Massive demonstrations across West Papua demanding UN protection

Massive demonstrations across West Papua demanding UN protection Australia, Indonesia, Maluku, News, Pacific, West Papua
March 21, 2012

Source: West Papua Media

Rallies held across West Papua, Indonesia, and Australia have drawn tens of thousands of people on to the streets calling on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to do more to protect West Papuans to Indonesian state violence, and to allow them exercise their universal human rights to self-determination.

Despite significant threats of violence prior to the rallies by Indonesian security forces against peaceful unarmed protestors, the mass mobilisations across West Papua significantly outnumbered security forces and were peaceful. In some centres, the police only sent a handful of undercover intelligence agents to monitor the situation.

In Jayapura, over 5000 demonstrators marched from Taman Imbi and joined with a long march of several thousand people. Security forces blocked access to the centre of Jayapura with heavy weaponry, but the rallies avoided provocation. Jayapura was reported to be a ghost town as the rallies paralysed normal business and movement.

Speakers in Jayapura demanded that the UN Secretary-General listen to the people of West Papua and tabled seven key demand on the UN. Buchtar Tabuni, from the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) told the crowd that the UN must take responsibility for its role in the sham 1969 Act of Free Choice handover of West Papua to Indonesia, actions that violated international law.

“Ban Ki-Moon and SBY have to know the wishes of the sovereign independence of Papua on the land itself. KNPB will mediate the West Papuan people so they can determine their political choices through a mechanism that is democratic, peaceful, dignified and final in accordance with the principles and standards of international law”, said Tabuni.

Herman Wainggai, a West Papuan the West Papuan independence advocate based in the United States explained at the solidarity rally in Melbourne, Australia, “Our troubles began in New York in 1962, and I hope they will end there soon. We ask the United Nations to host talks between the Indonesian Republic and the Federated Republic of West Papua, just as the UN did between the Indonesians and the Dutch”

Ban Ki-Moon was visiting Indonesia to participate in The Jakarta International Defence Dialogue, hosted by the Indonesian Ministry of Defence on 21 March 2012, a move widely seen by human rights observers as giving legitimacy to Indonesian militarist objectives over West Papua and beyond.

West Papuan activists called on Mr Ban to use the opportunity to press Indonesia on human rights in Papua and its consistent denial of basic freedoms and rights to West Papuan people, including rights to life and of freedom of expression, and freedom from arbitrary detention.

“We would like Mr Ban Ki-moon to attend to our defence while he’s in Jakarta” said Herman Wainggai,

“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights establishes the right of all individuals to freedom of opinion and expression and the right to peaceful assembly and association. Also, Indonesia is a signatory to International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which guarantees the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and Indonesia’s constitution also protects these rights,” Wainggai told West Papua Media.

“So, it would be appropriate for the Secretary-General to negotiate the release of all political prisoners in Indonesia while he is visiting the new ‘Peacekeeping’ Centre in West Java,” said Wainggai.

Widespread Mass Actions

The rallies across Papua drew tens of thousands of people in total in Wamena, Biak, Serui, Yapen, Sorong, Nabire, Jayapura and Fak-Fak. Security forces engaged in their standard procedures of intimidation and disruption at all rallies, but protesters maintained non-violence discipline at each area.

On Yapen island, close to 6000 people in total held two long marches to support the demands of the day, all under threat of arrest. Local police had refused to issue a permit for the rallies to go ahead, claiming the rallies would upset the security and integrity of Indonesia. After a week of pamphleteering and socialising the rallies, police had no choice but to allow the rally to go ahead. The rally began in the village of Mantembu, where former political prisoner Yawen Wayeni was brutally disembowelled and filmed by Brimob police in a video leaked on Youtube in 2010.

The same Brimob unit on Monday attempted to block the long march from leaving Mantembu, using over 50 police to block the narrow road, and attempted to seize all Morning Star flags. Negotiations ensued, led by Reverend Jhon Pairire and FRWP Doberay Governor David Abon, who got agreement from police for the rally to continue to Serui city. Police continued to intimidate Papuans all day, but Morning Star flags still appeared throughout the day despite Police.

Manokwari saw more than 7000 people from across Papuan society and resistance raise the Morning Star flag and conduct long marches all over town after prayer, eventually settling down to listen to orations from a wide range of speakers. Speakers called for the freeing of all political prisoners in Papua in Indonesian prisons, including the President and the Prime Minister of the Federal Republic of West Papua. Brimob officers tried to seize the Morning Star flags early unsuccessfully, but soon stood aback training their weapons on the crowd, who studiously ignored the provocative intimidation according to stringers for West Papua Media.

In Sorong, our stringers reported that almost 1000 people took to the streets in a festive atmosphere. Organisers claimed that few security forces turned up other than about ten plain clothes intelligence agents. ”It is clear that this drastically changed the atmosphere, it must be because of international pressure,” said our stringer by SMS.

On the West Coast in Fak-Fak, almost 1000 people took part in prayers and listened to speeches in the main market square, with little interference by security forces present.

In Jayapura, stringers for West Papua Media reported a wide range of colourful, festive and dramatic demonstrations for Papuan aspirations, including the release of almost 300 balloons painted with banned Morning Star flags and the UN flag, which drifted across town and out to sea. This tactic has been used repeatedly as a tactic for distributed symbolic resistance in both Papua and Maluku for years. Isolated gunfire was heard when the balloons passed over military barracks, according to local sources, believed to be Indonesian soldiers attempting to shoot down the balloons.

And in Wamena, in the Baliem Valley, a thousand people joined in a rally and march to support the call for the UN to take action by sending peacekeeping force to protect Papuan people against Indonesian security forces. Stringers for West Papua Media report that few security forces were in overt attendance, but there was an understanding that troops were close by at all times. The Baliem Valley and West Papuan highland people have borne the brunt of Indonesian violence since the occupation began, with sweeps against civilians by the Australian funded Detachment 88 counter terrorism group and Indonesian army still ongoing in Tingginambut, Mulia and the outer areas of the Baliem Valley.

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