Jakarta – Thousands of protesters gathered at the Trikora Field in Abepura, Papua, Thursday (02/06), demanding the disbandment of West Papua National Committee (KNPB), an arm of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), arguing that both organizations contravene state ideology Pancasila and are illegal under Indonesia's 1945 Constitution.
The protesters – who called themselves Defenders of the Indonesian Republic and numbered around 15,000 – marched to the local parliament house on Thursday.
"There should be no "December 1," [the anniversary of the Free Papua Movement, or OPM] there is only "May 1," the day of our integration [with Indonesia]. We should unite to develop West Papua. We don't want KNPB here," Umar, the deputy chairman of the organization, said.
The organization also called on the British government to arrest UK-based West Papua freedom activist Benny Wenda and extradite him to Indonesia. Umar claimed his group was sincere in its intention. "There is no ulterior motive [behind the protest]. We are here because we care about West Papua," Umar said.
Vendors at the Yotefa Market – the city's main trading spot – had closed up shops earlier in the day after receiving letters and flyers about the rally.
Although the market itself was open, only a few people were seen conducting their business as normal. "Not only the sellers, but the buyers also didn't turn up today," said Marten Sremsrem, a security officer.
In the flyers, the pro-government group called on all Indonesians to rally in support of the government, saying "Let us take a moment to help create a better economic climate in the long run. Let us honor our brothers. Voice your support for the Republic of Indonesia."