At least 81 people have been arrested in West Papua by Indonesian authorities at a number of protest rallies being held, calling for the application of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) to be accepted in the upcoming Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) meeting. Reports of beatings and mistreatment continue to emerge and the fate of those arrested remains uncertain.
The peaceful protests were held in support of West Papua’s application to the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), an intergovernmental regional trade and cooperation body. A pivotal vote will take place in the Solomon Islands when the group meets in late June. West Papua’s application is opposed by the Indonesian Government.
Reports from the ground said that at least five people were injured after police attacked protesters, one seriously after being struck in the head by a rubber bullet – UCA news reported. Protesters mostly from The National Committee for West Papua (Komite Nasional Papua Barat – KNPB) were arrested and some beaten by the police in Jayapura, Numbay, Nabire, Timika, Biak and Wamena.
KNPB news in Jayapura reported that police fired guns twice and that protesters hurled stones in response. Photos by a journalist at the scene in Jayapura show one man with serious head wounds and another unarmed man being beaten by a policeman in riot gear whilst being held around the neck by another. A third photo shows a protester bleeding on the ground surrounded by police.
KNPB news Numbay, reported that police broke up a peaceful protest in Numbay and arrested 8 people soon after speeches started. It is thought that 42 people were arrested at different locations in Jayapura, 25 at rallies in Wamena and 6 in Nabire and 8 in Numbay. The fate of those arrested is unknown.
ULMWP spokesman, Benny Wenda, said of the situation:
“The brutality happening right now in West Papua is totally unacceptable. There is no freedom to speak. Indonesia says it promotes free speech and democracy, but it responds with beating people.How many more innocent West Papuans have to be arrested? How many more innocent West Papuans have to be tortured? How many more innocent Melanesian people in West Papua need to suffer before we are welcomed into the Melanesian Spearhead Group?
The Melanesian leaders need to welcome West Papua to the MSG and stand up to these Indonesian atrocities. My people are determined to continue to show the world that we are Melanesian West Papuans. We are not Indonesian and we want to show the leaders of our fellow Melanesian countries that we want to join our rightful place in the Melanesian family of the MSG. I am confident and full of faith that one day we will be free people and hold hands as free Melanesian people in our homelands”
On the island of Biak, West Papua, peaceful freedom activists have been threatened with treason and incitement charges by the Indonesian government after supporting West Papua’s application to become a member of the MSG.
Chairman of the Regional Peoples Parliament (PRD) Apollos Sroyer, Secretary of KNPB Biak region Judas Kosay and Dorteus Bonsapia of the Federated Republic (NFRPB) are in Police custody after being arrested on 20th May.
They were arrested on 20th May after publicly supporting a peaceful demonstration supporting West Papua’s bid to join the MSG. They are now designated as criminals by Indonesia under an charge of incitement.
The MSG comprises the states of Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Fiji and Vanuatu, as well as the Kanak Socialist National Liberation Front, a political party from New Caledonia. The previous admission of the New Caledonian party to the group set a precedent as the first member which is not a recognised nation state, which West Papua intends to follow.
Meanwhile Indonesia has submitted its own application for ‘Associated Membership’ of the MSG which the Prime Ministers of Papua New Guinea and Fiji pledged to support.