Nine Papuans charged with rebellion over flag incident in Manokwari

Cenderawasih Post – March 16, 2008
West Papuan protesters march in Manokwari (Suara Kriting Free)

Jayapura – It appears that the police will show not tolerance to those who unfurled the Morning Star flag during a demonstration on grounds of the Manokwari Regional House of Representatives on Thursday March 13. The evidence, nine out of the 12 demonstrators arrested earlier by police are to be charged with rebellion.

“We will be taking legal action against them (those who unfurled the Morning Star flag) in Manokwari”, Papua regional police chief Inspector General Drs Max Donald told the Cenderawasih Post on Friday March 14.

Despite this, police believe that the protest action, which ended with the unfurling of the Morning Star Flag, was a reaction against Government Regulation 77/2007 on regional symbols that contains a prohibition on the Morning Star flag in Papua, the South Maluku Republic Benang Raja flag in Ambon and the Crescent Moon flag in Aceh.

What is clear however, is that Donald asserts that incidents such as this are a violation of the law so police will be taking legal action. When asked if the unfurling of the Morning Star flag had any relationship with a recent demonstration in the provincial capital of Jayapura and who the intellectual actor were, Donald claimed that they already had a good understanding of the case and who is behind it.

Donald also called on the Papua people not to be provoked by such actions and remained all citizens that they are obliged to comply with government regulations, including Government Regulation 77/2007 that bans the Morning Star flag. He added that it was not just the unfurling of the flag but that there were also speeches and statement with a similar tone.

Will the suspects be indicted under the articles against rebellion? Donald said there is a possibility that they could. “Yes, of course it could go in that direction”, he added.

As reported earlier, the protest action was carried out by a group calling themselves the West Papua National Authority (WPNA) and the Greater Manokwari Student Executive Council (BEM).

District police chief assistant superintendent Drs Yakobus Marjuki said that the initials of the persons detained as suspects, among others, are DS (35), NA (25), MO (22), LB (24), ML (20), EA (30), GA (25), AW (34) and SK (16). Since Friday March 14, the suspects have been held at the Manokwari district police detention center while they await questioning.

Also included among the suspects are a Manokwari University of Papua student with the initials ML (20) and MO (22) from the Manokwari College of Law (STIH). There is also an under-age child with the initial SK (16) from a junior high school in Manokwari. SK will be questioned by a special investigator and police also plan to investigate SK’s parents to find out if they were involved or not.

Two others, YM and OM have been released because initial questioning found insufficient evidence of their involvement in the unfurling of the Morning Star flag.

Police said that the results of the initial question were that witnesses said that the flags were provide by the chairperson of the group Manokwari Regency Traditional Youth (PAWM), Elimelekh Obeth Kaiway

Suspects and witnesses have also admitted that the flags were unfurled on the orders of WPNA spokesperson Jack Wanggai. “If Elimelekh realizes his error [he should] give himself up quickly before [he is] arrested, because all of the witnesses’ testimonies point towards him”, said Marjuki on Friday.

At a press conference at his offices, the director of Manokwari Legal Aid Assessment, Research and Development Institute (LP3BH), human rights lawyer Yan Christian Warinussy said that the suspects had officially asked LP3BH to assist them during questioning. Warinussy added that the suspects have been charged under articles 106 and 110 on rebellion.

From the Cenderawasih Post’s observations, as of this afternoon the suspects were still being question by criminal investigators. The suspects are being assisted by a team from the LP3BH. (bat/sr)

[Abridged translation by James Balowski.]