1 Dec 2016

Warning of arrests over demos for Papuan nationalist day

2:40 pm on 1 December 2016

Civil society groups planning to demonstrate in Jakarta today to raise West Papua's nationalist flag have been warned they face arrest.

Morning Star Flag

Morning Star Flag Photo: Copyright: chelovek / 123RF Stock Photo

It's 55 years since the Papuan Morning Star flag was first flown officially when the indigenous people of the former Dutch New Guinea declared independence.

The flag was raised in a ceremony by the New Guinea Council, the Dutch-established governing body of indigenous council representatives to facilitate Papuan sovereignty.

Heads of state and dignitaries from Netherlands, Britain, Australia, France, New Zealand and several Pacific states attended the ceremony.

However 1961's declaration was soon eclipsed by a US-brokered agreement between the Dutch and Jakarta which paved the way for an Indonesian take-over.

The Morning Star was subsequently banned in Indonesia, but each year on December 1st rallies around the world mark this anniversary in support of Papuans by raising the Morning Star.

In Jayapura region on June 15, 2016, West Papuans demonstrated their support for an independence referendum.

In Jayapura region on June 15, 2016, West Papuans demonstrated their support for an independence referendum. Photo: Whens Tebay

A group of Indonesians supporting West Papuan self-determination aspirations, Indonesian People's Front for West Papua, or FRI West Papua, is among those planning to march today in Jakarta.

FRI's spokesman Surya Anta says Indonesian authorities consider such support as an act of separatism.

He says Co-ordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto has released a statement by way of warning.

Surya Anta of FRI West Papua

Surya Anta of FRI West Papua Photo: supplied

"He said that if we had demonstrations to support West Papuan self-determinations, the government will... police will smash and arrest us," said Surya Anta.

Surya Anta said that the right to self-determination for all people had been denied in the case of West Papua.

FRI West Papua has called for a self-determination referendum for West Papuans, in order to end what it calls the practice of colonisation and militarism in Papua region.

But Jakarta says Papua's incorporation into Indonesia is final.

Indonesian Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu.

Indonesian Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu looks on during the third Trilateral Defence Minister's Meeting in Nusa Dua on Indonesia's resort island of Bali on August 2, 2016. Photo: SONNY TUMBELAKA / AFP

The government says it is promoting significant development projects in Papua to help raise the living standards of grassroots people.

A government representative overseeing development efforts in Papua, Judith Dipodiputro said that Papuans are excited and positive about development efforts underway in the region, despite "negative" media reports.

However, reports from Papua indicate security forces had launched crackdowns in towns across the region in anticipation of December 1st rallies.

West Papuan demonstrators tightly monitored by Indonesian police.

West Papuan demonstrators tightly monitored by Indonesian police. Photo: Whens Tebay

A few days ago, 14 members of the West Papua National Committee were arrested in manokwari for handing out leaflets about one such rally.

And in Timika, Indonesian military forces have been parading in numbers in an apparent show of force ahead of today's anniversary.

Meanwhile, a series of global Morning Star flag raising events are taking place today, including across New Zealand, Australia, Britain, South Africa, Ghana, Malawi, Nigeria and elsewhere.