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Protests highlight West Papua issues

Tuesday 10 May 2016 | Published in Regional

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WEST PAPUA – Indonesian police officers arrested a total 1724 indigenous Papuans who took part in peaceful protests in Jayapura and other cities in Papua last week.

The protesters came from various Papua districts, to support the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) becoming a full member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), a regional forum in the Pacific.

The protesters also gathered to mark the anniversary of the controversial integration of Papua into the Republic of Indonesia, on May 1, 1963, though that integration remains a questioned one for many indigenous Papuans.

Journalists were banned from covering the arrest of protesters who were the detained in the Mobile Brigade Command headquarters in Kotaraja, Jayapura.

Reporters saw hundreds of protesters being grouped in the compound, asked to remove their clothes and footwear and stand in the sun at noon last Monday.

Police officers who guarded the headquarters gate, about 10-metres high, prevented media crews from entering the compound.

About 20 officers stood guard outside of the gate holding wooden batons and ordering people to stop.

They also prohibited journalists from taking photos of the arrested protesters.

One of the officers said they were acting on “a direct order” from Mobile Brigade Unit chief of Papua Police, Senior Police Commissioner Mathius Fakhiri.

“Chief Fakhiri ordered us to ban people, particularly journalists, from covering this,” said a Mobile Brigade officer at the checkpoint.

The protesters were rounded up in several locations before being taken by police trucks to the compound.

A journalist, Ardi Bayage, was also arrested. Even when he showed his press card, police accused him of lying. His mobile phone was smashed by police. He was detained for several hours before being released.

In the wake of the protests and subsequent mass arrests, the Asian Human Rights Commission said under President Joko Widodo, the human rights situation in Papua and West Papua provinces has yet to show any progress.

“Fundamental problems remain, such as lack of law enforcement, and the lack of accountability amongst security forces.

“Despite the protesters being released after their being interrogated by the police, circumstances have proven that the Indonesian government has yet to change its policy on Papua. The government’s commitment to solve problems in Papua peacefully, through dialogue, has never been formally admitted or followed.

“Under President Widodo’s administration, the government has tended to prioritise the development of public infrastructure to boost either national or international investments in Papua. However, such a policy does not really bring benefit for local indigenous.

“The development of public infrastructure in Papua will potentially trigger other problems, such as land grabbing and the migration of more people from outside the Papua.”

Considering the situation in Papua, the AHRC calls upon the government of Indonesia, to consider the following:

“The government must prove its commitment to solve human rights problems in Papua and ensure protection for local indigenous Papuans without any discrimination and extreme restriction.

“The government of Indonesia, as a member of the Human Rights Council, and having already ratified several key international human rights instruments, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), must ensure its policy is in line with the covenant.

“The government must stop judicial harassment against local indigenous people, and show its commitment and seriousness to establishing peaceful dialogue without undue delay.”

- PNC sources