Agung Sandy Lesmana – The Metro Jaya regional police have rerouted traffic and closed off Jalan Merdeka Utara and traffic in the direction of Gambir train station due a rally by Papuan protesters in Central Jakarta.
The demonstration was organised by the Indonesian People's Front for West Papua (FRI-WP) to commemorate 60 years since the declaration of West Papuan independence on December 1, 1961.
Scores of demonstrators began gathering at 10 am for the demonstration which was held at the Horse Statue traffic circle on Jalan Merdeka Selatan in Central Jakarta.
"This morning is situational, we'll wait for developments on the ground", said Metro Jaya traffic director Senior Commissioner Sambodo Purnomo Yogo when sought for confirmation in Jakarta on Wednesday.
Yogo said that traffic management would depend on the situation and the number of protesters.
The protesters could be seen bringing a number of banners and posters with messages such as "The 1969 referendum was undemocratic", "Free West Papua" and "Referendum or vanished".
In speeches the FRI-WP said that there were three main demands that they were directing at the central government to coincide with December 1.
First, they demanded that the government immediately withdraw all of the military troops which have been deployed in the land of the Cendrawasih – as Papua is known.
Second, the protesters also asked the government to revoke the extension of special autonomy (Otsus) for West Papua. This is because, the protesters believe, the Otsus law has never truly represented the hopes of the Papuan people.
"Third, give the right of self-determination to the West Papuan nation", said one of the speakers.
Police could be seen on guard at the location of the demonstration and forming a blockade around the protesters. A tactical vehicle, a crowd control vehicle and a detention vehicle were also on alert at the location. (Antara)
Although it is widely held that West Papua declared independence from Indonesia on December 1, 1961, this actually marks the date when the Morning Star flag was first raised alongside the Dutch flag in an officially sanctioned ceremony in Jayapura, then called Hollandia. The first declaration of independence actually took place on July 1, 1971 when the Free Papua Organisation (OPM) unilaterally proclaimed West Papua as an independent democratic republic.
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Orang Papua Peringati 1 Desember di Jakarta, Polisi Tutup Akses Jalan ke Istana Negara".]