Arrests As Thousands Rally In Indonesian Papua: Activists

Arrests As Thousands Rally In Indonesian Papua: Activists

TIMIKA, Indonesia, April 3 (AFP) — Thousands of people rallied
in Indonesia’s eastern Papua region 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.

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