At least 40 Papuans were arrested on Friday in Fakfak district, West Papua, before holding a thanksgiving ceremony in the secretariat of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) following the recent 20th Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Leaders summit. The summit, which was held June 18-26 in Honiara, Solomon Islands, granted the ULMWP an observer status to the MSG, an intergovernmental organization comprising the states of Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Fiji and Vanuatu, as well as the Kanak Socialist National Liberation Front, a political party from New Caledonia. “The arrest occurred at around 10am local time. They were brought to the district-level police. The reason was that they wanted to hold a thanksgiving ceremony after the ULMWP was granted an observer status to the MSG,” Freddy Warporpor, coordinator of the district chapter of the Institute for Human Rights Study and Advocacy (Elsham), told ucanews.com. “They were just gathered [in the secretariat] and were about to start praying. But then the police came in and dismissed them. The police also seized a computer, some posters of Bintang Kejora [independence flag] and other attributes,” he said. According to Warporpor, there was no physical violence during the arrests. As of Friday evening, some have since been released while others remain detained by district police. West Papua police chief Brigadier General Paulus Waterpauw said he did not know about the arrests. “I will check it first. I haven’t received any report,” he told ucanews.com. Coordinator for the Papua Peace Network Father Neles Tebay said the group had done nothing illegal. “Their reaction shows their support for the ULMWP. Nothing’s wrong with this. It’s just a reflection of the real problem,” he told ucanews.com. “Such arrest will not resolve the political issue. So if the government wants to deal with the problem, hold a dialogue with the ULMWP instead of arresting Papuans,” he suggested. “This is evidence that there’s no freedom of expression, in which [Papuans] can express their opinions,” he said. On Thursday, the foreign ministry spokesman Armanatha Nasir told reporters in Jakarta that the inclusion of independence group ULMWP as an observer group should not be a cause for concern. “They’re an NGO and they’re an observer. They’re not part of the decision making process. They speak when they are requested to speak. So that’s the limit,” he said, as quoted by The Jakarta Post.
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