19 Dec 2016

West Papuans look to march again, despite police

1:35 pm on 19 December 2016

There are signs of more imminent arrests of West Papuan demonstrators in towns across Indonesia's Papua region.

The West Papua National Committee, or KNPB, had notified police about its intention to hold a march today to commemorate the first Indonesian military invasion in 1961.

Indonesian police at a demonstration in the Papuan region.

More than 100 indigenous activists were arrested by Indonesian police in the West Papua city of Sorong in November. Photo: Supplied/ Whens Tebay

Police in the various centres have rejected granting them permission, but the KNPB has indicated it plans to proceed anyway.

However last night police were understood to have arrested 30 people involved in a planned mobilisation in the Highlands city of Wamena.

Two days ago, police also arrested six KNPB activists in the West Papua town of Nabire - four of them were detained when they delivered their notification letter to the police station.

Then police raided the KNPB secretariat and arrested two more people.

The West Papua National Committee chairman Victor Yeimo addressed the demonstration in the Papuan provincial capital, Jayapura.

The West Papua National Committee chairman Victor Yeimo addresses a demonstration in the Papuan provincial capital, Jayapura in April. Photo: Tabloid Jubi

Today's planned demonstration is the latest in a series of mobilisations this year by West Papuans calling for self-determination.

Some of the demonstrations have marked notable anniversaries of West Papua's modern history.

On 19 December 1961 Indonesia's first president Sukarno launched operation Trikora to invade and colonise the former Dutch New Guinea.

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Raising the Morning Star Flag is illegal in Indonesia. Photo: RNZI

It came less than three weeks after West Papuans declared independence and formally raised their nationalist symbol, the Morning Star Flag.

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

Dignitaries from Netherlands, Britain, Australia, France, New Zealand and several Pacific states attended the ceremony.

However the declaration of independence was soon eclipsed by a US-brokered agreement in 1962 between the Dutch and Jakarta which paved the way for an Indonesian take-over.