Jakarta – Scores of Papuans held a protest action in front of the Arjuna Wiwaha (Horse) statue on Jalan Medan Merdeka Barat in Central Jakarta on Tuesday December 1. The action coincided with the day which is often linked to the commemoration of Papuan independence, December 1.
The action was watched over by ordinary police in brown and others in dark blue uniforms belonging to the Mobile Brigade (Brimob) paramilitary police. Several tactical vehicles were also seen on alert in the vicinity of the protest.
Based on information gathered by CNN Indonesia, the action was initiated by the Papuan Student Alliance (AMP) and the Indonesian People's Front for West Papua (FRI-WP). Also visible was Papuan liberation figure and FRI-WP spokesperson Surya Anta.
Speaking through megaphones in front of the security personnel on guard, several speakers at the action called for a referendum and Papuan liberation. Taking turns, people from the land of the Cenderawasih – as Papua is known – shouted Free West Papua and called for a referendum.
"Comrades, is Papua already independent?", asked one of the speakers.
"Already", replied the crowd in response.
"Referendum", echoed the speaker again.
"Yes", replied the noisy crowd.
They also occasionally made allusions to the police standing guard around the protesters saying that there is no need for them to be there because the protest would proceed peacefully.
They also condemned actions by the Indonesian military (TNI) and the Indonesian police in Papua which often claim victims. "Mr police, you need to relearn about Papuan independence", said another speaker.
December 1 is often labeled as the anniversary of the Free Papua Organisations (HUT OPM) although this has been refuted by the OPM itself.
West Papua National Liberation Army-Free Papua Organisation (TPNPB-OPM) spokesperson Sebby Sambom has pointed out that equating the OPM's anniversary with December 1 is the result of Indonesian military and police propaganda.
"There is no such thing as December 1 being the HUT OPM, this is Indonesian military and police propaganda to paint our struggle as something bad", said Sambom last year.
Nevertheless, on December 1, 1961 the Morning Star independence flag was flown for the first time in the city of Hollandia (now Jayapura) alongside the Dutch flag and the song "Hal Tanahku Papua" (Oh My Land Papua) was sung which became the national anthem.
At the time, West Papua was one of the regions under Dutch colonial rule. Along with Indonesia, West Papuan independence was also acknowledged by the Dutch monarchy. (mjo/gil)
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Surya Anta Terjun Aksi 1 Desember, Massa Serukan Referendum".]