THURSDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2011
IN the aftermath of October’s brutal crackdown by Indonesian police on the Third Papuan People’s Congress, local pro-independence committees have organised mass civil resistance in most towns across West Papua to commemorate its 50th anniversary of Independence, tragically cut short by Indonesia’s invasion in 1963.
The banned symbol of West Papua’s independence, the Morning Star flag, will be raised in provocative actions that occupying Indonesian security forces have deemed as an act of rebellion, and have threatened to shoot to kill anyone participating.
Flagraising ceremonies are scheduled to be held in almost twenty centres across Papua and West Papua provinces, including Jayapura, Wamena and Timika. Massive shows of force have been reported from Indonesian forces to prevent local people from taking part in planned events.
Tensions are high across the Bird’s Head Penninsula of West Papua as hundreds of paramilitary police (Brimob) seconded to the area exchanged gunfire with local units of National Liberation Army (TPN) and conducted heavy handed searches of homes and villages.
Shots were exchanged from 3pm local time on November 29 in the farming and gold panning village of Markus Eduda between Brimob personel and the village based unit of the National Liberation Army (TPN), led by Jhon Yogi. An estmiated 300 Brimob personel, who are not usually based in the area, are currently stationed in the western villages of Dagouto, Pasir Putih and Bibida.
On November 30 Indonesian soldiers were stationed at the location in the nearby city of Nabire nominated as the venue for a peaceful “praise and worship only” commemeration ceremony, with no flag raising.
Other previously unreported events in the area include escalating fear in villages, since combined military and police forces opened fire in the village of Madi Paniai on August 15, 2011.
Local human rights workers say that since the August shooting, residents of Madi Paniai and the neighbouring villages of Ugi, Weya and Aga have been living in fear, especially people who had fled to the area from other parts of Papua because of its relative safety.
They added that armed personnel were searching homes, rummaging through people’s belongings supposedly looking for sharp tools, and confiscating needles, knives, shovels, arrows and machetes.
They added that the continued presence of the police and military forces and the intimidating and invasive searches were causing widespread distress and prompting people to move to other villages.
According to latest reports the residents of Dagouto, Muyadebe, Uwamani and Badauwo have fled, deserting the villages.
Massive troop buildup
Around Jayapura, several thousand Papuans are expected to attend the 50th anniversary celebrations in Sentani, at the grave of slain independence leader Theys Eluay, who was murdered by Kopassus special forces officers in 2001.
Negotiations with police are still ongoing to allow a gathering and prayer fellowship after organisers were prohibited to raise the Morning Star At time of writing, Permission had still been refused by Jayapura Police to allow any gatherings.
Local sources have described urban centres across Papua as being like cemetaries with people staying off the streets whilst security force personnel are conducting shows of force.
In Manokwari, a prayer vigil and flagraising is planned together with a nonviolent mass demonstration, but statements from hardline leaders from the guerrilla National Liberation Army (TPN/OPM) have threatened to play into hands of Indonesian security forces planning a crackdown on flagraisers.
On Wednesday night, Manokwari was described as a “Blood Danger Zone” by organisers of independence celebrations after Richard Jouweni, a commander of the TPN, declared he would use violence against security forces to ensure the banned Morning Star would fly. Indonesian military commanders in Manokwari have prohibited local organisers from carrying out flagraisings, however these calls are likely to be defied. The location of the ceremonies are still unknown, while civilians in nearby villages have already started arriving in Manokwari town centre for the events.
Concerns are mounting of significant bloodshed in Serui and Waropen. Papuan and Indonesian media and human rights workers have reportedly been barred from the centres off the north coast, and the head of police has issued warnings to anyone engaging in political expression. The police chief in Serui, Daniel Pryo Dwiatmoko, Kepala Kapolres (+6282198480889, +6282198683246) said on November 29 in a interview on Radio Republic Indonesia “If Papuans wish to talk about independence of a nation-state, find another place to talk… We will permit no event regarding flag raising, if there is, its shoot to kill on sight”.
This statement is an eerie echo of Ali Murtopo, the architect of Suharto’s military takeover of West Papua, who in 1969 told the 1025 imprisoned delegates to the contentious Act of “free” Choice – the disputed process by which Indonesia took over West Papua – “We do not want you Papuan’s, we just want your land. If you want a country of your own, you can go to the moon. Vote for Indonesia,’ or we will cut out your accursed tongues”.
In Nabire and Biak, prayer gatherings will take place instead of flag raising due to fear.
In Merauke, on the edge of the Torres Strait, 1600 troops from the Indonesian army were airdropped down on November 29, and unconfirmed reports have filtered through of flagraising actions near the vast Merauke Integrate Food and Energy Estate.
The Australian trained Indonesian special force unit Kopassus is also deploying significantly across Papua to crackdown on peaceful free expression. Confirmed reports from disgruntled Kopassus sources to West Papua Media are describing 213 troops (2 companies) being deployed in Keerom and Jayapura, and another two companies of Kopassus have been deployed in Yakuhimo regency in the Highlands. Local human rights sources have described these Kopassus groups as “waiting around for a chance to crackdown”.
International media and human rights organisations are banned from Papua by Jakarta, however close monitoring of the situation is occurring through international media in conjunction with citizen media sources.
The Australian Government, while deepening ties with the Indonesian military despite widespread international condemnation of it’s human rights abuses, claimed to West Papua Media that Australia and Indonesia regularly exchange views on the situation in Papua. According to a spokesperson for the Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, “The Australian Government closely follows developments in the Papuan provinces … and encourages all concerned to act with restraint”. No mention was made of the need for Indonesian forces to allow peaceful political expression to occur without escalation.
West Papua Media will be monitoring this developing situation closely, and encourages other journalists to maintain close contact with us.