Papuans mourn 50 years of Indonesian occupation
May 2, 2013
Warning: this article contains some images that readers may find disturbing – we include them as we feel it is important to document the reality of what is happening in West Papua.
by Alex Rayfield
For many people around the world the first day in May is a time a celebration, a day to remember how ordinary people won the right to the eight hour working day.
But in West Papua May Day is a day of national mourning.
Fifty years ago on 1 May 1963 the United Nations abandoned West Papua. After a brief nine months administering the country the United Nations pulled out of West Papua to allow the Indonesian government to rule the territory on behalf of the International Community.
Fifty years later the Indonesian security forces are still in West Papua and a free and fair referendum on West Papua’s political status is yet to take place.
Here’s a rundown of how West Papuans across the country commemorated the day.
Grief took on new intensity as the Indonesian security forces shot dead two Papuan protesters in Sorong and wounded two others. According to human rights defenders from Elsham, the Institute for the Study and Advocacy of Human Rights in West Papua, who also have an office in Sorong, shortly after 10pm on Tuesday night police from Aimas Police station together with Indonesian soldiers arrived at the home of Ishak Klaibin (49). In a report obtained by West Papua Media Elsham Sorong reports that Papuan activists were holding a meeting to prepare for demonstrations the following day. According to Mr Klaibin a number of Papuans got into an argument with the police and soldiers who shot dead Abner Malagawak (22) and Thomas Blesia (22). Malagawak was shot in the shoulder while Blesia was shot in the back of the head. Three other people, Salomina Klaibin (31), Herman Lokmen (18), and Andreas Safisa (24), were wounded in the attack.
Despite the killing of the Malagawak and Blesia the night before in Sorong and knowing the risk to their safety given the refusal by the Indonesian police, military and recently inaugurated Papuan Governor, Lukas Enembe, to grant official permission for peaceful demonstrations, Papuans from across the country continued with planned nonviolent demonstrations.
In Jayapura, the capital of West Papua, the demonstration was organised by the West Papuan National Parliament and led by Buchtar Tabuni. The West Papua National Committee (KNPB), West Papua National Authority and Melanesian Women of Papua – all came together to support civilian based protest
The activists gathered outside the University student dormitory, Asrama Nayak, and proceeded to march towards Abepura, a university suburb in Jayapura. Five hundred West Papuan activists accompanied by drums, flautists and banners marched. They sang, cried out “Free Papua” and carried banners denouncing fifty years of occupation by the Indonesian military. The protesters held banners declaring “Fifty years of lies, manipulation, torture and killing”, “Not Integration; Annexation”, “The Indonesian occupation is illegal”, “Enough is Enough” and “Stop violence against Papuan women”. Many of the banners were decorated with the photos of Papuan victims of torture by the Indonesian security forces.
Human rights defenders from Elsham, who were present monitoring the demonstration reported that as the protesters passed the military command at Padang Bulan, the name of neighbourhood where the Elsham office is located, soldiers fired their weapons seven times into the air.
Around the same time local stringers at the protest reported that several activists walking on the street in Jayapura were seized by security personnel, forcibly loaded into a military truck and driven some thirty kilometres away to an army base at the foot of Mt Cyclops. The activists later managed to escape when the truck was forced to stop near Sentani. Papuan citizen journalists also told New Matilda and West Papua Media that during the march in Jayapura Indonesian police attempted to arrest Markus Yenu, a well-known protest leader from Manokwari. However, they were prevented from doing so when activists nonviolently positioned themselves between Yenu and the police. According to eyewitnesses Yenu promptly disappeared into the crowd and is now reported to have gone into hiding.
According to West Papuan journalist Okto Pogau writing for Suara Papua (The Voice of Papua), water cannons, tear gas cannons and hundreds of heavily armed police and military were positioned in several sites between the centre of Jayapura and Sentani, a further 50kim away. In Sentani, beside the memorial site of West Papuan independence leader Theys Eluay, and in Kampung Harapan (the village of hope), a pro-independence stronghold, there was a heavy police and military presence. KNPB media reported the determination of the organisation to defy Indonesian police attempts to destroy them. Despite the presence of the security forces, peaceful demonstrations, speeches by KNPB chairman Viktor Yeimo and a worship service went ahead in Sentani. However, the security forces did manage to break up a KNPB demonstration in Waena, an outlying suburb of Jayapura.
In Jayapura Indonesian police, soldiers and citizens organised a counter demonstration. They drove through the streets of Jayapura in vehicles emblazoned with giant Red and White flags, the Indonesian national flag, honking their horns.
In Biak forty pro-independence activists led by Oktofianus Warnares (46) raised the Morning Star flag. According to Elsham staff in Biak the demonstration was forcibly dispersed by police and an unknown number of activists were arrested. Also in Biak, the West Papua National Committee, whose activists were recently accused of bomb-making – a charge they deny – led a prayer service. Local KNPB activist, Mnumumes, said that “1 May is the day that colonialism entered West Papua and that West Papua continues to be colonised until today.”
In Fak-Fak, a town on the North West Coast, Elsham staff report that the Morning Star flag was raised at three locations, at the Inpres Wagom Mountain Primary school, at the Second Middle School and in front of the North Fak-Fak District Office.
In Nabire, the district capital of Paniai, Human rights defenders and church workers, under the banner of the Coalition of Papuan People from Nabire (Koalisi Rakyat Bangsa Papua Kabupaten Nabire) held a press conference commemorating the 50 year anniversary of West Papua’s annexation by the Indonesian state.
The speakers at the press conference all declared that “West Papua’s incorporation into Indonesia, the Act of Free Choice in 1969 (a shame referendum), Special Autonomy, the Unit for the Acceleration of Development in West Papua were all problems that remained unresolved.” The speakers, who included Rev. Esebius Pigai,
Daniel Zonggenau (A tribal leader from Meepako), Theo Mirip (a senior chief from the Nduga tribe), Mrs Pina Jagani (a Papuan woman’s leader), Frans Madai (a youth leader) and Yones Douw (a human rights activist), were dismissive of a new policy package called Special Autonomy Plus recently announced by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhuyono. Douw and the other Papuan leaders in Nabire demanded that “the Indonesian government immediately begin political talks with the Papuan people, mediated by an international third party.”
Viktor Mambor from the independent West Papuan media outlet, Jubi reported on events in Timika. According to Mambor, Papuans raised the Morning Star flag in front of the new Mimika Presidential primary School. The protest was dispersed by police shortly afterwards. Mimika Police Chief Adjunct Senior Commissioner Rontini Jeremias, quoted by the Antara news agency on Wednesday (01/05), said that ten residents were arrested and a Morning Star flag, betel nut tree flag pole and rope were seized.
“We follow the rules of the state, not the citizen’s rules. Who is at fault remains our process, “said Commissioner Rontini.
Benny Pakage, a human rights activist from Timika/Mimika said that police detained 15 people. Pakage also mentioned that a number of security forces were hit, but that no one was killed.
Beyond West Papua
There were also reports of demonstrations by Papuans in Java and solidarity demonstrations as far away as Noumea, Kanaky (also known as French Caledonia) where the National Kanaky Socialist Liberation Front (FLNKS) has backed West Papuan’s call for a seat at the table of the Melanesian Spearhead Group.
One thing is certain: protest in West Papua shows no sign of letting up. As the Indonesian government continues to refuse to countenance talks West Papua becomes a bigger political problem.