Updated December 2, 2011 09:49:07
The unofficial independence day in the Indonesian province of Papua wasn’t without violence.
Four civilians are believed to have been shot and wounded by police and military after they were caught celebrating 50 years of the Free Papua Movement yesterday.
But police in the Indonesian province are denying the claim.
They say one officer was left severely injured after he was attacked by around 15 armed men in the city of Timika.
But the National Police did confirm they dispersed a mass gathering in Timika after a Morning Star flag was raised to commemorate the day.
Speaker:Nick Chesterfield, Editor of West Papua Media
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CHESTERFIELD: Look we’ve received some pretty honest assessments of what’s going on, we’ve got a network of stringers all over West Papua and we have witnesses on the ground in Timika. We’ve got a list of names of people who’ve been shot and their injuries, so it’s pretty clear that the Indonesian police did storm the gathering and shoot people. We’ve actually got five people who were shot, including people who were shot in the head. Now the police have been usually denying all attacks and then admitting it and then trying to change the narrative of it, so pretty much every act of violence that’s been occurring in West Papua over recent weeks. But it is a concern that five people were shot in Timika, and it is absolutely confirmed that the actions by the protestors on the ground were completely non-violent and they were not attacking police in Timika.
COUTTS: Alright the five that were shot, there were no deaths?
CHESTERFIELD: Not at this stage but people have been shot in the head and upper body and there has been some pretty significant injuries. So yeah it’s not just bullet grazes.
COUTTS: So they are death threatening as well?
CHESTERFIELD: Well certainly two of the victims have life threatening injuries, yeah.
COUTTS: Now are the celebrations likely to be ongoing or is that it, just a one-day affair?
CHESTERFIELD: It generally is a commemoration on December 1, now it happened in at least 15 centres across West Papua. It is the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Republic of West Papua, which was the transitional arrangement towards independence, it was created by the Dutch. Now it was officially recognised by the Dutch as a transitional republic. So it’s certainly not just the anniversary of the formation of the Free Papua Movement, but the formation of independence in West Papua, which was taken away less than a year later with the invasion of West Papua by Indonesia.
COUTTS: Quite early in the day we were getting reports that the Morning Star was raised up a flag pole on the highest point possible. Was that taunting the Indonesian military by doing that, because it is illegal?
CHESTERFIELD: It is illegal under Indonesian law currently, but it was also made legal under international law by President Wahid in 2000 where the Morning Star flag was allowed to be flown. It is a cultural symbol as well as political symbol, so the acts of subversion and rebellion that they put on the raising of the flag are actually invalid under Indonesian law. But certainly the act of raising the flag on top of Carstensz Pyramid or Puncak Jaya as the Indonesians know it, was an act of solidarity with the Papuans by an international climber. It was certainly not done as a provocation to the Indonesian military, but rather recognition that it is West Papua’s land and West Papua’s flag should be flying across the top of its mountain.
COUTTS: Is there any evidence at this stage that the Indonesian government is releasing its grip even slightly on the West Papuans given the extent and the lack of use of Freeport over so many years?
CHESTERFIELD: Look one of the key things about events yesterday and the restraint shown by the Indonesian security forces in not cracking down, there was a briefing the other day in Jayapura by the police to all police officers to, to use a colloquial statement, to not do the wrong thing and not react with violence in any situation, because they knew that the world was actually watching. Now it is actually a testament to several things, it’s a testament to the discipline of West Papuan people in not responding to Indonesian provocations yesterday, but it’s also understanding that the international community was actually paying attention and Indonesia knows what it’s doing in Papua is wrong. It’s not really loosening its grip as such, the Indonesian military itself is trying to tighten its grip on its business operations across Papua, including the protection rackets that it runs around the Freeport mine. But certainly it has been unable to influence events in West Papua and Freeport, like the strike that’s been ongoing at the Freeport mine since July, been unable to influence it very effectively at this point to force Freeport back to production. So it’s certainly trying to increase the blood that it draws from Papua, but it’s not having very much success at this point, and certainly dialogue within Jakarta’s elite is actually starting to ask what value is the total cost of the occupation of Papua.