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Two deaths, other casualties in crackdown on Papuan People’s Congress, claim groups

Edison Waromi

Papuan leader Edison Waromi ... elected "prime minister" and then arrested by Indonesian forces. Photo: Polaris

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By PMC news desk

Indonesian soldiers and police officers opened fire on the Third Papuan People’s Congress in the West Papuan capital of Jayapura late yesterday and there are reports of casualties and more than 800 arrests, according to West Papua media sources.

The shooting began after the chairman of the congress, Furkorus Yaboisembut, declared independence from Indonesia, Engage Media reported. Yaboisembut was elected president by indigenous West Papuans and Edison Waromi voted in as prime minister. Both men were reportedly arrested.

According to the Asian Human Rights Commission and West Papua Media, two people have been confirmed dead. They have been identified as Martinus Siep, a Petapa security guard, and student Melkias Kadepa.
A full list of the dead, injured and arrested is being compiled and casualties are expected to rise significantly.

Engage Media reported that as communications broke down, text messages began to tell the story of the tensions around the city.

800 detainees
A congress participant who was recently released by the police sent this text message to West Papua Media Alerts. It has been translated from Indonesian:

Sister/brother, I’ve just left the police headquarters along with other students who have exams this morning.

There are still around 800 detainees in the Jayapura Police Station at the moment. Yeboisembut was injured by the police, he is still being interrogated in a special room.

Eduard Pariri, Mrs. Sroer, Kelly Pedai, Abraham Kareni, Nova Sroer, DAUD ABON (Governor of Yapen-Waropen and Mamberamo), Mr. Jacob Sroer and Elieser Awon (ex Free West Papua – OPM – member), Mama Sroer and there are still so many other activists, youths, students, petapa [community security force], mama-mama [older women], OPM and others.

They are still being detained in the Jayapura Police Station’s tennis court since last night.

The repressive and violent act by the authority has caused a lot of injuries to the people, some fractured their skulls, broke their legs, while others suffer serious injuries. We had to sign the letter stating we’ve committed criminal acts as they did not allow us to defend ourselves.

Text messages were sent out earlier this week by unidentified senders, warning that there would be trouble at the gathering:

Free Papua congress. There will be slaughter of the sons and daughters of Papua, so stay at home and don’t go out until it is safe.

Thousands at congress
But thousands of people have attended the congress since Monday.

The original venue for the event was the Cendrawasih University, but it was later moved to Lapangan Sakeus (Sakeus Field) in Abepura, on the outskirts of Jayapura.

Papuan video activists said at least 4000 people attended the congress yesterday.

The congress itself was not a popular idea, particularly among the armed independence groups.

The commander of the TPN/OPM (the National Liberation Army/Papuan Independence Movement), Lambert Pekikir, strongly rejected the congress. He said it would not solve the Papuan independence issue.

The TPN/OPM only supports secession from the Indonesian republic.

Independence hot topic
However, Papuan video activists said it was clear today that independence from Indonesia was the hot topic at the gathering.

As participants addressed the issue of independence in their speeches, several hundred military officers began to close in.

One Papuan video activist sent a text message to Engage Media saying:

Good morning, brother, I’m down at the field, and we’re surrounded by the military. Please pray so the congress is safe.

Then, at 3.30pm Jayapura time, he sent another one:

Brother, they’ve opened fire … to us all.

The TNI’s Regional Commander, Major General Erfi Triassunu, confirmed the declaration of independence during a press conference today: “MRP (Majelis Rakyat Papua – Papuan People’s Council) has declared the separation from Indonesia and plans to establish a new government,” he told BeritaSatu.com.

“The police officers were only trying to prevent [the situation from escalating] by firing warning shots to the air,” he said.

“No shots were fired directly to the people, hopefully there was no one hurt.”

Andreas Harsono, from Human Rights Watch, told EngageMedia:

“At about 3pm Papua time, one of my contacts called me, frantically telling me that the troops had opened fire. He said he had heard about 30 shots. It is not clear whether it was fired to the air or the crowd. Over the phone I heard at least five more shots. If my hearing did not betray me, it seemed like the sound of SS-1 semi-automatic weapons…”

NZ plea for action
In New Zealand, the Auckland-based Indonesia Human Rights Committee called on the NZ government to respond to the escalating violence in West Papua.

Call on NZ Government to respond to escalating security force violence in West Papua.

The IHRC urged the government to “take action to protect people at grave risk from ongoing security force violence”.

In a letter, spokesperson Maire Leadbeater urged action on the issue of military violence and live fire used against congress as well as against the intimidating presence and the violent actions of the military and police around the Freeport McMoRan mine.

She also called on the NZ Super Fund and other New Zealand Crown Financial Institutes to divest from all holdings in the Freeport McMoran mine.

Sources include West Papua Media, Engage Media and IHRC.

Later stories and videos:
‘Chaos’ as shots ring out and military storm peaceful Papuan Peoples’ Congress

Indonesian military opens fire at peaceful Papuan Congress

Indonesian forces in Papua

Indonesian security forces prepare for the crackdown on the Papuan People's Congress yesterday. Photo: West Papua Media