold protest actions pay attention to the security situation and public order. He also warned that all protest actions must be in accordance with regulations.

“If they’re not in accordance with the above then police in accordance with mandated laws are obliged to break them up,” he said.

At least two Brimob members were injured after being hit by stones when the rally was being broken up.

According to the Antara state news agency, the demonstrators refused to disperse and pelted police with stones and bottles until they were pushed back by teargas.

The demonstrators who were forced back became even more brutal and continued pelting police with rocks and bottles. They also ignited firecrackers and threw them at police.

The demonstrators shouted “Free Papua” as they threw stones in the direction of police.

Translated by James Balowski for IndoLeft. The original title of the article was “36 Orang Ditangkap Usai Demo Papua Merdeka”.

Australia West Papua Association protest
The Australia West Papua Association has protested to Foreign Minister Marise Payne, saying Indonesian police threats against Papuan protesters ahead of the December 1 flag-raising protests are of “grave concern”.

Association spokesman Joe Collins wrote a protest letter to Payne, saying:

“Dear Foreign Minister,

“I am writing to you concerning the issue of West Papua and in particular regarding comments made by the Indonesian national police spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Awi Setiyono on the 23 November 2020, which is of grave concern.

“Tempo News (24 November) reported the police spokesperson as saying that the “The Indonesian national police (Polri) together with the National Armed Forces (TNI) will conduct massive joint patrols ahead of the commemoration day of the 1 December. He also made an announcement that locals should not participate in the annual anniversary.

“I am sure you are aware that the 1st of December is West Papuan National day or National Flag day and it is of great importance to the West Papuan people. Fifty-nine years ago on the 1st of December in 1961, the Morning Star flag was flown for the first time officially beside the Dutch Tricolor. The Dutch were finally about to give the West Papuan people their freedom. However, it is one of the great tragedies that at their moment of freedom it was cruelly crushed and West Papua was basically handed over to Indonesia in 1963. After 6 years administration of the province, Indonesia held a sham referendum called the “Act of Free Choice” under UN supervision. The Papuans call this the’ act of no choice’.

“The West Papuan people continue to raise their flag as an act of celebration but also of protest against the injustices they suffer under Indonesian rule. They can face up to 15 years jail for doing so. Just two weeks ago 23 Papuans were given jail terms of between 1 and 2 years. They were arrested in December 2019 while on their way to take part in a flag raising ceremony on the 1 December (2019) in Fak Fak.

“The human rights situation in West Papua is deteriorating with the security forces conducting operations to intimidate local people. There is also an increase in violence towards villagers who the security forces suspect of supporting independence or to those they believe have what the security forces term “separatist” sympathies. There have been a number of killings and arrests by the security forces in the past few weeks in West Papua. Indonesian police arrested 54 participants at a public hearing organised by the Papuan People’s Council (MPR) in Merauke on the 17 November. They were arrested for alleged makar (treason). Yet all they participants were doing were holding a meeting to discuss Indonesia’s intention to extend the Special Autonomy laws. Although they were eventually released the arrests show there is no freedom of expression or freedom of assembly in West Papua.

“There have been reports that on 20-21 November 2020, 4 West Papuan school students aged between 13 and 19 and 1 West Papuan man aged 34 were shot by the Indonesian Security Forces. Eighteen year-old Manus Murib, who survived the shootings remains in a critical condition in hospital. When he was first shot Manus passed out and when he came to reported that he found that men wearing black uniforms, vests and helmets were placing guns across his chest and taking photographs. The troops were possible Detachment 88 troops which are trained by Australia.

“There have been ongoing security force operations in West Papua in the regencies of Nduga, Intan Jaya, Mimika and Puncak Jaya since the end of 2018 resulting in the loss of civilian life not only by armed conflict but also by sickness and malnutrition as these operations have created a large number of internal refugees who are reluctant to return to their villages because of their fear of the security forces.

“As recently as the 27 November 36 people were arrested by the police after being involved in rallies in Manokwari and Sorong. They were simply commemorating the anniversary of the West Papua New Guinea National Congress (WPNGNC).

“Twenty civil society organisations that are members of the Papua Civil Organisation, Solidarity (SOS), have called on the Indonesian president to “withdraw all organic TNI-Polri troops from the areas in Nduga Regency, Intan Jaya Regency, Mimika Regency and Puncak Jaya Regency which have given birth to serious human rights violations in the form of refugees and violations of the right to life”.

“I urge you to support the call by the West Papuan civil society groups and raise the matter of the human rights situation in West Papua with the Indonesian President.

“I also urge you to use your good offices with the Indonesian Government asking that it control its military in West Papua and asking it to inform the security forces that it should allow any rallies called to celebrate West Papuan National flag day to go ahead peacefully, without interference from the security forces.”

Yours sincerely

Joe Collins
AWPA (Sydney)

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