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Violence as Papuans mark 'independence'

Conflicting reports from remote area of casualties as MorningStar celebrated

Violence as Papuans mark 'independence'
Thousands of Papuans pray on 50th independence anniversary Asia Desk, Bangkok

December 2, 2011

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Thousands of Papuans gathered at the grave of an independence leader in Sentani, Jayapura district, yesterday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of what some refer to as the “independence of West Papua.” The ceremonies marked the anniversary of the first raising of the independence movement’s “Morning Star” flag. It is an offence under Indonesian law to fly the flag. Elsewhere there were reports of celebrations in 35 of the restive province's districts and conflicting claims of casualties. The Jakarta Globe said four civilians were wounded by police shooting. Australia's ABC reported that an Indonesian police officer was shot with an arrow by protesters. Later, the Jakarta Post carried a denial of an earlier claim by police that one officer had been killed although a police spokesman said 15 unknown men attacked the officer “with sharp traditional weapons, inflicting him with waist and facial wounds.” The head of the West Papua Baptist Church, Reverend Socrates Yeoman, told ABC several people taking part in the flag-raising ceremonies were shot and others arrested by Indonesian security forces. “How can they do this? We are the owners of this land. How can these outside people … be coming in and killing, arrest and torture us continually?" said Rev Socrates. In a written statement, Father Neles Tebay, rector of the Fajar Timur theological school in Jayapura, the provincial capital, called upon the EU to support dialogue between the Indonesian government and the Papuan people. His call was supported by the London-based rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW). “We urge the international community to facilitate a meaningful dialogue between the Indonesian government and the Papuan people, with the help of international mediation, and to encourage Indonesia … to uphold the rule of law and protect human rights in West Papua.” its advocacy director, Andrew Johnston, said. On November 29 the European Parliament’s sub-committee on human rights discussed the situation in West Papua. Special Autonomy for Papua, introduced in 2001 by then president Megawati Soekarnoputri, allowed the formation of the Papua People’s Assembly to protect the rights of indigenous people, based on respect to customs and culture, empowerment of women and the stabilization of a harmonious religious life. However, many regard the assembly as failing to do its task.

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