Papuan activists arrested and assaulted for wearing Morning Star logo

Tabloid JUBI – February 25, 2019
KNPB members and infant arrested in Merauke – February 25, 2019 (KNPB)
KNPB members and infant arrested in Merauke – February 25, 2019 (KNPB)

Edho Sinaga, Jayapura – A child and nine West Papua National Committee (KNPB) activists in Merauke were arrested by the Merauke district police on Saturday February 23.

Five-year-old Martina Yawon was arrested as he was walking with nine KNPB members who were wearing the Morning Star (BK) flag logo on their shirts.

Merauke KNPB activist Almasu and regional chairperson Marius Kapeng said that the incident left Martina frightened and traumatised after witnessing the others being abused and arrested.

“We had come from the [KNPB} secretariat then gone to the New Market, where they sell areca, we ate the areca as we were returning home via Jl. Brawijaya, still wearing shirts with the BK and KNPB logos. But around 50 meters away there’s a Kopassus [army Special Forces] mess. Apparently they were already watching us and we were stopped by three Kopassus officers riding a white Ranger car”, Kapeng told Jubi on Monday February 25.

According to Kapeng, the Kopassus members tried to force him and his companions to remove the shirts with the Morning Star symbol. Because they refused, several of them were abused then taken to the district police (Polres) station where they were again forced to remove the shirts.

“We were detained because we refused to take off the shirts, one of our friends was throttled and slapped in the face by a Kopassus officer. Several minutes later they contacted the Marauke Polres and three patrol vehicles came and took us away to Polres. We were forced to write down our names and our clothing was taken, after that we were sent home”, said Kapeng.

Responding to the incident, KNBP Merauke chairperson Manuel Metemko said he deplored the arrest and abuse of the activists especially because it was done in front of an infant. According to Metemko, Indonesian security personnel cannot just arrest people for what they are wearing.

“We are protected by the 1945 Constitution Article 28 and Law Number 39/1999 on Human Rights. So the actions by security forces were excessive. This kind of pattern needs to change so it doesn’t happen again”, said Metemko.

Metemko said that freedom of opinion and expression does not exist at all in Papua. Yet, the activists did not raise the Morning Star flag, they were only wearing shirts with the logo. He questioned what was wrong with wearing such clothing.

“There’s no democracy in the land of Papua. Security forces intimidate us. Security forces intimidate Papuan people there. We want police to be professional in carrying out their duties”, he said.

Jubi attempted to confirm the incident with Merauke district police chief Assistant Superintendent Bahara Marpaung but as of posting this article there has been no response to the SMS message sent by Jubi.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Aktivis KNPB di Merauke dianiaya aparat keamanan di depan Balita”.]