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Defiant flag raising as Papuans call for independence

JAYAPURA (UCAN): Thousands of people gathered at the grave of an independence leader in Sentani, the district of Jayapura in Papua, on December 1 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of what some refer to as the true declaration of independence in Papua.

The ceremonies marked the anniversary of the raising of the first flag of the independence movement, the Morning Star, an act which today, is an offence under Indonesian law.

Elsewhere there were reports of celebrations in 35 of the restive province’s districts and conflicting claims of casualties.

The Jakarta Globe reported that four civilians were shot by police and wounded.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported that an Indonesian police officer was shot with an arrow by protesters.

Later, the Jakarta Post carried a denial of an earlier claim by police that one officer had been killed.

However, a police spokesperson said 15 unknown men had attacked the officer with sharp, traditional weapons, inflicting wounds around his waist area and face.

The head of the West Papua Baptist Church, Reverend Socrates Yeoman, told the ABC that several people taking part in flag-raising ceremonies had been shot and others arrested by Indonesian security forces.

“How can they do this? We are the owners of this land. How can these outside people… be coming in and killing, arresting and torturing us continually?” Reverend Socrates asked.

In a written statement, Father Neles Tebay, the rector of the Fajar Timur theological school in Jayapura, the provincial capital, called upon the European Union (EU) to support more dialogue between the Indonesian government and the Papuan people.

The advocacy director for Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Andrew Johnston, said in a statement, “We urge the international community to facilitate a meaningful dialogue between the Indonesian government and the Papuan people, with the help of international mediation.”

It goes on to say that dialogue is necessary to encourage Indonesia to uphold the rule of law and protect the human rights of the people of Papua.

On November 29, the EU parliamentary sub-committee on human rights discussed the situation in Papua.

Special Autonomy Legislation for Papua was introduced in 2001 by then-Indonesian president, Megawati Soekarnoputri. It made way for the formation of the Papua People’s Assembly to protect the rights of indigenous people, based on respect for customs and culture, empowerment of women and the stabilisation of a harmonious religious life.

However, many regard the assembly as failure.

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