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Crackdown in West Papua against flag-raisers

according to latest reports from west papua, more than a dozen papuans have been arrested for taking part in peacefully unfurling their flag, the morning star (bintang kejora), some or all of whom are likely to be charged for treason (makar).
20 March 2008
According to latest reports from West Papua, more than a dozen Papuans have been arrested for taking part in peacefully unfurling their flag, the Morning Star (Bintang Kejora), some or all of whom are likely to be charged for rebellion (makar). The arrests were made following a series of protest demonstrations in Manokwari and Jayapura against Presidential Decree PP77 which makes it illegal to unfurl regional flags not only in West Papua but in other parts of the country as well.

The peaceful demonstration on 13 March in Manokwari was organised by the West Papua National Authority (WPNA) and the Greater Manokwari Student Executive Council (Badan Eksekutif Mahasiswa, BEM).

Following the enactment of the Decree, eleven Papuans were arrested in Manokwari on 13 March for flying the kejora in protest against the Decree. More arrests were reported on 19 March when the police took four people into custody in Jayapura for raising flags and for disturbing security.

According to a report in the Jayapura newspaper, Cenderawasih Pos on 16 March, the regional police chief of Papua, Inspector-General Max Donald, said that the police would be taking action against those who unfurled the kejora flag in Manokwari and elsewhere.

The eleven persons arrested in Manokwari are:

Jack Wanggai, spokesperson of the West Papua National Authority,
Frans Kareth, lecturer in economics,
Markus Solig Umpes,
Edy Ayorbaba,
Daniel Sakwatorey,
Marthinus Luther,
Noak AP
George Rasyard Ayorbaba,
Ariel Werimon,
Leonardus Decky Bame,
Silas Carlos Teves May, aged 16 years.

Yan Christian Warinussy, Executive Director of LP3BH, the legal aid organisation in Manokwari, announced on 14 March that they have set up a Team of Lawyers for Human Rights for the Papuan People to defend the first two persons named above who have been subjected to intensive interrogation by the police. In the case of Jack Wanggai, the interrogation which was accompanied by threats to kidnap members of his family, focused on the purposes of the WPNA and the reasons for organising the demonstration on 13 March.

The four persons arrested by the police in Jayapura are:

Zakarias Horota,
Elias Weah,
Ester Dolorus Tapnesa,
Abu Mari

They too have been charged with rebellion and with disturbing security.

TAPOL strongly condemns these arrests and believes that they represent a grave infringement of the freedom of expression and the right to engage in peaceful protest.

TAPOL also condemns the enactment of presidential decree PP77 which makes it an offence to unfurl regional flags.

Carmel Budiardjo of TAPOL said: 'The enactment of PP77 which makes it an offence to unfurl a flag can only trigger renewed protest among Papuans. This decree can further exacerbate the sense of injustice that has swept across West Papua since the beginning of the month.'

TAPOL calls for the lifting of charges of rebellion that have been laid against some of those arrested and calls for the unconditional release of all those now in police custody.

It also calls for the repeal of PP77 which is in flagrant violation of the right to engage in the peaceful action of raising a regional flag.