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Papua wants out from Indonesian thumb

JAYAPURA (UCAN): Peaceful demonstrations in support of Papuan independence from Indonesia were held in several areas of the predominantly Christian provinces of Papua and West Papua on April 13.

In a country in which over 1,000 people have been arrested for pro-independence activities since Joko Widodo and Jusuf Kalla took on the top two jobs in the country, a heavy security presence kept a good eye on the thousands who attended a rally in Jayapura, the capital of Papua, where a low-level insurgency has simmered for decades.

Demonstrators demanded membership for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua in the Melanesian Spearhead Group, an intergovernmental organisation comprised of Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Fiji and Vanuatu, as well as the Kanak Socialist National Liberation Front, a political party from New Caledonia.

The United Liberation Movement for West Papua currently has observer status in the group.

“We have the right to be a member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group. We are Melanesians, we are not Indonesians,” Bazooka Logo, a spokesperson for the pro-independence National Committee for West Papua, told demonstrators in front of the state-run University of Cendrawasih.

“We say no to Indonesia. Indonesia is not Melanesia. Indonesia is Malay, which doesn’t have the right to be a member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, but Papua does,” Logo said.

Daniel Gobay, a seminarian from the Fajar Timur School of Philosophy and Theology in Abepura, said the Indonesian government should understand that the Papuan people have the right to determine their own fate.

“The Indonesian government must know that such a demand must be respected,” Gobay said at the Jayapura rally. “The Indonesian government, or others, cannot set a limit on the Papuan people.”

Rallies also were held in the cities of Yakuhimo, Manokwari, Fak-Fak, Merauke, Timika and Sorong.

While the events were peaceful, Logo said that 11 members of National Committee for West Papua were arrested by police during the rally in Jayapura.

In Merauke, in Papua province, 13 members of the committee were arrested during a rally and on April 5, a further 15 from the committee were detained in Mimika district of Papua during a prayer service.

“They are still detained in local police stations. We don’t know when they will be released,” Logo said.

The police chief of Jayapura, Jeremias Rontini, said the arrests were carried out because the protesters had not obtained a permit for the rally.

Father Neles Tebay, from Jayapura, has said that the Church, in conjunction with all religious leaders, has called for a peaceful dialogue to settle the conflict.

“We will continue to promote dialogue until the formal dialogue between the Indonesian government and the Papuans represented by the United Liberation Movement for West Papua takes place for the sake of a lasting peace,” Father Tebay told a meeting of several bishops from Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands on April 9.

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