West Papua advocacy group condemns arrest, ‘humiliation’ of two teenagers

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The two Papuan teens arrested by the Indonesian military
The two Papuan teens arrested by the Indonesian military - "MH" and "BGS" . . . Australia reaffirms no support for Papuan self- determination. Image: Tabloid Jubi

Asia Pacific Report

An Australian-based West Papua advocacy group has condemned the arrest and “humiliation” of two teenagers by Indonesian security forces last week.

The head of Cartenz 2024 Peace Operations, Kombes Faizal Ramadhani, said in a statement on Friday that the 15-year-olds had been arrested after a clash with the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB ) in Kali Brasa on Thursday, February 22.

During the shootout, a TPNPB member named as Otniel Giban (alias Bolong Giban) had been killed.

The Sydney-based Australia West Papua Association (AWPA) today condemned the arrest of the teenagers, only identified by the Indonesian authorities by their initials, MH and BGE and who were initially seized as “suspects” but later described as “witnesses”.

Faizal said that the teenagers had been arrested because they were suspected of being members of the TPNPB group and that they were currently being detained at the Damai Cartenz military post.

However, the TPNPB declared that the two teenagers were not members of the TPNPB and were ordinary civilians.

The teenagers were arrested when they were crossing the Brasa River in the Yahukimo Regency.

Aircraft shot at
The clash between security forces and the TNPB occurred while the Cartenz Peacekeeping Operation-2024 searched for those responsible for shooting at an aircraft in Yahukimo in which a military member had been wounded.

Meanwhile, also in Jakarta last Friday the Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister, Richard Marles, met with Indonesian Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto — who is poised to win this month’s Indonesian presidential election.

Marles stressed at a media conference at the Defence Ministry that Australia did not support the Free Papua Movement, saying the country “fully recognise[d] Indonesia’s territorial sovereignty”.

“We do not endorse any independence movement,” he told a media conference.

However, in Sydney AWPA’s Joe Collins said in a statement: “I was at first surprised that West Papua even got a mention at the meeting as usually Australia tries to ignore the issue but even our Defence Minister can hardly ignore a media question on it.”

‘No support for any independence movements’
An extract from the media conference says:

Subianto: “Thank you very much. I don’t think there is any need for questions. Questions?”

Journalist:Thank you very much Mr Deputy Prime Minister. Regarding the huge amount of [the] Australian defence budget, how should the Indonesian people see it? Is it going to be a trap or an opportunity for our national interest?

“And my second question is what is Australia’s standpoint regarding the separatist [pro-independence] movement in Papua because there are some voices from Australia concern[ed] about human rights violations?”

Marles: “Thank you for the question. Let me do the second issue first. We, Australia utterly recognise the territorial sovereignty of Indonesia, full stop. And there is no support for any independence movements.

“We support the territorial sovereignty of Indonesia. And that includes those provinces being part of Indonesia. No ifs, no buts. And I want to be very clear about that.”

Collins said there was no shortage of comments during the delegation’s visit to Indonesian around how important the relationship was.

“West Papua will remain the elephant in the room in the Australia-Indonesian relationship,” Collins said. “We can expect many hiccups in the relationship over West Papua in the coming years “.

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