Again, West Papuan National Committee (KNPB) activists were arrested simply because they were handing out flyers calling on West Papuans to commemorate the tragic day in their history, the 15 August in 1962 when the Papuan people were betrayed by the international community.
The New York agreement, brokered by the US, basically called for the transfer of the Dutch colony of Netherlands New Guinea to Indonesia after a short period of UN administration. No West Papuans were involved in this agreement.
The agreement included a guarantee that the Papuan people would be allowed an 'Act of Free Choice' to determine their political status. The so called "Act of Free Choice "in 1969 was a sham and 61 years after the agreement West Papuans are still calling for a real referendum.
The 27 activists were handing out leaflets informing people of a rally to be held on the 15 August.
The Central KNPB spokesman Ones Suhuniap stated that the 21 KNPB Sentani Region activists were arrested at around 10.30 WP. He stated that the arrest occurred when KNPB activists distributed leaflets calling for a peaceful demonstration to commemorate the 1962 New York Agreement and the racism incident that students from Papua experienced in Surabaya in August 2019.
Although some of the activists were released, these arrests are to intimate civil society groups into not taking part in proposed rallies.
Joe Collins of AWPA said, "West Papuan civil society groups regularly hold events and rallies on days of significance in their history, to try and bring attention to the world, of the injustices they suffer under Indonesian rule. And this is what Jakarta fears most, international scrutiny on the ongoing human rights abuses in the territory".
It is of great concern that the security forces could again crackdown in their usual heavy-handed approach to any peaceful rallies held by West Papuans in the coming week. In the past not only have West Papuans being arrested for peaceful actions but have also been beaten, tortured and have faced charges of treason.
Also of concern is that the 17 August is Indonesian Independence Day.
The Indonesian Security forces can use the day to take propaganda photos of Papuans supporting their Independence day. It is now 4 years since the West Papua uprising when Thousands of West Papuans took to the streets in all the major cities and towns across West Papua. The demonstrators were protesting against the arrest and racial abuse against West Papuan students in Surabaya, Indonesia.
The arrest of 43 students in Surabaya occurred because it had been reported that an Indonesian flag had been vandalised near the students dormitory.
At the time, The Jakarta Post (19 August) reported that security personnel and members of Indonesian organizations launched physical and verbal attacks on the Papuan students accusing them of refusing to celebrate Indonesia's 74th Independence Day, and that an "angry mob arrived at the dormitory after they found a discarded Indonesian flag near the building. During the incident, they reportedly threw stones at the dormitory while shouting racial abuse and chanting "Kick out the Papuans!" and "Slaughter the Papuans!"
The mob also called the students monkeys, pigs and dogs, shouting "don't you come out. We are waiting for you here". As they stormed the building the Police fired tear gas into the building and arrested 43 students. The students were later released after questioning. They had denied any knowledge of the damaged flag. However, this incident triggered rallies across West Papua in a show of support for the students and in protest against the discriminationand injustices that West Papuans suffer daily under Indonesia rule.
It is estimated that up to 60 people died, including 35 indigenous West Papuans and hundreds injured with over 20,00 civilians displaced during the Uprising period.
Joe Collins said, "hopefully this year the Indonesian security forces will allow the West Papuan people hold their peaceful rallies without interference and Canberra should be urging Jakarta to control its security forces in West Papua, otherwise we will see more arrests and more human rights abuses. We should not forget, Australia was involved and still involved".