News / Asia

Rights Group Says 300 Arrested at Papua Rally

Papuanese who attended the Third Papuan People Congress climb a fence after police and troops dispersed the crowd at the event in Abepura in Indonesia's Papua province, October 19, 2011.
Papuanese who attended the Third Papuan People Congress climb a fence after police and troops dispersed the crowd at the event in Abepura in Indonesia's Papua province, October 19, 2011.

Multimedia

Audio
TEXT SIZE - +
Kate Lamb

In Indonesia's Papua province, Human Rights Watch says police arrested more than 300 protesters at a political rally where separatists declared independence from Indonesian rule on Wednesday. Demonstrators also called for the closure of the local Freeport McMoran gold and copper mine, where operations have been halted by occasionally violent labor strikes.  Locals in Papua province have long felt marginalized.

The unrest in Jayapura on Wednesday began when Indonesian soldiers fired warning shots into the air as high-profile West Papuan leaders declared their independence from Indonesia.  Indonesian military forces beat protestors with rattan canes and batons outside the planned congress attended by 5,000 people.

Protestors at the congress also raised the controversial Morning Star Flag, a symbol of West Papuan Independence, and an act that carries lengthy jail terms.

Papua police announced Thursday that there were two fatalities from the independence rally, and that five suspects implicated in the riot, including some high profile Papuan independence leaders, have been charged with treason and possession of weapons.

Demonstrators also aired grievances about labor conditions at Papua's Freeport mine, which was temporarily closed after ongoing strikes and security concerns this week.

But Jakarta-based risk analyst Todd Elliot says there is no direct link between the labor movement and calls for independence in West Papua.

"I don't think there is a direct relationship between the congress and the labor problems at Freeport," said Elliot.  "But I do I think they are both fueled by some underlying currents of native Papuans feeling marginalized and not treated fairly."

Papuan activist Dorus Wakum says that for many native Papuans, the government and Freeport have become synonymous with human rights abuses and growing inequality.

"Why has the congress declared that Freeport be closed? Because they see that Freeport don't give benefit[s to] the Papuan people. So it's a problem," said Wakum.

Yohannes Sulamain is a lecturer at the Indonesia National Defense University in Jakarta. He says the problems stem from a lack of education and corruption that siphons off much of the government budget, and stops Papuans from securing well-paid jobs at Freeport.

"There is huge corruption in the ministry of education," said Sulamain.  "It makes the situation worse and worse. So I cannot really blame the Papuans for saying they are kind of pissed off with Freeport and the government, because they don't see the government do anything for them, they don't see them care enough about the locals."

Wednesday's Papuan congress was the third of its kind. The last one was held more than a decade ago.

West Papua is one of the poorest regions in Indonesia, but the province also has a wealth of natural resources.  Separatists have called for independence from Indonesia for decades and while the province has been granted special autonomy, West Papua remains a sensitive issue.

The central government in Jakarta has yet to make a statement about the congress, a response that analyst Todd Elliot says is characteristic of the current government's approach to Papua.

"I think what is noticeable is the lack of response from the Indonesian government," added Elliot.  "There has been a noticeable lack of attention to Papua in the current administration and the previous Yudhoyono administration despite calls from a number of people, including some prominent current and former officials and ministers urging for peaceful dialogue and resolution to the problems in Papua. Things happen and you don't hear anything from the state palace or anyone."

The five suspects charged with treason and possession of weapons face between six and 20 years in prison.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid