Arnold Belau, Jayapura – A peaceful action that was to be held by the Indonesian People’s Front for West Papua (FRI-WP) in Ternate, North Maluku, was forcibly broken up by local police on August 15.
Action coordinator Rudhy Pravda told Suara Papua that the action by 22 protesters was to be held to commemorate 56 years since signing of the New York Agreement on August 15, 1962.
Rudhy explained that the FRI-WP had followed the legal guidelines by submitting a notification with Ternate district police (Polres) three days prior to the action. Police responded however with a written rejection on the grounds that the action conflicted with the sovereignty of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI).
“We said that we would still hold the action no matter what the consequences. Given the situation we held the action but with the position that we would bear the risk from Ternate Polres. Prior to the action being broken up we held negotiations with police, there were several FRI-PW members who had were interrogated by four plain-clothed intelligence officers while they were waiting for protesters to arrive. They tried to intimidate them saying that they were not allowed to hold action and if they insisted on protesting they must be prepared to accept the risk including saying ‘if you want to die please go ahead’”, Rudhy explained.
Rudhy said that the information on plans to block and break up the rally was obtained from protesters attending an earlier rally at the same location. He said that that they wanted to negotiate with police but were instead threatened and intimidated.
Then before they had even unpacked campaign materials for the action, they were surrounded by plain-clothed intelligence officers and uniformed police who prohibited them from holding the protest no matter what, without being willing to negotiate their legal rights.
“I was pushed and shoved including a female demonstrator who was also pushed and shoved and they tried to use violence. The female action coordinator she was pulled and grabbed by intelligence officers. Although we were determined to continue with the action they out-numbered us so in the end we weren’t able to hold the action”, said Rudhy.
Field coordinator Gamaria Mansur meanwhile said that in addition to breaking up the action, police also confiscated and tore up protest materials such as banners, placards and propaganda.
She added that earlier there had been an argument between protesters and police. “Police intimidated protesters with threats, [saying] ‘do you want to die’, and calling us traitors and the like. I was also pulled and grabbed, then after I shouted I was finally let go”, she explained.
When sought for confirmation on the incident, FRI-WP chairperson Surya Anta said that he strongly condemns the violent actions by police in Ternate.
“We strongly condemn it. The police’s actions in prohibiting and breaking up the action violate Indonesia’s own laws and regulations on freedom of expression”, he asserted.
As of submitting this report for publication, Ternate police chief Assistance Superintendent Azhari Juanda, who was contacted by Suara Papua through his official Facebook account, has yet to responded.
Following the launch of the Trikora military operation which was aimed at harassing and forcing the Dutch out of Netherlands New Guinea in 1961-62 and under the threat that Indonesia would move from armed infiltrations to a large-scale military attack, US sponsored negotiations led to the signing of the New York Agreement on August 15, 1962 in which the Netherlands agreed to hand over administration of Western New Guinea to Indonesia pending a UN administered plebiscite. Seven years later under the newly installed Suharto dictatorship, the treaty led to the so-call “Act of Free Choice” in 1969 in which 1025 hand-picked Papuans “voted” at gun-point for the territory remain part of Indonesia.
[Abridged translation by James Balowski. The original title of the article was Polisi Bubarkan Aksi FRI-West Papua di Ternate.]