Why West Papua’s latest protests are different from the ones before

BY TRACEY SHELTON AND TASHA WIBAWAUPDATED ABOUT 11 HOURS AGO

Thousands of people have been protesting across Indonesia’s easternmost territory over the past two weeks, torching government buildings and clashing with police, resulting in dozens of deaths and injuries.

Key points:

  • Protests have been held in at least 30 cities both inside and outside of West Papua
  • Indonesian authorities have blocked internet access and deployed over 6,000 troops
  • Many of the protests have been calling for a new independence referendum

The protesters’ demands range from an end to racial violence to calls for a referendum on independence for the region.

It’s not the first time Papuans have taken to the streets to demand independence, and incidents of armed resistance to Indonesian rule in the provinces of Papua and West Papua have also occurred periodically over the years.

But these latest protests are not only the largest held in the region in years, but they have also drawn support from across Indonesia.

“Today’s protest is different because it’s so widespread,” said Andreas Harsono, an Indonesia researcher for Human Rights Watch.

While previous movements have been largely orchestrated by Papuan liberation leaders in exile, these recent protests have erupted from within West Papua and have since spread to other provinces.

Mr Harsono said he counted protests in 30 cities both inside and outside of the region during the first week.

“The spread of the protests indicates the deep frustration among indigenous Papuans against Indonesian rule,” Mr Harsono told the ABC.

As the unrest continues, we take a look at how the latest protests started, what authorities have done in response and Australia’s stance on West Papua.

What sparked the protests?

The Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua — often referred to collectively as West Papua — share an island and ethnicity with Papua New Guinea.

While the east of New Guinea island was colonised by Britain and later gained independence as Papua New Guinea, West Papua remained a Dutch colony until it was handed over to Indonesia in 1963.

A black and white map with West Papua and Papua highlighted in orange, neighbouring PNG and Australia.

Some activists and armed groups have been fighting for independence ever since, and the region has been dogged by allegations of racism and discrimination against the native population.

Mr Harsono listed human rights abuses, impunity, drastic demographic change, environment degradation and poverty among the reasons for the growing frustration among the local population.

On August 17 — which marks the Indonesian declaration of independence from Dutch colonial rule — a group of Papuan students said they were barricaded inside their dormitory overnight by nationalist vigilantes who cut power to the building and chanted racist slurs.

The mob said the students had committed “slander” on the Indonesian national flag, and police moved in to storm the building, reportedly firing tear gas, injuring five and arresting 43 students who were later released without charge.

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POLICE have cautioned the Pacific Conference of Churches Secretariat for hoisting the Morning Star flag on private property in Fiji’s capital, Suva.

Officers attempted to seize the flag yesterday (Tuesday) after it was raised in protest against the killing of Papua protesters by Indonesian security force and pro-Jakarta militia.

The officers arrived at night after the flag – first raised when the Netherlands granted Papua independence in 1961 – was struck for the night.

Early today three officers visited PCC General Secretary, Reverend James Bhagwan, on the orders of Fiji’s Ministry of Defence to warn that flying the flag was a breach of Fiji’s Public Order Act.

In November 2014 police seized a Morning Star flag from the same property and it has never been returned nor have charges been laid.

The flag was raised on property which is clearly visible from the Indonesian Embassy and the Office of the Prime Minister.

In 2014 a series of telephone calls between the embassy, Defence Ministry and the Office of the Prime Minister saw police units seize and remove the flag.

Fiji has been a close ally of Indonesia since Rear-Admiral Frank Bainimarama’s 2006 coup.

#Merdeka #SDG16 #FreeWestPapua #HumanRights #PoliceState #Solidarity

Source: https://pacificconferenceofchurches.org/

Gen. WPRA Mathias Wenda: Mr. President Jokowi…

Chief General Mathias Wenda, the Commander in Chief of West Papua Revolutionary Army (WPRA), one of the affiliated commands of West Papua Army (WPA) has written to Hon. President Joko Widodo, the President of the Colonial Republic of Indonesia (CURI), in order to approach appropriate parties in dealing with riots in West Papua.

General Wenda, though the WPA Official Website mentioned three things to the President of CURI three things that Mr. President should consider now, rather than asking for Melanesians to West Papua to forgive and forget continuous and systematic racial discrimination that Melanesians have been facing since Indonesia invaded and occupied the territory of the Republic of West Papua.

Mr. Wenda proposed personnel from WPA, Gen. WPRA Amunggut Tabi and ULMWP Chair, Hon. Benny Wenda as the official representative that have been demanding for the United Nations Supervised Act of Self-Determination and therefore, anything regarding “referendum” should not be discussed among Indonesian officials, between the President and two colonial Provinces of Papua and Papua Barat.

The opening paragraph of the letter says,

From the Central Defence Headquarters (CDHs) of West Papua Revolutionary Army (WPRA), I am as the Supreme Commander of West Papua Revolution (PANGTIKOR), hereby would like to explain my position on the following three points to Mr. President of the Republic of Indonesia: first of all regarding the current developments in the territory of the Republic of West Papua (RWP)  from Raja Ampat to Maroke; secondly, about Mr. President’s plan to meet with two colonial governors of Papua and Papua Barat to discuss about referendum; and finally the proposal from WPRA to Mr. President as ways to get out from current problems facing the Colonial Unitary Republic of Indonesia (CURI) as reactions to what your military and police officers have done, i.e., calling us Melanesians: “monkeys”.

General Wenda closes his letter by praying

…. that God the Creator of all Malay-Indonesians and Melanesians will give Mr. President the wisdom and ideas in order to bring this conflict ot an end, comprehensively and completely.

The WPRA Secretary-General, General Amunggut Tabi previously condemned racial discrimination against Melanesians from West Papua as a sign of Indonesia-Malay people and stated:

West Papua Army fights in defending the dignity and integrity of all black, white, red, green, and any colours as human beings, with the same and equal rights to be fully recognised and treated as fellow human beings. Therefore, we condemn Indonesian Nazi community and apartheid government in West Papua.

PNG urges UN visit to West Papua
West Papua solidarity march in PNG draws thousands
West Papua solidarity march in PNG draws thousands

Papua New Guinea has reiterated a call for UN representatives to visit West Papua amid widespread protests.

Indonesia has banned violent protests and separatist speeches in the two Papuan provinces, where at least 10 people have been killed and dozens arrested.

The Southeast Asian country has been struggling to contain unrest since widespread pro-independence demonstrations began two weeks ago.

PNG’s Foreign Minister Soroi Eoe told parliament in Port Moresby on Tuesday that the latest unrest in Papua was a “sad situation”.

He said PNG respects Indonesia’s sovereignty, but the issue needs to be addressed by the office of the UN Human Rights Commissioner.

“Vanuatu has taken a step but Papua New Guinea has to be very careful as to how we address the issue because of the fact that we share the border,” said Mr Eoe.

“On the other side is West Papua, on this side is Papua New Guinea. So, our responsibility first is to our own people.”

Responding to Soroi Eoe, opposition MP Garry Juffa warned Papuans displaced by the conflict could spill over the border to PNG.

In January, Indonesia made an invitation in principle to the Human Rights Commissioner’s office, but this has not yet eventuated.

PNG Prime Minister James Marape on Monday condemned the violence in Papua saying “No human beings deserve to be killed, especially on their own land,” in a televised press conference.

Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor called for calm in Papua, saying the recent turmoil made a UN visit even more important, according to a statement released on Monday.

At the forum’s August meeting in Tuvalu, Pacific leaders called for the UN visit to be finalised.

Meanwhile, PNG’s former prime minister has called on Indonesia’s leaders to prevent killings in West Papua.

Peter O’Neill expressed sadness at the unrest, saying that the killing of citizens in West Papua was unacceptable.

He urged Indonesia’s government to open up dialogue with West Papuan leaders to resolve the issue.

Mr O’Neill, who was removed as prime minister in May, said Pacific Islands countries must continue to stress the need for a peaceful response from Indonesia’s authorities.

Fiji NGOs stand with Papua

THE Fijian civil society movement stood in silence opposite the Indonesian Embassy in Suva today to protest against killings and human rights abuse in Papua.

Police arrived several minutes later to speak with Shamima Ali, head of the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre and chair of the NGO Coalition on Human Rights.

Representatives of at least seven local and regional NGOs gathered during the lunch hour to stand in solidarity with the people of Papua and support an end to violence and human rights abuse.

Police units patrolled the area but the event was peaceful.

A vigil service to support the people of Papua will be held at the Holy Trinity Anglican Cathedral on Friday from 12pm-2pm.

Source: https://pacificconferenceofchurches.org/

Revival of Melanesian Cup Imminent

The MSG Secretariat Sports & Arts and Culture team led by Deputy Director General Mr. Peter Eafeare have successfully completed Consultations with Sports and Arts and Culture Stakeholders.

According to the team leader, the consultations in Papua New Guinea had proved beneficial with the team successfully meeting with the PNG Sports Foundation, Mr. John Wesley, Vice President of the PNG Football Federation (PNGFF) and on behalf of Mr. John Kappinato, the PNGFF President. The meetings were in particular interesting given the experience the PNG Football Federation have including their influence in lobbying for tournaments like the Melanesian Football Cup to happen.

The PNG Football Federation expressed their gratitude when meeting with Mr. Eafeare and the team, stressing that the idea of resurrecting the Melanesian Cup tournament had been discussed verbally in Russia during the recent World Cup among different football bosses of the Melanesian nations. He commended the MSG Secretariat for taking the initiative to make it a reality, further expressing PNG’s willingness to host the next Melanesian Football Tournament.

Having the Melanesian Cup back up and running will be healthy for our football development and target towards the 2026 FIFA World Cup and any international football tournaments thereafter would potentially raise the playing standards and technical abilities of our footballers similar to other advance football confederations.

Meanwhile, the Deputy Director General Peter Eafeare stressed the importance for the MSG to take ownership of the competition and most importantly to engage our young talented players for the Melanesian Football Tournament.

DDG Eafeare reiterated the importance of strengthening the relationship of the Sub-Regional grouping, and the need to encourage and nurture our talented young people to participate in Sports, and to uphold our traditions in Arts and Culture as these are the very roots of our existence and the identity of our sovereignty.

He concluded, that the dates for Melanesian football tournament are still being discussed as it depends entirely on commitments and funding but he is hopeful that the football tournament can be staged soon.

The MSG Secretariat Sports, Arts and Culture team flew to Solomon Islands over the weekend for their last round of consultations.

news@dailypost.vu

Source: Dailypost

PNG urges UN visit to West Papua

Papua New Guinea has reiterated a call for UN representatives to visit West Papua amid widespread protests.

Protesters in Jayapura.
Protesters in Jayapura. Photo: Whens Tebay

Indonesia has banned violent protests and separatist speeches in the two Papuan provinces, where at least 10 people have been killed and dozens arrested.

The Southeast Asian country has been struggling to contain unrest since widespread pro-independence demonstrations began two weeks ago.

PNG’s Foreign Minister Soroi Eoe told parliament in Port Moresby on Tuesday that the latest unrest in Papua was a “sad situation”.

He said PNG respects Indonesia’s sovereignty, but the issue needs to be addressed by the office of the UN Human Rights Commissioner.

“Vanuatu has taken a step but Papua New Guinea has to be very careful as to how we address the issue because of the fact that we share the border,” said Mr Eoe.

“On the other side is West Papua, on this side is Papua New Guinea. So, our responsibility first is to our own people.”

Responding to Soroi Eoe, opposition MP Garry Juffa warned Papuans displaced by the conflict could spill over the border to PNG.

In January, Indonesia made an invitation in principle to the Human Rights Commissioner’s office, but this has not yet eventuated.

PNG Prime Minister James Marape on Monday condemned the violence in Papua saying “No human beings deserve to be killed, especially on their own land,” in a televised press conference.

Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor called for calm in Papua, saying the recent turmoil made a UN visit even more important, according to a statement released on Monday.

At the forum’s August meeting in Tuvalu, Pacific leaders called for the UN visit to be finalised.

Meanwhile, PNG’s former prime minister has called on Indonesia’s leaders to prevent killings in West Papua.

Peter O’Neill expressed sadness at the unrest, saying that the killing of citizens in West Papua was unacceptable.

He urged Indonesia’s government to open up dialogue with West Papuan leaders to resolve the issue.

Mr O’Neill, who was removed as prime minister in May, said Pacific Islands countries must continue to stress the need for a peaceful response from Indonesia’s authorities.

Source: RNZ

Papuan students under siege seek self-determination

West Papuan university students who have been attacked by non-Papuan civilian groups during unrest in the region say they simply seek self-determination.

Yason Ngelia
Yason Ngelia Photo: Whens Tebay

A surge of anti-racism protests and pro-independence demonstrations by West Papuans has rocked Indonesia for the past two weeks, triggering unrest.

They were sparked by racist harassment of Papuan students in at least two Javanese cities around Indonesian Independence Day anniversary last month. As Indonesia deployed thousands more security forces to Papuan region, dozens of Papuans have been arrested and at least 10 people have been killed during the unrest.

On Sunday, a student dormitory in Abepura, a district of Papua’s capital Jayapura, was attacked by a group described as a police-backed Indonesian nationalist civilian militia. The attack left one Papuan dead, and around a dozen students injured.

Students at the University Cenderawasih in Jayapura have urged Indonesia’s government to hold the perpetrators of racist attacks to account.

Young Papuans demonstrate in Jayapura following racist attacks on Papuan students, 20 August 2019
Young Papuans demonstrate in Jayapura following racist attacks on Papuan students, 20 August 2019 Photo: Whens Tebay

Interview with Yason Ngelia, Chairman of the Student Movement at the University Cenderawasih in Jayapura

RNZP: What is the current situation in Jayapura – are you in danger from any particular group?

Yason Ngelia: Abepura starts to become conducive. The security apparatus is guarding several points between Jayapura till Waena. Currently there are 31 students in custody. We just received information that one of the prominent leaders of our student movement, Delvius Hisage, might be amongst those arrested. We are currently trying to get more information about his whereabouts with LBH (Legal Aid Institute in Jakarta).

RNZP: Have Papuan students been harassed by non-Papuan civilian militia groups since the protests began?

Yason Ngelia: Yes, since the start we had around three to four casualties by militias.

RNZP: Who are the civilian militias?

Yason Ngelia: We are also not sure who they are and from what group they belong. Until now there is still no confirmation. Here you can only recognise them on their ethnicity. They are mostly settlers from Makassar living in economical accommodations around Entrop and Pasar Yotefa. The last three days the conflict was primarily centralised around Kamkey, Lingkaran, and Abepura. This morning one group of settlers again tried to attack the boarding houses of Wamena students in Kamkee, Abepura. But this time they couldn’t come in because the police is guarding the area around the LBH office and the street to the Yotefa market.

RNZP: Were students part of the groups who torched the buildings downtown and who went into the Governor’s office last week?

Yason Ngelia: They are students from the student solidarity group from UNCEN and the Technical University. But there are also normal citizens joining the demos. It’s difficult to tell who they are. Once the demo begins and we start moving, they just join in and the masses become bigger and bigger. We can’t control them.

RNZP: Indonesian president Joko Widodo promised to prosecute the persons behind the racial incident in Surabaya. That was the purported reason why Papuans started demonstrating. Papuans are still not satisfied, and the situation is deteriorating. What do Papuans want now?

Yason Ngelia: After the racial incident in Surabaya, Papuans want a final decision for their political right for self-determination. That counts for both Papuan students in Java and here in Papua. The substance is the same. We are all flying the morning star (flag) in almost all cities.

RNZP: What can we expect in the days ahead? Will things calm down or deteriorate?

Yason Ngelia: From all these occurrences we hope that President Jokowi will make the right political decision. He has to punish the perpetrators behind the racial incident in Surabaya. Furthermore, he must be open-minded to solve the Papuan problem. I can’t guess where this all will lead to and whether it will be the answer to our problems. The conflict in Papua is already decades old. This racial incident in Surabaya only triggered another uprising and it’s too soon predict the outcome yet.

(Interview conducted 2 September 2019), RNZ

Treason charges against West Papuans must be dropped – Amnesty

Amnesty International is calling on Indonesia to drop treason charges against six West Papuan activists.

Their arrests came during a wave of anti-racism protests and pro-independence demonstrations by Papuans which have rocked Indonesia for the past two weeks.

The activists were arrested on Friday and Saturday for their role in organising a pro-independence demo in Jakarta last week.

Amnesty International Indonesia said the six activists were peacefully protesting and must be released without conditions.

The rights group says Indonesia should revoke or amend treason laws, so they can’t be used to criminalise free speech.

On Monday, Indonesian police banned protests and separatist speeches in Papua and West Papua provinces.

Dozens of Papuans have been arrested and at least 10 people have been killed during the unrest.

Church says nine killed in Central Highlands

Meanwhile, a Catholic church in West Papua said nine people died in a clash between state forces and protestors in the Central Highlands last week.

According to police, five civilians and one soldier died in Deiyai regency when violent protestors attacked security personnel.

But activists and local media say during the 28 August incident, police and military opened fire on Papuans who had converged peacefully at the local regent’s office.

A report released on Tuesday by the Catholic church in Timika said eight civilians died of gunshots and one soldier was killed.

The report, cited by the the news site Suara Papua, said 39 people were injured by gunshot wounds.

A government-imposed internet blackout across Papua and reported restrictions on some phone networks, including near Deiyai, has made verifying information difficult.

Source: RNZ