Arrests at West Papua flag-raising and pressure to cancel NZ police and military ties

Three organisers were taken into custody in Port Morseby, with the PNG government accused of bowing to Indonesian pressure

West Papua National - Melbourne welcomes Pedalling for Papua on 1st of December 2013
(Source: Melbourne welcomes Pedalling for Papua Gallery Freedom Flotilla)

Marni Cordell 1 December 2013

Three organisers of a pro-West Papua rally in Port Moresby have been taken into custody, with the governor of the Papua New Guinean capital accusing the country's government of bowing to pressure from neighbour Indonesia.

The PNG nationals Fred Mambrasar, Tony Fofoe and Patrick Kaiku said they were interviewed by police on Sunday afternoon after taking part in a march to mark the West Papuan national day of 1 December. The event culminated in the raising of the banned West Papuan morning star flag.

Morning Star flag raised at Port Moresby government building (Source: ABC News)

Powes Parkop, the Port Moresby governor, told Guardian Australia the three had been targeted "due to undue pressure from the Indonesian government". West Papua is a province of Indonesia but there is an independence movement that does not recognise the government in Jakarta.

"Clearly Indonesia has put pressure on the [PNG] government but we are an independent nation. Our constitution allows us freedom of expression and assembly. They will not intimidate us any more," Parkop said.

Mambrasar told Guardian Australia he expected they would be charged with unlawful assembly despite the event being endorsed and approved by the municipal government, led by Parkop.

At the rally Parkop addressed the crowd of approximately 1,000. "We have broken the silence. We won't be intimidated any more. I congratulate you all for turning up," he said.

"This is our ancestral land. The morning star flag deserves to be raised across our ancestral land. This will become a worldwide movement that cannot be stopped. I want to tell the Indonesian government that their claim to West Papua is based on fraud and lies."

Earlier the West Papuan activist Benny Wenda and the Australian lawyer Jennifer Robinson, who attended the event, told Guardian Australia they had been threatened with arrest and deportation if they took part in "political activities" while in PNG on visitor visas.

Parkop said he personally intervened to make sure they were not arrested. "I have advised [PNG] immigration that Benny and Jennifer are here at my invitation," he said.

Guardian Australia sought comment from the PNG prime minister, Peter O'Neill.

NZ Government should stop police funding in West Papua - Greens

An Australian funded Detachment in West Papua, 2010.
(Photo: West Papua Media) 1 December, 2013

The Green Party (New Zealand) is calling on the Government to cancel police and military ties with the Indonesian regime in West Papua on a day of international action in support of West Papuan independence from Indonesia.

Today is the 51st anniversary of the West Papuan declaration of independence from Dutch rule. In 1961, the people first raised their 'Morning Star' national flag which has since become a symbol of resistance. Citizens who raise this flag in West Papua risk 15 years imprisonment.

"New Zealand’s ongoing support of the brutal Indonesian occupation of West Papua does not square with our support of human rights internationally," said Green Party MP Catherine Delahunty.

"This week in West Papua, a peaceful protest was attacked by a combined military and police operation with one man killed and several others missing as well as a number of people arrested and beaten.

"The Government can provide no evidence that New Zealand’s police training courses in West Papua have improved the situation there. Instead we are tarnishing are our international reputation by working alongside a violent police force.

"Pilot community police projects in Papua and West Papua in 2009 and 2010 didn't change the reality of what is happening there. The situation remains highly oppressive for West Papuans.

"We are fooling ourselves if we think that some funding for community police projects will have any impact on Indonesia’s violent suppression of the West Papuan independence movement.

"In October, Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully announced that New Zealand would provide a further $6.34 million for a three-year community policing programme in Indonesia. That is money that will be used to supress human rights in West Papua.

"It is time for us to cancel military and police ties with Indonesia in West Papua and push urgently for a peace process and an end to the current violence."