The Papuan Coalition of Civil Society Upholding Law and Human Rights has accused the authorities of stifling freedom of expression in Papua.
"Demonstration as an expression of opinion in Papua has been muzzled. People assembling in a place are even arrested let alone staging a demonstration. That is what has happened in the past several months in Sorong, West Papua, and now in Jayapura," Ferry Marisan, a member of the coalition, told reporters in Jayapura on Tuesday as quoted by Antara news agency.
Ferry was referring to the arrest last week of a number of students demonstrating to reject a draft law on special autonomy at the complex of the Papuan People Assembly (Majelis Rakyat Papua) and at the campus of Cenderawasih University.
Ferry, a director from NGO Elsham Papua noted that the arrests of local people, including students and youth grouped in the Papuan People, Students and Youths Movement (Gempar), had increased.
The old dictatorial New Order regime policy had apparently been adopted in Papua and West Papua, he said.
Olga Helena Hamadi from Papua Kontras, an NGO concerned mainly on the disappearance of activists, said lately police in Papua had become more repressive instead of persuasive.
"Police, who are expected to keep order, have been quick to arrest people. Police should not let themselves be served as a tool for those in power," Olga said.
She said Kontras was ready to provide legal defense for the students.
Last week police arrested tens of students demonstrating against the special autonomy law to be implemented in Papua.
"Five students are still in police detention. One of them, Yason Ngelia, is alleged to have been involved in a criminal case and the other four, Alfares Kapisa, Abraham Pasik Demetau, Beny Hisage and Daniel Kosamah, have been charged with causing inconvenience. Three of them have asked us for legal aid ," she said.
Papua police spokesman Adj. Sr Comr. Pudjo said Yason Ngelia was not involved in the demonstration but was arrested for mistreating a man identified as Stenly Salamahu .
Meanwhile, chairman of the Papua Churches Oikumenis Working Forum (FKOGP) Priest Benny Giay has asked the police to immediately release the students.
The priest said that the students had done nothing wrong and were only exercising their human rights, the right to publicly express their opinions.
I have read with interest an article published in your Wednesday 6th November paper, issue number 5327.
This concerns the World Council of Church’s petition for the inclusion of West Papua in the UN’s list of countries for decolonisation; a petition highly supported by 12 Pacific Island countries church leaders who are also present at the meeting.
It is a formal request by the organisation, which also consists of the bid to send a fact finding mission to the Indonesian held territory to assess the real situation, as well as a call for the state to end the human rights atrocities that are happening there.
That is, those including arbitrary arrests, torture, illegal detentions, brutality, murder, genocide and other abuses by the Indonesian military.
Having mentioned that, I find it ridiculously surprising why there is being very little done by our Pacific Islands national political leaders towards finding a fair and lasting resolution for the issue.
This is clearly shown in the latest UNGA meeting, in which there is not even a slight mention of West Papua in our representative’s speech, nor that of the other Pacific Island countries. Correct me if I am wrong. But as far as I know, Vanuatu was the only country that is bold to stand up for the cause of West Papua.
It is indeed a shame to see our leaders only engage in playing with the lives of our fellow Melanesian and Pacific Island brother, in exchange for petty rewards and promises by Indonesia.
A good example is the recent visit of the PM to Indonesia, one that, apart from incurring a huge cost to our tax payers and depriving the opportunity for the provision of essential services to our people, also becomes a humiliation to Indonesia herself.
If remaining passive on issues of concern could teach us a lesson, it is one that we will always be viewed as cowards. In the case of West Papua, let us not forget that truth will always prevail over lies and good over evil.
Likewise, those who continue to support the thriving of evil and injustice in this age will never be successful. This is a reality that can be found all throughout human history.
Furthermore, our Pacific political leaders should not shy away from facing the fact of raising the issue with Indonesia and the UN.
Remember, we do not want to bury our heads in shame when our brother’s plight turns out to be as either what he desires or not in the near future.
In fact, I will be the first to cover my head in disgrace when West Papua finally attains international recognition without a meaningful support from my government.
I said this in view of a sentiment that is ones uttered by a Pacific Island leader, in which he mentioned that, and I paraphrase; “for the case of West Papua to be successful, it needs the involvement of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands”. I consider these words to be very true.
Although I believe in the collective involvement of our Pacific neighbours through our existing regional and sub-regional institutions, the crucial role of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands in heading the dialogue for the settlement of the matter is imperative.
If Solomon Islands was able to support our other neighbouring Islands in their quest to attain sovereignty in the past, which is still is, why has she avoids doing the same for West Papua?
Finally, it is important to mention that let us not be spectators in a crisis that requires our participation and assistance, or else we will forever remain to be known as such.
This is when the ‘Morning Star’ rises and shines at the dawn of day. God bless West Papua, Solomon Islands and the Pacific.