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Four Australians to be deported for allegedly taking part in West Papua rally

The Guardian - September 2, 2019

Guardian staff and agencies – Four Australians who allegedly took part in a pro-independence demonstration in West Papua are being deported, Indonesian immigration authorities have said.

The four Australians will be deported via Bali after they were detained during a protest in Sorong, West Papua's largest city, on Tuesday.

The arrests came amid weeks of escalating protests and violence. Indonesian police have now banned demonstrations and speeches promoting separatism, and about 6,000 police and military personnel have been flown in.

Police have also arrested 28 people in Papua for "damaging and burning properties, violence, provocation and looting", while two students have been arrested for treason in Jakarta.

Papua has been racked by the most serious civil unrest in years over perceived racial and ethnic discrimination. Some protesters have also been demanding a referendum on independence, something the government has ruled out.

Papuan police chief, Rudolf Alberth Rodja, issued six notices over the weekend, which included the ban on demonstrations and a list of criminal charges that could be brought against violators, Antara news agency reported.

"Any person or organisation is prohibited from carrying out or spreading separatism in expressing opinions in public and violation of this will result in strict action and law enforcement," Antara reported.

Police also said in the notices that spreading fake news was a punishable crime, the news agency reported.

The ban comes as disturbing footage emerged of Indonesian soldiers firing on peaceful demonstrators during clashes last week in which protesters say six people died.

Three West Papuan students have reportedly been shot in their dormitories by militia groups amid growing tensions in the region.

The mineral-rich but underdeveloped and impoverished region of Papua has been the scene of a low-level insurgency against Indonesia's rule for decades.

But protests marking the August anniversaries of the New York Agreement and the Act of Free Choice – the political acts that formalised Indonesian control of Papua – have been further sparked by racist bullying of Papuan students in Java, and police reprisals against them for demonstrating.

The exiled leader of the United Movement for the Liberation of West Papua, Benny Wenda, said the independence movement was peaceful and that a free and fair referendum was the only solution to the long-running contestation of the region.

"As Indonesia deliberately tries to create ethnic conflict in West Papua with militia, I must stress that for West Papuans our enemy is not the Indonesian people. Our enemy is only the system of colonisation. We will not be provoked. Our peaceful struggle is for a referendum."

Dame Meg Taylor, the secretary general of the Pacific Islands Forum, said she was deeply concerned by the escalating violence, and called for calm and restraint from all parties. She said the "root causes of the conflict" must be addressed by peaceful means. "These events make the proposed visit of the UN high commissioner for human rights to West Papua even more important."

– Ben Doherty and Reuters contributed to this report

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/sep/02/four-australians-to-be-deported-for-allegedly-taking-part-in-west-papua-rally