Activists have protested at Indonesia’s Ternate Police headquarters in North Maluku demanding that the security forces release eight people arrested while commemorating West Papua Independence Day on December 1.
December 1 marked 61 years since the first raising of West Papua’s symbol of independence, the Morning Star flag.
Tabloid Jubi reports Anton Trisno of the Indonesian People’s Front for West Papua (FRI-WP) saying the demonstration where the group was arrested was a peaceful one.
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“We expressed our aspirations peacefully. Some ojek (motorcycle taxi) drivers infiltrated the crowd to disperse the protesters. This is a violation to our freedom of speech,” he said.
Trisno asked the police to immediately release eight of his colleagues.
“We urge the Ternate police chief to immediately release the eight activists who are still detained. We demand the police release them unconditionally,” he said.
Meanwhile, an activist group has reported a different tactic used by the security forces, which it says is concerning.
“The Papuan People’s Petition Action (PRP) in commemoration of the 61st anniversary of the ‘West Papua Declaration of Independence’ received escort and security unlike usual actions from the Indonesian Security (colonial military),” a statement said.
“Apart from vehicles such as patrol cars, dalmas, combat tactical vehicles, sniffer dogs, intelligence/bin, bais, and tear gas launchers or other weapons.
“There is also security in the form of hidden security, such as a [sniper] placed on the balcony of Ramayana Mall and Hotel Sahit Mariat which are near the location or point of action.
“This certainly shows that there is something planned to actually push back and close the democratic space for the people and resistance movements in the Land of Papua, especially in the city of Sorong.”
In Port Vila, Vanuatu’s Minister of Climate Change and a long-time supporter of the West Papua people, Ralph Regenvanu, attended the West Papua flag-raising day.
In line with Vanuatu’s stand in support of West Papua freedom, the Morning Star flag was raised to fly alongside the Vanuatu flag outside the West Papua International Office.
This content originally appeared on Asia Pacific Report and was authored by APR editor.