A series of demonstrations in the West Papua region today have been forcibly stopped by Indonesian police.
The protests were organised by a network of 111 civil organisations behind the Papuan People’s Petition (PPP), formed to reject Jakarta’s plans to renew Special Autonomy in Papua.
Demonstrators have also been protesting against racism, and calling for the release of political prisoner Victor Yeimo, a leading figure in the West Papuan pro-independence movement.
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Yeimo, the foreign spokesman for the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), was arrested in May and faces numerous charges, including treason and incitement, for his alleged role in anti-racism protests in 2019.
Demonstrations have been taking place today in cities and towns across the Papuan provinces including Jayapura, Wamena, Manokwari and Timika.
In Jayapura, police forces backed up by water canons dispersed demonstrators at numerous locations. Several Papuans were injured, including the KNPB’s chairman Agus Kossay.
One demonstrator was shot at a rally in Dekai, Yahukimo, a remote highlands regency, while eight people were reportedly arrested.
Even a vigil march this morning in Jayapura led by the West Papua Council of Churches’ moderator Benny Giay was stopped by security forces.
As with their crackdown on Papuan demonstrations last month and in May, police have said that due to the covid-19 outbreak in Papua, they would not allow public events such as demonstrations to proceed.
The Papuan People’s Petition is reportedly supported by more than 700,000 people who have signed the petition rejecting Special Autonomy, and demanding the immediate release of Victor Yeimo without any conditions.
“Victor Yeimo is not a perpetrator of violence or a criminal. He is the victim of widespread structural racism of the Indonesian colonial state who continues to persecute Indigenous Papuans,” said PRP National Spokesperson Sam Awom.
Human rights advocates, including the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders Mary Lawlor have voiced concern at Yeimo’s reportedly deteriorating health in prison.
16/8/21 Jayapura, West Papua
Protestors in Abepura area shouted “bebaskan/free (Victor Yeimo)” repeatedly in defiance as they were running away from police water cannons. pic.twitter.com/b8O7cBTPM9
— Veronica Koman 許愛茜 (@VeronicaKoman) August 16, 2021
In Sydney, the Australia West Papua Association (AWPA) condemned the crackdown on peaceful demonstrators in West Papua.
Early reports according to social media and local media indicated up to 50 people had been arrested and two had been wounded, said the AWPA in a statement.
This content originally appeared on Asia Pacific Report and was authored by APR editor.