Waves of activists arrested during Papua rallies

Pacific Media Centre

The Papuan representative organisation, the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), says as many as 30 activists from the National Committee for West Papua (KNPB) have been arrested in Indonesia.

The KNPB has been pushing for freedom of expression for West Papuans and is one of the member groups in the ULMWP, which is seeking to join the Pacific sub-regional political body Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG).

The KNPB puts the figure higher at up to 32 activists having been arrested as they staged a protest in Jayapura.

It is the third time this month that large numbers have been taken into custody during rallies.

More than 250 were arrested in various rallies during the May 1 annexation events and another 70 last week in another rally.

Last week's peaceful protests were held in support of West Papua’s application to the MSG.

West Papua’s application is opposed by the Indonesian government and a pivotal vote will take place in the Solomon Islands when the group meets late next month.

Five injured
The Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN) in Jakarta reported that at least five people were injured after police attacked protesters, one seriously after being struck in the head by a rubber bullet.

Protesters, mostly from the KNPB, were arrested and some beaten by the police in Jayapura, Numbay, Nabire and Wamena.

KNPB in Jayapura reported that police fired guns twice and that protesters hurled stones in response.

Reports of beatings and mistreatment continue to emerge and the fate of those arrested remains uncertain.

The Jakarta Globe reported, Papua Police Spokesman Harapan Sitorus said the protesters did not have a permit to rally and they would be questioned to find out “which group they belonged to.”

Police believe the KNPB is affiliated to the armed Free Papua Movement (OPM), which has been seeking independence for Papua from Indonesia ever since the province was annexed by Indonesia in 1969.

In March, a policeman was assaulted and his firearm stolen during a KNPB fundraising event, police claimed.

'No freedom'
Independence leader Benny Wenda said: "the brutality happening right now in West Papua is totally unacceptable."

"There is no freedom to speak.

"Indonesia says it promotes free speech and democracy, but it responds with beating people," he said.

Wenda said the Melanesian leaders needed to welcome West Papua to the MSG and "stand up to these Indonesian atrocities".

The MSG comprises the states of Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Fiji and Vanuatu, as well as the Kanak Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS), a political party from New Caledonia.

The previous admission of the New Caledonian party to the group set a precedent as the first member which is not a recognised nation state, which West Papua intends to follow.

Meanwhile, Indonesia has submitted its own application for "Associated Membership" of the MSG, which the Prime Ministers of Papua New Guinea and Fiji have pledged to support.