October 19, 2011:
Text messages were sent out earlier this week by unidentified senders, warning that there would be trouble at the gathering:
Free Papua congress. There will be slaughter of the sons and daughters of Papua, so stay at home and don’t go out until it is safe.
But thousands of people have attended the congress since Monday. The original venue for the event was the Cendrawasih University, but it was later moved to Lapangan Sakeus (Sakeus Field) in Abepura, on the outskirts of Jayapura. Papuan video activists said at least 4000 people attended the congress today.
The congress itself was not a popular idea, particularly among the armed independence groups.
The commander of the TPN/OPM (the National Liberation Army/Papuan Independence Movement), Lambert Pekikir, strongly rejected the congress. He said it would not solve the Papuan independence issue. The TPN/OPM only supports secession from the Indonesian republic
However, Papuan video activists said it was clear today that independence from Indonesia was the hot topic at the gathering. As attendees addressed the issue of independence in their speeches, several hundred military officers began to close in.
One Papuan video activist sent a text message to EngageMedia this morning:
Good morning, brother, I’m down at the field, and we’re surrounded by the military. Please pray so the congress is safe.
Then, at 3.30pm Jayapura time, he sent another one:
Brother, they’ve opened fire … to us all.
The TNI’s Regional Commander, Major General Erfi Triassunu, confirmed the declaration of independence during a press conference today: “MRP (Majelis Rakyat Papua – Papuan People’s Council) has declared the separation from Indonesia and plans to establish a new government,” he told BeritaSatu.com.
“The police officers were only trying to prevent [the situation from escalating] by firing warning shots to the air,” he said.
“No shots were fired directly to the people, hopefully there was no one hurt.”
However, sources on the ground have confirmed that people did get hurt during the panic that ensued. They also claim some people were assaulted by military personnel. Papuan video activists told EngageMedia that their cameras were confiscated, even though they were not using the devices.
Roads are currently blocked in Abepura, as are phone and internet communications.
UPDATE: Andreas Harsono, from Human Rights Watch, has told EngageMedia:
“At about 3pm Papua time, one of my contacts called me, frantically telling me that the troops had opened fire. He said he had heard about 30 shots. It is not clear whether it was fired to the air or the crowd. Over the phone I heard at least five more shots. If my hearing did not betray me, it seemed like the sound of SS-1 semi-automatic weapons…
“Another contact sent me a text message, saying that the troops had opened fire and [were] dispersing the Papuan Congress participants of various tribes throughout Papua. He estimated at least 2000 people were in the field this morning…
“I also talked to an anthropologist, a close friend of mine, who had difficulties [passing] the Abepura area. He saw police and soldiers blocking roads around Abepura. He also said that rumors had started to circulate that leaders associated [with] the Papuan Congress i.e. Forkorus Yoboisembut, the chairman of the Papuan Customary Council; Selfius Bobii, a social media activist and the organizer of the Congress; and Edison Waromi, the president of the West Papua National Authority and a former political prisoner, were about to be arrested by the police…
“They all said that the atmosphere is very tense in Jayapura. The anthropologist is worried that they might be “penyisiran” or “combing” this evening like what the Indonesian troops [did] in 2006. Abepura and Waena, where most participants stay, are quite empty now.
“My contacts are still not sure whether the shots were live bullets or blank ones. Phone connection is rather difficult with Jayapura now.”
EngageMedia will continue to monitor and update the situation. If you are interested in following up the story with the authorities, please contact:
Jayapura Police Chief - +62811950376
Regional Commander Major General Erfi Triassunu - +62811136522
- 800 arrested, many tortured after troops open fire on Papuan Congress (westpapuamedia.info)
- Indon Police Hunt Papuan Congress leaders (westpapuamedia.info)
- Urgent: Police and Military Prepare to Storm Papuan Congress (westpapuamedia.info)
- Photo/video report: Heavy handed intimidation fails to dampen Papuan Congress spirit; police threaten forced dispersal (westpapuamedia.info)
- Police and Army Open Fire on Papuan Congress (westpapuamedia.info)