TAPOL urges the Indonesian Government to release Jefry Wenda, the spokesperson of the Papuan People's Petition (Petisi Rakyat Papua, PRP) and others arrested today during a peaceful protest in Jayapura. Wenda was arrested along with several members of the West Papuan National Committee (Komite Nasional Papua Barat, KNPB) including Ones Suhuniap, Omizon Balingga and Imam Kogoya. Others arrested were Marthen Rumbiak (West Papua National Authority, WPNA) and activists Esther Haluk and Aby Douw.
The arrests mark a further shrinking of civic space in West Papua since the Covid-19 pandemic began in 2020. As TAPOL has reported, the pandemic gave the authorities a pretext to stop peaceful protests against a renewed special autonomy law, which handed more power to Jakarta to further divide West Papua into multiple new provinces, creating potential divisions among West Papuans. The passing of the law also bypassed local authorities whose consent was needed for the renewal.
The PRP, supported by a coalition of grassroots organisations, promotes the right to self-determination for West Papuans, and has denounced special autonomy as having failed to address the marginalisation of West Papuans and their aspirations for genuine democracy.
Another sign of restrictions on public freedoms in West Papua is the continuing use of treason and other laws meant to silence political activists. Victor Yeimo and Frans Wasini are facing trial on treason and other charges in relation to the 2019 West Papua Uprising. Today is the first anniversary of Yeimo's detention. Yeimo, international spokesperson for PRP and KNPB, was arrested after giving a speech in front of thousands of protesters in Jayapura during the West Uprising in 2019, while Wasini, a student activist, was detained after having distributed pamphlets about protests around the same time.
Pelagio Doutel, a TAPOL campaigner, said: "We are today demanding that the Indonesian Government immediately release and drop all charges against Victor Yeimo and others criminalised for peacefully expressing their views."
Growing limitations on basic freedoms in West Papua have worsened since a security force crackdown on the 2019 Uprising and despite the easing of restrictions on public mixing since the pandemic. The judiciary, the police and the military are stifling possibilities for peaceful assembly and expression; by failing to stop the misuse of treason laws, Jakarta is preventing an open conversation about democracy and political rights in West Papua from taking place.