|Papuans hold a rally on Tuesday demanding that the Indonesian government accommodate their aspiration for self-determination. Photo: (JakartaPost/Exclusive)
“More than 300 Papuan people were arrested while we prepared to rally for self-determination for the Papuan nation,” National Committee for West Papua ( KNPB ) chairman Victor Yeimo told The Jakarta Post.
Victor said a total of 336 demonstrators were arrested across several cities, including 60 people in the highland town of Wamena and 76 others in the Northern Sulawesi city of Manado. Police also arrested 200 protesters in Sentani near the Papuan capital of Jayapura.
The arrested activists were among thousands of demonstrators who have attended a series rallies under the banner of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, he said.
“What we are doing is protected by law and by human rights rules,” Victor asserted.
The demonstrations voiced support for the Papuan liberation movement and its bid to gain full membership in the Melanesian Spearhead Group.
Police confirmed the arrests, saying that the aim was to control the activists movements and for the sake of security and stability.
Police are also said to have also arrested 38 KNPB members in Wamena district who were preparing for the rally.
“Yes, that’s correct. We arrested them in the middle of a meeting about tomorrow’s action,” Wamena Police chief Sr Adj. Commissioner Yan Piet Reba said.
Yan said the KNPB members, who had planned to hold a demonstration, would be interrogated before being released if necessary.
Human Rights Watch researcher Andreas Harsono has said security forces repeatedly fail to distinguish between violent acts and peaceful expression of political views.
The government has denounced flag-raising events and other peaceful expressions of pro-independence sentiment in Papua as treasonous, he said.
“Heavy-handed responses to peaceful activities have resulted in numerous human rights violations,” he said.
In the past eight years, Andreas added, Human Rights Watch had documented dozens of cases in which police, military and intelligence personnel and prison guards had used unnecessary or excessive force when dealing with Papuans exercising their right to peaceful assembly and association.
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