Jayapura, Jubi – Two West Papua National Committee (KNPB) activists have been arrested by police in Bitung City, North Sulawesi, for carrying shirts with the Morning Star logo.
The two activists were KNPB Dogiyai Chairperson Yus Iyai and KNPB consulate member Siska Auwe. They were arrested at the Bitung port as they were about to board a ship to return home to Nabire, Papua, on Sunday February 17.
“We were arrested and detained just because we were carrying 23 shirts seven of which had the Morning Star (Bintang Kejora, BK) symbol on them, our identity as Papuan people. But we were arrested at the port and our bags inspected, after the bags were inspected, seven shirts with the BK and two books about the Papua independence struggle were found. This kind of behaviour by police is wrong, because they can’t differentiate between a flag and a logo”, Iyai told Jubi by phone on Tuesday February 19.
According to police, Iyai and Auwe were carrying Morning Star flags. The pair were interrogated and detained overnight before being released. As a result, their departure was delayed because their tickets were no longer valid.
“We got the shirts printed for sale in Papua. Because we needed extra money for university. We were interrogated with stupid questions. Are you OPM [Free Papua Movement]? Are you carrying Papuan flags? Do you want independence? When do you want independence?”, he said.
Papuan student and human rights activists Emil E. Wakei said he deplored the police’s actions which displayed and antipathy towards the Morning Star logo. According to Wakei, the police’s actions were a violation of human rights.
“We, Papuan students regret the repressive actions by Brimob [para-military police Mobile Brigade] members who are on duty at the Bitung City port. The police arrested them in a repressive way and violated Article 28 of the UUD 1945 [1945 Constitution] on human rights”, said Wakei.
Another KNPB activists, Eman Ukago, also said that police violated Article 28 and caused the two activists financial damages because their tickets home to Nabire were no longer valid because of the incident.
“Police don’t respect people’s human rights, never mind that their time was wasted and their boat tickets expired”, said Ukago.
Bitung district police Chief Assistant Superintendent Stefanus Michael Tamuntuan meanwhile refused to provide an explanation when contacted by phone. He asked Jubi journalists to confirm the issue directly, not by phone.
“Sorry yeah, things like this, [should] be confirmed directly okay, but by telephone, sorry, I can’t provide any data or information”, said Tamuntuan.
[Slightly abridged translation by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Bawa baju berlogo bintang kejora, dua aktivis KNPB ditangkap”.]