West Papuans arrested, beaten and jailed for supporting full membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group
April 11, 2016
On 5th April, West Papuans commemorated what they refer to as the Day of Hope, the day that the West Papuan Parliament was first launched in 1961.
In the town of Timika, the people of West Papua held a rally in the streets to call for an Independence referendum (Internationally Supervised Vote). They also called for full membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP).
After the rally, the people held a prayer gathering in a nearby field and raised the flags of their fellow Melanesian nations. Suddenly the peaceful gathering was stormed by the Indonesian military and police who opened fire and began to beat many and torture many West Papuans on the field. They also tore down the flags of the other Melanesian nations, causing outrage of many Melanesians on social media.
West Papuans arrested
Up to 15 West Papuans were arrested by the Indonesian authorities and after international pressure 13 were later released. However two West Papuans, Steven Itlay and Yus Wenda remain in police custody. Yus Wenda is facing a 32 month prison sentence while the rally organiser Steven Itlay is facing life imprisonment for “treason”. Steven was then moved to the notorious Indonesian Police Mobile Brigade (BRIMOB). He has now been transferred by the Indonesian authorities to the capital of West Papua, Port Numbay/Jayapura “because the people of Timika are scared.” Evidently the Indonesian police in Timika did not want more pressure following his continued detention without trial.
Both Amnesty International and the Asian Human Rights Commission have called for Steven Itlay’s release and urged people around the world to Take Action by pressuring the Indonesian police responsible.
Statement from West Papuan Independence Leader Benny Wenda
Following the storming of the peaceful gathering and the arrests, West Papuan Independence Leader and Spokesperson for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) Benny Wenda released a statement calling for the release of all those arrested. He also stated that it was clear the Indonesian government was terrified of Melanesian unity and terrified of West Papuan self-determination. They showed this by storming and opening fire at a peaceful gathering of West Papuans praying for full membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group and an Internationally Supervised Vote (Independence referendum.)
It is our ancestral birthright as Melanesian people to be welcomed into the Melanesian family, not as foreigners but as full and true Melanesians.
It is our fundamental right as human beings to peacefully exercise our self-determination, and we call for our right to self-determination to be exercised freely in an Internationally Supervised Vote (Independence Referendum.)
Despite the ongoing genocide and illegal Indoensian occupation of our country, we West Papuans are completely confident that we will one day be full members of the Melanesian Spearhead Group and one day we will be free people at last. – West Papuan Independence Leader Benny Wenda.