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Police violently break up 3rd Papuan Congress commemorations across Papua

West Papua Media - October 19, 2013

Early reports received from West Papua Media stringers have described another serious and violent crackdown across West Papua on October 19 by Indonesian security forces, against peaceful gatherings commemorating the third anniversary of the brutal crackdown on the Third Papuan Congress in October 2011.

Initial but unconfirmed reports from credible sources suggest that over 60 people may have been arrested by police across Papua, as organisers from the National Federal Republic of West Papua (NFRPB) sought to hold prayers services and public speeches, but were banned from engaging in any acts of free expression by the Australian-trained Papua police chief, Tito Karnavian.

Just three days after Indonesian security forces used a massive show of force, intimidation, beatings and arrests to prevent the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) from commemorating the fifth anniversary of the founding of the International Parliamentarians for West Papua, Indonesian security forces increased sweep activities and similar tactics to prevent NFRPB supporters from exercising their rights to free peaceful expression.

Indonesian police in Papua had refused to issue permits prior to the commemoration, claiming in a press release to Bintang Papua that the gatherings could be prohibited as they were "inconsistent with the objectives of National Unity within the framework of the Unitary Republic of Indonesia".

In Jayapura, organisers were undeterred by the bans, saying they would go ahead to commemorate "the Restoration of Papuan Sovereignty" regardless, and were planning for at least 4000 people to attend. Chairman of the commemoration organising committee Engelberth Sorabut (formerly Chairman of the National Council of Papua), told Bintang Papua that a long march and worship service would be held at the gravesite of slain West Papuan independence hero Chief Theys Eluay in Waena, however acknowledged that it would not be allowed by the military and police forces.

"We asked the security forces... to not hinder us in commemorating the implementation of the Declaration of Sovereignty Restoration of West Papuans" Sorabut explained.

"We do not want to happen ever again the last event undertaken by military/police... at Zacchaeus Field, Padang Bulan some time ago, " he said, referring to the violent crackdown that left up to seven dead, and hundreds beaten severely on October 19, 2011.

However, security forces ignored the appeals, and blockaded the field of They's tomb with Barracuda armoured vehicles, water cannon, scores of plain clothes intelligence officers or police, and hundred of police and soldiers. Roadblocks were also manned to prevent people from attending the gravesite, turning away well over a thousand people, according to stringers for WPM who were monitoring the situation. Despite threats of major violence, only "normal" police violence occurred with pushing, shoving, and "uncommitted" beatings from police to rally participants in Jayapura, according to our correspondent.

The mass that did gather headed instead to the Papuan Customary Council office to hold prayers, but police dispersed that gathering with alleged beatings at 10:42am local time, according to witnesses. An altercation occurred between police and Alius Asso (30 years), who was taken away, and then the mass continued to the Honai (traditional house) to complete the worship.

In Yapen, in the heavily repressed village of Mantembu, the local police and military commanders announced on local radio on October 18, that all commemorations and demonstrations were banned, and threatened that any people who were found to be in "any imaginable breach of this order" would be met with arrests and shooting, according to WPM's stringer in Yapen, with this message being rebroadcast every hour on the local Radio Republik Indonesia station.

A combined military and police force of over 150 troops entered and occupied Mantembu village at 9pm on October 18, conducting house to house sweeps in search of "separatist" material and activists. This was done under the physical command of the Dandim (regional military commander) Lieutenant-Colonel Dedi Iswanto, and the Yapen Police Chief, Adjunct Senior Commissioner (AKBP) Mohammed Anwar Nasir, who then ordered the pursuit of Papua independence activists. The house of NFRPB figure Daud Abon – who is in hiding in Papua New Guinea seeking protection from death threats from the Yapen Police and army – was used as a command base for the operation, and civilians were forced from their houses.

One man, Absalom Maniani (33 years), was captured by TNI soldiers and is being interrogated for his alleged role in organising the commemorations. West Papua Media has received a list of the names of thirty-five civilians – mainly women and children – who amongst at least 50 civilians have been forced to flee into the forest for their survival in Yapen after Mantembu village was occupied by the army. For ethical and human security reasons, WPM will not identify these civilians.

Heavily armed police TNI and police continue to guard all roads and potential gathering points all the way into the end of the road and into Serui city, according to local sources who cannot be identified.

In Fak-fak, on the west coast of West Papua, at 1215 local time during a peaceful demonstration 18 heavily armed police arrested 22 participants, and charged Daniel Hegemur (34, action coordinator), Imbron Kutanggas (24, general coordinator), and Hindom Yanto (33, Field Coordinator) with unspecified charges.

In Sorong police smashed into a church Thanksgiving service at the old Maranatha Remu church hall commemorating the Third Papuans Congress anniversary, breaking up the service and forcing attendees to disperse, according to WPM stringers. There are unconfirmed reports that firearms were discharged during the dispersal in the church. This church was the scene on August 28 of Indonesian police arresting four leading Papuan customary leaders for organising a welcome celebration and prayer for the safe arrival of the Aboriginal-led Freedom Flotilla.

Meanwhile in Biak, relatives are still deeply concerned for the safety of 29 people arrested after the NFRPB commemoration and peaceful gathering was forcibly dispersed by the joint military and police forces. 6 women & 23 men, who have yet to be identified, were arrested forcefully by police and soldiers, and were taken away to Police headquarters in Biak where they are all currently undergoing interrogation. No contact has been allowed by local human rights observer as yet.

[West Papua Media team and local stringers.]