SMH & Jakarta Globe: Thousands rally in Indonesian Papua

1) Thousands rally in Indonesian Papua

Sydney Morning Herald April 3, 2009 – 6:24PM

Thousands of people rallied in Indonesia’s eastern Papua region on Friday to call for independence from Jakarta and a boycott of elections amid a police crackdown on dissent, activists said.

Police raided the offices of the Papuan Customary Council, the top representative body for indigenous Papuans in the provincial capital Jayapura, arresting 15 activists and damaging equipment, council secretary general Leonard Imbiri told AFP.

“They trashed the offices, destroyed two computers and they burnt down a traditional hut behind the building,” Imbiri said.

Vico Yeimo, the head of the West Papua National Committee, said the activists were arrested on suspicion of trying to organise a rally in the city, an earlier request for which was turned down by police.

Papua police chief Bagus Eko Danto refused to confirm the arrests or the damage to the assembly.

More than 10,000 activists took to the streets in the towns of Nabire and Wamena to call for Papuans to boycott national legislative elections next week and in solidarity with the establishment abroad of an international pressure group called International Lawyers for West Papua, activists said.

Around 12,000 Papuans led by 50 men in traditional penis gourds and feathers marched though Nabire with no arrests, local church activist Yones Douw said.

“Our demand is that Papuans don’t take part in the election because we are not part of Indonesia,” he said.

Papua, which sits on the western end of New Guinea island, was officially incorporated into Indonesia in a 1969 UN-backed vote of tribal elders widely seen to have been stage-managed.

Support for independence is high among indigenous Papuas, who are Melanesians ethnically distinct from other Indonesians. The government restricts access to the area by foreign media.
© 2009 AFP
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Jakarta Globe April 4, 2009

News / National / Article

Christian Motte & Putri Prameshwari

2) Massive March in Papua Poll Protest

Thousands of people took part in a pro-independence rally in Papua Province on Friday, calling for a boycott of the legislative elections.

The rally, in which students and activists from several universities and religious and social organizations took part, was held in the town of Nabire.

Zet Giyai, the chairman of a pro-independence group, the National Committee for West Papua, or KNPB, said the rally was held to show support for the recent establishment of the International Lawyers for West Papua, an international pressure group for the Papua cause based in the United States.

“We Papuans fully support the establishment of the ILWP. … The support of West Papuan people can be seen in this crowd. This is the biggest action by Papuans in Nabire,” Giyai said.

He claimed that some 10,000 people had attended the rally but the figure could not be independently confirmed. He also said that rallies would continue to be held until April 6.

As some in the crowd shouted the word “Papua,” others responded, shouting “Free.” A scream of “Elections” was met by a thundering “Boycott!”

Several protesters told the Jakarta Globe that they believed Papua was not a part of Indonesia, and banners displaying the outlawed Morning Star separatist flag were on display until police forced them to be taken down.

Mekky, a native student who joined the rally, said Papuans had chosen to end the “oppression in the province this year.”

Addressing the protesters by the local election commission office, where the protest ended, Reverend Daud Auwe said, “We want independence, not an election.”

Pro-independence sentiments have been on the rise in the sprawling western half of New Guinea Island since the fall of the iron-fisted rule of former President Suharto in 1998.

Sentiments were fueled by discontent over the alleged siphoning of the region’s natural riches by the central government, leaving little for the region, as well as widespread human rights abuse by government security forces there.

The government attempted to curb pro-independence sentiments by according broad special autonomy for Papua in 2001, giving it a greater part of the revenues from its natural resources as well as enhancing locals’ say in decision-making in the region.

Meanwhile, in the capital city of Jayapura, Papua Police Chief Bagus Eko Danto said 15 activists, mostly students, were detained for questioning for allegedly vandalizing a car.

However, Victor Yeimo, a local KNPB activist, said they were arrested on suspicion of trying to organize a rally.

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