Indonesian police arrest Buchtar Tabuni and two Papuan ‘ministers’

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A United Movement of West Papua (ULMWP) leader, Buchtar Tabuni, about to be arrested
A United Movement of West Papua (ULMWP) leader, Buchtar Tabuni, about to be arrested by Indonesian police outside his home in Jayapura earlier this week. Image: Jubi/ULMWP

Asia Pacific Report

Indonesian police have arrested Buchtar Tabuni, one of West Papua’s most important liberation leaders, along with three other United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) ministers, reports the movement in a statement.

“Indonesia are once again suppressing freedom of expression and assembly in West Papua, in an attempt to crush our spirit and commitment to our struggle,” said interim president Benny Wenda.

Buchtar Tabuni is chair of the West Papua Council, and a member of the ULMWP Council Committee. His arrest was confirmed by police.

He was arrested with Bazoka Logo, Minister of Political Affairs, and Iche Murib, Minister of Women’s and Children’s Affairs, said the statement.

The trio were arrested at Tabuni’s house in Jayapura, following an annual ULMWP meeting, and interrogated at a nearby police station.

“What is their crime? What possible justification can there be for this crackdown? This was after a peaceful meeting at a private residence,” the statement said.

“The right to assembly is a basic human right, enshrined in the constitutions of countries around the world, including Indonesia.”

Buchtar Tabuni
Buchtar Tabuni . . . arrested outside his Jayapura home after a peaceful meeting. Image: ULMWP

Sharing information
The National Parliament of the ULMWP meets annually to share information on events in their regions and discuss the situation of the struggle.

“West Papuans have the right, under international law, to peacefully mobilise for our independence,” Wenda said.

He called on anybody concerned by the arrests to to express their disgust to the Jayapura police chief.

Wenda said the arrests were in breach of basic principles of international diplomacy and human rights.

Both the ULMWP and Indonesia are members of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, a regional political forum.

“We sit around the table together as equals. Imagine if British police arrested a Scottish parliamentarian following a peaceful meeting in their own home — there would be international outcry.

“This is the brutal reality of Indonesia’s colonial occupation.”

Tabuni targeted
The statement said this was not the first time Tabuni had been targeted by the Indonesian state.

Tabuni has spent much of his life behind bars, and was previously arrested and charged with treason for his involvement in anti-racism protests in 2020.

“This is political persecution: the harshness of Buchtar’s treatment is due only to his position as a respected leader of the independence struggle,” said Wenda.

“History tells us that there is no such thing as a fair trial for West Papuans in Indonesia. Victor Yeimo is still gravely ill in prison, where he has been held on spurious treason charges since May 2021.

“We urgently need the assistance of all international solidarity groups and NGOs — you must pressure your governments to help secure Mr Tabuni’s release, and all other West Papuan political prisoners.

Wenda said that the ULMWP demanded that Indonesia immediately release him with Bazoka Logo and Iche Murib.

Freedom ‘essential’
“Their freedom is essential in order to keep the peace,” he said.

According to Tabloid Jubi, Jayapura City police chief Senior Commander Victor D. Mackbon had confirmed that his office had arrested Buchtar Tabuni.

He said Tabuni was arrested to “clarify the activities” held at his home.

“Buchtar Tabuni’s arrival is to clarify his community gathering activities,” said Commander Mackbon.

Indonesian police repression in Jayapura
Strong arm tactics by Indonesian police at a peaceful Jayapura home meeting. Image: ULMWP
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