Anti-military demonstration in West Papua

Tempo Interactive – October 30, 2004
West Papuans hold pro-independence rally in Jayapura (Tempo)
West Papuans hold pro-independence rally in Jayapura (Tempo)

Cunding Levi and Lita Oetomo, Jayapura – Thousands of demonstrators from the Papua People’s Anti-Militarism Front (Front Rakyat Papua Anti Militerisme, FRPAM) led by Jefrison A. Pagawak demonstrated again on Friday October 29. This time, the public demonstration which was joined by students from the mountain areas of Central Papua was held on the grounds of the offices of the Papuan governor in the provincial capital of Jayapura a day after a demonstration was held at the offices of the Papuan provincial parliament, also in Jayapura.

The demonstrators wanted to meet with the governor, J.P. Solossa, to ask him to immediately dismiss Elieser Renmaur, the regent of Puncak Jaya, from his post. This is because according to the commander of the Trikora/XVII military command, Major-General Nurdin Zainal, who they met with at the provincial parliament on Thursday October 28, it was the regent who had asked the TNI (armed forces) to deploy troops in the Puncak Jaya regency. They said that presence of large number of troops in the area would result in [more] civilian casualties.

The Trikora military commander said this request was made in a letter he received from the Puncak Jaya regent which had been endorsed by the local council. “We also want the Mulia case to be investigated as quickly as possible and the formation of an independent team to investigate the affair”, said Pagawak who is the chairperson of FRPAM.

As a result of the lateness of the Papua provincial council in meeting with the demonstrators they became emotional and it was apparent that the situation was becoming heated and slightly out of control. As a consequence, scores of security personnel from the local police formed a barrier at the entrance to the governor’s offices and appeared to be at a high state of readiness. In the end however, one of the demonstrators was able to reduce the level of tension and calm was restored after the deputy-governor Constant Karma and the chairperson of the provincial parliament John Ibo met with them.

During the meeting Ibo agreed to form an independent team to investigate the Mulia case which resulted in the death of a number of civilians, one of which was a priest named Elisa Tabuni. He also agreed to follow up the protesters’ demands that regent of Puncak Jaya be removed from his post.

Karma said that for the record they would study and reexamine the letter requesting the deployment of troops which was referred to earlier by the demonstrators. “We are therefore planning that on Tuesday November 2 all council members will hold a meeting to discuss the issue of what happened in Mulia in the Puncak Jaya regency”, said Karma before the crowd who were visibly wet because of a heavy downpour.

After listening to the statements by Ibo and Karma the demonstrators held prayers and agreed to return peacefully to their homes.

A day before the demonstrators met with Zainal at in the offices of the provincial parliament. Coming out of the meeting which lasted several hours, was an agreement to form an independent investigative team to uncover the truth behind the Mulia case.

Led by Pagawak, the demonstrators on Thursday came in larger numbers than on Wednesday October 27 and arrived at the provincial parliament at exactly 11am. Also present among the demonstrators was a public figure and intellectual from the central mountains, Father Socrates Sofyan Yoman.

[Translated by James Balowski.]