Cunding, Jayapura – As many as 30 Free Papua activists were arrested by police at a demonstration on the grounds of the Papuan Regional House of Representatives (DPRP) in Jayapura city, Papua, on Monday January 13.
During the action, the protesters called on the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) delegation, which is currently visiting Jayapura, to support Papua’s membership of the Asia-Pacific nation block.
One of the Papuan human rights activists, action coordinator Markus Haluk, was seen being escorted by police to the Jayapura municipal police station. Police said the arrests were on the grounds that they did not have a permit to demonstrate.
“We’re just questioning them. There were no arrests, beatings or intimidation when the protest action was being secured”, Jayapura municipal police chief Assistant Superintendent Alfred Papare told journalists in Jayapura city.
Papare said that according to Law Number 9/1998 on the expression of views in public, the action had violated regulations and could be disbursed. “[But] we didn’t disburse them. I merely proposed to the protesters, do you want to stop and we’ll take Markus Haluk into custody as the person responsible for the action”, he said.
One of the activists taken away by police, Elias, protested the arrests. “We held a protest action, it was not anarchistic and proceeded in an orderly manner. We intentionally held the action at the DPRP offices because it is an office of the people”, he said.
According to Elias, they held the protest action at the DPRP offices so that members of the house could facilitate [a meeting between] the protesters and the MSG delegation. “But before even entering the grounds of the DPRP offices, police intercepted us straight away. [We] tried to resist. Our handy cam and camera were taken and the pictures erased by police”, he said.
During the arrests, police seized a banner with a picture of the Morning Star flag in the left corner and the writing “West Papua people support WPNCL [West Papua National Coalition for Liberation] for MSG membership”. Another banner had the message, “Full support for the Papuan nation’s application as a member of the MSG in order to obtain recognition of independence and sovereignty”.
Following the more than two-hour closed meeting with the MSG delegation at the governor’s offices, Papua Governor Lukas Enembe called on the Papuan people not to dwell on the past in which there were alleged human rights violations. Because currently the region is being reorganised collectively.
“I understand, during the New Order [dictatorship of former President Suharto] many human rights violations occurred and history has a record of this. But reformasi [the reform era that began in 1998] is underway and Indonesia is more open with the birth of Law Number 21/2001 on Special Autonomy for Papua. It is better to promote development in Papua with all its existing potential so that there are advances for the Papuan people”, Enembe told journalists in Jayapura on Monday.
According to Enembe, the MSG delegation visit is to strengthen bilateral relations. “This is the first visit and we are certain that we will hold a reciprocal visit to their [countries]. The relationship that will be developed is more orientated towards a cultural and economic relationship and carrying out reciprocal visits”, he said.
One of the leaders of the MSG delegation, Papua New Guinea Foreign Minister the Hon. Rimbink Pato said that many things were discussed during the meeting with the Papuan governor. “We discussed everything in detail, including an agreement to develop the economy, Papuan regulations, and a program in Indonesia along with joint ventures in the field of trade. We from the MSG delegation also recognise that the application of special autonomy in Papua, which has been given by the Indonesian government, is proceeding extremely well. We consider this to be very interesting”, said Pato.
The MSG delegation entourage is being led by three foreign affairs ministers from several MSG member states, namely Fiji Foreign Affairs Minister Ratu Noke Kubuabola, Solomon Islands Foreign Affairs Minister Soalaoi Clay Forau and Pato. The visit to Papua is to meet with Papuan government officials and conduct visits to a number of locations, namely the Jayapura 1 Vocational School and Papua Bank in Jayapura city. Following this the delegation will return to Jakarta.
[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service.]