Over 100 West Papuans arrested and dozens of houses burned down
January 9, 2015
Several days ago, the Indonesian military and police arrested scores of West Papuans in Utikini village near Timika, which is very close to the world’s largest goldmine. According to reports, up to 116 West Papuan men, women and children were arrested and tortured.
Recently there has been a surge of Indonesian military activity in the Timika area of West Papua with over 1000 military and police personnel having assembled to look for members of the banned Free Papua movement.
They raided Utikini village and found banners in the basement of one house calling for an independence referendum for West Papua and a rejection of the so called “Act of Free Choice” in 1969. Many of the villagers in Utikini were also carrying cards supporting self-determination for West Papua. For the Indonesian police, this was enough to warrant the arrests of the villagers and burning of their houses.
During a press conference on Wednesday the 7th of January, an Indonesian police chief stated: “I ordered to burn the civilian’s houses in Utikini village. This was deliberately done to trim the movement. I will annihilate them.” He also said “They have ID cards, they carry a card that supports self determination, in my opinion it is an illegal card, there is no West Papua, no. Will we cut the cards,”
Of the 116 Papuans who were reportedly arrested and tortured in Utikini village, 68 were men, 48 were women and 3 were children. At least 13 of those arrested remain in detention and many are currently being interrogated by Indonesian police. Dozens of traditional houses in the village were also burned down and subsequently, many Papuans have been forced to flee and hide in the jungle. The situation in the Timika area remains incredibly dangerous for West Papuans who are being targeted as part of the Indonesian government’s continuing efforts to try and crush the pro-independence sentiment of the Papuan people. We have heard from one source that both the police and military in the Timika area are still looking for others. They may also have their homes burned down like the villagers in Utikini.
Indonesian military create more violence
Shocking incidences such as this raid and the burning of houses in Utikini village are commonplace in West Papua, where violence is deliberately stirred up by the Indonesian authorities to divert the attention of the world away from other military atrocities. Only last month, the Indonesian military murdered 5 innocent West Papuan schoolboys in Paniai, receiving worldwide condemnation of the Indonesian government and their continuing actions in West Papua.
Following the mysterious deaths of 2 Indonesian policemen earlier this month in Timika, the Indonesian authorities have once again tried to shift the blame of violence in West Papua towards the West Papuan people.
The founder of the Free West Papua Campaign, Benny Wenda recently released a statement on the raid in Utikini and said: “I feel that this is a deliberate attempt by the Indonesian authorities to create more violence and killings in West Papua to try and drag public attention away from the massacre of 5 West Papuan schoolboys in Paniai last month. Why is it that when 5 Papuan schoolboys are killed, no-one is arrested? Yet when 2 Indonesian policemen are killed, more than 100 Papuans are arrested with dozens of homes burned to the ground?”
There have been many other incidences of people mysteriously being killed in West Papua, including in the Timika area and especially around the nearby Grasberg mine which is the largest goldmine in the world and is operated by US based company, PT Freeport.
Freeport is Indonesia’s largest taxpayer and is effectively funding the genocide in West Papua by paying the Indonesian military over 3 million dollars a year to “protect” the mine. However, when the mine is not under threat, the Indonesian military have no excuse for being payed this “protection money” and many Papuans feel that the Indonesian military are also deliberately causing further violence around the mine in order to claim further “protection money” from the mining company.
How you can help
The people of West Papua are being treated as scapegoats for violence which they did not create, as a justification for human rights abuses being committed against them. The real reason that Papuans, like the villagers in Utikini are being targeted is because they are calling for the fulfillment of their human right to self-determination. They are calling for an independence referendum so that they may live in a free and independent West Papua.
To help West Papuans get this fundamental right recognized by the international community, please spread the word about what the Indonesian military and police are doing in West Papua, through social media and other resources. We need as much global attention as possible to be focused on West Papua to create momentum for governments to act in stopping the illegal occupation of the country. The Indonesian government still bans foreign journalists from operating in West Papua so please help by sending this letter to your elected representative, calling for government pressure on Indonesia to allow journalists in.
Please also tell your friends and family about the occupation and genocide in West Papua. Invite them to come to our events and join this global movement for a Free West Papua. The people of West Papua are in desperate need of worldwide support for their struggle and appreciate any help given. You can find out more about how you can help this struggle through the Take Action part of our website.
Please do not let the cries of Papuans like these villagers in Utikini go unheard; please support the Free West Papua Campaign.