Report – By Jubi and West Papua Media in Jayapura
More than 400 Bintang Kejora (Morning Star) flags have been flown by scores of people on a demonstration in Tanggal, Serui, West Papua, in dramatic defiance of an Indonesian law banning the public display of the pro-independence ensign.
Media sources said the demonstrators were expressing support for the launching of a US branch of International Lawyers for West Papua (ILWP) – spelt out as the International Parliamentarians, not Lawyers – in the United States.
However sources on the ground confirmed to West Papua Media that the demostration was carried out by more than 5000 people in support of the Federal Republic of West Papua, and demanded full international legal recognition of Papuan’s desire for independence and to uphold the universal right to self-determination.
Confirming the demonstration on Friday, Aston Situmorang of the NGO Working Forum of Cenderawasih Bay said that thousands of people had gathered to take part in from all parts of the district of Serui.
The participants first gathered in three places and then converged on the location of the demonstration. After they had made their way to Tanggul, a number of speeches were delivered in support of the ILWP.
When the local chief of police was contacted regarding this demonstration, he denied that anyone had flown the kejora flag.
“No such thing happened,” he said. “It’s a lie.”
‘No flags’ claim
He said people marched together but no flags were flown. The demonstrators had only carried banners expressing support for the establishment of the ILWP in the US.
Organisers of the demonstration contradicted the police version of events, claiming several groups of up to 470 flags (in each group) were flown, after the police and military attempted to blockade the rally with force.
However, given the sheer number of flags, security forces did not attempt to intervene and allowed flags to be flown, an act which carries severe prison terms under the provisions of makar (treason).
A successful tactic employed by rally participants was mass body painting of the Morning Star flag, an act that although challenging makar provisions remains unenforceable under Indonesian law.
According to another report about the demonstration in Jubi tabloid newspaper on the same day, the local police chief in Serui had allowed 50 flags to be flown at the demonstration.
According to the organisers, the majority of the participants were waving flags. [A photo illustrating the article shows a large number of people, certainly more than fifty, and in this section of the crowd, I was able to count about 20 flags. Translator.]
It was reported that the local police had refused to allow people at the demonstration to take photos.
According to the organisers, “As we were marching along the road, the police prohibited the use of cameras, but after the people arrived at the location (Tanggul), the police then allowed photos to be taken”.
Aston Situmorang said that demonstrators had come from all parts of the district; some were arrested in several places in the town centre, but they were not held for long and after being released, they were able to rejoin the demonstration. As they arrived at the location of the demo, a number of people made speeches.
Many of the participants had walked a long distance from Mantembu, with the whole march proceeding peacefully. After the speeches had been made, they dispersed.
The local chief of police, Yohannes Nugroho Wicakasono, said that the demonstration had been organised by the West Papuan National Authority (WPNA) and had proceeded peacefully, lasting from 9am till 1.30pm on April 20.
He said that kejora flags had been flown, but after they had been given warnings, the flags were taken down, collected and put away.
A more senior police chief in the town of Seruis, Daniel Prio Dwiatmoko denied that kejora flags had been flown, saying that the demonstrators had only carried banners expressing support for the ILWP which has just been set up in the US.
Source: Jubi and West Papua Media, and translated by Tapol (UK)