Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk
December 1 flag day protests have taken place in several cities around Indonesia including the capital Jakarta, Yogyakarta (Central Java), Ternate (North Maluku) and Sinjai (South Sulawesi), reports Arah Juang.
The actions were launched to commemorate West Papua Independence Day.
But even before the actions were launched, security forces attempted to thwart them by blocking protesters, breaking up rallies and arresting demonstrators.
The following are reports on the actions in Jakarta and Yogyakarta:
In Jakarta, protesters from the Papuan Students Alliance (AMP), the Indonesian People’s Front for West Papua (FRI-WP) and the Papuan Central Highlands Indonesian Student Association (AMPTPI) had began preparing to launch actions since 5.30am.
The protesters gathered at the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Jakarta) in Central Jakarta holding banners reading “Reject Special Autonomy and Give the Right of Self-Determination to the West Papuan Nation” along with posters with similar demands.
The women demonstrators wore sali (traditional Papuan women’s clothing) while others painted pictures of the Morning Star independence flag on their faces and bodies.
The protesters then moved off in an orderly manner to the intersection near the Indonesian Alkitab Foundation before taking vehicles to the United States Embassy in Central Jakarta.
At 6am the demonstrators had gathered in front of the US Embassy and were giving speeches. AMP member Roland Levy said in a speech that Special Autonomy (Otsus) had failed to protect the Papuan people.
“Many Papuan people have been killed, evicted, discriminated against and labeled as separatists. Because of this the solution is independence for the West Papuan nation as a democratic solution”, he said while shouting “Referendum? Yes!”
Following this, the protesters moved off to the nearby Presidential Palace but were blocked by police from entering the National Monument from the west near the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle.
The demonstrators then gave speeches, made up games, performed the Wisisi dance (a traditional Papuan dance) and prayed together to commemorate the declaration of West Papuan independence on 1 December 1961.
One of the participants read out a poem about the Papuan people’s spirit of nationalism for December 1. One of the women then related how independence was the right of all nations.
A statement was read out at 9.30am and the action closed with a prayer.
At the end of the action as the protesters were to return to the starting point, they were provoked by a small group of unknown individuals. The demonstrators restrained themselves and did not respond, referring to the group as “1000 or so people”, meaning a group hired by the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI).
In Yogyakarta, thousands of students from the Free Papua December 1 Movement Alliance launched an action commemorating the declaration of independence in Papua.
The action, which started at 9am, involved a long-march from the Papuan student dormitory to the nearby Zero Kilometer point in front of the Central Post Office. During the march the protesters shouted slogans such as “Free West Papua”, “NKRI no” and “Referendum yes”.
They also took turns in giving speeches with Momiake Gresya saying, “We Papuan people constantly live under the shadow of death, being killed, tortured like animals, and all of this is perpetrated by the TNI [Indonesian military] and Polri [Indonesian police]”.
“An example of this is in Nduga [regency] today. For two years more than 40,000 people have fled seeking shelter and 240 have died as a result of Indonesian military operations,” said Gresya.
In another speech, FRI-WP representative Muhamad Iis explained about the ordinary Indonesian people’s support for the Papuan struggle for independence.
“Today we declare our full support for Papuan independence”, he said.
Iis said that colonialism in Papua was not supported by all the Indonesian people.
“Colonialism is not the position of the majority of Indonesian people, just a greedy handful of people,” he said.
Accompanied by the song “Let the Coordination Post be Torn Down”, at 1pm the protesters danced around the command vehicle waving two Morning Star flags.
This managed to incite security personnel who tried to move into the crowd but demonstrators succeeded in blocking them and the situation returned to normal.
The action ended at 2.30pm with the reading out of a statement and
shouts of “Free West Papua, Free West Papua, Free West Papua”.
A number of other demands were also made during the demonstrations, including:
- putting the perpetrators of human rights violations in Papua on trial;
- the withdrawal of all organic and non-organic troops and an end to military operations;
- an end to the theft of land and natural resources,
- that the Indonesian government acknowledge that West Papua
has been independent since 1961;
- the closure of PT Freeport and other mining operations; for the UN to take responsibility for and be active in an act of self-determination;
- the “straightening out” of history and resolving human rights violations in Papua;
- allowing access for national and international journalists to report in Papua; an end to racial discrimination against Papuans;
- the ratification of the Draft Law on the Elimination of Sexual Violence; and for
- the government to revoke the recently enacted Jobs Law.
Declaration of independence
Although it is widely held that West Papua declared independence from Indonesia on 1 December 1961, this actually marks the date when the Morning Star (Bintang Kejora) flag was first raised alongside the Dutch flag in an officially sanctioned ceremony in Jayapura, then called Hollandia.
The first declaration of independence actually took place on 1 July 1971 at the Victoria Headquarters in Jayapura where the OPM raised the Morning Star flag and unilaterally proclaimed West Papua as an independent democratic republic.
Slightly abridged translation by James Balowski for IndoLeft News. The original title of
the article was “Peringati 1 Desember di Jakarta dan Yogyakarta, Mahasiswa Menyatakan Tolak Otonomi Khusus dan Berikan Kemerdekaan Bagi Papua”.
This post was originally published on Radio Free.