After officers broke up demonstrations and detained scores of protesters, police in eastern Indonesia’s Papua and West Papua provinces said Tuesday they would prevent pro-independence activists from rallying again.
“Their aspiration is for Papua independence. [W]e told them that we will never accommodate that kind of aspiration,” Jeremias Rontini, the superintendent of police in the Papuan capital Jayapura, told BenarNews, adding that his officers would block locals from holding future rallies for independence from Indonesia.
Laurenzus Kadepa, a local lawmaker and member of the Papuan Legislative Council (DPRP) who attended peaceful rallies organized in the region by the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), said demonstrators should be allowed to voice their support for Papuan independence.
On Tuesday, police reportedly prevented a crowd from marching from a local housing complex to the DPRP.
“Police should know that DPRP belongs to the people, a home for everybody without exception,” Laurenzus told BenarNews.
As many as 336 demonstrators were detained in Sentani and Wamena – two towns in Papua – as well as in Manado, in North Sulawesi province, while demonstrating in favor of the release of political prisoners in Papua, the Associated Press reported.
A low-level secessionist movement has simmered in Papua and West Papua, Indonesia’s easternmost provinces, which are among its poorest and least developed and which became part of Indonesia in 1969.
On May 2, some 1,700 supporters of the West Papua National Committee were arrested while taking part in pro-independence rallies at several locations in Papua. They were released after being questioned by police.
These demonstrations were broken up although Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo had pledged to solve human rights abuses allegedly carried out in the region by the Indonesian security services and to bring prosperity to the people of Papua.
Since he took office in October 2014, Jokowi has made multiple visits to Papua and ordered the release of some political prisoners.
According to Ones Suhuniap, the general secretary of the KNPB, police on Tuesday arrested some of its members for planning peaceful demonstrations to support the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP).
“Police blocked us in a housing complex in Waena. There were five military trucks and three military patrol cars. Also, there were 15 police trucks and five police cars. Around 100 police and mobile brigade blocked our way to demonstrate,” Ones told BenarNews.
Police arrested 33 KNPB members in Sentani, a town near Jayapura, before the rally began, he said.
“Around 61 people were arrested in Wamena. Some of them were arrested yesterday, when they distributed fliers informing about the rally,” Ones said.
In Jakarta, the director of the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute claimed that police had denied organizers of the KNPB rallied permits for staging them.
“Police’s decision not to give permit for a peaceful rally is uncommon. This proves that police or government discriminate against Papuans,” Alghiffari Aqsa told BenarNews, adding that Indonesia’s constitution guaranteed the right of people to associate, to organize and to express opinions.