Friday, August 23, 2019

1) West Papua: Indonesia claims province has 'returned to normal' amid internet blackout

2) Pacific churches condemn harassment of Papuans in Indonesia
3) UPDATE 1-Indonesian police kill separatist in Papua

1) West Papua: Indonesia claims province has 'returned to normal' amid internet blackout

Indonesia’s president, Joko Widodo, has said West Papua“has returned to normal” after clashes with police, a claim dismissed by independence protesters who said mass rallies were likely to continue.
There have been protests across the archipelago, including in Jakarta and Bali, as well as in the Papuan towns of Jayapura, Timika, Sarong and Fakfak, where police reportedly used tear gas and fired warning shots to clear crowds after they set fire to a market and destroyed ATMs and shops. Local media reports 45 people were arrested.

Papuan activists told Guardian Australia that despite the president’s claim protests have continued. Internet access has been cut across the region, making it difficult to monitor the unrest.
Helen Davidson, and Kate Lamb in Jakarta
Protesters dispute claim by Indonesian president Joko Widodo that order has been restored
On Thursday, Widodo pledged action against racial and ethnic discrimination after racist abuse of Papuan students sparked days of violent protests in the country’s easternmost province. Indonesia responded by sending 1,000 additional security personnel to the provinces of Papua and West Papua.
Widodo said at the press conference on Thursday he had ordered the national police chief to “take stern, legal action against acts of racial and ethnic discrimination” and that cutting internet access to Papua and West Papua, was for the “common good”.
In an effort to defuse the increasingly tense situation, Widodo said he would invite public figuresfrom the two provinces to the state palace next week, to discuss “accelerating prosperity” in the region.
The communications ministry previously said Wednesday’s action to block online access was to prevent the spread of fake news, but activists voiced concern that it would restrict the flow of information, at a time of unrest.
The demonstrations in Papua and West Papua were sparked by an incident in the Javanese city of Surabayaon the weekend, where nationalist groups goaded Papuan students with racist taunts, calling them “monkeys”, “pigs” and “dogs”. It followed the arrest of more than 40 Papuan studentsin a tear-gas filled raid on student accomodation, as part of an investigation into alleged damage of an Indonesian flag during the nation’s Independence Day celebrations. The students were later cleared.
Benny Wenda, the exiled leader of the West Papuan independence movement, has called for Indonesiato “listen to my people’s voice”.
“I’m calling for the Indonesian president to let my people go and give us our freedom,” he told Guardian Australia.
“Me and my people are ready to take over our country. So I say to the Indonesian president, this is the only way to solve our conflict.”
On Thursday demonstrators flew the Morning Star flag in front of Jakarta’s state palace – a highly provocative act which can bring jail penalties of more than a decade.
It came as the police in West Java were criticised for attempting to placate Papuan students with alcohol, delivering them two boxes of vodka.
Offended by the gesture, which has been criticised as perpetuating racist stereotypes of Papuans, the students quickly sent the bottles back.
The police initially denied the delivery was alcohol but the bottles were labelled 19% alcohol. Officers backtracked saying the offering was from an individual policeman and not a representative of the West Java police force as a whole.
In 2016 Human Rights Watch revealed that Indonesia’s intelligence agency had compiled secret files on Papuan figures, which outlined their perceived weaknesses as “alcohol and women”, and outlined strategies to target them as a way to thwart the independence movement.
The documents in the “Papua Action Plan”, formulated before the election of President Jokowi, targeted Papuan political activists, religious leaders and university students living outside the province.


2) Pacific churches condemn harassment of Papuans in Indonesia
6:30 pm today

The Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC) has condemned what it calls institutional racism against West Papuans in Indonesia.

It has spoken out amid widespread protests in Papua region after an incident in Surabaya last week when Papuan students were harassed by a mob and later arrested.
The students were released, but government response to the harassment, and lack of an apology to Papuans, has been met with criticism in the Pacific Islands.
The conference's secretary general Reverend James Bhagwan claims that recent incidents in Java show that Indonesian authorities have been complicit in mistreatment of Papuans.
"In the context of Pacific Regionalism or the Pacific Family, to call our Melanesian sisters and brothers in West Papua 'monkeys' is to call all Pacific Islanders 'monkeys'. “

"PCC and PNGCC both recognise that the incident in Surabaya included elements of the state apparatus and there is yet to be a formal apology from the state to both Indonesian citizens who are Papuans as well as indigenous people of neighbouring Papua New Guinea.
"Indonesia has to open the doors to the UN. It needs to take the band-aid off this issue and get right down to allowing the human rights people to come in. I mean, this is for Indonesia's own international credibility as well.”

According to Bhagwan, Indonesia's sovereignty in Papua wouldn't be risked by allowing some openness over human rights.
"In the context of last week's Pacific Island Forum leaders' meeting, this example of institutional racism against the people of West Papua further illustrates the concerns raised about the deteriorating situation in West Papua during the Civil Society - Leaders' Dialogue," Rev Bhagwan said.
At their annual summit in Tuvalu last week, leaders of Pacific countries vowed to push Jakarta more on human rights abuses in Papua, as well as the protracted armed conflict in the region's Highlands.
Indonesia's government must open up to UN human rights mechanisms to monitor the Papua situation, Rev Bhagwan said.
"We're talking about human rights abuse. We're talking about the dignity of people. We're talking about life. And it's not compromising the issue of sovereignty or anything to start talking about how they can push Indonesia to allow the people of West Papua to have a life of dignity."
Indonesia's central government said it has throttled internet access in parts of Papua to stem the flow of what it terms "hoax news" which it has linked to the protests.
But the West Papua National Committee's international spokesman, Victor Yeimo, says the move shows the government is trying to hide the truth.
"The Indonesians try to close the internet in Jayapura so people can only hear all the propaganda by them through the television. This is how they're going to close what's really happening in West Papua, also in Java in the student dormitories."


3) UPDATE 1-Indonesian police kill separatist in Papua
Reuters Reuters•August 23, 2019
(Releads with gunfight)
JAKARTA, Aug 23 (Reuters) - Indonesian police shot dead a member of a Papuan separatist group on Friday during an exchange of fire, a spokesman said, after violent demonstrations this week in other places in the eastern region over perceived ethnic discrimination.
One police officer and a civilian were also injured in the gunfight between police and five members of the group in the town of Wamena, police spokesman Ahmad Kamal said by phone.
It was not clear what started the gunfight.
Police have flown in 1,200 officers to quell sometimes violent protests since Monday in a region that already has a heavy military presence due to decades of separatist conflicts.
Papuan towns such as Manokwari, Sorong and Fakfak had seen protesters setting fire to buildings including a market, a jail and a legislature in the biggest series of demonstrations in years.
There had been no reports of protest in Wamena in the week, but the town shelters thousands of Papuans who have been displaced by fighting between soldiers and separatists.
In Jakarta, rights group and journalists associations urged the communication ministry to end an internet blackout in Papua that started on Wednesday night.
The ministry has said the move was intended to stop people from sharing "provocative" messages that could trigger more violence.
Abdul Manan, chairman of Indonesia's Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), said the measure had "obstructed our right to obtain information" and prevented journalists from reporting on events there.
"This is a critical time because security personnel have been deployed in Papua. In many cases, this is followed by human rights abuses where they can intimidate and arbitrarily arrest people," Manan said.
Usman Hamid, Amnesty International Indonesia's executive director, said in a statement the internet block meant Papuans would be unable to share evidence of abuses by security forces.
President Joko Widodo said in televised remarks on Thursday the internet curb was for "our common good".
Over 8,500 people have signed an online petition calling for the government to restore internet access.
A video obtained by Reuters showed police firing tear gas into crowds of thousands of Papuans rallying at the parliament building in the town of Nabire on Thursday after demonstrators threw rocks at them.
There were no reports of protests in Papua on Friday.
Reporting access for foreign journalists in the restive region has been limited, despite Widodo's announcement in 2015 that Papua was open to foreign media.
The latest spate of demonstrations in Papua and across Indonesia was triggered by a racist slur against Papuan students who were hit by tear gas in their dormitory and detained in the city of Surabaya in East Java last week.
The rallies grew in several places into a broader demand for an independence referendum.
Papua and West Papua provinces, the resource-rich western part of the island of New Guinea, were a Dutch colony that was incorporated into Indonesia after a widely criticised U.N.-backed referendum in 1969.
Asked about the demand for an independence vote, Luhut Pandjaitan, a senior minister, said: "There's no such thing." (Reporting by Jessica Damiana and Gayatri Suroyo; Additional reporting by Wilda Asmarini; Editing by Paul Tait & Kim Coghill)

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